Thursday, September 30, 2004


Everyone's probably already read this, but here's the "for friends only" email from a WSJ reporter that's been circulating.

Digby comments here, and Josh here, so go read those.

But, what frustrates me, aside from the Bush administration's belief that fantasy trumps reality if only you clap hard enough, is that the media is complicit. I'm not entirely sure why, but "everyone knows" that Iraq has been "Lebanized." Once upon a time I can understand why a healthy dose of optimism kept a lot of people cheerleading, but now it's just a mess. The media won't present the mess, they present the Rove-tinted fantasy version that he gives to them. I wish I knew why - it would be easier to figure out what to do about it. It could be simply because they're in the tank for Republicans, and we can't possible broadcast such "partisan facts" at this time. It could be because they were all complicit in the runup to the war, and they're unwilling to face the monster they've created.

I've heard a lot of rumbling recently that reporting on Iraq will get better the day after the election. I'm sure that's true if John Kerry gets elected, but I doubt it'll be the case if Bush is re-elected. We've been hearing forever that "after this...the reporting will get btter." Well, I remember on September 12 the media started navel gazing and writing mea culpas about how they should have focused on more serious things and oh boy they're sure going to now and...nothing. Then, we had all those mea culpas once Iraq started going sour... and then once Abu Ghraib hit... and then... well, what?

As always, yes of course there are good journalists and stories are being reported, etc... etc... But, the responsible parts of our media need to recognize that they are part of a much larger fabric. Their job must be not simply to report, but to get their message heard above the noise. Their job is to inform the public, and right now they public is tragically uninformed. When a big chunk of the media is just horrible, and another, and incrasingly big chunk of the media is in the tank for the party which controls all the branches of the federal government, then there's little place for quiet, meek, "objective," "centrist" journalism. It doesn't work. You'll get drowned out.

That doesn't mean a move to all partisan journalism, though I tend to sympathize with that idea, but it does mean that media outlets needs to consider the issue of "balance" in a way which goes beyond the confines of the actual pages of their own paper. They need to recognize that it isn't necessarily "choosing sides" to provide a counterweight to the prevailing message which is out there.

Whatever one thought of Michael Moore's movie, one of the sillier lines of attack was that it wasn't "balanced," as if the movie existed in a vacuum. As if people going to see it hadn't already been inundated with the conventional view on Iraq, with the administration's view on Iraq. The responsible media, what's left of them, need to recognize that they too don't exist in a vacuum. There's a notstop 24/7 battle not just to report the facts, but to take control of which facts actually make their way to the majority of the population. It's time to wake up to that.