Skip to comments.Why Broadcast Journalism is Unnecessary and Illegitimate
Posted on 09/14/2001 7:02:19 AM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion
The framers of our Constitution gave carte blance protection to speech and the press. They did not grant that anyone was then in possession of complete and unalloyed truth, and it was impossible that they should be able to a priori institutionalize the truth of a future such human paragon even if she/he/it were to arrive.
At the time of the framing, the 1830s advent of mass marketing was in the distant future. Since that era, journalism has positioned itself as the embodiment of nonpartisan truth-telling, and used its enormous propaganda power to make the burden of proof of any bias essentially infinite. If somehow you nail them dead to rights in consistent tendentiousness, they will merely shrug and change the subject. And the press is protected by the First Amendment. That is where conservatives have always been stuck.
And make no mistake, conservatives are right to think that journalism is their opponent. Examples abound so that any conservative must scratch his/her head and ask Why? Why do those whose job it is to tell the truth tell it so tendentiously, and even lie? The answer is bound and gagged, and lying on your doorstep in plain sight. The money in the business of journalism is in entertainment, not truth. It is that imperative to entertain which produces the perspective of journalism.
And that journalism does indeed have a perspective is demonstrated every day in what it considers a good news story, and what is no news story at all. Part of that perspective is that news must be new--fresh today--as if the events of every new day were of equal importance with the events of all other days. So journalism is superficial. Journalism is negative as well, because the bad news is best suited to keep the audience from daring to ignore the news. Those two characteristics predominate in the perspective of journalism.
But how is that related to political bias? Since superficiality and negativity are anthema to conservatives there is inherent conflict between journalism and conservatism.. By contrast, and whatever pious intentions the journalist might have, political liberalism simply aligns itself with whatever journalism deems a good story. Journalists would have to work to create differences between journalism and liberalism, and simply lack any motive to do so. Indeed, the echo chamber of political liberalism aids the journalist--and since liberalism consistently exacerbates the issues it addresses, successful liberal politicians make plenty of bad news to report.
The First Amendment which protects the expression of opinion must also be understood to protect claims by people of infallibility--and to forbid claims of infallibility to be made by the government. What, after all, is the point of elections if the government is infallible? Clearly the free criticism of the government is at the heart of freedom of speech and press. Freedom, that is, of communication.
By formatting the bands and standardizing the bandwiths the government actually created broadcasting as we know it. The FCC regulates broadcasting--licensing a handful of priveledged people to broadcast at different frequency bands in particular locations. That is something not contemplated in the First Amendment, and which should never pass constitutional muster if applied to the literal press. Not only so, but the FCC requires application for renewal on the basis that a licensee broadcaster is operating in the public interest as a public trustee. That is a breathtaking departure from the First Amendment.
No one questions the political power of broadcasting; the broadcasters themselves obviously sell that viewpoint when they are taking money for political advertising. What does it mean, therefore, when the government (FCC) creates a political venue which transcends the literal press? And what does it mean when the government excludes you and me--and almost everyone else--from that venue in favor of a few priviledged licensees? And what does it mean when the government maintains the right to pull the license of anyone it does allow to participate in that venue? It means a government far outside its First Amendment limits. When it comes to broadcasting and the FCC, clearly the First Amendment has nothing to do with the case.
The problem of journalisms control of the venue of argument would be ameliorated if we could get them into court. In front of SCOTUS they would not be permitted to use their mighty megaphones. And to get to court all it takes is the filing of a civil suit. A lawsuit must be filed against broadcast journalism, naming not only the broadcast licensees, but the FCC.
We saw the tendency of broadcast journalism in the past election, when the delay in calling any given State for Bush was out of all proportion to the delay in calling a state for Gore, the margin of victory being similar--and, most notoriously, the state of Florida was wrongly called for Gore in time to suppress legal voting in the Central Time Zone portion of the state, to the detriment of Bush and very nearly turning the election. That was electioneering over the regulated airwaves on election day, quite on a par with the impact that illegal electioneering inside a polling place would have. It was an enormous tort.
And it is on that basis that someone should sue the socks off the FCC and all of broadcast journalism.
Journalism has a simbiotic relation with liberal Democrat politicians, journalists and liberal politicians are interchangable parts. Print journalism is only part of the press (which also includes books and magazines and, it should be argued, the internet), and broadcast journalism is no part of the press at all. Liberals never take issue with the perspective of journalism, so liberal politicians and journalists are interchangable parts. The FCC compromises my ability to compete in the marketplace of ideas by giving preferential access addresses to broadcasters, thus advantaging its licensees over me. And broadcast journalism, with the imprimatur of the government, casts a long shadow over elections. Its role in our political life is illegitimate.
The First Amendment, far from guaranteeing that journalism will be the truth, protects your right to speak and print your fallible opinion. Appeal to the First Amendment is appeal to the right to be, by the government or anyone elses lights, wrong. A claim of objectivity has nothing to do with the case; we all think our own opinions are right.
When the Constitution was written communication from one end of the country to the othe could take weeks. Our republic is designed to work admirably if most of the electorate is not up to date on every cause celebre. Leave aside traffic and weather, and broadcast journalism essentially never tells you anything that you need to know on a real-time basis.
Are they so stupid that they think they will be removed from this?
They think they are immune...I don't think so.
Idiot? My God, buddy---where the hell do you get off calling me an idiot? What the hell did I ever do to you?
The rest of your post indicates you have no clue whatsoever about the history of journalism in the United States, and are more interested in spewing personal attacks and your own retarded, uniformed filth than discussing the real issue at hand. What an ignorant clown you are.
How does it feel?! Now you know exactly how most of America feels when journalists "...are more interested in spewing personal attacks and your own retarded, uniformed filth than discussing the real issue at hand."
Real issue at hand?! My. That would take an objective assessment of the situation. But _you_ don't believe objective assessments exist, and _you_ believe they would be _bad_ things if they did...
Thank you, contemporary stupid young person. This exchange is the first thing that's made me smile in a long time. Have a good career. Mark W.
Listen, pal: an objective assessment of the situation would require you to know one thing about the history of journalism in order to discuss it with any sort of authenticity. Even the most jack-booted-thug of an opinionated journalist has "facts" to back up his case. You have none, not a scrap: discussing journalism with you is like trying to discuss World War II with a dimwit who thinks the Navy shoud've used jet planes to fend off the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.Thank you, contemporary stupid young person. This exchange is the first thing that's made me smile in a long time. Have a good career.
You yearn for the "good ol' days" when journalists were trained as "objective" observers. You may as well yearn for the good ol' days when money grew on trees and was free for the picking, you idiot.
William Randolph Hearst was not objective. Neither was Horace Greely. Neither was William Lloyd Garrison. Neither was Alfred Ochs. Neither was Isaiah Thomas. Neither was Joseph Pulitzer. Neither were the Taylors. But I don't expect you to recognize any of these names: these are the men behind American journalism. If you knew one shred about American journalism history, you'd know this.
American journalism was founded and fueled by men who passionately promoted their particular agenda. Papers that tried to be "objective," like the Boston Transcript, folded because they had no readers. They had no readers because they were boring. They were boring because their stories had no angle, no slant. You cannot be a human being---even a "highly trained journalist" in your goofy jargon---and approach a story without a slant. It is patently impossible. I could prove it to you if you'd like, but it'd take a million years to prove it to a person as friggen dense as you.
"Stupid young person." That is the sum total of your argument. How proud your mamma must be.
I've been on Free Republic for going on 5 years now, and I've never been tempted to hit the abuse button before now. You are the biggest jackass I've ever encountered on Free Republic. You are all wind, all bluster. I've never encountered a poster more ignorant on the subject he or she was pontificating about. What a douche.
When one looks at the point in time when journalism became unapologetically leftist, it would be around the time of the Vietnam War.
All of the young campus communists graduated from college, and took their leftist beliefs with them into middle age.
They found themselves in the position where they could take over most institutions in order to implement their cancerous agenda (they became the teachers, the journalists, etc., and found themselves in a position to inculcate the youth of America with their malignant ideas.)
Once they stole our children away from us, it was only a matter of perpetuating this cycle. In my opinion.
The skill of a good journalist, however, is that you do your best to hide your biases and focus on the truth, or at least your perception of the truth. The best journalists in American history did this, indeed, the best journalists in history always have.
Also - broadcast journalism is by and large a joke. It tends not to attract the same intellects and print. Pretty faces, vapid minds. People criticize Jennings because he has no college degree, but they're just news readers. The best of them have no sense of self importance and focus on communicating the news accurately. They're infinitely replaceable. Hopefully that's not your sequence . . .
Why you just might have a point here.
Only today I was accused of being boring; by someone I'd respected.
All because I'd attempted objectivity when stating an opin.
A derivative form of, "Let no good deed go unpunished"?
Now; how to get Hemmingway's Ghost & MarkWar on the same side.
What a dynamic team of freedom fighters those two would make if they got beyond personality, making a formidable opponent of media sycophant Leftists everywhere.
The curse of the Right is our individuality.
How I wish you were wrong; instead you are so very right.
Your analogy is spot-on. It is a keeper.
Here you and I greatly differ. My view is that commercially successful journalism has its own perspective--if you will, its own culture--just like every other profession. The culture of journalism is transmitted by such aphorisms (I really should look up the word to be sure it literally means "pithy dictums") as,
"If it bleeds, it leads."
"There's nothing more worthless than yesterday's newspaper."
No News is good news (because good news "isn't news")
I am saying that a certain perspective is ingrained in journalism, the neglect of which will cause your journalistic enterprise to fail to entertain--and, having failed to entertain, will fail to sustain itself as a business. And that is an--I believe the--explanation for the utter nonexistence of conservative journalism.
Conservative journalism cannot succeed economically; it cannot attract enough audience. In fact, if you are conservative you will not believe that whatever happened yesterday must perforce be as significant as what happened ten years ago. But if you write about what happened ten years ago it is not journalism but a nonfiction book. A book which, not having a trivially short deadline, will almost inevitably be far less superficial in its treatment of the subject than were even the best of contemporaneous journalistic accounts of the event.
In a sense that is exactly what I was thinking of last night . . .
Journalism, and especially broadcast journalism, indiscriminantly and harmfully uses a language of hype. The word "terrorism" is a horrible example. These people sit around casually telling the people of the world that the ruthless criminal conspiracy has caused "terror" in America. It momentarily created terror locally, but for most of America--and after the shock, all of America--the word "terror" does not apply and its use is detrimental to our vital foreign policy interests.
They (meaning broadcast journalism) do indeed think they are immune from accountability to the U.S. government--that their "loose lips" can with entire impunity "sink ships". IMHO the morale of America would skyrocket, and that of its foes would plummet, if the president took command of that aspect of broadcast journalism. If he and the Attorney General redefined the attack as the ruthless criminal conspiracy that it was
On pain of going off the air, at least temporarily. As I noted above, even now the First Amendment actually has nothing at all to do with broadcasting as we have always known it . . .
. . . but if so, how did it happen so quickly? IMHO it was an accomplished fact long before then.
In the Vietnam era, journalists loved to quote students who prattled about "the Establishment" which controlled America instead of the people. But back in 1953 when Eisenhower was forming his cabinet there was a revealing (in historical retrospect) incident.
General Motors executive Charles Wilson was nominated to be SecDef and, in those more innocent times, he was within his legal rights to expect to be confirmed and to serve without first disposing of huge holding of GM stock. But at his confirmation hearing he was asked if that were not a conflict of interest between his interests as a GM shareholder and the nation's interest. He replied, "What is good for the country is good for General Motors."
Journalism modified the quote to read, "What is good for General Motors is good for the country," and make a huge ruckus over it. Wilson ultimately was confirmed, as I recall, but the incident was quite a big deal. And I suppose that our present draconian conflict-of-interest rules may ultimately trace back to it.
In historical retrospect it can be seen that tho the two formulations do not mean exactly the same thing, they do have the same subtext. The implication of the actual statement, and the naked meaning of the journalist-distorted one, is that General Motors was part of an illicit American Establishment. By modifying the statement and making a huge bruhaha over what Wilson had actually said, journalism revealed its true nature. What we saw then, all unknowingly, was the actual Establishment slapping down a pretender to the status of member of the Establishment.
Which is after all exactly what journalism did during Vietnam and, IMHO, ever more nakedly in defense of the Clinton Administration. And that Establishment is furious over the defeat (over its own strongest efforts) of Gore and determined to tarnish, nay damage, Mr Bush.
My thesis is that the affectation of objectivity by journalism is, in and of itself, corruption leading directly to the tendentious mess that we all understand for the bitter joke it is.
Perhaps my statement may seem overly simplistic, but I hope I have clarified my intent.
HG, you can clearly see that I agree with the heart of your position. From that basis of mutual agreement I fully understand the temptation to type that--but respectfully disagree with your decision to hit the post button afterward.
None of us, I daresay, was born knowing that the affectation of objectivity turns the spirit of the First Amendment on its head. It is precisely because we ourselves had to transcend the position against which we are arguing that we know how hard it can be to see the truth. I might myself have sounded like MW, twenty five years ago. I was conservative then, s/he is conservative now--but in neither case is/was there understanding of the extent to which our thinking is/was distorted by the stupendous propaganda barrage to which journalism has subjected us for our entire lifetimes.
There is a saying,
MW derided your youth; I am (quite possibly) again as much older than MW. Patience.
We may want to put some thoughts to "enlighten" those that don't read properly.
[shrugs] We differ, but -- in cases like this -- diversity doesn't hurt.
Actually, we agree on some points even with our differences. The notion that journalism has its own perspective is certainly true, but incomplete. Journalism has dozens of perspectives. The culture of journalism -- even if we limit the discussion to US journalism -- is incredibly wide. It's not a monolithic culture at all. That's why college kids who think that "yellow" journalism is _representative_ of journalism overall are so goofy. (And that's why teachers who pick and choose examples from very visible manifestations of one particular type of journalism and pass those examples off as representative of journalism _overall_ are misleading students -- but, to be fair, any student who doesn't recognize that many academics have a cultural/political bias is going to have trouble sooner or later anyway.)
The *best* discussion of modern media and bias -- both cultural and the inherent-in-the-medium type of bias -- is found in a great book written by a former advertising wizard who dropped out of the Establishment. It's called, "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television," by Jerry Mander.
It's great stuff, as detailed as can be, and about as inclusive as can be. (It's written specifically about TV, but the principles he discusses are applicable to any medium.)
If you haven't yet read the book, I really envy you -- I still remember how wonderful it was to get into it and just kick back. It's thick, but really fun to read. Mark W.
Really? Thank you for informing me--what an honor! If people from there are being directed to read this thread, they may perchance actually learn something about the First Amendment. It therefore seems germane to paste in a copy of that much-honored--all too often in the breach--stricture:
Notice if you will, dear reader, that the terms "objectivity" and "truth" appear nowhere in the First Amendment (nor, I warrant, anywhere else in the Constitution). The Constitution forbids the government to assure that speech and the press contain only the truth. That means that the First Amendment protects your opinion from government censorship. It also--and this is a difficult concept for liberals to grasp--protects my opinion from government censorship even if my opinion is not "liberal". Not only so, but the same goes for members of the Flat Earth Society with whom both you and I disagree.
That is the only logical position for the Constitution of our democratic republic to take; if the government were actually able to promulgate only truth and to stamp out error and error only, what point would there be to having elections in which people who might be wrong could overturn the existing perfect government? Yet we-the-people allow the government--in the form of the FCC--to tell us which of our countrymen speak over the government-created airwaves "in the public interest." If the First Amendment is truly properly understood to allow that, why is it also properly understood to forbid the government to make that same decision about newspapers or books?
One or the other of those two understandings is deeply flawed. I say it is the former.
I also say that, however competitive various journalists may be among themselves, they have a remarkable amount in common among themselves as well. And that what they have in common with each other they also, by and large, have in common with liberal politicians and not with conservatives. And if liberal politicians eschew the adoption of policy preferences which diverge significantly from journalistic concensus, any claim of journalists in general to be independent of liberal politicans is moot.
I'll look into that one, thanks!