The MSM’s m.o.—and their motive

Byron York at the Washington Examiner sums up the New York Times’ total non-coverage of some of the most significant political developments in recent politics, culminating in its total non-coverage of the revelations about White House green jobs advisor Van Jones. He also provides a concise explanation not only of why the Times and other mainstream liberal media engage in these repeated cover-ups (of course we know why they do it, they’re on the left), but—and this is the aspect of it that has always puzzled me the most—why they’re not embarrassed and ashamed of such grossly unprofessional conduct. And the answer is simply that what drives them is not devotion to reporting the news, but intense dislike of the right.

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Lydia McGrew writes:

I was interested in the post in which you pointed out that the MSM is not motivated by a desire to report the news but by intense dislike of the right. I will hazard a conjecture, which I hope some of your readers can confirm directly: I believe that journalism classes and training from high school on up have for some years now been radicalized and influenced by a postmodern, will-to-power approach in much the same way that so many other formerly legitimate disciplines have been. My conjecture is that from the time teenagers become interested in journalism in high school and are taken on as apprentices by local newspapers, on through their journalism classes in college, they are taught that journalism is about doing good and changing the world (with a distinctly leftist spin on these concepts) rather than about objective reporting. Objectivity, after all, is out of style. We have seen something exactly like this happen in law. It would be surprising if it has not happened in journalism. If journalism majors are being actively taught that their job is intrinsically political, then of course they would see nothing wrong with a use of their profession as a weapon against the right. And this would help to explain the rapid decline in journalistic integrity over the past 10 years or so, as postmodern-trained journalists take jobs and take on increasing importance in the profession.

LA replies:

Oh, of course. “Advocacy journalism,” which says that journalism is about helping society move in a progressive direction, has been around for at least 20 years. It’s taught in journalism schools. That’s a given. But if that’s the case, then you might ask, why am I puzzled about this, why am I trying to figure it out? I guess it’s a question of how comprehensive the reach of advocacy journalism is in the minds of journalists. Does it go to the point of telling them, “If a liberal president has an appointee with a disgraceful, disqualifying background that has come out, something that normally would be big news, and conservative talk hosts have turned it up, YOU SHOULD NOT COVER THE STORY AT ALL. It is your job as a right-thinking journalist NOT TO HELP THE RIGHT AND NOT TO HELP DAMAGE A DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT.

I mean, does advocacy journalism go this far? In principle, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. If the job of journalists is to help progressive causes, then it would follow that covering up damaging facts about a liberal politician is part of one’s professional responsibility.

But, I guess I have trouble believing that advocacy journalism actually goes that far; my guess is that the way it’s taught is a combination of helping progressive causes with being fair and objective between he political parties. But if it doesn’t go that far, how do the journalists who engage in such cover ups justify it to themselves? Are they not deeply ashamed and embarrassed to have sat on their hands, palpably NOT doing their jobs, as the Van Jones story was developing? How can they stand themselves?

And these questions lead to another explanation. Its not a semi formal journalistic ethic called advocacy journalism they’re following when they do this. It’s pure passion. Pure identification with the left and pure hatred, or (as Byron York amended it), intense dislike of conservatives. They’re not following any code of journalistic practice, even a left wing one; they are simply emotion charged individuals who care about what they care about and don’t give a damn about standards. From the point of view of journalistic standards, they are the equivalent of criminals.

And that’s what York’s observations made me think. Wildly prejudicial dislike of the right, deep support for Obama, and sympathy with radical causes, shared by the whole MSM, led them to cover it up. They don’t care that they’ve done this, they don’t care how they look, and they’re not embarrassed.

But now I’m not sure that I’ve done anything but repeat the obvious that everyone knows.

I guess it comes down to this: I cannot get inside the head of a journalist who would do this and feel ok about himself. The only way to make sense of it is that they are not journalists anymore and don’t see themselves as such.

Lydia McGrew writes:

I’d be inclined to say that advocacy journalism is a genie you can’t put back in the bottle. Once stuff like that gets really underway destroying a profession, there is no limit to it. And of course when you tell people that it’s all about power relations and what-not—standard postmodernism—then you are encouraging them simply to act on their passions and to abandon all professional codes. I assume they are not embarrassed because they live in a liberal bubble and consider themselves responsible only to the opinions of their fellow leftists. I’ve often thought it interesting to see the occasional moments when a more old-fashioned liberal is appalled at something new that is going on and speaks out. Wasn’t there something like that recently with Helen Thomas concerning the staged town hall questions on Obamacare? Though I can’t claim to know much about Thomas.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 08, 2009 12:45 PM | Send

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