Someone Pull Off Jonah Goldberg's Press Badge Before He Makes Up Any More Stories
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What happens when media monitors mangle journalism in ways far more severe than the work they're supposed to be appraising? What happens when press critics, instead of calling out newsroom missteps, simply propagate their own blunders in the name of analysis? When they weigh down their critiques with blatant misinformation?
It's a constant quandary when it comes to right-wing critiques of the press, which are typically filed by ideologues who, rather than trying to improve journalism, want to eradicate it, which pretty much sums up the painfully (purposefully?) unserious work done at Brent Bozell's NewsBusters outpost.
But the question becomes more problematic when those kinds of factually challenged critiques are embraced and presented by the mainstream media themselves. (Yes, it's ironic and sad that the traditional media often provide a forum for dishonest media criticism.) It's troubling when a phony, partisan attack on the press gets dressed up as a thoughtful examination and is hosted by one of the country's largest newspapers, the way Jonah Goldberg's anti-press piece was last week by USA Today.
Even for Goldberg, who makes his living casually smearing liberals as fascists, his USA Today media critique was an embarrassment. (For the paper as well as the writer.) It only highlighted what a mockery writers like him have made of the conservative media criticism genre. Poorly sourced and constructed around lazy, clichéd writing -- and in a couple of cases, outright falsehoods -- Goldberg's piece simply illustrated how, rather than illuminating shortfalls of the press, conservatives often just create more work for the rest of us. Because now I have to critique Goldberg's god-awful critique.
The headline for his misguided USA Today column read: "Day 15 of Obama's honeymoon: One doesn't have to break a sweat searching for examples of the news media's ongoing love affair with our president. In this, he is like FDR."
Immediately, I wondered how Goldberg would prop up his argument about Obama's supposed media honeymoon when there's already been so much Beltway chatter suggesting the opposite -- that Obama's press honeymoon has already been cut historically short. What evidence did Goldberg see that others ignored or had failed to detect? Because as a media critic myself, I understand that it's paramount to provide proof to back up your claims. And that if you don't, then you're simply peddling propaganda for political purposes. You're not making serious arguments, you're just clowning around.
Let's start with the column's first sentence: "Barack Obama and his supporters have been relentlessly comparing the new president to Franklin Roosevelt."
The new president has been "relentlessly" comparing himself to FDR? Note that Goldberg offered no evidence in his column -- no quotes, no nothing -- to back up that claim. I searched through Nexis and Google and couldn't find examples of Obama comparing himself to FDR. Have his supporters and some pundits made that comparison? Yes, some have. (It's often in the context of a new Democratic president inheriting an economic disaster from his Republican predecessor.) And Obama has occasionally quoted or evoked Roosevelt, as many Democratic presidents over the generations have. But Obama relentlessly comparing himself to FDR? No, there's simply no evidence of that, which meant Goldberg concocted the very first fact in his column, a column that was supposed to instruct us about how shoddy journalists do their jobs. (Trust us, the irony only became thicker as the column progressed.)
Next up, Goldberg unfurled his main point, which was that the press had been swooning over Obama and giving him a free pass, a romantic honeymoon. That the White House press corps resembled "a gaggle of aging love-struck groupies following Jon Bon Jovi around."