The Mix

Why does the press ignore press criticism?

Could it be that they don't care if they are wrong?
There are many venerable figures on the left who have made a career out of offering rational press critiques to the mainstream press. And there are now a decent number of progressive organizations dedicated to doing the same. The assumption behind the rational critique approach goes something like this: "Didn't you notice? You misreported a central fact about the story you wrote about, misleading your audience. You should issue a correction and stick to the established facts in this story."

Here's a non-attributed sample of what I'm talking about: "After admitting he had not seen any polls on public support for the impeachment of President Bush, The Washington Times' Tony Blankley nonetheless suggested that 'something less than 10 percent of the American voting public would look forward to seeing' impeachment proceedings brought against Bush. In fact, two recent Zogby polls have found that a majority of Americans think Congress should consider impeaching the president."

Oooh, "nontheless?" Damn, I'm sure that had him apologizing profusely from the roof tops.

But here's what I don't get: I don't see how anybody can keep churning out these critiques for years and not notice the amazing thing that happens after 99% of these critiques are made public and distributed -- nothing happens at all.

Mark Ames wrote a review of a book by two left-press critique rationalists last year, and opened my eyes on this. What it comes down to, I've found, is that you've got to face what it means when big-time TV and newspaper journalists are confronted with proof that their own reporting is somewhere from inaccurate to intentionally deceitful, and don't change what they are saying -- especially when this goes on for years. It means they know that they are lying and don't care. The key question from Mark Ames: "How do you present rational counter-arguments to powerful people who lie intentionally solely in order to remain powerful? You can't."

Take the Washington Times. In my life, I've read hundreds of things referring to its bad coverage, its inaccuracies, its GOP propaganda. But it hasn't hurt the Times very much at all, best I can tell. It still stands there. Tony Blankley, editor of its editorial page, still goes on the Mclaughlin Group every Sunday. Why not talk instead about the insanity of the owner of the Washinton Times? Go after his insanity and ask the audience if they think a person like this should be anywhere near our political process or national political discourse.

In that light, John Gorenfeld's article today on Reverend Moon is in my mind a model of press criticism for the rationalist media critic-industrial complex to consider, imitate, and uphold. Instead of telling Tony Blankley that he misstated Iran's nuclear weapons ETA by nine years, it would be far more effective to ask him if he shares the same view as his boss that a "woman's sexual organ is like the open mouth of a snake filled with poison." Or ask him if he follows his boss's recommendation to keep pliers in his pocket to follow Moon's orders that "when you go to the bathroom, once a day, pinch your love organ. Cut the skin a little bit as a warning."

If the pliers don't hurt, at least this press critique will.
Jan Frel is an AlterNet staff writer.
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