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June 02, 2005

The rise of pseudojournalism

A fine address by John S. Carrol, editor of the LA Times: The Wolf in Reporter's Clothing: The Rise of Pseudo-Journalism in America

One of the great things about this piece is the set up:

One reason I was drawn to my chosen career is its informality, in contrast to the real professions. Unlike doctors, lawyers or even jockeys, journalists have no entrance exams, no licenses, no governing board to pass solemn judgment when they transgress. Indeed it is the Constitutional right of every citizen, no matter how ignorant or how depraved, to be a journalist. This wild liberty, this official laxity, is one of journalism's appeals.


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Not Pseudo-Journalism but Propaganda.

Propaganda is a major flavor of pseudo-journalism. The other big pseud- is infotainment.

And you must not forget Bullshit! "On Bullshit" to be precise:

Harry G. Frankfurt is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton University.

Lord knows... we saw a lot of Bullshit on the Gualag thread.

While Atrios, Josh Marshall and Kos are scratching their heads wondering why there are so few good debaters on the left, this makes the reason crystal clear. Anyone trying to give an accurate response to a query will be at a disadvantage to those willing to lie to attain their goals.

Propaganda + Infotainment = Mainstream Media

Bush: See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.

Well said Richard. I've noticed one thing about debaters from the right... they tend to have their ideology at their core and wrap their tailored morals, ethics, and filtered facts around their ideological thrust.

Sort of like what Buchanan did in his articles about deep throat. First he calls the Felt some names and says that he violated his office at the FBI because he was in a position where he had access to secrets and he betrayed that trust.

He says the people had given Nixon a majority vote in the election and they wanted him and Felt took him down.

This of course is bullshit... the FBI is a law enforcement agency and the President was complicit in an effort to block the FBI investigation. A law was broken and it was their job to enforce the law.

Secondly, as to means... the Attorney General Mitchell was complicit with Liddy and there wasn't anywhere to go with it through normal channels.

Thirdly, as the Rude Pundit pointed out... Nixon got that majority by promising to end the war and then escalating it which cost him public support.

Another example was the thread on Gitmo and the "gulag", people were actually arguing that the torture that we are engaging in really isn't that bad when you compare it to the numbers of atrocities that Stalin or Hitler did.

Which of course ignores the fact that an atrocity is an atrocity and its not numbers that make it right or wrong.

Another one from the wingnuts is of course... well Clinton did it or the democrats did it... as if some how that makes it okay when they do it. This of course is exacerbated by their constant wail about moral absolutes... unless you apply it to them.

Lefties have a tendency to be driven more by humanistic concerns and a bit more sincere which makes them cannon fodder for a ruthless ideologue who doesn't care about the truth as much as winning.

Ugh, the only thing that ever pisses me off to the point I consider abandoning the blog is when people suggest that we are "journalists". Yeah right. Even blog posts I write that I had to go out and do bona fide research on were not journalism in the strictest sense, since I mostly cobbled together other people's work instead of actually going out and interviewing, digging up information and other things like that.

Random rant that has nothing to do with this. The way that the right wing embraces fake journalism scares me, since it exposes a certain insincerity that is hard to deal with. Jeff Gannon's presence in the press pool was not indicative that Bush doesn't like hard questions, since that's normal. It demonstrates that he does not think he is accountable to the people who elected him, which chills me to the bone.

You have a point about journalism Amanda and at first I wanted to agree with you whole heartedly about it. The longer that I sit with it I'm not so sure. Yes there is cobbleing together works from other people, but to a certain extent that is also a par of journalism.

The internet and the knowledge of how to work a search engine and various databases gives you one of the most powerful research tools ever created. How far you take those tools though is up to you.

I'm new to the blogs and only started since the Terri Schiavo thing reared its ugly head. Since that time I've spent thousands of hours researching and reading on a huge range of subjects that I wouldn't normally have done. I've found myself calling Congressmen and talking with them or their staffers, I've contacted doctors, hospitals, writers, Clergy, and lots of others.

So the blogs have pushed me to check my sources when I write on a subject, and helped me to track down the sources of other people's work. Its all been a mind boggling expansion of my own information base.

Am I a journalist? I don't think of myself that way, but I have tried to be a good "informationist", who checks sources and continues to expand his knowledge base and shares it with people. That has huge merit to it I think.

Agreed. And certainly those of us who are unaffiliated with the parties and are just activist on our own should be protected from FEC meddling. But I find the subject of whether or not bloggers are "journalists" tedious. Some are, most aren't.

I get it. Left good, Right bad. A real journalist is one who agrees with me. The Left revels in quoting the loony Right, the Right does likewise. Thinking Rightists (like me) disavow most of Pat Buchanan's current opinions. Arguments should stand or fall based on facts and reasoning. I never feel obliged to defend nonsense on the Right, like ID. I view Leftist economic thinking as mostly nonsense, too. My education in science teaches me that all of what passes as "the truth" is tentative, open to debate, and, subject to new evidence. Yet, I side with the Right on what I view as significant issues. There really are concepts, POV's and historical events that we have good reason to believe are sound or "factual." Few of these are "settled," or beyond doubt.
If you disagree, show me where I err. Tell me your "true facts" and "settled truths?" My opinions are as subject to error as yours.
Or, am I missing something?

No you don't get it, K9. You educcation in science has failed you. Facts and truth aren't open to debate, opinions are. By your logic, we should still be debating with FlatEarthers.

Sorry, the above was for tc99, I didn't have my glasses on...

I went back and read the LA Times post and also a post on Dailykos called "On Persuasion."

Journalism today has declined due to the "sound bite" mentality where talking heads exchange "talking points" and the commentators on television don't challenge the truth or falsity of their statements.

Additionally, major stories are being deliberately avoided by many of the news outlets; the Downing Street Memo is a perfect example. The reasons for this range from media ownership agendas to advertisers and infotainment pressure on a "closed system."

A thirty or sixty minute broadcast can only contain so much content. Producers are under pressure to keep their ratings high and content is not assessed in reference to journalistic responsibility as much as "keeping the customers satisfied." So stories like Michael Jackson and American Idol frequently trump stories that have real gravity and weight when it comes to impacting people's lives.

Another factor at work is the right wing political groups have been charging that the media has a liberal bias for years and there has been a constant harangue about this. The media watch group fair has done a statistical analysis of this and heavily disputes this with empiric data. In media circles this has been termed “badgering the referee” and has been likened to when sports team coaches shout at refs to intimidate them and make them reluctant to call a foul when one occurs.

Enter the new media... bloggers. Bloggers have been criticized for their lack of credentials and having no organizational responsibility to check the truth of their statements. Well credentials haven't seemed to have made a big impact on TV journalist today as they serve us up a "thin soup" of sound bites that fail to fully elucidate all of the facts on a given issue or a true journalistic critique of the sound bites that we are bombarded with.

Bloggers do provide the public access to stories that are not covered by the mainstream media. They have been instrumental with providing additional facts and information on stories and as such I think that they have provided an invaluable service to the American people.

It is true that not all blogs are equal and many are filled with nothing short of propaganda and empty rhetoric. Many though have been packed with information and do make a superb effort to get information on topical issues out into the public consciousness and have been instrumental in triggering real soul searching debate on issues that deserve it.

It is a bit like “caveat empore” in that the information consumer does have to be wary of misinformation, but that is the same with every information sources, whether it is the New York Times or the New York Post, MSNBC or FOX… they all have a slant invariably and ultimately their own point of view as to which facts they present and how they present them.

But in the case of facts… less is not more, and while it may be a bit more confusing, I would rather be the one as a consumer to decided which facts are pertinent and which are not rather than a “talking head” reading from a “talking points” card any day of the week.

Apologies to tc99mman... left wing lunatics also engage in the same kind of sophistry and I should have cited examples on the left as well.

Mudkitty does have a point about the Creationist stuff though. The "Flat Earthers" out there should scare the bejeezus out of anyone with a scientific background.

I would never maintain that the left has a corner on the 'truth' or 'good'. Only that there might be a few more people trying to respect fact over opinion on that side.
In support of Flint's point it should be noted that Evolution is as much a theory as Gravity is.
Does anybody not get this? Very scary.

I have no problem with Creationism being taught in schools provided it is in a comparative religion class and one which teaches the Hindu vedic Creation theory, the Taoist theory, the Hopi indian creation myths and so on.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to teach their moral and ethical codes and it must include Secular Humanism as well.

Just a note on journalism... turns out that the Newsweek story was probably true and Quran desecration has been firly wide spread. No apologies from you know who.

For the record:
Please do not ever expect an apology from a disassembler.

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