Tuesday, December 03, 2002


Over at Atrios's site, a comment by a well-meaning but IMHO naive poster caught my eye:

In other words, [journalists] did not treat the stories [being pushed by right-wing operatives and publications] skeptically (by which I mean they did not do important fact checking, and they accepted the conservative spin of the issue without reservation). I do not think that makes them hacks - it makes them human. It is not excusable, but I think it is different than deliberately spreading lies and misinformation, which is my understanding of the term hack.

Basically, I thought the writer gave too much benefit of the doubt to today's "journalists," so I corrected him:

No, they're hacks because any reasonably intelligent human being should be able to discern that the ReTHUGs have long been using journalists to spread dishonest BS.

Look, Gene Lyons' "Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater," published in 1996, should've been a wake-up call to American journalism. Lyons exposed mind-boggling dishonesty committed at some of the nation's most respected newspapers, often caused by reporters who took the word of right-wing operatives as gospel while ignoring or downplaying any evidence that tended to exonerate the Clintons in the Whitewater "scandal." And all of this was served with a heavy dose of sneering innuendo designed to smear President and Mrs. Clinton.

Personally, after reading "Fools for Scandal," I'll never trust the New York Times again.

So, how did the journalistic world treat "Fools for Scandal" when it was published? Well, mostly it was ignored, and IIRC there was a short NY Times review dissing "Fools" as a "nasty book."

Lyons's later collaboration with Joe Conason, "The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton," got a little more notice and a lot more attacks from the world of journalism. Both the Washington Post and New York Times assigned reviewers who had very serious conflicts of interest, and much of the other response seemed to consist of ad hominem attacks on the authors, calling them "Clinton apologists" and the like.

IMHO, being a hack is a requirement for working in today's journalistic environment, unless perhaps you're covering fashion or the arts. If you show too much interest in going after ReTHUGs, you'll get a rep as having a "liberal bias" and will eventually either quit out of frustration or get fired. Meanwhile, your colleagues who get caught red-handed writing dishonest stories will continue receiving the plum assignments, the big raises and the promotions.

Welcome to the Virtual One-Party State...

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