The Press As A Bulwark Of Democracy

January 14, 2009

There is an interesting discussion going on over at Neuron Culture concerning commentary posted at Huffington Post by a dude named Steven Waldman (no fucking clue who he is) concerning the relationship between blogging and “traditional journalism”:

The idea that the Huffington Post, or the explosion of interesting internet news or blogging sites, can replace journalistic institutions like the New York times or other newspapers or dinosaurs of the mainstream media truly misunderstands the web, newspapers, journalism and the serious threat posed to democracy if the news gathering institutions fail.

David Dobbs, journalist and blogger at Neuron Culture thinks “Waldman has this right”, because traditional newpapers possess “infrastructure that supports in-depth reporting, fact-checking, editing, and brainstorming, and with it a corresponding infrastructure of contacts and information flow”.

Comrade PhysioProf thinks this is a load of steaming fucking horsehit.

With a very few exceptions, the traditional news-gathering institutions already have failed. They no longer provide any but the most perfunctory opposition or criticism of government actions and assertions.

The most important opportunity the press had to keep the government honest in the last decade–the Iraq war propaganda assault–it failed miserably, and the evidence suggests that news-gathering agencies made an explicit decision not to “challenge the Leader in a Time of War”. The press is not doing any better of a job right now in covering the Middle East, acting essentially as stenographer for AIPAC far-right-wing Likud propaganda.

The vast majority of journalists are much more interested in sucking up to power and basking in reflected celebrity than they are in acting as the opposition to government propaganda they were envisioned by the Founders as constituting. If our current news-gathering agencies are supposed to be some kind of bulwark of democracy, we are seriously fucked.


9 Responses to “The Press As A Bulwark Of Democracy”

  1. Stephanie Z Says:

    Not to mention focusing on the big, scary Russians in what was essentially a pissing contest between Russia and Georgia.

    And the credulous reporting of campaign propaganda in the last election cycle.

    And the treating of scientific consensus as just another viewpoint in policy debates.


    Blogs and “interesting internet news” sites are where all the journalists went when they were laid off by the dinosaurs who decided that news was a commodity.

  2. Robin Says:

    So, bloggers ought to be defending democracy and free speech by keeping their mouths shut. Great.

  3. JLK Says:

    But CPP, you have to remember that the idiot fucking religious-crazy, right-wing, conservative fucknuts blog too.

    So in that sense, keeping a nice distinction between blogs and the press is probably a good idea.

    There are still a fucking lot of people out there who think our new president is an Islamic terrorist.

  4. eumenidis Says:

    The traditional news media *had* infrastructure; now it has remnants, controlled by execs who perceive everything they see or can imagine as a commodity to be packaged & sold at a profit & have little if any sense of being part of a greater community. But JLK does have a valid point–there *are* hordes of demented crazoids blogging.

  5. scribbler50 Says:

    “The vast majority of journalists are much more interested in sucking up to power and basking in reflected celebrity…”

    Dead on observation, CPP. One need only look to that annual circle jerk… The White House Correspondents Dinner… to make your point in spades. The great Frank Rich said in 2007 that the event was “a crystallization of the press’s failures in the post 9/ 11 era” because it “illustrated how easy a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows.”

    Think David Gregory (new host of Meet the Press, no less) doing the fucking boog-a-loo on stage with Karl Rove (former host of the most illegal administration in history, no less). Or W. himself joking about WMD’s and the press, like members of a king’s court, chuckling slavishly on cue. That’s why to this day I believe Stephen Colbert’s performance at that suck-fest where he not only nailed the much “misunderestimated” George W. Bush right to his smirking red fucking face, but every shocked ass-kissing journalist in that room, was one of the most courageous displays of speaking truth to power I’ve ever seen. Ever!
    Real mainstream journalism, unfettered and un-beholden to ratings and corporations, died around the time Edward R. Murrow did.

  6. Judd Says:

    Well, I think some traditional journalists are corrupt bastards, but there are still many of who do indeed frequently question their government. A common criticism of the media by conservatives is that it is “too liberal.” Note that this only happened during the conservative Bush administration and was practically unheard of during the Clinton years.

    What about the Valerie Plame scandal? What about the 2005 reporting by the New York Times of the Bush plan to intercept civilian phone calls? These are all recent examples of journalists going against the government.

  7. I wouldn’t push the Times out the window just yet. The fact is that they do have the resources to commit to long-term, unsexy serious articles in a way that bloggers just don’t. Think about the recent expose of the insurance “disability” fraud rampant on the LIRR. What blogger would be tracking that down? And, even if a blogger did–who would listen? That would probably be a one-note blogger who only ever posted about LIRR corruption.

    In other words, I love reading Palin’s Deceptions as much as any nutjob lib, but I don’t think it’s going to replace the real news anytime soon.

    It’s also worth pointing out that the bloggers who won the recent round of bloggy awards–e.g. Wonkette, Andrew Sullivan–don’t even pretend to do single bit of research; they’re leeches on established journalism. I enjoy them, but they’re not creating knowledge; they’re aggregating it. BIG difference.

  8. scribbler50 Says:

    I agree with Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde… their point very well made… I was referring specifically to television journalism.

  9. George Tirebiter Says:

    scribbler50 refers to “the great Frank Rich.” On occasion the windbag Rich might have something to say worth noting, but I would remind everyone of his lies and distortions regarding Gore in campaign 2000. As Bob Somerby continues to emphasize, he and his cohort brought us Bush.

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