Prolific Wa/Po media maven Howie Kurtz leads today with the obvious, in a column yclept: "Post Indictment: A Glut of Glee?" (Note: If you're not already an online Postie, you may have to register to get the skinny.) After citing some of the relentless media drumbeat about the Valerie Plame non-case last week, Kurtz muses:
... when Rove was not indicted in the CIA leak case Friday, it almost seemed like a victory for the White House. But it was clearly not a victory for the reporters and commentators who climbed far out on the limb of handicapping what a special prosecutor operating in secret might do.
Well, uh, yeah, you want fries with that?
More to the point, Kurtz observes:
What happened to the normal journalistic skepticism toward a single-minded special prosecutor, as was on display when Ken Starr was pursuing Bill Clinton?
The hostility directed at Patrick Fitzgerald when he was threatening reporters with jail seems to have faded now that his targets are senior aides to President Bush. Perhaps most important, are reporters, commentators, bloggers and partisans using the outing of Valerie Plame as a proxy war for rehashing the decision to invade Iraq? The vitriol directed at New York Times reporter Judith Miller, whether deserved or not, seems motivated as much by her role in touting the administration's erroneous WMD claims as in her decision to be jailed, at least for a time, to protect Libby.
We're assuming these are rhetorical questions that depend on what the definition of "is" is. So far, though, so good. And it gets even better:
In short, the leak prosecution is shaping up as a test of media fairness and responsibility in a polarizing age when many people on the left and right think the news business is hopelessly biased.
But just as Kurtz is beginning to gain nonpartisan altitude, his engines stall:
Kurtz lets this hang in there as he charts the yin and yang of the argument. But he's already tipped his hand by implicitly backing another press-generated myth that defies repeated attempts at correction: Bush Lied. He also alludes to "wounds" that "still haven't healed." Well, whose wounds might those be? The psychic wounds sustained by bitter, long-out-of-power Post-Marxists, perhaps?
More than two years after the Bush administration took the country to war based in part on inflated weapons claims that turned out to be wrong, the wounds still haven't healed. That's why liberal commentators such as Arianna Huffington proclaim the so-called Plamegate scandal "worse than Watergate": They're not just talking about the outing of the wife of a White House critic; they're charging the administration with a campaign of deception that, in this view, is responsible for the deaths of more than 2,000 Americans.
But observe the primary slight-of-hand here: After correctly labeling her a "liberal," Kurtz never goes back and corrects Ariana's and the Huffington crowd's reckless anti-Bush charges. He lets them stand without comment--a standard lefty trick that magically transforms unchallenged and unsubstantiated opinions into universally accepted truths. He also positions this presumption of Republican dishonesty as the final word in this sub-thread, effectively placing it in the rebuttal position--the one a reader is likely to carry with him.
This same ruthlessly efficient rhetorical ploy has been trotted out for decades by Dems and their ideological fellow travelers in the media to create "virtual facts" where no actual facts exist. The result for a casual reader is a perceptual two dimensional universe which, like a grudge-match in professional wrestling, pits the angelic good guy (always a Democrat) vs. a brutish bad guy (always a Republican, and often, Chimpy BushMcHitler). Since the implied villainy is so "obvious," why take the trouble to back it up? After all, "everyone" knows.
Meanwhile, conservative points of view are ALWAYS qualified or rebutted, however weakly, as in this seemingly Bush-friendly column which has now been transformed into a weak hit-piece possessing the same logic articulated by those who figure that 9/11 was actually our fault.
But Kurtz' most glaring error in this graf is the dignity he accords media lightweight and relentless self-promoter Huffington. Kurtz citation ignores the obvious fact that, even on a good day, Huffington's critical apparatus and lack of gravitas fall somewhat short--if indeed this is possible--of the already light and airy standards set by breathless Buzz-Mistress and serial scare-quote abuser Tina Brown's souffled cerebellum. (Brown's blatherings are often planted in the Post's rapidly-declining Style section near Kurtz' higher-brow entertainments. But they seem somehow more in tune with the liberal zeitgeist when they abut Garry Trudeau's badly aging cartoon strip which has never gained escape velocity from the cannabis-addled pieties of 1968.
Well, excuse HazZzmat for interrupting this reverie, but EVERYBODY--Western governments and their intelligence apparatus (apparati?) alike, including the beloved Clintonistas and their cadre of media hit-guys--figured Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, right up to and directly after the War in Iraq got underway. Oh, sure, crack UN investigators never uncovered a smoking gun during their endless and unintentionally comical inspections, pre- and post-Clinton. But over the years, particularly during the Clinton admin, stories were constantly filed about how UN investigators were frustrated and delayed at this or that suspicious Iraqi facility while secret stuff was whisked out the back door. Small wonder they failed to find any in 2003-2003. Or at least that's pretty much what everyone on both sides of the aisle thought, something that Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer conveniently forget when it was convenient, not to mention the hapless John Kerry who apparently supported this point of view before he didn't.
But hey, let's get real and point out the obvious: the guy who's guilty of deception is Saddam himself! You heard that right. The clever Ba'athist rapscallion appears to have had everyone in the West bamboozled on this issue for over a decade. (Remind me never to play poker with this guy.) Saddam was apparently an equal-opportunity deceiver, and people on both sides of the aisle fell for his phony shell-game--a fact cleanly and conveniently forgotten by the Dems no matter how many times you present them with their own fulminations on the topic.
The abiding problem with the media today is not so much that they're reflexive leftists, which they are. (Calling them liberals is ruining what remains of a once perfectly good descriptive noun.) The real, untold scandal here is the abiding laziness of today's preening star journalists, Kurtz at times included. Rather than wearing out shoe leather today to track down the particulars of a story, more and more reporters rely on the Web and tools like the Nexis news database to source their tall tales, confirming collective wisdom (pun intended) with fellow journalists and trusted Dems at the usual DC and NYC watering holes they're known to frequent.
Unfortunately, if media source stories in Nexis begin life as unexamined but leftist-friendly myths--buttressed with scurrilous quotes from liberal icons like Ted Kennedy, Chuck Schumer, and Ward Churchill--the unrecognized contagion will spread from the source to successive stories-in-progress that build on it. The MSM's herd mentality and reporters' inherent craving for peer acceptance and camaraderie serve to evade the T-cells of media skepticism that would normally launch an effective counterattack against obvious falsehoods or misleading information. As time goes by, each newly-infected story, in turn, will be filed back in the Nexis organism, providing freshly-diseased reportorial tissue for copycat stories that follow. As it stands, there is currently no known antidote to prevent these institutionalized and well-sourced lies of the left from morphing into universal, if bogus, truth. (Note, however, that skeptical MSM T-cells instantaneously regain their abilities to intercept and attack when exposed to direct quotes from W, Carl Rove, and Dick Cheney.)
Part of this reportorial laziness can be pinned on the cheapskate owners of the MSM who've been cutting down on staff and travel budgets, forcing those inkstained wretches still on payroll to rely increasingly on secondary sources. But because the food chain of info itself is generally based on leftwing bias, alternative viewpoints get no traction whatsoever in the traditional media outlets.
When Wonker first encountered George Orwell's allegorical classic 1984 in high school, he and his nerdy friends were comforted by the knowledge that only cynical Bolshies would engage in rigorously deceptive behavior in the process of information dissemination. But Western journos have taken Orwell's nightmare vision to the next level. To their reflexive, thoughtless, left-wing bias, they have added carelessness in sourcing their facts and an absolute disdain toward their eroding readership. Is it any wonder that this laziness and condescension is driving more and more of these readers into the more honest and stimulating environment of the blogosphere?