Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The press and selective self-flagellation

Jonah Goldberg analyzes the media reactions to the Jonathan Karr and Joseph C. Wilson IV allegations -- two instances of self-promoting liars instigating press feeding frenzies that ultimately made the media look foolish. But the most notable media analysts (Neil Gabler, Howard Kurtz) castigate the press for the Karr coverage, not Wilson.

What Goldberg comments around, but never directly confronts, is the media's own sense of superiority to the public at large and that unwarranted superiority complex informed the media's introspection (or lack thereof in the Wilson case) once the two spotlight-seekers had been exposed as frauds. Here's Goldberg:

. . . the press doesn't seem to mind beating itself up when it overindulges the public's passions. But when its own self-indulgence is the issue, there's never any need to feel embarrassed. Indeed, there's no need to say anything at all.

Why not? Because the press is, in its own mind, the arbiter of what is news and it can make that decision better than the public. Therefore, if the press gets caught up in public passions and excessively covers a fraud, then the press allowed the proles to overwhelm its reasoning and intellect and should be ashamed. But if the press decides that something is news, it is . . . even if the press turns out to be wrong. That's the media's inherent haughtiness at work -- even if it's wrong in its decision it will plow forward without introspection or a public examination of its mistakes. This thought-process is why the NY Times has never disavowed Walter Duranty's proven lies about the Ukraine famine of the 1930s that won Duranty and the Times the most tainted Pulitzer Prize ever. And it is why corrections are buried at the bottom of page two in the major newspapers even if the correction refers to a major fact in a front-page article.

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