July 20, 2010

A Conspiracy Of Journalists

In March, 2008, my wife and I found ourselves staying in a hotel room near the Alabama/Mississippi border. When I returned to the room with our dinner, I discovered her intently watching Hannity & Colmes, something that was unusual for her in light of her general rejection of FoxNews.

What had her fascinated was a piece that had just come on, regarding Barack Obama's pastor and the inflammatory content of his sermons and writings. This was not the rubber-necking gawking of some right-wing Lookie-Lou -- it was the intent focus of a liberal woman with an M.Div. I'd seen it before as she critically watched the antics of televangelists tickling the ears of listeners and viewers with heterodox teachings that approach heresy. More to the point, it was the look of someone with ministerial standing in the same denomination as Jeremiah Wright, and who had served on national committees for that denomination. By the end of the report, she was thoroughly disgusted. She saw it as a potential game-changer in the contest for the Democrat nomination, and in the general election.

Apparently, so did a group of liberal journalists and commentators. Indeed, they were so concerned that they entered into a conspiracy to suppress the story and attack anyone in the media who dared to offer criticism of Jeremiah Wright, or who dared to seem to tie Barack Obama to the man who had been his pastor for two decades, who performed his marriage and baptized his children, and who he had described as his spiritual mentor and his friend.

The crisis reached a howling pitch in mid-April, 2008, at an ABC News debate moderated by Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. Gibson asked Obama why it had taken him so long – nearly a year since Wright’s remarks became public – to dissociate himself from them. Stephanopoulos asked, “Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?”

Watching this all at home were members of Journolist, a listserv comprised of several hundred liberal journalists, as well as like-minded professors and activists. The tough questioning from the ABC anchors left many of them outraged. “George [Stephanopoulos],” fumed Richard Kim of the Nation, is “being a disgusting little rat snake.”

Others went further. According to records obtained by The Daily Caller, at several points during the 2008 presidential campaign a group of liberal journalists took radical steps to protect their favored candidate. Employees of news organizations including Time, Politico, the Huffington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Guardian, Salon and the New Republic participated in outpourings of anger over how Obama had been treated in the media, and in some cases plotted to fix the damage.

Now I may be misinformed, but I thought that the role of journalists was to report the news, not take sides and attempt to suppress stories about favored candidates or repair damage that the reporting of such stories caused. But it actually went well-beyond that -- it went into the realm of character assassination of anyone who dared to raise the legitimate questions about the Obama/Wright connection.

In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

"Who cares?" Well, perhaps only those interested in the truth, those who believe that baseless character assassination for political purposes is wrong, and those who believe that illegitimate use of the race card serves to delegitimize efforts to combat real racism. In other words, decent human beings care. Clearly Mr. Ackerman and his fellow members of the JournoList cannot be counted as members of any of those constituencies, given the discussions and activities that followed.

And make no mistake -- tehre was every effort to make sure that the Wright story was buried and stayed buried. For example there was this effort by Christopher Wright of The Nation.

Hayes urged his colleagues – especially the straight news reporters who were charged with covering the campaign in a neutral way – to bury the Wright scandal. “I’m not saying we should all rush en masse to defend Wright. If you don’t think he’s worthy of defense, don’t defend him! What I’m saying is that there is no earthly reason to use our various platforms to discuss what about Wright we find objectionable,” Hayes said.

Got that? There is certainly something objectionable about Wright -- but that doesn't mean we have to actually cover the story because of the damage it does to our preferred candidate and the assistance t gives to those whose politics and policies we oppose. So much for "the people's right to know" and "all the news that's fit to print", those venerable mottoes of the journalistic class -- they simply went out the window for members of the JournoList.

And let there be no doubt that the goal was nothing less than the journalistic lynching of political opponents, according to Ackerman.

What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear.

In other words, this was to be nothing short of the MSM engaging in the "politics of personal destruction. And the tactics to be used were those that the Left routinely decries as "Red-baiting" and "McCarthyism". What's more, it is clear that the tactics proposed by Ackerman were explicitly adopted by many members of the MSM and their left-wing political allies.

And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.

And hasn't that been the precise methodology of many of these same members of JournoList and left-wing groups since before Obama's election? Hasn't any opposition to Obama's policies and proposals been defined as racism? Questions about the man's personal history, association with questionable figures, and qualifications have all been dismissed by the media as efforts to delegitimize Obama because of his race. Indeed, conservatives treating Obama the same way that presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were treated by the Left has been declared a sign of racial animus by those same leftists. and their allies in the press.

Frankly, the JournoList scandal (and yes, it is a scandal) is one that can and should shake the confidence of Americans in the mainstream media. Can the press -- especially the supposedly objected press like our daily newspapers and news magazines -- survive as a trusted institution so long as members of the JournoList are still employed by newspapers, magazines, and broadcast media? There needs to be a great blood-letting of JournoList members so that a new generation of reporters and commentators, who have learned the lessons of the unethical conduct of JournoList members, might restore the MSM to its proper role in our society.

Others writing include Don Surber, Breitbart, NewsBusters (twice), WeaselZippers, Legal Insurrection, Riehl World View, RedState, Gateway Pundit, Confederate Yankee, Ace, STACLU, PoliPundit, Hot Air, Wolf Howling, Michelle Malkin, Q&O, RWN, New Ledger, Sister Toldjah

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