Saturday, March 8, 2008

Tucker Carlson Speaks the Truth

Tucker Carlson, MSNBC’s cross between George F. Will and Pee Wee Herman, revealed the truth about American journalism.

In an interview with Gerri Peev, the reporter who broke the Samantha Powers “Hillary’s a monster” story, he said,

CARLSON: What — she wanted it off the record. Typically, the arrangement is if someone you’re interviewing wants a quote off the record, you give it to them off the record. Why didn’t you do that?

PEEV: Are you really that acquiescent in the United States? In the United Kingdom, journalists believe that on or off the record is a principle that’s decided ahead of the interview. If a figure in public life.

[…]

CARLSON: Right. But I mean, since journalistic standards in Great Britain are so much dramatically lower than they are here, it’s a little much being lectured on journalistic ethics by a reporter from the “Scotsman,” but I wonder if you could just explain what you think the effect is on the relationship between the press and the powerful. People don’t talk to you when you go out of your way to hurt them as you did in this piece.

Don’t you think that hurts the rest of us in our effort to get to the truth from the principals in these campaigns?

In other words, how can we get the rich and powerful to toss us crumbs if we don’t lick their boots? (Feel free to imagine a more graphic and prurient analogy.)

Glenn Greenwald at Salon notes,

Credit to Tucker Carlson for being so (unintentionally) candid about the lowly, subservient role of the American press with regard to “the relationship between the press and the powerful.” A journalist should never do anything that “hurts” the powerful, otherwise the powerful won’t give access to the press any longer. Presumably, the press should only do things that please the powerful so that the powerful keep talking to the press, so that the press in turn can keep pleasing the powerful, in an endless, symbiotic, mutually beneficial cycle. Rarely does someone who plays the role of a “journalist” on TV so candidly describe their real function.

The only caveat I would add to his observation is that this applies only to Republicans; if it’s the Democrats who are under the microscope, then all bets are off.