Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Reading

“None dare call it journalism” — Howell Raines, former executive editor of The New York Times, takes on his fellow journalists.

Why has our profession, through its general silence — or only spasmodic protest — helped Fox legitimize a style of journalism that is dishonest in its intellectual process, untrustworthy in its conclusions and biased in its gestalt? The standard answer is economics, as represented by the collapse of print newspapers and of audience share at CBS, NBC and ABC. Some prominent print journalists are now cheering Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp. (which owns the Fox network) for his alleged commitment to print, as evidenced by his willingness to lose money on the New York Post and gamble the overall profitability of his company on the survival of the Wall Street Journal. This is like congratulating museums for preserving antique masterpieces while ignoring their predatory methods of collecting.

Why can’t American journalists steeped in the traditional values of their profession be loud and candid about the fact that Murdoch does not belong to our team? His importation of the loose rules of British tabloid journalism, including blatant political alliances, started our slide to quasi-news. His British papers famously promoted Margaret Thatcher’s political career, with the expectation that she would open the nation’s airwaves to Murdoch’s cable channels. Ed Koch once told me he could not have been elected mayor of New York without the boosterism of the New York Post.

As for Fox’s campaign against the Obama administration, perhaps the only traditional network star to put Ailes on the spot, at least a little, has been his friend, the venerable Barbara Walters, who was hosting This Week, ABC’s Sunday morning talk show. More accurately, she allowed another guest, Arianna Huffington, to belabor Ailes recently about his biased coverage of Obama. Ailes countered that he should be judged as a producer of ratings rather than a journalist — audience is his only yardstick. While true as far as it goes, this hair-splitting defense purports to absolve Ailes of responsibility for creating a news department whose raison d’etre is to dictate the outcome of our nation’s political discourse.

More below the fold.

Frank Rich — The Reality-Based community

THE opening salvo, fired on Fox News during Thanksgiving week, aroused little notice: Dana Perino, the former White House press secretary, declared that “we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.” Rudy Giuliani upped the ante on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in January. “We had no domestic attacks under Bush,” he said. “We’ve had one under Obama.” (He apparently meant the Fort Hood shootings.)

Now the revisionist floodgates have opened with the simultaneous arrival of Karl Rove’s memoir and Keep America Safe, a new right-wing noise machine invented by Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz and the inevitable William Kristol. This gang’s rewriting of history knows few bounds. To hear them tell it, 9/11 was so completely Bill Clinton’s fault that it retroactively happened while he was still in office. The Bush White House is equally blameless for the post-9/11 resurgence of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Iran. Instead it’s President Obama who is endangering America by coddling terrorists and stopping torture.

Could any of this non-reality-based shtick stick? So far the answer is No. Rove’s book and Keep America Safe could be the best political news for the White House in some time. This new eruption of misinformation and rancor vividly reminds Americans why they couldn’t wait for Bush and Cheney to leave Washington.

But the old regime’s attack squads are relentless and shameless. The Obama administration, which put the brakes on any new investigations into Bush-Cheney national security malfeasance upon taking office, will sooner or later have to strike back. Once the Bush-Cheney failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran again come home to roost, as they undoubtedly and explosively will, someone will have to remind our amnesia-prone nation who really enabled America’s enemies in the run-up to 9/11 and in its aftermath.

[…]

If we are really to keep America safe, it’s essential we remember exactly which American politicians empowered Iran, Al Qaeda and the Taliban from 2001 to 2008, and why. History will be repeated not only if we forget it, but also if we let it be rewritten by those whose ideological zealotry and boneheaded decisions have made America less safe to this day.

Colorblind — Leonard Pitts, Jr. on proving that looks are deceiving.

Evil is not a color.

It has no particular religion with Middle Eastern accents and exotic head gear, they said, and leave the rest of us alone.

Jihad Jane is the reason that’s a dumb idea. She is, according to published reports and photos, 4’11” tall, 105 pounds and 46 years of age, with pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes. She is, literally, a citizen of Main Street, USA, having made her home on that thoroughfare in the Philadelphia suburb of Pennsburg where she was a caretaker for her boyfriend’s father. Until, that is, she disappeared, along with her boyfriend’s passport, which she allegedly intended to give to her terrorist fiance.

There are several good arguments against profiling. It’s morally wrong. It’s an abridgement of civil liberties.

But the most compelling of them is embodied by Jihad Jane. Put aside squishy appeals to conscience and principle and deal instead with hard pragmatism. Pragmatism will tell you that to concentrate solely on swarthy Middle Eastern men is to turn a blind eye to everyone else. But as demonstrated by LaRose, by convicted terrorists Richard Reid, Jose Padilla, and John Walker Lindh, and any number of others here and abroad, terror comes in both genders and all cultures and shades.

Doonesbury — where’s daddy?