November 7th, 2008

The old “end justifies the means” routine

No surprise here. Jeff Goldstein points out those in the media who are patting themselves on the back for lying in the service of the Cause.

25 Responses to “The old “end justifies the means” routine”

  1. John G. Spragge Says:

    I don’t read the article that way. The “objectivity” the linked article refers to does not mean objectivity in assessment of the facts, still less an unwillingness to tell the truth; Will Bunch refers to false even-handedness, to reporting that takes the a priori assumption that each side has an equally good case, and arranges the facts to support that conclusion. Accusing him of supporting actual lying or distortion appears to go well beyond anything the facts warrant.

  2. gcotharn Says:

    Virtue and superior intellect.

    Being on the left is all about being virtuous and being smarter. Lying in service of the Cause is a double dose of goodness which is better than money. The Philly writer floats above us on a cloud of self-justification.

  3. Gray Says:

    The “objectivity” the linked article refers to does not mean objectivity in assessment of the facts, still less an unwillingness to tell the truth; Will Bunch refers to false even-handedness, to reporting that takes the a priori assumption that each side has an equally good case, and arranges the facts to support that conclusion.

    Expert yoga practitioners can’t contort like that….

  4. gcotharn Says:

    @John Spragge

    You write:

    Will Bunch refers to false even-handedness, to reporting that takes the a priori assumption that each side has an equally good case, and arranges the facts to support that conclusion.

    I agree with you that such is not journalism. I am frequently piqued at “journalism” which aligns opposing talking points side by side as if they are equally valid — as opposed to doing journalistic digging for pertinent facts which might actually enlighten a media consumer.

    However, Will Bunch slips when he writes this:

    there were enough reporters in 2008 who were willing to shed the cloak of contrived objectivity – to acknowledge the once unprintable fact that one side was lying more than other.

    It’s a reporter’s role to report facts which refute lies. If a reporter reports facts, again and again over time, the accumulating evidence will be an indicator to readers, and the reporter will have fulfilled his or her duty.

    It surely is unprintable, in any single news article, to effectively make the case that one side is lying more than the other. Proving such would require a book.

    Will Bunch mistakenly claims it is the media’s role to conclude that one side is lying more than the other, and to then subtly or overtly indicate this conclusion in their reporting. The danger of writing opinion without proof is exactly evident in Will Bunch’s mistaken claim that the McCain Campaign lied more than the Obama Campaign. I assert the exact opposite is true. However, I would never write such a broad allegation in a Philadelphia newspaper, as I would not have space to prove the case. I would only write narrower allegations which I could prove in the space provided.

  5. gcotharn Says:

    Bunch was patting himself on the back for drawing broad conclusions which were unsupported by fact.

  6. Jimmy J. Says:

    “refers to false even-handedness, to reporting that takes the a priori assumption that each side has an equally good case,”
    John G. Spragge,
    Unless you are talking about mathematics or scientific laws there are no instances when it is proper for a journalist to favor the arguments of one side over another. This is a democracy. Ideas are contending in the public arena for citizens to decide which are better. To hide or obscure or neglect to report both sides fairly is bias. Now I realize that no man is totally objective, but a fair minded journalist should say, while I do not consider both arguments to be equal, it is not my job to impose my judgement between the contending ideas and the citizenry. This is a condescending attitude and is the equivalent of a parent who tells a child to accept some fact because, “I told you so!”

    Only someone who wants to oppress ideas and free speech would even consider such a thing valid.

  7. FredHjr Says:

    Here are some solid facts about Obama that NO ONE in the Big Media investigated and presented to the general public. You be the judge if the journalism community was doing the citizens of this country a favor in passing them by.

    1. His biological father, Barack Obama, Sr., was a member of Kenya’s Communist Party and had published a paper outlining the collectivization of all of Kenya’s economy as a recommendation to his boss who was Kenya’s president. In Barack, Jr.’s autobiography, which seems to have been ghost written by William Ayers, “Dreams From My Father,” young Barack writes approvingly of his father’s ideas and ideals. Has anyone in the journalism community bothered to think aloud what that connection means?

    2. His mother and her parents seem to have had an attraction for socialist/Marxist ideas and ideals, given where they chose to put Stanley Ann in school on Mercer Island. And Stanley Ann also developed into an anthropologist who integrated two things into her life: Marxism and hatred for her country. Young Barack calls his mother the most important influence on his life. So… what was in mother’s milk?

    3. He admits a deliberate effort to matriculate into various and sundry Marxist and critical studies courses and professors.

    4. The influence of Edward Said and Rashid Khalidid.

    5. His LONG association with William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

    6. Tony Rezko and Jeremiah Wright.

    7. ACORN, the Woods Foundation, the slum housing, and the failure of the Chicago Annenburg Challenge.

    8. Very questionable and possibly illegal campaign contributions.

    The journalism profession has made a choice – and it has been happening over many years – to merge its professionalism with that of high class prostitutes.

  8. John G. Spragge Says:

    gcotharn & Jimmy J: Not even in academia does anyone start a report by proving their points from the ground up. Journalists actually have no obligation to report objectively, and they certainly have no obligation to attempt to determine universal truths. A journalist can fairly say that campaign X made three claims to me, and upon investigating, I found two false, while campaign Y made four claims and all four checked out. And if this pattern continues, a journalist has every right and reason to report that campaign X has told more lies than campaign Y. A historian may go back later and revise that conclusion; they do not call journalism the first draft of history for nothing.

    FredHjr: I have yet to see a shred of convincing evidence that William Ayers had anything to do with President-elect Obama’s books. As for the smears against Mr. Obama based on his parents, the framers of your constitution opposed the idea of making children responsible for the acts of their parents so strongly that they explicitly prohibited it, not once but twice, in the body of the constitution.

  9. John G. Spragge Says:

    A further note: none of these accusations have anything to do with lying. A lie means a conscious statement of an untruth, or a conscious omission of a highly relevant truth. As a simple matter, Will Bunch never claims the media did anything like that on behalf of Mr. Obama, nor does he ever suggest that the media might justifiably do so.

    I myself would go farther. I see no evidence the media ever lied. They failed to “follow up” on a series of very questionable allegations with no support. They reported the choices Mr. Obama made in his work in Chicago, the people he worked with, and some of the problems he faced. I don’t see any evidence the press, as a whole, covered anything up. Conservative frustration, I suggest, stems as much from the public’s reaction to these reports as anything the media did or failed to do.

  10. Cathy Young Says:

    I read the article the same way John Spragge did.

    Incidentally, I think nonsense like “William Ayers ghost-wrote Obama’s memoir” went a long way toward discrediting legitimate questions about certain aspects of Obama’s past associations. It’s the “boy who cried wolf” effect.

  11. SteveH Says:

    I’d have to guess theres not a single member of the press who would appreciate this kind of misinformation or total lack of information, in discerning the character of someone their daughter is commited to marrying.

    I don’t see how democracy survives under a press that wears such blatant leftist ideology on its sleeve.

  12. Sergey Says:

    I must add a note about very important seismic shift in reception of Western media by Russian public: during August Russian-Georgian war its credibility was completely destroyed. Every day we have seen on Russian TV awful scenes of devastated Tskhinval, corpses of women lying on the streets – but not a single frame of this chronicle ever appeared in EuroNews, which was also translated 24/7 in Russia. All Western journalists gave absolutely uncritical repeats of blatant Georgian propaganda lies of well-known to every Russian Gebbelsian type. I have heard from many of my friends the same phrase: “For the fist time in my life I believe Russian government statements more than any Western media”.

  13. Dan Says:

    In the law, a prosecutor is obliged to reveal exculpatory evidence it discovers about the defendant being prosecuted, no matter what the consequences. Journalists seem to be exempt from a similar stricture, which to me defines the tricky concept of objectivity. Journalists must of necessity choose to report some facts at the expense of others, to focus the lens more carefully at one part of the picture than another. Constitutional protection of press freedom is often used to cloak attacks by reporters with immunity from criticism. This was not the intent of the Constitution. Other citizens, journalists, bloggers, etc have the freedom to point out when the arrogance of a news organization–the New York Times, for instance–is behind its choice to publish some facts at the expense of others. The editors of the NYT haven’t ever walked on water or performed other miracles. In short, they are human. When the power they have to influence public opinion ( and by extension the outcome of elections) is abused, the rest of us have an obligation to object as forcefully as we can, within the law. The past eight years has been a sorry example of abuse by reporters and editors of their constitutional privileges. Anyone who believes that the United States was one small step away from a totalitarian state, and that the tipping point was “reversed” by the actions of risk taking journalists has a serious psychiatric problem. If one reads only the Washington Post and New York Times, and lacks a skeptical mind, the conclusion expressed above about the Bush administration follows naturally from the way the “news” has been reported. Those of us who read more widely aren’t so sure about that. Imagine, if you will, that the reporters covering World War II focused their stories on the internment of Japanese-Americans, reported on the impact of Allied deaths on their families, errors in medical care of soldiers dying on Omaha beach, the confusion sown by the German attack in the Ardennes forest, while at the same time minimizing atrocities committed against the Jews in concentration camps, the desperate situation faced by German forces, running out of fuel and ammunition. What I’m getting at is that story tellers influence the opinion of their readers. Objectivity is a concept that is easier to recognize in its absence than to describe in a prescriptive sense. Much like pornography: I know it when I see it. And for its ability to remain objective, the US press corps–the MSM– deserves an “F” for the last four years. I hope they can get over their adulation of Barack Obama and cover him objectively. Report his mistakes as well as his successes; don’t rationalize for him if he goofs; don’t fall back on the weak excuse of everything being messed up by Bush; let the viewers and readers decide for themselves if his performance matches his promises.

  14. Sergey Says:

    This is ideology, stupid! The most powerful bias creator is ideology, and no ideology-obsessed person can objectively perceive his/her bias. We all know where from all these MSM journalists are recruited, so their ideology is an open secret.

  15. FredHjr Says:

    Cathy Young,

    You have not read the exegesis of “Dreams From My Father” that was done, comparing literary style, grammatical style, length of sentences with Ayers’ works. So, unless you have done so, please stifle your insults. Mr. Obama did not deliver his book on time and under budget. The book was not delivered to the publisher by the date it was supposed to have been provided to them. In fact, it was nowhere near completion. Obama had gone through his advance like a hot knife through butter with nothing to show for it. The pressure was on. And then a year later it was delivered.

    Unless you have better information, then put it up or shut up.

  16. dane Says:

    John G. – Your statement that “journalists do not have a responsibility to report objectively” if broken down to its prime components is an oxymoron – Journalist Reporter.

    In this country we had a long history of expecting our Reporters to give us the facts and just the facts. It was when reporter no longer was a good enough word and these people started to refer to themselves as journalists that we lost that tradition.

    Within the last couple of days Chris Matthews said (and no I won’t go find the exact quote because while listening to Barack Obama may give Chris a “tingle up his leg” listening to him gives me a nausea in my stomach) “It’s my job to make this presidency work” (and yeah I did go find the quote because I aim higher than the so-called journalists).

    Unfortunately it is the wide spread acceptance of “situational ethics” which leaves us with hardly anyone to trust to tell us the unvarnished truth. Oh I forgot – we do have Barack Obama.

  17. FredHjr Says:

    Mr. Spragge,

    You are an ass. The formation of the mind of a human being certainly does have intellectual input from the parents. In “Dreams From My Father” Obama approves of the defining ideas of his father’s life and work. In a later autobiography “Audacity of Hope” Obama again credits his mother as being most influential in his thinking.

    Therefore, deductively, one must ask the question, “So what were the ideas and attitudes of his parents that so impressed him and remain a part of how he thinks about the world?”

    His associations, alliances, and FAMILY certainly do play a large role in defining him. A person most certainly is defined by these things. Only someone naive would not recognize this about human nature. But then again Leftists are, from my long experience of dalliance with their ideology, on very shaky ground when it comes to understanding human nature.

  18. Tim P Says:


    It has been obvious to anyone who looks at tour mainstream media that there has been a huge bias for some time. That is beyond debate for anyone who is being honest. Jeff just points out that many in the MSM are now openly congratulating themselves for it. All while constructing this straw man of Republican/fascist threats to the very core of the republic as a justification for their lies and bias.

    Bunch and his ilk are trying to cement the lies into the record so as to become historical truth and he manages to pack several lies into a couple of sentences when he says things like, “But for eight years now, there’s been an out-of-control fire raging outside of that temple – a fire that was built upon the USA Patriot Act and Guantanamo and rendition and torture and signing statements and 16 words in a State of the Union Address.”

    Might that metaphorical fire have been the towers that collapsed on 9/11? Might media have lied when many knew that it was Wilson who lied and not the president, as facts confirmed? Might it have been the media who lied by omission when everyone knew that Dick Armitage let Scooter Libby take the fall for his statements to the media? Did the media lie when, in the name of patriotism, they would weekly show the faces and names of every casualty in Iraq? When all that was intended to do was to try and demoralize the public?

    The list goes on and the mind boggles when I see willfully blind statements like Spragge’s, “I myself would go farther. I see no evidence the media ever lied. They failed to “follow up” on a series of very questionable allegations with no support.”

    Say that as you read the stories, always anonymously sourced about Pailin making rape victims pay for their rape kits, that her young child Trig, is really her daughter’s or that it was her daughter’s and fathered by her dad. No lies there.

    The ideologically crippled will always broadly interpret lies and lying when accusing their opponents of it, but as shown in some of the comments above, they will parse like lawyers to say they or theirs didn’t lie.

    Regardless of who you backed or whatever was won or lost in this election, one casualty is beyond dispute and that is whatever was left of the MSM’s credibility.

  19. FredHjr Says:

    Has anyone been able to figure out why this Canadian who calls himself John Spragge is so heavily invested in carrying the water for Barack Obama?

    I participate in a number of weblog discussions and a few of them have Canadian participants. It’s fascinating how they really get into our elections and feel free to inject themselves liberally into our political disputes, while we pretty much decline to similarly invest ourselves in their politics.

    What gives here? My parents taught us to not stick our noses into our neighbors’ affairs. To be respectful of their households and allow them their space. It just really bothers me how Canadians and Europeans invest themselves in telling us how to run our house.

  20. newton Says:

    It’s official. Next time any of those “journalists” come and tell me that their mission is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”, I will yell at their faces as shamelessly as they have been:


    That anonymous reporter who e-mailed Professor Reynolds about how there were battalions of reporters going after every single tick of Sarah Palin’s, while Barack was left untouched, was correct. The fix was already in. It worked.

    I will NEVER AGAIN trust those liars!

  21. Jimmy J. Says:

    John G. again,
    “Journalists actually have no obligation to report objectively, and they certainly have no obligation to attempt to determine universal truths.”

    If they are not going to report as objectively as they can then they are under obligation to state their bias up front. They are posing as objective purveyors of information when they are not. These last four years have pretty much blown their cover. The major problem is they don’t understand that they are now exposed. They still pose as objective.

    As for determining universal truths, I agree journalists have no obligation to try to ferret truth from contending ideas. That is why they shoulld report both sides irregardless of their own bias. You want to believe that ideas you don’t agree with have no standing in the public forum, therefore, the journalist is under no obligation to report on those ideas. Once again, let me point out that this is the mind of the totalitarian at work. One who would forbid or suppress any mention of ideas they don’t agree with.

  22. John G. Spragge Says:

    Tim P:

    To take your accusations against the mainstream media one by one:

    Lying about the yellowcake and Niger: I don’t see lies here. Certainly, in the broad outline, Joseph Wilson told the larger truth: Iraq made no credibly threatening attempts to obtain uranium from Africa. As for whether he got the details wrong, or even lied about them, a respectable proportion of the claims that he reported inaccurately come from the mainstream media, particularly the Washington Post.

    Lying about the Plame coverup: The so-called mainstream media followed that story as it came out, and “Scooter” Libby went down for lying to investigators, not for Armitage’s leak. The Washington Post actually supported the Bush Administration’s position on this in editorials.

    Lying about the American death toll in Iraq: Here we get into a complete inversion, where telling the truth you do not want to hear equals lying. I have seen no evidence whatever that any news outlet ever exaggerated the number of American casualties. They exposed an error by the Bush Administration, namely, that the invasion of Iraq would produce an easy and quick war. That the truth does not conform to your desires does not make the media liars.

    Wasilla rape kits: As far as I can tell, nobody doubts the broad outlines of the story, that the city of Wasilla had a policy of billing rape victims and/or their insurance companies for the cost of rape kits. I have also seen no evidence whatever that during her tenure as mayor, Ms. Palin protested, introduced a policy change, or took any other proactive steps to change this policy. The media reported these facts, in the context of Ms. Palin’s emphasizing her history of executive experience. I don’t see a lie here.

    Trig’s parentage: I saw no actual mainstream media reports casting any doubts on the parentage of Trig Palin. Rumours surfaced on a number of blogs, including ones that I franly found somewhat disappointing. But I saw no evidence of “mainstream media” involvement, let alone dishonest involvement.

    Regardless of who you backed or whatever was won or lost in this election, one casualty is beyond dispute and that is whatever was left of the MSM’s credibility.

    Perhaps, but none of your specific examples seriously reduces the credibility of the so-called “mainstream media”. In all these cases, they reported both sides, sometimes taking the side of the Bush Administration, or else they reported, honestly and exactly, the facts, in situations that you clearly wish had turned out otherwise.

    As a general rule, making excuses simply ensures you will keep on losing, and almost all political movements that fall on hard times complain the media has a bias against them. These complaints never do any good. In the long run, movements tend to prosper when they stop trying to shoot the messenger and craft policy and other positions that actually work and attract broad support.

    FredHjr: Political principles interest me. The way people discuss issues on the internet also interests me. I enjoy talking and writing about both. If you put your arguments on an international form and invite comment, I will comment of the principles involved. This post, for example, raises the question of whether the media had a substantial bias against the Republican Party in the last election. Since I have seen many political movements rationalize their defeats by blaming the media, this interests me. And reading the linked article, I came to the conclusion that the source, as linked, did not justify the charge that the media lied because they considered the end justified the means, I still see no evidence of that.

    As for your claim that I “carry water” for President-elect Obama, please point to the post of mine where I have endorsed him for anything. I have written mostly of the larger economic issues and governance facing your country. Since these issues tend to cross borders, I make no apology for that.

    I would suggest that if you can refute my points, preferably with facts, you do so; if you can’t, feel free to ignore me.

  23. nyomythus Says:

    Criticizing the medias bias for Obama is an ugly slur, and frankly it’s primeval in it’s depths of anti-progressive thinking, let’s wait until the apparatchiks break ranks and criticize him first, then we can accuse them of rejecting the defense of progressiveness, and then we can announce our own criticism — for the good of constructive criticism.

  24. nyomythus Says:

    Or simply speak and think freely — and suffer the repercussions.

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