1. “Arthur Brisbane and selective stenography
The real media sin is not uncritical printing of false claims: it’s extending that license only to the powerful
The New York Times‘ Public Editor Arthur Brisbane unwittingly sparked an intense and likely enduring controversy yesterday when he pondered — as though it were some agonizing, complex dilemma — whether news reporters “should challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.” That’s basically the equivalent of pondering in a medical journal whether doctors should treat diseases, or asking in a law review article whether lawyers should defend the legal interests of their clients, etc.: reporting facts that conflict with public claims (what Brisbane tellingly demeaned as being “truth vigilantes”) is one of the defining functions of journalism, at least in theory. Subsequent attempts to explain what he meant, along with a response from the NYT‘s Executive Editor, Jill Abramson, will only add fuel to the fire.
Jay Rosen and Clay Shirky both have excellent analyses of the Brisbane controversy — which, as they point out, sparked such intense reaction because it captured and inflamed long-standing anger toward media outlets for mindlessly amplifying statements without examining whether they’re true. As Stephen Colbert put it in his still-extraordinary 2006 speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: “But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works. The President makes decisions. He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ‘em through a spell check and go home.” While reporters typically react with fury over the suggestion that they are stenographers, Brisbane was essentially posting that this is all they are, and then earnestly wondering aloud whether they should be anything more than that, as though it was some sort of exotic or edgy suggestion.”
2. “Republican Socialists, Democratic Capitalists
Greg Sargent of The Washington Post chimes in: “The leading GOP candidates are on record arguing that Romney’s practice of [capitalism]—which he regularly cites as proof of his ability to create jobs, as a generally constructive force and even as synonymous with the American way—is not really capitalism at all, but a destructive, profit-driven perversion of it. Thanks to them, this is no longer a left-wing argument.”
(Actually, destruction and profit-taking are the essential cores of capitalism. But why quibble? Everyone agrees that capitalism sucks. Yay!)
Times are changin’. According to polls, communism is more popular than Congress. So why isn’t the party of the left jumping on the Wall Street-bashing bandwagon?
Throughout the 2008 campaign and his presidency Barack Obama has taken pains to reassure the 1 percent that if he’s not exactly one of them he’ll look out for their bank accounts. Certainly he has enacted policies that have increased the gap between rich and poor while sucking the life out of the dry husk of the middle class.
Meanwhile, revolution looms.
Why don’t the Democrats see it? Don’t they understand that capitalism is discredited? Newt Gingrich does. So do most Republicans.
It comes down to a simple explanation: Everything has changed, but not the Democrats. They’ve always been slower than the GOP to recognize the shifting winds of American politics, slower to respond, inept when they try.
We used to be a center-right country. Now we’re left-right. Soon we’ll be left-left. Both the Dems and the Reps will be left behind. In the meantime, watch the dying Republicans make the most of an agenda that ought to belong to the dying Democrats: bashing the rich and greedy.”