An Example For You

Many of you have taken me to task for ‘bashing’ Hugh Hewitt. I don’t think I am so much bashing him as pointing out why his war against the media is wrong, and here is an excellent example.

Last week, Hugh took Howard Fineman to task for a piece he co-wrote titled Mission Improbable, a lengthy piece that had at its center a letter from a despondent officer in Iraq. Hugh commented:

There are lots of reasons an officer might send Fineman such a letter, reasons we cannot know because we don’t have the specifics on the author. Fineman’s decision to launch a column using that letter as opposed to Major K’s post is a choice –one consistently made by MSM– to lead with the bad news from Iraq and rarely, if ever, underscore not just the progress there, but also the alternative universe that would exist if, two years and two months ago, Saddam had not been removed.

And right there, you see the objective of media ‘neutrality’ in Hugh’s rules for the media- every ‘bad’ piece must be balanced with a ‘good’ piece. This was a ‘bad’ piece because in Hugh’s Manichean world, anything that is pessimistic about the situation in Iraq is anti-US and therefore, anti-administration. It is part of why I think the real goal is a subservient media.

Today, Howard has a long piece outlining the problems with Howard Dean titled the Scream 2: the Sequel, in which Fineman goes through and lists a number of Dean’s problems and shortcomings.

By Hugh’s standards, shouldn’t he be crowing loudly about this piece, since it is anti-Democrats, which by Hugh’s logical extension makes it pro-administration and a serious blow to the insurgency in Iraq and terrorists worldwide? Shouldn’t he be trumpeting this piece?

Of course not. That would be a stupid rule. But I am not the one who made these rules of ‘balance’ and media bias up- Hugh and others did. Sometimes, a piece is just a piece. Sometimes, there is more bad news than good. Sometimes, reporters and columnist report what they see, not what they want or not what they think is the best or the worst for anyone involved. That is their job.

But, it appears, some don’t want them to do it. In the last few months, I have taken my fair share of shit for being a ‘media defender.’ Yesterday, in the comments of Buzzmachine, some anonymous jackheel wrote this:

Cole is wrong. Again. He’s the kind of so-called conservative that consistently goes all Sullivan on anyone that doesn’t agree with him. He always defends the MSM, believes (without any proof) complaints about torture at Gitmo (hey, it’s in the Al Qaeda playbook to complain!) and ignores the fact that whatever’s going on down there is nothing compared to the thousands dead. And whatever they’re doing down there…well, I haven’t seen another plane heading into the Empire State Building. War isn’t for sissies like Sullivan and Cole.

Let’s put aside the sissy remark by an anonymous coward who clearly knows nothing about my background and get back to objective reality. I don’t believe everything bad about America or American soldiers, and I don’t automatically defend the mainstream media and always believe everything they say. Check my damned archives, foolio. I have had some choice words for the vile scum represented by Ted Rall, Eason Jordan, and Linda Foley. When they get it wrong, I want them hammered like everyone else.

But what this guy and some others want is a media that says what they want them to say and nothing else. That isn’t a personal attack on Hugh- that is an attack on a silly an indefensible premise that helps no one.

I want an honest media, but I don’t want a servile one. I know for a fact that there are many in the media who do use every opportunity and every column inch to make petty attacks against the administration. I have no problem with identifying them and calling them out (Paul Krugman does come to mind). I do have a problem with this bizarre notion that we should dictated what they write about, because there is the distinct possibility that events dictate the coverage to a large degree. Maybe the reason coverage seems gloomy lately is that more often than not, bad things are happening.

Maybe if the security situation were better in Iraq, reporters and journalists could have more access to all the good things that are going on? They can, after all, only report what they see. Of course the coverage is going to focus on explosions- they get an armed military escort to cover them in a nation where the highway to the airport has to be shut down at night by helicopter gunships to get people safely in and out of the country.

Maybe they reported on the alleged abuses of the Koran so frequently because they see how, true or not, these abuses have resonated in the communities they are observing. Personally, I think the Koran coverage was a win for the United States, even if we turned it into a loss. Is it unclear to anyone the ridiculous extremes we now go through to respect the Koran, and that more detainees have defiled the Koran and in more disgusting manners than anything our boys have done?

At any rate, have at it in the comments.

12 replies
  1. 1
    Gary Farber says:

    “…ignores the fact that whatever’s going on down there is nothing compared to the thousands dead.”

    This is an excellent defense. If we, say, merely arbitrarily select 100 random detainees at Gitmo, and execute them by firing sqaud, after all, that’s nothing compared to the thousands dead on September 11th. So that’s all right, then.

  2. 2

    I’m curious how you think we turned the Koran coverage “into a loss”? By blowing an honest mistake way out of proportion and thrusting more allegations into the spotlight?

  3. 3
    John Cole says:

    By systematically attempting to savage the damned media, letting rumors and reports like this flourish for years without doing anything about it, and letting suspicion created by documented acts of torture lend credibility to these now bull shit charges.

    Should have just investigated it and reported it months ago and moved on.

  4. 4
    Birkel says:

    What’s interesting to me is that you say what Hugh Hewitt wants is a subservient press because of the way he chooses to criticize the MSM while at the same time you criticize HH. Does this necessarily mean you want a subservient HH? Of course not.

    What it means is that you choose to criticize HH for his perceived overstatements and missteps according to your own lights. And, it would seem to me, this is exactly what HH is trying to do if we are to give a fair reading to his blog (which I don’t read).

    Yet somehow your post here seems to be of a mind to psychoanalyze HH’s motivations. (And yes, I may be unfairly reading what you have written. I encourage any corrections if that is the case.) Can we not just take him at his word? Can we not just say he questions the usefulness of a despondent officer’s letter as representative of those serving in Iraq? Does asking the question mean HH wants a subervient press?

    Howard Fineman, HH and John Cole all seem to be doing their dead-level best according to their own views. I’m glad the marketplace of ideas has so many competing goods for sale. Let’s start from the notion that we’re all better off for being able to read and criticize whatever we want and that this is a net positive for our society.

  5. 5
    John Cole says:

    Yet somehow your post here seems to be of a mind to psychoanalyze HH’s motivations.

    His motivations are clear- he has stated them repeatedly. Read him.

  6. 6
    Birkel says:

    No thanks.

  7. 7

    Gotcha, thanks for the response.

  8. 8
    Kimmitt says:

    Should have just investigated it and reported it months ago and moved on.

    Ah, but that would be inimical to Bush’s theory of government, which requires him to fight any sort of oversight over the State’s action.

  9. 9
    Bruce Moomaw says:

    The “alternative universe that would exist if…Saddam had not been removed” has, of course, no connection whatsoever with whether, as Fineman says, our current occupation is coming unraveled and Iraq is therefore likely to break down into civil war — which is all that Fineman and the officer he quoted were saying. Neither of them said anything to imply that such a civil war and chaos is likely to lead to the reinstatement of Saddam. Hewitt is simply a professional flack who will use any technique possible, honest or dishonest, to attack anyone who says anything critical of Bush Administration policies.

    As for the accuracy of Fineman’s report: see what two Washington Post reporters who actually accompanied a US platoon and its Iraqi Allies had to say yesterday on the situation, in detail and including interviews with the Iraqi “troops”: .
    Note in particular the first and last paragraphs. Really reassuring. If anything, Fineman’s report seems too optimistic.

  10. 10
    AlanDownunder says:

    Nathan Lanier:
    I’m curious how you think we turned the Koran coverage “into a loss”? By blowing an honest mistake way out of proportion and thrusting more allegations into the spotlight?

    Nathan, I think you’re pissing into the wind, but in your case it may be an honest mistake.

  11. 11
    Birkel says:

    Bruce Moomaw and Kimmitt,

    All the readers of this blog no doubt take you for middle-of-the-road types. You’re influencing people.

    Keep working for the cause.


  12. 12
    ppgaz says:

    Not wanting to be just another anonymous jackheel, here. My email address is pretty much available to any sane person who asks for it. However, I don’t post it very often, so as to avoid some of the non-sane people who live on the internet. But I do post it once in a while, like now, so if anyone itches to send mail explaining in detail why they think I am full of crap, here ya go.

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