Thursday, November 29, 2007

More On The Joe Klein Business

In comments here, Democracy Lover asks an honest question, which deserves an honest response:
While I admire Greenwald's courage in calling Time and JokeLine on their blatant publication of partisan propaganda as journalism, and his tenacity in holding their feet to the fire, do we really believe that AOL Time-Warner will stop parroting Republican BS and start doing their jobs?

Obviously, the short answer is "No". This isn't about changing the behavior of major news outlets. The various "narrative frameworks" and their methodological presuppositions (to get all hifalutin') are far too entrenched for that. This is part of a process of pushing back against various elite journalists who are paraded around as serious, informed thinkers of Deep Thoughts. These elite pundits continually perform as if, because of their access to "sources" (more on that below) and some kind of weird, occult process by which they have better understanding than your Average Citizen, they were fonts of wisdom, sagacity (I think that's redundant), and scrupulously fair commentary.

In this case, however, we have a pundit who lauds himself continually (humility, apparently, is not a journalistic/pundit virtue, although they demand it of those whom they cover) showing himself in public to be ignorant, stubbornly refusing to admit error, and finally admitting he is just too damn lazy to do his job. In the process, as Greenwald shows in his latest installment of the continuing saga, one of Klein's sources managed to out himself. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) writing in NRO today, claimed himself as one of Klein's sources. I have no problem with using such a source to get the partisan skinny on a situation; yet, as is the case here, it is Klein's misreporting, admitted lazy, slovenly attitude towards the facts, and adamant refusal to admit he is wrong that is the issue.

This pushback against the nonsense will not change the world overnight. It probably won't change the world at all. In all likelihood, it won't even change the way Joe Klein writes his columns. What it does is give bloggers and others, not just the confidence but the props to continue to push back. Pundits and bloggers are entitled to opinions (being as ubiquitous as a certain orifice, to which Klein bears a striking resemblance). They are not entitled to ignore facts because they interfere with certain assumptions (Democrats are weak on national security; they coddle terrorists, etc.). If the facts are contrary to the narrative, we need to toss that narrative out.

In the Greenwald column already linked, it is nice to see that the Tribune has more integrity than Time. The former has come flat out and said that Klein was wrong. The latter . . . not so much. Even the updated correction that Greenwald notes contains the "he said/he said" nonsense that is irrelevant precisely because this isn't a matter open to interpretation. A correction that refuses to drop the underlying premise is not a correction, but continued obfuscation.

I have no doubt that Klein will continue to type away whatever crap is fed him by Hoekstra and other sources. At least now we know where some of it is coming from. We also have something we can hang around his neck each and every time he puts his mug on television, or goes on-line or in print and carries on about how unprofessional and uninformed bloggers are. This is a process, and a marker in the process. It may take time - maybe decades - before garbage like this goes away. It probably will not go away for good. At least, however, we have the satisfaction of pushing back, and the information is available for those who may have future questions about pundit credibility.

As to the second part of your comment, I think that is overblown. There are plenty of good journalists out there, doing good work, that goes unnoticed precisely because it really is good. While there is no doubt that there is a corporate bias at that level, good reporting does get done, more often than not. The criticism I have has always been with a tiny slice of our elite pundits and the truly fatuous, shallow commentary they continually put out there, pretending they are philosopher-kings to which we demos should bow in humble adoration.


If Klein's ego weren't so tied up in being wiser and smarter than us dumb, foul-mouthed bloggers, and he admitted his original mistake and said, "Sorry", this whole thing would have been over a week ago. He can't do it, however, and so on and on it goes.

Virtual Tin Cup

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