The “Journolist” scandal

The poisoned well of the American media  

Have you been following the “Journolist” controversy in the United States? Who doesn’t know about media bias, but this takes the evidence into an entirely new dimension. There are leaked emails – on a list server given the collective name “Journolist” – from a cabal of major mainstream media journalists who conspired with each other to frame stories that would help elect Barack Obama and keep John McCain from the Presidency. This is a scandal of the highest order, but who is going to tell you? It certainly won’t be the journalists involved nor their mates in the media. 

The initial story, run on The Daily Caller website, is quite extraordinary. The story begins with these words: 

In the hours after Sen. John McCain announced his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate in the last presidential race, members of an online forum called Journolist struggled to make sense of the pick. Many of them were liberal reporters, and in some cases their comments reflected a journalist’s instinct to figure out the meaning of a story. 

But in many other exchanges, the Journolisters clearly had another, more partisan goal in mind: to formulate the most effective talking points in order to defeat Palin and McCain and help elect Barack Obama president. The tone was more campaign headquarters than newsroom. 

These were not obscure journalists from second tier news organisations. These were frontline pros from Time, Newsweek, The Economist, Washington Post and the New York Times. These were amongst the most influential journalists in the entire United States. And they conspired with each other to frame stories that would get Obama elected and prevent the election of John McCain. 

This notion of a One Party Media ought to make anyone seriously nervous about what can and cannot be discovered about those in government if the media will not report with any strength the misdeeds of left-of-centre parties but will exaggerate the negatives of their opponents on the more conservative side of the fence. 

Sarah Palin has responded to these revelations, in my view too weakly, by calling such journalists “sick puppies”, but she has added this which anyone who paid attention to the US election knows is entirely true: 

It was too obvious to me, my family, my administration and anyone else who knew me (and my record) that we were in a defenseless position the minute I gave my acceptance speech and the hordes of Obama’s opposition researchers-slash ‘reporters’ had descended upon Alaska.

To me, this was the most interesting of the comments made by one of the media people on the Journolist email list, where he almost perfectly characterised exactly who Palin is: 

“Okay, let’s get deadly serious, folks. Grating voice or not, ‘inexperienced’ or not, Sarah Palin’s just been introduced to the country as a brave, above-party, oil-company-bashing, pork-hating maverick ‘outsider. What we can do is to expose her ideology.” (My emphasis)

What Palin endured Obama did not. The way in which these same “Journolist” members actively and in unison downplayed the role of Jeremiah Wright in Obama’s life, meant that crucially important aspects of the background of the man who is now and will be for another two and a half years the President of the US were kept from view to the greatest extent possible. 

This is merely an instance of what is clearly a general case. What else we don’t know that we ought to is one of the great unknown unknowns, just as we might also ask about what we think we know that is untrue. We used to worry about who will guard us from our guardians. Now we also must ask who will report to us about the reporters? 

And what makes this so disturbing is not just the degree of cover up for Obama but the fact that these journalists were not personally repulsed by Obama’s political beliefs. The American President is not some soft leftist in the mould of the ALP but an out-and-out hard core radical neo-Marxist. He is quite possibly the most leftist person in the American government. 

Things that are easy to discover, such as the Marxist roots of his mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, or his close association over many years with the former “Weatherman” Bill Ayres and his wife Bernadette Dohrn, went consciously unreported. Anyone who has looked knows these things are true. If you, the reader of these words, don’t know these things are true, you must ask yourself why. Why don’t you know? And if you do know, why is it that so few others also know or understand the implications of these facts. 

The first question that needs to be asked about are the values and political beliefs of the members of the media who bring us our news. What do they believe? How is it possible for such people to rise within major newsgathering organisations? And most importantly, what effect have their biases had on our understanding of the world? Just how misshapen is the picture they paint? 

What the “Journolist” revelations show is how the news is actively distorted to shape stories so that readers will not vote for conservative candidates but will instead vote for the most leftist candidate. Even with all of this distortion, even with anti-Bush rhetoric at the highest pitch (another contribution of the media to community perceptions), even with the meltdown in the American economy, Obama still only received 53% of the vote. Had the press been even remotely objective, there is no telling what the outcome might have been. 

But after that, the real question is what is to be done? Greater reliance on the net, a greater audience for Fox News, the development of alternative news sources, the financial bankruptcy of the New York Times (morally it has been bankrupt for years), will all help. But what must actually develop is a recognition across the community that these major media organisations are captives of the left, and the far left at that. They cannot be trusted to bring us the news. Everything they write must be taken with a sack of salt. 

Once that is understood, let them say what they like. What they write on political issues will be seen for what it is: the equivalent of some far-left pamphlet handed out on street corners on a Friday night. If that is your cup of tea, read on and enjoy. 

What everyone must eventually come to understand is that journalism in the US, with only a few exceptions, is the province of the radical left. Once that is understood – improbable that it should occur but that is what is needed – then the poisons leaked into the political process by the values of those who report the news will be kept to a minimum. But like any contagion, it will never completely go away.

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