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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Hubris of the Fourth Estate

Many said selfishness was the flaw of our modern age; but then self-conceit emerged from a corner of the deepest hell to join selfishness.
Franz Grillparzer (1791–1872

I am continually amazed at the conduct of my fellow scriveners in this modern era. When I was besmirching politicians and ruining reputations, I didn’t delude myself that I was somehow a warrior for truth and justice, some sacred exquisite of superior sensibility. Exposing malfeasance for fun and profit was more like it.

But now, reporters have come to believe that they are a protected class – above laws, criticism and often reality. Their obliviousness has erupted in a particularly ugly way in the Newsweek controversy. By publishing an unsubstantiated report, since retracted, that the military was using copies of the Koran as latrine accessories, Newsweek caused worldwide riots that left 15 dead and many injured.

It demonstrates how ill educated, unsophisticated and egocentric these graduates of journalism factories – um - schools are that their blind hatred of George Bush would cause them to rush into print a story that barely rises to the level of the Hedda Hopper truth-in-gossip variety. The story is retracted, the editor admits they were wrong – and yet the rest of the wolf pack is still unwilling to admit error.

At the White House today, Press Spokesman Scott McLellan was attacked by the press pool for suggesting that Newsweek has some responsibility to correct the damage it has done.

“Who made you the editor of Newsweek? Do you think it's appropriate for you, at that podium, speaking with the authority of the President of the United States, to tell an American magazine what they should print?”

“You're pressuring them.”

“Are you asking them to write a story about how great the American military is; is that what you're saying here?” Oh, heaven forefend!

What was Mr. McLellan saying to provoke such fury? “Our military goes out of their way to handle the Koran with care and respect. There are policies and practices that are in place. This report was wrong. Newsweek, itself, stated that it was wrong. And so now I think it's incumbent upon Newsweek to do their part to help repair the damage. And they can do that through ways that they see best, but one way that would be good would be to point out what the policies and practices are in that part of the world, because it's in that region where this report has been exploited and used to cause lasting damage to the image of the United States of America. It has had serious consequences. And so that's all I'm saying, is that we would encourage them to take steps to help repair the damage. And I think that they recognize the importance of doing that. That's all I'm saying.”

Well! If we’re going to drag cause and effect into the argument, how can the oblivious function?

After the CBS fiasco, the Jayson Blair scandal, the Cliff Schectman-Cape Cod Times snafu, the Walter Cronkite never-mind - how do they manage to keep their self absorption so pristine?

Well, they DID go to the finest colleges, you know.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jack said...

Now, now, Peter, you have to remember that you are referring to people who have reserved the right to criticize others solely for themselves, and they get extremely agitated if anyone else has the gall to scrutinize them. This is not how the First Amendment is supposed to work, or so they were taught.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Peter Porcupine said...

HAH! They've become soft!

When I was a publisher, I didn't allow an edition to hit the streets unless I also had a fast horse out back. Criticism was the LEAST of my worries.

The elevation of the First Amendment to the status of Holy Writ is perhaps the most deleterious development in constiutional interpretation.

2:47 PM  

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