Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Rathergate report abets Media Induced Ignorance

Here is the obligatory post from Carpe Bonum on the CBS Rathergate/Memogate report by Thornburgh and Boccardi.

Though there is an abundance of commentary on the details of the report, whether it is a whitewash, and which players are guilty of what, I have not yet seen a comment on the report as a next step in the ongoing battle against Media Induced Ignorance.

Every blogger on the right side of the blogosphere has linked to other bloggers' reports on the report, so there is no need to do that here (except this from Powerline -- must bow to the giants). Also, many bloggers have made the point that the report gives lots of interesting facts, but despite the overwhelming evidence in the report itself, it just doesn't have the guts to conclude:
  1. The documents are actually fake

  2. The false Texas Air National Guard story was politically motivated

Based on the facts in the report, one would have to be truly deluded to conclude otherwise, but the report just doesn't get 'er done.

It also offers a complex "perfect storm" scenario where time, competitive pressure and other factors coincide resulting in this purportedly aberrational event. A far simpler explanation would be as follows: As a group, the people in the organization responsible for developing content vehemently disagree with the President's policies, personally dislike the President, and at the time thought it was terribly important that he not be reelected. In their minds, it was only natural to turn cocktail party smears into a "news" report once a shred of evidence surfaced to justify it.

Meanwhile the left side of the blogosphere:
...sound of crickets chirping...
No, that's not quite true. Atrios has this to say:
[T]he entire saga is proof that there is no goddamn liberal media
Which returns us to the topic of Media Induced Ignorance. Because the Thornburgh/Boccardi report falls shy of making the obvious conclusions listed above, and because it offers up the bogus "perfect storm" scenario as an explanation for how such an error could possibly happen, the report obscures the real causes and effects of Media Induced Ignorance.

In this case, the media themselves suffered from their own ignorance, giving undue credence to the crudely faked documents because they were so consistent with their world view. That misinformation was passed on to CBS viewers. The effective response of alternative media exposed the deception in this one incident, but did not expose the pervasive self-reinforcing delusion of the media elite.

CBS's response to the incident is to fire four people and institute several procedural and organizational changes. Since the Thornburgh/Boccardi report fails to identify the true cause of the problem, naturally the actions taken in response to the report are of no use. The proper actions would have been:
  1. Admit that political bias exists in the organization

  2. Reinforce to staff that their views are at odds with those of most of the country (i.e. CBS staff is bright blue while the country is actually reddish purple)

  3. Reinforce to staff that journalistic ethics proscribes using a news report as a means to achieve a political end

  4. Train staff on how to distinguish facts from conclusions

  5. Establish guidelines that require news reports be limited to factual reporting

  6. Prominently identify editorial content as such

Instead, the next few news cycles will be filled with "perfect storm" and "myopic zeal" and "CBS ousts four," all with the reassuring subtext that all the rest of the media is just fine.

And so the cycle continues.

UPDATE: OK, fine. Here's a link to a nice roundup by PunditGuy. Happy now?