Archives for: August 2012, 31
For some time, CNN has been carving out a niche as the centrist, impartial, entirely fair news network. Not too far right, like FOX. Not too far left, like MSNBC.
The CNN definition of fairness fits nicely with what has been for decades the essence of journalistic ethics in America. A few years back, there was a hue and cry over fact checking. Major news organizations resisted the very idea. Calling someone on speaking untruths was not only unfair, taking sides, it was kind of ... unkind. We trust viewers, intoned one television personality, to do their own fact checking.
Fact checking is slowly making its way into the back and middle pages of print. Occasionally television news has been following.
The procession has been cautious. The tenacity of prevailing habit is strong as steel. Fair is the same as balanced. Balanced is the same as equivalent. Criticism of one side has to be matched by equal criticism of the other.
This year's Republican campaign has been a trial for that standard. What do you do when one side is operating fairly normally, occasionally pushing the edge then pulling back in, and the other side is rushing forward with easily documented ... shall we say it? ... lies. One after another in an endless parade.
Paul Ryan's speech slammed President Obama for instituting Medicare savings that Paul Ryan had advocated. Hospitals had been ordered to cut charges, but they went along because costs would be made up by increasing patient flow as more people could afford treatment under Obamacare. Private corporations raised a howl, but they were merely told to stop overcharging. Insurance companies were told to devote a higher share of premiums to actual care and to refund to families whatever was left.
Still, Paul Ryan told the convention and the television audience that President Obama had attacked Medicare, stealing that same 700 billion dollars from the program.
He repeated the workfare lie. In reality, President Obama had granted Republican governors waivers on work requirements, but only by requiring more recipients be moved off welfare rolls and onto payrolls. Republicans have been falsely saying that President Obama had abolished work requirements.
And he came up with a time travel lie. He slammed Obama for allowing a Wisconsin auto plant to close down, after promising to do everything possible to keep it open. In reality, GM announced the closure seven months before Obama took office. It was closed down five months later. Obama was still two months away from becoming President.
Paul Ryan knew all this. He had lobbied the Bush administration for funding to keep the plant open, making presentations, pushing for funds. The Bush administration decided against him.
It wasn't just Paul Ryan, of course. The theme of the Romney campaign, the core, has been a string of similar untruths. Splice and diced, chopped up video show President Obama proclaiming that business owners never built a business. Of course he never said that. He simply said that business owners have a lot of assets that had been contributed. Teachers had taught them. Police protected them. Roads and bridges provided a means of transport to and from. They didn't build that.
Mitt Romney repeated the discredited Medicare distortion. He added a mythical Obama tax on the middle class. In reality, President Obama lowered middle class taxes. He repeated the lie that President Obama had conducted a foreign "apology tour." In reality President Obama has conducted no such tour, although such a tour has been an article of faith among conservative partisans since President Obama took office.
The word "false" is beginning to find its way into first and second paragraphs of news articles, and occasionally even headlines, as news media throw up their hands at the impossible task of pretending everything is equivalent.
CNN bravely presses on, although ever more awkwardly. This is how Tommy Christopher reported on the CNN reporting:
Their commentary seems to indicate that it doesn’t matter if Ryan is a liar. Blitzer begins by calling it “a powerful speech,” then notes, in the same breath, that “I marked at least seven or eight points I’m sure the fact checkers will have some opportunities to dispute if they want to go forward, I’m sure they will.”
Wow, is that ever hard hitting. Way to stand up for truth, Wolf. I happened to catch part of that. Wolf Blitzer went on to add that fact checkers would also be sure to find a lot of points to dispute in Democratic speeches as well.
Balance rules. Equivalence leads to equivocation. Truth is a last resort.