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Sep 22, 2004 8:45 pm


How About Elevating Your Tone ...



The stress of the campaign is wearing on all of us and it seems especially difficult to acknowledge the legitimate issues raised by folks on the other side of the divide. Take, for example, Brian Leiter's post here. Leiter complains that righty bloggers have made much of"Rathergate" and ignored Michelle Malkin's rationalization of internment. However legitimate his complaint, both Ann Althouse and Brandon Watson note that the philosopher is reduced to potty talk and childish name-calling. Isn't it necessary to acknowledge both that CBS/Sixty Minutes/Rather were incredibly negligent and that Malkin's argument is deeply flawed; and that we don't need to smear each other in the process? I rather like Althouse's suggestion of a new blogtitle:"Moral Cretins and Self-Important Poseurs."

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Derek Charles Catsam - 9/27/2004

Mark --
No, that does not work. You can not posit something without evidence, and then if you happen to be right, assert that somehow you knew all along. That's a fishing expedition. You can suspect all you want; knowledge is based on facts and evidence, which in this case you simply do not have. And of course if you are wrong no one will remember, even though you "knew" you were right. And if you happen to be right, will you then tell us of the other times you "knew' something that did not end up being true? While you set yourself up for a nice little win-win proposition, it does not pass muster. We've seen enough cases in the profession and in journalism where "knowing" before possessing the evidence left us with shoddy work. Let's don't compound that shameful record.
dc


mark safranski - 9/25/2004

All right Ralph, let's wait and see what emerges from the investigation. If I'm wrong, I'll apologize.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/25/2004

Mark, There is _no_ evidence that CBS knowingly conspired to perpretrate a fraud. That is what you are charging and you do not have the evidence to sustain the charge.


mark safranski - 9/25/2004

Gentlemen,

You have a situation with a) a questionable source providing documents that b)their own experts found to be questionable that c) CBS initially vouched for 100%, misrepresenting the opinion of their own experts and d) acted as a conduit between the source and a political campaign that is the rival to the one targeted in their story, something undisclosed to the viewers at the time.

What conclusions would you draw regarding motivation ?

What would your reaction be if Fox had done the same thing to Kerry ? Or Rush Limbaugh ?

I see a mixture of incompetence, malice, CYA syndrome and the professional rush to have the " big story " depending upon which CBS employee we are talking about.

No matter which way you slice it this story was a serious violation of journalistic ethics, at a minimum. One CBS would not have committed if a liberal Democrat had been the focus of the story - they would have at least attempted to find greater corroboration and used more critical scrutiny of the sources.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/23/2004

With regard to Malkin's exposure, you're forgetting a steady stream of public appearances, mostly facilitated by College Republicans, which result in a steady stream of newspaper and local tv news reportage, and the 'multiplier effect' of having syndicated conservative columnists praising her work.


Richard Henry Morgan - 9/23/2004

I find myself in the uncommon position of agreeing with Ralph. It isn't necessary to posit knowing fraud by CBS in order to explain its behaviour. They just got carried away. Scientists fall in love with their hypotheses, why can't journalists fall in love with their stories?

One of the problems at CBS is the cultural one. They recruit people from the same cultural niche. Thus, while they had "document experts", they didn't have a single veteran readily at hand (apparently) to look at the documents. That is to say, they did not do an analysis of the form of the content. The erroneous rank abbreviations and the hilariously funny date group (a bastard offspring of civilian and military versions) stand out like sore thumbs to anyone with even a few years of military experience.

This is not the first time I've seen this phenomenon. When the US went into Grenada, there were no media there, but for a freelance French photographer. Presto. His photos appeared in Newsweek with credits to both him and Newsweek. There was a funny thing about the captions, though -- they were just invented, rather than the result of reporting. One photo (and this occurred with most of them) had a bunch of guys heading toward a helicopter. It was labelled as "Marines load into a helicopter" (or somesuch). Problem was, the soldiers had Kevlar helmets (which the Marines did not as yet have), BDU's (which the Marines did not as yet have), cammo cover bands (which Marines didn't use), Ranger eyes on the back of those bands (which Marines don't use), and they were approaching a Blackhawk helicopter (which the Marines didn't as yet have). Apart from all that invented stuff, they got the story right.


Still, the differences between Malkin and CBS are substantial. Malkin does not yet stand accused of citing fraudulent documents -- just misinterpreting the ones she does cite. I think the question of who gores the ox is less important than the fact that the ox got gored. CBS got gored. Malkin got gored. As Jonathan Dresner put it, the major medium of criticism of Malkin was the blogosphere. Her footprint in major media was pretty much restricted to an appearance on Fox, one on MSNBC, a half-dozen radio shows, and a handful od op-ed pieces (and not in the heavyweight papers). Fox accounts for (at last look) about 18% of the TV evening news viewership. CBS, and the echo chamber that surrounds it in major media, spread the CBS allegations farther and wider than Malkin's wildest dream. With that kind of exposure comes faster and heightened scrutiny. The beauty is that no one political perspective dominates the blogosphere, so the guilty will be gored, if not by the same people within the medium.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/23/2004

Mark, There is simply _no_ evidence that CBS "knowingly peddled false information for political purposes." Unless you have proof of that, it is best not to attribute the basest of motivations or most indicting explanation of actions to people with whom you disagree.


mark safranski - 9/23/2004

I think the critical difference between the two situations is that Malkin wrote a book that relied on bad reasoning to make a morally questionable argument while CBS appear to have knowingly peddled false information for political purposes. Michelle Malkin is also not, in anyone's eyes, a supposedly objective news organization.

Both bad things but different kinds of bad things

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