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Skepticism and the Fourth Estate
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Andrew Sullivan:
James Joyner sees the logic in MSNBC becoming the network of the anti-Bush left. But after Bush? I understand the need for opinion and attitude in cable news. What I don't understand is why this has to be so partisan when it could simply be oppositional - regardless of who's in power.
It would be a healthy development, both for the future of the media and for US democracy, for the media to adopt a more aggressively skeptical stance towards government, politicians and political claims in general.

There is an underlying theme in US society of distrust for authority and skepticism of government. It ought to be tapped, emphasized and cultivated. It would result in a better government, better press and a better-informed citizenry.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
except when it’s so obviously one-sided...it gets pretty lame.
 
Written By: Joel C.
URL: http://
Yeah except that MSNBC will simply become the cheering section for Hillary...or will continue to be skeptical of REPUBLICAN POTUS’....and being anti-Bush is not the same thing as being skeptical of government, either.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"It would be a healthy development, both for the future of the media and for US democracy, for the media to adopt a more aggressively skeptical stance towards government, politicians and political claims in general."
Why shouldn’t the media just be neutral and report factual information and leave the qualitative judgments out (except for clearly stated opinion and analysis pieces)? Aren’t you just arguing for a media with a bias in another direction?

 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Grimshaw, the media can’t be neutral and factual alone because facts always have a perspective, and ’neutrality’ is seen differently by different people.

What the media should not be is partisan in terms of treating members of either party differently based on the party — and I agree with Jon, skepticism about whoever is in power seems a healthy perspective to take. Governmental power is easy to abuse, and the source of a large amount of corruption, limits to liberty, and violence. I’d prefer a press that simply sees its job regarding government as to be the public watch dog, looking for dishonesty, abuses of power, and analyzing consequences of decisions made/action undertaken on individuals, especially individual liberty. Assume that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were/are both suspect because they have a lot of power, and power can corrupt.

One of the most dangerous trends in politics is when people think that those on their side are better people than those on the other side of the fence.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I generally agree with Erb here, Grimshaw.

I’m not suggesting they should be judgmental, biased, etc - just that they should be skeptical; that they should investigate claims, call out false claims, examine previous claims, etc.

They should do the same thing to themselves.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
just that they should be skeptical; that they should investigate claims, call out false claims, examine previous claims, etc.


Considering the numerous memes in the MSM I don’t think this is too likely. Example, change welfare and the story is always about the poor mom getting her PhD in Cosmology with two children....never much discussion about the "median" or "mean" recipient.

They should do the same thing to themselves.


Except of course they don’t and won’t...but name an industry that really polices itself.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I’m not suggesting they should be judgmental, biased, etc - just that they should be skeptical; that they should investigate claims, call out false claims, examine previous claims, etc.

They should do the same thing to themselves.
Right now it has been mostly LGF and similar "right wing" blogs that have been calling out media lies, from Rather/Mapes to the fake Ruters photos to the New Republic’s fake soldier.

I don’t see that formula changing anytime soon.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
i’d have more respect for the lot of them if they just came out and admitted their bias and be done with it. At least then they’d be honest, which is a far cry from anything they are today.
 
Written By: Joel C.
URL: http://
I’m all for a skeptical media in general, but I’m looking forward to a left-wing cable network mindlessly validating everything the next Democratic administration does, after living through the Fox News equivalent for eight years.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Not on topic, but I just wanted to be the first to welcome glasnost back to the real world after his extended stay in cryogenic suspension. I had not realized that the Army’s tests in the early 50s had acheived any successes.
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
I agree with glasnost.

The problem with media bias is that it happens both by omission and commission. The media could run a perfectly fair story, for example, about Huckabee and Arkansas and present every fact with anecdotes to support and rebut everything the Governor did. By not reporting about Obama in a similar fashion, they would, in effect be scrupulously neutral in what they did, yet effectively create doubt about Huckabee and none about Obama.

More concisely, you can tell they are lying when they print something, and when they don’t. Caveat emptor, friends.

I agree with Erb, to a point. On most issues, there are honest arguments that can be made for or against any plan or course of action. A media that is overly cynical can make pretty near any government action impossible. That is mostly a good thing, but not always.
 
Written By: MarkD
URL: http://
I’m all for a skeptical media in general, but I’m looking forward to a left-wing cable network mindlessly validating everything the next Democratic administration does, after living through the Fox News equivalent for eight years.
You have heard of CNN?
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
The problem with this is war time especially and when the true battlefield is in the minds and resolve of the American Public.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Why not have both?

Have explicitly partisan media outlets.

Have media outfits that try to be more neutral.

Let them compete.

I wonder if using outsourced reporting from India would actually help make the media more neutral? I mean they’d have less of a dog in the fight.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
What I don’t understand is why this has to be so partisan when it could simply be oppositional - regardless of who’s in power.
When people on the Left gush about Speaking Truth To Power it helps to understand that they define "power" as loosely as they define "truth."

Since the Left currently dominates academia, the entertainment industry, the MSM, and Congress it is getting harder and harder for them to find power to speak truth to. If the Democrats capture the Presidency next year, and shut down conservative talk radio with a Fairness Doctrine, the only Power! left to speak truth to will be the Republican minority in Congress.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
the only Power! left to speak truth to will be the Republican minority in Congress.
I’m sure they will find some Christian compund somewhere to burn down. Texas, Idaho, and Utah are likely locations.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://

 
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