Monday, June 27, 2005

Reliable Sources on CNN Fails to Clarify Durbin/Rove Flaps

I rarely watch TV political discussion shows, but I happened to catch CNN's "Reliable Sources" with Howard Kurtz on Sunday, June 27. Among other things, the guests discussed the twin controversies over remarks made on the one hand by Senator Durbin of Illinois and on the other by Bush advisor Karl Rove. Because I (perhaps) know a little more about these incidents than the average viewer (being a blog junky), I was struck by how little Reliable Sources did to try to clarify what they were about.[Click permalink to read more...]

Conservatives like to talk about liberal bias in the media, as if liberals should be happy that CBS news anchors or New York Times reporters are politically liberal. I couldn't care less about that. What infuriates me is how the media consistently fails to establish what the actual facts are. It's a common criticism from liberal bloggers, but it's true---the media acts as if their responsibility to the truth is discharged by giving a pair of quotes for "balance", one from a Democrat/liberal and one from a Republican/conservative. That should be the beginning of a journalist's research, not the end. You have two different opinions, but are they both equally truthful? Do they both make sense? Maybe neither are informed opinions, in which case you need to look further for the truth.

In this case, it seems to me that Reliable Sources did a horrible job of analyzing what each of the two men said, and in both cases, the sloppiness worked in favor of the Bush administration. In the case of Durbin, they played a recording of Durbin's Nazi comment ("If I read this to you, and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings.") without giving the quoted material that Durbin was commenting on. How does that make a bit of sense? Durbin is saying that some specific behavior sounds more like the actions of Nazis than it sounds like that of Americans. Whether that is a reasonable statement or not depends on what that specific behavior was. Outside of the context of the FBI description of conditions in Guantanamo, Durbin's comment sounds bizarre. If you know the context, you may still believe that Durbin's rhetoric was hyperbole, but at least you can understand what he meant.

In the case of Karl Rove, Reliable Sources quoted these lines: "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.", but left off the most outrageous part:
Let me put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts to the region the words of Senator Durbin, certainly putting America's men and women in uniform in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals.

This last quote goes beyond the standard complaint that liberals are too wimpy to fight terrorism, it actually accuses them of actively desiring to put soldiers in danger. He says that putting them in danger is the motive behind remarks by Durbin and other liberals. Reliable Sources left off this accusation of treason, and only discussed the line about "therapy and understanding".

On the show, the conservative guest (I can't remember her name) suggested that Karl Rove was talking about liberals and not Democrats (who unanimously supported the war in Afghanistan in response to 9/11). But that clearly makes no sense in the context of Rove's remarks. Rove was clearly attacking Democrats, not liberals. He cites Durbin by name. On the other hand, if his target was not Democrats, but the radical left, then it still made no sense. Yes, some radical leftists said that 9/11 was America's own fault, but SO DID A NUMBER OF PROMINENT CONSERVATIVES. In particular, I'm thinking of this exchange between Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell:

Falwell: "What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."

Robertson: "Well, Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror, we haven't begun to see what they can do to the major population."

Falwell: "The ACLU has got to take a lot of blame for this. And I know I'll hear from them for this, but throwing God...successfully with the help of the federal court system...throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools, the abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked and when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad...I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen."

So is it fair to single liberals out for blaming Americans for 9/11? Of course not. Reliable Sources failed to provide any context for the statements of Durbin and Rove, and (as usual) fuzzy thinking works to the benefit of the administration in both cases.


Blogger Kyle McCullough said...

The press's sloppiness is almost always in the conservatives favor. That is not an accident. People believe the press to be liberal because the press portrays itself as liberal.

9:27 PM  

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