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Hullabaloo


Thursday, July 05, 2007

 
Over Tipping

by digby

I was reading this post by Steve Benen about the latest John Solomon journalistic abortion on the endlessly fascinating topic of John Edwards' hair and I wondered if anyone knows whether the first tip on this story came from an oppo shop. (If you know, drop me a line.)

Here's why I'm curious. It is my understanding that reporters will receive a tip about something like this then do their own investigation and report the tip if it turned out to be true.(Or in the case of Barbara Comstock's 2000 operation, at least, actively seek out nasty nuggets of irrelevant slander to fuel the next day's smear cycle.) Journalistic ethics only require that the story be factual to justify running it, and since the tips are usually on background, it is not reported that it comes from an opposing campaign.

Now on the surface, that sounds reasonable. Facts are facts and it shouldn't matter where the original tip came from as it turns out to be true. But it isn't reasonable in a 24/7 cable and tabloid newspaper world in which political operatives twist such trivia into epic metaphors for "character" and "authenticity" and the allegedly more serious newspaper columnists like Maureen Dowd, viciously cackle over it for months while establishment icons like David Broder write columns informing "The Village" that real Americans don't like politicians who are so lacking in character and authenticity. Around and around it goes in an endless feedback loop. "Facts" quickly become fiction in this milieu.

I know the news media are annoyed by what they see as the bloggers' simplistic analysis of "the political narrative" and I'm sure that most of them do not cover a campaign with such things in mind. But in the daily rush of campaign coverage I think even many of the good ones fail to see how these "tips" and "research" are actually a form of campaign propaganda designed specifically to implant certain subliminal impressions and ideas about candidates which are not actually true, even if the details are factual. (If they are aware of it, then they are all guilty of journalistic malpractice for failing to reveal that in every story they write about these things.)

In keeping with the convoluted modern press definition of fairness they will say that it is up to the Democrats to feed them equally trivial nasty gossip that they can use to illustrate whatever caricatures they wish to convey about their rivals --- then everything will equal out in the end. Indeed, it is the Democrats' failure if they are not good at character assassination and they have no one to blame but themselves. ("Get better smear artists, Democrats, and we'll give you equal time --- but only if we can "verify" that your "tip" is factual. We do have scruples, after all.")

John Soloman appears to be a particularly lazy mean-girl reporter who loves the dirt that Republicans dish out, and in his new job as chief political reporter for the Washington post, we can certainly expect more of this. But others with more integrity will contribute as well because they simply aren't willing to acknowledge that their simplistic journalistic conventions have been corrupted because of one political party's superior ability to manipulate them. They have become part of the right wing message machine --- whether it's laundering smears or pushing out false information on Iraq's WMD and outing CIA agents as political retribution. They seem to think this is just part of "the game." I think it's a big problem for American democracy and I would hope that the members of the mainstream media who care about these things would step back and try to see how it looks from afar. The big picture shows a very ugly kind of collusion overlaid with a thin layer of stale, useless protocols that the media call ethics.


Television gasbags have been gleefully recycling this Edwards nonsense all day, based upon the latest Soloman story and treating it like it's news. Matthews said "sometimes small stories can reveal big things." He pretends he's cleverly pointing out that Edwards is a phony populist for getting expensive haircuts but what he's really doing is pushing GOP propaganda that Edwards is effeminate and soft. Like all Democrats.

Fox's Major Garrett just did a huge piece on this "controversy" ending with this:

"The stylist said 'I try to make the man handsome, strong, more mature and these are the things, as an expert, that's what we do.' For sheer irony, that Edwards seems to believe he needs all three, might be the sharpest cut of all."


They've played the "I Feel pretty" video three times in the last half hour.


.