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Hullabaloo


Saturday, July 24, 2010

 
Real Millionaire Crybabies Of The Airwaves

by digby


Greenwald reports that John Roberts and Kyra Phillips had a little hissy fit about anonymous "cowards" on the internet, who presumably should be jailed or fined for saying mean things about them:

CNN's Kyra Phillips and John Roberts spent a good five minutes yesterday expressing serious concern over what they called "the dark side" of the Internet: the plague of "anonymous bloggers" who are "a bunch of cowards" for not putting their names on what they say, and who use this anonymity to spread "conspiracy," "lunacy," "extremism" and false accusations (video below). The segment included excerpts from an interview with Andrew Keene, author of Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing our Culture, who explained that the Real Media must serve as "gatekeepers" to safeguard the public against the dangers of anonymity on the Internet. Roberts demanded that bloggers should "have the courage at the very least to put your name on it," while Phillips announced: "something is going to have to be done legally. . . . these people have to be held accountable, they're a bunch of cowards."

As Greenwald points out, these same journalists who are so upset about anonymity are the same people who commonly use anonymous sources in their reporting. Evidently anonymity is perfectly fine when it's inside the club.

Everyone knows Roberts and Phillips are engaged right? So this conversation presumably reflects something they've both spent some time together ruminating about together on the golf course. Fine, they have a perfect right to be upset about the mean things people say about them. What's insidious is the fact that they want to "do something about it." Think about that. These two people are supposed to be journalists. They aren't government officials or powerful corporate titans who one might assume to be interested in suppressing free speech. These are members of the press advocating censorship and punishment for anonymous speech.

But perhaps it's most useful to recall some of Roberts' and Phillips' greatest hits to illustrate why they are so upset by anonymous bloggers. This is personal for them. I had occasion to to criticize Roberts and he was upset enough about it to me and complain so I suppose I'm one of those he would like to have officially silenced in some way. (Although it would be easy enough to find out my real name simply by googling, I think that may exceed the limits of his investigative skills.)

This was one of the items I wrote about Roberts that had him so upset:


TIME magazine picked up the [Graeme]Foster story and got the story pretty much right, as far as it went. What it didn't get into was how the entire right wing noise machine cranked up the swiftboats to get it going. The article seems to imply that this story was confined to the blogosphere (without the requisite distinction between who did what) and neglects to properly indict the worst perpetrators. Still, it's not bad compared to this. CNN’s John Roberts reported:

I think in this instance what happened was the Democrats didn’t do as much of a vetting as they could have done on this young man, his situation, his family. […]


Right. It's the fault of the Democrats, of course, who according to John Roberts didn't "vet" this family. Except, of course, they did, as has been incessantly disseminated by the progressive blogosphere and the mainstream media over the course of four days.

So why did Roberts say that the family hadn't been properly vetted?

ABC News reported earlier in the week that an e-mail sent to reporters by “a Senate Republican leadership aide” in McConnell’s office suggested that “GOP aides were complicit in spreading disparaging information about the Frosts.” A McConnell spokesman refused to deny the office’s involvement in the affair.

ThinkProgress has obtained an email that congressional sources tell us was sent to reporters by Sen. McConnell’s communications director Don Stewart.

On Monday morning, Don Stewart sent an email with the following text to reporters:

Seen the latest blogswarm? Apparently, there’s more to the story on the kid (Graeme Frost) that did the Dems’ radio response on SCHIP. Bloggers have done a little digging and turned up that the Dad owns his own business (and the building it’s in), seems to have some commercial rental income and Graeme and a sister go to a private school that, according to its website, costs about $20k a year ‹for each kid‹ despite the news profiles reporting a family income of only $45k for the Frosts. Could the Dems really have done that bad of a job vetting this family?

In the email, Stewart attacks Democrats for allegedly doing a bad job “vetting this family.” That effort to blame Democrats for the smear campaign seems to have swayed some reporters, as CNN this morning claimed that the real story is that “the Democrats didn’t do as much of a vetting as they could have done.”



I'm sure it's just a coincidence that Roberts used exactly the same language and then chalks it up to some sort of tepid "they all do it" sort of thing.
Aside from the almost comic illustration of journalistic malpractice this shows, it also proves what many of us have been saying for years: the press parrots right wing talking points, in this case verbatim. It's rare that we actually can see a copy of the memos they send out,because the press "protects its sources" but it's right there in this case. Does anyone think this is unique? I suspect that if it hadn't been for liberal bloggers relentlessly speaking out in horror over the course of many days, this nasty little smear would have been passed along by everyone else exactly as John Roberts passed it along, implying that the Frosts were con artists.
Nice work CNN. How much are you paying this guy?
Ok, that last line was a bit gratuitous. But that story was handled egregiously by the mainstream media, Roberts in particular, so it's at least a little bit justified.

As for Phillips, well she lost all credibility with this interview with the doctor who was treating a little boy who'd been badly burned and lost his entire family in the invasion of Iraq:

PHILLIPS: Doctor -- what has he been saying to you, Doctor? Is he asking anything of you? Is he thanking you? Is he wanting to know about family? Tell us what this little boy has been saying to you.

AL-NAJADA: Actually, today he was in good condition after the operation and started speaking with a journalist and answering all their questions. The thing which he was -- they asking about -- the journalists, especially the broadcasting, what the message he wants to reflect from the war. He said, first of all, thank you for the attention they're giving to him, but he hopes nobody from the children in the war they will suffer like what he suffer.

PHILLIPS: Does he understand why...

AL-NAJADA: Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Doctor, does he understand why this war took place? Has he talked about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the meaning? Does he understand it?

AL-NAJADA: Actually, we don't discuss this issue with him because he is -- the burn cases, and the type of injury, he's in very bad psychological trauma. We would like to pass this stage and then we can discuss this issue. But we discussed this issue with his uncle, and the message we get from his family, they said they are living far away from the American troops -- from the military of Saddam of Fedayeen by five kilometers, and they don't know how they hit them by the missiles.


And her reporting didn't get any better.

I understand that journalists are human and they don't enjoy being called out for their work by mere anonymous bloggers. But it's part of their job, something for which the decades of right wing liberal media bashing should have prepared them but instead made them absorb as the natural order of things. As human beings they have every right to have hurt feelings. As journalists they have a responsibility to suck it up.

It's hard to imagine, I know, that bloggers could actually be more professional and more mature than highly paid celebrity journalists. But when it comes to this they are. They harshly criticize the whole political and media establishment and are harshly criticized in return. And while they complain, none of them are calling for censorship or legal sanctions for insults, as far as I know. It's a rough and tumble business and the latest CNN power couple had probably better adjust to the fact that just because they've agreed to be polite to Republicans doesn't mean they are off the hook.

Oh, and just because the criticism comes from someone you don't know doesn't mean it isn't correct. Killing the messenger won't change that.

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