Once again, Richard Cohen devotes his Washington Post column to attacking a ... comedian. Worse, he is again attacking a comedian for having higher expectations for journalism than he does.
In 2006, when Stephen Colbert delivered a devastating take-down of the political media during his performance at the White House correspondents dinner, Cohen blasted Colbert. Here's how I described it at the time:
This week, Cohen blasted comedian Stephen Colbert, whose performance at the White House correspondents' dinner skewered guests from President Bush to the journalists who invited him. Cohen's complaint? Colbert was too hard on Bush, even going so far as to make "jokes about Bush's approval rating, which hovers in the middle 30s." Oh, the horror! By comparison, Cohen never uttered a word of complaint about Bush's own performance at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association in 2004, which featured Bush making jokes about the weapons of mass destruction he falsely told America were the reason why he sent thousands of our troops to die in Iraq. In other words, to Richard Cohen, joking about your false claims that got Americans killed is fine -- but joking about the low poll numbers of a president who made false claims that got Americans killed is being a "bully." Perhaps that isn't surprising; Cohen, after all is one of the ever-shrinking number of people who still don't think Bush knowingly made a false case for war. He even went so far as to defend the Bush administration's outing of a covert CIA agent as "what Washington does day in and day out."
And now Richard Cohen is upset that Jon Stewart made Jim Cramer and the financial media look bad:
What Jon Stewart needs is Jon Stewart. He could use a droll comedian to temper his ferocity and correct him when he's wrong, as he was about the financial media, particularly CNBC and its excitable analyst Jim Cramer. They didn't cover up the story of financial shenanigans. They didn't even know it existed.
Cohen then offers several paragraphs worth of "proof" that the financial media didn't know about the financial shenanigans. The "proof"? The fact that executives at AIG, Lehman, Citi, and Bear Stearns lost money when their companies collapsed. Cohen concludes: "If these people kept their money in these companies -- financial and insurance giants they had built and knew from the inside -- how was even Jim Cramer to know these firms were essentially hollow?"
Nonsense. Ken Lay lost money when Enron collapsed. Does Richard Cohen think Ken Lay had no idea all was not well at Enron?
Think about what Cohen's argument suggests: That the people closest to a given situation know it best, and the media shouldn't question their judgment and behavior. If that's the case, why do we need the media at all?
Cohen does later make what he calls the "minor concession" that Stewart has "a small point" that CNBC and the business media in general have "often been a cheerleader for the zeitgeist -- up when the market's up, down when it's down."
That seems neither "minor" nor "small" to me, but Cohen is convinced that it doesn't matter that the media is "a cheerleader for the zeitgeist." After all, he tells us, bubbles existed before cable news:
It does not take cable TV to make a bubble. CNBC played no role in the Tulip Bubble that peaked, as I recall, in 1637, or in the Great Depression of 1929-41. It is the zeitgeist that does this -- the psychological version of inertia: the belief that what's happening will continue to happen.
But Cohen has inadvertently - and unknowingly - identified something the financial media could have done better: making clear that what's happening probably won't continue to happen forever. They might even have identified similarities between the current and previous bubbles, and detailed what happened when those bubbles burst.
It is astonishing to see someone who has spent his entire career working in the news media - and reached the lofty heights of the Washington Post op-ed pages - have so little belief in the importance and influence of his profession, and expect so little of it. Richard Cohen thinks it's fine for journalists to simply reflect the spirit of the time. He thinks it's fine for journalists to defer to the judgment of the powerful people they cover.
On some level, Cohen must understand the absurdity of what he has written. He concludes by conceding "Stewart plays a valuable role. He mocks authority, which is good, and he mocks those, such as the media, who take the word of authority as if, well, it's authoritative." But Cohen just spent a column suggesting that the word of authority is authoritative - that was his explanation for why the business media couldn't have seen the collapse coming. And, sure enough, Cohen's concession to Stewart's usefulness isn't really his point in the end. No, his point is that the person who really needs skewering is ... Jon Stewart: "he ought to turn his wit inward: Mocker, mock thyself."
You have to wonder why the Washington Post continues to publish someone who thinks so little of his profession. I'm sure the paper could find a liberal columnist who thinks journalism is about more than simply going along with popular sentiment and trusting the judgment of the rich and the powerful.
The son of Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr, AG Sulzberger, is the author of this masterpiece of hard-hitting journalism.
So the son of the NYT's publisher was tasked to write a ridiculously solicitous article regurgitating the former Vice President's propaganda for daddy's paper.
That's troubling for a number of reasons. Paunch's daddy (I'm taking liberties with the family's naming conventions), after all, was the guy who delayed a story reporting Cheney's illegal wiretap program for over a year--up until the time James Risen threatened to scoop the NYT with his book. And, at precisely the same time Pinch Sulzberger was bowing to Cheney's request not to expose the illegal wiretap program, Sulzberger was actively shielding Scooter Libby's perjury in the name of reporter privilege. From October 2004--just before the Presidential election--until late 2005, Daddy Sulzberger was helping Cheney hide two incidences of egregious law-breaking.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see Paunch taking up the family trade, then, protecting Dick Cheney?
Today Media Matters president Eric Burns joined several prominent writers, journalism professors, economists, media critics and progressive leaders in signing a letter demanding CNBC take substantial steps towards fixing their broken network.
Among many others, the letter was signed by Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research Dean Baker, Columbia University journalism professor Todd Gitlin, President of the Economic Policy Institute Lawrence Mishel, economist at the Institute for Research on Labor & Employment Sylvia Allegretto, and Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress Heather Boushey.
You can read the letter for yourself here.
CNN's Ed Henry, moments ago: "In terms of the politics, what's fascinating is that Robert Gibbs clearly feels that dragging both Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh back into this debate is good politically for this White House. I can tell you a lot of Republicans on the other side are telling me privately, though, they wonder whether this could blow up in the White House's face."
Oh, the Republicans are privately saying this might backfire on the White House? They must really mean it, huh?
When political actors make statements against their own interests, it may be justifiable for journalists to grant them anonymity. And those unattributed statements may have added credibility, for the very reason that they are contrary to the interests of the speaker.
But in this case, Henry's "lot of Republicans" are telling him something that is consistent with their interest. Indeed, they are telling him the most predictable spin possible: that the current political debate will redound to their benefit. The statements have essentially no value. And yet Henry treats them as though they are some deep secret the Republicans are guarding, and as though his ability to tell viewers this secret constitutes some sort of scoop.
If Henry insists on spending precious air time recounting these private conversations with Republican operatives, I would suggest the following wording, which would more accurately convey the situation: "A lot of Republicans claim to think this could blow up in the White House's face, though I should note that I haven't been able to find any willing to attach their names to that prediction."
The right-wing site remains a treasure trove of unintentional hilarity. Today, it comes in the form of its defense of Rush Limbaugh. Or more specifically, Power Line mocks Democrats who attacked the AM talker because according to Power Line, the Republican Party's whole let's-defend-Rush-at-all-costs adventure (which seemed to consume the party for weeks on end at the time of a national economic crisis), was a huge success. It was Democrats who came out the loser in that tussle.
You're chuckling, I can tell.
For anyone still wondering how the GOP's Rush worship panned out politically, especially for the GOP's Congressional leaders who dutifully lined up behind him, here's a graphic from the new Pew Research poll. Note the two lines--one for the Dems and one for the GOP--are heading in opposite directions.
But Power Line is certain Democrats were the big loser last month.
From a March 16 Washington Post online discussion:
Falls Church: Tucker: saw you on Reliable Sources talking about Cramer v. Stewart. You know, the whole world is not divided up into the vast left-wing conspiracy and the brave moral right that fights against it.
There are legitimate journalistic questions about the role of a financial channel and how much cheerleading it should do or if the interviewers sometimes treat business leaders like Access Hollywood treats celebrities or if they should be in the business of investigating corrupt businesses and business practices.
But to dismiss those questions as an Obama surrogate hit job... No wonder the majority of the country thinks the right is out of touch with reality.
Tucker Carlson: It's completely legitimate - necessary - to ask those questions, and I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. I'm not defending Cramer, CNBC, greedheads on Wall Street, criminally overpaid CEOs or anyone else. I was trying to make two points:
Cramer humiliated himself the other night (and on many previous nights on his own show) but that doesn't mean he and his network are responsible for the meltdown. That's way too simple. In fact it's demagoguery. And by the way, where was Jon Stewart when the bubble was swelling? How many shows did he do on the coming financial collapse? Why didn't he warn us?
Stewart's answer invariably is: I'm a comedian. That's not my job. But that's a dodge, and increasingly unsustainable. In fact, Stewart is a player in the national conversation. He seeks to influence politics and policy, and he succeeds. It's time for him to admit that, and be held to the same standards everyone else at his level (including Jim Cramer) lives by.
Jeffrey Feldman at HuffPost notes that Beck's latest bout of on-air insanity, in which the talks about how FEMA under the Obama administration may be building concentration camps in order to take totalitarian rule of the country, appears to be lifted directly from the The X-Files movie.
Maybe that's why even Fox News anchors can't stop mocking Beck.
In her weekend column, Kathleen Parker bemoans Dittoheads and the "non-journalists who have been demonizing the media for the past 20 years or so and who blame the current news crisis on bias."
There is surely room for media criticism, and a few bad actors in recent years have badly frayed public trust. And, yes, some newspapers are more liberal than their readership and do a lousy job of concealing it. But the greater truth is that newspaper reporters, editors and institutions are responsible for the boots-on-the-ground grub work that produces the news stories and performs the government watchdog role so crucial to a democratic republic.
Yesterday, the Washinton Post opinion page "asked members of Congress and others whether federal budget earmarks are defensible" -- but all three members of Congress were Republicans. As Media Matters noted, "The Post's omission of contributions by Democratic lawmakers is consistent with a pattern Media Matters for America has identified in the media of portraying earmarks as a practice unique to Democrats."
During an online discussion today, Post reporter Ed O'Keefe was asked about the Post printing the opinions of Republicans, and Republicans alone -- and dismissed the question as "silly":
Skewed Opinions?: Are you ever embarrassed by the Post's Opinion pages, since they so regularly skew to the right?
On Sunday the Post "asked members of Congress and others whether federal budget earmarks are defensible." The three members of Congress whose responses were listed -- Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) and Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) -- are all Republicans; no Democratic members of Congress were quoted. The Post's omission of contributions by Democratic lawmakers is consistent with a pattern I've been noting in the media of portraying earmarks as a practice unique to Democrats. What's your take on this, Ed?
Ed O'Keefe: My take is I have no take on this.
The Opinion and news sections are kept separate at The Post. I have no input or idea what they're working on, and vice versa. And even if I did have an opinion, I wouldn't share it.
There've been several silly questions like this today, and this one's the most tame. Folks, save it.
What's silly is the idea that O'Keefe is incapable of having an opinion about what the Post's Opinion section does, and that he would so blithely dismiss a reader's valid question.
Back on March 6, Bloomberg published "'Obama Bear Market' Punishes Investors as Dow Slumps," and quoted lots of Street investors complaining about how Obama's agenda was driving down the market. Bloomberg also excitedly reported that the stock market under Obama had performed worse than for any other previous new president. The Bloomberg article though, contained no context at all that Obama inherited an economic crisis. It simply suggested that Obama was pushing investors.
Well, it's ten days later and the Dow, as of this writing, is up approximately 700 points since Bloomberg's report. But we don't see any evidence that the biz news outlet has tried to update its analysis, or label the recent events an 'Obama rally.'
Why does Bloomberg only appear interested in blaming Obama?