Friday, December 15, 2006


Glenn Greenwald On Media Bias

Glenn lays out just why the reality-based community has such a beef with the US corporate media:

The Iranian President convened a convention this week to "debate" whether the Holocaust occurred, whether it is exaggerated, etc. In reporting on this event, The New York Times did not simply convey the views of both sides, but instead, declares definitively that one side of the "debate" -- the side of the Holocaust deniers -- ignores evidence, uses discredited sources, and relies upon false claims:

Iran’s so-called Holocaust conference this week was billed as a chance to force the West to reconsider the historical record and, thereby, the legitimacy of Israel. But why would the Iranians invite speakers with so little credibility in the West, including a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and disgraced European scholars?. . . .

The two-day meeting included no attempt to come to terms with the nature of the well-documented Nazi slaughter, offering only a platform to those pursuing the fantasy that it never happened.

By pointing out the reality that the Holocaust denialists are making false and unsupportable claims, the Times is not reporting this incident in a "biased" or subjective way. It is not being unfair to the holocaust deniers by siding against them. To the contrary, even though it is clearly siding with one side over the other in terms of whose statements are truthful, the article is reporting on this issue objectively, because it reports the objectively verifiable fact that the arguments advanced by holocaust denialists are simply false.

That is what objective and meaningful reporting requires -- not merely uncritically conveying what statement a person makes, but scrutinizing that statement for accuracy and clearly reporting if it is false. That is what the Times did here by labelling the denialists' claims "fantasy" and pointing out the fact that their claims are contradicted by abundant documentation. And it would be hard to find many people who would object to how the Times reported on this "debate."

But in general, journalists are willing to engage in this sort of meaningful reporting only when doing so is completely uncontroversial and risk-free, usually because the person whose statements are labelled false is universally reviled. National journalists virtually never subject statements from government officials to this sort of scrutiny, and virtually never label such statements as "fiction," or point out that they are contradicted by all available evidence, even when that is plainly true. That, of course, is why government officials lie with impunity -- because they know that journalists will not report that they are lying.

All of this is the by-product of the well-documented and much-discussed journalistic myth that "objectivity" requires mindless recitation of both sides's claims, and that it is improper and "biased" to take sides. But as the Times article above documents, objectivity and meaningful journalism often requires taking sides, particularly where one side is making objectively false statements.
There's much more, but this will do for starters.

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