"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Lying? It's not even mis-leading

Whenever those in government mis-represent the facts. It is'nt lying, they have simply been let down by their sources. Be it intelligence agencies, or any other unaccountable institution that will survive even the worst failures. The dominant media is, as always, loyally on hand to back up this format.

"You Can't Just Say the President Is Lying"
The limits of honesty in the mainstream press

Extra! Jan/Feb 05

Audience Member: I was wondering if you felt there was a difference between balanced reporting and objective reporting? And the thing that kind of sticks in my mind frequently is when President Bush on the stump would frequently pull out the "global test" that John Kerry mentioned in the debate, but he would completely twist the meaning of the whole phrase around. . . . Essentially, what I feel like was a lie that the president just stated . . . was never objectively reported on. . . .

Elizabeth Bumiller (New York Times): Yeah, this was an issue we dealt with at the paper because, you know, very early on it became clear that both George Bush and John Kerry were distorting, making exaggerated and distorted statements about each other’s records. And it was very frustrating for a reporter out on the campaign, when you’ve got an hour to file and you’re in three states in one day, and you know, George Bush says this—you then get a call from the Kerry campaign, the Kerry campaign people responding, but they’re not actually addressing the charge that George Bush has made. They’re just launching a countercharge, which is also probably distorted. So it’s very difficult to actually sort it out when you’ve got an hour to file and you’re on a plane.

So what we did—and it was one of the most successful things I think we did in this campaign—we got a fact-check column going by David Rosenbaum, my colleague. And he would write, you know, whenever, periodically, but sometimes, he would just, we would just insert what he wrote into my story or anybody’s story, you know, “In fact, comma, George Bush, Mr. Bush was slightly distorting, you know, the senator’s comments. What he said was this and blah, blah, blah.”. . .

Susan Page (USA Today): One of the real challenges, I think, in daily journalism, is it’s easy to have the appearance of balance; you know, “Bush charged that Kerry was a serial murderer, Kerry denied it.” So there both sides have had their say, so it’s balanced, and it’s harder to really do a substantive analysis of charge and counter-charge, especially if it turns out that one side is right and the other is wrong.

Bumiller: That’s why it’s very hard to write those, because you can’t say George Bush is wrong here. There’s no way you can say that in the New York Times. So we contort ourselves up and say, “Actually”— I actually once wrote this sentence: “Mr. Bush’s statement did not exactly . . . ” It was some completely upside down statement that was basically saying he wasn’t telling the truth. And I got an email from somebody saying, “What’s wrong with you guys? Why can’t you just say it plainly?” But there’s just—

Loren Ghiglione (Medill School of Journalism, Moderator): Why can’t you say it plainly?

Bumiller: You can’t just say the president is lying. You don’t just say that in the . . . you just say—

Ghiglione: Well, why can’t you?

[laughter from the audience]

continued: FAIR