Glenn Greenwald: Write That Novel!

Remember this quote that I like from Stephen Colbert (the same one I link to- yay Frederick!)?

… let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works: the president makes decisions. He’s the Decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ’em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know – fiction!

Glenn Greenwald likes it too-

Everything that is rancid and corrupt with modern journalism: The Nutshell

Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com

Tuesday November 27, 2007 18:46 EST

In this twisted view, that is called “balance” — writing down what each side says. As in: “Hey – Bush officials say that there is WMD in Iraq and things are going great with the war (and a few people say otherwise). It’s not for us to decide. It’s not our fault if what we wrote down is a lie. We just wrote down exactly what they said.” At best, they write down what each side says and then go home. That’s what they’re for.

In reality, they don’t even usually fulfill this clerical role fairly or well. After all, Klein’s entire column presented only the lies from the Republicans about this bill as fact, and didn’t even mention that there was another side (just as Time, in a lengthy article by the now-promoted Tyrangiel, presented only the Bush view to its readers about Saddam’s scary stockpiles of WMD and didn’t bother to mention that there was another side).

So to Time, Klein’s so-called “reporting error” wasn’t that he falsely described the bill. No; describing the bill accurately isn’t the role of a journalist. Klein’s only “reporting error” was that he only wrote down what one side said (the Republicans). He “forgot” to write down what the Democrats said. Now that the Editors noted in passing that the Democrats disagree, everything is fixed. Their job is done. That’s what they just said about explicitly as it can be said. And they don’t even realize that saying this is a profound indictment on what they do. They think that’s what they’re supposed to do.

I can’t recall a recent incident that has shone as much bright light on the ugly, vapid, propagandistic practices of our national media. The more they speak, the more they reveal what they are.

But it’s not just that- it’s that they’re such bad stenographers-

Bad stenographers

Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com

Wednesday November 28, 2007 06:41 EST

I worked for years with highly professional stenographers in hundreds of depositions and court proceedings. Their defining trait is that they have a fierce devotion to transcribing accurately everything that is said and doing nothing else. It’s not uncommon for lawyers, in the heat of some dispute, to attempt to recruit the stenographer into the controversy in order to say who is right.

Stenographers will never do that. They will emphasize that they are only there to write down what is said, not to resolve disputes or say what actually happened — exactly like Time Magazine and most of our press corps. If someone in a court proceeding voices even the most blatantly false accusations, stenographers will faithfully write it down and publish it without comment — exactly like Time Magazine and most of our press corps, at least when it comes to claims from the government and its GOP operatives.

But there’s a fundamental difference: stenographers are far better at their job, since they give equal weight to what all parties say. But Time and friends exist principally to trumpet government claims and minimize and belittle anything to the contrary, and they pretend to “balance” it all only when they’re caught mindlessly transcribing these one-sided claims and are forced to write down what the other side says, too. The bulk of our establishment journalists aren’t merely stenographers. They’re bad stenographers.

For that reason, when establishment journalists are called “stenographers,” the real insult is to professional stenographers, who are scrupulous about recording what everyone says with equal weight. But our media class gives enormous weight to government sources and, correspondingly, GOP operatives. If anyone doubts that, just look at our establishment media’s forced confessions of their most consequential stenographic errors over the years:

It’s really worth a look just for the linky goodness I’ll not attempt to dupicate here except for this one to Markos.

Yesterday, well-

Time tries again

Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com

Wednesday November 28, 2007 17:54 EST

But by noting merely that the bill does not “explicitly” include what Klein (and his GOP source) claimed it did, and thereafter quickly noting that “Republicans believe it can be interpreted that way,” Time actually compounds Klein’s original error by now misleading its readers into believing that there is some genuine dispute over whether the House Democrats really did give the same rights to foreign Terrorists as they gave to American citizens. Time is thus encouraging its readers to believe that perhaps Klein was right — that the Democrats’ bill does exactly that which it explicitly says it does not do.

Finally, Time leaves uncorrected the multiple other errors in Klein’s piece, including his bizarre claim that there was some great bipartisan bill agreed to by the House Intelligence Committee which Nancy Pelosi “quashed.” Nobody has any idea what Klein is talking about, including Intelligence Committee member Rep. Rush Holt (who would obviously know), because no such thing ever happened.

And then there’s Klein’s claim, citing Chris Dodd, that “when the President takes the oath of office, he (or she) promises two things: to protect the Constitution and to protect the nation against enemies, foreign and domestic.” Klein warns Democrats that to win in 2008, they must “find the proper balance between those two.” But the oath of office which the President takes actually says nothing of the kind:

Each president recites the following oath, in accordance with Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Directly contrary to what Klein said, Presidents only swear to “defend the Constitution,” not to “to protect the nation against enemies, foreign and domestic.” So that was completely wrong, too; all those serious errors packed tightly into an 855-word column.

Don Imus, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh.

Hope you dig your new career in standup Joe.  What’s it like writing for People?

10 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. Michael: I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.

    Sam Weber: Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.

    Michael: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?

    • jessical on November 29, 2007 at 11:56 am

    …probably pays the same at People, with a similar corporate culture. Same car home at night. Same midtown lunch choices. And Tom and Daisy on the street, with the other deeply careless people.

  2. that people even read Time…. I stopped reading it years and years ago and my mother requested that I stop her gift subscription.

    Now People… At least you can look at the pictures in line at the grocery store so compared to Time it has an element of practicality.

  3. Time Inc. is a liberal organization when its so clear its not – NYTimes included

  4. I was on the debate team in high school and the first two years of college.

    We were not allowed to use Time Magazine as a source.

    If anyone did venture to quote any statistics from Time, they were subjected to withering scorn from both the debate judge and the opposing team.

    And this was around 30 years ago.

    Hard to believe, but they’ve gotten even worse.

Comments have been disabled.