Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Failure Yet Again For Our Nation's Media Regarding Accuracy and Facts

As mentioned earlier today, Joe Biden decided not to put his hat in the ring to run for President on the Democratic ticket.

This despite the fact a lot of highly-paid mainstream media pundits from the Beltway (the Washington DC circle of power) were chatting up - with eager grins and happy feet - the FACT - based entirely on unnamed sources running rumor mills non-stop - that everybody was telling everybody else Biden was gonna run.

The most guilty party was Bill "Always Wrong" Kristol, who kept tweeting gems like this:

You might see my reply: "I don't feel any Joementum at all. You might have to get out of the car and push, Bill."

So why?  Why why why did the media elites keep getting this story - out of so many other stories they screw up - wrong?

1. The mainstream media wanted it to be true, rather than factual.

This is the primary sin.  The simplest explanation.  There are several reasons WHY they wanted it to be true, but it all comes down to this.

2. The mainstream media want political horse races because campaigns are easy to cover.

The give-and-take of politicians fighting each other for coveted seats of power - topped by the big chair of the Presidency - provide reporters and editors personal conflict, driving narrative, winners and losers.  There are reasons why we now have constant political campaigns even in off-years - one major reason is the massive cash-flow involved - and the media's desire to keep campaigns going and going and going is the other major reason.

Sober Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight nails that part:

A Biden run would be a great story for the media — it would get to sit back and watch the fisticuffs between Biden and Clinton, who is otherwise something of a dull, predictable story (“inevitability” is boring). That probably biases the media toward reporting on the few Democratic insiders who would have liked to see a Biden bid, and ignoring the large majority who were satisfied with Clinton.

The joker show that is the Republican field of Presidential candidates is chaotic and thus entertaining.  Without Biden in the race, the Democratic field is pretty much Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (Webb dropped out, and O'Malley and Chafee are polling below zero at this point).  Which brings us to the next point:

3. The media does not like trust Hillary and does not know how - or want - to cover Bernie.

Nearly every pro-Joe Biden reporter / pundit cheering Biden to enter the race just happened to be reporters and pundits who despise Hillary at a personal level.

This came in two ways.  You had one group of pundits who feared the possibility that Hillary would flame out somehow.  The fact that Hillary's list of enemies - not the ones she hates but the ones who hate her (from Limbaugh on down) - scared these pundits into fearing that Hillary would get hit with scandal during the campaign and hurt the Democrats' chances to keep the White House (and even win back part of Congress).  That group wanted Biden to run as insurance, to have a solid Democratic leader they trusted to be there up to November 2016.

You had a second group of pundits who hates her.  You know them as the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy that's pretty much the whole Far Right media (pretty vast) and openly disdainful of anything Obama Clinton (which isn't much of a conspiracy nowadays).  They wanted Biden to run in order to hit Hillary and wound her during the primaries, so that way she would be bloodied and weak for the general election.  They wanted division within the Democratic campaign the way they are suffering the chaos of their own party's primary cycle.

And as for Bernie Sanders.  The mainstream media has him mostly in "out of sight out of mind" mode.  If they ever think of Bernie, the Left-leaning media views him as too Left and thus unelectable and the Right-leaning media views him as a Stalinist doombringer.  He brings too much of an ideological difference from Hillary that makes the Narrative too easy even for the media to cover.  They'd have preferred a similar-minded Centrist Dem like Biden as a mirror contrast to Hillary.

4. The mainstream media's prized "sources" and insiders did not have the facts, if these insiders even existed.  There's even the likelihood the Biden stories were just the media elites telling each other what they wanted to hear.  And these same media elites do not care if those sources or right or wrong.

Here we get to the nub of the problem I have with these media elites.  There is no accountability in Washington DC for ever being wrong.

It is easy for a pundit to tweet informally or write formally an article full of hearsay based on information passed on by a "reliable" confidant.  Given the nature of politics - and the sometimes sensitive information needed to stay secure within the halls of government - that pundit doesn't have to give a name to the source, and barely even a rank within the bureaucracy.  Just labeling that "source" a "senior advisor" or "high-ranking official" is all they need for cover.

With that power, that pundit can pretty much publish whatever they want within the foggy range of journalistic ethics.  As long as the pundit doesn't publish something demonstrably false, something libelous, or something criminal they're untouchable.  And their source - whoever that may be - remains untouchable as well.

In one regard, this is a necessary part of journalism - and good governance.  Tales of corruption or bad behavior by our elected officials need to be told, and due to the nature of political reprisals and even legal ramifications, those types of sources - whistleblowers - need all the protection they can get.

However, that journalistic cover is more and more abused by savvy politicians and their handlers who use that need for secrecy to spread rumor and questionable data.  More often than not, they tell stories "off the record" as a way of getting their version of the Narrative out there, and then use the media's telling to reinforce that Narrative even further.  The pundits either fail to recognize how they're getting used for that, or else fear the loss of access that would happen if they started fact-checking their "buddies": either way, the media elite lets it happen again and again.

It's a mutually self-indulgent relationship.  The politician leaking his/her false reports gets to shill to the public without getting caught: the pundits shilling these lies get to enjoy "being in the inner circle" of being in the know, and sell their exclusive "access to the powerful" to all outlets who will hire them and invite them to talk shows, even after a pattern of years proving those pundits are constantly ill-informed and incapable of doing an honest job.

There needs to be an ethical system of handling faulty, ill-informed, consistently false sources.  These reporters and pundits do not need to name who these sources are, but they do need to admit when those sources are wrong and above all these reporters and pundits need to STOP LISTENING TO BAD SOURCES.

At some point, you idiots in the Beltway media bubble need to get this through your epistemic closure.  You are being used.  You are getting lied to by self-serving bastards.  Just stop it.  Just stop it.  You don't seem to remember that old saying Scotty told us on Star Trek: "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me."  You don't even shame the unreliable sources when they are wrong, and you keep letting them fool you multiple times in a row.

There's supposed to be ethical standards in every profession.  Journalism should have ethical standards towards accuracy, attention to facts, and the necessity of informing the public to the best of your ability.  Right now, the Beltway elites are FAILING at all three standards.  Shame on you.

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

Could someone please pay Bill Kristol to say out loud and on camera that Donald Trump is definitely going to be the next president?

-Doug in Oakland