A Fundamental Unfairness:
Oh, how Blogsylvania lit up when Jon Stewart decided to use his Friday appearance on CNN's Crossfire to bitch slap Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson. (Sure, you can read the transcript, but, really, watch the video for the full squeamishness of Tucker Carlson acting as if a guest at his house just shit in his bed.) Much has been made of how Stewart took the hosts and the show to task for demeaning discourse in America, for his remarks on how the show is "theatre" and that perhaps real, honest debate would be necessary. Oh, and how Stewart called Carlson a "dick" on live television. One thing that was obvious was how much Stewart was really begging Begala to take his side. Carlson would attempt to say something and Stewart would then say something insulting (and funny) to the 35 year-old bow-tie wearer and dismissively turn away from him and back to Begala. But the part that has not been commented much upon is the very end of the segment, the end of the show, when Stewart seems to realize that he's failed, that neither of the two men will admit that they can actually aspire to something more noble than a yelling match. And perhaps the pitiful truth is that neither man does aspire to anything more.
But Stewart, who is a ballsy, smart motherfucker, got one major thing right, although he didn't pursue it. When he said that "you're helping the politicians and the corporations," he was getting at the key problem of what passes for contemporary journalism: that most journalists at most (corporate-owned) media outlets work hard to prove the powerful in this country are right and correct when their jobs oughta be to challenge the powerful every step of the way, to be a line of defense against the powerful. That's the muckraking tradition of journalism: how are those who control us harming us? And what can we do to stop them or change something fundamental in the country? The charge that the media is "liberal" is actually a charge that the media, at one time, at least attempted to favor the "average" American over those in power. But now, in the ridiculous notion of balance, the news outlets give most of their coverage to the powerful and the "good" of their actions.
When ABC News's Mark Halperin's memo about candidate accountability and the election received so much coverage about a week ago, it was seen by some as a confimation of "liberal" bias at ABC (and, by extension, the rest of the non-Murdoch, non-Moonie media). But what Halperin was saying was that the lies and distortions coming from the campaigns are not equal and they should not be treated that way: "We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides 'equally' accountable when the facts don't warrant that." What a stunning thing to say: that the media should actually hold the liar accountable for his lies. In other words, the right-wing idea of "balance" is actually a right-wing bias. (This point has been made by many, like Eric Alterman.)
Because, see, all things are not equal. For instance, how severely John Kerry was injured in Vietnam is not equivalent to whether or not Bush is hiding the fact that he didn't fulfill his military obligations. For instance, John Kerry's conflicted vote for authorization to go to war is not equivalent to the President taking us to war under false pretenses. It's like saying that squashing a bug is the moral equivalent of slitting the throat of a small child. Yeah, you've got toddler blood on your hands, but look at the other guy - he has bug guts on his shoes. See? You're both killers.
Because, see, sometimes things need to equalized. Sure, sure - if we're gonna examine Kerry's life in his 20s, after the war, we should look at Bush's. But more to the point is Bush's attack on Kerry's tenure in the Senate. This attack has become standard in Bush's stump speech, the record from which Kerry can "run but he can't hide." This has caused the news media to evaluate Kerry's time in the Senate. But the news media behave as if George Bush simply started existing when he sucker-punched his way into the governorship of Texas in 1994, with the occasional nod to his previous business "experience," which consisted mainly of destroying companies or sitting on the sidelines so others could use his name and family connections. If we're going back to see what Kerry was doing in say, 1985, let's do the same with Bush. If Kerry's idea to raise gasoline taxes years ago is fair game, then so is Harken, no?
This list of unfairness could go on and on. When Bush went batshit insane in the debates, screaming, screeching, and beating his hand on the lectern, sure, his anger was mentioned by the punditry. But isn't it this very kind of anger that so concerned the punditry about Howard Dean (oh, whither Howard Dean)? That made them question his mental state and whether he would be fit to be President? That, essentially, drove his campaign into the ground?
For the media, the choice is like fucking two different hookers. Hooker #1 tells you she has herpes and you should use a condom, so you do and the sex is okay, but, hey, you're disease free. Hooker #2 says she's disease free so you fuck her without a condom, and the fucking is fantastic, but later you learn she gave you syphilis. If you're a fair news organization, you think to yourself, "Wow, I guess I shouldn't have trusted her because, after all, she's a whore," and you tell every other john you know to avoid the lying, diseased whore and to just fuck the first hooker. If you're the existing contemporary news media, you go and get your penicillin shot and hope the next time you fuck that hooker, she tells you the truth 'cause you sure love the fucking. You know, you wanna be fair to the hookers.
(By the way, if you haven't, you need to read Ron Suskind's New York Times Magazine piece on Bush and faith. Face the stomach-churning horror of what's coming the next four years if we must endure Bush again.)