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Bloggingheads
04-14-2008, 09:03 PM

somerandomdude
04-14-2008, 10:22 PM
Oh my God is this really happening? Glennzilla versus his mortal enemy?

Awesome!

threep
04-14-2008, 10:34 PM
Uh oh. This is gonna be rough.

StillmanThomas
04-14-2008, 10:57 PM
The irresistible object meets the immovable force. I'll leave it up to you to decide which is which. ;-) Lotta heat, here, but I'm afraid not much light. Still, it was vaguely interesting. They've both been better in other conversations.

But thank you both for your efforts.

somerandomdude
04-14-2008, 11:07 PM
One thing I like about McCardle is that she will forthrightly disagree with Glennzilla and confront him directly. Unlike Wonkette, which was just embarrassing to watch.

somerandomdude
04-14-2008, 11:13 PM
Does McCardle ever make a non-trivial objection in this entire episode?

Tom Wittmann
04-14-2008, 11:28 PM
Boy, GG does abrade, doesn't he?

But still, he has the better end of the argument, although he fails to press the right points.

MM goes on and on about how there are no LEGAL privileges for journalists, and GG only mentions in passing that virtually every state has shield laws.

Well, here is the argument, plainly stated. The evidence suggests that in the US journalism is a legally privileged profession because ALMOST EVERY STATE HAS A SHIELD LAW.

Since GG does not concentrate on this fact MM is able to make her weak claim that journalists have no special watchdog responsibility seem stronger than it is.

GG is a lawyer in the good and bad ways. Logical, argumentative, pushy, adversarial, passionate.

MM is a libertarian in the typical bad way: Logical but blind. Out of touch with the way things play out in the real world. For example, saying that journalists have no more responsibility to expose malfeasance than any other citizen is special in a way only libertarians manage. Even Republicans know journalism is a piller of a free society. They just mis-identify the villains.

piscivorous
04-15-2008, 12:07 AM
Mr. Greenwald speaks of Benjamen Franklin being a journalist, I always thought he was one of a broad class of individuals known as pamphleteers; anyone that had access to a printing press or enough cash to pay some one to print it for them. I guess that the founding fathers were the original conceivers of blogs.

bjkeefe
04-15-2008, 12:22 AM
I agree with Tom Wittman's comments on a number of your points, particularly the reaction to Glenn: I side more with his thesis, but I'm not sure he presented and defended it as well as he could have.

I also agree with Tom that Megan hurts her argument with her insistence on forcing everything she says through the filter of libertarian dogma. On the other hand, I frequently criticize Megan for being insubstantial or inconsistent, or for relying on anecdotes, or for whatever, but I have to say I thought she did a really nice job both rebutting Glenn and presenting her own point of view. To the former, this diavlog may help Glenn sharpen his argument in the future.

In the end, I'm not sure it was possible to "win" this debate. I think pretty much everyone can agree that journalists have some special responsibilities, and that among the founding principles of our country is the idea that a free and unfettered press is part of the system of checks and balances. I also think pretty much everyone can agree that no particular news outlet is required to cover or emphasize any particular area or story, nor should any of them be. We would all like there to be fearless reporters dedicated to holding the government's feet to the fire, particularly those members of the government whose views differ from ours. We would also like everyone else to be better informed about issues we consider important, and not to waste so much time obsessing about ones we don't.

In a lot of ways, I am sick to death of the way the MSM, even given a near-limitless number of TV channels, radio spectrum, and dead trees, all tend to clump around the same few stories of the day. On the other hand, I am encouraged by the possibility, at least, of the wider array of choices for news and analysis that we now have. It's not clear to me that the general population was ever particularly better informed than it is now, nor that news outlets ever did a particularly better job. I'll agree that Murrow and Cronkite were better than Cooper and Couric are, and I bemoan how many cities become one-newspaper towns. On the other hand, the blogosphere and sites like this one have already started making up for some of the failings of older news outlets. Perhaps we'll continue to experience greater fragmentation and more strident divisiveness. On the other hand, the opportunity to become well-informed, or indeed to contribute to the great mission of journalism, has never been easier. For all of Glenn's legitimate gripes, I wonder if he would ever have been able to garner the audience he has now, doing what he wants to be doing, at any time in the past.

daveh
04-15-2008, 12:30 AM
Glenn Greenwald's argument was so bad....

How bad was it?

It was so bad, that Megan McCardle took him to the woodshed and forced him to break the Hitler rule.

bjkeefe
04-15-2008, 12:41 AM
pisc:

From what I can remember reading about Ben Franklin, I think his newspaper work was more substantial than just pamphleteering. See, for example, here (http://inventors.about.com/cs/inventorsalphabet/a/Ben_Franklin_3.htm). here (http://www.pbs.org/benfranklin/l3_wit_read.html), and here (http://www.accessible.com/accessible/about/aboutPG.jsp).

But I think you're right about there being a lot of similarities between The Pennsylvania Gazette and blogs.

policy wank
04-15-2008, 12:53 AM
Megan was able to thwart Glenn's bullying by constantly going off on tangents to which Glenn felt obligated to follow and bellow his opinion on. Hence the mini-argument over how many words he used to summarize the 4th Amendment. The bottom line is that Glenn could be a much more effective advocate for his positions if he wasn't such an insufferable boor (bore) (boar) (but not Boer).

bramble
04-15-2008, 02:16 AM
I take MM's point that the media cannot be wholly blamed for the appalling ignorance of the American public. A minority of Americans vote, and fewer still make informed choices in the ballot box. If you're not involved as a citizen in the political process, why pay any attention to the news about that process?

Still, I don't think she overcomes GG's point about the moral and civic obligations of the media. Media companies like CNN and even Fox recognize their obligation to cover important stories about politics and government. Otherwise, they would run nothing but Paris Hilton stories and Larry King interviewing washed-up TV actors. That obligation is what gives their journalists and talking heads their sense of importance. Bill O'Reilly believes (or pretends to believe) that he is doing serious work that benefits his viewers.

But the media companies want to have it both ways. They want to be seen as serious yet broadcast a lot of filler and fluff because it pays better. When the issues become deadly serious -- i.e., war and peace - we get this situation where the media is using government propaganda as filler and fluff. This is a problem.

binxdoggy
04-15-2008, 02:22 AM
I'm sorry, but whenever I read anything that McCardle writes, or listen to anything she says, I am always reduced to commenting in a simplistic and banal way.
She does that to me.
She is just plain stupid.
She reminds me of people I knew in graduate school who had no idea about applying whatever they'd learned to the real world.
They might amuse themselves and a few others by presenting vaguely interesting - to them - arguments that sound vaguely well-grounded as long as one doesn't scrutinize too closely.
I've also known a few bright children who were capable of formulating vaguely coherent arguments that made a slight amount of sense as long as you didn't examine them too closely.
But upon closer examination, there is no there there.
She cannot make - or understand - a logical argument to save her life.
While Greenwald tries to talk about facts and evidence, she bounces from feelings and anecdotes and generalities and stuff that she just "knows" - based on god knows what! -and never agrees to any real common basis for a discussion.
Her ignorance is appalling. Considering that she writes for a major publication.
The very idea that she cannot understand the role envisioned for journalists by the founders - as best manifested by the Constitution itself - is proof positive of her inability to grasp the most basic fundamentals of a conversation about journalists and their duties in this country.
What an idiot.

binxdoggy
04-15-2008, 02:28 AM
She's learned an important trick, however, for someone who does what she does.
Even though she is monumentally ignorant of certain things - like Nuremberg and the principles of law that resulted from those trials - she at least attempts to sound authoritative, even as she acknowledges that she knows nothing about the law.
Way to go!
She may be dumb, but she sounds like she knows what she is talking about.

look
04-15-2008, 03:14 AM
This is twice now that Glenn has been cast as the the guy forced to politely converse with a silly sister-in-law. Please pair him next time with someone reality-based. He's earned it.

Eastwest
04-15-2008, 03:16 AM
It's a shame that some people find rationality somehow "boring."

Funny, MM gave so much weight to the dunderhead who "never got it" even after reading her daily for five years. Excuse me, by definition, anyone who could find her approach to facts interesting every day for five years is one who couldn't ever possibly be expected to sort out even up from down.

Glenn clearly had the high ground and the right ground. Probably could have saved himself a lot of trouble euthanizing her craftiness by refusing to chase down every rabbit-hole Megan insisted was important to explore. But, yeah, she seems to make a case for the urgency of considering all manner of BS digression. Can't say she was overtly "dishonest," per se, still she was refusing to be honest with herself and, guess what, the effect is not much different.

Megan was ever-dancing away from logic down little side-issues, all for the purpose of not having to face the fact that she was just out-and-out wrong in cementing herself into her libertarian ideology on this one.

Tom Wittman's comments were probably the best so far in summing it up.

It didn't need to run that long as the issues were basically fairly simple.

Megan gets the "Tenacious Obfuscation" award.

EW

-asx-
04-15-2008, 05:05 AM
Glenn said, in 52 words:

"The Constitution doesn't allow the gov't to break into your house and break down your door or to listen to your phone conversation without a warrant, and yet the Bush administration in secret concluded that doesn't apply to them; that they're free to violate that whenever they want inside the United States."

That's a pretty good summary of Bushworld, and even Megan could find room for it in a 700 word article.

Funniest moment in this diavlog was when Megan asserted that there are only two print media outlets in the United States where you can publish an article longer than 700 words.

dudeman
04-15-2008, 06:08 AM
So because the press is free to report what it wants, we must force it to cover what Glenn wants, in the way Glenn wants?

Eastwest
04-15-2008, 06:31 AM
On Look's:

This is twice now that Glenn has been cast as the the guy forced to politely converse with a silly sister-in-law. Please pair him next time with someone reality-based. He's earned it.

I agree. He's actually plenty sharp. MM is not in the same league.

MM suggests with her debating style and faux-logic she's really not such a clear analyst. You'd think from listening to her that her one big priority was making sure journalists shouldn't have to feel bad about incessant pandering to a target audience of channel-surfing passive media drones allergic to serious thought on important topics.

EW

Curtis
04-15-2008, 08:01 AM
Wow, how did Glenn get into this tedious, pointless swamp? Megan makes perfectly logical arguments but they don't apply to how the real world works. She wants to flatten out the world like it is on TV.

Curtis
04-15-2008, 08:23 AM
Glenn is too polite.

rcocean
04-15-2008, 09:55 AM
I wonder if the pro Greenwald comments on this BHTV Forum are actually from Glenn ? Or his roommate?
(http://wuzzadem.typepad.com/wuz/2006/07/greenpuppet.html)

threep
04-15-2008, 10:08 AM
This is going to fall on deaf ears, but here goes anyway: Megan McArdle is actually very, very sharp. I'm not going to psychoanalyze why she's become such a flashpoint of outright hatred from people who would disagree with her anyway, and I know no one cares but I really don't think it reflects well on you.

But compared to Glenn Greenwald? Glenn Greenwald? Are you guys fricken kidding me?

binxdoggy, your British tabloid one-sentence at a time style was truly comical, and I enjoyed it.

Eastwest, once again I love what you're doing with pomposity as a medium.

aarrgghh
04-15-2008, 10:13 AM
shorter mcardle:

please don't be so mean to me -- i just did one bad thing! i'm really a good person. i said i'm sorry okay?

... but you can't make me promise to stop.

Larry Bird
04-15-2008, 10:23 AM
MM is living on a strange world that I'm not apart of. If someone who wasn't a journalist walked out of their house to get the paper and saw something illegal that was newsworthy happening across the street that person is not obligated to report it to anyone. In an ideal world they would but by no means are they obligated. A journalist is obligated to report it because thats their freaking job and what they get paid for. I don't consider honest people in the inner city bad citizens because they don't report on the drug dealers out in front of their house.


Journalism is really screwed up from a outsiders perspective.

fortlauderdale
04-15-2008, 11:19 AM
McArdle either confuses or denies the difference between professional and personal responsibility. When she says journalists and citizens have a similar obligation to tell the truth, she's wrong on both counts. In one's private life, a person is under no obligation to do much more than observe the law.

I understand that "as a libertarian" she might be hesitant to tell anyone they are under an obligation to do anything. I feel the same way. I'm not entitled to tell people what they should or shouldn't do with their private lives. As long as you are doing no harm to others, you should be able to live as you want.

But I would find it hard to believe that when McArdle goes to the doctor, that she has no expectation that the doctor will do everything within his or her power to try and make her healthy. Or if she needs a lawyer, that she has no expectation that the lawyer will represent her interests to the best of his or her ability. That's because, as professionals, they are obligated to do so. That's called professional responsibility -- it comes with the job. It's the same with police officers, firefighters, politicans, judges and anyone who serves in a public capacity.

And it's also true of journalists. When I read a newspaper or magazine or watch TV news, my expectation is that the journalists employed by such organizations have the professional obligation to factually report to the best of their ability on relevant issues that serve the public trust. That's their obligation and their purpose; if they are not fulfilling that function, then there is no need for them.

Saying otherwise is like saying a police officer is under no obligation to stop a rape or a murder occurring in front of their eyes. Why have police if they don't stop crime?

Of course, McArdle may also believe that doctors, lawyers, police officers, etc. are also under no obligation to function as professionals when called on to do so. If so, I don't think that's libertarianism -- it's more like anarchy. Regardless, it's at least clear that she believes journalists have no obligations other than to show up for work and collect a paycheck, which, unfortunately, in today's media environment is not unusual.

gwlaw99
04-15-2008, 11:32 AM
Glenn has a point on a meta level. The press should cover government corruption. But he doth protest too much. Listening to Glenn you would think that the only things the press covers are Obama's bowling score and Edward's hair cut. It's as if Abu Graib was never in the press; that Joe Wilson did not get his 15 minutes of fame; or that the words FISA or Patriot Act never appeared in the Washington post. If Glenn thinks government corruption is not covered then he is the one who doesn't read newspapers.

My problem is not with Glenn's argument, but that it is clear that Glenn simply wants stories that are important to Glenn to be written about more. And, of course, not only written about, but written from Glenn's point of view.

Therefore, good journalism would be an article entitled "Bush/Cheney unilaterally end Fourth Amendment" as opposed to something like "Legal controversy over wire tapping of calls originating in foreign countries."

In Glenn's world that first headline needs to run 100 times until people agree with Glenn's understanding of the legal ramifications. In other words, Glenn is upset the press isn't doing a good enough job of making people think like Glenn.

There are a lot of conservatives who feel the press isn't making people see things from their side either and are equally upset with the press for the same reason.

Megan has some good points about Glenn's methodology in using Nexis in the first 7 or so minutes and Glenn really has no response.

pmorlan
04-15-2008, 11:35 AM
I want to first thank Bloggingheads Community for providing the Greenwald/McCardle debate. It's was refreshing to see a serious debate for a change instead of the mindless faux debates we see on cable. Having said that, however, I must say that Ms. McCardle's opinion that the press has no special obligation to the public was quite distressing. If this is a widely held belief among our current crop of journalists it would certainly explain the poor coverage we have these days. I was stunned that a supposed journalist would not only believe such a ridiculous idea but actually be proud to utter such nonsense in public. Evidently our educational system is in even worse shape than I had imagined.

I don't know if Ms. McCardle is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists but if she is she might want to read what they include on their website about Journalists having a "special obligation" to the public.

Resolution No. 4
Protecting our core values in an era of change

Whereas, journalism is being affected in many ways by changes in technology and ownership of news outlets;

Whereas, regardless of its commercial and technological circumstances, journalism has a special mission with special obligations; and

Whereas, the delivery of news is more than just a business, but a form of public service that has special obligations to the public and to itself;
Therefore, the Society of Professional Journalists in convention assembled, asks all those who call themselves journalists to observe a certain measure of professional responsibility and accountability, regardless of the platforms on which they operate, using the SPJ Code of Ethics as a guideline; and

Therefore, be it further resolved that those who own news platforms should operate them in ways that encourage journalism to reach its full potential of public service, responsibility and accountability.

And this from their Code of Ethics:

— Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public's business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.


http://www.spj.org/res2007.asp

binxdoggy
04-15-2008, 11:38 AM
Threep,

If she's so sharp, why does she sound like such an idiot?
And please, don't do what she does and simply offer a conclusion based on nothing but the assertion that you "know" something. Please point to an example in the diavlog just presented. A fact, some evidence, something that she seems incapable of utilizing in any discussion of issues.
Sharp people have no problem discussing their ideas with others as a means of testing the validity of those ideas.
Along with sounding as though she knows what she is talking about, Megan has learned how to do one thing very well: she knows how to avoid discussing matters she knows nothing about. she knows how to avoid talking about specifics because she understands that her true ignorance would be exposed.
For instance, GG specifically asked her if she agreed with the principles that arose out of Nuremberg.
Now, normally, that might be an unfair question, even for a blogger.
But MM has offered opinions about Nuremberg on her blog.
He specifically asked her several times what her opinion of the Nuremberg principles was, and she refused to answer, somewhat inartfully avoiding his queries.
Why?
Because, as was obvious by her non-response there, and the quality of her postings on the subject, she has no idea what those principles actually are.
She obviously has some general understanding of what happened at Nuremberg, probably from seeing a few movies, but she obviously does not understand the rules of law that arose from Nuremberg and that have informed international law for the last 60 years or so.
But, disturbingly, in an obnoxiously flippant manner, she simply dismisses Nuremberg because, in my view, it doesn't fit into her dogmatically libertarian philosophy.
Frankly, I felt sorry for GG.
He tried to have a reasonable, civil discussion with her and she did everything imaginable to avoid having that discussion.
GG would state: Ok, let's talk about Issue A. This is my position, these are the facts and evidence I rely on to inform my position, and this is my conclusion about those facts and evidence. What do you think? What is your position? Why do you have that position?
MM would respond: Well Issue A is fairly interesting, but I really want to talk about Issue X, and while I'm at it, Issue Y is also interesting and tangentially related to Issue X, so let's toss that in while we're at it. And I just know, because I just know that most people agree with me about Issue Z, so let's also throw that on the table.
No logic, no evidence, no facts.
Just amorphous feelings and knowledge that she assumes others agree with.
This is the type of BS that might have been mildly amusing back in graduate school after the bar and after more late night indulgences.
As a means of providing a cogent, informative and interesting discussion, it is a waste of time.
I only stayed to the end because I imagined that GG might be able to draw an intelligent thought or two out of MM.
I was sadly mistaken.

binxdoggy
04-15-2008, 11:55 AM
pmorlan,

Don't be so silly!!!
This is a woman who doesn't believe that those bad old Nazis should have been imposed upon and subjected to the rule of law established at Nuremberg!
In her view, those bad old Nazis were railroaded in show trials that probably would have made the Soviets blush.
Quaint notions like a certain level of responsibility by public officials for actions that flow logically from their decisions and policies, well, that has no place in a libertarian utopia.
Why would such a non-thinker ever pay any heed to some silly old obligations imposed by associations that supposedly monitor and assist journalists?
C'mon, be serious...

Alworth
04-15-2008, 12:04 PM
<i>But still, he has the better end of the argument, although he fails to press the right points.</i>

No, he has by far the worse end of the argument. It's incredibly inept thinking. They spend minutes belaboring the point, and it's clear Glenn doesn't grasp his constitution. He gets mired in a moralistic, quasi-constitutional argument when he should be asking a completely different question--why doesn't the US regulate its media more? This is the legal argument with teeth, and he could draw in the free airwaves and Congress's right to regulate and make law. (I'm only about 30 minutes in, and pulling my [few remaining] hairs out listening to him thrash about.)

Megan has won every single point so far. Greenwald is on the side of angels, but this is a bad defense.

hilaire de sauveterre
04-15-2008, 12:08 PM
Glenn concocts quite a nice originalist justification for the role of journalists in American society. He posits that, because America was conceived as a representative democracy, journalism was necessary to keep those citizens who did not serve directly in government informed about public affairs, so they could make meaningful political decisions and judge their government.

Alas, Glenn's story fails on several fronts, each related to the fact that - as Megan neatly points out - journalism today is nothing like journalism in Ben Franklin's day. There were no Columbia Journalism School, Pulitzer Prizes, or professional armies of journalists interested in unbiased reportage. There were a few citizens with printing presses with a few employees (if they were lucky), who ran their operations as commercial enterprises or as mouthpieces for wealthy patrons. The Boston News-Letter, America’s first newspaper was heavily subsidized by the British Government (yes, public media preceded commercial media in this country). There were also individuals who printed pamphlets and propaganda pieces for and against almost every conceivable political position (viz., the congenital fantasist and fanatic Thomas Paine).

It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that papers began to present anything like neutral, dispassionate reporting – and this practice really did not become widespread until around World War II. Any illusions as to the quality and “ethics” of journalism in the first century of this Republic are quickly dispelled by a perusal of the Yellow Journalism that dominated local and national political discourse well into the 20th Century. It makes Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly look sober and reflective by comparison.

Nor was it necessary – as Glenn posits it was – for the average factory-worker or agricultural laborer to be politically informed because such a person would not have been likely to qualify for the vote (on literacy grounds, poll tax or property ownership grounds, or because of his or her sex). The small political class (and it really was very small given the population and restriction on voting) kept informed through personal reports, letters, and gossip at least as much as through the press. Rural landowners in Georgia did not get daily delivery of the New York Times! They did, however, meet with neighbors and receive daily letters from friends and relatives.

Moreover, those few people who did have a real voice in state and national politics either served politically themselves or frequently socialized with those who did. Professional journalism as Glenn conceives it did not play an important role in informing the Founding Fathers about the world.

Finally, politics was much more local in the 18th and 19th Centuries, making it much easier to keep informed of issues that affected you directly. The federal government had not yet metastasized into the leviathan that we have today, so it was much easier to keep track of the issues of the few issues of real national importance - treaty negotiations, questions of war and peace, and matters of trade, tariffing, and maritime industry. The truly limited amount of notable information is reflected in the fact that early newspapers were generally weekly publications of two or four pages.

I could go on, but no-one will read this far anyway ...

Alworth
04-15-2008, 12:17 PM
Reading through this thread, I'm pretty amazed at how many people not only find Glenn's arguments persuasive, but find Megan's "stupid" or off-point. Glenn is setting the table here, and Megan's just responding. This is totally his bag, so he should have facts at his fingertips. A good example comes early on--after he offers the haircut v Saddam thing, he seems totally flummoxed by the argument that Americans have always been pretty badly informed, all golden-age fawning notwithstanding.

Later on, he gets stymied by the causality argument: are Americans dumb because the media sucks, or does the media suck because Americans only want to watch Britney scandals? When he fell into this pit, I realized he was in trouble. Of course Americans want sweets instead of high-fiber--they're human. The question isn't one of market effectiveness, as Greenwald allows--it's how a country wants to ensure that its citizens have access to accurate, objective information. We have an almost wholly for-profit mediaverse. Greenwald's argument should be that this is the problem.

I've been blogging for over five years, and I have massive problems with the way the US government regulates the media. But my problem isn't that Americans are stupid because the media sucks. Or that journalists are craven tools of some corporate propaganda enterprise. Or even that they want to cover Britney instead of health care policy (Megan was right on that point, too). It's that in a purely market-driven media, Britney news will always win.

To commenters on the thread I'd say: just because you agree with Greenwald in the main doesn't mean you have to agree this was a good outing.

graz
04-15-2008, 12:28 PM
binxdoggy:

Quote: "GG would state: Ok, let's talk about Issue A. This is my position, these are the facts and evidence I rely on to inform my position, and this is my conclusion about those facts and evidence. What do you think? What is your position? Why do you have that position?
MM would respond: Well Issue A is fairly interesting, but I really want to talk about Issue X, and while I'm at it, Issue Y is also interesting and tangentially related to Issue X, so let's toss that in while we're at it. And I just know, because I just know that most people agree with me about Issue Z, so let's also throw that on the table.
No logic, no evidence, no facts."

It seems that your frustration with MM's tactics has lead you to resort to name-calling. I'm not offended, but stupid doesn't really fit. Maybe, too smart by half... sounds more like a compliment then.

GG tried his best to engage her with common debate methods as you noted. She choose to skirt the game so as to make what she wanted us to believe was her only point: The media is not responsible for people's taste.

I think her rationale for not acknowledging the special role and inherent responsibilities that the press holds was self-serving.
She seems to want to have it both ways.

MM: I am an economics writer, not political reporter, who is in a privileged position, that reserves the right to not accept the code of ethics of journalism. When I enter into the fray as in my Nuremberg posts or my dismissal of GG's criticisms, I hope to be guided by my conscience.
But at the end of the day, I still am beholden to nothing else but market forces. Because after all, my oft- told story about going to business school and recognizing the futility of applying that degree to a real job, lead me into blogging (which I vehemently want to stress isn't the same as working for a major publication) therefore no special obligations attach.
And in the end, I really only wanted to comment on what I do know something about, which is television - I mean print journalism - I mean are you saying that a dog show reporter or food critic has to mention John Yoo.

graz
04-15-2008, 12:39 PM
Glenn concocts quite a nice originalist justification for the role of journalists in American society. He posits that, because America was conceived as a representative democracy, journalism was necessary to keep those citizens who did not serve directly in government informed about public affairs, so they could make meaningful political decisions and judge their government.

Alas, Glenn's story fails on several fronts,
I could go on, but no-one will read this far anyway ...

You are exactly right, Glenn failed on this point, by taking the bait of attempting to draw historical analogy. The challenge first posed to McCardle and Drezner was to answer for their failings in the here and now. His point was:
Why are you (MM,DD, and any responsible journalist) opting for the lowest common denominator of bowling and haircuts, when the evisceration of the fourth amendment is afoot?

Her reply: At the end of the day, what I do is just a job... putting food on the table etc... I am beholden to my chosen overlord, granted the Atlantic perch is sweet, but I wish to speak to the larger journalistic model in answer to GG's complaint. Ends justify the means, give the people what they want. And I know what they want because editors have told me so. There is no point in applying the principle of journalism as a function or an extension of democracy in a market driven environment. The burden rests with the citizenry. And I would hope that they are smart enough or caring enough to recognize the implications of the torture memos, even though we (the editors, et al) limit the dissemination of the information. And we limit it because we know that they are really tired after toiling at their jobs. What they want is distraction not dissertations. This is not insidious... it is reality baby. And we know this because our failing readership numbers tell us so.
But those numbers reflect growing competition... so all is well according to market forces principles. As for democracy... let the dollar rule.

Bloggin' Noggin
04-15-2008, 12:44 PM
Haven't finished the diavlog yet, but I second your assessment, Alworth.

Glenn does have a point, not about the constitution (where he seems to read early 20th century progressivism into Ben Franklin and the Constitution), but about a journalism as a profession that should have a certain code of ethics.

Journalists do actually recognize that they have certain responsibilities -- fact checking and some degree of fairness. Glenn is suggesting that these responsibilities should extend further -- when the media pursue sensational stories because they sell, they wind up creating a distortion in the public mind which may be far more significant than any individual distortion or misstatement in a particular story. For example sensational crime stories --e.g., stranger abduction of children -- sell very well, so they end up being overrepresented and the public end up with a very distorted idea of how frequent such sensational crimes are. SOMETHING ought to be done about this distortion.

The difficulty is, as Megan would point out, that those who don't go after the sensational story and focus on the more important spinach stories will likely lose market share and ultimately get driven out of business for their pains.

Apparently, we need journalistic norms that cover this kind of distortion and some kind of enforcement that would keep the competition within certain bounds. Of course, first amendment issues make government intervention here rather problematic. Media critiques, like Glenn's, might be the best we can do -- just try to embarrass the media into doing a better job of informing the public.

Although I'm sure the public really would rather read about Edwards's hair than about torture (who wouldn't?), we shouldn't assume that the forces that apply to the media all come from the public. I gather that one reason why there used to be so many silly sitcoms is not that the public was demanding them, but that advertisers found that such sitcoms put people in a better mood to listen to advertising pitches -- the same might go for flufy "human interest" stories that you find in news broadcasts. We may be getting news media somewhat worse than we deserve.

bjkeefe
04-15-2008, 01:00 PM
BN:

SOMETHING ought to be done about this distortion.

That's the whole sticking point there in a nutshell, isn't it? I think we'd like to see the MSM do a better job but the notion of ought troubles me. It's why I thought Glenn had a tough case to make. Ought implies some mandate or forcing mechanism, and I don't think we want to go there. If you start making rules about what should and shouldn't be covered, or even how much emphasis should be given to one topic over the other, red flags immediately spring up. At least in my mind.

And I can't buy this, either:

Apparently, we need journalistic norms that cover this kind of distortion and some kind of enforcement that would keep the competition within certain bounds.

I think you're right to say that media criticism is probably the best we can do for the time being.

I would also speculate that having some fluff increases the chances that news consumers will notice other, more important stories. Maybe not on TV, where it's so easy to change the channel, but in print and on blogs, anyway.

Finally, I do think there has been some reaction to many of the dumbed-down news outlets. NPR, for example, has steadily been gaining market share, as has TPM. It seems to me that there will always be some people who have no interest in hard news, and we just have to accept that. For the rest of us who do have such an interest, I am hopeful that the lower barriers to publication and easier access to a wider choice of outlets means that at least some organizations will focus on quality as their main selling point.

Bloggin' Noggin
04-15-2008, 01:00 PM
The problem we're talking about is statistical, so it can't really be directed at individual journalists, but has to be addressed to those who run the media organization as a whole. Ben Smith was right at an individual level -- John Edwards's haircut at campaign expense is a reasonable blog item for an individual reporter -- especially for a political reporter. The fourth amendment is more important than the latest Dior fashion show, but fashion writers cover the latter trusting to the legal reporters to cover the fourth amendment.
Of course, the line isn't so firm between politics and policy, and it's fair to expect political reporters to recognize this, and they should be careful not to create false "perceptions" and then cover them as though they (the reporter) had nothing to do with the false perception.

PaulL
04-15-2008, 01:09 PM
Great job Megan.
The looks Glenn gave when she was schooling him on Journalism was priceless.
It was like he was passing a stone. How dare this woman question his sacred holy doctrine of the Journalist!!!!!!!
I do not remember Greenwald complaining about Howard Raines Times campaign to force the Augusta National golf club to accept women as pushing a vacuous pointless BS story.
Or when he complained about the Obama/Rev Wright story after he tried to push the Mccain/Hagee story (http://www.qando.net/details.aspx?Entry=8173).

How do those square with Greenwald's sacred holy doctrine of the Journalist?

He can also explain how not granting US constitution fourth amendment protections to a non-US citizen who violated the Geneva Conventions and is not entitled to Geneva Conventions protections results in a war crime.

binxdoggy
04-15-2008, 01:13 PM
graz,

i do apologize for the name-calling.
but as noted, i find it extraordinarily frustrating.
if she doesn't want to engage in a serious discussion, why participate in the process?
like her hitler/pearl harbor/9-11 analogy. that is not even a serious point. gg was asking her about something specific and she brings up the fact that americans didn't know who bombed pearl harbor immediately after the attack.
again, it reminds me of a lot of dumb, and some not so dumb - is that better? - discussions/arguments i participated in, watched, in graduate school, where people sat around, in and out of the classroom, trying to impress each other by bringing forth every possible discussion point that might tangentially relate to a particular issue.
as a 22 year old trying to exercise my brain, there was a certain attraction to that sort of process, especially after we'd had a few beers at the bar.
as someone looking in on a supposed dialogue about very serious issues, i find it ridiculous that a supposed professional like MM would fall back on those methods that i recognize now as being extraordinarily trite.

Izakmo
04-15-2008, 01:31 PM
Don't know if anyone caught Glen eviscerating Ana Marie Cox a couple weeks ago (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9880?in=00:19:39&out=00:31:16), but during that diavlog Glen said it was implausible that McCain made the same Al-Qaeda gaffe four times in one week as a running brainfart, and that to repeatedly misspeak in the same way indicates a "bizarre neurological condition."

In this diavlog Glen confuses John Edwards with John Yoo twice, the second time LESS THAN A MINUTE after being corrected from the first time. Even McCain didn't make the same mistake once he'd been corrected, and he's two hundred years old.

I found this debate entertaining until it became clear that neither participant was going to concede even the most picayune point and the thing was going to last 80 minutes.

popcorn_karate
04-15-2008, 02:08 PM
The problem here is that Megan can not concede that the press has a role in our democracy that is different than other industries, and it has been recognized as such since the founding of our country.

this point is beyond dispute if you do even the most basic research on our founders and the constitution.

Once Megan simply says "i disagree" - and leaves it at that Glen is indeed lost. not because his argument is unsound, but because it is an argument based on logic - and if you remove the basis of the logic - the rest crumbles.

Its like if you were to have an argument about say - the kennedy assasination and who was responsible, and the person you are arguing with says - "i don't think there was an assassination". Um - where do you go from there?

Its tough to argue logically with someone that can not see the actual world. a lot like arguing with someone in the Bush administraztion - "Iraq - hell we won that years ago - don't you remember the banner?"

popcorn_karate
04-15-2008, 02:13 PM
I like how she uses the exact same technique as Ana Marie Cox to shut down Glen - "I am vastly superior and more important than you, because you see, I am a REAL journalist and you are just a piddly blogger and so you could never really understand"

disgusting.

harkin
04-15-2008, 02:38 PM
Great job, Megan.

Anyone who wants a good idea on the quality of GG's opinions should read his back and forth with Daniel Drezner.

This is a person who considers anyone who disagrees with his flawed thinking as suffering from "toxic afflictions -- a drooling, self-loving American exceptionalism along with a self-interested refusal to acknowledge that there is anything truly wrong with our political and media establishment because they both support and are part of that establishment".

Drezner easily shreds these rantings by doing something GG is rather weak at, providing backup and remembering what it is he's talking about.

Every time I see GG refuse to concede a clearly-expressed truth, it reminds me of the guys I debated in college who substituted feelings for facts. It's never easy because they shell-game the topic to death.

Look out Ezra, you have a challenger for greatest sufferer of what Sir Walter Scott called (paraphrasing) "clouds of passion which obfuscate the intellect".

graz
04-15-2008, 03:12 PM
graz,

i do apologize for the name-calling.
but as noted, i find it extraordinarily frustrating.
if she doesn't want to engage in a serious discussion, why participate in the process?
like her hitler/pearl harbor/9-11 analogy. that is not even a serious point. gg was asking her about something specific and she brings up the fact that americans didn't know who bombed pearl harbor immediately after the attack.
again, it reminds me of a lot of dumb, and some not so dumb - is that better? - discussions/arguments i participated in, watched, in graduate school, where people sat around, in and out of the classroom, trying to impress each other by bringing forth every possible discussion point that might tangentially relate to a particular issue.
as a 22 year old trying to exercise my brain, there was a certain attraction to that sort of process, especially after we'd had a few beers at the bar.
as someone looking in on a supposed dialogue about very serious issues, i find it ridiculous that a supposed professional like MM would fall back on those methods that i recognize now as being extraordinarily trite.

So to keep beating the dead horse:
I am not able to argue against your basic points - because I am in agreement with them. I would offer that if you simply recognized that as "dumb" or not as she is, her falling back on those frustrating and trite tactics should be expected. This is basically what she knows, learned and employs. And this speaks to GG's original complaint about the media. Just as his suggestions about complicity, as highlighted by Harkin in his exchange with Drezner overstate the case. MM's and Drezner's reflexive defense and rationale for the failing of the "media" avoids answering the claim of irresponsibility. There are some bright spots in her past efforts and I would concede that she has attempted to take command of facts by research and reading. But the next step of critical thinking isn't applied. Not because she is unintelligent or her conclusions run counter to my assumptions - but because her methods are shoddy.
This meshes nicely with Science Saturday's DV between Zimmer and Marcus. Gary's thesis accounts for Megan's failure to apply the most challenging methods of logic and reason which would call her assumptions into question. And the fact is that she and her defenders will likely go to sleep believing that they made their case. Case closed?

Discovery Institute
04-15-2008, 03:34 PM
What McCardle is successful in doing is making it seem as if Greenwald is the one making absolutist arguments, and not her. She appears to believe that this is the case, and Greenwald does play into it with his hyperbolic style of writing.

But Greenwald is assigning some blame to some journalists, while McCardle is insisting that all journalists be shielded from all blame. All blame rests with consumers, and there is absolutely, 100%, no way of getting them to pay attention to important things, so journalists are absolved if they don't try, or don't try hard. And even though the media as a business is, by her definition, mostly a machine for disseminating trivia, those who enter into the business are still entitled to the reputation of civic-minded intellectuals who certainly WOULD be doing hard reporting on all this stuff, if only the public would change. (Though the public is unchangable, 100%, forever, so suggesting that anyone try to change their tastes is like asking them to starve to death.)

Greenwald's conception of the media doesn't rule out the existence of people like this, and he links on his blog to examples of what he considers "good" journalism. He simply says that they aren't the norm. McCardle says that they are, and insists that we believe her, even if there's no evidence to back her up, because the lack of good journalism, no matter how dire it gets, will always be the fault of consumers.

Greenwald might idealize the public somewhat, but really, he just seems to be holding out some hope that they'd be improved if exposed to more good journalism. McCardle, meanwhile, insists that more good journalism would just be pearls before swine. But her argument is still the more idealistic one, she just reserves her naivete for the people who share her job.

binxdoggy
04-15-2008, 03:35 PM
graz,

you are absolutely right.
i'm just being lazy in a sense, because it is so much easier to just dismiss her as dumb, though i don't believe that entirely.
or at all, really.
she just reminds me of so many well-educated people i've known and associated with who end up being incapable of using their knowledge and intelligence in what i consider to be a constructive way.
instead, they get involved in silly semantic games over trivial matters that prevent a real discussion of or engagement with important issues.
and, as happened here, after a lot of energy and time wasted, one is no further along the path of enlightenment than one was when one started the process.
so yes, you are right and i also agree with everything you've said.

harkin
04-15-2008, 03:49 PM
This conversation illustrates something I read awhile back about the reason people give for pursuing a career in journalism.

Years ago, the main reason given was something along the lines of 'wanting to inform the public'; now the main reason is 'wanting to change the world'.

You can clearly see which of these two classifications MM and GG each fall under.

Megan clearly grasps what freedom of the press is all about. Glenn's narrow view that it is bestowed on an elite class of educated public defenders to save us from a corrupt government ignores the fact that freedom of press is just a supplement that allows amplification of one's views. He completely misses the fact that the press is (as Megan states) not a 'special class' but an extention of the individual. Freedom to bear arms also is a protection from corrupt government, but it's an offshoot of the more general principal of being able to protect one's self, one's family and one's property.

graz
04-15-2008, 03:50 PM
binxdoggy:

I reiterate, check out the diavlog between Zimmer and Marcus. And then you might be less likely to agree with me as absolutely. It is unlikely that our take on this is MM thing is wrong... but it is possible.

graz
04-15-2008, 04:00 PM
This conversation illustrates something I read awhile back about the reason people give for pursuing a career in journalism.

Years ago, the main reason given was something along the lines of 'wanting to inform the public'; now the main reason is 'wanting to change the world'.

You can clearly see which of these two classifications MM and GG each fall under.

Megan clearly grasps what freedom of the press is all about. Glenn's narrow view that it is bestowed on an elite class of educated public defenders to save us from a corrupt government ignores the fact that freedom of press is just a supplement that allows amplification of one's views. He completely misses the fact that the press is (as Megan states) not a 'special class' but an extention of the individual. Freedom to bear arms also is a protection from corrupt government, but it's an offshoot of the more general principal of being able to protect one's self, one's family and one's property.

Harkin:

That was an interesting point in the Diavlog. I take Megan's general point about the press as an extension of the individual as true. But that doesn't discredit the "specialness" of the role of the journalist as implied by the powers granted to that class.

Your point highlights the fact that they might as well have conceded that they were not fluent in each others language.

booker t
04-15-2008, 04:25 PM
The principle that Greenwald is trying to defend here, that the most important function of a free press in a democracy is to perform a watchdog function over government distortion, deceit, and malfeasance, is undeniable to anyone who studies the consequences for societies where the press begins to protect and to speak for government.

To some extent this is our current situation. When Dick Cheney wants to propagandize against the dangers of Iran and speak unchallenged and irrespective of the facts he has an all too willing sycophant in Sean Hannity, and on and on.

Anyone who wants to learn about the history of American media should read the work of Robert W. McChesney. The evolution of American journalism gets very poor treatment in this dialogue. To understand the essential importance of a watchdog function of a free press (whether you care to classify it as an obligation or not) read C. Edwin Baker. Our current national problems are not independent of the trend towards corporate conglomeration of all of the forms of media. Start by reading Communication Revolution by McChesney if you really care about these issues.

I let my Atlantic subscription run out a few summers ago. I feel reassured of that decision.

Glaurunge
04-15-2008, 04:27 PM
I think we know who lost her argument. How did the conversation get from the News Media's role in society to the Nuremberg trials? Granted, McArdle didn't mention Hitler by name although she came close enough.

Alworth
04-15-2008, 05:52 PM
I continued listening, and the pain continued. When they got into that bit over whether Glenn had worked in journalism, it was so painful I had to stop again.

The truth is, since he has set himself up as the MSM critic, Megan's right to question his authority. I have worked tangentially as a reporter a number of years ago (my beat was the Portland beer scene), and it was eye-opening. Later, I did a little business reporting, and have covered politics freelance. Actually reporting does awaken one's awareness to a number of issues that aren't apparent from the outside.

I still think Glenn's overall point is well-made, but man, I have rarely seen someone so clearly wipe the floor on a diavlog (Frum springs to mind, though).

Alworth
04-15-2008, 06:17 PM
Well, they didn't really get into it directly, but Glenn's formulation of what exactly is guaranteed in the First Amendment wasn't clear to me. All the Constitution says is that the government cannot abridge the press's speech--it doesn't give it special status, as Glenn seemed to be arguing. They went down that rabbit hole, where Megan tried to compare it to the protected right to practice religion, and then the whole discussion frayed. I saw nothing that supported Glenn's view there, though.

hans gruber
04-15-2008, 06:26 PM
A previous commenter quoted GG:

"The Constitution doesn't allow the gov't to break into your house and break down your door or to listen to your phone conversation without a warrant, and yet the Bush administration in secret concluded that doesn't apply to them; that they're free to violate that whenever they want inside the United States."

Well, then I guess GG, on a subject he considers himself an expert, doesn't even understand the basics. No warrant is required. The standard is REASONABLENESS which usually requires a warrant, but not always.

Alworth
04-15-2008, 06:26 PM
The first amendment creates a special status for the press only so far as it protects it--like speech and religious practice. So Megan's right when she says there's no Constitutionally-sanctioned special status of the press. Glenn imputes a whole bunch of stuff that's extra-constitutional.

But Glenn can legitimately make the point that it has a special role in a democracy. He can even say it was one the founders wanted to protect. But I think he goes astray when he tries to link the function and purpose of the press to the constitution. It's just not there.

hans gruber
04-15-2008, 06:48 PM
Since I picked on GG. Now I'll pick on MM. MM says that the Nuremberg trials were not really trials because there was 0% they would be acquitted. But there were acquittals at the Nuremberg trials! According to wikipedia, there were three. And not every accused war criminal received the death penalty, some were sentenced to life in prison, others to as little as 10-20 years.

dogheaven
04-15-2008, 08:50 PM
This is the first time I have gotten angry during a diavlog. I think Mcardle did best in the last 7 minutes when she was trying to clean up after herself. Explaining that she had no expertise in some areas. And then on to being more open to people who make mistakes as she has.

I appreciate Glenn Greenwald not coming through the screen. I thank him for his participation. Mcardles arguments was a series of splitting hairs based on ineffective listening. Sort of like when you wait to speak as opposed to listening. I need to go find some conditioner now.

piscivorous
04-15-2008, 08:50 PM
Actually the government can search all it wants, warrant be dammed, it boils down to what can the government present in court to use against you. With out a warrant the evidence is inadmissible but the constitution does not necessarily prevent the government from listening; just using the evidence gathered, with out a proper warrant, being used in a court of law against you.

piscivorous
04-15-2008, 09:06 PM
Not to put to fine a point on it but I fine a point on your argument but I find this statement "code of ethics of journalism" to be a nonstarter. There is no code of ethics in journalism, the do not swear to some sort of Hippocratic oath to do no harm, as doctors or Lawyers that swear allegiance to the "Rule of Law" when the get indoctrinated after passing the Bar.

bjkeefe
04-15-2008, 09:09 PM
Actually the government can search all it wants, warrant be dammed, it boils down to what can the government present in court to use against you. With out a warrant the evidence is inadmissible but the constitution does not necessarily prevent the government from listening; just using the evidence gathered, with out a proper warrant, being used in a court of law against you.

A good point, pisc. But there are some limits, aren't there? Say, invasion of privacy or harassment?

eric
04-15-2008, 10:03 PM
I love when journalists complain about the popularity of trivialities like Britney and Obama's bowling score. What do you expect to be most popular, health care plan details? Not everyone is a policy wonk. Pedestrian means popular.

I think Megan's incredibly cute.

~GW~
04-16-2008, 12:02 AM
Greenwald makes journalists sound like some sort of Jedi order. A special class of people charged with the protection of the republic, who are totally unaccountable, but have special rights.

Dee Sharp
04-16-2008, 12:07 AM
Gee, Glenn sure is a good person. Better yet, he's a political journalist, possibly the most important job there is, and he takes the responsibilities of that job more seriously than just about anyone else. Best of all, he doesn't remain neutral on the important questions of the day. He's pro-good, and anti-bad.

That said, he hasn't noticed that having a virtuous person or group controlling a large endeavor doesn't guarantee optimal management. Megan explained her position well to me, and I found it convincing, but when Glenn clearly didn't understand, she should have shifted to an economic / ecological explanation. ( Foreshadowing of a mixed metaphor.)

Since she didn't, I am obligated to do so. The 1st A doesn't specify that the press shall be Good. It says it shall be free. In a free press, some are most concerned with candidate bowling scores, others with weightier matters. The overall mix becomes an equilibrium between what readers want and what writers want. In the same way, a restaurant in a market economy may offer a dish just because someone wants to cook it, and some will try it out of curiosity, but few will be served if the customers don't like it, so over time the menu reflects both the customers' and the owners' tastes.

A state press, or Glenn's preference, a press primarily concerned with being Good, may begin with the best of intentions, but can ossify as times change, be hijacked by a narrow interest, or write material that almost no one reads. The same maladies afflict elements of a free press, but those who are dissatisfied can read something else or start their own paper or what have you. Papers flourish, then flounder, but blogs proliferate- for now. Media splintering and new technology makes the process more efficient, so that Glenn can write long pieces on his view of the Fourth and actually have them read, though only by those that want to.

Glenn never said how his favored press could operate in practice. Whenever Megan mentioned a practical limitation, Glenn talked morality. Like many intractable arguments, there could be no resolution, because they weren't talking about the same thing.

look
04-16-2008, 12:22 AM
...freedom of press is just a supplement that allows amplification of one's views.
That's kind of like saying water is wet.

He completely misses the fact that the press is (as Megan states) not a 'special class' but an extention of the individual.

Like the the right to peaceable assembly, freedom of the press is pointless when carried out on an individual basis. The concern of the Founders wasn't that anyone be able to print anything, but that citizens be kept informed of Government activities.

During this period, newspapers were unlicensed, and able freely to publish dissenting views, but were subject to prosecution for libel or even sedition if their opinions threatened the government. The notion of "freedom of the press" that later was enshrined in the United States Constitution is generally traced to the seditious libel prosecution of John Peter Zenger by the colonial governor of New York in 1735. In this instance of jury nullification, Zenger was acquitted after his lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, argued to the jury (contrary to established English law) that there was no libel in publishing the truth. Yet even after this celebrated case, colonial governors and assemblies asserted the power to prosecute and even imprison printers for publishing unapproved views.

During the American Revolution, a free press was identified by Revolutionary leaders as one of the elements of liberty that they sought to preserve. The Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) proclaimed that "the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments." Similarly, the Constitution of Massachusetts (1780) declared, "The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore, to be restrained in this commonwealth." Following these examples, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution restricted Congress from abridging the freedom of the press and the closely associated freedom of speech


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_the_press

look
04-16-2008, 12:50 AM
This is going to fall on deaf ears, but here goes anyway: Megan McArdle is actually very, very sharp. I'm not going to psychoanalyze why she's become such a flashpoint of outright hatred from people who would disagree with her anyway, and I know no one cares but I really don't think it reflects well on you.

Yes, Megan is very sharp, and I like her. I hope your suspicions of why she's not sometimes well-received by some don't include sexism or misogyny, or even ageism, because those are off-base, I do believe. I'd say the main problem is that as bright as she is, she's promoting the faux philosophy of Libertarianism (survival of the foodie), and people just don't buy it. Like Drez and Will, they've found a fun, trendy niche in which to survive, and good for them.

Megan, I've noticed (or projected) that you've been trying hard in some ways to please people here. You don't give many personal anecdotes anymore, and you are generally more prepared with your argument (which is good). I hope from now on you'll say to hell with us and be yourself. You're fine, and people who already like you, like you, and those that don't can just suck it up. The opinions of a bunch of message board grumps is not your problem.

hans gruber
04-16-2008, 01:05 AM
pisc,

The standard is one of "reasonableness" not if a warrant is issued. Now in a lot of cases to be reasonable requires a warrant, but there is not an express requirement for a warrant in either the Constitution nor opinions by the Supreme Court. A so-called specialist in the field, like GG, should be aware of this and not be clumsy in his wording as a commenter cited above.

The absolute best legal case against the Admin's spying is not one based on a Fourth Amendment argument, but instead a plausible STATUTORY violation of FISA, which then is subject to constitutional challenge under Article II, as well as interpreting the finer points of the statute. Of course, the idea that the Constitution prevents military torture In Iraq to secure intelligence is just strange (the 8th Amendment deals with punishment, and its enforcement is limited to US soil). Again, on this question the best arguments rest on statutes and treaties rather than constitutional law. But to scream, BUSH VIOLATED THIS STATUTE FROM 1974 doesn't have the same ring to as BUSH HATES THE CONSTITUTION; thus we get sloppy and just plain stupid arguments from Greenwald and company.

hans gruber
04-16-2008, 01:12 AM
I think Megan is sharp. She's clearly intelligent. However, she is often out of her depth. But that's just the nature of blogging, you weigh in on a lot of matters where you are not an expert, and sometimes it isn't pretty. So it is, too, with Bloggingheads. But she's fun and entertaining and she should keep coming back. I don't know why so many here have it in for her. Her arguments are (sometimes) lacking refinement, but she is much the superior to, say, the fuzzy thinking Ezra Klein, a favorite of a lot of the commenters who seem to hate Megan the most.

bjkeefe
04-16-2008, 02:31 AM
Good points, Hans. But in GG's defense, he was trying to illustrate how the gist of an idea could be gotten across in not very many words.

If you ever read his stuff, I think you'll see that he takes pains to be precise when he is not hampered by the 700-word limit that he and MM were discussing.

Also, I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that the original text:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. (source (http://usconstitution.net/xconst_Am4.html))

makes it not completely incorrect to equate warrantless wiretapping with a violation of the 4th Amendment.

travis68
04-16-2008, 03:46 AM
MM makes the point that it doesn't do any good to print stories that no one reads, and GG counters that yes it does, because people can be put in jail. The press *has* printed stories about Yoo and the torture memos, so by GG's own standard, the press has done its job.

So the question then boils down to whether the press should continue to beat the drum with long stories about a situation when new information doesn't enter into the narrative.

GG's supposed ability to get his 15 word claim about the 4th amendment into a 600 word story is a misdirection, because that sort of claim must be backed up with evidence. You can't do that in a 600 word story.

Frivolous stories can get reported a lot because by their very nature they are short and uncomplicated. Consequently they can easily be printed, repeated and get lots of Nexis hits. Stories about the 4th amendment need factual backing that takes more space. They are difficult to repeat. Consequently they get fewer Nexis hits.

hans gruber
04-16-2008, 10:10 AM
"If you ever read his stuff.."

I find him unreadable. Self-righteous, wordy, hyper-partisan. Makes Andrew Sullivan look like a paragon of dispassionate reason.

Bloggin' Noggin
04-16-2008, 10:34 AM
OK I finally finished watching the diavlog.
Megan mentions a case at the end that neither diavlogger really exploits, but which I think puts everything into perspective -- in a way that cuts against Megan's libertarian fear of obligation and against Glenn's moralism.
Megan mentions people dying in hospitals due to medical mistakes and draws attention to cases where it's simply a human error.

Hospital Errors. Moralism and Obligation
Looking at the problem from the point of view of the individual doctor or nurse, one does have to sympathize: we're only human -- even doctors. But FAR too many people die (and suffer needlessly) due to medical errors in hospitals. Some hospitals are studying what systems can be put into place to reduce medical errors and the spread of infection in hospitals -- e.g., they institute protocols and check lists for the insertion of breathing tubes, they assign someone to count what is put into the body and what is taken out (or they use computers and sensors, and so on. The system is generating unacceptable death and injury rates due to entirely expectable human error; something systematic needs to be done to set new standards for physicians and nurses. Without these systematic protections, doctors and nurses are not terribly blameworthy -- they are human. Those who fight their implementation, even when they see how well they have worked in other hospitals would be blameworthy, but I don't blame them for making a normal number of mistakes in the first place.

Glenn's case regarding journalism should, I think, be seen along the same lines, though he's too moralistic to see it -- and I think Megan is right to resist that hypermoralism. But Glenn does seem to be right that the system is producing unacceptable outcomes as a whole.

Megan's terror of imposing an obligation on anyone on the other hand is a bit silly. Journalism does ALREADY have norms and professional codes of conduct. We're not talking about, for the first time ever, imposing "obligations" on journalists -- we're talking about modifying the institution and the accompanying norms. The fact that we need new norms doesn't mean that we have to retroactively blame everyone who falls short of the new norms -- without the new instititutional structure, the new norms would be unfulfillable or might not even make sense. We just need to draw attention to how much the current institutions fall short of the outcomes we expect and then suggest new norms and institutional structures that could produce a better outcome.

An Interpretation of Glenn's specific Complaint about MSM
Here's an interesting case in point. Megan points out that Glenn's summary of Bush's 4th Amendment roll-back would "never get past an editor." Now obviously, this is invoking current institutions and current norms -- and the question is really "what should those institutions and norms be like, given that they aren't working so well?"
Now Megan might dispute that they aren't working. But I think the above example reveals a kind of double standard within journalism. For some reason it's OK to sensationalize Edwards's haircut and a whole lot of trivial "scandals", but "journalistic standards" suddenly step in when we get to anything important. They keep the journalist from giving the kind of clear-cut exposition that citizens could understand (and possibly get angry about and change).
Why do "journalistic standards" restrain journalists from clear-cut and pointed expressions of the facts when it comes to the actual running of the government (on the grounds that this would be hyping or over-interpreting the facts), when EVERY journalist on a Sunday talk show is an instant Tele-psychoanalyst diagnosing signs of "elitism" or whatever in presidential candidates? Why is debate about such frivolous and deeply unknowable psychological stuff OK, when debates about the constitution are not?

Megan might say that both are OK, but the audience isn't interested in the Constitution, while they are interested in Edwards's hair. I doubt that's the reason exactly. It's rather that when we talk about the Constitution we suddenly have to get all News-Hour-ish and boring, but for some reason, it's OK to be more sensational (and more interesting) when it comes to Edwards's hair (and what his hair means about his character). Too often newspaper stories tell you a lot of facts which are meaningless by themselves, without the context of what values are at issue. The paper wants to report just the facts (except when they are shamelessly sensationalizing and factlessly psychoanalyzing to sell papers), so they leave out this essential context, and of course, the readers are (a) confused and befuddled and (b) bored.

Surely there is a way for journalists to give the evaluative context of the argument without stepping in and asserting certain values. In their sensationalized, psychologizing coverage of the candidates they certainly don't mind implying (usually insincerely) a good many values (the values they believe their "little-people" viewers hold about "elitism" etc.). A more direct discussion of the values involved (freedom from government tyranny vs. safety from terrorism, for instance -- or even the importance of a good haircut to a candidate's viability vs. the expectations of small contributors to Edwards) would be both more enlightening and more interesting.

If people still pay attention only to haircuts and Britney after journalists (are allowed to) try for more relevance and clarity, then we can go ahead and blame the American people, as Megan wants. Until then, I don't think we really know.

Seth Hurwitz
04-16-2008, 11:14 AM
How can MM be so cute and yet so wrong? Aren't TV networks allowed spectrum to serve the public good? Maybe Megan counts Dancing With The Stars as serving the public interest but without investigation and analysis (for which journalists get special access and protections, although she apparently disagrees with this notion), all we're left with is propaganda and immunity challenges. Is that really what she's arguing for here?

hans gruber
04-16-2008, 11:50 AM
I've now watched the blog in its entirety. What a waste of time. 50-some minutes talking about what? I don't know. GG thinks the media has some sort of reponsibility to be more like him, but what exactly needs to be done to ensure they are more like him, I don't know and neither does he.

His comparisons are just dumb. Journalists covering Obama's bowling score are the same as physician's who promote unncessary surgeries? Um, no. That's an offense one can lose their license for, be sued, and possibly criminally prosecuted. Does GG think journalists should be a self-regulated cartel like lawyers or doctors? Does he think a journalist reporting on Clarence Thomas' hair should be disciplined in the same way the doctor who performs an unnecessary surgery?

Does he think journalists and their so-called "special status" should be able to kick out members not in good standing, thereby revoking their special privileges? Ultimately, I think GG's ideas only lead to potential remedies which are are antithetical to what to what the First Amendment is about. And if GG's point is just that we should think the media should be more like GG, does he really need to argue about it for 50 minutes? Everybody thinks other people should be more like them. But only GG can turn that into a 50 minute argument believing he's standing for some grand principle.

harkin
04-16-2008, 12:07 PM
Harkin:

That was an interesting point in the Diavlog. I take Megan's general point about the press as an extension of the individual as true. But that doesn't discredit the "specialness" of the role of the journalist as implied by the powers granted to that class.

Implication is in the eyes of the beholder. And on that note, I guess Megan would say "where is this specialness articulated"?


Your point highlights the fact that they might as well have conceded that they were not fluent in each others language.

I certainly agree with this. The way GG phrases it, freedom of the press was simply acute foresight for the future 'Bush administration', a term he utters as if he were Katrina Van der whatever getting her talking points across on This Week.

That's kind of like saying water is wet.

Your entire post is a 'water is wet' moment. You missed my entire point, which was about the 'special class' of journalists and not the substance of what they might be writing about. And saying that freedom of peaceable assembly is pointless 'when carried out on an individual basis' is certainly the best laugh I've had in awhile, thank you for that.

GG thinks the media has some sort of reponsibility to be more like him, but what exactly needs to be done to ensure they are more like him, I don't know and neither does he.

His comparisons are just dumb. Journalists covering Obama's bowling score are the same as physician's who promote unncessary surgeries? Um, no. That's an offense one can lose their license for, be sued, and possibly criminally prosecuted. Does GG think journalists should be a self-regulated cartel like lawyers or doctors? Does he think a journalist reporting on Clarence Thomas' hair should be disciplined in the same way the doctor who performs an unnecessary surgery?

Does he think journalists and their so-called "special status" should be able to kick out members not in good standing, thereby revoking their special privileges? Ultimately, I think GG's ideas only lead to potential remedies which are are antithetical to what to what the First Amendment is about. And if GG's point is just that we should think the media should be more like GG, does he really need to argue about it for 50 minutes? Everybody thinks other people should be more like them. But only GG can turn that into a 50 minute argument believing he's standing for some grand principle.

Nail head, meet hammer.

-asx-
04-16-2008, 12:18 PM
Greenwald makes journalists sound like some sort of Jedi order. A special class of people charged with the protection of the republic, who are totally unaccountable, but have special rights.

I missed the part where he said journalists are totally unaccountable.

That's funny, too, since he spends the entire diavlog holding them to account. It's Megan who says journalists are totally unaccountable, right?

I have never heard anyone spit on the First Amendment by calling it "special rights," either. (I assume the term "special rights" is intended pejoratively, since it is the same dismissive term conservatives have coined to discredit anti-discrimination law.)

Heck, even the Jedi weren't unaccountable.

Bloggin' Noggin
04-16-2008, 12:19 PM
I certainly agree with this. The way GG phrases it, freedom of the press was simply acute foresight for the future 'Bush administration', a term he utters as if he were Katrina Van der whatever getting her talking points across on This Week.


Can I suggest that you amend that to "Katrina vanden Whoever" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katrina_vanden_Heuvel)?

-asx-
04-16-2008, 12:38 PM
Does he think journalists and their so-called "special status" should be able to kick out members not in good standing, thereby revoking their special privileges? Ultimately, I think GG's ideas only lead to potential remedies which are are antithetical to what to what the First Amendment is about.
It seems a few people are responding to Glenn's criticism of the press by granting him -- as you do above -- draconian and authoritarian positions that he explicitly rejects. His argument would be much easier to reject if he were asking for legal regulation of some kind. But he's not.

He simply wants them to do their jobs better. To cover the stuff that matters. I don't think he expects a world without trivia or fluff. I'm sure he's aware there will always been at least a 100:1 ratio of National Enquirer to New York Times subscribers.

This diavlog was useful for one reason, if no others:

Never in my life have I seen so many conservatives defending the media. You'd never know, listening to these respondents, that conservatives are supposed to hate the media. Glenn found a way to do something no one else has: get conservatives to tell us the media is just fine the way it is. Perhaps if Glenn and others continue to press the point and force conservatives to defend the media we can finally get beyond the long discredited (but still widely believed) concept of a "liberal" media. After their nth argument defending the media, conservatives may realize that the media as it exists today works for them more than it works for Democrats, the public interest, or the American people.

-asx-
04-16-2008, 12:52 PM
To commenters on the thread I'd say: just because you agree with Greenwald in the main doesn't mean you have to agree this was a good outing.

To me it's not about Glenn or Megan's performance in debate, but the merits of the ideas themselves. But since you raised it, I think Glenn's performance was excellent.

-asx-
04-16-2008, 01:16 PM
Once Megan simply says "i disagree" - and leaves it at that Glen is indeed lost. not because his argument is unsound, but because it is an argument based on logic - and if you remove the basis of the logic - the rest crumbles. Its like if you were to have an argument about say - the kennedy assassination and who was responsible, and the person you are arguing with says - "i don't think there was an assassination". Um - where do you go from there?

Exactly -- well said.

Or, if I may substitute another analogy: It's as if you were to have an argument about the Kennedy assassination and who was responsible and the person you are arguing with says, "Who cares about the Kennedy assassination?"

Megan simply doesn't agree there is a problem. Over and over, her position is dictated by her refusal to condemn or criticize the media -- exactly like Ana Marie Cox last week. This works for Megan (and the other conservatives who are now defending the MSM) on one level: It insulates the public from criticism of the past 7 years of Republican governance. If I was Dick Cheney, I would want the media asleep at the switch, too. Megan (and the other conservatives) know what Glenn really wants: greater public exposure of Republican incompetence and corruption. She doesn't share that interest, so she and her conservative brethren now find themselves defending the media.

But there is also the libertarian aspect to Megan's argument. If Glenn and Megan were debating, say, teen movies or pop music, Glenn would indeed have little ground to stand on, and Megan's argument that the industry merely serves up what sells would be totally convincing and valid. You can't force people to listen to Mozart.

But this argument fails on account of the fact that the media does, indeed, play a critical role in serving and protecting the public interest in a free society. Megan simply fails to understand or even acknowledge this role.

So, how to you compel the media to take its responsibilities seriously? Glenn isn't asking for laws to regulate the media; he explicitly rejects the idea. The only thing left, and Glenn knows this, is to condemn them and shame them and hope that in the process we can encourage them to do a better job.

Liberals can work the refs, too, and by the sound of the conservatives defending the press, I think Glenn is on the right path.

-asx-
04-16-2008, 01:22 PM
All the Constitution says is that the government cannot abridge the press's speech--it doesn't give it special status
Yeah, those are the same thing. The freedom from regulation is the special status.

-asx-
04-16-2008, 01:38 PM
I agree with Tom Wittman's comments on a number of your points, particularly the reaction to Glenn: I side more with his thesis, but I'm not sure he presented and defended it as well as he could have.


I'm not sure what else Glenn could have said, or how he could have argued the point better than he did. Really, it's not a topic that requires 78 minutes of discussion: There's just one basic premise: The media should do it's job better, and one basic rebuttal: You can't make me. Since they both agree that there should be no regulation of the media, there's very little left to debate.

Megan repeatedly tried to turn the conversation to a question of individual responsibility, while Glenn was speaking more of an institutional responsibility. Megan, viewing everything through Ayn Rand's individualist prism, wanted to talk about the responsibility of the fashion journalist to write about the Energy Task Force, despite Glenn's never having suggested it is the individual responsibility of every journalist to talk about that particular topic.

If anything, I think Glenn's argument may have been better if he had focused a bit on this difference between group and individual responsibilities: He wasn't asking for each individual journalist to do anything, but for the press as a whole to do a better job.

It's like finding nutritious food on the menu at a restaurant: Nobody expects that the entire menu be composed of health food, as long as there are some healthy choices. People won't begrudge the burger and fries if they can find a salad.

The problem with the national press is that it is so heavily skewed in favor of the trivial and the stupid.

But I must admit: We're moving in the right direction if the conservatives are all standing up to defend the quality and integrity of the MSM. It's about time they acknowledged how much the Republican Party needs a media that functions like this. Megan does a nice job of illustrating the conservative desire for a firewall between reality and the public: A media that ignores the important issues in favor of gossip and trivia. This is how John McCain will become the next president.

-asx-
04-16-2008, 01:42 PM
Can I suggest that you amend that to "Katrina vanden Whoever" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katrina_vanden_Heuvel)?

How about Katrina vanden Heuever? (-;

-asx-
04-16-2008, 02:00 PM
This conversation illustrates something I read awhile back about the reason people give for pursuing a career in journalism.

Years ago, the main reason given was something along the lines of 'wanting to inform the public'; now the main reason is 'wanting to change the world'.

You can clearly see which of these two classifications MM and GG each fall under.
I guess you think Megan falls into the "inform the public" camp, despite her repeated assertions that the media has no responsibility to inform the public.



Glenn's narrow view that it is bestowed on an elite class of educated public defenders to save us from a corrupt government ignores the fact that freedom of press is just a supplement that allows amplification of one's views.
Glenn's view isn't narrow, and he never said anything about "educated" "elites." Those are words you put in his mouth to discredit him. Your choice of the words "bestowed" and "save us" also invoke longstanding conservative comment about the "nanny state" which "bestows" rights (as opposed to acknowledging that rights are inherent) and "saves us" from ourselves.

Nice job of repackaging everything Glenn said into conservative straw men!

Finally, freedom of the press is about much more than amplification of one's views.



He completely misses the fact that the press is (as Megan states) not a 'special class' but an extention of the individual.
What does "special class" mean, anyway? I've seen a number of the conservative defenders of the MSM and their excellent work claim that Glenn is asserting a "special class" with "special rights." I don't suppose you would dispute that the press does have protections explicitly carved out for it in the First Amendment of the US Constitution. I don't know if I would call that "special," as that particular word plays a significant role in conservative rhetoric. But journalists do clearly have an explicitly protected Constitutional status that, say, tailors or farmers do not.

bjkeefe
04-16-2008, 02:03 PM
"If you ever read his stuff.."

I find him unreadable. Self-righteous, wordy, hyper-partisan. Makes Andrew Sullivan look like a paragon of dispassionate reason.

I do agree that he does go on, and sure, he's partisan. Still, I maintain that he's careful to be precise.

bjkeefe
04-16-2008, 02:09 PM
asx:

Really, it's not a topic that requires 78 minutes of discussion: There's just one basic premise: The media should do it's job better, and one basic rebuttal: You can't make me. Since they both agree that there should be no regulation of the media, there's very little left to debate.

In some ways, I agree. But another part of me thinks this was an interesting conversation, and one that was worth having. No one wants to mandate how the media works, but many of us would like them to do a better job, whatever that might mean exactly. So, public griping is about the only way we can put pressure on the MSM.

I agree with most of the rest of your comments.

-asx-
04-16-2008, 02:15 PM
The first amendment creates a special status for the press only so far as it protects it--like speech and religious practice. So Megan's right when she says there's no Constitutionally-sanctioned special status of the press.
The "special status" of protection from government interference is precisely the "special status" that Glenn asserts. A lot of people are getting all hung up on this semantic point, I think because they want to assign to Glenn positions he never took, or in some cases, he explicitly rejected: e.g., regulation of the media or individual responsibility to write about particular topics.

Basically the reason a lot of conservatives have become confused in their enthusiastic defense of the MSM is that Megan turned a conversation about institutional responsibility into a debate about individual freedom (e.g., the freedom to write about Twinkies instead of weightier matters).



Glenn imputes a whole bunch of stuff that's extra-constitutional.
Like what? Can you provide several examples? Since you have identified "a whole bunch" of things Glenn said that are extra-constitutional, I don't see why you should have any trouble listing 4 or 5 examples.



But Glenn can legitimately make the point that it has a special role in a democracy. He can even say it was one the founders wanted to protect. But I think he goes astray when he tries to link the function and purpose of the press to the constitution. It's just not there.
It's not there? Except in the First Amendment? Or do you meant that the First Amendment doesn't explicitly spell out the obligations and duties of the journalist? Well, that's how freedom works; the assumption is that free people will do the right thing. Glenn supports this view as indicated by his refusal to endorse any regulations or impose any special obligations or responsibilities on the press.

He's simply condemning the poor job it does -- something conservatives have been doing for decades without shame. I'm glad y'all have finally come around to appreciating the MSM in its current incarnation. I never thought I'd see a whole thread of conservatives flocking to defend the media! I think Glenn's diavlog with Megan was a breakthrough moment for a lot of conservatives, who finally recognize what good the MSM does for them by refusing to do its job properly.

I would just add that if we ever have another Democratic president, the press will miraculously rediscover its watchdog responsibilities and the importance of covering "issues of substance" and not just profit-driven fluff.

And conservatives will applaud them for taking their responsibilities seriously.

One thing that was strangely lacking from this diavlog was any discussion of the media's ideological bias. I think the problem Glenn identifies could be fixed if we have more ideological balance in the media: more Keith Olbermanns and Rachel Maddows, and fewer conservatives.

-asx-
04-16-2008, 02:23 PM
During this period, newspapers were unlicensed, and able freely to publish dissenting views, but were subject to prosecution for libel or even sedition if their opinions threatened the government. The notion of "freedom of the press" that later was enshrined in the United States Constitution is generally traced to the seditious libel prosecution of John Peter Zenger by the colonial governor of New York in 1735. In this instance of jury nullification, Zenger was acquitted after his lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, argued to the jury (contrary to established English law) that there was no libel in publishing the truth. Yet even after this celebrated case, colonial governors and assemblies asserted the power to prosecute and even imprison printers for publishing unapproved views.

During the American Revolution, a free press was identified by Revolutionary leaders as one of the elements of liberty that they sought to preserve. The Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) proclaimed that "the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments." Similarly, the Constitution of Massachusetts (1780) declared, "The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore, to be restrained in this commonwealth." Following these examples, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution restricted Congress from abridging the freedom of the press and the closely associated freedom of speech


Thanks for posting that. Proving once again that facts have a well known liberal bias! (-;

-asx-
04-16-2008, 02:39 PM
asx:



In some ways, I agree. But another part of me thinks this was an interesting conversation, and one that was worth having. No one wants to mandate how the media works, but many of us would like them to do a better job, whatever that might mean exactly. So, public griping is about the only way we can put pressure on the MSM.

I agree with most of the rest of your comments.

Good points, and I also found the diavlog very interesting. I should have been more clear: I didn't mean they talked too long, just that there was only one basic premise on each side, and regardless of how long you talk about it, there are only so many ways for Glenn to say that the media should do a better job. But I agree wholeheartedly that "public griping" is an essential tool for putting pressure on the MSM.

To be honest, what I found interesting was that as the diavlog unfolded, Glenn constantly found new points to bolster his premise, approaching the topic from different angles and with new information, while Megan (on the other hand) repeated two basic points from beginning to end: there is no individual legal responsibilty to cover a particular story, and the profit motive is the only consideration in dictating coverage. I found it remarkable she would respond with these two points no matter what Glenn said. (It was her way of refusing to concede that the media has failed spectacularly in the last 7 years, something she and the other conservatives on this thread are reluctant to do as it leads inevitably to criticism of the Republican Party and conservative institutions. As long as she and the other conservatives can hold the line at "the media doesn't have to," they can forestall discussion of the central issues that should have received greater coverage, most spectacularly the run-up to the Iraq war.)

There's one thing Megan didn't say that she was probably thinking: the legal responsibility of corporations to maximize shareholder value. I'm sure in her heart of hearts, Megan would have liked to argue that media corporations could be held legally responsible if they didn't cover Britney Spears instead of more important matters. After all, the market is the supreme civic institution in the Ayn Rand-libertarian worldview of Megan McArdle, and all goodness and virtue flows from it. Contrary to American history and the known expectations of the media, Megan holds that their only responsibility is to generate profit.

This is why few people want to live in the Ayn Rand dystopia.

hans gruber
04-16-2008, 03:07 PM
It seems a few people are responding to Glenn's criticism of the press by granting him -- as you do above -- draconian and authoritarian positions that he explicitly rejects. His argument would be much easier to reject if he were asking for legal regulation of some kind. But he's not.

Then why does he rely on analogies to professions which are highly regulated and exclusionary? I didn't hang on every word in this diavlog but I kept wondering, what's the solution? GG kept saying that journalism is a profession like law or medicine, and he kept making analogies like saying peddling petty gossip is the equivalent of malpractice, and I couldn't help but wonder--does this guy want to regulate the press? What's his solution? And if he rejects all that categorically, how in the hell could two people spend 50 minutes (correction: 78 minutes in real time!) arguing about what people ought to do?

bjkeefe
04-16-2008, 04:18 PM
asx:

I'm sure in her heart of hearts, Megan would have liked to argue that media corporations could be held legally responsible if they didn't cover Britney Spears instead of more important matters.

That's an interesting extrapolation. I could almost imagine some shark like Carl Icahn filing a shareholder lawsuit on exactly such grounds, especially if a particular news outlet had made a significant change from covering trash to covering more weighty matters.

It also reminds me that I have thought for some time that the fact that many news organizations are publicly held is part of what has contributed to their declining standards. The LA Times is one obvious example, but many, many new organizations have slashed reporting and editorial staff, closed remote bureaus, and boosted things like celebrity gossip almost entirely in an attempt to boost short-term profits. Of course, the alternative to public ownership can result in travesties like William Randolph Hearst and Richard Mellon Scaife. What shall we do about the chronic shortage of honorable billionaires? ;^)

In the end, it boils down to the same, nearly insoluble, problem: How can we make people "behave better" when we know that any attempt to do so would be worse than the problem? I guess we have nothing left except exhortations, and once in a great while, market forces -- some news outlets do get rewarded, eventually, for doing a good job.

Discovery Institute
04-16-2008, 04:28 PM
"So, public griping is about the only way we can put pressure on the MSM."

Yeah, exactly. And McCardle's role is to defend the media against public griping. To discredit any and all attacks on journalists, and to make sure that the blame is always deflected onto the public.

bjkeefe
04-16-2008, 04:29 PM
Hans:

Does he think journalists and their so-called "special status" should be able to kick out members not in good standing, thereby revoking their special privileges?

In some sense, such a mechanism already exists: People can lose their press credentials, their jobs, and their reputations for being irresponsible journalists. Granted, this isn't a formal or standardized process; e.g., what flies at the National Enquirer won't at the NY Times. I'm just saying there already exists something of a "special status," and that it can be lost.

I'll also grant that rarely do people suffer such consequences for covering fluff, as opposed to plagiarizing, being excessively biased, or just making stuff up. This leads to the thought that maybe there should be some kind of peer review web site, where certified journalists could rank each other for things like worthiness. Think that could be made to work?

bjkeefe
04-16-2008, 04:39 PM
"So, public griping is about the only way we can put pressure on the MSM."

Yeah, exactly. And McCardle's role is to defend the media against public griping. To discredit any and all attacks on journalists, and to make sure that the blame is always deflected onto the public.

I have to say, especially as one who often criticizes Megan and who rejects her excessive fondness for letting "the market" solve all problems, that I agreed with the substance of her argument. It probably would have come off better if we hadn't has to hear it repeated so many times, but I think her point was sound: There is no requirement that any individual or organization cover any given story, and there isn't anything particularly heinous about looking to make more money, given the norms of our society.

Now, I was raised by a woman whose love for the ideals of journalism was, if possible, even greater than Glenn's. Consequently, I continue to cling to a concept of a higher calling for those who want to claim the mantle of "journalist." I also bemoan the apathy and the uninformed state of the populace. But I do think Megan was not wrong in her point of view. Nor do I think she was so much "blaming" the public as she was just stating the facts as she saw them; i.e., more people like fluff than hard news, and more people are willing to pay for that preference.

ledocs
04-16-2008, 06:16 PM
MM is very tedious. I think she’s very smart, but she’s very tedious. The problem with this discussion was that it implied that MM would only accept a Clarence Thomas original intent version of the role of the press. She’s not, by her own admission, a constitutional scholar, but what she would like the original intent to have been is that there is no institution, or fourth estate, known collectively as “the press,” upon which special rights are conferred and of which corresponding duties are expected.

So there are two questions. Is she right that the Founders did not conceive of the press as an institution, with special rights and corresponding obligations? And if she is right about that, does it necessarily follow that this original intent conception of our polity is the correct one, that we should be bound by whatever the Founders thought? (In the end, though, I suspect that MM would not be bound by what the Founders thought, especially if it happened to conflict with what she thinks they ought to have thought. And if I am right about that, she is in the same boat as most of us on that question.)

The problem I have with this discussion is that MM wants to revert to first principles much of the time, but does not seem particularly well informed about what those principles were, but then when things don’t go particularly well for her on that front, she brings up contemporary conditions. What we needed here were historians to tell us what the sociology of “the press” was in late eighteenth century America, and then a thorough exegesis of everything bearing on “the press” in the founding documents in light of that sociology (but not solely in that light). Then MM can decide if she wants to adhere to the Founders’ conceptions or not.

While I think MM is quite smart, I don’t think people should be subjected to this tedium for hours on end. Put another way, she’s not as smart as she thinks she is.

StudioTodd
04-25-2008, 03:54 AM
This chick is being willfully ignorant. She makes ridiculous points, never responds directly to questions (or wimps out when she gets pinned down) and is obviously only interested in not being wrong.

To take the position that journalists are under no obligation to report ACTUAL news, but should (sometimes) do it anyway (when they can) just because it's a nice thing to do and it's nice to be nice is infantile and dimwitted. The fact that she's actually a PAID "professional" journalist takes it from mildly annoying to incredibly alarming.

With journalists of her caliber reporting the news, it's no wonder this administration gets away with the crap it pulls...