The perfidy of ABC News (tentative conclusion on a breaking story)

Perfidy:  The act of violating faith or allegiance; violation of a promise or vow, or of trust reposed.

ABC News proudly announces what seems likely to be a betrayal of their public trust as journalists, joining the Obama Administration to produce propaganda supporting their proposal for health care reform. If that proves to be true, at least they are open about this – so Americans seeking real news can look elsewhere.

  1. ABC news refuses to air paid ads during its White House health care presentation, the Drudge Report has learned, including a paid-for alternative viewpoint.  (Source:  Drudge Report)
  2. Letter to ABC News from the Ken McKay (Chief of Staff to the Republican National Committee) protests this “glorified infomercial to promote the Democrat agenda”, esp the refusal of ABC News to include any presentation by Republican Party leaders.
  3. Response by Kerry Smith (SVP, ABC News) to the RNC letter — “no one watching, listening to, or reading ABC News will lack for an understanding of all sides of these important questions.”
  4. An excellent analysis of this by Zenpundit:  Well at Least We Know ABC is Immune to Intellectual Embarassment.

This is not about the health care crisis.  It’s about people — including in this case, the executives of ABC News — willingness to throw away a key component of our system in order to push a government policy initiative.  No matter how valuable that initiative, IMO this does not justify corruption of our already poorly functioning social mechanism for informing the American people about the world. 

However small a step in the already too-close media-government relationship, the direction of this trend is alarming.  If you do not consider this alarming, at what point in this trend will you worry?

Here is ABC News’ public announcement of this debacle:  “Questions for the President: Prescription for America”, ABC News press release — Excerpt:

ABC News’ Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer to Moderate a Primetime Conversation with President Barack Obama about the Future of the Nation’s Healthcare System.

  • Special Edition of “Primetime” to Air from the White House Wednesday, June 24th at 10pm ET
  • “Questions for the President: Prescription for America” will continue on “Nightline” at 11:35pm ET on Wed. June 24th.
  • “Good Morning America” and “World News” to Originate From the White House on Wednesday
  • “GMA” to Feature Exclusive Interview with President Obama

As the nation debates sweeping changes in healthcare, ABC News’ Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer will moderate a conversation with President Obama about this critical issue on the nation’s agenda. A special edition of Primetime “Questions for the President: Prescription for America” will air on Wednesday, June 24th from 10:00-11:00 PM ET on the ABC Television Network.

During the discussion from the East Room of the White House, President Obama will answer questions from an audience made up of Americans selected by ABC News who have divergent opinions in this historic debate. ABC News’ Medical Editor Dr. Timothy Johnson will also take part in the conversation which will focus on different ideas for how to fix the system and how proposed changes will impact our already fragile economy.

The health care conversation will continue on “Nightline” at 11:35pm ET.

Wednesday morning’s “Good Morning America” will originate from the South Lawn of the White House and will include an exclusive interview with President Obama. He sits down with Diane Sawyer to discuss healthcare and other issues on the nation’s agenda. Wednesday’s program will also feature portions of Robin Roberts’ exclusive interview with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Charles Gibson will anchor “World News” from the Blue Room of the White House on Wednesday.

ABCNews.com will invite viewers to join the discussion and share their questions about health care reform at ABCNews.com/Politics starting Tuesday, June 16th. ABCNews.com will also be working with Digg.com to select popular questions voted on by online users. Some of those questions will be put to President Obama during the program. ABC News’ daily political webcast, “Top Line,” will focus on health care reform throughout the week of June 22. ABCNews.com senior political reporter and author of the Note, Rick Klein, will live-blog and interact with users as the forum airs and full video coverage of the forum will be posted online. A special section of ABCNews.com/Politics dedicated to the health care debate will offer comprehensive coverage of the forum and will continue as legislation is taken up in Congress.

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

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To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest are:

Posts about America’s mainstream media;

  1. More post-Fallon overheating: “6 signs the US may be headed for war in Iran”, 18 March 2008
  2. The media discover info ops, with outrage!, 22 April 2008
  3. Only our amnesia makes reading the newspapers bearable, 30 April 2008
  4. Successful info ops, but who are the targets?, 1 May 2008
  5. The myth of media pessimism about the economy, 13 June 2008
  6. Keys to interpreting news about the Georgia – Russia fighting, 12 August 2008
  7. “Elegy for a rubber stamp”, by Lewis Lapham, 26 August 2008
  8. “The Death of Deep Throat and the Crisis of Journalism”, 23 December 2008
  9. The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation, 18 February 2009
  10. The media rolls over and plays dead for Obama, as it does for all new Presidents, 19 February 2009
  11. The magic of the mainstream media changes even the plainest words into face powder, 24 April 2009
  12. The media – a broken component of America’s machinery to observe and understand the world, 2 June 2009
  13. We’re ignorant about the world because we rely on our media for information, 3 June 2009

41 thoughts on “The perfidy of ABC News (tentative conclusion on a breaking story)

  1. Next up: NBC to air “Symposium on Windmills: primitive technology for 21st century America.” Wait, NBC is owned by GE? Sh don’t tell anyone.

  2. And now this. From Drudgereport.

    “Tom Brokaw, who interviewed President Obama for NBCNEWS on June 5 is… appointed to President’s Commission on White House Fellowships…”
    http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/06/05/1955244.aspx
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-Announces-Appointments-to-the-Presidents-Commission-on-White-House-Fellowships/

    It’s pretty sad that the MSM can’t even pretend to be non-partisan. It fits perfectly with Fabius’s previous posts on the media.

  3. That press release reeks of “SYNERGY”.

    They’re actually keeping perfect faith to their corporate owners, bringing in ratings. President Obama is popular, his wife is popular. He has nice kids and an interesting dog. Health care reform is a “hot button”, and hey, there’s only one White House.

    The fact that the Republicans are upset, just stirs the pot and guarantees more ratings: Angry viewers are still viewers. The Repubs will get their own chance on camera. “Tough questions” will be asked of both sides, and ABC will say they did their job.

    I can recall a few years back when Ted Koppel would say things like “We’re running a little long tonight, to bring you etc etc”, because he wanted to air out all sides of a story. Now Nightline does things like devoting a half hour to asking karaoke judge Paula Abdul if she does drugs, or getting some atheists and Christian fundies together to yell at one another, and calling that an “important debate on religion.”

    I’m not the least surprised at ABC doing this. If it ever becomes advantageous ratings-wise to turn on the President, they will do that too. Maybe next week. Tune in to find out!

  4. The corporate/mainstream media has often refused to air paid commercials, or refused to bring in opposing views on a subject. Actually, since Reagan got rid of the “Fairness Doctrine”, they no longer have any need to present an opposing view on any given subject. More importantly, ABC is a corporation– a for-profit entity which can present or refuse to present any view that it considers in line with its own self-interest. From the point of view of ABC, there is no reason to present a Republican view if presenting this view does not aid ABC.

  5. @atheist
    As long as ABC or any of the other MSM outlets want to pretend to be actual news purveying entities then they they do have some semblance of an obligation to present a complete view of the issues. My guess is that instead of offering the opposition a separate forum, ABC will bring in opposing viewpoints in a very controlled format…talking heads….narrow questions….quick to cut them off if they stray to much. Another guess is that there won’t be any opposing viewpoints permitted that are not for some sort of government health plan but maybe just vary in degree from the Obama-care proposals.

    I don’t have much faith that “no one watching, listening to, or reading ABC News will lack for an understanding of all sides of these important questions.” I doubt that anyone at ABC has the faintest inkling as to what constitutes the other side of the issue.

  6. FM note: this post is not about the health care crisis. It is about ABC News merging with the Ministry of Truth. I don’t care what the issue, we need the mainstream media to provide some pretence of objectivity. They appear to have abandoned it. Joy at this because you approve of the specific issue at hand suggests to me a lack of vision about where such a government-media alliance leads.

    As such this comment is off-topic and too long, so I’ve snipped it. Click on the link to see the full text of HuffPo article.

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    Oh the horror! 47 million without healthcare and we now complain about the “perfidy” of ABC. (And if you think you are fat and happy with your present coverage, see what happens to you should you really need it. )

    I am sufficiently cynical about the political process that – unless full scale health care reform is passed now, and I’m not holding my breath – we need a Plan B. Pursuant to which, note the following: “Could Doctors Go the Way of Record Companies?“, R J Eskow, Huffington Post, 15 June 2009 — Opening:

    “Those of us who follow health care may be overlooking the big picture. Most of the profound (and sometimes disruptive) changes of the last half century — computers, the Internet, social networks — weren’t initiated by the political process. They arose at the intersection of technology, economics, and mass social change. So here’s something to think about:

    Could the medical profession go the way of the record industry?

    Consider the path that led to the current crisis in the music business:

    1. An industry with a near-total monopoly experiences a minor disruption (in music’s case, with the invention of cassette tape recording). {snip}

  7. FM note: “This post is not about the health care crisis. It is about ABC News merging with the Ministry of Truth.

    Precisely; our nation desperately needs a functioning “fourth estate” but it no longer has one. This portends badly for us. One step on the road to totalitarianism, toward Leviathan, is government controlled press. The media are much too cozy with Obama, and I would be saying the same if the opposition occupied the White House.

    I quit trusting most of the old-line mainstream electronic and print media years ago, and this appears to vindicate my decision. I’m not taking any pleasure in that fact; far from it, I am very troubled.

    Next step: let’s see if the struggling print media come hat-in-hand for bailout money. The bet here is that they will. And once the newspapers accept bailout money, they will be owned, and thus managed (read manipulated) by their overlords in Washington.

  8. I thought the topic was about “perfidy.” According to Wikipedia:

    In the context of war, perfidy is a form of deception, in which one side promises to act in good faith (e.g. by raising a flag of surrender) with the intention of breaking that promise once the enemy has exposed himself (e.g. by coming out of cover in order to capture the surrendering forces).

    Let us simply state that different perspectives exist as to where the “perfidy” may lie with respect to this debate.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: For definitions I recommend a dictionary, not Wikipedia. Perfidy is used in many contexts other than war. Which is why I started the post with a general definition.

  9. With respect to Pete’s comment that foundering print media will come asking for bailout money and thus find themselves “owned” by the Administration, I think he confuses cause and effect. The media is already “owned” – they sold their souls during the campaign. They may be rewarded with bailout money, or not, but it is not necessary for the Administration to “buy” them again.

    Reading through this post one thinks of the debate over the Fairness Doctrine. But I doubt its restoration would help here. It would only be used to silence media hostile to the Administration. Once the government and media are corrupted, any given set of rules can be twisted to suit their purposes.

  10. Re:”ABC News merging with the Ministry of Truth.”

    Why couldn’t this simply be the two groups using each other for their own ends? Per my post above, I don’t think ABC is much interested in keeping the public informed. The White House absolutely wants airtime, but it may just be that ABC sees this as a big “get”, and an opportunity to stage manage some grand theater production. As ABC said in that letter to the Republicans, they have editorial control.

    I am vaguely concerned, but I need to know more about what’s going on between the network and the White House before I start believing it’s a sinister cabal.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: A cabal is usually secret; the ABD – Team Obama alliance takes before our eyes. Does the Shepherd hides his actions from the sheep? Why bother?

    (2) All alliances and mergers involve “using each other for their own ends”, so I don’t see your point.

    (3) “… ABC sees this as a big “get”, and an opportunity to stage manage some grand theater production.”

    Perhaps. As I said, this is a tentative analysis. I suspect it will be strongly tilted to pro-national health care propaganda. Which is why they refused to allow opponents to buy airtime for a rebuttal, which is odd given your theory.

  11. I am suprised you are fired up over this , as it implies that you previously thought journalism was impartial . I thought it was as impartial as most scientific research – ie he who pays the piper calls the tune .
    So how could it be done better ?
    Proably doesnt matter ? The least educated and least literate may be the most shrewd at recognising rip-offs and hidden agendas .The people I hear of getting scammed are the Paid my Taxes All My life Fought for My Country and Never Claimed a Bean-ers , who wont be around much longer anyway .

  12. Broken OODA loop alert! The article {FM correction: should read comment #8} starts off “In the context of war,”. MW defines it as:

    1 : the quality or state of being faithless or disloyal : treachery2 : an act or an instance of disloyalty

    How is what they are doing not treacherous? I recall a lot of people on the left pillorying the NYT, et. al. for blithely reprinting Bush propaganda uncritically. Why is this better?

    FM: “However small a step in the already too-close media-government relationship, the direction of this trend is alarming. If you do not consider this alarming, at what point in this trend will you worry?

    The answer is, only when the government does something I don’t like. We are so quick to jump all over other people’s pet special interests but are blinded to how much our favorites cost.

    If you oppose the teachers’ union because they are making you pay top dollar for a substandard product it is because you hate teachers and children. If you want to rein in the military industrial complex it is because you don’t support the troops. So, how do we attack a special interest without attacking its constituents? It seems like we have to wait until they can no longer bring home the bacon.

  13. I’m shocked. Shocked!

    Republicans are now all swoony and gasping because the media conglomerates are falling all over themselves to parrot the Administration line? Refusing to paper up the GOP counter-propaganda during commercial breaks? Giving the “he said” without the “she said”?

    Mind you, notice that nobody, from Drudge on down, is actually recommending that the network news do an impartial, analytical breakdown of the whole “health care” issue, scrutinize the various nostrums recommended by the big parties as well as more peripheral players, and then provide an assessment of the proposed solutions’ costs and benefits to the public.

    Nope. They just want the MSM to air THEIR propaganda alongside the Democrats.

    The network news no longer does “journalism”. Dog bites man!

    And this is different – how? – from when the Hearsts furnished the wars provided that they were furnished the pictures? When each party and even each grange, union, mill, and turnverein published their own little fishwrap, loaded with slanted articles, special pleading and outright lies? When you could predict the tone of the article based on whether it was a Whig journal, a Democratic journal or a Republican one, a Jacksonian or a Hamiltonian one?

    We’ve allowed ourselves to continue dreaming on in the particularly unique and anomalous moment that existed from about 1945 to 1985, a period when the news outlets persuaded themselves – or were persuaded, did someone mention the Fairness Doctrine? – that they were “unbiased” sources of information. This time period is now as dead as the dodo, and I’m not sure how getting angry at the network news for doing what economic and political pressures and realities were bound to make them do is going to help.

    How about, rather, we accept that FOX is news for right-wing-nut-Republicans, ABC/CBS/NBC is news for moderate Republicans and…well, there IS no “news for left-wing-nut-Democrats” unless you count the blogs. And even knowing THAT, if you want to be truly knowledgeable you will accept that all Drudge’s horses and all Kos’s men can force the net news or the big papers to do, y’know, actual JOURNALISM, that is, a reasoned analysis and dissection of the competing sides’ claims. Instead they will take a controversy, any controversy, and print some version of: “Scientists claim sun giant ball of flaming gas; others believe its Apollo’s Chariot”.

    We’re returning to a period where the “news” arrives from a mix of competing ideological sources and fourth-grade level mass market pablum. If you’re used to getting your information served up to you already dressed and butchered, you’re going to have a hard time with that. If you can accept that you’re going to have to dig harder for the “truth”, then you can move on and still take part in the kabuki play that has become our national governing process.

  14. Since we are all engaged in the posture that somehow this topic is about journalism and – banish the thought! – not about healthcare, all I can say is that I, for one, would not have heard of ABC’s action but for postings on this and other blogs and – even now – am not going to watch it.

    Of course, if perchance there were to be a grassroots takeover of the medical system, then it would not matter what the Administration or the MSM pontificated.

    But it is much more fun to curse asserted dark threats to the Republic than to mobilize solutions not contingent upon the goodwill of the MSM or the Administration that would leave the public at large much more empowerd.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: So you will not join the millions of folks watching the ABC specials. Big deal; thanks for sharing.

    “to be a grassroots takeover of the medical system, then it would not matter”

    The Blue Fairy solving all our problems is just as likely. What is the point of saying this?

    “But it is much more fun to curse asserted dark threats to the Republic than to mobilize solutions not contingent upon the goodwill of the MSM”

    Perhaps you prefer being blind, but many others consider obervation and orientation — not just decision and action — to be components of effection change. You can close your eyes and rely on the Force, while the rest of us look and attempt to understand the dynamics of our changing world.

  15. “This is not about the health care crisis. It’s about people — including in this case, the executives of ABC News — willingness to throw away a key component of our system in order to push a government policy initiative. No matter how valuable that initiative, IMO this does not justify corruption of our already poorly functioning social mechanism for informing the American people about the world.

    Hmm…interesting…what I find even more interesting is the bolded tidbit in the above quote. Now, indulge me, are you talking about the Obama or the Bush administration?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Why do you say “or”? What makes you believe that the media distinquishes strongly between factions in our government elite? Do you recall the media cooperation — uncritical adulation — with Bush’s propaganda campaign for the Iraq War? And the (fortunately unsuccessful) strike at Iran?

  16. maybe we should bring back the fairness doctrine.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: There are indications that some in the Democratic Party wish to do so, as tool to reduce access of their oponents to the mass media. Why do you wish that to happen?

  17. In theory the fairness doctrine would give access to the other side to respond, and ABC would have to give them free TV time.

    I would watch TV if stuff like this was on “Jim Garrison’s given free TV access via the fairness doctrine” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WS0p3tyZUlQ
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    Fabuis Maximus replies: That was not the actual practice when the Fairness Doctrine was in effect. The current diversity of viewpoint on the media appeared only after its repeat. The prime goal of Democrats seeking its revival is to reduce that diversity.

  18. Re:(3) “… ABC sees this as a big “get”, and an opportunity to stage manage some grand theater production.”

    FM: “Perhaps. As I said, this is a tentative analysis. I suspect it will be strongly tilted to pro-national health care propaganda. Which is why they refused to allow opponents to buy airtime for a rebuttal, which is odd given your theory.

    If this is a stage-managed production for ABC, intended to draw and keep lots of viewers, how would it help that cause if they allowed some ham-fisted, boring, wonky rebuttal speech to get dropped into their carefully planned show?

    I agree that the wall has broken down, here. I think the root is simply ABC trying to be popular and appear respectable, rather than going all-in to be the administration’s information pump. The difference is, if being popular and respectable the day after this little production means taking the opposition, they will with no sense of irony. The mainstream news media in this country are shallow, narcissistic, venal idiots, but they are mostly not loyal… unless… Are you thinking ABC has become Obama’s Fox News? I’m not seeing it, yet.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I don’t understand your point. Commercials are almost always ham-fisted boring interruptions into carefully planned shows. Refusing to air them, as they have done here, puts them out of business.

    As for ABC News, from the analysis I’ve seen their coverage of Obama is even more syncophantic than the mainstream media’s coverage of Bush after 9-11. As in the wonderful coverage of Obama ate a burger and Obama swatted a fly.

  19. I’m saying I don’t see the intent on ABC’s part. We could easily end up with what you’re worried about anyway, just through the MSM’s stupidity and the administration’s willingness to abuse it.

    The point about not allowing the Republican rebuttal is that it would be ratings poison, and out of ABC’s editorial control. They’re only going ad-free for that hour. It fits better, for me, that this is about ABC flattering itself and cashing in on the President’s popularity. “Look at the access we get… we selflessly host important discussions … keep watching us.” The administration treats them as useful idiots, of course. I would love to see a transcript of the negotiations.

    Something interesting here, though:

    The lead story on the ABC News site is about how Obama may be losing America’s support for his economic policy. The tone doesn’t seem terribly sycophantic. However, they twist it into a discussion about Obama’s health care plans at the end. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=7876415&page=1

    More synergy here, or an agenda? What’s ABC’s interest in pushing nationalized health care?

  20. Burke wrote,

    “With respect to Pete’s comment that foundering print media will come asking for bailout money and thus find themselves “owned” by the Administration, I think he confuses cause and effect. The media is already “owned” – they sold their souls during the campaign. They may be rewarded with bailout money, or not, but it is not necessary for the Administration to “buy” them again.”

    Burke, right you are… I am a bit turned-around on cause and effect. Thanks for setting me straight. Government money paid out to the print media would indeed be “reward money” since they prostituted themselves long ago. I read somewhere recently that both Newsweek and Time are reconfiguring themselves as frankly partisan magazines of liberal-left opinion. At least they’ve had the honesty to admit it, too bad more of our scribes do not.

    This reminds me of that old quote by LBJ, something to the effect of “Where I come from, when a politician gets bought, he stays bought!” Substitute journalist for politician and the idea holds rather well for today, wouldnt you agree?

    The problem still remains, our broken OODA loop. In the absence of a functioning fourth estate, where does the voter, the concerned citizen go to get unfiltered information about the world? It is tough enough making high-caliber decisions with timely and accurate information, in its absence, well, you do the math….

    Many thanks again, Burke, for the observation.

  21. FM: You apparently had the same thought that I did, about the media covering Obama and a fly!
    Just when one thinks he has seen the absolute worst, the nadir, of infotainment, something like this comes along. And they wonder why no one is watching?? What’s next – a hard-hitting piece on what kind of toilet paper the Obamas use, single or double ply? Or perhaps what the “first dog” is eating this week? Edward Morrow is spinning in his grave, I imagine.

  22. From JohnnyL in comment #5:

    As long as ABC or any of the other MSM outlets want to pretend to be actual news purveying entities then they they do have some semblance of an obligation to present a complete view of the issues. My guess is that instead of offering the opposition a separate forum, ABC will bring in opposing viewpoints in a very controlled format…talking heads….narrow questions….quick to cut them off if they stray to much.

    It is quite possible that ABC may do this. My question is, how could this situation surprise anyone at this point? The US news media is known to choose a point of view on a given subject, usually a point of view that the organization considers it ‘safe’ to have. This is because the news corporations are self-interested entities. Different organizations choose different points of view– FOX News, for instance, is basically a propaganda outlet for the Republican party.

    People say that the US news media is focussed on “infotainment”, which sensationalizes issues rather than illuminating them. I am quite aware of this. If you look at things from the point of view of the media corporations, you will see that this “infotainment” strategy is a good one from their point of view. Actual, good news reporting of the kind that people claim to want is difficult, labor-intensive and dangerous to the news organization if the reporting shows powerful elements in a bad light. Infotainment, on the other hand, is petty and silly, and does not threaten powerful elements. It is also popular with the public. Win/win.

    If you look at the situation calmly and clearly you will see that the problems of the US news media flow naturally from its highly corporate nature. The fewer and larger corporations which control the US media, the worse these issues will get. Unless and until some new legal framework is created, either anti-trust action on the part of the US government, or a new “Fairness Doctrine”, or something else, you can be assured that nothing is going to change.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I dont’ believe this makes much sense. Why is it safe for a business to lose its customers? (technically advertisers are their customers, but their audience is what they sell) The long and steady decline in American’s confidence in the mainstream news media will be terminal unless reversed. Safe or logical this is not.

    Your last paragraph ignores the disasterous financial condition of the major news corps. It’s bizarre to call for antitrust action — to break up monopolies — on unprofitable corporations. Will you go into bankruptcy court to preach about the monopoly of newspapers like the Boston Globe?

  23. “But it is much more fun to curse asserted dark threats to the Republic than to mobilize solutions not contingent upon the goodwill of the MSM”

    FM reply: “Perhaps you prefer being blind, but many others consider obervation and orientation — not just decision and action — to be components of effection change. You can close your eyes and rely on the Force, while the rest of us look and attempt to understand the dynamics of our changing world.

    The reason why I visit blogs is precisely because I have found the so-called MSM to be unreliable / irrelevant for some time now. (Besides which, my reception for ABC is very poor; there is no nearby station.)

    And no, I am not spreading pixie-dust about the healthcare system. If I were, I would be advocating the present system.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Your reply misses my point. You comment asserted that that analysis was less important than action (“mobilize solutions”). IMO not only is that wrong, but probably self-defeating. Only deep and accurate understanding of the situation can provide a foundation for action. As for your last line, this discussion concerns our OODA loop — our society’s mechanism for collecting and distributing information. The mainstream media has this role, and blogs are at best a minor corrective. The post is not about the health care system.

  24. Various commenters have mentioned that we no longer have a functioning fourth estate. Literally true. The economic model for newspapers & TV news has been destroyed by the internet. y Craigslist has killed newspapers’ classified ad revenues, while YouTube renders viral TV news stories even as it flenses away its ad revenue. (Why do I need to watch a network news show if I can get the day’s big story in a 3-minute YouTube clip captured from the TV news show but with no ads?) Newspapers & TV news are literally dying. Clay Shirky has had a lot to say about this in his book “Here Comes Everyone.”

    The current bizarre behavior of the print & TV news organizations seems like the frantic dying throes of an animal suffering cardiac arrest.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: All great points!

  25. “…and finally they came for me.” This is what Goebbels, Stalin, and King George dreamed for. I always thought “it couldn’t happen here” because I never dreamed our “free press” would ever be the vehicle for a government takeover of all our institutions. It’s over folks. The “Great Experiment” blows up in our indifferent faces.

  26. From Fabius Maximus reply to #25:

    The long and steady decline in American’s confidence in the mainstream news media will be terminal unless reversed…. …Your last paragraph ignores the disasterous financial condition of the major news corps.

    Fabius, I feel that there are two issues here, intertwined but separate. The first is the public confidence in the news as news, and the financial condition of new corporations. And you’re absolutely correct, they are both in poor shape. Here is a 2007 Zogby poll of public attitudes toward the news media, and they are indeed quite low. And news companies are indeed in poor shape, taken singly. But the thing about our media environment is that the ownership is extremely concentrated. Only about 25 companies own the majority of media that we interact with. {FM: This Wikipedia entry says nothing of the kind.}

    Lets take ABC, for instance, since it’s the topic. ABC is owned by Walt Disney Company. Despite all the cynicism about news in the public, Disney is doing just great (DIS stock prices since 1962). Or, lets take FOX News. FOX News is owned by Murdoch’s News Corporation, and they are also doing just fine, thank you (NWS Stock prices since 1987).

    You have to consider the scale of the modern media corporation. They are so huge that if the public decides that the news sucks (thus slightly degrading the value of one of their many assets), they can just keep the news on as a loss leader, or, more likely, they’ll find a way to roll it into the increasingly popular “infotainment” format. Every day on the train, I see lots of people reading the “Red Eye” (a tabloid Chicago newspaper, very “infotainment”), and just a couple reading the New York Times, or the Wall St. Journal.

    The low confidence in news media is certainly bad for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the world, but I don’t think its terminal for the media corporations. It scarcely affects their ‘bottom line’.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Great point, they are intertwined. Two points in reply.

    (1) Although news provides a small fraction of news corporations’ profits, it provies much of their poltical and social clout. They are (or were) powerful gatekeepers. Broadcasting sports and sit-coms puts them in the same league as manufacturers of other vital products, like soap and children’s movies.

    (2) They are on a treadmill, agreed. Loss of credibility means small audience, hence less revenue, hence reduced funding. Which reduces the quality of their product, hence even less audience. And their loss of advertisers to new media (e.g., Craigslist and Google) means less funding, hence…

    But I doubt that news production (as opposted to distribution) will be kept as a loss-leader, at least in any substantial form. Businesses seldom do that. More likely is the following (which I wrote here):

    Most of the analysis about the media biz makes no sense to me. Technology has opened the markets. The effect is similar to rapid cheap transportation’s effects on your great-grandparents’ general store: it created overcapacity. Most local outlets are uncompetitive, and there are far far too many national and global major media firms. Time will thin the herd, probably leaving fewer but strong survivors.

    The primary fact — ignored in most esseys on this subject — is that the media are mostly distribution outlets for the actual producers of news: the wire services (and to a far smaller extent, major newspapers). The internet means that the wire services no longer need their current customers, hence the need to re-define their customer base and to ring-fence their output — either by linking it to advertisements or protecting access. Since a whole level of costs have been eliminated, the economics for the few surviving news gatherers should be adequate. Smaller pie for the industry, but far fewer feeding off it.

    Note that this is a global game. The Financial Times and Der Spiegel are new producers as well. Advertisers with global brand names will be natural markets for them.

    Almost nobody covers local civic news effectively, outside a few major cities. Typically anything that bleeds gets its 60 seconds of fame, and investigation of local elites is almost unknown. I wonder if there is a real business here. Perhaps some sort of community nonprofits will form to cover local news. Partly hobbyists earning a pittance but having fun, with adverts and donations covering costs. These will be great networking centers, and might weild substantial local influence.

    These locals might become de facto “farm teams” (recruitment and training apparatus) for the surviving major media. Bloggers might become marginally paid reporters, analysts, and pundits for the media (trading their work for fame and exposure). That is, the major media might use locals and bloggers to enhance their reach and lower costs.

  27. Fabius,

    Good blog. Can’t say how many other people like me there are out there, but for years now if something originated in ABC, CBS, NBC, the NYT, LAT, or WAPO, I simply refuse to look at it. If they told me the sun would rise in the east tomorrow morning, I’d have to get up and check. They’ve proven themselves to be whores and liars who wouldn’t hesitate to state the most outrageous falsehoods if it would forward their leftist/socialist political agenda. Their model for such behavior is the BBC, which hasn’t seen anything good about Britain or the West since the end of the Second World War.

    I’ve nothing but utter contempt for the lot of them and work hard to insure that they receive absolutely none of my money. I’m waiting for the day when I can catch a working journalist and tell him/her personally just how I feel about their branch of the oldest profession.

    Just thinking about those bastards makes me feel like I need to go take a shower.

  28. From FM in #29:

    Almost nobody covers local civic news effectively, outside a few major cities. Typically anything that bleeds gets its 60 seconds of fame, and investigation of local elites is almost unknown. I wonder if there is a real business here. Perhaps some sort of community nonprofits will form to cover local news. Partly hobbyists earning a pittance but having fun, with adverts and donations covering costs. These will be great networking centers, and might weild substantial local influence.

    These locals might become de facto “farm teams” (recruitment and training apparatus) for the surviving major media. Bloggers might become marginally paid reporters, analysts, and pundits for the media (trading their work for fame and exposure). That is, the major media might use locals and bloggers to enhance their reach and lower costs.

    Interesting. I see you have examined and assessed the media situation in depth. My fear is always that Americans will simply learn to live without news, or wrap news so tightly with ‘infotainment’ that our OODA loop, as you put it, will degrade further from where it is now.

    However, your vision of local news, and blogs, being done by amateurs/farm teams, with the “national/global level” news creators like AP, Reuters, UPI, Financial Times, Der Speigel, etc. hawking their news over the internet seems like a solution to our current news crisis that makes sense, and is plausible. Hopefully it will come to pass. People are already doing local-level amateur news for niche audiences, but my understanding is that it is a very tough gig to do for essentially no pay.

    Back on the major topic of the post, when you consider that ABC is an asset owned by the collosal Disney corporation, and that there is no longer any legal mandate for ABC to present a politically “balanced” view, I still don’t see why you expect them to present “balance” in terms of what the two major parties want. They could just say, “You want the Republican version? Go watch FOX News.”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Yes, that is a likely outcome — a US media more like Europes, with a wide range of viewpoints from explicitly partisan newspapers. Would that be better or worse than what we have today? I suspect it is a more stable outcome. Maintaining professionalism — in the sense of balanced and fair — requires much work from both journalists and their customers (us). Probably more effort than we’re willing to make, over the long haul.

  29. From my #31: “I still don’t see why you expect them to present “balance” in terms of what the two major parties want. They could just say, “You want the Republican version? Go watch FOX News.”

    OK, Fabius, on second thought, re-reading your response to #29, I guess I get it. You said:

    (1) Although news provides a small fraction of news corporations’ profits, it provies much of their poltical and social clout

    so I guess you are suggesting that the corporations can be moved by acting on this social clout. This is your leverage.

    In fact, this has been done, successfully. The San Francisco blogger Spocko (link to “Spocko’s Brain” blog) successfully convinced several advertisers to pull their accounts from the parent corporation of right wing talk show host Melanie Morgan’s show. Spocko’s angle was to put pressure, not on the media corporation itself, but on the advertisers (the “customers”).
    .
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    Fabius Maxmius replies: That has been done many many times. But that was not my point. Rather, my guess is that we will see two trends emerge.

    (1) The current overcapacity in both news providers and news distributors will be disappear their numbers decrease, so that the remainder can be profitable. This means further concentration among US providers and distributors.

    (2) This concentration of power will be offset by two other factors. First, average Americans will “consume” more from foreign providers — often giving a perspective not seen anywhere in the current range of US mainstream media. Second, bloggers and other new media acting as both news providers and distributors — again giving perspectives not available from the mainstream US media.

    I suspect the end result will be different than today, but on the whole superior. Somethings, like local news, might be inferior to today’s news feed. National and esp international news will be far better.

  30. From mac in #30:

    for years now if something originated in ABC, CBS, NBC, the NYT, LAT, or WAPO, I simply refuse to look at it. If they told me the sun would rise in the east tomorrow morning, I’d have to get up and check. They’ve proven themselves to be whores and liars who wouldn’t hesitate to state the most outrageous falsehoods if it would forward their leftist/socialist political agenda.

    Really, mac? You truly think news reporters are whores and liars? My impression is that, actually, most of them are just people trying their best to do a difficult, and often thankless, but necessary job. The reporters get whatever research and reporting in that they can get while at the same time dealing with management that might want to enforce a certain point of view, or people who might be angered by their reporting.

    I often feel that the media-created consensus reality is a lie, and this makes me want to avoid the media. And it seems that you feel similarly. The problem with this is, in isolating ourselves from consensus reality, we protect ourselves from lies, but we also disconnect from the larger society. It seems to me that this disconnection does not really serve us.

  31. Calling the people who pass themselves off as reporters these days “whores and liars” is doing a general disservice to the vast majority of whores and liars.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I think that is quite harsh. Also, does this imply that they are less competent or honest than the past generations of reporters? Or those in other nations?

  32. Would it be so bad if the American media had the vigor and diversity of the British Press, as explained in this scene from “Yes, Minister” — Excerpt:

    PM Hacker: “Don’t tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers.
    * The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country;
    * The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country;
    * The Times is read by people who actually do run the country;
    * the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country;
    * the Financial Times is read by people who own the country;
    * The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country;
    * and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.”

    Sir Humphrey: “Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?”

    Bernard: “Sun readers don’t care who runs the country, as long as she’s got big tits.”

  33. The mSM does have an obligation to provide objective and relevant information rather than presenting Ministry of Truth pronouncements. The fairnress doctrine was just an excuse to censor the media, something the Dhimmierats must have. But if ABC cannot accept that there are two views to as important an issue as this one then the FCC should revoke their license and allow new owners to take over ABC’s franchise.

  34. “You truly think news reporters are whores and liars?”

    I most certainly do. How many outright lies and untrue/deeply slanted stories do you have to read before you understand they have not the slightest dedication to anything outside of getting paid and advancing their political agenda. Have you forgotten Dan Rather and the “fake but accurate” TANG papers so soon? How about the “Mission Accomplished” pictures from the WAPO newsroom after The Won’s election? Why is there an informal embargo on showing the 9-11 footage of the Twin Towers coming down? Why do we have to play “guess that party!” on those rare times when a Dem elected official’s misdeeds get reported, while REPUBLICAN is the first thing you see when a GOP pol gets caught doing something illegal. I could go on with such examples for pages just off the top of my head, it’s such a common occurrence.

    Why do you think Limbaugh, blogs and Fox News became so popular? There was a huge, gaping void to be filled. It didn’t take much of a lie detector to realize just how biased the MSM was against whites, males, Christians, heterosexuals and Western civilization in general. No observant person could possibly miss it. The people who didn’t just tune out were desperately looking for someone who would give at least a close approximation of the truth about the world around them that they were experiencing firsthand.

    Whores and liars? Most indubitably so, and they deserve to be treated as such.

  35. The last time I remember the networks creating an “Event”, by posting no commercial interruptions was my childhood, watching “The Wizard of Oz” on CBS. And here we go again, watching the same thing.

  36. From mac in #37:

    Why do you think Limbaugh, blogs and Fox News became so popular? There was a huge, gaping void to be filled. It didn’t take much of a lie detector to realize just how biased the MSM was against whites, males, Christians, heterosexuals and Western civilization in general. No observant person could possibly miss it. The people who didn’t just tune out were desperately looking for someone who would give at least a close approximation of the truth about the world around them that they were experiencing firsthand.

    mac, this is very strange to me. I’m considered quite left-wing and I hang out/talk with some rather left-wing folks. What strikes me as odd is that, when you describe the way you feel about the “mainstream”/corporate media, you have the same general tone that they often do. You sound angry, frustrated. You feel there is a line separating you from the media, and the consensus-reality that is created by the “MSM”. The difference is the content of the anti-media statements.

    When my left wing freinds start talking this way, I start asking them to find points of connection with consensus-reality rather than separating themselves. When I start talking this way, my girlfreind starts rolling her eyes at me, and she gives similar advice in different words. And so I ask you the same question, right-wing mac: why separate yourself from consensus reality like this? What do you feel you gain from the separation?

  37. “why separate yourself from consensus reality like this? What do you feel you gain from the separation?”

    Atheist,

    Just the fact that you would ask such a question shows you’ve not a clue. I will ask you this, however: do you truly think that the “culture” we are more or less surrounded with in modern America is worthwhile on almost any level? I find it glorifies and promotes anti-social behavior, laziness, rudeness, stupidity and outright criminality among a host of other evils. When I travel overseas I am embarrassed if people tell me they watch American movies and television. If all I knew of America was what I experienced via movies and film, I’d despise the country myself.

    I separate myself from the MSM’s “consensus reality” because IT ISN’T REAL. The real world works in a much different fashion. In the real world when you have a problem, the first step in solving it is to admit what the problem actually is. For a proper and effective solution, obtaining and acting on the truth is not optional–it is an absolute requirement. There are a tremendous number of problems in the U.S. about which the truth goes unstated or is simply denied because it is not politically correct to admit the real situation. This tendency to ignore the politically incorrect causes of many social and economic problems is exacerbated by the MSM because being honest about the real causes of many problems would slaughter many of their sacred cows.

    I never liked having any person or group lie to me. I learned early on that it was best to avoid those who did so and never to trust them any further than I could throw the nearest automobile. Hence my avoidance of the MSM. What I gain from avoiding them is that I don’t hear their nonsense and am consequently not given a daily reminder of the increasingly rapid social and economic decline of my country.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Another utopian. Hopefully life in Heaven will meet his exacting standards.

    “I will ask you this, however: do you truly think that the “culture” we are more or less surrounded with in modern America is worthwhile on almost any level?”

    That’s a sad statement. Why stay in the US? Of coruse, I suspect any nation would disappoint him.

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