Monday, July 30, 2007

Fallows write, you read!

Jim Fallows on why people hate the media. I have to cut viciously to make this fit a quick blog post, but read the whole thing:
Yet in describing their decisions they used phrases like "I hope I would have the courage to . . ." and "In order to live with myself later I would . . ." The whole exercise may have been set up as a rhetorical game, but Ogletree's questions clearly tapped into discussions the soldiers had already had about the consequences of choices they made.

Then Ogletree turned to the two most famous members of the evening's panel, better known even than Westmoreland. These were two star TV journalists: Peter Jennings, of World News Tonight and ABC, and Mike Wallace, of 60 Minutes and CBS....

It was Newt Gingrich, looking a generation younger and trimmer than he would when he became speaker of the House, in 1995. One thing was clear from this exercise, Gingrich said. "The military has done a vastly better job of systematically thinking through the ethics of behavior in a violent environment than the journalists have."

That was about the mildest way to put it.
I would go further, actually. Despite the classes journalists take on "ethics", it's clear that what they're really taught is how to avoid criminal and civil trials. They aren't really taught whether something is right or wrong, nor are they taught to question their actions in such terms. (Really, you have to read Fallows' piece to see how two paragons of journalism react to an ethical challenge.) To take the most recent sensational example, check out the press reaction to Judy Miller being jailed on contempt charges. No serious journalist I read or heard defended Miller's actions, nor those of Bob Novak. Not one. And yet they universally said she shouldn't have gone to jail, and most I spoke to* couldn't think of an appropriate non-jail punishment for what she did. (I include myself there, but I was fine with her behind bars.) So we start from a decent enough premise -- freedom of the press -- and lead, without any real substantive thought, to a press totally unshackled from responsibility or accountability.

*There are journalists in my family, and my pro-jail-for-journalists views caused some heated discussions.

So yes, the military deals with the ethics of their profession far, far better than journalists deal with the ethics of theirs.

But again, read Jim Fallows.

1 comment:

Technetium said...

Read the whole thing, as recommended. Fascinating article. Thanks for the post John!