by John Grooms
It’s not exactly a secret that America’s TV news can be really shallow; much of the time, in fact, that adjective defines them. Yesterday, however, was, to use a favorite TV word, “special.” The news media’s shallowness — showcased, so to speak, in its reliance on superficial yea-or-nay questions and lazy, he-said/she-said pieces that lack research into the actual issues at hand — were on full, sad display.
CBS newscaster Bob Schieffer, who used to know better, put Rep. Ron Paul on the defensive on the Face the Nation talking-heads show by bringing up Paul’s view that the 9/11 attacks were at least partly a reaction to U.S. policy in the Middle East. (Keep in mind that this was also the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission, the CIA and the Dept. of Defense, as well as an array of scholars who’ve studied those awful events.) Schieffer — formerly a highly regarded journalist, now apparently in his dotage — told Rep. Paul, point-blank, “What you’re saying is that 9/11 was ‘America’s fault.’” Paul then explained, at least clearly enough for this writer to understand, that there was indeed a connection between U.S. policies in the Middle East — particularly our military presence near the Muslim holy city of Mecca — and the rage of the 9/11 terrorists. Um, excuse me, but isn’t this widely accepted, not to mention very obvious? What’s the problem?
The problem is that Schieffer is caught up in a Washington media game in which only a very limited range of opinions is deemed worthy of attention, because, well, because it just upsets everything so much when you let new ideas into the stuffy parlor of the D.C. mindset. In matters of foreign policy, that aversion to reality has led to a situation where the only “viable” position for candidates is some version of “Hooray for the USA, we can do whatever we want in foreign countries because, well, because that’s what we’ve done for about 60 years and we’re too dull to imagine that it could be any different.” That kind of ossified thinking is all D.C. has to offer anymore, and it’s the only way the D.C.-based national media know how to frame issues. Frankly, it’s delusional — and therefore, it's really dangerous.
Here’s an example of the lazy, he-said/she-said “method” on display over the weekend: The congressional “super committee” is going to fold without having reached any budget agreements. Over and over, reports from the committee have told the same story: Democrats (as usual) have been willing to compromise over a mix of spending cuts and new taxes, to the point of being willing to accept way more cuts than new taxes. Republicans, on the other hand, have simply and steadfastly refused to consider new revenue sources as part of a deal. So . . . what is the media’s “take” on all this? Both sides are to blame for being unwilling to compromise — thus flying in the face of what they themselves have been reporting about the committee. But it's OK, because they've presented "both sides," never mind that one side's version is a fantasy at best.
Locally, the TV news cardboard cutouts (with maybe a couple of exceptions) have shown the same brand of laziness, and baffling self-regard, in their “reporting” on the Occupy Charlotte folks. Here’s a clue: Get off the sidewalk and talk to some people; better yet, report what they’ve actually said rather than trying to squeeze a complicated situation into a preordained narrative; maybe try to understand more and display your own cynicism less — otherwise, all you’re doing is revealing how useless you and your medium have become. Below is the Bob Schieffer/ Ron Paul tete-a-tete. Thank you and good night.Photo credit for the story image: Poldavo