Monday, July 26, 2010

CNN anchors attack the scourge of anonymity.

I watched this with my mouth open. CNN anchors, disgusted at the behaviour of Breitbart, bemoan the damage which is done by "anonymous bloggers".

They then congratulate themselves for the work which they did to save the reputation of Shirley Sherrod and imply that, were it not for them, she would still be unemployed.

This is nonsense. This story was not published anonymously, it was published by Andrew Breitbart, a known fraudster, which is why many of us questioned why the media were giving it such credence in the first place.

And the problem most of us have with the MSM is the fact that they often allow anonymity for no good reason.

These CNN journalists have a very good point, of course: it was, after all, Internet bloggers -- using the scourge of anonymity -- who convinced the nation of a slew of harmful conspiracy theories: Saddam had WMD, an alliance with Al Qaeda, and responsibility for the anthrax mailings. Anonymity is also what allowed bloggers to smear Richard Jewell, Wen Ho Lee, and Steven Hatfill with totally false accusations that destroyed their lives and reputation, and it's what enabled bloggers to lie to the nation about Jessica Lynch's heroic firefight, countless U.S. airstrikes, and a whole litany of ongoing lies about our current wars. And remember when anonymous bloggers spewed all sorts of nasty, unaccountable bile about Sonia Sotomayor's intellect and temperament? Just as Roberts lamented, blogs -- as a result of anonymity -- are the "Wild West of the Internet . . . . like a giant world-wide bathroom wall where you can write anything about anyone."
It was not anonymous bloggers who made the Iraq war possible, that was done by the MSM who took information fed to them by the Bush administration (with no name attached) and passed it on to the rest of us as if this was factual. We all remember the work of Judith Miller over at The New York Times, feeding us whatever the Bush administration fed her.

It turned out, surprise, surprise, to be a load of old baloney. So it is ironic in the extreme to have CNN anchors now lecture the rest of us on the danger of anonymity. Especially as they are doing so in a case where anonymity was not involved.

The problem in this case was not anonymity, it was with the media's seemingly insatiable need to repeat every right wing slander no matter how disreputable the source. And this case is different from others, not because the MSM were especially vigilant, but because the full tape was made available at the earliest opportunity and the size of Breitbart's lie became impossible to ignore.

Were there any doubt at all in this case Shirley Sherrod would still be fired as the media - with their "he said, she said" style of reporting - would still be giving Breitbart credence.

Let us not forget that we recently heard from the editor of The New York Times that it would be "taking sides" to describe waterboarding as torture as long as the Republicans continued to insist that waterboarding was not torture. Torture is actually defined under law and the US has prosecuted people for waterboarding, but - as long as the Republicans said it was not torture - the New York Times were willing to ignore all that so as not to "take sides".

That's our fearless media in action. Constantly terrified that the Republicans might accuse them of bias as they feed us unsubstantiated right wing nonsense. These are the people who found it impossible to establish whether or not George W. Bush had evaded his military duties whilst ensuring that we were all aware of the swiftboating of John Kerry.

So it's especially galling to have these same people now lecture us on the dangers posed by anonymous bloggers.

There are several examples from the last 24 hours alone which demonstrate these high journalistic standards. Here is a Washington Post article from yesterday by Philip Rucker on the criticisms of the Obama administration from the Left:

"As a party, we respect the role that people like [Markos Moulitsas] and his blog play and understand that their role is to try to push the envelope further than it might be pushed otherwise," said a senior Democratic official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "This has been the busiest and most successful Congress since the Great Depression and it's been accomplished with big majorities. I don't think anyone can argue that it would be better if Democrats are in the minority or have smaller majorities."

So there, the Post granted anonymity to a "senior Democratic official" in order to reveal how great the Democratic Party is and how vital it is that they win as many seats as possible in the election.

The MSM allow anonymity on the flimsiest of excuses, often attributing "anonymous sources" when there is no good reason as to why the person should remain anonymous, other than a lack of courage to identify themselves as the owner of the bile they are passing on.

So it really is gob smacking to watch CNN find anonymous bloggers as the source of so much that is wrong in the media, especially in the case of Breitbart and Sherrod, where anonymity had nothing whatsoever to do with the story.

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