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Cease and Desist
Can we have a moratorium on j-school prof quotes?


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The L.A. Times’s Scott Gold–yes, that Scott Gold, the one who got in trouble with Times editor-in-chief John Carroll earlier this year for an obviously biased story about abortion (he thinks, basically, that anyone against abortion is nuts)–had a good front page story on a domestic terror plot in Texas Wednesday. But it suddenly fell down the rabbit hole of agenda journalism near the end, on the inside jump, when Gold decided to call up Univ. of Texas journalism prof. Robert Jensen for a quote. And, natch, he got one:

[Jensen] says that the Bush administration, to promote its efforts overseas, “needs a public that is afraid and sees these wars as justified. The primary justification is a fear of people ‘out there’ who want to come here and get us…

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And why, you may ask, is a journalism professor a source for a piece about the dangers of domestic terrorism compared to international terrorism? Well, because this is that Robert Jensen, the one who never met a Noam Chomsky notion he didn’t like, the one who wrote on Sept. 14, 2001 that:

…my primary anger is directed at the leaders of this country… [Sept. 11] was no more despicable as the massive acts of terrorism–the deliberate killing of civilians for political purposes–that the U.S. government has committed during my lifetime.

Now Jensen can serve a function. The Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal made good use of him when Brendan Minter debuted a new column, “The Western Front,” there last year:

“The problem with America,” a college professor told me recently, “is that it can’t get over the idea that it is somehow special among nations.” His name is Robert Jensen and he teaches journalism at the University of Texas, Austin. He’s flat wrong. The problem with America and Western civilization in general is that it lost confidence in itself and started accepting relativist arguments…

Anyway, there was a warning bell that Gold was about to make a fool of himself just before his Jensen quote, when he described for his readers:

…Internet Web logs, known as “blogs.” People who operate the websites, or “bloggers…”

Oh, so that’s what they’re called. Anyway, going to journalism professors for quotes is lame enough when the story is actually about journalism. When the story is about a bomb plot, though…that’s beyond absurd. At that point, you’ve entered another dimension. Your next stop: the Scott Gold zone.

Catherine Seipp is a writer in California. This piece first appeared on her weblog, “Cathy’s World,” and is reprinted with the author’s permission.



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