Media Blog

Separating the Opinionated From the Deranged

MSNBC is so consistently and openly against the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the Republican Party, I think it’s fair to say it has abandoned objectivity as a model of journalism and is going for something else. Last week Bernard Goldberg suggested that MSNBC is “counterprogramming” against the more conservative views expressed on the more highly rated Fox News Channel, and I think that’s more or less correct. My point is that MSNBC’s bias is all but explicitly stated, and it’s sort of a waste of time to catalogue every single instance of bias on that particular network, at least.* (With exceptions for inaccurate and misleading reporting.)

That said, let’s take a look at the kind of truly deranged commentary we should continue to point out:

Appearing on this morning’s Imus show, Chris Matthews painted a portrait of a bloodthirsty VP Cheney.

Matthews: “I don’t think we should get deeper and deeper into the sands of Arabia with more troops. I think these decisions to keep going forward, which is what he’s doing, is getting us into a quicksand situation where the more you struggle, the more you sink. I think that’s where we’re headed and it‘s because of his ideology, because of the neocons who have grabbed his arm again, this guy Fred Kagan has grabbed hold of him [the president] again and they’ve using [retired General] Jack Keane to do it, and they’re working through Cheney, of course, who always wants to kill, and they’ve dragged us back into the same mentality that we’re looking for any reason to strike, and I think that’s the way he is towards Iran right now.”

Matthews repeated his charge a minute later. Said Imus: “Back to last night, I thought you had another good question, and that was uh, whose idea was this? Who’s in the room, your phrase, who’s in the room when he makes those decisions?”

Matthews: “That’s my favorite question. I think it’s always Cheney, who always says ‘kill’, always says ‘kill’, and I think the other guy, Fred Kagan is Robert Kagan’s brother, and this is the guy, these are the people, they’re from a long neoconservative family, they have been hocking this war from the beginning, and all they want is more. “  

To be fair, let’s look at this in the context of an equally deranged statement from FNC’s Gretchen Carlson yesterday:**

GRETCHEN CARLSON: You talk about the hostile enemy, obviously being Iraq, but hostile enemies right here on the home front. Yesterday Senator Ted Kennedy, proposing that any kind of a troop surge should mean there should be congressional approval of that. A lot of Democrats not coming to his side on this. But obviously this is not going to be an easy sell on Capitol Hill, even if it’s not an easy sell to the American public.
DAN BARTLETT: We don’t view Ted Kennedy as hostile enemy but we do view him to be an open and often critic of the war. He has been from the outset. I don’t think that’s anything new.

Let’s be clear: Ted Kennedy favors policies that most conservatives agree would be harmful to U.S. national security, but that’s because he’s often wrong. He is not a hostile enemy of the United States. Dick Cheney tends to favor military solutions to national security problems, but that does not make him a bloodthirsty fiend determined to kill, kiLL, KILL! without cause or reason.
Openly opinionated journalism can have the tremendous upside of being more honest, more transparent, and more accountable than the alternately tendentious and bland (he said/she said) ”objectivity” currently practiced by most major newspapers. The downside is the tendency of many opinion journalists to engage in irresponsible hyperbole. This is how cable news and the blogosphere have gotten the reputation of having all the nuance of a battle sequence from Apocalypto. It’s a characterization that is itself exaggerated, but one that will prevail unless we can get a grip on ourselves.
* UPDATE: MSNBC’s hard left turn appears to have paid off.
** UPDATE II: John O. writes:

To be fair, I must admit that I didn’t see Gretchen Carlson’s comment on yesterday’s Fox & Friends, but I did see a snippet from this morning’s show when she took time out to correct her statement from yesterday. She explained that she misspoke when she compared Senator Kennedy to an enemy of America and explained her mistake as well as (I think) apologizing to Senator Kennedy. What are the chances of seeing a similar retraction/correction from Mr. Matthews?

I think we know the answer to that question, given his track record when it comes to admitting a mistake.

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