September 12, 2004

What's Frightening

about this is my confidence that there have been other frauds just as egregious as Rathergate by broadcast news organizations, but people either haven't had the resources to check on them, or if they saw the problems they didn't have a way of speaking out. You could have written a letter to the editor, and maybe gotten it printed—but probably not. If it were printed, only a handful of people would read it.

In the 80s and 90s you could make your own video about media bias and typefaces, and hawk it at gun shows to 5-10 people a day. And if mainstream media types even saw this material, it was easy to write you off as a crank.

I'm having that same feeling now that I did when I was ten years old and Walter Cronkite (whom we trusted in those days) came on the CBS Evening News to talk about all the insect parts that had been found by labs in commercially available hot dogs. To this day I'm a Hebrew National Beef Franks kind of girl—partly for the garlic they're laced with, but also for the rabbinical supervision over their production.

When I was ten, the question in my mind was, "how many insects have I eaten in hot dogs over the course of my life?" And now it's "how many flagrant lies have I swallowed because I've assumed that—despite the way the truth is shaded in the MSM—the bare-bones facts had been verified and could be trusted?" Beyond the spin, there were the facts. And they were reliable, or so I thought.

Now I've got less of a feeling that I can really count on any mainstream news organization at all. CBS, the Boston Globe, AP, and NPR have proven completely unreliable with respect to their fact-checking in areas related to the TANG issue (which no one cares about in the first place, BTW—it's not the crime, as they say . . . ).

The Los Angeles Times is trying to report the story, but bury it at the same time. It has, however, stopped short of lying, so we have to place it on the side of the truth-tellers here. Barely. (As Patterico points out, they place the meat of the allegations in the jump, and never use the word "forgery.")

ABC, Fox, the Dallas Morning News, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Washington Post are interested in preserving their reputations. They are at the top of the cliff, watching the other lemmings fall through the air, and deciding that they aren't interested in that particuar leap.

There are some journalists who realize what's happening, and want to preserve their reputations.

So the glass, going forward, is half-full. If only it weren't for all those metaphorical insect parts I've eaten over the past three or four decades.

Posted by Attila at September 12, 2004 02:41 PM

You’re absolutely right. We will never know how many lies and exaggerations we've been fed over the years because the collective investigational power of the blogosphere was not there to debunk it. From child birth causing cerebral palsy to many times have the American people been fooled? Hopefully, it will now be a declining number.

Posted by: Don at September 12, 2004 06:30 PM

It's a brave new world, with all that entails.

Like you, I've been rather depressed about the Memogate mess, and at watching the mainstream sources trying to pooh-pooh it away. Even Wired Magzine for God's sake couldn't come up with a coherent and decent article about it, and they're supposed to be the hip, connected folks, right?

Of course, maybe I should give you an unappetizing but true rejoinder: you eat insect parts pretty much every day. They are found in any and every product made with wheat, rice, corn, barley, rye, or any other grain.

The USDA sets acceptable standards for how many insect parts per million are allowable. But they are always there. Always.

So perhaps all we really have now is a way to identify the relative risks of misinformation. A better one, i'd like to think.

Posted by: Dean Esmay at September 13, 2004 08:10 AM

Yes, but "parts per million" is much more comfortable than "parts per hot dog."

Wired is 1) part of the uber-liberal Conde Nast empire, and 2) located editorially in SF. They are going to have some amgbivalence about this story. I believe some on the left mistakenly thought the Swift Vets deal was really about the nature of Kerry's service in Viet Nam, and figured a nice TANG scandal would help them regain their equilibrium.

Posted by: Attila Girl at September 13, 2004 08:23 AM

As a veteran nuclear engineer, I keep thinking back to the public "debate" over nuclear power. From the side that deals in the raw, straight reality of nuclear power, the media's treatment of the issues seemed out of touch. "China Syndrome" as a slicker F/911.

Even today, Homer Simpson is the public face of the nuclear power industry. Granted, we all do like our donuts, that much is true, but little else.

Perhaps we now is time to revisit some of our received wisdom, so carefully molded by MSM in the past,

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