Glenn Greenwald discusses the myth of journalistic objectivity

November 25, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More

At Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald discusses the myth of journalistic objectivity by discussing the way one of the establishment’s so-claimed “objective” journalists, Bob Schieffer, arrogantly portrayed himself to be “objective” in the course of abusing Ron Paul in a recent interview. Here’s the problem (it was the same problem with Tim Russert and it is the same problem with almost all of our celebrity journalists):  Some of Ron Paul’s views are massively inconvenient to those who crave ever more warmongering:

(1) American interference and aggression in the Muslim world fuels anti-American sentiment and was thus part of the motivation for the 9/11 attack; and (2) American hostility and aggression toward Iran (in the form of sanctions and covert attacks) are more likely to exacerbate problems and lead to war than lead to peaceful resolution, which only dialogue with the Iranians can bring about.

Here’s how celebrity journalists like Schieffer deal with these sorts of inconvenient truths:

Views that reside outside of the dogma of the leadership of either party are inherently illegitimate. Such views are generally ignored, but in those rare instances where they find their way into the discourse — such as this Paul interview — it is the duty of “objective” reporters like Schieffer to mock, scorn and attack them. Indeed, many journalists — such as Tim Russert and David Ignatius — excused their failures in the run-up to the Iraq War by pointing to the fact that the leadership of both parties were generally in favor of the war: in other words, since war opposition was rarely found among the parties’ leadership, it did not exist and/or was inherently illegitimate (in a March, 2003 interview, Schieffer explained what a great job the American media did in the run-up to the war) . . . I would have no problem with Schieffer’s adversarial behavior here if this were also how he treated claims made by David Petraeus, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton. But one would never, ever see that. Part of this is what Jay Rosen calls “the Church of the Savvy”: journalists revere power and political success and thus revere those who wield it in their world (Washington) while scorning those who do not (like Paul). But part of it is also that their function is to defend the political establishment of which they are a part and glorify its orthodoxies — defined as: the approved views of the leadership of the two parties, which in turn reflect the interests of the private factions that control both parties — and, conversely, to try to delegitimize any views and/or persons posing a challenge to it. This is why one sees truly adversarial conduct from establishment journalists applied only to those who are relatively powerless and marginalized (i.e., OWS), or to those views that have no currency within the political establishment (Paul’s foreign policy/civil liberties arguments).

Greenwald concludes:

One reason modern establishment journalism has become so corrupted and worthless is because of the conceit that they engage in some sort of objective reporting that is free of bias and opinion, even as they are the stalwart defenders of a clear set of political opinions and interests (those wielded by the same power factions which they pretend to hold accountable). Any time someone is tempted to believe these fairy tales of objectivity, they should just re-watch this Schieffer interview.

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Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Mike M. says:

    I liked listening to this interview, if only to admire how Paul rises above all of Schieffer’s multi-pronged snarling passive aggressive attacks. Paul handled him with eloquence, focus and solid logic. Looked like Schieffer was trying to put words in Paul’s mouth, and attempting to re-direct the dialogue into controversial areas filled with political danger zones, hoping that Paul would step into one of his traps and make a statement that would be political suicide and dismantle Paul’s presidential campaign. Didn’t work.
    Why is Paul a Republican? His positions seem to fall squarely within the Left Libertarian sector.

    As a side note, myriad examples of exactly this sort of fake objectivity can be found in the mainstream establishment scientific community as they glory the accepted, currently “in power” orthodoxies and mock, scorn and delegitimize daring, potentially paradigm shattering “fringe” research. Same problem, different arena.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    [Former New Mexico Governor Gary]Johnson announced in April that he would seek the GOP nomination for president, but he has been excluded from almost all of the GOP debates so far, having failed to meet the criteria set up by the debate hosts. Johnson has protested his exclusion, arguing that the media is playing favorites.

    “If I’d have been included in 16 of the last debates we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” Johnson told the New Mexican.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/26/gary-johnson-2012-libertarian_n_1114082.html

  3. Mike M. says:

    I’m a fan of Gary Johnson’s stance on most of the issues, but again somewhat stunned at his party allegiance. If Johnson and/or Paul were really in the race (could actually win the presidency), I would even consider voting Republican. Did I just write that?!?!

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