July 13, 2014

NYT Pentagon Correspondent: Government-Media ‘Dysfunctional Marriage’ Is Necessary ‘For the Kids’

Well, this explains a lot.

A Justin Lynch column (“Wartime Press”) originally posted at the Weekly Wonk and republished at Time.com with a more foreboding title (“Bloggers, Surveillance and Obama’s Orwellian State”) really ends up being an attempted justification by those Lynch quoted for having a close alliance between the government and “journalists” with “professional standards.” Thom Shanker, the Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times, gets the award for the most Orwellian quote in the litter, which will come after the jump. Its prelude is his belief that “The government really needs to get its message out to the American people, and it knows that the best way to do that is by using the American news media.” What a surprise it is to learn after all these years that the news media’s job is to serve as a conduit for the government’s message. Excerpts follow (headline and subhead are Time’s; bolds and numbered tags are mine):

Bloggers, Surveillance and Obama’s Orwellian State
Advancements in technology have fueled this White House’s obsession with controlling the message.

ObamaSlobberingAffairWide

“Increasingly, the Obama White House has become so brittle, and so controlling of the message, that people are afraid to respond to me,” said Kimberly Dozier, a former Associated Press reporter. She was one of the journalists whose phone records were obtained by the Department of Justice last spring during its investigation into a leak of classified information about a failed Al-Qaeda plot. The scope of that investigation, some critics said, was unprecedented overreach. [1]

According to ProPublica, the Obama administration has filed eight cases under the Espionage Act, which criminalizes disclosing information harmful to national security. Before the Obama administration, only three known cases had ever been charged under the act.

But some say that the crackdown by the Obama administration is not due to an extraordinary effort, but rather due to advancements in surveillance.

“[Bush administration] lawyers told me that they wanted to prosecute as many leaks then, but technology had not moved on to the point where it is today, where it is so easy to track peoples’ electronic footprint,” said Dozier, who is now a contributing writer at The Daily Beast. “There are simply more tools for the Department of Justice now than they had back then.” [2]

Thom Shanker, the Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times, noted that his employer has implemented rigorous standards to balance the security risks of reporting classified information with the public’s right to know. [3]

… But as citizen journalism – people without an official press affiliation reporting on personal blogs – becomes more popular, the way the military and intelligence community is reported on could shift. Random bloggers need not follow the professional standards by which journalists abide. [4]

Matthew Pinsker, a professor of history at Dickinson College, pointed out that this “new” form of journalism is a throwback to previous models that did not value objectivity and impartiality. [5] In some ways, bloggers use the same practices of 19th Century pamphleteers, where anybody with a hand-crank could stand on a corner and shout to a group of people.

If these bloggers can’t hold themselves to the same standards of journalists in the 20th Century, “maybe the Obama administration is justified in pursuing leakers in a harsher way,” Pinsker said. [6]

… “The government really needs to get its message out to the American people, and it knows that the best way to do that is by using the American news media,” said Shanker. “The relationship between the government and the media is like a marriage; it is a dysfunctional marriage to be sure, but we stay together for the kids.” [7]

[1] — The scope of the Obama administration’s investigation was unprecedented overreach. My challenge to those who believe that it wasn’t is to name a worse example from a previous administration. If you can’t, then it’s not a matter of opinion, it’s a matter of fact. The government’s move was so out of the ordinary that the Justice Department informed the Associated Press of what it had done after the fact in a Friday letter in May 2013 to try to mitigate the damage. And of course, we’re supposed to believe that until that letter was sent, “The White House … said that other than press reports it had no knowledge of Justice Department attempts to seek AP phone records.”

[2] — Don’t you just love it? In essence, Kimberly Dozier is saying that Team Obama is now able to do what the Bush administration could only have dreamed about doing — and would have done — because of technological limitations. The historical record says otherwise, Kim.

The Bush administration could have prosecuted — and arguably should have prosecuted — the New York Times in 2006 for its detailed descriptions of administration attempts to trace “transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry.” But it didn’t.

Sorry, Kim. The genuine complaints you raised earlier about the Obama administration put it in an unqualified class by itself.

[3] — The supposed “standards” now in place at the New York Times must not have been there in 2006 during the Bush administration, which opens the Times up to an accusation that its “standards” are selective, depending on which party and which political philosophy controls the White House. If a conservative or Republican administration ever comes into power again, I believe those “standards” will be quickly jettisoned.

[4] — Journalists abide by “professional standards” that are somehow presumptively above the ethical standards of “random bloggers”? What an insult to our intelligence. Can you say Rathergate? Jayson Blair? Fauxtography? Journolist? The “Media Scandals” tag at NewsBusters alone has over 450 entries in the past 8 years. That surely only scratches the surface.

[5] — Matthew Pinsker is obviously implying that journalists today “value objectivity and impartiality.” The nearly 8,400 entries with the “Media Bias Debate” tag at NewsBusters would beg to differ.

[6] — Gosh, the Obama administration really doesn’t want to go after leakers, but darn it, if these bloggers and certain wayward reporters won’t adhere to the same “standards” as journalists, who can blame them?

Here’s a clue for far-left ignoramuses like Pinsker: Fascism or tyranny never run into the room and say, “Here we are. We’re fascists/tyrants. Hi, how are you? How can we take more of your rights away today?” They never admit to who and what they are. The disgraceful mindset articulated by Pinsker has historically enabled fascists and tyrants to progress further down their chosen path without being called out. One wonders whether the ignorance is deliberate or feigned.

[7] — So there it is. The citizenry is a bunch of children whose news consumption needs to be regulated by a government-media “marriage.” The establishment press’s job is to promote the government’s message. That job implies the need to oppose, demonize, discredit, and ridicule anyone trying to get in the way of that message. That basically explains where we are right now, doesn’t it?

Perhaps Time’s headline writer’s identification of “Obama’s Orwellian State” is in effect a cry for help from someone on the inside who understands and is frightened by what he or she is seeing. Here’s hoping that the story’s title will cause it to attract more eyeballs and awaken at least a few people from their low-information slumber.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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