Monday, June 24, 2013

This is why I don't watch Sunday talk shows

I could give a long spiel regarding David Gregory's disgusting act this Sunday when he basically accused Glenn Greenwald of being a criminal for reporting Edward Snowden's revelations of NSA phone-logging measures.

But I'll let people much smarter than I do it instead. First, the always-excellent Charlie Pierce.
Every actual journalist at NBC should spit every time David Gregory walks by. Hell, the janitorial staff should spit as he walks by, but that would simply be making more work for themselves, so I guess they won't. As someone who's career has straddled the Big Ditch between the old media and the new, I will grant you that the definition of who's a journalist has become rather fluid over the past few decades. Whatever you may think of Glenn Greenwald -- and, Jesus, he makes it tough sometimes -- what he's doing with Edward Snowden is journalism by any definition anyone ever proposed for it. (He's arranging logistical help for an important source? Newspapers used to do that with some regularity. It's even an important plot point in both the greatest newspaper movie ever made (His Girl Friday) and in the second-greatest newspaper movie ever made -- Deadline USA with Humphrey Bogart.) Meanwhile, let us recall that a former chief of staff for Dick Cheney testified under oath in the Scooter Libby trial that MTP was that White House's preferred launching pad for arrant bullshit. Let us recall the marvelous quote the late, sainted Tim Russert gave to Bill Moyers in which he said he'd wished "somebody had called him" to warn him that we were being lied into a war. Under the Dancin' Master, the show has devolved further into being a playground for the courtier press. Maybe we do need a new definition of what journalism is. But, whatever new definition emerges, it shouldn't be developed by the host of Meet The Fking Press, which is no more "journalism" than Duck Dynasty is a nature program.

This was a career defining moment. It's rare that someone reveals himself quite as clearly as the Dancin' Master does in that little by-play. He will "debate" who is or is not a journalist, and the rest of us can wait under the balcony and wait for scraps. The clearly batty Peggy Noonan is a journalist, but Glenn Greenwald may not be. Journalism has sickened itself with respectability, debilitated itself with manners, crippled itself with politesse, and David Gregory may well be Patient Zero for all of this. As my Irish grandmother used to say, mother of god, who the hell is he when he's at home?
And in the comments was a link to another excellent article bringing the true point of the incident home, this time by's Will Bunch.
Note that I headlined this post, "The one question a journalist should never ask." That cuts two different ways. I wouldn't object to Gregory asking the question of a colleague in a rhetorical sense, as in, "Explain to the people out there why journalism is a protected activity, even if the whistleblower involved risks being charged with a crime." I don't believe that was Gregory's intention, however. But if you believe that the very essence of doing your job well is somehow a crime...well, you simply are not a real, serious journalist. That may sound harsh but there's no other way to put it.

Indeed, I feel like the last week has really put the very essence of what journalism is under the microscope. On one hand, so many of us are deeply mourning the sudden loss of Michael Hastings, the journalist -- and I mean that in very sense of the word -- who worked for Buzzfeed and previously for Rolling Stone and who died in a one-car accident at the age of 33. Hastings was completely fearless -- not just because he reported from Iraq and Afghanistan but because of the unrelentingly tough questions he asked and the stories that resulted, including one that took down a top general. Hastings cared 0 percent about losing access to, or offending, the powerful and 100 percent about the truth.

Contrast that with David Gregory and his ilk of overpaid, overfed Beltway big-shots. They live in a bubble where access to the powerful isn't everything, it's the only thing. They regularly dine with and socialize with the folks that they "cover," went to the same elite universities with their sources and now send their kids to the same exclusive private schools. It's a good life...and no one wants to rock the boat. This is not a blanket condemnation -- it is actually possible to do real journalism in Washington, D.C., and some do. But the comforting-the-comfortable kind like Gregory rule the day. They are court couriers, relaying whispered information and placing an abiding trust in the all-powerful whisperers. There really needs to be a word in the English language that describes what they do. I know it is not "journalism."
Right on the damn money. A lot of DC Sunday talk "journalism" is really nothing more than a group of back-scratchers who want to wallow in their own self-importance instead of digging deep into pressing issues of the day, and getting real insight and answers from top decision-makers. By asking that leading question, David Gregory exposed himself as being on the side of the Military Industrial Complex, and against the side of journalism.

Instead of asking "Where in the world is Edward Snowden?", the real questions that our media should be asking are:

"What are the limitations of this NSA program (if any)?"
"Who imposes those limits?", and
"Why the hell don't we know the answer to the other 2 questions?"

But of course, asking these questions and examining these issues would require actual work and questioning of the security state, and God Forbid our DC cocktail party guests actually have to work and risk their invites to the next social gathering.


  1. First of all as one of the regular 900 readers let me thank you for a blog the state Dem party should be using as a master reference but obviously isn't, you are one of if not the state's best. I quite watching MTP right after Tim Russerts death but happened to scan by it during the GG "interview" and I use the term loosely. I almost threw up at David's question and though pleased with the way GG responed still figure it was over most people's heads. Glad to see more are getting it by the week eh. Keep plugging Jake and you'll convince me I shouldn't move from my home here of 28 yrs,even though we are in the darkest ones yet.

  2. Robert- It's really more like 9 regular readers :P, but thanks for the kind words. I'll keep on plugging because once we accept this crap, the game is over.