The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Scotty McClellan to take the fall...

...for criminally bad journalism? So demands the San Francisco Chronicle ed board today, at least.

It adopts the oldest weasel in the sneak [1]:
Every White House correspondent knows that a press secretary's job involves a good deal of "spin" and administration-friendly interpretations of the facts. But it can't involve what now seem like outright falsehoods.

As I've pointed out before, journalistic product is in code. And, as if you hadn't noticed, journalism is a game. A game with rules as arcane as real tennis. Which under no circumstances can be explained to the suckers who financially support it through their subscriptions.

Both the code and the game - like the Bush Administration media operation, in fact - are intended to insulate practitioners from lay criticism and to affirm (mostly for the benefit of the practitioners themselves) their indifference towards, or contempt for, the uninitiated.

What spin and lying have in common is the intent to deceive and misrepresent for the purpose of gain - gain in power, or campaign contributions, or corrupt payments, or whatever.

Both are perfectly human, of course, and, no doubt, deception and misrepresentation are essential element of any political system; but the distinction between the two is wholly artificial. But, not only do practioners show no shame at the fact: the very artificiality aids the hieratic nature of the operation!

Example: one pharma company falsifies the trial results for a drug. Another does two trials of a drug but suppresses the results of one trial that showed hideous side-effects.

Is there any difference in culpability (moral culpability, at least) between the two? I think not.

McClellan's job is to deceive: the hacks who quiz him every day accept that. There are loads of facts embarrassing to the administration that either are generally unknown, or are known but their significance is not appreciated. His job is to ensure that that happy state of affairs continues indefinitely.

What is the job of the those hacks? There's the J-school 101 answer. And the answer to be gleaned from study the transcripts and tapes of pressers with Scotty and with his boss. And from the umpteen USG background briefings that they attend.

Their job is to play the game. To not rock the boat.

And their beef is that Scotty broke the rules of the game so egregiously as to pique them into reacting!

  1. I know. But, according to Mr Google's rather fallible verification service, it looks kosher: a sneak of weasels, like an unkindness of ravens or a parliament of owls. Wikipedia has stuff, of course.

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