Sunday, May 13, 2007

Hungering for News and Perspective

I stopped reading Joe Klein years ago. It was nothing personal. I simply got to the point where I knew what he was going to say and I noticed that he didn't add much to the knowledge that I already had about things. The same is true about Time and Newsweek, though I should add that as both magazines drifted to the right, I found them less and less reliable in their general understanding of the issues facing our nation. Ironically, I found US News and World Report more reliable because it made no pretense that it was anything other than a conservative magazine.

But let me go further on Time and Newsweek. Decades ago, when both magazines had a reputation of being more moderate or even mildly liberal at times, I read them closely during the Vietnam War just as I read the Los Angeles Times and watched the nightly news. I can still remember some of the details of a number of the battles, bombing raids and the byzantine merry-go-round that passed for politics in Saigon (and how much more Iraqi politicians are resembling them these days!). After some years, I noticed nothing much new was being added to my knowledge and I cut back my reading on Vietnam and, feeling I needed some perspective, I started reading about World War I and World War II. I encountered a lot of material that started to affect how I saw Vietnam, largely because the material gave me a fresh perspective. After the Vietnam War, I was like a lot of Americans; I got busy and forgot about Vietnam for a bit, but not all that long. I started reading books on Vietnam that I should have read years earlier but, reading them, I found I had a whole different perspective that came from my reading of other wars. I mention these tedious details to point out that some of us evolve, our positions begin to change, we begin to see things very differently over time. Some of us even take the trouble to deepen our knowledge. My problem with a lot of Washington media is that not much changes in the period of two or three or four years except career-oriented herd movements. And my discomfort is not entirely about Republicans or Democrats. I'm frankly tired of listening to Richard Carville though I still like the guy.

Let me turn to something Glenn Greenwald wrote on Friday about Joe Klein:
Time Magazine's Joe Klein at a May 5 Annapolis Book Festival, broadcast on C-SPAN (h/t reader CG):
I am really getting sick and tired of people bashing the press all the time.

It used to be that people like me would get bashed from the right, and now there is the whole blogosphere bashing us as well.

Look, at this point, we're pretty well battered. We're losing advertising revenue.

And unless we can actually have the revenue to go out there and the credibility to report these issues, all of these right-wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, and the left-wing bloggers who are parasites on our reporting, are going to have nothing to do but sit home and twiddle their thumbs and opine about things they have no data for.
Apparently, things were fine -- and the Joe Kleins were perfectly content -- when they were getting viciously attacked and mauled every day by Rush Limbaugh and the right. But matters became intolerable once left-wing bloggers started criticizing the press. That is when things just went too far.

I'm almost too dumbfounded by Klein's remarks to know what to say. It takes an enormous ego to consider himself that self-important. I started searching the internet because I wasn't finding news. I started posting on message boards like thousands of others because there was real fundamental bullshit going on in 2002 and 2003 and most of the media was completely missing the story, 'news' I think they call it. The Guardian, the BBC, some Canadian papers, the Knight-Ridder Washington Bureau were on the trail of numerous stories that were ignored by America's mainstream media. Thousands of us were sending these stories to one another by way of message boards and then, later, by way of blogs.

Now back then, even The Washington Post and The New York Times on occassion had stories in their back pages that I thought somebody, anybody would talk about on the nightly news, or cable shows, or PBS. All too often there was nothing. There was silence. There was no followup, though there turned out to be reams of material that would eventually be written and that proved accurate and that many big-name journalists completely missed. This wasn't my first experience of this nonsense. In the 1980s, I heard from people that there was trouble in El Salvador, that there were death squads roaming the rural areas. I'm nobody but I'm generally skeptical by nature and I was struck by the feeling that at least two people I was talking two were reliable. But I didn't see any verification of their stories in the media. Then I learned later that doctors who worked for Doctors without Borders had tried to contact The New York Times and one of the Times' reporters had called the State Department and was told there was no truth to the stories. But it was Reagan's State Department, and some of Reagan's people were up to their eyeballs in Iran/Contra and other nonsense in Central America. As we now know, the death squads were quite real.

Joe Klein is upset that his magazine is losing money. Ouch. Most bloggers blog for free or a few dollars a month. I think I get paid about two cents an hour. I have many things I really would rather be doing with my time. Where Joe Klein sees a loss of revenue dollars, I see a growing crisis across a spectrum of issues in my country that I need to write about. Apparently, George W. Bush is not the only one living in a bubble these days.

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