Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Media and Gen. Sanchez 

The lamestream media are lobbying for a federal shield law that would give journalists (i.e., people engaged in journalism for financial gain or livelihood) a limited legal privilege against disclosing their sources. The reported House version of the bill is here. The bill (H.R. 2102) may come up for a vote in the House this week.

The media are arrogant and elitist; they are more and more frequently being challenged by independent fact checkers in the blogosphere and elsewhere, and they don't like it. Accordingly, they are very interested in establishing themselves as "more equal" than the general public and not coincidentally, in establishing a statutory (and exclusionary) definition of "journalist." The camel's nose under the tent, and all that.

I think the Members ought to consider the following before voting to give the media what in my opinion amounts to a license to lie and ruin reputations without practical accountability.

As many others have noted and commented upon, Ltg. (Ret) Ricardo S. Sanchez' speech of October 12 at the military reporters and editors luncheon in Washington led off with, and consisted in large part (approx. 40%) of, an excoriation of the lamestream media's reportage of the Iraq war.

Some of my favorite points:
In some cases I have never even met you, yet you feel qualified to make character judgments that are communicated to the world. My experience is not unique and we can find other examples such as the treatment of secretary brown during Katrina. This is the worst display of journalism imaginable by those of us that are bound by a strict value system of selfless service, honor and integrity. Almost invariably, my perception is that the sensationalistic value of these assessments is what provided the edge that you seek for self aggrandizement or to advance your individual quest for getting on the front page with your stories! As I understand it, your measure of worth is how many front page stories you have written and unfortunately some of you will compromise your integrity and display questionable ethics as you seek to keep America informed.


Over the course of this war tactically insignificant events have become strategic defeats for America because of the tremendous power and impact of the media and by extension you the journalist. In many cases the media has unjustly destroyed the individual reputations and careers of those involved.


The basic ethics of a journalist that calls for:

1. Seeking truth,

2. Providing fair and comprehensive account of events and issues

3. Thoroughness and honesty

All are victims of the massive agenda driven competition for economic or political supremacy. The death knell of your ethics has been enabled by your parent organizations who have chosen to align themselves with political agendas. What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our service members who are at war.


As I assess various media entities, some are unquestionably engaged in political propaganda that is uncontrolled. There is no question in my mind that the strength our democracy and our freedoms remain linked to your ability to exercise freedom of the press - I adamantly support this basic foundation of our democracy and completely supported the embedding of media into our formations up until my last day in uniform. The issue is one of maintaining professional ethics and standards from within your institution.

With the exception of Fox News, these remarks either were not reported at all or received only passing mention, as in the last paragraph of the Washington Post's story (link registration required).

It is true that Gen. Sanchez chastises the Bush Administration on how it has prosecuted the war and communicated with the American people, but the lamestream media were all too happy to report that part of the speech, so I won't repeat it here.

So my question is, are these the kind of people who deserve a special legal privilege against disclosing the sources of their information? I think not.

Journalism as an institution better do a lot more to keep its own skirts clean before they demand privileges that the rest of us don't enjoy. As it is, I don't trust the media any more than I would a deadbeat who says "the check's in the mail," a politician who says, "I'm here to help you," or an amorous young swain who's hoping he'll get lucky.

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