Remember the way Bush joshed with the media and gave them nicknames, and how that was supposed to show that he was a regular guy (unlike the stiff, arrogant, Al Gore)?
My take on that is different. Bush’s real message was something like this: “Welcome to the club! Sure, I’m a bigshot, but in your own way you’re all bigshots too now. You’re The Press. So let’s all be buddies!”
In the old days, when there were lots of them, reporters were just reporters and columnists were just columnists. But as reporters grew fewer (with media consolidation and the rise of the monopoly media), individual reporters became more important. Rather than just being some guy with a B.A. who got himself a pretty good job, the new hire became A CNN Political Reporter or something like that, and he expected to be treated with respect.
Ironically, this happened while professional standards were plummetting. The lords of the new monopoly media — Roger Ailes, Jack Welch, Rupert Murdoch, the Rev. Moon, and the others — are kingmakers, almost a branch of government, and the authority that reporters now have comes entirely from the men who hired them. As a result, the reporter’s job has become a balancing act between the old professional standards (which have not been entirely forgotten) and the need to please the boss. Since it is still forbidden to directly order the suppression of facts and the slanting of news, skilled reporters have become mind-readers and, like well-trained horses or dogs, do the right thing without being told. In this new post-professional world, success is everything: truth-tellers and whistle-blowers who get fired aren’t heroes or martyrs any more, but just suckers and losers.
In this context I find it very odd to be told that internet sources, especially the anonymous ones, “lack authority”. The contrast apparently is with the authority of the New York Times, Fox News, etc., etc. But as we have seen, this authority is rapidly diminishing — partly because of the media’s incompetence and corruption, but also because of the challenge from internet media.
Much as the pamphleteers of a few centuries ago challenged the claims of the nobility and the Church to a monopoly of truth, today’s internet writers are challenging the mainstream media. They really can’t claim to be able to replace the mainstream media and they really aren’t trying to, but they’re doing a pretty good job of keeping our open political system alive.
The media whores, of course, don’t think this is fair. After years of hard work honing their craft, learning to express tomorrow’s conventional wisdom today, and brownnosing, they finally got the big-time jobs they’d been looking for, and they thought that they’d arrived. They were going to “have authority.” They were going to be the ones to say “And that’s the way it is!”
But then the internet came along.
A BUNCH OF LINKS:
Some Salon no-name writes about anonymity
Tena of Atrios on “The Internet”
“Bloggers are not Gentlemen”
Kerry and the media (pre-intern)
Brad DeLong on the incompetent and arrogant press
The Indispensable Daily Howler
(Originally I had a long thing about the corrupt and incompetent media, the fluff story about Kerry and the intern, the flap about anonymity on the Internet, the Bush National Guard story, etc., etc. Rather than bore you with all that, I decided to go straight to my most interesting point. But just to remind you: the fight for freedom in America and Europe was fought and won by anonymous lowlife journalists relying on a new medium called “the printing press”. Not by people with authority.)