MAY 15, 2000
The Fallacious Fourth Estate
© 2000

"The press is overstepping in every direction the obvious bounds of propriety and of decency. Gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and of the vicious, but has become a trade, which is pursued with industry as well as effrontery." Law professor Louis Brandeis and businessman Samuel Warren wrote that indictment in the Harvard Law Review in December 1890. Brandeis went on to become one of the heavyweights of the Supreme Court before a university assumed his name.

The second column I wrote for WorldNetDaily was read January 12, 1998. The headline was "Selective reporting and the state of the nation."

I started with an Aubrey T. DeVera quote, "prejudice, which sees what it pleases, cannot see what is plain." I asked then, as I do now, despite the obvious liberal bias of the mainstream media (becoming more and more obvious even to the casual observer), when and how will either embarrassment or territorial imperative compel the dominant media to return to the journalistic foundation of actually reporting Who, What, Where, When rather than obfuscating the Why and the How, and/or committing mortal sins of omission?

The Columbia Journalism Review recently noted, "The vocabulary of criticism has ascended from the polite cough to outright condemnation. The press is widely charged with being malicious, negative, self-serving, mean, vulgar, shameless, biased, vindictive, belligerent, aggressive, disingenuous, and vicious. The complaints are as diverse as the critics: intrusion, inaccuracy, refusal to admit or correct error; under-representation of minorities; neglect of the community by faceless conglomerates; incitement to hate, mostly on radio; the 'tabloidization' of news, notably on television since TV news became a profit center; the dramatization of the trivial half-truth at the expense of enlightenment." Excuse me! The "vocabulary of criticism" is growing in proportion to the egregiousness of the malfeasance, manipulation, and propaganda, which is peddled as journalism.

Today's examples are different (albeit cumulative) to the litany I included over two years ago, but the nexus of the sin is constant.

I often complain about those people who don't want to be confused with facts, which contradict their preconceived opinions. Folks incorrectly assume that the warm, smiling demographically focused grouped mainstream media is reporting objectively. They are NOT. I have written at some length about the indictments, jail sentences, and the ever popular game of "Name the unindicted conspirator" (second in popularity only to "Name the indicted Cabinet member").

I once asked if the presumed keepers of the fourth estate would ever acknowledge their responsibility and report a full and complete journal of the facts, and permit we the people the luxury of making our own fully informed decisions.

The "New Media" may offer us a new beginning ... or at least the opportunity to counterbalance the behemoth disinformation/misinformation campaigns masquerading as journalism. No "New Media" is not a panacea for the cancer eating away at reportage. We have our warts and blemishes too. The ease of dissemination of information on line is both a blessing and a curse. Just because you read something in a newsgroup or in a forwarded message doesn't make it any more true and accurate than if you see or hear it from Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings or Dan Rather.

New Media offers the "opportunity" to report and disseminate information, which has become bridled, hobbled, restricted and/or manipulated by the government-media cabal. We have an extraordinary opportunity I pray we do not squander or misuse.

Ambrose Bierce said, "Politics is the conduct of public affairs for private advantage. This current regime has elevated that axiom to an art form. Sadly, they have successfully co-opted most of the mainstream media as co-conspirators. I have continued to hope and pray (in vain) that journalism has not regressed to the point where it has been reduced to merely reporting selective facts for private advantage.