Come for the Politics, Stay for the Pathologies

Thursday, April 16, 2009

On Second Thought, This Might Say More About Walter Cronkite than Katie

The USC Annenberg School for Communication presented CBS “Evening News” anchor Katie Couric with the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Journalism yesterday. Specifically, the award was for her “interview” with Sarah Palin. Isn’t it odd that in a year of the most historic presidential election ever, this prize is awarded for a vice-presidential interview?

As reported  by John Ziegler:

Of course, there is no disputing the fact that the perception created by Couric’s interview and the ensuing media and entertainment coverage of it clearly had an enormous impact on the 2008 presidential election. But is this the kind of “achievement” that journalism is supposed to be honoring? (If it is, shouldn’t the award really go to Tina Fey?) And is there any doubt that if Couric asked Palin the exact same questions and she had been viewed as performing well (or if one of her softball interviews with Barack Obama had brought down his candidacy) that there would be no awards for her from USC or anyone else of note?

It is obvious that Couric is being rewarded for the political result of her interview –the shooting down of a conservative superstar just in time to save the Obama campaign. It’s not about the “journalism” at all. But even that truth is not the most outrageous aspect of this absurdity. What’s even more absurd is that not only shouldn’t Couric be getting rewarded for her Palin interview, if we lived in a world where journalistic standards still mattered at all, she would have been roundly condemned for it.


But therein lies the truth: journalistic standards don’t matter a whit. In fact, the MSM no longer employs journalists, they hire propagandists. So if you are an aspiring journalism student or recent graduate, here are a few role models – in addition to Katie - that you might want to emulate. Follow their lead and you too might one day win an esteemed “wink, wink” journalism award.

Joseph Goebbles: although not technically a journalist, he greatly admired journalistic technique. He was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. So talented as a spinmeister, he was able to effectively promote Kristallnacht as an anti-gun rally.

He was a huge proponent of modern psychological manipulation. His most famous propaganda technique was accusing his enemies of plotting to defeat the Motherland (sound familiar?), which garnered support for their destruction. And he all but invented the technique of blaming the victims.

Definitely a  Hall of Fame contender.

Squealer (aka Animal Farm’s spokesperson for the pigs): again, not technically a journalist but he exhibits all of the required skills necessary in today’s world of news. He is Napolean’s (the pig leader, not the frog)  propaganda minister.

He uses his powers of persuasion,eloquent language and charisma along with a selective use of facts and self serving interpretations  to con the other animals into siding with Napoleon over Farmer Jones (again, sound familiar?) Squealer is best known as Michael Moore’s patron saint – for multiple reasons. 

Hanoi Hannah: almost a real journalist. A Vietnamese radio personality, HH did propaganda broadcasts for North Vietnam directed at American GI’s during the Vietnam war. Her broadcasts consisted of reporting troop casualties, and POW’s - often by name - playing American anti-war songs and otherwise trying to undermine the moral of the US troops. While there were legends that she possessed the uncanny powers of a seer, it turned out she got most of her information from copies of Stars and Stripes (hat tip to Al Gore).

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, aka Baghdad Bob: At last! A trained journalist (Baghdad U). This explains the expert play-by-play commentary that he provided during the 2003 march on Baghdad:

“They're not even [within] 100 miles [of Baghdad]. They are not in any place. They hold no place in Iraq. This is an illusion... they are trying to sell to the others an illusion.” and, “Today, the tide has turned, we are destroying them.” and, “We're giving them a real lesson today. Heavy doesn't accurately describe the level of casualties we have inflicted.” … as the US troop rolled into Baghdad virtually unopposed. But of course, the best propaganda communiqué from BB is this denial of plausibility: “It has been rumored that we have fired scud missiles into Kuwait. I am here now to tell you, we do not have any scud missiles and I don't know why they were fired into Kuwait.”

Now that’s journalism we can believe in! Come to think of it, maybe there should be a Baghdad Bob Journalism award. An entire slew of potential candidates come to mind:  Dan Rather, Keith Olberman, Chris Matthews, and the entire staff of the New York Times.