One of the best lines in the history of network television was spoken by Sam Malone on the popular 80's sitcom, Cheers. In response to an absolutely distasteful alternative, Ted Danson's character replies, "I'd rather shave my head with a cheese grater while chewing on tinfoil." As amusing as it was to hear at the time, it could not have been fully conceived by me until now... every time I am forced to listen to anything from Dan Rather. Hand me a friggin' box of Reynolds Wrap and the grater. Just turn the man off!
We came in Tuesday after an 8 hour flight from New York to Oregon and tuned into Hugh Hewitt for the first time in a week. There, I was tempted to endure the blathering of Dan Rather being interviewed the previous night by Marvin Kalb. In his usual reliable fashion, Duane has posted the audio and transcript over at RadioBlogger for anyone brave enough to endure it. Or just grab the cheese grater and call it a day.
I'm not sure what is worse, Rather indulging his own delusional gravitas, or the aura of misdirected respect afforded his very being. But, one thing is certain. Dan has served as a model mentor for a generation of journalists who are determined to follow in the little man's footsteps... right to the edge of the cliff. And that precipice was violated some three weeks ago by the coverage of Hurricane Katrina; plummeting the character of the American Press to its lowest depths in the history of this nation.
Misrepresentation at best or downright malevolence at worst, press coverage after the storm became an orgy of feigned consternation and self-righteous repudiation hurled like brickbats in a riot. And their target was exclusively (while not surprisingly) FEMA and the Bush administration. It likelwise became a convenient if not gruesome political bludgeon of the Democrats. Myopic reporting by vampiric news crews culling New Orleans for misery became a game entertained by the network news staffs, who were the only people entertained. The American public bore witness to imagined horror; an invisible travesty consisting of roving hordes of murderous cannibals, mass looting, rape and murder. The anarchy at the city's two major hurricane shelters became legendary as Americans conjured scenes of the LA riots being replayed in the darkness of the SuperDome, while a Romero remake was being realized in the flooded streets outside. 10,000 were dead, said Mayor Nagin. And the press played a proverbial game of badminton with that number until it was 25,000 dead... as bad as the Indian tsunami for some, and even another Holocaust in the eyes of others.
Yet it was all a lie. As Hugh Hewitt points out in his latest Weekly Standard column,
At this point there is no disputing that media hysteria overwhelmed most of the mainstream media's talking heads and even their old school newspaper reporters and editors. The only question is whether the mainstream media will admit that it suffered another pratfall in full public view.
Hugh was on the PBS News Hour last night discussing the subject of Katrina coverage with fellow journalists from CBS and the Times-Picayune. There amidst the usual naval-gazing, he reiterated his view with an appropriate degree of admonition toward his fellow journalists who were not, as Hewitt submitted, simply covering a disaster. By painting a misleading picture of confusion and chaos, they were in fact contributing to a catastrophe. That being the case, how can the American people trust the Press to get any story right? The incompetence and malfeasance extends from local policy to the Iraq War, where a constant misrepresentation of the situation might very well be emboldening insurgency and promoting mass murder, while threatening the safety and security of the United States both at home and abroad. It is a profound point and one that should be carefully considered before affording another ingot of respect to the likes of Dan rather and his generation of pathetic media proteges.
DON'T COUNT ON IT. Discussing the meltdown on MSNBC on September 27, reporter Heath Allen defended the hysterical reporting, arguing that, "[I]t's the responsibility of the photojournalist to capture that and put it on television because those people at that point needed help no matter what was true, what was false, what was exaggerated."
Thus is established the "fake but necessary" corollary to the Rathergate doctrine of "fake but true."
The reign of the fourth estate has been collapsing for years. Rather was one pillar... rotted to the core and overbearing with bias and condescension, certain to crumble. And in the aftermath of Katrina, what little remains of its professional reputation and perceived objectivity is disintegrating faster than the chimera of benevolent humanitarianism in Louisiana. The ability of the mainstream media to manufacture reality has been eroded by the advent of the New Media using radio and the internet to challenge the aged aristocracy of arrogant omniscience. With it goes the propaganda wing of the American Left, much to the chagrin of that failing movement.
But, it is clearly not going quietly. With the analysis of botched Katrina coverage threatening to dominate the news cycle, the CIA Leak Probe redux, the suspicious indictment of Congressman DeLay, another media attack on Bill Bennett, combined with a new wave of violence in Iraq offers a maelstrom of convenient distraction. Attention must be hurried away from stories of Senators Reid and Schumer's malfeasance, the lurid impressions of Hurricane Politics and the degeneracy of mainstream American journalism championing the contemporary doctrine of "fake but necessary" to qualify an agenda that tastes, to most Americans, more and more like tinfoil.