December 26, 2009

JOURNALISM WATCH: OBJECTIVITY

Glenn Greenwald annoys a whole lot of people by doing what they are not: holding everybody to the same standard. It's what a good prosecutor does. It's also what a good journalist should do. But as the sense of exceptionalism has swept across our societies, the ideas and ideals that were sold to us, pre-packaged and processed, have been buried under a sludge of self-righteousness. Case in point is that delightful piece of shit that is the New York Times (for America), as Greenwald dissects in this post.

As I documented back in May, a Nexis search of media outlets finds that "Roxana Saberi" -- the American journalist detained for three months by Iran and then quickly given a trial and appeal -- was mentioned 2,201 times during the first two months of her ordeal alone; by contrast "Sami al-Haj" was mentioned a grand total of 101 times during the first six years of his lawless detention at Guantanamo.  The short imprisonment of an American journalist by a hated nation merits a full-on media blitz from the American press; the imprisonment of a foreign journalist by the U.S. Government merits almost nothing.  Indeed, Stelter's own paper ran countless stories on Saberi, but other than this very brief 2002 mention of an Al-Jazeera statement regarding al-Hajj, it did not publish a single news article mentioning his imprisonment until he was released. 

So just consider the record here.  The New York Times will frequently label what other governments do as "torture" but steadfastly refuses to use that term for what the American government did.  It promiscuously accuses foreign countries of "human rights atrocities" but self-righteously objects when that term is applied to our own government even after it abducts, disappears, lawlessly imprisons, and tortures people even to the point of death.  It accords extreme deference and respect to the claims of government officials even when those claims are patently false.  In other words, The New York Times' journalistic practices create -- either by design or effect -- the false impression that torture and human rights abuses are things that other governments do, but not our own.  Who is it exactly, then, who is departing from "journalistic objectivity"?
What Greenwald doesn't realise is, of course, that we are exceptional. Holding us to the same standards as everybody else? Please! Has he never watched Fox News?