Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dysfunctional?

Josh Marshall departed from his usual equanimity a week or so ago. Laying into a piece by Mort Kondracke, he uttered this shrill observation:
This is noxious, risible, fetid thinking. But there it is. That's the story they want to tell. The whole place is rotten down to the very core.
'They' being pundits and 'place' being Washington.

There's more and more recognition in even the middle of the political spectrum that the national news media is not 'fair and balanced'. But the reasons given for their bias and omissions is rarely explored, when it is, the most usual explanation is similar to that of Bob Somerby, who over the years has done yeoman's work in documenting the greatest hits of the media circus.

Somerby:
In the wake of Sunday’s reports in the New York Times about the Judith Miller matter, many observers have clucked about the paper’s, dysfunctional conduct. But the Times has been a dysfunctional mess for years—at least back to its still-unexplained Whitewater stories, which began in 1992. In fact, the perfumed stars of our mainstream “press” have been weirdly dysfunctional for years. We’d guess that that’s the inevitable result of too much fame and too much money—but the clownishness has been standard for years. For some reason, most career liberals kept their mouths shut when this clowning was aimed at Clinton and Gore. Now, liberals sometimes protest a bit too much—and profess an amazing amazement at the press corps’ dysfunctional habits.
Somerby calls the NYT and the press corps 'dysfunctional' and guesses that is caused by "too much fame and too much money".

I propose another way of looking at the situation, the press corps is very functional, and the fame and money are the rewards of being functional. The difference here is, what is functional, and what is dysfunctional, in other words, what is the function of the press in our society?

Is it to inform the public about the most important events of the day and the functioning of government? Or is it something else?

The function of the press is to generate public opinion. It is to selectively take the events of the day and the functioning of government and generate a world view, and then place the reader in that world view and to tell him what to think, what to get excited about, and what to ignore.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are choosing the Noam Chomsky "Manufacturing Consent" view of the MSM. I think that they are both right, but it matters how you define the MSM role. It also matters when you choose the people to whom you refer. Some are often dysfunctional when it comes to actually acting as they are supposed to act: informing the publlic as accurately as possible. Some are functional in misleading the public and making up things to report.

For instance, if you look at MoDo or Rich, you see them attack Al Gore viciously and give w a pass. When w lives down to his actual abilities and inclinations they are shocked and appalled and say so. Then there are those that keep riding "the Straight Talk" express though that bus had a wreck a long time ago. Certainly the big money and fame has a great deal to do with whatever course anyone of them chooses.

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