The Flippant Abandon of the TV Men

Speaking of Margaret Dumont impersonations, after first pitching a hissy fit on Twitter last Friday over Andrew Breitbart being hired by ABC, NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen pours his initial inchoate rush of anger into the lengthier form of a blog post on his PressThink site. But get a load of his opening:


Wake up, journalists. You have no magic exemption from the requirements of political maturity. There are people out there who seek your destruction, and they are not evenly distributed.

“We think it’s important informationally. We are not allowing ourselves to think politically.”

Those are the words of former Washington Post editor Leonard Downie, explaining to author Matt Miller how decisions are made about what belongs on the front page. Not allowing ourselves to think politically is a piece of pressthink that fascinates me, and this is a post about that.

I understand what Downie meant. He meant that the news should be, as far as humanly possible, an ideology-free zone. In making up the front page, the editors of the Washington Post are not trying to advance an agenda they have, or solve a problem they think needs solving, or rally people to a cause they find worthy. They are not fighting for justice or against the enemies of reason. They have cooler heads. They are thinking informationally.

This is not the JournoList you were looking for. It can go about its business. Move along.

This is also fun:

But this deluded and criminally naive estimate could only move forward because pro journalists equate “we are not allowing ourselves to think politically” with a commitment to truth, fairness and informational integrity. That equation is false, its reasoning rotten. The American press simply has to wake up to the fact that it has enemies within the political culture. Why is this so hard to grasp? Agnew was one, and the children of Agnew are now many. Culture war and the paranoid style in American politics cannot operate without elites to rage against. A growing portion of the Republican coalition has thus incorporated into its day-to-day agenda an attack on the establishment press. That’s what being “committed to the destruction of the old media guard” means.


Yes, Spiro Agnew really did have it on the for old media. As he famously said:

I’m concerned about the little demigods of TV who make an instant analysis of complicated events. There should be bounds on what TV men do, so much of which is delivered with flippant abandon.

Oh wait, that was actually Douglas Cater, special assistant to President Johnson in 1968. What Agnew actually said was:

“We have in this country two big television networks, NBC and CBS. We have two news magazines, Newsweek and Time. We have two wire services, AP and UPI. We have two pollsters, Gallup and Harris. We have two big newspapers — the Washington Post and the New York Times. They’re all so damned big they think they own the country.”

Whoops, that was Johnson himself. Yes, the children of Lyndon Johnson are everywhere!

Related: Audio of Breitbart With Dennis Miller: “ABC News, Tea Parties, and the Bullying Left.”

Update: Reading Rosen’s post, you’re left with the impression that as far as he’s concerned, Andrew, John Nolte, and Dana Loesch are about to hop into a B-58 and recreate the conclusion of Fail Safe, with ABC’s New York headquarters programmed into the guidance computer* as Ground Zero. But as with the nearly quarter of a century old Media Research Center, they simply want to hold them to their professed standard of at least attempting to be objective — and fair to both sides. It’s the left that seems determined to get people pulled off the air, as we’ve seen back to back in little more than a week’s time, with first Juan Williams, and now Andrew.


Related: John Hawkins rounds up “The Liberal Blogger Reaction To The Shellacking They Just Suffered.”

* I was about to say the CRM-114, but I didn’t want to mix competing Kennedy-era cold war movie references. I’m sure I could have worked Kirk Douglas in there as well, if I had Seven Days in May to think it over.


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