Yet Another Journalist Says Lying Is A-OK
"MSNBC's Toure: Lying to a 'Corporation' Like Amazon Is 'Not Really' Lying," as spotted by Ken Shepherd at Newsbusters:
During a panel discussion on Amazon.com offering discounts to consumers who are parents -- a discount mechanism completely on the honor system since the company cannot verify claims of parenthood -- MSNBC The Cycle co-host Toure Neblett justified lying to take advantage of the discount, saying "nobody was getting hurt here."
"If a lie is being told to a corporation, it's not really a lie," Neblett quipped, shortly after calling a lie about qualifying for the discount "a noble lie." For his part, Business Insider writer Josh Barro also excused dishonestly benefiting from the discount because such discount gimmicks are "price discrimination" and because brick-and-mortar Amazon competitors are supposedly the victims of the cutthroat corporate suits at Amazon. [watch the video excerpt at Newsbusters]
But Neblett is himself a paid corporate representative, of Comcast, the parent company of NBC-Universal. If he thinks it's OK to lie to a corporation, then the reverse must be OK as well from his perspective: In other words, that it's fine for a corporation and its spokesmen -- such as Neblett -- to lie to its customers. And given the deep interconnections between NBC and the Obama White House, presumably, Neblett must believe that this sort of lying is acceptable as well, from a politician:
It's a relatively new development for journalists to admit that lying to the public isn't a bad thing, but it's a rapidly growing phenomenon, as sophistry becomes an increasingly accepted practice in the MSM, to the point where it's openly talked about by those who employ it.
Allow me to repost liberally (pardon the pun) from an item I wrote back in August of 2010, when Jonathan Strong, then of the Daily Caller, caught JournoList member Matt Yglesias advocating lying, via this tweet:
As Strong wrote in response:
Liberal blogger Matt Yglesias likes to call his political opponents “dishonest,” but in a revealing exchange on the website Twitter Friday he advocated lying for political purposes.
“Fighting dishonesty with dishonesty is sometimes the right thing for advocates to do, yes,” said Yglesias.
The exchange, with Washington Examiner writer Mark Hemingway, came on the heels of a debate between the two on transportation policy.
Yglesias pressed his point with another conservative writer, saying, “Do you really think deception is immoral in all circumstances?”
In an interview, Yglesias said he was not referring to his own conduct as a blogger for the nonpartisan think tank, the Center for American Progress, in advocating dishonesty.
Asked who he meant by “advocates,” Yglesias said, “Politicians, things like that.” Not bloggers? “Not me. No I don’t think that’s conducive to what I do. I’m trying to inform people, so I try to present them with accurate information,” Yglesias said.
“What I write on my blog is honest,” Yglesias said.
Well, so you say. And of course, that’s far from the only time in recent years that the Ruling Class media has advocated a little tabloid Taqiyya. As we’ve mentioned before, legacy media house organ Editor & Publisher ran a piece in 2007 that advocated similar tactics for the manmade global warming crowd titled “Climate Change: Get Over Objectivity, Newspapers.”
Bill O’Reilly: “I want to ask you flat out, do you think President Clinton’s an honest man?”
Dan Rather: “Yes, I think he’s an honest man.”
O’Reilly: “Do you, really?”
Rather: “I do.”
O’Reilly: “Even though he lied to Jim Lehrer’s face about the Lewinsky case?”
Rather: “Who among us has not lied about something?”
O’Reilly: “Well, I didn’t lie to anybody’s face on national television. I don’t think you have, have you?”
Rather: “I don’t think I ever have. I hope I never have. But, look, it’s one thing – “
O’Reilly: “How can you say he’s an honest guy then?”
Rather: “Well, because I think he is. I think at core he’s an honest person. I know that you have a different view. I know that you consider it sort of astonishing anybody would say so, but I think you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things.”
— Exchange on Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, May 15, 2001.
So why should anyone trust us journalists? Actually, you shouldn't, as we'll explore in a moment, if you trust us just enough to click to the next page.
As Glenn Reynolds wrote back in 2004 when Dan Rather cooked the books at CBS, "all fun aside, I think there are some important lessons for Big Media -- and for everyone else -- in the rise of the blogosphere. They stem from the fact that bloggers operate on the Internet, where arguments from authority are difficult since nobody knows whether you're a dog":
In short, it's the difference between high-trust and low-trust environments.
The world of Big Media used to be a high-trust environment. You read something in the paper, or heard something from Dan Rather, and you figured it was probably true. You didn't ask to hear all the background, because it wouldn't fit in a newspaper story, much less in the highly truncated TV-news format anyway, and because you assumed that they had done the necessary legwork. (Had they? I'm not sure. It's not clear whether standards have fallen since, or whether the curtain has simply been pulled open on the Mighty Oz. But they had names, and familiar faces, so you usually believed them even when you had your doubts.)
The Internet, on the other hand, is a low-trust environment. Ironically, that probably makes it more trustworthy.
That's because, while arguments from authority are hard on the Internet, substantiating arguments is easy, thanks to the miracle of hyperlinks. And, where things aren't linkable, you can post actual images. You can spell out your thinking, and you can back it up with lots of facts, which people then (thanks to Google, et al.) find it easy to check. And the links mean that you can do that without cluttering up your narrative too much, usually, something that's impossible on TV and nearly so in a newspaper.
(This is actually a lot like the world lawyers live in -- nobody trusts us enough to take our word for, well, much of anything, so we back things up with lots of footnotes, citations, and exhibits. Legal citation systems are even like a primitive form of hypertext, really, one that's been around for six or eight hundred years. But I digress -- except that this perhaps explains why so many lawyers take naturally to blogging).
You can also refine your arguments, updating -- and even abandoning them -- in realtime as new facts or arguments appear. It's part of the deal.
This also means admitting when you're wrong. And that's another difference. When you're a blogger, you present ideas and arguments, and see how they do. You have a reputation, and it matters, but the reputation is for playing it straight with the facts you present, not necessarily the conclusions you reach. And a big part of the reputation's component involves being willing to admit you're wrong when you present wrong facts, and to make a quick and prominent correction.
When you're a news anchor, you're not just putting your arguments on the line -- you're putting yourself on the line. Dan Rather has a problem with that. For journalists of his generation, admitting an error means admitting that you've violated people's trust. For bloggers, admitting an error means you've missed something, and now you're going to set it right.
What people in the legacy media need to ask themselves is, which approach is more likely to retain credibility over time? I think I know the answer. I think Dan Rather does, too.
My advice for consumers of journalism has always been to flip the Gipper's advice on its head -- "verify and only then trust," and even then, as the above examples highlight, don't trust too much.
Fortunately, based on a 2010 poll from Gallup, the public agreed:
Americans continue to express near-record-low confidence in newspapers and television news -- with no more than 25% of Americans saying they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in either. These views have hardly budged since falling more than 10 percentage points from 2003-2007.
To bring things back to 2013, this fall, once the healthcare cancellation notices began going out, we became aware that NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN were lying to us in 2009 and 2010, along with the president, whom Barbara Walters of ABC admitted this week that she and the rest of old media considered "the next messiah,” when they attempted to sell us on the joys of Obamacare. And now that the jig is up, and the charade is visible for everyone to see, Bill Whittle in his latest Afterburner video notes that for Obama and his minions, it's the end of the beginning -- and no thanks to the MSM, Bill adds:
Many more examples of the "objective" media claiming that either slanting stories to one side, or advocating outright lying rounded up here.