Inaccurate and Bigoted Editorial Evokes “The Paranoid Style”

July 21st, 2014 · 2 Comments · economy, environment, health care reform, immigration, inequality, journalism, regulation, role of government, tax policy

By Arthur Alpert

Wow! What a July 4 editorial! I found it angry, bitter, twisted, deeply ignorant and inaccurate.

That is to say, very satisfying.

Let me explain. I have been reading the Albuquerque Journal closely for years but cannot figure out why it’s an insult to journalism.

Why do the editors regularly violate its simplest requirements, like accuracy and fairness?

This much I know – it’s not what you think.

It is true the daily habitually makes news decisions politically. And that its narratives – oligarchic in domestic matters and neo-conservative in foreign affairs – emerge sharply from what the editors decide is news, as well as opinion pages that list sharply to starboard.

In Journal-world, Government is responsible for 98 percent of what’s wrong with the world, labor unions the remainder.

And it is true the editors lately find lotsa space for multiple stories on Benghazi, a concocted IRS “scandal” and lately, some shots across Hillary Clinton’s bow.

Further, our daily bans stories on the economy’s systemic problems, on Wall Street’s political power, Corporate America’s massive tax evasion and one with New Mexico resonance – how Governor Brownback’s sweeping tax-cuts are cratering the Kansas economy.

So I understand when friends say the Journal is the Republican playbook plus sports and comics. But you know what? Even if the Journal were partisan that would not explain its journalistic malfeasance.

For you can be partisan without trashing journalism. The very Republican Wall Street Journal offers excellent news reporting.

So if the Albuquerque Journal were partisan, that wouldn’t account for the daily trespasses against journalistic decency we’ve documented here over the years.

And if the Journal were partisan, so what? From the perspective of a journalism critic, a partisan newspaper is unfortunate – i.e., tough on local candidates – but not tragic.

What’s scary is an organ that rejects the journalistic goal of describing the world accurately, that foists a false picture upon readers. Journal management (not its reporters) is dedicated to this deeper dereliction of duty.

And I’ve never understood why.

I’ve perused the editorials for clues to no avail because they’re corporate statements, rationally argued, impersonal.

Once in a long while, though, like this Independence Day, the Journal has featured an editorial overflowing with personality and this got me thinking again about the elusive “why.”

It was the anger, the snarl that hit me hardest. Seemed like a funny way to mark Independence Day; we Americans traditionally celebrate joyfully with fireworks, hot dogs, bunting and editorials burnishing the principles in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

The Washington Post, for example, educed from the Declaration’s editing process that we need to hear more from citizens, not leaders. The Santa Fe New Mexican seized upon the spirit of ’76 to implore that Americans channel Emma Lazarus, “have a heart” for kids stuck on our southern border.

No anger.

Of course, the Journal might have published an editorial berating those who would betray the Declaration of Independence, which held, remember, that “all men are created equal” and that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

But the Journal editorialist didn’t target the growing inequality in our land, reminiscent of the Old World the Founders spurned. Nor did he or she note they created a government, not a business. And of the ongoing SCOTUS-enabled drive in some states to keep voters from the polls – subverting “consent of the governed” – the writer made no mention.

No, he or she tacked in quite another direction:

Guatemalans, said the Journal editorial writer, keep coming to the States. “They, apparently, aren’t persuaded by continual harping by President Obama and his followers about all the things wrong with our nation, including income inequality and the plight of the poor and of minorities.”

How weird. Bent. Twisted.

Let’s parse it in detail:

• The editorialist sneers at “President Obama and his followers.” Enthusiasm for the President fluctuates, of course, but he was twice elected by with more than 51 percent of the popular vote, the first since Ike. So the editorialist is insulting millions of Americans.

In my experience, one who sneers possesses some superior, esoteric knowledge or thinks so. I don’t want to read too much into it, but the popular lunatic fringe assertion that “we need to take back our country” came to mind.

• “Harping?” Given the incompatibility of extreme inequality and democracy in world history, why “harping?” It is patriotic to argue against a clear and present danger. So unless the writer can identify a nation where Gilded Age disparities in wealth co-exist with democracy, we must assume his or her ignorance.

Broad ignorance, I should write, for the sentence also seems blind to the democratic process by which we, the people, try to fix what’s wrong with the nation. Per the Declaration and Constitution, that is a citizens’ job.

Unless, of course, we’re already perfect.

From ignorance let us move to inaccuracy. The writer was wrong; President Obama has rarely taken up cudgels for “the poor and minorities.” He’s emphasized helping the shrinking middle class.

The mistake, I suspect, reflects a conviction common to extremists – knowing the Truth, I don’t have to get the facts straight.

Also, and obviously, the factual error suggests the Journal checks its editorial copy for accuracy as carefully as it does Op Ed pieces, which means not at all.

Thus far we have an editorial that’s angry, sneering, ignorant and inaccurate. As for the premise, it is stupid.

Look at the headline:

“Why celebrate the Fourth? Try asking a Guatemalan.”

The US is a better place than Guatemala? Thanks for the bulletin. It’s good news. But has anyone said otherwise?

Oh, and incidentally, you think the 1954 CIA/United Fruit coup against Guatemalan democracy might partially explain why Guatemalan parents consign their kids to danger, maybe death?

Hold it. Stop the presses. Since I wrote that last paragraph, the Journal published Winthrop Quigley on the same subject. (UpFront, July 15, Page One).

Please read it; Quigley excellently traces some of today’s immigrant crisis back to our nation’s support of Guatemalan fascism. This use of history is not the Journal’s forté. Consider the numerous articles blaming today’s VA health crisis on the Obama administration; I’ve seen no news or opinion piece pointing out there’d be no waiting lines if we hadn’t attacked Iraq.

But I digress.

Back to the Journal’s brilliant discovery we’re better than Guatemala. It’s not an argument. It’s chest thumping. Super-patriots substitute it for thinking. Which doesn’t mean it lacks purpose. The idea is to equate criticism of Privilege with lack of patriotism.

The Journal editorialist is using an age-old tactic of those who fear or hate democracy, including the know-nothing Right in our own country. And its proper name is bigotry.

Hmmm. Angry, twisted, stupid, inaccurate and bigoted. What’s not to love?

This editorial brought to mind a 1964 book, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”, by historian Richard J. Hofstader. Noting it was neither new nor necessarily right wing, Hofstader said:

“I call it the paranoid style, simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.”

Ah, we’re creeping up on the “why.”

But first permit an insert. Here’s what I’ve learned in life and the news business. Paranoia leads to Certainty. Certainty makes the True Believer. For True Believers, the end justifies the means.

That could explain it, no?

The True Believer’s conviction that the end justifies the means would be consistent – as they say in TV courtrooms – with what the editors do to trash journalism:

Like the misleading headlines, politicized placement of stories, misuse of polls and Op Ed articles supplied by the oligarchy to extol oligarchic causes, published sans ID.

Plus the stories never assigned and …

Darn, there I go again. You don’t need another list of Journal insults to journalistic decency.

Suffice it to say that, courtesy of the Journal’s July 4 editorial, I think – certainty is hard – I think I understand “why” the Journal trashes journalism:

There’s a True Believer (two, three?) in the hierarchy for whom the end justifies the means.

Make sense? Please tell me what you think.

 

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Gene Hill

    I know nothing about the Journal’s internals, but I’m always curious about whether sometimes the editorial bosses just cave in and lets the owner(s) spew forth directly.

    Ever since they endorsed George Bush Sr.’s reelect in 1992, saying he was a “caring and decent man,” I have wondered that.

    Because this one was such a nasty piece of work, does anyone think it’s possible they might have let old man Lang himself pen it?

  • Michael Garcia

    How bad is it? The question is: where do you start? As you mentioned, the jab at “Obama and his supporters…. harping about America…” In addition to the mean spirited hit on the Guatemalans who, it seems, according
    to the Journal, are always criticizing the U.S.
    As you mentioned, there’s no mention of the CIA-aided coup that caused so many horrible problems (and makes the whining about complaining Guatemalans seem rather trite).
    No mention of who instigated “the endless war” in Iraq, or who created the stalemate in Congress.
    What utter BS this cruel shot at certain Americans is. No wonder the editorial was unsigned. I’d be embarrassed to sign my name on this garbage.

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