Tom Tomorrow's Invisible-Hand-of-the-Free-Market-Man says: "We'll suggest that media coverage of the spill is the REAL catastrophe"
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"The TAXPAYERS can take care of the mess. . . That's how the free market WORKS, you know."
Of course a case could be made that media coverage of the Gulf disaster has been catastrophic, but not in the way I.H.O.R.F.M. Man means.
Speaking of which, Glenn Greenwald yesterday spotlighted a pair of moments of blinding self-revelation by media titans ("The media's understanding of its role") which would be comical if if they weren't so appalling. The first concerns CNN's Ed Henry, who seems startled to have taken some -- though not nearly enough -- flak for his giggly celebration of the jolly time he and other so-called journalists had at Vice President Biden's recent beach party (which Glenn wrote about in a post called "Our hard-core, adversarial press corps"), dismissing out of hand any suggestion that this sort of fraternizing might compromise the objectivity of said "journalists" in covering the administration. (NPR's Brooke Gladstone asked our Ed why he thinks the WHite House puts on such shindigs, if not to influence coverage. "Maybe they just want to get to know us as people sometimes," suggests Ed. If we
The other example, though, has to do with our immediate subject, media coverage of the Gulf disaster. Sunday on Meet the Press David Gregory interviewed presidential adviser David Axelrod and became obsessed, in connection with the administration's about-to-be-announced insistence that BP establish an escrow fund to finance its acknowledged obligations to disaster victims in the Gulf area, which would have to be administered independently, with the question of whether the president "trusts" BP CEO Tony Hayward. Axelrod tried in vain to explain that the issue has nothing to do with trust, but only with accountability, making sure that the company lives up to its obligations. Gregory insists, "It doesn't sound like there's a lot of faith there at the moment," and Axelrod replies, "Well, our job is to hold them accountable, David, and that's what we're going to do."
Axelrod is explaining exactly what the media is supposed to do concerning political officials if they are going to fulfill the function they like to pretend they have, and Gregory is simply incapable even of understanding what's being explained. It's as though it's a completely foreign concept that he's never encountered or thought about before.
Does anyone have any reason to doubt that the concept is utterly foreign to Gregory? After all, the march of history, the stuff that makes up the "news," isn't about complicated stuff like issues and confiicting interests and power, it's about, you know, people. Like Ed Henry thinks the White House wants to get to know the working stiffs who cover them as. Jest folks.
"It's not that these media figures fail to perform their assigned function or consciously decide that they won't," Glenn concludes.
They don't even conceive of their purpose in this way, because holding government officials accountable is not actually their purpose. With some accidental exceptions, the corporations which own these media outlets don't choose people for these positions who want to or who will perform these accountability functions. They choose the ones who have no interest in doing so, no ability to do so, and who simply won't -- and thus don't. Gregory and Henry don't succeed in their corporations despite their failure to do their jobs of holding government officials accountable; they succeed because they do their job, which doesn't include that function.