Carol Platt Liebau: What's Not Being Said

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

What's Not Being Said

It's a sad commentary on journalism that writers like Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post and Tim Rutten of the LA Times either can't get the facts right -- or else deliberately "misunderstand" them order to advance weak arguments.

Today, in his column, Robinson argues that both left and right wrongly believe that there is a "black America" (whatever; anyone could tell you that conservatives are far more likely than liberals to eschew the kind of identity politics that Robinson deplores, but he's not about to admit that). In order to make his argument, Robinson harkens back to a non-controversy generated by Media Matters about Bill O'Reilly and writes:

Why is O'Reilly under siege? Because he was shocked to learn that there exists in this country an upscale black-owned restaurant with an affluent African American clientele.

Please. Even Juan Williams -- a liberal African American to whom O'Reilly's remarks were directed -- clarified in a Time magazine piece that there was nothing racist about them. In fact, O'Reilly's point was the same as Robinson's: That upscale black-owned restaurants are little different than those catering to whites. And that information was readily obtainable through even a cursory internet search.

Similarly, Tim Rutten in the LA Times, disucssing free speech and the phony scandal surrounding Rush Limbaugh and the "phony soldier" comment writes:

Limbaugh has a baroque explanation of what he actually meant by those words, but you probably have to be a regular listener to his show to follow it.

Actually, you don't. You simply have to be able -- and, Mr. Rutten, willing -- to read the transcript and take the trouble to get to the truth. It shouldn't be too much to ask of a journalist, but then again, it does undermine Rutten's assertion that

Limbaugh regularly goes on the air and says cruel and offensive things about people of all sorts. Most Americans with a pulse, however, are abundantly clear on the fact that Rush talks a pretty mean game.

Where, exactly, is his evidence, or an example? Has Rutten listened to Rush? And what kinds of commentary is he labeling "offensive"? Rush's dialogue is often pointed, but I'm at a loss to understand what constitutes the "cruel and offensive" remarks that, according to Rutten, Rush engages in "regularly."

It's disconcerting how often one finds mistakes or intellectual dishonesty in pieces that even tangentially concern any matter about which the reader has (or is capable of obtaining) personal knowledge. It's enough to make you wonder what's inaccurate in the pieces where the reader has no such independent knowledge or the possibility of getting it.

Because we're all capable of reading Robinson's remarks and O'Reilly, the speciousness of Robinson's and Rutten's claims -- and their apparent willingness to swallow the Media Matters line without any independent research -- is disturbingly evident. What else are they (and other "journalists") getting wrong that we're not able to check for ourselves?


Blogger stackja1945 said...

Carol you ask: What else are they (and other "journalists") getting wrong that we're not able to check for ourselves?

I say everything from "journalists" I read today.

8:44 PM  

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