Thursday, March 12, 2009

A herd of independent minds

If I had to offer a single data point to validate the nightmare scenario outlined here, it would be this article.

Left Wing Journalists Celebrate Themselves
When you go looking for evidence that the journalistic establishment is blinded by a clueless leftism, you cannot ask for anything better than the I. F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence.

At a time when a sizable minority of the public thinks the press is too liberal, the elite of the guild decide to honor a man who never hid his leftism and who remained an apologist for Stalin decades after the purge trials, Ukrainian famine, and the pact with Hitler. (Stone signed a public letter to The Nation lauding Stalin as a bulwark against Hitler and a force for Peace just weeks before Ribbentrop and Molotov signed on the dotted line.)

If Izzy is a role model, the press will keep drifting left while audiences shrink. If the keepers of journalistic standards cannot see the difference between left-wing agitprop and honest analysis, what hope is there for righting the ship?

The grand poobahs of the guild probably do not recognize the contradiction between their claims of objectivity and their esteem for an unrepentant left-wing ideologue.

Nor can they reconcile the contradiction between their ritualistic denunciation of rightwing bloggers (they cannot be trusted because their work is shaped by their politics) and their high regard for I. F. Stone whose work was shaped by his (left-wing) politics.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was a one-time fan and subscriber to the I. F. Stone Weekly. His take on Stone is out of step with the usual hagiographies:

I remember thinking at the time that some of the stories were probably not true, and that he knew it, which did not diminish his delight in telling them. When you’re “speaking truth to power,” you need not be too scrupulous about the truths you’re speaking. Izzy Stone was a hard-of-hearing, thick-spectacled, quizzical little man who exuded delight in fighting the good fight, as he understood the fight. He had no difficulty in separating the children of light from the children of darkness, and there was no room for shadows or ambiguities.

And this is dead-on:

Sartre and Stone were lovers of freedom only in the sense that they adamantly insisted upon their own right to do what they wanted, while being indifferent to or even, as was often the case, celebrating the powers that enslaved and killed millions of others. This is not a “paradox.” This is a deep corruption of intellect and soul.

Come to think of it, an “I. F. Stone Medal for the Deep Corruption of the Journalistic Intellect and Soul” is not a bad idea. Certainly better than one for “Journalistic Independence.”

The many fans of I. F. Stone also face the difficult question of his relationship with Stalin’s secret police. The end of the Cold War triggered a flood of new information about Soviet intelligence activities. Contained in this voluminous (but incomplete) record are hints that Stone had a covert relationship with Stalin’s operatives.

The Stone-groupies did not react to these revelations with a hard-nosed determination to seek the truth no matter how unpleasant. Instead, they rose up in a righteous rage that anyone would dare question the integrity of their friend/mentor/icon Izzy the Great.

The nature of Stone’s relationship with the KGB is still shrouded in mystery. There is no proof that Stone took money from Stalin’s Gestapo. His defenders claim that this is PROOF that he was as pure as fresh-fallen snow. Apparently, they never heard that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. (It goes without saying that they have no interest in actually looking for more evidence.)

In their rush to exonerate Stone, they gloss over one glaring, incontrovertible contradiction in I. F. Stone’s career. They praise Stone’s resolute refusal to be sucked into the insider games of Washington journalism. They happily quote his dictum: ““You've really got to wear a chastity belt in Washington to preserve your journalistic virginity. Once the secretary of state invites you to lunch and asks your opinion, you're sunk.” Yet even his defenders admit that Stone had no problem lunching with Soviet intelligence operatives and sharing his opinion with them.

What kind of twisted worldview sees patriots like Dean Acheson or George Marshall as the vortex of corruption, but has no problem dining with Stalin’s secret policemen in order to exchange information?

That worldview, in and of itself, makes I. F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence a laughable award. That the journalistic guild sees it as a high honor tells us all we need to know about life inside the media bubble.

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