6.24.2010

journalism can still be journalism?

Laugh or Cry?

The media is a bad joke. The Fourth Estate rarely delivers anything other than its own ego, addiction to fear mongering and vapid celebrity perpetuation. Despite my appreciation for Rachel Maddow's attempts at straightforward talk, even her show still seems to all too often participate in the unproductive banter that is the bulk of TV news. While I understand the systems to be inherently flawed, incapable by their own design, I can't help but still want journalism to be the check its loftiest goal longs for it to be.

In this reality, my favorite news source has long been Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. Despite the fact that the show regularly relies on slapstick humor and celebrity interviews promoting their latest movie/book/sales pitch, there are consistently moments of hard-hitting truth and exasperation that give me some hope that Americans, hell humans, can be a little smarter than we are otherwise led to believe.

The recent brew-ha-ha over freelance journalist Michael Hastings' Rolling Stone interview/article about the United States' former head of the War in Afganistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has been interesting to follow as it unfolds. The media has been forced into a moment of self-reflection. A What the fuck? A journalist can actually report rather than regurgitate hackery talking points? No way moment. And this is more interesting than much of the catalyst article itself, which seems to have somehow been shocking in its obvious truth. Of course McCrystal and his staff are going to talk shit, of course some U.S. soldiers are going to want to just blow everything up, of course the military is going to want to sustain its own importance and yet be frustrated that such a tactic is getting them nowhere, of course they are also going to be angered by an American public (and in particular politicians) that largely avoids sending their own sons and daughters to war, an American public that most days manages to forget we are even at war--until it comes time to oh yeah that think about paying for it.

Still, Hastings' article does have its moments:

Today, as McChrystal gears up for an offensive in southern Afghanistan, the prospects for any kind of success look bleak. In June, the death toll for U.S. troops passed 1,000, and the number of IEDs has doubled. Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the fifth-poorest country on earth has failed to win over the civilian population, whose attitude toward U.S. troops ranges from intensely wary to openly hostile. The biggest military operation of the year – a ferocious offensive that began in February to retake the southern town of Marja – continues to drag on, prompting McChrystal himself to refer to it as a "bleeding ulcer." In June, Afghanistan officially outpaced Vietnam as the longest war in American history – and Obama has quietly begun to back away from the deadline he set for withdrawing U.S. troops in July of next year. The president finds himself stuck in something even more insane than a quagmire: a quagmire he knowingly walked into, even though it's precisely the kind of gigantic, mind-numbing, multigenerational nation-building project he explicitly said he didn't want.

Journalism can still be journalism? Accidents do happen.

Link to editoral commentary about the Rolling Stone interview, which has a link to the interview itself

Jon Stewart on the controversy/ McCrystal article

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