Failed Felsenthal

“Washington is a fine place for journalists to live as well as to brown-nose. It has plenty of the only type of people who can stand journalists — other journalists — and plenty of the only kind of people journalists get any real information from — other journalists.

— P.J. O’Rourke”

All the media is an echo chamber and all its reporters are merely mimes.

This truism was confirmed by my friend Brian Patrick, a tenured professor of communications and the charming chap who penned the academic foreword to my book Shooting The Bull. Brain speaks eloquently about the “cloud palace thinking” that permeates both the media and academia. He summarizes that as groups, they are simultaneously well informed and entirely misinformed. They reference only one another and anoint it as truth.

Succinctly stated, when you look for snakes you find snakes.

The politico-media complex is merely an extension of the phenomenon. When reporters with political viewpoints pen prose, they turn to people they believe have a clue, which by human nature tends to be the people with which they agree. If a liberal reporter (pardon the redundancy) needs a quote, they turn to a liberal politician (see references to “snakes” above). Reporters then report what they have had confirmed, namely their own biases.

This may explain a recent lack of journalism by Mark Felsenthal of Reuters. While reporting on the so-called “fiscal cliff” Mark remarked that congressional approval was a hindrance to raising the federal debt limit, and that Barack Obama shouldn’t have to wait for such inconveniences as checks and balances, separation of powers and the American aversion to monarchy. To substantiate his “reporting”, Mark mistakenly claimed:

“It was the reluctance of congressional Republicans to agree to such an increase in 2011 without deep spending cuts that brought the nation to the brink of default. The result was a historic lowering of the U.S. credit rating and a setback to the recovery from a recession that ended in 2009.”

People with multiple functioning dendra recall otherwise. Indeed, Standard and Poor’s, the firm that rocked the financial world by lowering Uncle Sam’s FICO score, actually said:

“The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics … More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.”

What are we then make of Mark’s ineffective analysis? Several possibilities come to mind. He could simply be ignorant – unaware of recent history. But this speaks against his standing as a journalist, albeit a profession with a reputation slightly below Satan’s. It could also be sloppy research skills, though Mark’s own organization, Reuters, reported the same S&P conclusions last year. We might assume Mark had a slight stroke while hammering the keys on his word whacker, but his LinkedIn profile makes me believe he is too young for such medical maladies.

The remaining explanation either places Felsenthal firmly in the cloud palace or on his knees directly in front of the President.

My reporter friends – for which I have a few too many – bemoan their falling fortunes as newspapers implode and citizen media continues to wrest control of the public conversation. Yet they stare with distain when I say reporting of the kind related here is the cause – that inaccurate, ineffective reporting and perfectly partisan prevarications have mortally wounded their source of moral authority, namely pursuit of the truth. When one’s strength becomes one’s weakness, one has nothing left.

So talking about a liberal slant to [the media] is a little like talking to a fish about water. The fish says, “Water? What’s water?” It’s just what we swim in.

— John Stossel

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