Monday, May 12, 2003
Paul Krugman, media critic: New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, in the midst of the revelations of Jayson Blair's journalistic deceits and forgeries turns his eyes to bad journalism and comes up with -- every American media outlet except the Times.
[A] funny thing happened during the Iraq war: many Americans turned to the BBC for their TV news. They were looking for an alternative point of view -- something they couldn't find on domestic networks, which, in the words of the BBC's director general, "wrapped themselves in the American flag and substituted patriotism for impartiality."
"Many?" Paul Krugman and a few of his friends? Nielson Ratings of the war coverage on cable (BBC America isn't broadcast) had Fox News on top, followed by CNN and then MSNBC. BBC America can only be found in a very limited way in the United States -- both satellite networks offer it, and some cable companies offer it as part of their high-priced digital service.
Memo to Krugman: Maybe the BBC director general (a curiously militant title, no?) is a little biased towards his network's coverage of the war.
Leave aside the rights and wrongs of the war itself, and consider the paradox. The BBC is owned by the British government, and one might have expected it to support that government's policies. In fact, however, it tried hard -- too hard, its critics say -- to stay impartial. America's TV networks are privately owned, yet they behaved like state-run media.
One might have expected a government-funded media source to parrot the government line -- if it was a third-world dictatorship. How can Krugman even live in a country with PBS and NPR and "expect" Britain's BBC to be somehow different? It's more curious to me that the U.S. and Britain are probably the only two countries on this planet that fund critics of the government.
As far as the staying impartial -- some of the people in the midst of the war didn't see them as impartial, but as blatantly anti-war and unfair. The crew of the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal turned off the BBC and switched to Rupert Murdoch's Sky News.
According to a "senior rating" on the Ark Royal: "The BBC always takes the Iraqis' side. It reports what they say as gospel but when it comes to us it questions and doubts everything the British and Americans are reporting. A lot of people on board are very unhappy."
What explains this paradox? It may have something to do with the China syndrome. No, not the one involving nuclear reactors — the one exhibited by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation when dealing with the government of the People's Republic.
In the United States, Mr. Murdoch's media empire — which includes Fox News and The New York Post — is known for its flag-waving patriotism. But all that patriotism didn't stop him from, as a Fortune article put it, "pandering to China's repressive regime to get his programming into that vast market." The pandering included dropping the BBC's World Service — which reports news China's government doesn't want disseminated — from his satellite programming, and having his publishing company cancel the publication of a book critical of the Chinese regime.
I'm no fan of the communist Chinese government, or NewsCorp's (or any other company's) pandering to the Chinese for profit. But many politicians, both Democrat and Republican, have advocated doing business in China almost any way they can, in the belief that it will bring political reform to that country.
As to the rest of Krugman's piece. You need to read no farther than the next two sentences to dismiss all he has to say.
Can something like that happen in this country? Of course it can.
Krugman is trapped in his own ultra-liberal dreamworld. Krugman conjectures that the administration and the Federal Communications Commission can/will conspire to punish media outlets that investigate or attack the president. And, in the wake of such punishment there will only be silence from the vast media world as they appease the administration.
Don't bet on it.
There's no lack of attacks on Bush from diverse media sources, including the Times, the Times-owned Boston Globe, MSNBC's Phil Donahue (before his inability to get decent ratings did him in), ABC's Peter Jennings, CBS's Dan Rather, The Nation, Mother Jones, etc. ad infinitum
Once again, media criticism is not Krugman's strong point.