Rolling Stone 'Lesson of History'? Conservative 'Falsehood' Should Be Banned from News Pages

With its hippie origins, it probably shouldn't be surprising that Rolling Stone magazine thinks that a responsible journalist recognizes that "right-wing extremists" are truth-deprived, and should therefore be censored out of the conversation.

In the October 24 edition of the magazine, leftist historian Sean Wilentz wrote an article on "Right-wing extremism and the lessons of history." Apparently, one of those lessons is that America is let down by the press and its "twisted objectivity"  where "falsehoods get reported as simply one side of an argument." A "reform" strategy for Republicans and America would banish such nonsense from "news" pages:

How has a faction consisting of no more than four dozen House members come to exercise so much destructive power? The continuing abandonment of professional responsibilities by the nation's mainstream news sources – including most of the metropolitan daily newspapers and the television outlets, network and cable – has had a great deal to do with it. At some point over the past 40 years, the bedrock principle of journalistic objectivity became twisted into the craven idea of false equivalency, whereby blatant falsehoods get reported simply as one side of an argument and receive equal weight with the reported argument of the other side.

There is no shortage of explanations for the press's abdication: intimidation at the rise of Fox News and other propaganda operations; a deep confusion about the difference between hard-won objectivity and a lazy, counterfeit neutrality; and the poisonous effects of the postmodern axiom that truth, especially in politics, is a relative thing, depending on your perspective in a tweet. Whatever the explanation, today's journalism has trashed the tradition of fearless, factual reporting pioneered by Walter Lippmann, Edward R. Murrow and Anthony Lewis.

Fox is a "propaganda operation." Rolling Stone is where you go for Truth. These people don't believe in a concept of "hard-won objectivity." This simply means that conservatives would have to "win" their half of news coverage by being reasonably liberal, like Jon Huntsman, or David Frum. Wilentz associates conservatism with the decay of the GOP:

A press devoted to searching for and reporting the truth, wherever it might lead, would have kept the public better informed of the basic details of the government shutdown and debt-ceiling showdowns. It also would have reported seriously the hard truths of the Tea Party "insurgency," including how it was largely created and has since been bankrolled by oil-and-gas moguls like David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries, and by a panoply of richly endowed right-wing pressure groups like Dick Armey's FreedomWorks and Jim DeMint's Heritage Foundation.

It also would have reported on the basic reason for the hard right's growing domination of the Republican Party, which has been the decay of the party at every level, including what passes for its party leadership. No figure exemplifies the problem better than the GOP's highest-ranking official, Speaker John Boehner, whose background and politics have largely escaped scrutiny.

In the Obama era, "constraints" should be imposed by journalists to avoid "propping up false equivalency" on the Republican side:

In 2012, Republicans ran worst among those national constituencies that are growing the fastest – from Latinos to youth – and in democratic politics, demography is pretty much destiny. One reason for the Republicans' ferocity is their sense that their time is inexorably running out.

Institutional reform could provide constraints that the Republican Party has long since lost. Changing the Senate rules to curtail filibustering and expediting the nomination process, for example, would halt some of the most outrageous obstructionism evident since 2008. The rise of a different kind of mainstream press, devoted to telling the plain, unvarnished truth, without fear or favor, instead of propping up a false equivalency and calling it objectivity, would also be a great improvement.

At least they're bold enough to insist that their "reform" of  journalism is required to elect Democrats and defeat conservatives.

Tim Graham's picture