Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. You can’t be objective about Nixon.- Stockton
Martha Raddatz and the faux objectivity of journalists
Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian
Friday 12 October 2012 09.01 EDT
At best, “objectivity” in this world of journalists usually means nothing more than: the absence of obvious and intended favoritism toward either of the two major political parties. As long as a journalist treats Democrats and Republicans more or less equally, they will be hailed – and will hail themselves – as “objective journalists”.
But that is a conception of objectivity so shallow as to be virtually meaningless, in large part because the two parties so often share highly questionable assumptions and orthodoxies on the most critical issues. One can adhere to steadfast neutrality in the endless bickering between Democrats and Republicans while still having hardcore ideology shape one’s journalism.
The highly questionable assumptions tacitly embedded in the questions Raddatz asked illustrate how this works, as does the questions she pointedly and predictably did not ask.
That Iran is some major national security issue for the US is a concoction of the bipartisan DC class that always needs a scary foreign enemy. The claim is frequently debunked in multiple venues. But because both political parties embrace this highly ideological claim, Raddatz does, too. Indeed, one of the most strictly enforced taboos in establishment journalism is the prohibition on aggressively challenging those views that are shared by the two parties. Doing that makes one fringe, unserious and radical: the opposite of solemn objectivity.
Most of Raddatz’s Iran questions were thus snugly within this bipartisan framework. At one point, she even chided Biden for appearing to suggest that Iran may not be actively pursuing a nuclear weapon: “You are acting a little bit like they don’t want one”.
In sum, all of Raddatz’s questions were squarely within the extremely narrow – and highly ideological – DC consensus about US foreign policy generally and Iran specifically: namely, Iran is a national security threat to the US; it is trying to obtain nuclear weapons; the US must stop them; the US has the unchallenged right to suffocate Iranian civilians and attack militarily. As usual, the only question worth debating is whether a military attack on Iran now would be strategically wise, whether it would advance US interests.
One can say many things about the worldview promoted by her questions. That it is “objective” or free of ideology is most certainly not one of them.
Exactly the same is true of Raddatz’s statements and questions about America’s entitlement programs.
That social security is “going broke” – a core premise of her question – is, to put it as generously as possible, a claim that is dubious in the extreme. “Factually false” is more apt. This claim lies at the heart of the right-wing and neo-liberal quest to slash entitlement benefits for ordinary Americans – Ryan predictably responded by saying: “Absolutely. Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. These are indisputable facts.” – but the claim is baseless.
That Medicare is “going broke” is as dubious and controversial a claim as the one about social security. Numerous economists and fact-checking journalists have documented quite clearly why this claim is misleading in the extreme.
Yet this claim has also become DC orthodoxy. That is because, as the economist Dean Baker has explained, “Social security and Medicare are hugely important for the security of the non-rich population of the United States,” and “for this reason” many Washington media outlets and think tanks “hate them”.
Nonetheless, Raddatz announced this assertion as fact. That’s because she’s long embedded in the DC culture that equates its own ideological desires with neutral facts.
That is what this faux journalistic neutrality, whether by design or otherwise, always achieves. It glorifies highly ideological claims that benefit a narrow elite class (the one that happens to own the largest media outlets which employ these journalists) by allowing that ideology to masquerade as journalistic fact.
These establishment journalists are creatures of the DC and corporate culture in which they spend their careers, and thus absorb and then regurgitate all of the assumptions of that culture. That may be inevitable, but having everyone indulge the ludicrous fantasy that they are “objective” and “neutral” most certainly is not.