A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Monday, May 23, 2005

Chris Hanson Responds

To my email, the details of it are here.

My follow-up responses, thus far unanswered, follow his italicized comments. Mr. Hanson graciously gave me permission to publish his response.

In it he seems to be acknowledging that parts of the journalistic process are broken. Unfortunately, it seems to me that he is unwilling to accept the possibility that those parts are broken because of the ideological filter through which most MSM stories must pass.

On Rathergate:

"RATHER AND CBS HAD NO BUSINESS DOCUMENTS THEY COULD
NOT DETERMINE WERE AUTHENTIC, ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THE RED FLAGS
FROM THEIR OWN EXPERTS THAT YOU MENTIONED. IT IS LIKELY TO ME THAT
THE DOCUMENTS ARE FRAUDULENT, BUT THE BEST WAY TO DETERMINE THAT WOULD
BE TO FIND OUT WHO WAS PUSHING THEM. THAT ASPECT OF THE STORY GOT
LOST. THE RATHER MAPES RECKLESSNESS ALSO MADE THE QUESTION ABOUT
BUSH'S GUARD SERVICE GO BYE-BYE, WHICH IS UNFORTUNATE."


Right. You agree that it was bad reporting. So do the research. Based on all accounts, can you really say there is any story there? I suppose if you are willing to discount anything Bush's superior officers and contemporaries said, and at the same time assume the very worst, you would come to the conclusion that maybe there is some nefarious aspect to his service. This however, falls into the realm of reporting from and ideological framework, rather than objective one. Now granted, this is not something you are reporting, rather making a personal observation of, but so many journalists have indeed reported questions about Bush's Guard service for years, and have yet to dig up any incriminating evidence of wrong-doing.

To your larger point however, I completely agree. It is a similar problem I have with reference to Global Warming. Do I believe that we are looking at a catastrophe. No. Do I believe Global Temeratures are increasing? Yes. Do I believe human activity can influence global weather? Yes. My problem is that journalists have focused on what is increasingly shown to be bad science predicting catastrophic climate change in order to raise interest and get eyes on their broadcasts. As more of the drastic predctions pass us by like so many tabloid prophesies of the Rapture, the real and incredibly more interesting story of what humans can do to adjust the climate is lost, as is the level of seriousness with which a public takes its presumably responsible press.

Journalism today seems to be all about raising consciousness about the cause du jour. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly doesn't help things when at the same time they are lowering the level of debate to a "he said-she said" strata of reporting. There do exist objective facts, and journalists really owe it to their watchers and readers to dig up those facts, deadlines be damned.

On Easongate:

"THE VARIATIONS
IN THE ACCOUNTS HAD A LOT TO DO WITH THE GIVE AND TAKE AFTER FRANK
REACTED. GERGEN CONCLUDED THAT JORDAN REALIZED HE HAD SAID MORE THAN
HE SHOULD HAVE OR MEANT TO SAY, THEN WALKED BACK TO THE POSITION THAT
SOLDIERS HAD RECKLESSLY BUT ACCIDENTLY SHOT JOURNALISTS. BLOGGERS ON
THE QUEST TO OUST AN EVIL LIBERAL FOCUSED ON THE 'DELIBERATELY
TARGETED' REPORTS. A TRANSCRIPT WOULD GIVE US MORE CHANCE OF FIGURING
OUT WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. I BELIEVE THAT THE RECORDING WAS IN THE
POSSESS OF THE ORGANIZATION THAT SPONSORED THE CONFERENCE UNDER
RIDICULOUS RULES AGAINST QUOTING ANYONE. JORDAN SHOULD HAVE INSISTED
THAT THE TAPE BE RELEASED. HIS REFUSAL TO DO SO IS HYPOCRITICAL, GIVEN
HIS ROLE AS A JOURNALIST. BUT MY POINT STANDS. DEBATE MOVED ON QUICKLY
AND THE MATTER OF THE TAPE WAS QUICKLY FORGOTTEN."


I guess it depends on your defintion of "quickly"

Eason's comments in Davos were first revealed on Jan 28th, 2005.
Eason's resignation was Feb 11.

That is 2 full weeks in which CNN and Eason could have cleared the air. Debate online was unfortunately constrained to what he had been known to allege in the past as well as what had been reported of his most recent statements by various sources, all of which seemed to agree that, badly worded or not, Eason's claims were unsubstantiated and inflammatory.

Eason and CNN brought this on themselves, as you correctly point out. I have to disagree though that the debate was unfairly carried on by anyone. We did the best we could with the information we had.

In case you are interested, a timeline is here, including instances of his past statements showing a pattern in willful misrepresentation of the American and Israeli military and their treatment of journalists:

http://billroggio.com/easongate/archives/2005/02/an_eason_jordan.php

Let's face it. Further debate on this issue would have made Eason Jordan a pariah in his own country, had his previous statements recieved broad play. It wasn't hypocrisy that was at play in deciding to not release the tapes. It was self-preservation.

And on an inconsistency in my initial letter:

"THEN HOW DID YOU SEE MY ARTICLE?"

Excellent question. I spoke too broadly. I don't make a practice of turning to the MSM for my information, and when I do, I take it with a grain of salt until I have substantiated what is being reported. I followed a link to your piece from a blog (http://ace.mu.nu/) that disagreed with your representation of the Rather/Mapes conclusion. I don't watch any of the news broadcasts, network or cable, unless they happen to be on at work. I don't subscribe to newspapers. I do follow links to MSM reports that catch my eye, as this one did.

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