Thursday, January 13, 2011

Media Battle Over Tuscon Shooting Remarks

The best thing for safeguarding integrity in the media, it turns out, is the media.

Krugman: "Was it something I said?"
Following a column by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman about the possibility that the recent shooting in Arizona could be attributed to the incendiary rhetoric associated with the Tea Party and far-right groups, the Wall Street Journal editorialist James Taranto lashes back with this excoriating rebuke, lambasting the Princeton professor over what he sees as Krugman's hypocritical rejection of "eliminationist rhetoric." 

James Taranto, flagbearer of civility
EurAmerican is no stranger to Krugman's writings (see here), but agrees that Krugman went too far. I should hasten to observe, however, that a level-headed reading of both Krugman's and Taranto's pieces could judge them both as impassioned, which isn't actually bad, and exaggerated, which is.

Krugman's controversial comment is as follows, pulled from a piece called "Climate of Hate," a not-unironic title given the acrimony it has spawned:

"Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.
"And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.
Here's part of Taranto's response several days later in the WSJ:

"If the broader claim--that the "rhetoric" of Republican politicians and the nonliberal media was to blame for last Saturday's act of mass murder--is true, why can't it be presented without false factual assertions? Krugman's little lie undermines the big lie he and his newspaper are attempting to purvey.
"Krugman and his colleagues on the Times editorial board are not skilled enough to be effective liars. That is far from the worst thing you can say about newspapermen. But when did the people who run the New York Times forget that their job--their duty--is to tell the truth?"

We'll see what happens in the coming days as to whether Krugman will apologize and retract his remark, or whether he and his publisher will dig in their heels and lead the charge against the Wall Street Journal and followers toward a bitterly vitriolic rhetorical bloodbath. Given they're two of the finest papers in New York, if not the world, it's sure to be a spectacular fight. And maybe afterwards they can both bandage themselves up and get back to the objective, civil discourse that was once the pride of the American news industry -- and, here's hoping, back to media integrity at the same time.


    Jordan University

    Jordan University