MSM is in the Eye of the Beholder

The most common usage of MSM is a derogatory branding of the mass media as liberal. A vocal portion of the people who created this meaning would expand the slight to latte limo liberal. So it shouldn't be surprising that liberals have a different usage of the term. MSM is still meant as a put-down, but the term is instead used to mean corporate. In this usage, the most prominent bias of the mass media is not ideological, but in favor of corporate interests.* And contrary to the liberal MSM meaning, Big Business interests are regularly in favor of the status quo, so in that sense the MSM is actually more conservative than liberal.

Take NBC for instance. While the right has railed at its perceived liberal bias for a couple of shows on MSNBC and selected reports on the Nightly News, as a whole, NBC supports the interests of its Very Big Business owner, General Electric. (BTW, ever heard anybody from the Right Wing Noise Machine criticize CNBC? I didn't think so.) In any case, it is possible to read critically and see through biases like ideology and corporate interest.

That applies to other prominent biases, such as sensationalism and laziness. These two seem to be inherent in news and humans, so not much to complain about there. Or at least it won't do any good to complain. However, what the reader can't remedy is crappy reporting, which might be the most damaging bias of them all.

Wow, that was quite a long-winded introduction for a post that rips one news article. The fisking begins after the jump.

* Another case where the right is more emotional, while the left is more accurate. Guess which one wins. [Clarification: I did not mean that one approach was better than the other, or that they are contradictory. But that the quality of debate would improve if the right was more accurate and that the left would win more if it was more emotional.]

Preparing a new post on Afghanistan, I read this article in the New York Times, "Advisers to Obama Divided on Size of Afghan Force," by Peter Baker and Elisabeth Bumiller. The lede is unsurprisingly shallow - conflict among the president's top names. It doesn't seem to matter what the disagreement is about, as the story mindlessly skips over the fact that the administration is still trying to determine the proper mission in Afghanistan. Thankfully, the article doesn't speculate on who is most likely to have the president's ear, but it is still a gross trivialization of war policy.

But then, after a quote from David Axelrod and some straightforward exposition, this monstrosity appears:
Military strategists, including one who has advised General McChrystal, said he might offer three options. The smallest proposed reinforcement, from 10,000 to 15,000 troops, would be described as the high-risk option. A medium-risk option would involve sending about 25,000 more troops, and a low-risk option would call for sending about 45,000 troops. [emphasis added]
One anonymous source who had some kind of a connection to General McChrystal guessed what might happen in the future: print it! And now even surge is too strong, or at least too hackneyed. But the bigger point is the risk these strategists are talking about. What the Sam Hill is it? Certainly not the deaths of American soldiers and Afghan civilians. How could two seasoned reporters mouth a statement from anonymous sources that makes no sense? And then include more funnies from these sources while throwing in own of their own:
Mr. Gates could be the key adviser on this decision, and some military analysts predicted that he might recommend what Pentagon officials call the “Goldilocks option” — the medium-risk one in the middle. Because he was first appointed by President George W. Bush, Mr. Gates could provide political cover for Mr. Obama should the president reject the biggest possible buildup. [emphasis added]
They are using a fairy tale as a metaphor for how many soldiers should be sent to Afghanistan. That's sick. And what's up with the "political cover" junk? A Democrat needs cover if he doesn't pick the most aggressive military option? I guess Republicans can still score points because the Democrats learned the lesson that Vietnam was a disaster.

To be fair, the rest of the article is quite good. And Baker had an excellent article of the Afghan war less than two weeks ago. But that doesn't excuse such claptrap appearing on page A1 of the Times.

LINK: Glenn Greenwald nails it: the media create a right vs. left debate, when the real division is between insiders and outsiders. Insiders include corporations, government and the media. Greenwald uses this formulation to explain the right-wing protest movement being led to oppose the poor, not the rich.