What Real Journalists Do (In Case You Forgot)

Mehdi Hasan

Once upon a time, there was this crazy notion that journalists were supposed to uncover and report facts. But that seems long ago and far away indeed. In this age of fake news and fake “fake news” and relentless spin and distortion, those who pass as journalists often simply repeat what people have said without making any attempt to cut through the bullshit. As Media Matters has reported several times, this has had a devastating effect since the ascendancy of the 45th White House Occupant; most media outlets have willingly transmitted his evil lies without debunking them — which has had the effect of helping him spread and amplify his “message”, as it were.

Sometimes we simply lose sight of exactly what real journalists do — or what they’re at least supposed to do. Fortunately, there are still journalists who are courageous and responsible, at least on occasion. There have been at least two excellent recent instances.

The first comes from Mehdi Hasan, a British reporter for Al Jazeera, who cornered a hired liar for the 45th White House occupant (Steven Rogers), and confronted him about several specific lies. The hired liar tried to weasel out of it, but Hasan held his feet to the fire as few if any American journalists would ever do. Watch the clip here.

Okay, but Hasan is known to be left-leaning. Is it possible for conservatives to exercise similar journalistic integrity and responsibility? Yes, indeed; and the BBC’s Andrew Neil, a leading conservative journalist in the U.K. proved it. He chose, for whatever reason, to interview Ben Shapiro, the arrogant and pretentious pseudo-intellectual American right-wing cult figure who has a hard time separating facts from feelings, about his recent book, The Right Side of History — which we just might encounter again in a future post.  Since the book, among other things, opines the loss of civil discourse these days, Neil confronted Shapiro about his own blatant lack of civil discourse. And Shapiro responded by… being extremely uncivil and storming off the set. (You can watch the interview here. Be warned though, if you have never heard Shapiro’s voice, that it sounds like an entire class scraping its fingernails on the chalkboard.)

Included in his petulant tirade were some rather common reactionary tools. For one, he  branded Neil a liberal, which Neil found quite amusing given his resume. Shapiro also gave a schoolboy pissing contest retort: “I’m popular and no one has ever heard of you.” A good illustration of his egocentric and arrogant worldview, assuming that if he hadn’t heard of Neil, no one else had either — a conclusion he even repeated. (Note: Shapiro’s own clickbait factory, The Daily Wire, had previously done at least one segment about Neil. Doesn’t he even read the shit he publishes himself?)

He then exited in a snowflake snit, leaving Neil to comment, “Thank you for your time and for showing that anger is not part of American political discourse.” Shapiro, meanwhile, swiftly retreated to his sanctum and made a desperate attempt at damage control by sheepishly acknowledging that the interview didn’t exactly cast him in the best light, and that he was mistaken to call Neil a leftnik. But this display of faux humility is very much at odds with his usual persona. Whatever. At least Neil demonstrated an all too uncommon example of self-policing on the right.

Neil and Hasan are both of British origin. And it is admittedly more difficult to find journalists of their diligence on this side of The Pond. But there are a few of them out there. They just need to be put in the spotlight more, and maybe others will follow their lead.

 

2 comments

  1. One thing I noticed is how Shapiro kept deflecting questions by asking the BBC reporter what his opinions are in the hopes of making the entire conversation into an indictment of the left. Thankfully though the reporter kept affirming the fact that he was giving an interview and not trying to
    Inspire a shouting match.

    The whole idea seems to be about goading interviewers into making angry accusations and thus transform a simple interview into some blatant persecution tactic employed by the left?

    Many times I have experienced this curious tactic when commenting on various social media threads, which when used, turns any discussion into a punch and Judy like game of whack amole, rather than honest critiques of the right or left wing’s views. If someone so much as makes the slightest references to Trump’s probable racism or his disastrous foreign policy , the other party (composed mainly of conservative Republicans), responds by tossing out the old, “you’re persecuting me” net, and thus reinforcing this particular contrivance by making the discussion all about one that features scheming demagogues instead of mutual respect!

    Many times I have been portrayed as a democrat who approves of genocide and other equally unscrupulous beliefs no matter how originally uncritical my comments were? So it’s fairly easy to see why so many on the right love to play from the (poor persecuted me) playbook?—perhaps mostly because it seems to be the narrative most frequently accepted by right wing conservatives, rather than one used in an objective discourse. However, this strategy often makes all of us feel angry and misunderstood—because even when asking questions that we consider clear and unbiased attempts to give the other side a fair chance to explain, we are often intolerantly dismissed by way of this persecution narrative once again—one which portrays us as being interested only in bending the facts to suit our own needs?

    But, I would be lying if I insisted that all uncivil discourse is just a relative problem. What one cannot deny is the fact that right wing ideologues are, in reality, far more likely to blame this polarizing political disconnect on Liberals—and that, the Republican misinformation and disinformation campaign convinces many well-meaning people, to swallow Trumps absurd “Dark state conspiracy” as the only means left to defend him with. Just how republicans who raise these toxically unproven “facts” as proof of a massive liberal conspiracy can sleep at night, while knowing that they are perpetuating a blatant and viral lie, is beyond me? Yet many of them who are reading this comment are likely to dismiss each word even as they are read ?

    The name of the game in wining votes has always been about which side can convince the public to accept their lies the most readily, and this game has been in the forefront of American politics for a long time. But since the election of Obama in 2008, those who sling imaginary mud have been especially thorough and ruthless in concocting onerous lies which are then used to obtain their power. However, I for one, am happy that outlets like CNN have quit doting on fair balance concerns, and instead, are now calling out lies for what they truly are! They put it best by affirming that, the role of a free press has always been to serve as a check on those in power—and by saying that those who are willing to lie about anything, will also be perfectly willing “to lie about everything!”

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