Tuesday, February 15, 2011

And Then They Wonder Why Nobody Trusts Them

After Anderson Cooper returned home from Egypt, he repeatedly called the claims of Hosni Mubarak "lies".

In doing so, Cooper got himself into just about the stupidest bit of trouble in journalism. You see, in American journalism, the word "lie" is a gigantic taboo, as if you went to a black-tie dinner and dropped one of George Carlin's seven dirty words at the top of your lungs. They might dance around it with synonyms and euphimisms like 'falsehood' or 'controversial statement' or 'disputed', but once someone says 'lie', it is monocles in the martini glass. Even Politifact, the entire point of which is to examine a statement and say whether it's the truth or a lie, dances around it, twice, with 'false' and 'pants on fire'. As in 'liar, liar, pants on fire'.

It doesn't even matter if you use it correctly. On CNN's Reliable Sources the following Sunday, we heard this:


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: What we heard were the same lies we've heard from [Mubarak] and his regime for more than two weeks now. What we heard is a man who clearly believes that he is Egypt. He kept repeating this lie that this is all some sort of foreign interference.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KURTZ: Chris Dickey, Anderson Cooper repeatedly using the word lies. Now I think most journalists would agree with him, perhaps most Americans would agree with him. But should an anchor and correspondent be taking sides on this kind of story?

Later, Kurtz deigned to "forgive" Anderson, due to the fact that Anderson was right, and besides, dude got punched in the head a whole lot by one of the sides. Maybe that's why he took a side! It doesn't excuse it, but maybe he just forgot his manners that one time!

Seriously, calling lies lies is the whole damn job description. If you don't want to call a lie a lie, if you think allowing a lie to gain credibility by not calling it for what it is to be the fair and objective thing to do, get the hell out of the business and let someone in that will actually do their job properly. You're not there to be nice to everyone; though it is certainly possible to do so, that's not the be-all and end-all. You're there to get the facts straight. If that means calling something a lie, then dammit, you call something a lie. If someone gets angry that you called what they said a lie, well, they shouldn't have lied.

Honestly. I can't believe I have to waste my time even typing this.

No comments: