Rosen to Grey Lady: Listen With Prejudice

If you present the Tea Partiers' fear of impending tyranny without editorial comment, you are endorsing their beliefs. On the other hand, if you present the Tea Partiers' fear of impending tyranny without editorial comment, you are making fun of them.

Discuss.

This is the confabulatory conundrum presented by NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen's unpacking of a single sentence -- "It is a sprawling rebellion, but running through it is a narrative of impending tyranny." -- in David Barstow's lengthy New York Times account of the Tea Party movement. Rosen writes:

That sounds like the Tea Party movement I have observed, so the truth of the sentence is not in doubt. But what about the truth of the narrative? David Barstow is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter for the New York Times. He ought to know whether the United States is on the verge of losing its democracy and succumbing to an authoritarian or despotic form of government. If tyranny was pending in the U.S. that would seem to be a story. The New York Times has done a lot of reporting about the Obama Administration, but it has been silent on the collapse of basic freedoms lurking just around the corner.

In a response, Stephen Baker makes the error of conflating Barstow's story with a later interview Barstow gave to the Columbia Journalism Review. But his essential point -- that the deadpan style can cut either way -- is still valid:

My feeling, shared by some of the commenters to Jay's post, is that by swiping aside their motivating fear as delusion, the writer reinforces the widening gulf in the country. He lets us know that the people he's writing about are nuts. At that point, anyone with even a shread of sympathy for the Tea Partiers writes off the report as biased (which is what they expect from the NYT).

Who's right? Rosen has very high praise for Barstow's expensive five-month investigation, but this debate actually reveals the fiction that lies at the center of objective journalism. For Barstow to verify the Tea Party claims, he must either spend another five months and tens of thousands of dollars chasing down who-gave-Jack-Ruby-cancer leads or openly dismiss their premises in a way that New York Times reporting is not supposed to do. It's hard to get bent out of shape about Barstow's uninflected report that Tea Partiers are wary of government's natural tendency toward tyranny. But one feature of the mainstream media -- you might even call it a narrative that runs through a sprawling industry -- is how much emphasis everybody is always putting on concealment. Given that there's nothing in Barstow's piece (beyond the laboriously constructed Everyperson "throughline" these features always have) that you couldn't have picked up from Facebook over the last five months, this seems like another way that news organizations are no longer efficient vehicles for news.

In any event, it's good to know that the Times is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't. As the Times should always be. Until it is extinct. Which I hope will be soon but I know will be never.

And a word about Jay Rosen, whom I had only been dimly aware of through the fearful or admiring reports of friends and colleagues who described him as an institutional figure dating back to the time of the Thetan massacre. The emergence of the Twitterized Rosen has completely knocked my socks into a cocked hat in the middle of next week. Wherever you come down on any individual point, Rosen's tweets on journalism and where it's headed make up the most flexible, biting and truthful work of media criticism being done today. He's really a machine on this stuff. I'd like to give him a nickname, but Jay the Machine Rosen doesn't scan and Screamin' Jay Rosen is derivative. Handsome Jay Rosen might work. Frozen Jay Rosen doesn't make sense and Chosen Jay Rosen would be anti-Semitic. Or maybe it would be philo-Semitic. Discuss.

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  • Tom Degan||

    So I guess the writing is on the wall; the Democrats are going to get hammered on Election Day, right? I wouldn't be too sure about that. There are far too many monkey wrenches that are ready to be thrown into this engine. The most amusing thing to observe during the CPAC orgy last Thursday was their subtle attempt to disassociate themselves from the so-called "Tea Party Movement" without flatly rejecting it. What is going on here?

    Here's what's going on: The cooler heads within the Republican National Committee know damned well that the Tea Partiers are a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode. It's not merely the fact that most of these people are dumber than doggy dung, it is also the ugly reality that so much (although not all) of that movement is based on the nasty philosophy that has embodied the white supremacist movement for decades. You could hear it in the remarks made by the protesters at the September 12, "March on Washington". You could see it in the signs they carried. Most of these twits refuse to even acknowledge the fact that the president of the United States is an American citizen!

    Like Neville Chamberlain appeasing der fuhrer at the Munich conference in 1938, the RNC is frantically searching for a "peace in our time" moment. They have quite a dilemma before them to be sure. On the one hand they need to keep these jackasses "inside the tent pissing out" - so to speak. On the other hand they have to avoid alienating the moderates. Like the demented uncle living in the attic, they must do everything humanly possible to make sure that any contact with the neighborhood kids is limited if you know what I mean.

    The Tea Party people are already claiming credit for Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts a couple weeks ago. They are determined to steer the course of the GOP in November, come hell or high water. If they are allowed control of the party, their extremism will only turn off a huge segment of the voting population. If they are denied that opportunity, they will splinter off into third and even fourth party uprisings. Have you ever watched an elephant try to walk a tightrope? It's more fun than a barrel of donkeys.

    http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

  • ||

    Yeah Tom. They are not just people who are a concerned about a government takeover of health care and and the 14 trillion dollar debt. No they are white supremacists, a ticking time bomb. A ticking time bomb to do what? Loot the treasury to save the bankers, run up trillions of dollars in new debt as a pay off to over paid public employees? A ticking time bomb to do that. Oh that is right, those things have already happened.

    They are all a bunch of white supremacists. That is it. They are going to run amok in the streets and lynch black people Because you know, if we ever reduce the size of government back to even the horrible dark past of 90s level spending, that is what will happen.

  • ||

    Balancing the budget is racist.

  • JohnD||

    Tom you are one self-centered, deluded fool. Thre are hundreds of thousands of Tea Party supporters. Counted amoung them are Doctors, Lawyers, engineers and many other educated people that are fed up with the Dems trying to turn America into Europe. To accuse them of a subtle racism is typical of the left wing loons in this country.

  • Sterling Archer||

    Obvious troll is obvious.

  • Joel||

    Wow, Godwined in one.

    Guess we can all go home now. Thanks, Tom.

  • kc||

    while I agree that the GOP has no idea how to deal with the Tea Party movement (other than trying to pretend they've been saying the same things all along, HA!), I agree with John & JohnD that you have no idea what you're talking about. I've attended Tea Party events in Massachusetts and I worked for Scott Brown's election, and so did a lot of Tea Party participants all over the region -- the Tea Party lines of communications were used to schedule events and raise money for Brown. Before you call me delusional for supporting Brown, I did it knowing full well his limitations but believed his election might at least slow down the advancement of the Big Government (by both Dem & GOP).
    Oh, and by the way, I'm a graduate of MIT, so hardly "dumber than doggy dung" you ignorant elitist.

  • tea time||

    Kc, so your white sheet has a beaver logo on it? ;-)

  • kc||

    I'm red in the face for letting the troll get to me, so I'll let the beaver comment pass. As I've had to do so very many many many over the past 30 years. Sigh.....

  • tea time||

    Kc,I think the perception of the tea party is the problem. The media helps cement the dumber than/white supremacist theme for the viewing public. The movement may have ivy league graduates but they have been lax in presenting themselves as educated.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    I went to a Tea Party march in Oklahoma a few months ago. The guy in charge of the guest speakers and all of that stuff was black. But I guess he was totally a white supremacist.

  • ||

    Was he blind?

  • well||

    I saw him and took his picture.
    http://images.ask.com/pictures.....&l=dir

  • Kolohe||

    Rosen has very high praise for Barstow's expensive five-month investigation

    Extensive? Or is this why the NYT stock price took a beating last year. :)

  • Kolohe||

    Nevermind, RTFL.

  • ||

    They have to investigate something. It is not like they have the freedom to go down and investigate something like a corrupt cleptocrat billionaire down in Mexico or anything.

  • win-win bet||

    "As the Times should always be. Until it is extinct. Which I hope will be soon but I know will be never." Care to wager?

  • Kyle Jordan Prime||

    How about Rosenhawk for a nickname?

  • Fluffy||

    Too fucking bad.

    Since the Times refuses to call waterboarding "torture" because the issue is "in dispute", they don't get to comment on the validity of Tea Party claims anywhere but on the editorial page, either.

    If the Times is obligated to defer on any issue that is in significant political dispute, then they have to defer on the question of whether or not the US is in the throes of an incipient tyranny.

  • Attorney||

    "If tyranny was pending in the U.S. that would seem to be a story. The New York Times has done a lot of reporting about the Obama Administration, but it has been silent on the collapse of basic freedoms lurking just around the corner."

    That doesn't strike me as a particularly "flexible, biting and truthful work of media criticism." Unless the OP was being funny.

  • ||

    Of course, a lot of people on the Left thought the same thing under Bush. Did Rosen have the same view towards the coverage of things like MoveON and Code Pink? Somehow I doubt it.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Like I said, "Wherever you come down on any individual point..." He says a lot of stuff I don't agree with, but his feed (which has a rockstar-level follower base) is always either on the money or off it in an interesting way.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    A right-wing radio jock once tried to rip me a new one for this lede I wrote:
    Before he was fatally shot in Columbus City Center mall, Raylynn "Loony" Diamond was a kid trying to turn his life around, beloved even by his parole officer, his family and friends said.
    I don't think the jock appreciated subtlety.

  • ||

    Jesus what a jerk. Just because the kid was on probation doesn't mean he wasn't turning his life around. Isn't that the point of probation? I don't know the rest of the story. But, I don't see any subtlety there at all. I just see another tragedy.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I think a lot of what folks take away from reading the morning paper is what they brought with them.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    That being said, the NYT does suck. The WSJ, however, is an excellent national newspaper.

  • ||

    Until it is extinct. Which I hope will be soon but I know will be never.

    I dunno. According to this 'original' story

    http://www.mg.co.za/article/20.....estruction

    80% of the news isn't even original reporting. Maybe the Times is different. But seems any business charging for original content--but delivering rehashed reproductions--will eventually fall.

  • ||

    Things like the Times won't disappear. But it will be bought by corrupt rich people looking for good coverage. That Mexican billionaire is no fool.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Journalists have always been lazy herd animals. The predators are getting quicker, though.

  • ||

    I'd like to give him a nickname, but Jay the Machine Rosen doesn't scan and Screamin' Jay Rosen is derivative.

    How about Charles Nelson Reilly without the toupee?

  • ||

    He looks like the head of the Dog Show in "Best in Show."

  • ||

    How about "Flaming Jay Rosen"

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    We may have a winner!

  • To flame or not||

    Anyone who admits "I'm dressed in sequins. Nothing but sequins." ought to know

  • Maverick||

    How about Knox Harrington, the video artist.

  • tea time||

    I thought Vladimir Putin.

  • ||

    If you present the Tea Partiers' fear of impending tyranny without editorial comment, you are endorsing their beliefs. On the other hand, if you present the Tea Partiers' fear of impending tyranny without editorial comment, you are making fun of them.

    See Citizen Nothing, 9:29 AM.

    That pretty much covers it.

  • ||

    He ought to know whether the United States is on the verge of losing its democracy and succumbing to an authoritarian or despotic form of government.

    There's your problem, right there. Like most progressives, he fixates on "democarcy" as the antithesis of tyranny. Perhaps if he contemplated Constitutional government, limited government, or even plain old freedom from government control, he might have a fucking clue.

  • ||

    +1

    They didn't invent the phrase 'tyranny of the majority' for nothing.

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