No, the Dinosaur Journos Have NOT "Dropped Objectivity"
by James Corbett
February 12, 2023
"Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Establishment media journalists are dropping objectivity!"
As a conspiracy realist, you would be right to scoff at a newsboy yelling such an obvious observation as if it were a breaking news scandal of mammoth proportions. "Of course the dinosaur media hacks aren't objective," you might mutter under your breath as you pass by. "What are you going to report next, that water is wet?"
But if that is your reaction to such a statement, then what are we to make of the Columbia Journalism Review's new 24,000-word, four-part report purporting to show that The New York Times and its fellow travelers in the corporate media have done "damage to [their] credibility" by dropping the pretense of objectivity in their reporting on the Russiagate story?
It's easy to get swept up in the excitement of the I-told-you-so victory lap—"You see, Russiagate was a hoax, just like I pointed out!"—and miss the fact that this is not news at all. In fact, it's an attempt to cover up the long and ignoble history of the Times and their dinosaur media peers. As a moment's sober reflection will immediately reveal, the mouthpiece mockingbirds of the controlled establishment media have never been objective and they have no credibility to damage.
If you can see this praise-by-soft-criticism of the mainstream media for the limited hangout that it is, then congratulations! You've got your head screwed on straight.
But there's yet another layer of the onion to peel back if you want to really understand what's happening here. And once you peel back that layer, you'll discover that "objectivity" in journalism is not just a pipe dream but a psyop, designed to mislead you about what media really is and how it really functions.
Intrigued? Let's dig in.
CJR To The Rescue!
Finally! It's about time someone stood up to those smug, no-good, self-important, out-of-the-loop, far-left loonies and muckety-mucks of the laptop journalist class.
No, I don't mean someone like James Corbett, who has explained numerous times that The Corbett Report only exists because the corporate media has so brazenly "failed" to speak truth to power that he felt motivated to take up the task himself. And I don't mean any of the other fringe wingnuts and conspiraloons of the alternative media sphere who have likewise dedicated their lives to warning the public about the lies of the corporate media hacks.
Of course I don't mean them. Let's be serious now. I mean a group of academic ex-journalists just far enough outside the corporate media bubble that they can launch a soft critique of their fellow journalists, but safely enough inside that bubble that I can rest assured they'll never criticize those journos for failing to report the truth about 9/11 or the Great Reset or the scamdemic or anything else of substance. You know, a respectable organization.
Enter the Columbia Journalism Review.
For those not in the know, the CJR is the bimonthly magazine of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism . . . or at least it used to be. Like seemingly every other print periodical, the CJR read the writing on the wall in 2015 and switched to a biannual print publication so it could concentrate on online publication. Print schedule aside, the CJR is exactly the type of media critique journal you'd expect from an Ivy League college's journalism school: prestigious and ivory tower enough to afford it some leeway in criticizing establishment journalism, but Rockefeller- and Soros-funded enough to ensure that it will never truly question anything of importance.
And so it is no surprise that CJR would be the vehicle for "The press versus the president," a painstakingly reported, painfully long, incredibly detailed blow-by-blow account of how the mainstream media created and perpetuated the Russiagate hoax.
If you haven't read it yet, you should. Seriously. Considered completely on its own, it is a valuable piece of metajournalism documenting the dino press' embarrassing failures over the past few years.
It serves as a crash course on the Russiagate deception for those who weren't following the story at the time.
It carefully documents how the establishment presstitutes colluded with the Hillary Clinton campaign, the DNC, the FBI, the CIA, shady ex-journos-cum-private-detectives and a gaggle of deep state intriguers to fabricate the Trump/Russia collusion fairy tale out of thin air.
And it is being attacked by all the right publications, including Mother Jones ("Columbia Journalism Review's Big Fail") and NY Mag ("Columbia Journalism Review Had a Different Russiagate Story — and Spiked It").
Yes, it's true: only the most shamelessly partisan defenders of the corporate media could read through the CJR's exhaustively researched takedown of the Russiagate fraud and still believe in the credibility of The New York Times and CNN and The Washington Post and the Pulitzer Prize committee.
So that's it, right? The eggheads and academic journos over at the Columbia Journalism Review are swooping in to save the mainstream press and deliver us from the evil biases of those wayward dino reporters, right?
Not so fast. As the finely tuned BS detectors of my clued-in readership will doubtless have indicated by now, there is more to this "CJR, Saviours of Journalism!" narrative than meets the eye. Indeed, it is in the reaction to the report by some of its biggest boosters that we begin to understand what's really going on here.
Take Matt "9/11 denier" Taibbi, for instance, who has just published a fawning interview with the report's author, Jeff Gerth, under the title "Take A Bow, Columbia Journalism Review." In the interview's preamble, Taibbi writes that journalism "was beginning to lose its way" around 2015 and lauds Gerth for helping the MSMers understand "what they need to face to save their profession." (Let's hope they take it to heart, Matt!)
Or take Edward "I Specifically Chose to 'Leak' to the MSM" Snowjob's reaction to the piece. He tweeted a summary of the article upon its publication, noting his consternation at discovering that "corpo media knowingly suppressed facts that cut against popular narratives, ignored denials, eagerly laundered partisan attacks via 'anonymous sources,' and refuses to reflect on mistakes." (Who could have guessed?)
Then there's "b" "Climate Change is super serial, guys!" over at MoonofAlabama, who kindly summarizes the CJR report for his audience before lamenting: "Objectivity in the media has been damaged." (Say it ain't so!)
And who could forget Glenn "First Look Fraudster" Greenwald? He devoted a segment of his "System Update" program to praising Gerth's magnum opus, making sure to note that it is from "someone who's like the living, breathing embodiment of mainstream media," i.e., a Pulitzer Prize-winning ex-New York Times reporter. (Both Greenwald and Gerth have Pulitzers, so of course we have to take them seriously!)
Once you read through these responses to "The press versus the president," you start to understand how the article—however well it may cover the subject in question—is itself embedded in a grander narrative of modern journalism's fall from grace. According to this narrative, once upon a time there were teams of valiant, crusading reporters who told you the hard, objective truths about JFK and incubator babies and 9/11 and weapons of mass destruction and Gaddafi's viagra and Putin's viagra and a million other news stories. But sometime around 2015 these wonderful and respectable truthtellers "lost their way," gave up on the hallowed "objectivity" that defined their sterling reporting up to that point, and began making up cringeworthy lies about Trump and Russia.
If only we could return to that hallowed time when Walter Cronkite reassured us that "that's the way it is" before slipping off to Bohemian Grove to lend his voice to the mock human sacrifice ritual or slipping off to a globalist awards ceremony to boast about sitting on the right hand of Satan! But, alas, here we are in 2023, when the establishment press has suddenly started lying to its readers for no apparent reason! The horror!
You may think I'm exaggerating. If so, try reading Matt Taibbi's Hate Inc., in which he states that his journey from laughing at "the foibles of the press" to being concerned that the news business was "drifting toward something truly villainous" began in 2016. Taibbi spends the entire introduction to the book talking about the good old days of gumshoe reporting and muckraking journalism . . . by which he means the 1970s, when his father was a reporter for the local ABC affiliate. ("My father taught me reporting is not just about talking, but being willing to be surprised by what people say" is one of the many pearls of wisdom that can be gleaned from Taibbi's treatise.)
As I say, the perceptive readers in The Corbett Report audience will likely already know that this fairy tale is just that: a fairy tale. No, mainstream corporate journalism did not suddenly fall off a cliff in 2015. No, the Trump/Russia story was not the first sign that journalists are biased, nor is it the most egregious example of the public being lied to about matters of importance by the supposed defenders of the public interest in the fourth estate.
But even those who understand that the mockingbirds of the mainstream media have always been the loyal lapdogs of the government and the submissive stenographers of the deep state have a hard time understanding the deeper truth: there is no such thing as "objective" media, and the attempt to hold objective journalism up as some sort of ideal is itself a psyop.
I have had cause to discuss this on a number of occasions, but I think it bears repeating: there is no objective journalistic viewpoint. On the contrary. Everything we see, read or hear in the media comes from a place of bias, and any attempt to convince you otherwise is a load of hooey being sold to you by a slimy, manipulative used car salesman. Or, worse yet, a mainstream journalist.
To head off the obvious retort at the pass, yes, of course there are objective truths. But I take it we can all agree that statements of facts about the world ("Politician A said 'xyz' today") are not journalism. Journalism is the act of putting a set of facts together into a narrative that tells a story of some sort: "Politician A said 'xyz' today, causing Country B to launch an invasion of Country C. According to Expert D, this will likely result in Consequences E, F and G, which will send the price of eggs skyrocketing next winter."
All of these facts may indeed be facts. Politician A might really have said "xyz" and Country B may have indeed invaded Country C and Expert D really may have predicted E, F and G. But did Politician A's statement cause B's invasion of C, or were there other factors involved? How much of the history and context of B/C relations (which goes back hundreds of years) should be presented to the audience? Why talk to Expert D in particular? Should we not hear from Expert E, who has a very different point of view? Or why not consult Random Internet Commenter F, who always seems to know everything about everything? And is the price of eggs next winter really the takeaway of the story?
Still not seeing the point here?
OK, here's a test. You're a TV news reporter. You have to create a five-minute segment for tonight's broadcast on the subject of COVID vaccines.
What aspect of the story do you focus on?
Which scientific publications do you consult for your report?
Whose voices do you present?
Do you seek comment from those with dissenting opinions? If so, how do you present their point of view? How much time do you give to debate between the parties, and how do you choose who will be allowed in the debate?
In your report, do you refer to the "vaccines" as “vaccines”? Do you call it "the pandemic"? Do you refer to the CDC as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Centers for Disease Creation and Propagation?
Absolutely everything you say in your five minutes of air time—every word you use, everything you show, everything you do not show—comes from a place of subjectivity. In the end, your report is the result of a series of hundreds of choices that have to be made about what to say and how to say it. Even if your report is 100% factually accurate in every respect, it still comes from your subjective viewpoint and it can still manipulate your audience's understanding of that story.
And, even beyond the inherently subjective viewpoint of this or that particular story, the idea that the sum total of events on the planet can be neatly edited into a 30-minute broadcast or a single newspaper and presented to you as "the news of the day" is itself a self-evident fiction. As a wise man once observed, the very concept of "the news" is a social construct and it is used to program you.
The problem comes when we pretend (or are convinced) that there is a special class of human beings—some angelic species known as Journalists (capital "J" and all)—who can tell you the important information in the world in a completely neutral and unbiased way. It was this myth of the objective journalist—largely constructed in the 20th century as journalism was professionalized and the mass media consolidated into a media oligopoly—that was used to convince the public that the Cronkites and the Rathers and the Jennings of the world were disinterested observers of events, simply passing on information and letting the viewers decide. And it was always just that: a myth.
Granted, the realization that all media is constructed for us by someone with an interest in making us believe something is not a happy one for most people. Instead, it is a deeply unpopular realization, because it means we can't just switch on the evening news, switch off our brain, and expect some totally neutral journalistic saviour to come along and hand us "the news" from on high.
But, seen from the proper perspective, this realization of journalism's inherent subjectivity is an empowering one. It puts us—the "audience"—back in the driver's seat. It helps us appreciate that we are not mere sponges, absorbing whatever information is presented to us, but sovereign, independent individuals who have an active part to play in constructing a better understanding of the world.
Armed with this knowledge, we can begin actively questioning the information we receive and switching on our critical faculties whenever someone tries to frame their personal narrative as "objective news." The question is not "is this report objective or subjective?" but:
Why is this media outlet showing us this report?
What interest do they have in making us think a particular way about the issue presented?
Can the information in the report be independently confirmed or triangulated from other sources?
Whose viewpoint is being shown, and how is that viewpoint portrayed? Whose viewpoint is being excluded? Why?
What language is being used to frame the issue?
What does the report make us believe about the world?
Are we in agreement with the report? Why or why not?
With these filters in place, we can move from being mere consumers of information to active agents in the construction of our own worldview, taking the responsibility for making sense of a very messy world out of the hands of others and putting it back into our own hands.
So, yes, by all means, read the new CJR report on Russiagate. And yes, by all means, take a victory lap if the article happens to confirm what you have been saying all along about the way the media manipulated the facts to construct a fake news narrative about the Trump/Russia story. But don't forget to examine that report using the questions above (and whatever other questions you find helpful) to interrogate the story at a deeper level and determine how best to incorporate this information into your worldview.
Most importantly, let's not use "The press versus the president" as an opportunity to lament the "loss of objectivity" in the media, or, even more laughably, the "loss of credibility" of the media. No, there is no Walter Cronkite or Columbia Journalism Review or Matt Taibbi or James Corbett floating on the clouds to hand you The News from on high. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying to manipulate you.
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