Nightline proves (again) the media’s self-deception

Nightline proves (again) the media’s self-deception.
I don’t do a lot of political commentary, only when events point to the rise in Postmodernism or the elitism practiced daily by the mainstream press. There is no more visible god of the media élite than Ted Koppel, and I just can’t keep my mouth shut about this one. The Nightline reading of the names of soldiers killed in Iraq, while denying the political nature of the broadcast, was among the most arrogant displays of media self-deception I’ve ever witnessed.

The weekend papers and blogs were filled with commentary about the Nightline commentary, and I won’t repeat everything that’s been written…just a couple. Jay Rosen (I want to be like him when I grow up) nails it in a lengthy piece titled “Of Course Ted Koppel Was Making a Political Statement. So What?”

The press in general, and Koppel in a painfully real way this week, have over the years learned to describe themselves as political innocents, people who are without a politics that enters into the news. (I have also called this general philosophy the View From Nowhere.)

So I don’t disagree with Jeff Jarvis when he writes: “Koppel says he wasn’t making a political statement. That’s what’s dishonest about it.”

Political innocence is performed during controversies like this. The ceremony, conducted by journalists in their self explanations, presents a narrow and formulaic view of political life– and of statement making. You can hear it perfectly in one part of Koppel’s closing explanation Friday night. “The reading tonight of those 721 names was neither intended to provoke opposition to the war, nor was it meant as an endorsement.” The trouble with this kind of explanation, even when true, is that it only talks about the politics that isn’t going on– we’re neither this nor that.

And Jeff Jarvis offers a
” target=“_blank”>fascinating thought
about presenting fallen soldiers as victims.
The device (reading names of the dead) presents those listed as victims. That is how the device has been used in print with the dead in Vietnam, from AIDS, from urban crime, 9/11 and other acts of terrorism, and so on. Victims.

And where there are victims, there is a wrong done to them — by man or nature.

But these are not victims. They are soldiers who went to do a job and did so valiantly. But that is not how I saw them presented last night on Nightline. I did not see a tribute. I saw victims. And that is the problem I have with using that device now.

My 2 cents. The thought that this wasn’t a political broadcast fell apart when the show’s producer compared it to the Life Magazine edition that did a similar stunt during Vietnam and boosted the anti-war movement. So it was a political statement, and as Jay puts it, so what?

I’m more taken by Koppel’s demonstration of the pedestal upon which he believes he resides. The magnificence of this arrogance is surpassed only by its self-deception, and here’s the real problem. When Life Magazine did its thing, it did so from a position of trust. That gave the anti-war issue the weight that it carried. That trust may not have been merited, but it was there just the same. It’s a different world today, and the Nightline political agenda is transparent, regardless of what Koppel and ABC insist. The transparency is there, because people are just better informed and able to make their own decisions today. They know the game. They know the rules. They know what’s really going on. Have you seen the approval numbers for the press lately? They ain’t good. The emperor has no clothes.

Koppel and ABC are trying to defend getting caught masturbating in public. In so doing, they’re accelerating their own fall and splattering their goo on all of us.

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