Media/Politcal Complex

Eisenhower's famous warning against the dangers of the military/industrial complex is well known. Something I've thought about, and with any luck will be the first to coin this phrase, is the media/political complex, in which partisan elected officials and members of the press corps routinely conspire (overtly and covertly) to reinforce one another's standing and legitimacy, and thus power and influence, under the cover of plausible deniablity. A reporter gets a juicy story from a key but quiet Congressional committee member, publishes it, her professional stature rises, she gets juicier stories and is beholden to the committee member at the start of the chain. Under her 1st Amendment rights the source is never revealed but the information has credibility because she has credibility. Access to information is currency in politics and this game is as old as the hills.

It's also a conduit by which falsehoods become truth. Take this example (disclaimer: I'm not a Sarah Palin apologist and could easily find a similar story exonerating a lefty). A fake source delivers a fake story to an overworked reporter, the story fits that reporter's preconceived notions and the narrative arc about the subject and off it goes. It's been repeated in hundreds or thousands of places (my family's dinner table for one) and one printed retraction can't possibly undo that (though MSNBC's retraction absolves itself, right?).

When reading the news it's helpful to remember Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap.


Anonymous said...

Except that the NYT didn't buy the fake story, Fox News did.

The Daily Pander said...

LAT, TNR and MSNBC (and others I assume) fell harder, so hard that MSNBC even retracted the story. Anonymous, you are correct about NYT and I've adjusted the post. Thanks for the catch.