Odd bedfellows

Odd bedfellows

: Still catching up on weekend reading, I find the darnedest defense of Dan Rather from Bill O’Reilly.

The ordeal of Dan Rather goes far beyond the man himself. It speaks to the presumption of guilt that now rules the day in America. Because of a ruthless and callow media, no citizen, much less one who achieves fame, is given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to allegations or personal attacks. The smearing of America is in full bloom.

Methinks that Bill is still a tad sensitive about his own dragging-through-mud he now is contractually forbidden from talking about: his sexual harassment settlement.

Right-wing talk radio in particular pounded Kerry and also bludgeoned Dan Rather for his role in another smear incident – the charges against President Bush about his National Guard service. Again, Rather was found guilty without a fair hearing. Charges that he intentionally approved bogus documents that made Bush look bad were leveled and widely believed. It was chilling.

That wasn’t really the issue, Bill. It was that Rather took 12 days to even acknowledge that he could have made a mistake. He refused to leave or look down from that pedestal he built for himself. He hurt the credibility of the news business and its relationship with its public as a result. I never thought or said he intentionally lied. He intentionally ignored the truth, though.

I believe Rather, along with Andy Rooney, Walter Cronkite and other guardsmen of the old CBS News, is liberal in his thinking. That is certainly a legitimate debate – how for years CBS News has taken a rather progressive outlook. But holding a political point of view is the right of every American, and it does not entitle people to practice character assassination or deny the presumption of innocence. Dan Rather was slimed. It was disgraceful.

But, Bill, the issue for you and for Dan is transparency: admitting your perspective — or, if you prefer, bias — to the public so they can fairly judge what you say.

But you’ll be seeing more of this kind of thing in the future. All famous and successful Americans are now targets. Unscrupulous people know that any accusation can be dumped on the Internet and within hours the mainstream media will pick it up.

Or mainstream media will make a mistake and the Internet will, within hours, correct it. Works both ways, Bill.

This is not your grandfather’s country anymore.

And I, for one, am glad of it.

: UPDATE: Winfield Myers calls it the O’Reilly Fracture.

  • Karl

    Would it be just too cynical for me to wonder whether O’Reilly’s defense of Rather does not merely reflect his sensitivity to his own dragging-through-mud in the sexual harassment claim, but is also designed to rehab his own image? Might O’Reilly write something like this so that the reader makes the connection and thinks, “O’Reilly wouldn’t defend Dan Rather unless he really felt smeared… and he wouldn’t feel smeared unless he believed he was not in the wrong in his own case… so maybe the lawsuit against him really was a shakedown.” The problem with this is that anyone paying attention knows Rather wasn’t smeared, so the odor of ulterior motive in O’Reilly’s defense of Rather is more than a mere whiff.

  • chill

    So it took 12 days rather than 3. Is that the difference between ending a long, distinguished career, and not? So you don’t like old media. That doesn’t mean people working in old media should be judged more harshly. Bloggers dont lose jobs. See Drudge.
    Who’s head rolled for Swift Boat Vets for truth? Why don’t you hold the journalists who kept repeating those allegations to the same standard? Or for the Valeria Plame outing? Why does Novak still have a job?

  • Angus Jung

    “So it took 12 days rather than 3. Is that the difference between ending a long, distinguished career, and not?”
    Among other things, yes. Chin up!
    “Who’s [sic] head rolled for Swift Boat Vets for truth [sic]?”
    Ahem.

  • http://www.rossirant.com rossi

    you know i like the old school news crowd
    they had guts and something that at least smelled like
    honor
    the new school news folks
    are just hair spray
    and fluff
    and FYI it certainly does seem like bad things happen to anyone who dares speak out against this president
    even colin powell is taking his exit for daring to be something other then a yes man

  • Jim S

    The problem with your theory about just being transparent is that it doesn’t work. You might as well shut down this blog and the networks and every other news source you can name might as well shut their doors. Journalism schools can be closed and the buildings either torn down or turned to some other purpose. Why? Because in your world all news is bullshit, all news is a lie simply colored by what the prejudices of the reporter happen to be because no one and no fact can be objective, it’s all colored by the reporter. It’s the ultimate world of spin, Rush Limbaugh’s dream world where he can say anything about anyone or anything because his opinion on a subject is just as valid as any experts. Some reporter from the evil MSM reports about climate change in the Arctic? Why, it snowed yesterday here, doesn’t look like global warming to me. I can find an expert who doesn’t think global warming is happening. It doesn’t matter if the MSM has 5000 climatologists who disagree, it’s all the same.
    Why? Because in the real world the average news consumer doesn’t have the time to sort through it all so they just settle for the source that comforts them. They do what’s easy and what they have the time for after they get home or while they sit at their desk or drive their vehicle. The elite is evil. Anyone who acts like they’re smarter than you is evil. A doctorate doesn’t matter, years of work and study don’t matter because your common sense makes your opinion as good as theirs.

  • Tom

    After being raised on Rather, and watching O’Reilly sporatically, it is not a bit surprising that Bill would come out so strongly for Dan.
    They are both PONTIFICATORS! Watch either one of them, and they are absolutely sure they are correct, and that there is no room with disagreement with their stated positions.
    Neither one can stand the give and take of the blog world. Neither one could risk that ANYONE would or could directly question their opinions. Why was it a news story when O’Reilly and Moore went head to head. It was because everyone knew that these two lunkheads were not going to give an inch. On anything. Rather would have made an interesting RD in the discussion.

  • http://www.paradox1x.org Karl

    My issue with the constant attacks on Rather is the underlieing hypocracy: why not attack the media organs that gave the Bush administration a free ride on the WMD justification for the Iraq war and who have not admitted their mistakes? The mainstream media let us down big time indeed. But where you are casting your judgement is on the easiest of targets – and one of the few that admitted it’s error.

  • http://floyd.best.vwh.net/weblog/blogger.html Floyd McWilliams

    The problem with your theory about just being transparent is that it doesn’t work. You might as well shut down this blog and the networks and every other news source you can name might as well shut their doors. Journalism schools can be closed and the buildings either torn down or turned to some other purpose.
    Well, no.
    They just need to admit when they’re wrong.
    Because in the real world the average news consumer doesn’t have the time to sort through it all so they just settle for the source that comforts them. They do what’s easy and what they have the time for after they get home or while they sit at their desk or drive their vehicle.
    Then it’s a good thing there are lots of amateurs willing to criticize big corporations and point out their mistakes! You’d be happier if everyone believed network news unquestioningly?

  • http://www.centellas.org/miguel miguel

    Let me get this straight. It was terrible to assume Rather’s guilt (despite the evidence) because it didn’t meet O’Reilley’s criteria (whatever those are). But. It was OK to assume Bush’s guilt (despite the lack of clear evidence) because … what was the reason again?
    I’m tired of this idea that some people are entitled to better standards of civility than others.

  • http://www.di2.nu/blog.htm DirtyDingus

    As I put it at my blog – Hypocrites Stick Together. http://www.di2.nu/blog.htm?20041130
    Rather and O’Reilly come across as pompous know-it-alls. A little humility would help.

  • billg

    The issue for people in the media is not to admit their perspective (which is not equivalent to a bias). It is to report the news fairly and professionally and competently. I.e., they’re paid to keep their perspective out of it. A statement of perspective would,in the current climate, simply convince roughly one-half of their audience that they were always lieing: People seem to believe that any reporter who holds an opinion about an issue must, therefore, be slanting his or her reports.
    If their reporting is wrong, whether due to deliberate slanting or simple error, then their consumers have the choice to go elsewhere. But, the search for a single all-knowing, always right, always “objective” news source is a fool’s game.
    I’m not prepared to allot any more trust to a non-news source who wears his “perspective” on his sleeve than I am to a Dan Rather or a Bill O’Reilly. There is simply no reason to believe that people who use their blogs to talk about other people’s reporting are less subject to the pressures that influence real news outlets.
    In other words, if I’m not supposed to trust reports from Dan Rather because he didn’t disclaim his own perspective, why should I have any more reason to trust reports from bloggers who trumpet their perspective? Trust is not based on transparency.

  • Billy West

    Please, stop using “Methinks” – it is no longer cute or clever. The grace period ends December 31, 2004, any new use of it after that date confers immediate and irrevocable hack status on the writer.

  • Angus Jung

    Methinks somebody woke up on the wrong side of the basement!

  • Ray_G

    This is just more of the MSM whining about losing another monopoly. Just a simple change to one sentence illustrates that: O’Reilly: “Unscrupulous people know that any accusation can be dumped on the Internet and within hours the mainstream media will pick it up”. My change: “Unscrupulous people know that any accusation can be leaked to the press and within hours it will be broadcast nationwide.” The MSM has done more than it’s share of sliming people with little or no evidence (or false evidence). A few examples are Richard Jewel, the Audi 5000, Alar. Now via the Internet the MSM are being fact checked and they don’t like it. It is a new world Mr. O’Reilly, and now the masses in mass media can talk back more effectively. Get used to it.

  • BillG

    Ray_G: I’ll admit I’ve never understood this notion of “the media” acting as a single entity, much less acting conspiratorially. Sure, they have shared interests, but that’s a far cry from the secret and malovent cabal they’re are often portrayed as.
    I certainly don’t think they’re saints, but, then, I don’t think anyone is, either. Including all those “masses” who are going to now “talk back”. Why would anyone want to “talk back” to Dan Rather or Bill O’Reilly? Rather is only two hairs’ breadth removed from an entertainer, O’Reilly something less than the breadth of one hair.
    If people are going to start talking back to other people who read the news, or mouth off about it, why should other people, me, for instance, give them any more of a listen that we do Rather and O’Reilly? Why should I care?

  • Ray_G

    Bill- I wasn’t suggesting a conspiracy. I was just saying that what O’Reilly is complaining about, besmirching reputations by spreading unsubstantiated rumors, is nothing new, and the TV, newspapers, et.al. have been just as guilty of this, and are sometimes proud of it. Look at the examples I gave. Richard Jewel was dragged thru the mud because someone leaked something to a newspaper and they printed it without checking it out. 60 Minutes basically did a smear job on the Audi 5000 over non existent “unintended acceleration”, and Audi (and it’s employees and stockholders) lost a lot of money over it. Some actress makes bogus claims about Alar and serious damage is done to the apple industry. And ask any 2nd amendment supporter about the distortions the “media” (for lack of a better term) spread. This is why we need to talk back to people like Dan Rather. What they report and how they present it has consequences (good and bad) for real people in the real world, and if they get their facts wrong they should be held accountable for it.
    No one should spread unsubstatiated rumors, neither the MSM or bloggers. But for O’Reilly or anyone else to act like this is yet another new evil of the Internet is silly and a little pathetic.

  • Dr. Fager

    People in the public eye don’t seem to understand how the constant exposure reveals enough of them to contradict their carefully constructed images.
    Both Rather and O’Reilly are not bright enough for their positions . When you toss in their obvious arrogance, the potential to make asses of themselves is always at hand.
    I don’t think Rather understands yet how badly he was caught out on this story and O’Reilly’s putative defense indicates he doesn’t understand either.

  • http://www.thinkpeoplethink.com/blog Andrew | BB

    Jim S. – Bill g (post 1) – you both nailed my feelings.
    To add, if I said I was a Republican reporter, I wouldn’t get nearly as much grief from Democrats as I would get from Republicans if I said I was a Democrat reporter.
    With limited conjecture, most everyone – incorrectly – thinks reporters are a bunch of pinko lefties anyway. What reporters do like is improvement over what we’ve got in this world.
    Also, as always, I will beg you to differentiate between national media journalists and all the others. Big mojo. Big difference.
    PS I think I’ve watched network news less than a fistful of times. I’m 33.