Monday, 12 January 2009

The death of journalism

'Joe the Plumber', the spectacularly uninformed McCain supporter and tax-delinquent who turned out not to be called Joe nor to be a qualified plumber, has become… a reporter. More specifically, Pajamas Media, an outfit set up by the usual range of skill-free, dyspeptic American who in earlier times would be parading round in pointy masks, voting for Senator Bilbo or shouting 'Ham and Eggs' but now have the keyboard skills to shout down all reasoned opinion, have sent him to Israel to add the world's stock of dispassionate and disinterested knowledge.

In a stunning debut, 'Joe' has berated the Israeli media for … er … not being patriotic enough. Joe, you're not Israeli. Israelis aren't American. You can't read Hebrew (unless that's what you picked up instead of plumbing certificates). You're not a journalist, or even an informed citizen. You're simply a symptom of mid-America's decision that they'd rather listen to an uninformed bozo they agree with than an informed one from a different class who might (though given the state of the American media, might not) actually know a little about the subject. Cognitive dissonance anybody?

More to the point: even the 'liberal' papers like Ha'aretz are supporting this war, stopping only to point out that shelling schools packed with refugee children isn't necessarily a top tactic in winning the peace. Never mind though. Tabloid journalism operates on the basis of never letting the facts get in the way of a good story. Web journalism of the kind practised by Pajamas Media tends to ignore the story (current score: 900+ dead Palestinians to 13 Israelis) altogether and grind out political points. That's my job: I'm not a journalist and 3 people read this. There is a place for citizen journalism, but drowning out professional investigation and howling down anyone you disagree with isn't what it should be for. 

Senator Bilbo might be a useful touchstone for the Blagojevich scandal: while a state senator in Mississippi he took a bribe to change sides in a vote on whom to send to the US Senate. Despite being impeached and described as 'unfit to serve' by his fellow senators, this was only the start of his career. While Lt. Governor he hid in a barn to evade a sub-poena, and removed the references to his unfitness from the record. He also opposed sending the National Guard to prevent a lynching on the basis that black people didn't merit protection, and won the state for Smith by claiming that Herbert Hoover had once danced with a black man. There's a great Pete Seeger song, 'Listen Mr. Bilbo' that skewers him good.

This just in: Israel bans Arab parties from contesting the election. So much for the claim that it's a democratic oasis in the desert.

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