Friday, June 03, 2005

Rather Still Doesn't Get It

I just saw Larry King's hour-long interview with Dan Rather on CNN. I'm a day or so behind everyone else because I had it on tape.

Rather's performance wasn't surprising for anyone who has followed his career. The same arrogance and overinflated ego, hidden behind a phony veneer of down-home old-boyism, complete with the weird "Texasisms" that this native Texan has never heard anyone else say.

Rather was once my hero. I remember his emotional reporting from Dallas when President Kennedy was assassinated. With Rather in Dallas and Walter Cronkite in the CBS anchor chair, they created emotionally authentic and moving television news that's never been equaled. It was mostly downhill after that, slowly but surely.

It was Vietnam, where media performance ranged from fairly good to abysmal. They thought they ended the war, showed American where it should go, then led them there. It was Watergate, with Rather taking great pride in publicly insulting the President. The reality of it all, however, was that CBS and most of the media got Vietnam mostly wrong, and aside from the sterling work of the Washington Post, most of them didn't understand Watergate until it was virtually over.

Since then we've been afflicted with an ideologically liberal media which sees itself as the fount of correctthink. You don't have to read the statistics on liberals in the media, you don't have to read all the insider accounts of what these people are like. All you have to do is consume their product, if you can get past the smell. And woven through it all there's the arrogance, the certainty of right thinking, the disdain for anyone who holds a different view.

As Rather said on Larry King, there's no sense arguing with these people (meaning his critics). It's like talking to a wooden Indian, as he put it. What he doesn't understand is there are many millions of us out here who have more between our ears than hardwood, and we see through him.

Rather still won't admit that the documents were fakes. They were questionable, at worst. He still thinks the story was correct, even though his principal foundation for the story has been thoroughly discredited. And he almost pathetically clings to the fiction that there was no bias in the report, forged documents and all, because the investigation bought and paid for by CBS said they couldn't find any.

He also tried to defend himself against the charge that he's a liberal. Actually, he refused to use the word. At several awkward points, when the next word out of his mouth should have been "liberal," he clumsily segued into something else. I'll give him credit for one thing, though. He didn't hide behind the word "progressive" as many liberals do these days.

I couldn't help getting a bit angry as I listened to Rather's self-serving pap. I remembered so many things, including the fake "hero" trip to Afghanistan during the Russian involvement there, which earned him the contemptuous "Gunga Dan" nickname; the Saddam Hussein interview for which he whored himself out, using only pre-approved questions and never touching on real issues; and the fake National Guard report, in which he tried to influence the outcome of a presidential election. And there's more, much more.

It's obvious that Rather still doesn't get it. But that's OK--he's gone, and good riddance.


Anonymous AHS MilBlogger said...

I was not even born until Vietnam was long over, including much of the terror that occurred after the US withdrew. Given that you lived through Vietnan and that you have the military background that allows you to understand when the media is making something out of nothing, or vice versa, how would you compare today's reporting on Iraq and non-reporting on Afghanistan to the reporting that the media did on Vietnam?

6:14 PM, June 03, 2005  
Blogger Esther said...

Another great one, Tom. Not a lot that can be added to this.

As for ahs milblogger, I'm not nearly as qualified as Tom to comment on this, but that won't stop me from taking a whack at it. I think it's gotta be apples and oranges. There weren't 24/7 cable news outlets back then. It's changed the whole ball of wax.

6:52 PM, June 03, 2005  
Blogger profmarcus said...

i was in vietnam for 18 months... i had a chance to get to meet and know the vietnamese people which a lot of military there were not able to do... i learned a great deal...

the most important lesson was that the vietnamese people didn't give a shit for communism, democracy, the north vietnamese government, the south vietnamese government, capitalism, or any of the other crap that was portrayed in the media... people there simply wanted what we all want - to have their families together, to be able to feed and clothe their kids, to have a roof over their heads and enough to eat... we didn't help any of that to happen and, in fact, we made it considerably worse in our usual ham-handed way...

the beauty of the vietnamese people is that, with their natural good-heartedness and compassion, were able to distinguish average americans from their stupid government... traveling in vietnam today, americans are greeted warmly and welcomed unreservedly into the everyday routines of vietnamese life... thank goodness they no longer have to endure the wars that wracked their society for generations...

in answer to milblogger's question, the motivation for the media today is the same as it was then - ratings/sales/viewers/readership and not offending those with lots of money...

9:02 PM, June 03, 2005  
Blogger John Walter said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:42 PM, June 03, 2005  
Blogger John Walter said...

Sorry. Last comment did not post correctly, so I deleted. Tom: remember the Kennedy Assasination story you mentioned? Big irony here. Part of that story, as covered by Rather, may have been bogus as well. See:

9:53 PM, June 03, 2005  
Blogger Amal said...

What a great blog Tom. I agree with most of it. The sheer arrogance of mainstream media can be breathtaking. I find Rather to be the most arrogant of the old crowd.... I would also like to read what you have to say about ahs's question.

10:34 PM, June 03, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

AHS, I agree with Esther that 24/7 cable news is a huge difference. It doesn't change the anti-government, anti-military biases of the major media, but it at least makes other views available. Some of the techniques, however, are the same. The reporter has an opinion, usually based on his personal biases, and he goes out and finds facts that support his views. In a large, complicated situation involving lots of people, you can always do that. Incidents reported out of context or incorrectly, a few disaffected people out of thousands that will say what you want in an interview, etc. It still goes on. These days, you can find news sources that will point out the inaccuracies, but people pick and choose what they want to believe based on their own opinions. So, once a major media organ has done its deed, it's hard to sort the truth out. One thing is consistent--it's hard to find news that's free of the personal opinions of reporters and editors.

Profmarcus, I agree with you. I would just add "political ideology" to your list of media motivations, and that ideology is generally liberal and anti-American.

John, you're killing me here. I've heard the story, of course, but I never heard the background. Maybe this illustrates the difference between now and then, referred to by AHS. Today, that story would have been followed up by some other national news source, and someone would have reported it honestly. Idologues (in this case, liberals) would have ignored it, of course, but at least the truth would have been much more readily available.

5:51 AM, June 04, 2005  
Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

Tom, since I first found it I have loved your blog, but you are definitely hitting new heights of rhetorical excellence.

You wrote:
"You don't have to read the statistics on liberals in the media, you don't have to read all the insider accounts of what these people are like. All you have to do is consume their product, if you can get past the smell. And woven through it all there's the arrogance, the certainty of right thinking, the disdain for anyone who holds a different view."

So, so true, I thought to myself.

3:25 PM, June 04, 2005  

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