The blogosphere is full of references to the very clumsy attempt at “gotcha” journalism, put forth by MSNBC’s David Shuster on September 24th, when he was substituting for Tucker Carlson. His guest was congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Shuster mocked her for not knowing the name of the latest soldier to die in Iraq from her district. Not surprisingly, it turned out that the young man mentioned was not actually from Blackburn’s district.
Shuster was then forced to make an on-air apology, only as to the facts, and I would bet that he won’t be guest hosting again for Carlson anytime soon. Missing from the apology was any contrition for exploiting the dead soldier in the first place;
This whole matter is so stupid on so many levels—even for MSNBC—that it is worthy of some comment.
Supposedly, this was all about demonstrating GOP “hypocrisy” regarding the attacks on MoveOn.org for their smearing of General Petraeus. I have to quote Shuster directly…
“I still think it’s a little bit surprising that you didn’t know the name of this last soldier killed in Iraq who’s only 18 years old, yet you do know so much about the MoveOn.org ad and the tactics you didn’t like.”
Does the term “non sequitur” come to mind? “Hypocrisy” means the act or practice of pretending to be what one is not, or to have principles or beliefs that one does not have. You’d think that even a hack like Shuster might understand that attacking MoveOn, while not knowing the name of a particular soldier has nothing to do with hypocrisy.
Indeed, the point he COULD have made, and even this would be pushing it, would have been to express some regret over how Blackburn might have spent more time learning about her dead soldier constituents, rather than piling on a gamy Leftist organization, that is already being kinda sorta condemned by the Democratic leadership. He could have trotted out some whiny flower child “Can’t we be positive instead” mantra to gain points with his fan base.
As was pointed out by Rich Galen…
[T]his is journalist crapola. Anyone can find a fact—important or not—which the subject of an interview is not likely to know and then beat him or her over the head with it.
Do you think al-Anbar province is important to the stabilization of Iraq? You do? Name the current provincial leader. Can’t do it? HYPOCRITE!
You voted against raising the minimum wage. What’s the average hourly wage in your district? Don’t know? IGNORAMOUS!
Beyond this, Shuster would have made a more compelling case by providing a bit more information on the soldier than just his name and age; of course, doing the fact checking would also have helped, and should not have been terribly difficult. Even after Rathergate, ham-handed ideology still drives a goodly portion of mainstream journalism.
Then we come to the next point: Why is anyone watching these shows? You can get unlimited news and commentary on the Web—with no commercials—so that can’t be the reason. Maybe it’s entertainment. Perhaps people watch these programs hoping to see some mindless confrontation, gaffe, or meltdown.
Or maybe the audience for these shows are those nerdy good student types (mostly liberals, but with some also on the Right), who were imbued at an early age with the notion that it is smart and intelligent to inundate yourselves with current affairs. Don’t poison your mind with series TV, and don’t rent action videos like that Joe Sixpack guy next door.
Show that you are better and smarter by watching David Shuster or Dan Rather. Yeah, that’s it.