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Media stupidity

Cheerleader for war
Cheerleader for war
Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images

In thirty years spent in and around various newsrooms, one learns many things. But the first thing one learns is quite simple.

Reporters aren't all that bright.

Sadly, they don’t become any brighter when they take off their reporting hats and become talking heads and pundits on television news…and it doesn’t seem to matter whether broadcast or cable news. Stupid is as stupid does.

Last week, President Obama said that the administration did not have a strategy to deal with ISIS in Syria “yet”. The reaction was swift, loud and predictable. Republicans came out in full howl…led, as usual, by little Johnny McCain, who still hasn’t found a war he doesn’t want America fighting…that the President was “weak” and that his response to this “grave threat” to U.S. security was inadequate. Even Democrats…possibly afraid of being labeled “weak” along with the President…were piling on, calling on the President to “do something”, whatever that might be. One Democrat, sadly one of ours…Feinstein of California…suggested that, on this occasion, the President was being “too cautious”.

What has also become more typical…and more disturbing…was the media reaction. Talking head after talking head…abetted by so-called “experts”, military and otherwise…talked about the terrible “gaffe” the President had made, how he never should have said we have no strategy to deal with ISIS…which is not at all what he said. One pundit even accused the President of having a disturbing moment of honesty, actually telling the truth to the American people…which this pundit thought to be a terrible thing.

There’s nothing really new here. One sometimes forgets the media’s role in ramping up the drumbeat leading up to the invasion of Iraq…taking as gospel nearly every lie the Bush administration told and feeding it whole to the American people with a disturbing lack of skepticism about any of it. We learned that not only do some members of government like war…so do some reporters.

Now we have a President who not only isn’t in any hurry to rush us into another war but who wants to take his time and form a credible strategy to take whatever action the country must ultimately take. This is a horrible thing, not only, apparently, to the “fight everywhere” crowd in Congress and out, but now to the media, as well. The American people don’t want “boots on the ground”. Neither does this President. The media loves the idea.

Much has been made of the “liberal bias” of the news media. But what is often more important is it’s stupidity. The media doesn't really care all that much about truth or facts. It cares about pictures. And war makes for great pictures.