There are two movies that my husband quotes from to add clarity to just about every situation, “The Godfather” and “The Usual Suspects”. The Helen Thomas kerfuffle offered an opportunity for the use of this little gem from TUS: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” The notion that journalists are, or have been objective, is the greatest trick.
The announcement of Helen Thomas’ “retirement” due to her remark that the Jews should “Get the hell out of Palestine.” has sparked a debate about the honesty and integrity of journalists and journalism that is long overdue. NRB’s link to the post titled “Helen Thomas and the Awkward Transfer from Reporting to Opinioneering” is an honest look at the state of journalism in America. The following quote from this piece sums up the heart of the debate.
“Straight reporters have been taught for six decades to submerge or even smother their political and philosophical views in the workplace. Like all varieties of censorship, this process creates resentment and distortion. Whatever it is that you feel prevented from saying, you will be more likely to scream once given the chance.”
The antiquated idea that journalists can and should be unbiased is what should be retired, not Helen. I will take the “devil you know” journalist over the stealth opinion shaper every day of the week.
It was a tall, cold, refreshing drink to hear Helen Thomas spill the beans on what she REALLY thinks. She has been reporting the “news” for over 50 years. She has shaped the opinions of countless Americans who were unaware of her bias and anti-Semitism.
“The longer someone is submerged in what they and their organizations regard as traditional “straight” reporting, the more gruesome the results are when the gloves come off. As Thomas herself reportedly said in a 2002 speech, “I censored myself for 50 years…. Now I wake up and ask myself, ‘Who do I hate today?”‘
Now that the truth has been exposed, past and present consumers of her work are free to digest it with the full knowledge of the poison with which it was laced.
Think of how different our political landscape would be if reporters were required to state their opinion and political leanings before they were allowed to present the “facts” as they saw them. Heaven forbid we return to the days when the most trusted man in America was Walter Cronkite. Cronkite embedded his anti-war, progressive bias so deep that his erroneous report that the Tet Offense was unwinnable turned the impending success of the Vietnam War into a failure. It was only a few years before his death that Americans discovered the true intentions of this “journalist” and realized that they had been misled.
It is time to put the myth of unbiased journalism to rest; i’ts dangerous and misleading. We should encourage more transparency in journalism, not less. The curtain has been pulled back to reveal that journalists and news anchors are no different than you or I. They do not posses a magical ability to withhold their opinions. When it comes to truth in journalism this quote from Clemenza in “The Godfather” really does apply, we need to “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”