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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Nicholas Kristof Offers Apology of Sorts

In Sunday's New York Times, Nicholas Kristof mentioned journalistic caricatures of the past which amount to defamation in hind sight.*  He mentioned the press calling Gerald Ford a klutz, when in fact he was very athletic, and calling the next President "hapless," when he turned out to be the most popular and respected ex-President in history -- Jimmy Carter.  Kristof goes on to say that Hillary Clinton has been similarly maligned by the media which has labeled her untruthful.

The matter of truthfulness in politics is a big subject with a long, and often seedy history.  My initial observation in the matter had to do with the media distorting the character and the record of various politicians as enumerated by Kristof.  This is an important point.  Sadly, politicians such as Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon richly earned the moniker of "liar."  Yet, the media has contributed to mistrust ever since these politicians were famously brought low by "credibility gaps."  It's almost as if every journalist wants to be a Woodward or Bernstein (the two famous Watergate reporters).

So the overall picture is not a happy one.  But the truth of the matter is the media has become part of the story, twisting facts to fit pre-existing narratives which themselves fit a pre-arranged picture.  The media thus becomes an accomplice to the debasement of our political life.  While this is not new, per se, the pervasiveness of the phenomenon in the television age is profound.

*Debunking the 'Crooked Hillary' Myth.  Sunday Times, Sunday Review section, p. 11

Kristof Criticized
In this article the author claims only half of Hillary Clinton's statements were said to be true or mostly true in one survey.  The Times  article, however, says 95% of her statements were said to be true or mostly true by Politifact.  

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