I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Friday, December 27, 2013

4 quick points about the MSNBC discussion

Regarding my MSNBC discussion yesterday with Kristen Welker:

1) I didn't say that everyone at MSNBC constantly defends Obama. I am well aware - as Kristen Welker so notably put it - that “not everyone on MSNBC does that 24 hours a day". The indisputable point is that many, many people calling themselves journalists on MSNBC do exactly that.

2) My main point was to note the stunning irony of being told on MSNBC - of all places - that a journalist "crosses the line" by expressing opinions and having political agendas. The last outlet that ought to be trumpeting that obsolete myth is MSNBC. This is, after all, a network that employs a veritable army of former Obama and DNC aides as hosts and "analysts", along with dozens of people whose entire worldview is shaped by devotion to the President and his Party's interests.

I'm not someone who believes that it's wrong for journalists to have opinions and agendas, but whatever else is true, a network that does this and this and this isn't exactly in a very good position to lecture journalists on the need to be opinion-free and without political agendas.

3) It's particularly ironic to hear that (a) a journalist is doing something improper ("crossing the line") by defending his source, while (b) it's perfectly proper for journalists to devote their entire careers to defending and venerating the most powerful political official in the nation. Doesn't that reverse the formulation rather radically?

As Digby says, defending one's source happens to be smack in the middle of "the job description" of a journalist. By rather stark contrast, uncritically praising and revering the nation's most powerful political leaders is sort of the opposite of journalism. If you want to find something that actually "crosses the lines" of journalism (whatever those might be), look to the latter, not the former.

4) If you want to argue with someone who (unlike me) actually made absolutist claims about MSNBC's blinding pro-Obama hackery, go find these two individuals:

Bill Clinton

Barack Obama