Establishment journalists are creatures of a highly ideological world and often cause ideology to masquerade as neutral fact.
by Glenn Greenwald Guardian/UK October 12, 2012
Martha Raddatz as the moderator of Wednesday night's vice presidential debate was assertive and covered substantial ground in 90 minutes. That's all true enough, but the questions she asked reveal something significant about American journalism in general and especially its pretense of objectivity. For establishment journalists like Raddatz, "objectivity" is the holy grail. In their minds, it is what distinguishes "real reporters" from mere "opinionists" and, worse, partisans.
The reality is that, as desperately as they try, virtually no journalists are driven by this type of objectivity. They are, instead, awash in countless highly ideological assumptions that are anything but objective. These assumptions are almost always unacknowledged as such and are usually unexamined, which means that often the journalists themselves are not even consciously aware that they have embraced them. But embraced them they have, with unquestioning vigor
At best, "objectivity" in this world of journalists usually means nothing more than: the absence of obvious favoritism toward either of the two major political parties. As long as a journalist treats Democrats and Republicans more or less equally, they will be hailed as "objective journalists". But that is a conception of objectivity so shallow as to be virtually meaningless, in large part because the two parties so often share highly questionable assumptions on the most critical issues.
The highly questionable assumptions tacitly embedded in the questions Raddatz asked illustrate how this works. Let's begin with Iran, where Raddatz posed a series of questions and made numerous observations that she undoubtedly believes are factual but which are laden with all sorts of ideological assumptions. First there is this:
RADDATZ: Let's move to Iran, because there's really no bigger national security.issue... RYAN: Absolutely. RADDATZ: this country is facing.
The very idea that Iran poses some kind of major "national security" crisis for the US - let alone that there is "really no bigger national security" issue "this country is facing" - is absurd. At the very least, it's highly debatable. The US has Iran virtually encircled militarily. Iran has demonstrated no propensity to launch attacks on US soil, has no meaningful capability to do so, and would be instantly damaged, if not (as Hillary Clinton once put it) "totally obliterated" if they tried. That Iran is some major national security issue for the US is a concoction of the bipartisan DC class that always needs a scary foreign enemy.
Note what Raddatz did not ask and never would. Even after both candidates re-affirmed their commitment to attacking Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon, there were no questions about whether the US would have the legal or moral right to launch an aggressive attack on Iran. That the US has the right to attack any country it wants is one of those unexamined assumptions in Washington discourse, probably the supreme orthodoxy of the nation's "foreign policy community".
Worse, even after Biden boasted about the destruction of the Iranian economy from US sanctions - "the ayatollah sees his economy being crippled. . . . He sees the currency going into the tank. He sees the economy going into freefall" - there was no discussion about the severe suffering imposed on Iranian civilians by the US, whether the US wants to repeat the mass death and starvation it brought to millions of Iraqis for a full decade, or what the consequences of doing that will be.
In sum, all of Raddatz's questions were squarely within the extremely narrow - and highly ideological - DC consensus about US foreign policy generally and Iran specifically: namely, Iran is a national security threat to the US; it is trying to obtain nuclear weapons; the US must stop them; the US has the unchallenged right to suffocate Iranian civilians and attack militarily. As usual, the only question worth debating is whether a military attack on Iran now would be strategically wise, and advance US interests.
One can say many things about the worldview promoted by her questions. That it is "objective" or free of ideology is most certainly not one of them. Exactly the same is true of Raddatz's statements and questions about America's entitlement programs. Here is the "question": "Let's talk about Medicare and entitlements. Both Medicare and Social Security are going broke and taking a larger share of the budget in the process."
That Social Security is "going broke" is a claim that is dubious in the extreme. This claim lies at the heart of the right-wing and neo-liberal quest to slash benefits for ordinary Americans - Ryan predictably responded by saying: "Absolutely. Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. These are indisputable facts." - but the claim is baseless. [Excerpts only]