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Journalist Collusion
August 3rd, 2010

Recently, it came to light that a group of journalists agreed to suppress a political story during the recent 2008 presidential election process.  They admitted that they had set aside a story concerning the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his inflammatory statements, and his relationship with president Obama.  They agreed amongst themselves to filter and spin the story in order to minimize the damage to Obama.  What happened after that is a good illustration of how someone can win and yet lose.

Remember that during the presidential campaign, Rev. Jeremiah Wright angrily denounced both whites and America itself.  It’s true enough that the news media covered the story when it first broke, however, when Rev. Wright went on later to claim that the U.S. government had created the AIDS virus in order to kill African Americans, the stories stopped.  Normally, this sort of news story would not be a problem for anyone (except for Rev. Wright), however, Obama, had bragged about his close 20 year relationship with Rev. Wright.

Most of us realize that people generally associate with like-minded people.  So it was natural to wonder if Obama held views similar to those of Rev. Wright’s.  It was a fair question to ask Obama because he had been listening to Rev. Wright for over 20 years.  In fact, some in the media did ask Obama if he knew of Rev. Wrights beliefs.  When he said no, they asked him how could he not know.  And if he didn’t agree with Rev. Wright’s beliefs, why did it take so long for him to disassociate himself from Rev. Wright and/or denounce his beliefs?  It was clear that Obama had a serious problem.

This is when a group of journalists realized that if the questioning continued, the story was going to cause Obama serious damage.  There was too much at stake and they didn’t want to take the chance of letting the story play out and have Obama fumble an answer.  Instead, they decided to stop talking about Rev. Wright’s views and instead begin reporting that one of his opponents was a racist. 

The tactic eliminated the problem of having to prove that Obama didn’t hold the same beliefs as Rev. Wright.  It also gave them the chance to put an Obama opponent on defense and, at the same time, maintain Obama’s high approval rating.  The tactic worked well.  The media suppressed the Rev. Wright story, his opponent had only enough time to deny his racism, people forgot the story, and Obama’s approval rating remained high.

While the journalists won with their tactic, their profession lost something important and we, as Americans, may have lost something even greater.  The journalists undermined the credibility of their profession.  People had already been moving away from the mass media as a reliable source of news.  Those who felt that reporters and their editors were filtering and spinning the news were now a little more certain of it.  Consequently, people continued looking for more reliable news sources and avoided using newspapers and newscasts that were considered not reliable.

As an aside, when newspapers think that their competition is the electronic media or internet bloggers, they are wrong.  Their competition is unreliable reporting.  They are in the business of telling and selling the truth.  People are hungry for truth and when news sources are no longer reliable, people look elsewhere.

A second loss may have come to all of us (as Americans) because these journalists may have helped elect the wrong candidate.  I’m sure that, at the time, Obama looked like their perfect candidate.  While he may become a great president, it’s too soon to tell.  Right now it looks like he has to deal with significant problems in several areas of the economy such as, our national debt, immigration, the Middle East wars, same sex marriage, and health care.  Depending on how he handles these problems, a mistake could turn out to be the greatest of the unintended consequences of the journalist’s collusion.

But then how is any of this different in our personal lives?  We can’t lie simply because we have good intentions (except for the “need to know” case).  Isn’t it a better philosophy to just tell the truth and get through the consequences than it is to lie, suffer the same consequences anyway (although later) and then, in addition, suffer the loss of credibility?

Truth is woven throughout our social fabric and when we lie, or debase truth, we undermine ourselves and all of society.