The principle culprit of the major media’s latest round of non-stop insipid news coverage is of course CBS News and its Sixty Minutes II report based on what the network claimed was a number of documents that cast doubt on the President’s military service.
For many, CBS’s claims didn’t pass the smell test, something that the network should have figured out immediately. A dozen news organizations, including several not friendly to President Bush, came forward contesting the authenticity of the documents, and the issue lit up the Bloggersphere like fireworks. CBS has relented, but only a little bit; its strategy seems to be that if a story doesn’t have legs, give it crutches. But after a week of devastating counterattacks demonstrating the absurdity of its claims, now the network has been reduced to supplying a walker to support its rationale for going with the story; in another week or two perhaps a wheelchair will come into play.
Others may continue to contest the network’s claims, but an equally interesting question is why CBS threw its reputation into the frying pan to begin with. Here are two suggestions: moral equivalence and stupidity. Moral equivalence means simply that there’s not much to distinguish between two sides of a question or an issue. It is an attitude that informed liberal-left attitudes during the second half of the Cold War, when supposedly smart journalists concluded that there really wasn’t much difference in behavior or morality between the USSR and America. Thus, Afghanistan was “Russia’s Vietnam”; never mind that one country was trying to stop totalitarianism and the other was trying to impose it. The Soviets had their Gulags, but then the USA had its civil rights problems. In this case, John Kerry had his peccadilloes during a war he opposed, and President Bush now has his. It’s the same, or perhaps worse for the President, don’t you see?
Naturally, such analyses are not only morally obtuse, they’re stupid, and that brings us to the second point. The collective echo chambers known as “mainstream media,” consistently fail to check their own opinions with views expressed from non-liberal sources. Genuine diversity at network news organizations would automatically generate an intellectual checks and balance system to keep everyone honest. In short, talking only with people who agree with you is stupid; it deprives you of crucial feedback on questionable proposals. This is the real cure for stupidity, not more “fact-checking.” An intellectually honest opponent would say: “What are you really trying to prove here? Would you pursue this matter if you weren’t opposed to the President? While you’re at it, why don’t you check Fahrenheit 911 for accuracy?”
In the meantime, the rest of us may profit from the stupidity of CBS (and many other major media outlets) by taking a lesson from Bill Engvall, a ‘redneck” comedian known most recently for his standup routine with the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. He has a terrific trademark expression. It’s called, “Here’s your sign.” This means that if you say something incredibly stupid, the victim of your inanity should hand you a sign that says, “I’m Stupid!” or, “I say stupid things!” Then you respond with an equally absurd answer.
Of course, we would have to add another wing to the White House just to store the number of signs needed to hand out to the Washington Press Corps and the major media outlets. Still, Bush’s press secretary would probably run out. But here’s a suggestion the next time a reporter asks about the President’s military service. “Did the President serve honorably in the National Guard?” The answer should be, “Nope! In Fifth Grade he flew fighter jets for the Hitler Youth.”
A final suggestion: instead of the signs saying “I say stupid things,” the only line they need is, “I’m from CBS News.”
Here’s your sign.