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Archive for June 1st, 2015

Bob Somerby Accurately Predicts Farhad Manjoo’s Career Path

Posted by Phoenix Woman on June 1, 2015

While poking around over at Pando Daily, I read Mark Ames’ piece on how Sy Hersh tried to go after Big Business, only to run afoul of the NYT brass:

There are a lot of reasons for this trend in muckraking journalism over the past few decades, away from fighting private corporate power, in favor of fighting government power — but the most obvious reason of all is the one you won’t hear about much because it’s not very glamorous or heroic: It’s better for your journalism career — and easier — to take on the government leviathan, than it is to take on private corporate power.

The best illustration of this is what happened when Seymour Hersh once tried his hand at corporate muckraking — and failed. The reasons he failed offer important lessons for anyone interested in understanding why investigative journalism chooses to emphasize and amplify some stories over others.


The reason was pretty straightforward: unlike Hersh’s stories going after the CIA and the military, the Times was far more afraid, and careful, of the consequences of taking on a powerful private company (Gulf & Western) and getting sued out of existence. Unlike Hersh’s muckraking stories about illegal CIA spying and military massacres, the Times saddled Hersh with a team of editors and lawyers to vet his reporting, sucking the life out of the piece until it was almost unreadable. Among other things, the Times cut out all the colorful anonymous quotes that made his muckraking bombshells on the CIA (and more recently, on the Osama Bin Laden killing) such memorable reads.

Why? Again, because legally, you can get away with saying much more about government, spy agency, and military abuses without worrying about the legal consequences than you can about private corporations. And the flipside: private corporations have much more legal leeway to go vicious and dirty at a journalist and a publication than the government, which is constrained by the Constitution. It’s one of the benefits of contracting government work out to private contractors and agencies — they can legally get away with doing some of the dirty work that the government is barred from doing.

Modern aspiring journalists learn early on the “lesson” that Hersh learned in the mid-1970s. They not only steer away from attacking Big Business, they steer away from attacking journalists who back Big Business. As Bob Somerby explains, that’s why Farhad Manjoo, in his 2005 Salon piece, sided with the NYT’s Daniel Okrent over Paul Krugman:

Some day, when Manjoo is employed at the Times, remember this stupid plu-pandering column. And remember the background to all this kiss-kissing. Manjoo never cites a single claim by Darling Okrent that actually turned out to be accurate! But so what? He inflates the number of claims that were made; he implies that some of the claims were accurate; and he says that “many” of these (four) claims came from liberals who can’t stand Krugman. The use of “many” is again an inflation, and Manjoo has no way of knowing if any of Okrent’s claims came from libs. Meanwhile, from beginning to end, Okrent is portrayed as the suave, cagy player, and Krugman as the loudmouth “non-mensch.” Yes, an ugly old stereotype is threading its way all through this stupidity, surfacing in the warm sponge-bath of Manjoo’s undisguised pandering. Everything Okrent said was wrong—but Manjoo kiss-kisses from beginning to end! Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss! With “liberals” like this representing your case, can’t you see the actual reason why you keep “losing the spin wars?”

CHAIRMAN JACK SPEAKS: As always, we turn to the sayings of Chairman Jack, who explained why some fiery liberals won’t tell the truth about the New York Times’ foppist values. Why would a fiery young liberal play kiss-kiss with Okrent? Chairman Jack seemed to explain:

SHAFER (4/8/05): I started writing press criticism at Washington City Paper back in 1986, because as editor I couldn’t get anybody else to do it. Writers were frightened that if they penned something scathing about the Washington Post or the New York Times they’d screw themselves out of a future job.

Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss! When you see Manjoo’s by-line in the Times, just remember his pandering column. Remember how a fiery young liberal reacted when Okrent didn’t get one thing right.

By the way, Manjoo now writes for the Times, just as Somerby predicted.

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