It was refreshing to hear Michael Joseph Gross discussing his article about Sarah Palin, in the October Vanity Fair, on the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC public radio last Friday (Sept.17). "Anyone with a basic sense of manners and decency," he said, would not have treated hotel staff, the bellhops and waiters and chambermaids who served her, as nastily and meanly as Palin had as she toured the country. Gross pointed out that these are typical of the hard-working Americans Palin claims to stand for, and bemoaned the media's melting into pusillanimity (my term, not Gross's) when confronted by Palin's fabrications, for example the "death panels" nonsense.
It seems that whoever tells the biggest, most barefaced lies wins, because reporters dutifully note down all sorts of absolute rubbish and then regurgitate it on the news pages without ever allowing themselves to wonder whether, in fact, what they were just told was true or not.
The press is supposed to hold elected representatives to account for their actions and statements. Isn't that the way it's supposed to be? As Gross said to guest host Miles O'Brien on Friday's show, the press asks the questions on behalf of the citizenry. Reporters should act as a filter so that, if politicians make outlandish claims, those claims will not be reported without letting the reader know the politician is exaggerating, distorting or lying. Otherwise the media becomes simply a conduit for propaganda, which can hardly make for a healthy democracy, since democracy depends upon a well-informed citizenry, not a duped one.
It's funny that Republicans and tea-partiers seem to see themselves as repositories of virtue and guardians of principle -- so why do they think it's OK to lie, bully and intimidate to get their way? And why do reporters (and editors) let themselves be gulled, time and again?