Last week, Sarah Palin gave another in her long series of famously petulant interviews, this time to the New York Times, where she once again took to chastising the so-called "lamestream media" for various and sundry perceived crimes against her personage. Apart from the obvious hilarity of a grown woman using the word "lamestream" and expecting to be taken seriously as a political force, there's the somewhat worrisome reality that she is taken seriously as a political force.
In fact, for all her "woe is me" grousing about the rough ride she's been given, the media on the whole have been downright kid gloved in their treatment of Ms. Palin. Whether "death panels" or "refudiate" or, yep, "lamestream media," she's been able to sit pretty on her twin Twitter-Facebook perches and lob all manner of easily-disproved canards with most of the media breathlessly reporting on her every update while standing idle when it comes to questioning her underlying facts and/or assumptions. All this for fear of tarnishing their supposed objectivity. Here again we see how the desperate need be seen as "balanced" has effectively neutered the Fourth Estate by making it a third rail to call foul on blatant falsehoods.
While the ongoing MSNBC-Fox News sideshow has put the question of media objectivity back at the forefront of our discussion, as did last week's Keith Olbermann kerfuffle, what seems to have gone unacknowledged is that sometimes there is only one side -- the truth -- and far from demonstrating bias by pointing it out, our media appendages betray gross negligence by attempting to frame all sides of a given argument as equal players. In examining Olbermann's role, Salon's Gene Lyons makes a very important point:
...for all his grandiosity, MSNBC's resident blowhard doesn't actually make things up -- the most fundamental distinction in journalism.
The same can't be said of the Hannity-Beck-Limbaugh axis though, in which Ms. Palin can now be included thanks to her Fox News talking head post. They've shown plenty of times that they have a, shall we say, strained relationship with the truth. And therein lies the rub. You're entitled to spin facts whichever way you choose, but you're not allowed to invent them from whole cloth, and you should expect to be called on it when you do. Objectivity and balance aren't the same thing, and the media's conflation of the two has resulted in the foregrounding of the latter at the expense of the former. It's how we end up with this.
Or, God help us, this.
Follow Zaki Hasan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zakiscorner