The arrogance of the media on display again

Megan McArdle is a journalist for The Atlantic Monthly. She also apparently writes a blog. In a recent post, she defended the performance of the media from the criticism of Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald blasted the media for spending substantially much more time looking at trivial stories, such as Barack Obama’s bowling score than they did at the recent release of the memo by former Bush lawyer John Yoo — the memo which set the nation on the course to becoming a torture state. McArdle’s response represents the perfect specimen of corporate media arrogance and ignorance. Let’s take a look.

Americans care more about [Obama] than John Yoo because, well, John Yoo isn’t running for president.

This is a bogus statement that sounds like an argument on its surface but isn’t. Of course Americans care more about Obama than John Yoo, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about torture. That doesn’t mean they care more about Obama’s bowling score.

Indeed, if one in ten Americans had even heard of John Yoo, I would be shocked, because most people don’t care about minor government functionaries, no matter how pivotal their role may be in screwing up the world.

I love this logic too. The media doesn’t cover issues that Americans haven’t heard of. Well, where they hell are we going to hear about these issues if not in the media?

Next, McArdle basically proves Greenwald’s point, though she doesn’t appear to realize it:

I live in Washington DC, the throbbing heart of political trivia, and my sister works for HUD. Nonethelss, I had to look up the name of Alphonso Jackson, the HUD secretary, when allegations surfaced that he had grossly misused his office to help friends. After being forced to step down, he garnered slightly more Nexis hits than John Yoo’s name in the last month. But both lost out to Jamie Lynn Spears, who ooh! might be secretly engaged.

She equates the stepping down of a cabinet secretary over allegations of “grossly” misusing his office with “political trivia.” With an attitude like that it isn’t any wonder she didn’t know who the guy was.

Then comes this smarmy little passage. The arrogance and condescension just ooze off every pixel:

This is not because journalists are insulated from their readers. It is because readers buy more papers with headlines about Jamie Lynn Spears than they do with headlines about Alphonso Jackson or John Yoo, since as I think I just mentioned, they have never heard of either person. You can lead a consumer to stories of vital national importance, but you cannot make him care. You can just make him pass over your paper in favor of the Enquirer.

And in that last sentence you have — summed up perfectly — the true standards of today’s journalists.

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