Some reporters aren’t satisfied with claiming McCain and Palin are encouraging supporters to get violent. Mark Binker of the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record reports on how his colleague Joe Kilian was kicked in the leg by a Palin fan and is suggesting that people who peddle that "liberal media" message might be egging on violence against reporters:
After today I'm wondering -- and this is just wondering at this point -- whether Republicans aren't in some respect giving their supporters license for this sort of crap. If the story you peddle is that your guys are the good guys and all those who stand against them are the bad guys, and the "liberal media" is in that second column, might there be a message there – even if it is one that is misconstrued and carried to a stupid extreme in some cases?
There is a very obvious retort to this line of thinking: if Binker is right, than all the hostile news coverage against McCain (and much more extremely, Palin) encourages a "stupid extreme" on the left to get violent against the GOP ticket.
I would never encourage some angry bearded GOP supporter to knock a reporter to the ground, and not just because I’ve been a reporter. But in every case, a very simple rule should apply: if you tell your supporters to get violent, then you’re guilty. If you’re merely criticizing someone for their shoddy work, then reporters like this sound like they’re just trying to talk anyone out of criticizing them.
The Poynter Institute's Romenesko site picked up the Binker blog to inform the media elite, and then Justin Peters of the Columbia Journalism Review took up the Binker thesis of news-busting-gone-wild and said yes, yes, yes:
It is ludicrous to claim otherwise. The ugliness coming out of recent McCain rallies is directly attributable to the incendiary rhetoric being issued by his surrogates and advocates. One can’t create an atmosphere charged with anger and resentment and then feign bewilderment when some emotionally stunted mouthbreather acts on those sentiments. Governor Palin, during her time as a national figure, has especially demonstrated a disappointing readiness to stoke the us-versus-them mentality that undergirds much of the anti-intellectual, anti-press sentiment in America.
Peters no doubt feels generous in acknowledging that unlike those Palin-pushing yahoos, "Most modern reporters come from highly educated backgrounds and tend to align with the moderate liberalism that is common among the urban privileged classes." But then it gets hilarious:
But it is intellectually dishonest to extrapolate this disconnect into the claim that all news is therefore tainted by reporters’ personal political sympathies. Personal values are not supposed to matter in professions that conform to a set of universally observed standards, and there are few professions so fanatically obsessed with standards as is journalism. Highest among those standards is fairness. Most journalists have internalized the objectivity-and-balance mantra to the point where their reporting is sometimes crippled by it.
Does Justin Peters watch the networks, or read the New York Times, or the news magazines? He needs to read some NewsBusters. I will say that Binker's and Kilian's reports on the Palin rally in North Carolina were fair and professional. They must be several rungs below the snooty Katies, Brians, and Charlies.
(Hat tip: Dan Gainor, another former reporter)