Monday, June 13, 2005

Citizens of Preference

[I read this Jay Rosen post, sent there by Instapundit, discussing a comment by CNN's Bob Franken that "When I'm reporting, I am a citizen of the world." in response to a question by Alan Feuer. I started writing about this late Friday night but was in the middle of something else (Ed. - Got a Linda Foley fetish, eh?) and didn't get but a few paragraphs past my opening line. So, when Instapundit posted on a reply by Ernest Miller at Corante, and jumping over to read it, it was a real kick for me to see he started with the same exact sentence as mine. I figured, I might as well finish mine up and put it up. I'm just glad someone else had the same question, though I think my take goes along a slightly different path from Mr. Miller's.]

What the heck does "citizen of the world" mean? I am glad Mr. Rosen saw fit to cover this subject but am a little disappointed he doesn't elaborate on what 'citizen of the world' is supposed to mean.

There has to be some criteria by which "citizen of the world" means something so the reader of the any particular 'cotw' can measure him in connection with what he reports. Merely claiming the characteristic of skepticism is insufficient and claiming such, by implication, states to the reader that it is required that the reader be skeptical of all this 'cotw' reports. (The potential problem of having skeptical readers certainly isn't the fallout desired by these "skeptical citizens" based on their defensiveness when confronted with such skepticism.)

I think that issue of criteria is the source from which TR's (a illusory third person created by Alan Feuer for Alan Feuer to tell of his reminiscences of his two months in Iraq at the start of the invasion) question about patriotism and, if I may also add, representation, arises, when, according to TR, Bob Franken "expressed his horror that Fox News anchors wore American flag lapel pins on the air."

I likely would have asked Bob Franken about his patriotism, too, and just as likely would have asked it without characterizing my concern any more specifically than did TR. So as to not imply any of the following is what Feuer might have been thinking, I'll note right now the rest is my basis for asking Bob Franken about his patriotism. Please bear in mind that Mr. Franken is only the persona against which I discuss this. He represents the journalist who takes it as his duty to be the skeptical 'citizen of the world' who reports on events things. But I am wondering this about all the 'citizens of the world.'

First, consider this citizen of the world. At first blush, it seems Mr. Franken was espousing the view that no one government view on an issue would be favored when he records his observations and all his questioning of it would be geared towards ascertaining the truth of all aspects of it. That includes all facts used by said government. (How this citizen of the world in full skeptical mode can ascertain anything, is beside that point, I suppose, but I'll skip that.) But on thinking about it, the citizen of the world must also include being skeptical of non-government issues, whether its eating beef or not, cutting down forests or not, being a society of fat people or not, ad infinitum.

Also, this skeptic must apply his skills against not just action when investigating an issue, but inaction. And when weighing a proposal for action, these skills must be applied for delving into both more and less aggressive alternatives. This would be expected from the citizen of the world, wouldn't it? And especially so for a good, skeptical one.

Yet in surveying the activities of the 'citizens of the world' that carry the banner of skepticism into the battle so as to inform the public of events things, these efforts have fallen woefully short, not just on an individual basis, but on a rather large and wide, group one. Call that group the MSM. (now I don't mean to disparage all journalists for there are dozens that do handle this observation, investigation, reporting, and analysis function well, but there is a very healthy portion, and I'll peg it at a significant majority (and most of the prominent ones), that handle this only 'Rather' well.

For instance, can you list a handful of journalists that covered on a significant basis the issue of the Bush Administration's intention to hold Hussein accountable from the skeptical point of view where this point of view was "Why all the waiting?"; "What are we bothering to go to the UN?"; or "Isn't the UN process just giving Saddam time to prepare (or hide the WMD)?" I remember hearing a few subdued references to that but they were treated almost as irrelevancies.

And since the fall of Saddam, hundreds upon hundreds have poured over the border from neighboring countries to sustain the insurgency, Syria being one of the most significant. As the bombings continued to rack up the dead, the 'citizens of the world' in their full skeptical mode wrote questioningly of the Coalition's and the Iraqi's democracy plan, but the Bush Administration only needed to defend his plan from skeptics asking, "When are we pulling out?" How many heard the skeptical 'citizens of the world' pepper the Bush Administration with "Why aren't we going into Syria." or "Why aren't we responding to these apparent acts of war by Syria?"

You would think these 'citizens of the world', while waiting for the press conference to start would be jotting down questions of this nature, if they truly are skeptics preparing to get to the truth behind any policy position currently being held by the Administration. Has anyone heard a single 'citizen of the world' pepper the Bush Administration, or any single Democrat for that matter, to prove the truth behind their willingness to keep Social Security as a government program at all? Has their been any week-long skeptic style pestering of the political classes to prove that it is worth keeping?

And let me just prove the point about these skeptical 'citizens of the world' impartially seeking to get at the truth behind anything. Where was the cacophony of questioning why so much effort and money was spent aiding the Boxing Day Tsunami victims? I watched them fall all over each other to brow beat the leaders of the world into some freakish bidding war but why wasn't there a lot of questions about whether the money would have been better spent with an immediate action effort in that decades long disaster of a continent called Africa? (I'm sure a 'Fur of the World' might have asked.) That type of skepticism surely echoed with the 'citizens of the world' when time and again the loonies here asked why Bush was spending so much money to get rid of Saddam when it could have been better spent here on health care, or education, or more police, or ________ (fill in the blank.) I seem to remember some political flip-flopper skeptical, 'citizen of the world' wannabe note how many schools he could have built with that money.

I know the last one was a bit much. Each of those four examples became more extreme for a purpose. These 'citizens of the world' have values and principles after all. They have ideals. These 'citizens of the world' aren't really the chameleon-like skeptics that don one cap when confronting one side of an issue and then switches caps when the other side is in the spotlight. They don't have much interest at all in pursuing real skepticism for the purpose of informing the public. Their only interest is in satisfying their desire to have the chinks, drawbacks, problems, disadvantages, etc., exposed on issues which don't comport with their values, principles and ideals. American journalists, but not only American journalists, who don their 'citizens of the world' suits in the morning before they traipse out to report are merely attempting to disguise their purpose, which is to battle that which they oppose and defend that which they support.

When it comes to those like Bob Franken who point out that they are wearing their 'citizen of the world suit' while reporting on Iraq, one has to wonder why that suit doesn't have an American flag pin on it. What, exactly, is it about America that he can't proudly wear the ideals of his country on his lapel as he travels the world? What values, principles, and ideals does he have, anyway? You can judge that, and what color his suit is, by what he chooses to be skeptical about when he is 'reporting'.

(Now, I'm going back to reading the archived works of several skeptical, 'citizens of the world' and hope to have something worth reporting sometime soon. If not, I'll just do a rant.)

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