By James F. Tracy
Progressive-left media icon Jeremy Scahill told a caller to C-SPAN’s Book TV that Austin Texas talk show host Alex Jones is a “lunatic” and a significant detriment to “real journalism that journalists are doing.”
Scahill was asked who he thought represented “the most legimate … form of journalism”–Jones or Amy Goodman. “[I have] to be very careful about choosing my words here,” Scahill cautioned. The writer then proceeded to call Jones an “absolute, die-hard lunatic, and to even mention him in the same sentence as Amy Goodman is an incredible insult to Amy Goodman.”
Alex Jones has forwarded some of the most outrageous, ridiculous conspiracy theories about how the world works. And whatever good he might be doing in what he does is completely overshadowed by the fact that he is pushing outright lies and propaganda on a regular basis and I think that it ultimately subverts the importance of real journalism that independent journalists are doing on a regular basis by giving the impression that everyone’s running around wearing a tin foil hat.
The progressive author’s outburst begs the question, What exactly is “real journalism”? What are the characteristics of “alternative media”? Who has a legitimate claim to that mantle? And, what broader interests do attacks like these serve? This arguably has far less to do with journalistic legitimacy and a sincere regard for truth than it does with the less-apparent forces that seek to define political debate–and division.
The Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the foundation-funded Nation Institute, Scahill previously worked as a producer on Goodman’s Democracy Now! news program, also a major recipient of foundation funding. Scahill is also a frequent guest on corporate news outlet MSNBC.
Does money from philanthropic foundations predispose progressive media figures to cast aspersion on public gadflies who defy easy left/right categorization? Closely resembling typical attacks from the left, Scahill appears to have no option but to dismiss such alternative journalists and commentators as “conspiracy theorists,” or otherwise as wholly irrational. This renders such figures outside the parameters of what Scahill and his coterie perceive as legitimate debate. Nevermind the journalistic burden of proof that rightly accompanies such accusations.
A recent exchange on Facebook facilitated by a colleague with media critic Steve Rendall of progressive media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) is illustrative of the vulnerability such individuals have when the conversation turns to the question of financing.
Rendall took issue with an article I wrote specifically addressing the relationship between foundation funding and the independence of news media professing to be “alternative” or “radical.” Rendall argued that I was not placing Noam Chomsky in proper context, which I viewed as a red herring to my original premise.
I proceeded to point out how FAIR was the recipient of $3.5 million in funding between 2007 and 2011, and that this should be made note of, particularly in light of my article’s subject matter. A portion of FAIR’s income stream came from major foundations, including Ford.
At the suggestion of FAIR’s funding, Rendall turned hostile, noting that if it were not for such foundation-funded entities the “US left would be nearly non-existent.”
I don’t hide who I am. Anyone who cares, can look me up. And FAIR is a 501c3, or not-for-profit organization. Our status and major donations are a matter of public record. So you can stop pretending like you’ve done some kind of deep sleuthing.
Most of our money comes from individual contributors, but we get some foundation money. I wish we got more. The US left would be nearly non-existent without non-profits like Pacifica, Democracy Now!, and many others. (My emphasis.)
But seriously James, Global Research? Really? What’s the matter, Infowars or Michael Ruppert didn’t have any “dirt” on FAIR?
Poorly-reasoned and even vitriolic remarks like Scahill’s and Rendall’s must be placed in a broader context. Are they really speaking to their readerships? Certainly to some degree, for many of their adherents see themselves as similarly partisan in terms of social justice and the environment-related issues.
Yet such statements are also no doubt directed toward parties outside the tent–those that provide them with the financial means to enact their projects–and perhaps even motivated by an intelligence community that has an established history in promoting such confusion and disinformation to thwart serious challenges to the political-economic status quo.
The greatest challenge to that status quo might be waged once those on the “left” and “right” move beyond their politics of imagined opinion and allegiance toward a common understanding of the oppressive forces arrayed against them.