Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our worst problem is hipshot media

Ben Hansen's pseudo-blog, purportedly about "words, media and ethics," today carries another of his extremely occasional columns, this on one of his favorite themes: "power, perquisites, pork and paramours," a formulation he's used eight other times in editorials in just the last three years.

The premise is painfully simplistic, that when a person is elected to Congress, s/he is immediately consumed by a Washington "culture of corruption" and becomes a depraved, power-mad pork-dispenser.

Somehow Ben can see no difference between Jeff Flake and Rick Renzi, between William Jefferson and Raul Grijalva, or between John Ensign and Olympia Snowe. To him they're all the same. What this tells me is that Ben knows literally nothing about what happens in Congress, and is making his accustomed hipshot at an easy, accustomed target. I'd love to be on the extension if Mr Flake were to call Ben on this insult to his integrity. He won't, of course, because, thanks to this sort of thing, a Courier editorial swings so little weight.

There's no question that there are some rotten apples in the Congressional barrel, and neither party can claim purity. That's true of every human organization, and it should be dead obvious to anyone over the age of twelve. But focusing on the rotten fifteen percent and tarring the rest with the same brush is insulting to the good ones and handicaps them in getting anything positive done.

The real tell on this is that if these ideas actually mattered to Ben, his editorial endorsements of candidates would focus more on their personal integrity than on the political positions that they say they espouse. Ben's record on this shows quite the opposite, reflexively endorsing corporatists and authoritarian radicals whatever their integrity problems. He endorsed Rick Renzi once after it was clear he was a carpetbagger sent in as a representative of the Pentagon rather than Arizona, and a second time after the Bush Justice Department called him on his extortion and land schemes.

Aside: I first met Renzi in July of '03, when he was just six months in office, and after talking with the guy for half an hour I knew exactly what he was and what would become of him. One would think that a man of Ben's experience and position would have had many opportunities to sniff out such a stinker. Why didn't he?

Ben, if you want to raise the bar on someone, start with your own profession. The American media in general and your paper in particular have failed us spectacularly over the past two decades, because people just like you put ideology ahead of citizenship. Drive the snakes from your own nest first.

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