So here’s a perfect example of how actually-important political debates get lost in the haze of useless slapfights, observe David Corn vs. Bill O’Reilly on the subject not of foreign policy or really even media ethics but the personal integrity of Bill O’Reilly. Sure, I’m happy to see a lying blowhard get called out in this way. But Greg Grandin wrote a piece that was similar to the later-arriving Mother Jones piece earlier this month. (To be clear, I’m not accusing anyone of journalistic impropriety, but a link back to Grandin would have been natural and useful to readers, largely because it’s just a better, more thoughtful piece.) Why didn’t Grandin’s piece attract as much attention as the MoJo piece? I mean, it actually had a point beyond shooting spitballs at O’Reilly; it considered the way in which post-Vietnam journalism evolved in response to various late-Cold War conflicts, and in so doing, had a broader point than “O’Reilly’s a dink.” O’Reilly is a dink, and he deserves to get shot called in this way. But everybody who will side with Corn already thinks that O’Reilly’s the devil and those who like O’Reilly will never listen to Corn. And of course, there’s Politico to cover it all like it’s a fight on a junior high school playground.
The answer is that Grandin’s post didn’t suffer in comparison despite the fact that it had a broader point than O’Reilly’s lack of integrity. It suffered in comparison because it had a broader point. The politics of personalities is the problem.
Update: I notice that MoJo has a link to say that the Nation had a video first. I’m not sure if it was retroactive or not. Broader point stands: we should have a conversation about the Falklands, about South America and the West, and foreign policy over this, not just a “showdown” between media personalities.