Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Media Disconnect

As a libertarian and "believer" (if you can call it that), in free markets, one of the biggest problems I have explaining/figuring out is how some of the traditional media outlets have survived for so long when their facts can be so easily verified and questioned.

Granted, their power (and economic power) is waning and has only been accelerated by the net, but given that they can't possibly be surprised about the unprecedented levels of access that the net provides. I can't tell if they're just remarkably sloppy or actually willful in their disregard for what a reasonable person might consider reality. Sometimes I wonder if there's much of a difference in the quality of news put out by state actors than the level of group think coming out of dead tree journalists.

Let's ignore for a moment what you might think of the more prominent political examples of Acorn or even Van Jones (US News). Let's look at Roman Polanski.

I've long been a fan of my.yahoo.com because it provides me with what various wire agencies like AP and Reuters consider their top news stories sorted according to things like top news, top international news, etc.. It provides me with some perspective of what I might otherwise miss from my overflowing blog reader. So let's compare and contrast.

Admittedly, I learned first of the Roman Polanski story (that he was arrested - though I had heard of his "plight" long ago, and even sympathized with him because I thought it was just a simple case of statutory rape - ie sex with a minor that happened long ago) from Instapundit that in turn linked from Megan McArdle who states: "You would think we’d busted him for unpaid parking tickets. The guy drugged a thirteen year old girl in order to rape her."

I glance over this morning to the Associated Press and one of what they call their top international news stories: "Polanski asks Swiss court to free him from custody". Nowhere in the article do they say anything about the drugging - in fact they go on to state: "His victim, Samantha Geimer, who long ago identified herself, has joined in Polanski's bid for dismissal."

Alright, I may even accept that some 13 year olds look older well beyond their years. That said I've also been a fan of Megan McArdle, but we all have our bad days and maybe McArdle was just being particularly unsympathetic in a case of what the AP seems to play off as a case of consensual sex admittedly with a 13 year old - and a more youthful indiscretion in the case of Mr. Polanski. Heck, apparently even the person he 'raped' doesn't seem to think it was that big of a deal - which is sort of magnanimous of her - so maybe it was consensual? After all, this is a man whose achievements that the AP goes to great lengths to extol.

So I googled "Samantha Geimer". One of the first articles: Polanski Rape Victim: ‘He Took my Innocence’. Here's an excerpt:

Samantha Geimer — known as Samantha Gailey when the film director plied her with champagne and sedatives before assaulting her when she was just 13 — says the filmmaker knew what he did was “wrong”.

“What he did to me was wrong and he knows it was wrong, I’m still living with it today,” the 45-year-old former model said in an interview in 2005. “He took sex from me and at the same time my innocence.
Granted, the article doesn't say she hasn't joined the bid for dismissal - but surely, her views would merit more than a one liner - unless of course the editors chose to admit it because it didn't fit within the general thrust of the story - ie 'those crazy puritan American bumpkins - how dare they attack a film icon'.

Frankly, I view this story is largely inconsequential (at least to me - there are enough things in the world to be outraged by) beyond what appears now to be the AP's complicity in Roman Polanski's predatory rape of a child. But it defies imagination that some of these journalists are the same ones who lament the stupidity of the general public for not supporting what is supposedly a public good. Let's assume for a moment that they've just been willfully ignorant. At the very least, it makes you wonder what else they aren't covering - especially on issues that have greater meaning and impact to most of us.

As I think Glenn Reynolds pointed out a long time ago, the traditional media outlets aren't being killed by the internet. This is suicide.

Howard Kurtz, a columnist at the Washington Post notes: "If Polanski was an ordinary Roman, and not an award-winning film director, we wouldn’t be having this debate. There is sympathy for him because he’s considered a great artiste. The Hollywood elite wouldn’t give Polanski the plumber the time of day if he had sexually assaulted an underage girl. And that suggests to me a stunning double standard."

Glenn Reynolds goes on to say "You can tell a lot about a governing class from who it’s willing to cover for." Truly.

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