Mollie Hemingway on Media IlliteracyPosted: July 9, 2014
Media Ignorance Is Becoming A Serious Problem
This reminds me of Donald Rumsfeld’s abstract musings on “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”. But then, Zach Carter—The Huffington Post‘s senior political economy reporter–would have to know who Donald Rumsfeld is.
Mollie Hemingway rocks. Read the whole thing here.
Last week, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt interviewed Zach Carter, who is The Huffington Post‘s senior political economy reporter. The interview’s purpose was to discuss Carter’s negative response to Hewitt’s previous interview of former Vice President Dick Cheney. The interview was lively and interesting but it did not go well for Carter, who was forced to admit his ignorance of the historical context of the situation in Iraq.
Looked at one way, the interview might almost seem like pointless point-scoring. In response to Hewitt’s questions, Carter admitted he didn’t know who Alger Hiss was and that he hadn’t read The Looming Tower. Those two questions are standard questions for Hewitt’s interviews.
…he was unaware that Bill Clinton had bombed Iraq in 1998…
But then Carter said he hadn’t read various other books, such as Bernard Lewis ’Crisis of Islam, Robin Wright’s Dreams and Shadows, or Thomas P. M. Barnett’s The Pentagon’s New Map. He said he hadn’t read Dexter Filkins’ The Forever War but that he’d “read a lot of the stuff that he’s written for The New Yorker.” Filkins joined The New Yorker in 2011. He said he does not read politician’s memoirs, including Cheney’s or George W. Bush’s. That he was unaware that Bill Clinton had bombed Iraq in 1998 or that Gadhafi had reportedly disarmed in 2003. He admitted he doesn’t know who A. Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistan bomb and godfather of Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, is.
“I give him credit for sticking through the entire interview.”
It’s such a display of ignorance that it seems almost unfair. But looked at another way, it’s simply a good interview where Hewitt seeks to establish Carter’s background and breadth of knowledge in order to help listeners know on what basis he critiqued Cheney.
“But it speaks to a larger problem we face with our media, which is that they frequently are not well read and, more importantly, they do not realize it.”
“He then asked the 31-year old Carter if he knew who Alger Hiss was. I’ve been on Hewitt’s show before—he can be a fantastic interviewer, especially of politicians—but this was unusual.”
Unusual? Call me old-fashioned, but let’s not pretend Alger Hiss was an “obscure” figure in American history, an unfair “gotcha” question to ask of a 31-year-old college graduate.
Alger Hiss was a high-ranking U.S. State Department official and Secretary-General of the United Nations founding conference. He was convicted of perjury in 1950 after denying involvement in Soviet espionage. Hiss partisans and many on the ideological left for many years hotly disputed the jury’s verdict in the case, putting forward a variety of conspiracy theories. The overwhelming consensus among historians today is that Hiss was guilty.
Note: If history had revealed Alger Hiss to be not guilty, every child in America would be subjected to endless Alger Hiss Day classroom assignments, “Alger Hiss Day” would be registered as a national holiday, and there would be a monument in Washington D.C. honoring his noble sacrifice.
Back to Mollie…
I don’t mean to pick on Carter, who was a good sport. If anything, I give him credit for sticking through the entire interview. But it speaks to a larger problem we face with our media, which is that they frequently are not well read and, more importantly, they do not realize it.
My favorite line was when Carter was asked if he’d heard of George Weigel and he replied, “I’ve heard of Dave Weigel.”
Don’t get me wrong — I’m in the media and I don’t claim any particular expertise in … anything. Not even Prince, the St. Louis Cardinals or Lutheranism, three of my main loves. I like to write about economics, sex, baseball and religion, sure, but I am all too aware of my limitations in each…..(read more)
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