I took a sick day today.  I sat in my apartment, and I watched MSNBC all day.  As I watched hour after hour of recycled news, I realized I couldn’t take it anymore.  So with that garbage on my mind, I came back here where I can usually find decent news.  And surprise! — I found myself reading about the same trash I had just watched, yet someone dared to address it on air.

Atrios noted earlier today that a recent CNN segment that included Alex Castellanos, a Republican “political contributor,” Paul Begala, the Democratic “political contributor,” and the moderator John Roberts, exhibited horrible journalism.  Here’s the transcript — I’ll meet you at the bottom.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Let’s be a little gentle.
Look, every elected official in this country works under the system we
have, which is you try to get a little bit of your tax money back. You
just don’t want to leave it all in Washington. The amazing thing about
Sarah Palin is when she became governor she actually stood up and said
no. And she made it –

BEGALA: That’s not true.

CASTELLANOS: She took a strong stand. That is rare and that never
happened.

ROBERTS: All right.

BEGALA: That’s just not true. You know, John, the facts matter.
There’s lots of things that are debatable who is more qualified or
less experienced or more this or more passionate, whatever. It is a
fact that she campaigned and supported that bridge to nowhere. It is a
fact that she hired lobbyists to get earmarks. It is a fact that as
governor she lobbies for earmarks. Her state is essentially a welfare
state taking money from the federal government.

ROBERTS: We still have 56 days to talk about this back and forth.

BEGALA: This is the problem. We have this false debate when we ought
to have at least agreed upon facts.

First of all, I didn’t think I’d ever say it, but kudos Paul Begala.  It certainly doesn’t even start to cover for your Crossfire days when you were just as bad as John Roberts (and were told so by Jon Stewart), but it was a good moment for you.  You should treasure it.

As far as Castellanos goes, do we seriously expect more from a right wing bloviator who gets paid, as Atrios noted in his post, to tell, at best, half-truths on CNN?  Of course not.  Castellanos is getting paid to make these opinionated remarks with no basis — why would he think this was wrong?

The person at fault here is John Roberts.  And please keep in mind, given my renewed focus on the common good, that when I criticize here, it is to address a larger point — not merely John Roberts’s suckiness.  This is about the political discourse in this country and how fake it is.  The fakeness can be seen above, as Castellanos tries to peddle misinformation to voters (um, hello:  Palin ate dinner on the taxpayers money in her house).  But that’s not the point.  Begala rightly calls Castellanos out on the lie — AFTER Roberts tried to shut the segment down the first time, deciding not to safeguard the facts of the story, and thereby foresaking his own integrity as a journalist.  So after Begala finishes his piece, Roberts makes his quip:  “We still have 56 days to talk about this back and forth.”

The problem here is that John Roberts thinks he’s getting paid to fill time with a nice little debate about nothing.  He apparently doesn’t care what is said; he apparently has no interest in holding people accountable.  He apparently has no regard for what Americans hear during his time on television.  And my experience with cable news tells me that there are several more like him who just don’t care.  Begala makes the point that I’ve been waiting to hear for a long time — the whole “debate” is FALSE (perhaps he did learn his lesson from Stewart).  In order to have a debate, there absolutely needs to be agreed upon facts.  And I’m not going to say that Democrats/liberals don’t do it either.  I’m sure they do.  But never has it been clearer to me that we’re seriously missing out as citizens if we mindlessly consume this trash and call it being “engaged.”  John Roberts — step it up.

There are many of us who work hard to get young people engaged in this country’s affairs.  One of the obvious ways of staying in touch with what is going on is by monitoring the media.  But if we’re going to be fed this crap over and over, how does that make us better citizens?  How do the young people we work with become better voters and better participants in the process when journalists aren’t even interested in the facts, but more in people yelling at each other to fill TV time?

Yes, it’s one example.  But there are many more out there.  I’d rather a journalist be a bit biased if he’d do so little as acknowledge facts.

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