Sunday, 29 July, 2018
I heard something quite remarkable while listening to an episode of On The Media, the US equivalent of Media Watch*. While explaining why a lawyer of his prominence defends the free speech rights of white supremacists, first amendment lawyer Mark Randazza found himself being interrupted by host Bob Garfield.
Garfield was less interested in Randazza’s legal rationale than he was the piping-hot opportunity to character-assassinate Randazza’s clients. After all, who gives a shit about the legal rights of neo-Nazis, rednecks and bogans?
“This is not Fox News, sir. I am not going to be treated that way in an interview. UNDERSTOOD?”
It was glorious. Randazza remonstrated with what’s best describe as a voice a father would only ever use on his children. Chastened but clearly unapologetic, Garfield agreed to a more civilised style of engagement.
Maybe it’s because I’m a little more familiar with the legal arguments than the average listener, or maybe Garfield’s eagerness to judge Randazza’s clients was emblematic of many things I dislike about the media; in my mind, Randazza was completely justified.
I fundamentally don’t believe in what conservative politicians call “fake news”, but I do recognise the frequency of moments like this when journalists wilfully torpedo a considered and intelligent discussion because they’re incapable of looking past their own politics.
As the sun sets of Fairfax’s last days as a newspaper publisher, I wonder whether Garfield’s swift capitulation comes from an awareness that militancy and outrage are not good for business – that they are actually the root of the problem. The fact that Fairfax sold its interests to Channel Nine is an admission that they ultimately don’t know how to make money any other way**.
I’d have thought Garfield would’ve figured that out long ago, given that US media organisations have been closing shop left and right for the past six years.
It seems a little late either way.
How very Shakespearean a realisation.
*Well, that’s being incredibly generous. On The Media is superior by orders of magnitude.
**I question whether Channel Nine even knows, given that they ‘consciously uncoupled’ from Australian Consolidated Press back in 2012 for pretty much the same reason.