If you were a war reporter, and the aggressive force in the war claimed they were calling a truce, and then proceeded to double the amount of artillery they were laying down, what is your responsibility as a journalist? Do you transcribe the lies of the leadership as if they were the truth, and run a story that says “The War Is Over” in a 100 point headline, or do you run a report about the mendacity of the aggressors? Do you ignore the bodies that fall every day in the clearly not-a-truce-but-a-war, or do you report that this supposed “truce” is a falsehood that is likely being trotted out to get the other side to lower their defenses?
Obviously, you report the real story, and if you don’t, you shouldn’t be a journalist. So why on earth are the standards for political reporting so different? Why is it acceptable to transcribe a few quotes that are strongly contested by reality, and report the quotes but not the reality? Case in point: Alexander Burns has a quote farm article up at Politico today that involves a number of conservatives claiming that the GOP is all about “economic” issues and not social ones. This is the same tired story that the Beltway media have been trotting out since the term “Tea Party” was invented: Republicans nationwide are putting social issues on the back burner, the Christian right will have to shut up and sit down, and there are supposed “libertarians” running the party now.
What’s amazing about this is that it can still be the narrative even as the GOP introduces unprecedented legislative attacks on reproductive rights on both the federal and state level, including an attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood and deprive millions of women of contraception and cancer screening. You even have a quote from John Boehner claiming that restricting women’s right to use private funding for abortion is a “top priority,” if quotes are all that matter to you. It’s ridiculous to put out a story out claiming that anti-choicers and Bible thumpers are taking a step back on the very same day that a fetus was called to “testify” against abortion in the Ohio legislature, which is a stunt of such mind-blowing right-wing nuttery that it seems to be a cosmic satire on the claims that the Christian right is backing off these days.
The real story here is that the GOP is claiming to be all about economics, and then turning around and spending most of their time trying to legislate sex out of existence . Instead of transcribing the quotes and reporting them as if they were the unadorned truth, how about a story asking why there’s such a disconnect between what GOP leaders and activists are saying and what they’re actually doing?
Chip Somodevilla for Getty Images.