Jackass journalism

Sometimes the worst offenders are those who buy into their own hype.

In 1998, Stephen Glass was the youngest writer for The New Republic and one of the brightest young journalists around at the time; but that would all go for naught on May 18, when Glass published an unsubstantiated article called “Hack Heaven.” As we now know, it turns out he cooked up the entire story, and 27 of the 41 articles he wrote for The New Republic were complete fabrications.

I’m not launching another attack upon the infamously ousted journalist-rather, I’m sympathetic toward him. Every day so-called journalists modify and exaggerate stories, frame questions to get necessary quotes and decide which facts are inserted into an article and which are left out. The truth is extremely blurry.

Take two of my favorite examples: Michael Moore and Michael Savage, poster boys for left-wing and right-wing extremism, respectively.

Moore’s movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” was a paragon of such a loose approach to reality.

Remember the scene when George Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew H. Card, whispered in his ear that the World Trade Towers had been bombed? Moore claims that Bush was then told of the 9/11 attacks. But do we really know that? Neither Moore nor anyone who watched the clip could actually hear what Bush’s crony was saying. He may have been telling the President that he looked good in his suit. Moore backs his claim by an article written by David E. Sanger and Don Van Natta, Jr., but how could those two gentlemen hear what Card was saying, either?

What about the Marine who escorted Moore when he asked senators if their sons or daughters were in the service? There was nothing regarding this Marine on Moore’s Web site. Was he made up? Was he one of Moore’s friends? Who knows?

Moore also uses a whole slew of loosely related facts about Halliburton, Bush and his relatives and Osama bin Laden’s extended family to form a weird conspiracy theory regarding our president. The truth of the matter is anyone can find a whole slew of details supporting a whole number of conspiracy theories, but that doesn’t make them true.

On the flip side of the coin, Savage is notorious for his fervent opinion on Islam and the Middle East. In fact, on June 23, 2005, he said that only once he sees Muslim extremists “hanging from lampposts in the entire Middle East?with their guts hanging out, then I’ll believe that there’s a difference between radical Islam and the rest of Islam over there.”

On another occasion, when an opponent of Savage tried to pipe up, Savage shouted at him and demanded that he provide a “thumb-nail sketch” of history before giving one of his own. Essentially, he reduced all of human history to this: For thousands of years, Muslims have hated Christians, attacked them in the Crusades and now 9/11. Of course, he left out roughly 99.999 percent of the story.

Savage sounds much more like Adolph Hitler than a real journalist; but instead of hating Jews, Savage hates Muslims and Mexicans. In March he even said, “show you’re a man: burn 10 Mexican flags, if I could recommend it. Put one in the window upside down and tell them to go back where they came from!”

These men must have a very low opinion of the American public. How else can they spoon-feed us fiction and call it fact?

Sure, Glass invented stories, but his inventions are no less accurate than Savage’s or Moore’s. Glass wrote some damn entertaining stories. But at least what Glass made up was funny and inspiring, and he never spread hatred like Savage and Moore.

It’s ironic-those who voraciously devour news story after news story are really probably less in touch with reality than the rest of us ignorant schmucks.