Different narratives, different worlds

By Mark Lisheron | Watchdog.org

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published a rousing and indignant thrashing of the legacy media’s utterly deceitful news judgment concerning Gov. Scott Walker and campaign finance in Wisconsin.

By the end of the day, predictably, the right wing press had lined up with the Journal, the lefties behind their oracle, The New York Times.

WALKER: The Times acts as if it broke the story, when in fact it’s simply late to the party.

And so, another media fracas in the echo chamber went unheard by a public thoroughly disgusted by the self-absorption. That’s not only too bad, it’s a missed opportunity.

At the risk of driving away the few of you who might still be open minded about the news, I’d like to offer what I think is a unique perspective, about this story and this whole business of news gathering.

Call it self-interest in the public interest.

Unlike The New York Times and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the largest newspaper in Wisconsin, Watchdog.org has been following the Walker story from the beginning.

There was, as the Times finally got around to writing, a John Doe investigation into illegal campaign fundraising by supporters of Walker. That news was reported by Watchdog months ago.

Two judges you’ll find tucked away deep in their story found the investigation and Walker’s role in what the prosecutors tried to call a “wide-ranging scheme” baseless. The second, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa, made his ruling a month ago.

With its breathlessly accusatory headline, artful reconstruction and front page play, the Times acted out a charade that it was somehow breaking this news. In reality, it is rummaging through what were secret documents of a secret investigation released under the legal duress of a civil lawsuit brought by targets of that investigation.

Why, you might wonder, was The Times, with its passel of Pulitzer Prizes and the Journal Sentinel, which brags about its 2008, 2010 and 2011 Pulitzers right below its masthead, silent all of this time?

Because the facts of the case as presented by Watchdog.org tell a story of Democratic prosecutors in Milwaukee using their John Doe authority to carry out large scale and covert political harassment of supporters of a Republican governor.

These facts are at odds with a narrative The Times and the Journal Sentinel prefer: Crusading district attorneys doing the job the Supreme Court should have done criminalizing corporate and anonymous political donations.

Depending on your politics, you are free to embrace either narrative. To believe the first you have only to embrace the facts as presented. To believe the second you must, as The Times and the Journal Sentinel have done, ignore facts like the legality of corporate and anonymous donation upheld by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case in 2010 and all of our reporting.

The major newspapers have done this here in Texas, ignoring until very recently, some very inconvenient facts in the case of the state of Texas’ effort to impeach for the first time in state history a University of Texas regent.

Early on, the big-time press made up its mind Wallace Hall was eminently impeachable, having been found guilty of being an appointee of Gov. Rick Perry, the media’s symbol of everything wrong with Republicans.

To make the case Hall had abused his regent authority, the press had to crawl into bed with a few less distasteful Republicans running the investigation, a rueful necessity in a state controlled for a generation by the GOP.

The press also had to ignore months of reporting by Watchdog.org establishing conclusively the political favoritism at the UT law school Hall had been looking into when a few of those on the receiving end brought impeachment charges.

While steadfastly refusing to do their own reporting, the Dallas Morning News and the San Antonio Express News have graciously allowed our reporter, Jon Cassidy, to present his facts — on their opinion pages.

This in spite of a decision by the university, finally, to have an outside agency do a full investigation into the political favoritism.

This is about the time for the finger pointing, the left- and right-wing conspiracy hurling and the eye rolling. But reducing all of this to politics is dangerous business for a couple of important reasons.

Be ardently for or against Scott Walker or Wallace Hall, but be aware their futures are being decided by elected officials manipulating or attempting to manipulate our judicial branch.

By appearing to cheerlead for the secret investigation of Walker or the impeachment of Hall, the legacy media sends the message that our courts are political instruments wielded by the party in charge.

Justice is reserved only for those with whom you agree. Until the next election.

Perhaps more pernicious is this sort of reporting undermines facts themselves. Believe it or not, people want to believe in the essential truth of facts.

Herein lies the difference between the narratives of a Watchdog.org and a New York Times. It’s what drives us out of our minds when the legacy media pretends it is presenting all the news that’s fit to print

One narrative trusts readers with the facts. One narrative is so contemptuous of readers that only the narrator can be trusted with the facts.

We trust you know which is which.

Contact Mark Lisheron at mark@watchdog.org

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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