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Health Care & Environment
12.17 Brazilian police foil million-dollar fraud to export precious wood to China [clear-cutting forests harshly impacts all life above and below ground-level for decades; it decreases oxygen production and seguestration of CO2 and increases area, frequency and duration of drought]
12.13 English rivers polluted by powerful insecticides, first tests reveal [Are similar tests of U.S. waters conducted by the EPA anymore? We think not...]
News Media Matters
12.17 A Report to Our Readers
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
12.17 'Making America Stupid Again': Outrage Over Forbidden 7 Words You Can't Say at Trump's CDC [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]
12.16 Poverty in US set to increase due to Donald Trump's policies, says UN official [oligarchy-controlled countries are wonderful for the very rich]
12.16 Republicans Despise the Working Class [oligarchy-controlled countries are wonderful for the very rich]
12.17 Venue of last resort: the climate lawsuits threatening the future of big oil [something else Republicans are packing the courts for...]
12.15 Who Pays for Judicial Races? The Politics of Judicial Elections 2015-16 [desperately packing the courts at all levels to protect white power & unregulated capitalism]
12.13 US Concern Over 'Pervasive' High-Level Corruption Surging Under Trump: Poll [anyone surprised?]
12.17 Trump’s Misuse of Intelligence on Iran [immoral behavior that could lead to War]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
12.17 How a Philadelphia nun became the unlikely face of conscientious capitalism [Why don't we teach morality in Law & Business schools?]
12.16 The Republican Tax Bill Provides Huge Benefits to People Who Don’t Work. But Only if They’re Rich. [oligarchy-controlled countries are wonderful for the very rich]
12.16 The United States Is Now as Unequal as Russia. And That’s Before the Tax Bill. [oligarchy-controlled countries are wonderful for the very rich]
12.16 EU to force firms to reveal true owners in wake of Panama Papers [what are the chances oligarchy-controlled countries (esp. America and Russia) ever agree to fight tax evasion and money landering? International agencies must all mandate common regulations as a condition for UN membership, trade agreements, world bank loans, etc.]
12.15 FCC Chair Ajit Pai 'Shows Just How Dumb He Thinks Americans Are' With Video Mocking Net Neutrality [he won't discuss how giving more monopoly power to cable ISPs will increase consumer costs and stifle innovation]
12.13 The “Death Tax” Cargo Cult [we lack for morals and sanity in U.S. media & politics]
International & Futurism
12.17 Africa’s new elite force: women gunning for poachers and fighting for a better life [a good model that converts victims of abuse and cruelty into positive activists with good jobs...]
12.14 Israeli undercover soldiers seen arresting Palestinian protesters [Palestinians need more and better weapons for a fair fight]
Why We Can't Trust the WSJ's "Opinion" Section
The Wall Street Journal's failure to edit Karl Rove's misleading column on taxes is a case in point.
Sunday, 5 December 2010
Does the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics' first principle, that "deliberate distortion is never permissible," apply to writers, but not editors?
Where can the public turn today for accurate reporting? It used to be said that the Wall Street Journal's news reporting was impeccable because the power elite who read it would never forgive it for providing false information. Even those not among that exalted universe also once counted on the WSJ, especially during the pre-Murdoch era. This is not to say that the WSJ's editorial and opinion pages were similarly stellar back then, but since it was understood the paper had a certain viewpoint (pro-business, anti-tax, laissez-faire), one expected the articles on those pages to contain cherry-picked facts; after all, that's what such sections are for. At the least, though, one could believe the facts themselves—however they may have been twisted or misinterpreted to make a point—were solid, not squishy.
The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists lays out a journalist's responsibilities. Among them: " Deliberate distortion is never permissible." Admittedly this Code of Ethics is voluntary, as there is no licensing or policing of journalists or columnists, nor is there any requirement for a particular sort of education or experience. Journalists must police themselves, and the public's job is to slam them when they don't.
Consider this column as such a slam, then. Let us take as a case in point the column by Karl Rove called "Nancy Pelosi's Unwelcome Christmas Gift," published on page A17 of the WSJ's opinion section on Thurs., Dec. 2. We've come to expect Karl Rove's writings to be unsatisfactory, but this one breaks new ground for disingenuousness. What were the WSJ's editors thinking when they published this? Did they even read it before they sent it out to millions of readers? Someone did: there's a "teaser" highlighting one of Rove's absurd assertions: "A couple earning $80,000 could lose hundreds per month if the Bush tax rates aren't extended."
Rove's beef is that Nancy Pelosi is insisting that the Obama tax cuts for those who earn under $250,000 a year should stay in place, but wants to see a rate hike on the portion of a taxpayer's taxable income that exceeds that amount. Rove leaves out the italicized information. He darkly warns us that "Congress could go home [for the holidays] without stopping the largest tax increase in the nation's history." Say what? The "increase" would be for only the top bracket, and it still would come nowhere near the top rate paid earlier in our history (up to 91%; now it's only 35%).
Rove fails to include essential facts needed to understand the U.S. Tax Code (contrary to the SPJ Code of Ethics: "[Journalists] should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.") He omits the fact that every single taxpayer pays the same tax rate at every step in the Tax Code. The Tax Rate Tables at the end of the link show clearly that every other taxpayer—including Rupert Murdoch, George Soros and Karl Rove—is subject to a mere 10% tax on the first $8,350 of taxable income (if filing as a single person). We're all subject to the same rates every step of the way. We all benefited from the Obama tax cuts, and under the Pelosi plan we will all retain all of them, except for the taxable income over the highest income threshhold.
Rove also omits mention of a huge tax benefit given to all taxpayers, but which disproportionately benefits the wealthy: capital gains income is subject to a piddling 15% tax rate.
Where were the WSJ editors in all this? Surely they have access to telephones, e-mail and fax machines so that they can query Rove and other op-ed contributors about their omissions, misstatements and flat-out lies. Or are these editors (Paul A. Gigot is the WSJ editorial page editor and Daniel Henninger is deputy editor) following the trend of their peers at other U.S. newspapers—of publishing op-ed submissions and syndicated material without providing any editorial input? The reader is then left to figure out whether the information is worthy, because the editors have abdicated their responsibility. Does the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics' first principle, that "deliberate distortion is never permissible," apply to writers, but not editors?
Look at what happens when the gate-keepers and vetters of information—editors—fail to edit: opinion pieces that should never have been published are circulated world-wide, and quoted by others as if they're fact.
Rove's "Christmas Gift" column got 564 comments (as of Dec. 3) on the WSJ website, but no one can post a comment unless he or she is a WSJ subscriber. Readers of the web version of Rove's column may wade through these comments, and in so doing they may be able to ferret out the full facts from among some wild assertions—tamed somewhat by the WSJ's laudable requirement that those posting comments must use their real names.
But what about the rest of the public? Why, they get served Rove's disingenuous tripe for breakfast on the cable and radio talk shows--with much hype and derision and incivility thrown in for entertainment value.
Anyone who wonders why this country appears to be an intellectual and brutal wasteland needs to trace the "supply chain" of information to the source: the editors at the Wall Street Journal and other "mainstream" media.
Alice Cherbonnier is the Managing Editor of the Baltimore Chronicle.
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Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.This story was published on December 5, 2010.