Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hewitt, Chait and Bias.

I'm a couple of days late with this but I wanted to blog about it anyway. Hugh Hewitt, the quintessential GOP party man and radio talk show host, instituted a policy a while back. That policy states, that he will only agree to be interviewed by media representatives if he can release the entire transcript (after the article runs) of the interview on his radio show or on his blog. He also has engaged in interviewing members of the media on his show in an effort to shed light on their biases and experience base that might (and often does) color their reporting.

Hewitt thinks, and I agree, that it is nearly impossible to report without bias on politically or socially charged issues. He thinks, and here again I agree, that it is better to be transparent about your biases so that your audience may evaluate what you say accordingly. Recently he interviewed Johnathan Chait of The New Republic and The Los Angeles Times, and asked the same raft of questions he has subjected all his media subjects.

Questions from the transcript:

HH: Okay. Let me ask you, Jonathan, to get you in the ideological universe, are you hard-left, or merely liberal?
HH: Well, no. I...then I start asking the questions. You voted for Kerry, right?
HH: And you voted for Gore, right?
HH: And did you vote for Clinton two times?
HH: 33. Okay, so you're 33 years old, you've voted for Democrats your whole life. Have you ever voted for a Republican?
HH: Have you ever owned a gun?
HH: Okay. He didn't know anyone in the military. Do you know anyone in the military?
HH: Do you know anyone whose been back and forth to Iraq and been deployed there?
But do you know anyone whose really lived the (military) life?

Throughout the interview Mr. Chait grew increasingly incensed at the line of questions, and now has written about it in The New Republic accusing Mr. Hewitt of McCarthy-ite tactics and complains of being labeled an elitist. What Mr. Chait does not seem to understand is Mr. Hewitt didn't ask the questions just to discredit him to a red voting audience. I doubt if Hugh Hewitt's audience was surprised and dismayed by Mr. Chait's answers, in fact, I'd wager an enchilada dinner with all the trimmings that none of the answers was a surprise.

My brother in law is a career Naval officer who has been in the Persian Gulf many times. If I have a question about military capabilities or general sentiment of military personel I ask him, going straight to the horse's mouth. There is a HUGE disconnect between the how the boots on the ground view our military actions in the middle east and how the media views our military actions. So when Mr Chait complains:

Later, he proceeded with a lengthier inquisition into whether I had friends or relatives in the military. He asked a version of this question some half-dozen times. ("Is there anyone that you want to bring up, like your aunt or your uncle, or the guy down the street?") I volunteered that my next-door neighbor and friend is a naval reservist, but this failed to mollify him. "Do you know anyone who's been back and forth to Iraq and been deployed there?" he asked. Sadly, I was unable to produce any evidence for my defense.

he doesn't seem to understand it goes straight to the heart of his understanding. No one is going to pillory him (ok, well some people will), but he needs to realize no one would care if he knew a serviceman or not if there was an accurate reflection of the military actions in the media. That this phenomenon is not limited to ignorance and bias of military issues, and that leftist and Democrat philosophy is dominant throughout established big name media, should be explanatory as to the relevence of the questions.

So no Mr. Chait, we are not trying to pick on you, or black list you, look at it as an intervention - admitting there is a problem is the first step.

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