[Update alert: See the update to The CBS Tampering Checklist]
Why shouldn't Dan Rather's multi-million fortune be at risk, for commerical fraud? The chilling effect it might have upon the free exchange of ideas and the exercise of our 1st Amendment right to speak freely?
We have no problem with the devastating effect - the chilling effect - that medical malpractice lawsuits have had upon the willingness of doctors to treat the poor.
So when did Dan achieve relative sainthood and get immunity?
Maybe if Dan's Aspen house was at risk for his routine and clumsy fraud - ask Ken Lay about that - those frauds would become rare.
Is all this just a bunch of corpolitical BS?
In the nuclear missile business, two officers in a silo are needed to perform the launch sequencing. In the U.S. Congress, both houses must pass a bill. In the corporate law business, a neutral partner must perform a cold read and approval of an "opinion letter" issued by the firm. For checks over $5000, most businesses require two signatures.
My no-good, coke-addicted, thievin' cousin has a sensible wife, who makes sure that he can only spend $25 a day without her PIN or co-signature.
The "dual control" aspects of our lives, from annihilation to paying a bill, are ingrained. We trust it, somewhat.
Enter the Corpolitical MSM
MSM reporters still project the fiction that they "fact check." They want you to think of an objective cold reader vetting an article or a story. They want you to think that there is adult supervision.
It ain't so. Over the past few decades, the process morphed. The old act of reviewing a piece has now become the act of making a few little changes to the piece, to insert technical libel defenses. The process now involves lawyers, not journalists.
Any challenge to the central thesis of a piece is no longer fair game. The "fact checking" question is no longer, "Did X do Y, and does this piece accurately reflect reality?" Instead, it is: "Is there any way we can get sued when we run this?" Followed by, "If so, insert some defenses that will keep the case away from a jury." And the lawyers do.
But it's done under the cynical claim that the MSM is still "fact checking." Invoking that mental image.
Dan Rather's MemoGate laid it bare. It could not have been scripted any better. It's broken, folks. Broken.
The tabloids have set the bar in this area of the law. Simply put, if you cannot prove that the publisher acted with actual malice, there is no case against the publisher.
The MSM has picked up on that. It's called, immunity. Immunity is like a monopoly. Money seeks monopolies. Power seeks immunity. Join the two, and it's a real party.
Add in reporter's shield laws (preventing you from learning that the journalist's source might be made up, or worse) and an alliance between legal advocacy groups and politicians and journalists of a kindred spirit, and you really get clean laundry. Several new immunities get created: Litigation privilege, where things said in a lawsuit pleading are privileged; legislative privilege, where things said in a legislature are privileged; reporter's shield laws, where a journalist cannot be compelled to reveal a source; and of course, the bona fides of the 1st Amendment.
Tragedy of the Commons
This piling-on of immunity has destroyed the balance of things. None of us voted on this immunity and benefits package.
It got assembled in the backroom.
We have created an effete class of thugs who have virtual immunity from the community at large. And powerful interests have taken note, and formed corpolitical mafia-like machines to exploit the new immunities. For money - their own. For power - their own.
Juxtapose for a moment....
What if your doctor was safe from any lawsuit, unless you could prove that s/he plotted to destroy your life, by mixing up the blood type or amputating the wrong arm, on purpose?
What if your lawyer was safe from any malpractice lawsuit, unless you could prove that he set out with the purpose of ruining you financially, because you married the girl he secretly wanted?
That's the legal standard for journalism malpractice.
Well,the 1st Amendment isn't going anywhere. Nor is the Supreme Court likely to redraw Sullivan
and its progeny. So ranting about the evils of the press, is just a rant.
The morphing of the Main Stream Media into Attack Media - granted, it's tabloid ratings related -- will be corrected only by front line responsibilty placed upon the live people involved. Yes, by firing editors. By firing reporters. By firing producers. By making every hit piece by the MSM into a career decision by the people involved. By making the immediate, revolving door rehiring of offender akin to tossing your new Lexus keys to a meth addict -- something that just isn't done.
The out-of-control end-of-century fraud in our securities markets was partly remedied by Sarbanes-Oxley (which removed the hidden technicalities of the corporate shield protecting top corporate executives who filed cooked financials). Actual people were made responsible. No more hiding behind Adelphia-style decision-making. If you are a top exec of a company that filed cooked books, you are presumed to be attendant to the details.
Because if not you...who?
Every penny you have is at risk. Funny thing happens when actual people are made responsible. They get their house in order.
The MSM needs to have a new code. With consequences for violations. The code cannot be imposed by the government - it isn't gonna happen.
Lawyers, acting through bar associations, disbar their own members. Doctors do a similar thing. The movie studio trade group tells you when a film is too dirty for kids.
A Journalists Guild would be a good place to start cleaning up the mess. First, by cleaning up the vetting process. With MSM newspapers and TV stations asked to join.. and to draft their own set of practices. With sanctions. With mandatory blacklist periods for violations.
Watch a Journalist Throw a Snarky Hissy Fit
Wanna witness a true spectacle? Take a journalist friend for a drink, and watch them foam over the thought of their imaginary Guild requiring every story to bear the certification, below. Wear a spittle mask:
The undersigned editor (“Editor”) of ____ (the "Publication") hereby certifies that:
1. Editor and Publication are members of [Editors Guild] and operate in accordance with the [Editor’s Guild Rules of Practice] (the “Standards”) .
2. Editor has taken personal responsibility for the preparation and vetting of the piece entitled _____ (the “Piece”).
3. Editor has directly reviewed the facts and sources used in the Piece, in accordance with the Standards.
4. To the best of Editor’s knowledge, the sources and facts cited in, and relied upon in preparing, the Piece, are reliable.
5. To the best of Editor’s knowledge, none of the sources or facts are used in the Piece in a manner which materially misstates or misrepresents such facts or sources.
6. To the best of Editor’s knowledge, no sources and facts have been intentionally excluded from the Piece for the purpose of materially misrepresenting the veracity of facts or sources used in the Piece.
After 2 hours of Rather-like foaming about the Free Press and Paul Revere, etc., you'll be told - as if you're being let in on a secret that only those in the brotherhood know - that it "just isn't workable."
And then think of lawyers, imposing fees and disbarment upon themselves.
Doable? You bet.
Wise? Let's have a full debate.