Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

In Defense of Irresponsible Journalism

In Criticism, Journalism on November 20, 2004 at 4:38 am

Irresponsible Journalism is any journalism that is not “responsible,” that is, it does not merely lie passively until it responds or reacts to outside stimuli, and it is not stroke mag material for a “demographic”; it does not preach to the choir.

To write contrary to accepted conventions is the very marrow of ‘crazy talk,’ whether that’s indicting the consolidation of media companies and the goose-stepping commandants in Congress that have made it possible, dunning liberals for employment of empty rhetoric in the service of self-aggrandizement, writing a 23,000 word article on avocados that only uses no other noun but “lozenge,” freely mixing made-up quotes and manufactured statistics with “real” reporting, mixing satire and eulogy without “proper” attribution, taking poetry seriously and publishing it alongside political analysis, fiction, news articles and so on, or whatever else defies the conventions that put random facts and predetermined “truths” before the discovery of what actually is or what is most likely given a sincere attempt by smart people to understand, regardless of how the conclusion might clash with their cherished fictions.

Picture the new New Criterion. You’re soaking in it. (Now With More Homosexual Communism!)

In other words, the time has come again to pick up that old adolescent hammer and enrage the adults. With irresponsibility. People cherish their fictions and the only fictions they have are those that make them feel good about how they have yielded to their fears. Let’s take a hammer to these fictions. And this time, because we are adults and the hammer is bigger, we can swing it harder.

All during this terrorism at the towers and the wars, I have had a growing feeling that art has had some role to play but no one was filling it. They were all being responsible and thinking deep thoughts and finding politics relevant. Look at the “art” that responds to the current state of things: Those jaw-flappin’ Muppets with their anti-war poetry? Shit, that didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Without indulging in self-aggrandizement myself, perhaps I can assert that Crazy Talk, because it is, in essence, ‘art’ and not politics, has a chance at least of denting a helmet or two. Match up insightful, clean analysis with subversive potty-mouth gibberish and present it as a mainstream publication, with no concessions to clarity, and, voila!… Well, probably nothing. But it sounds like fun.

When responsible journalism to the center and right, which gives lip service to objectivity and accuracy and then produces the NYT’s coverage of the Sandanistas in the 80s and Jayson Blair in the 90s/00s, when responsible journalism to the left produces alarmist conspiracy screeds crediting right-wing think tanks with omnipotence and omniscience, when the responsible research that responsible journalists rely on to do their work produce two identical sets of economists none of which are capable of definitively proving that FTAs are good or bad, when responsible journalism responds to the dictates of the boardroom, the business office or the politburo, instead of the bordello, then it is the duty of any thinking person to take up irresponsible journalism and use it to tell lies, make light of serious matters, rebuke, sedately consider and make fart noises in the church where everyone worships and no one believes; for the sake of Almighty God, amen.

To wit:

With friends like responsible journalism, who needs enemies?

If responsible journalism ‘tells it like it is’ how can we ignore our responsibility to lie?

When the entire context in which responsible journalists in the center, responsible journalists on the left and responsible journalists on right ply their trade is a faulty presumption, how can we continue to operate within that context?

I’m not talking about just ‘news’, I’m also talking about ‘analysis’ — from Kagan to Nye.

They’ve all agreed to disagree. I have agreed to no such thing.

“I have learned nothing but that something remains.”

My responsibility is to that which remains. Not to professional standards — shorthand for legerdemain — not to the truth — code for whatever my prejudices, fears, weaknesses, preconceptions, conventions and bosses allow me to think.

The most important journalist alive is not Kristol and not Cockburn, it is Steiger, the same Rod Steiger who heretofore has written only quote-copy for Bob Folder. Steiger is the future, Steiger is salvation and we are his midwives.

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