Saturday, May 12, 2018

Joy Reid and the Big Lie

MSNBC host Joy Reid was recently at the center of a minor brouhaha which was indicative of why many people hold the establishment media in low esteem. Before Reid was the eye rolling Madame Defarge of the anti-Trump Resistance she was a radio talk show host, political columnist and a blogger. Few people paid attention to everything that Reid was writing on her blog from 2006 to 2010. Reid wasn't big time then. Her blog was aimed at a different audience than she reaches with her 2018 television show. The political and cultural environment was different a decade ago. President Obama was elected in 2008 claiming opposition to same sex marriage. Likely, some assumed that it wasn't a very strident opposition, that Obama was lying, or that he was just cautious about coming out in favor of gay marriage. 

But even then it was at the very least bad form, rude and callous if not "homophobic" for a straight person to publicly question people's sexuality, mock people by calling them gay, or claim ostentatious disgust at the idea of gay intimacy. Reid did all of that. People found Reid's old blog posts, many of which claimed that then Florida Republican governor Charlie Crist was gay. Reid apologized and said she was a different person back then. This was no big deal to me. The rain falls on good and evil alike. Many people have made nasty statements about those they consider other. 

No, the problem appeared when, smelling blood in the water, people did more research into Reid's defunct blog and found even uglier old posts on the same topics. It became apparent that circa 2006~2010 Reid had a certain contempt for gays. Now at this point Reid could have (a) apologized again (b) pointed out that she already apologized and tell people to go away (c) ignored the whole silliness or (d) panic and do something stupid. Reid chose option D. She claimed that she had been hacked. The problem with this explanation was that it was so transparently a lie. Years before, Reed had tweeted out links to the offensive blog posts. The posts had also been archived at the time in the Library of Congress and the Wayback Machine. 

So either in 2018 people had time traveled to hack Joy Reid's blog, twitter feed, and all relevant internet archives or similar nefarious folks in 2006 had hacked Joy Reid's blog for years and she just never noticed, going so far as to tweet out links with hacked material. One of those explanations is impossible. The other is utterly unbelievable. The obvious conclusion is that Reid lied. But Reid just could not admit that she lied. 

Instead she hosted a show segment in which various gay people talked about how wonderful Reid was. And Reid gave a non-apology apology in which she admitted that although she could not prove that she had been hacked she still genuinely (snicker) didn't believe that she had written the posts. And with that she closed the subject.

We've all said something regretful or changed our mind on an issue. That's human nature. The problem is not what Reid wrote. I don't care what she wrote about gays, politicians, or gay politicians. The problem is she lied.  

Lies corrode journalism and democracy. Acceptance of lying enables corruption. NBC caught Brian Williams in a lie. Rather than fire him they demoted him to MSNBC. Some of Reid's supporters pointed to the Williams precedent to defend Reid. They thought that equality of vice was more important than punishing deception. This is the same argument speeders use when a police officer clocks them doing 95 mph in a 65 mph zone. Offenders suggest that everyone is speeding so why ticket them? Well the police officer can't ticket everyone. That someone else is doing wrong is no reason for you to do the same. The biggest problem with lying is that if you continue to do it you lose or try to make other people lose touch with reality. And that's a very bad thing. 

So two prominent NBC journalists lied and got away with it. When the next NBC journalist gets caught fibbing he or she will point to Reid as the reason to keep their job. A news organization accepts one liar. Tomorrow they have two. Next week there are four. In a year there are eight. If lying is not dealt with harshly the entire media loses credibility. People become cynical and tolerant of liars. You might even end up with people electing a reality TV huckster to be President. To lie so shamelessly about something so minor shows that (a) either Reid's stupid or thinks her audience is and (b) is too arrogant to admit to being wrong. Neither is a good trait for a journalist or commentator to have.

Inevitably people point to the left's betes noires, notable liars and bs artists on the right such as Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and well, President Trump. Obviously lying about blog posts and insults you wrote a decade or more ago isn't as consequential as lying about whether Iraq has WMD. On her most deceptive day Reid couldn't begin to touch President Trump in the untruth department. If many of these people haven't lost their jobs for lying then why should Reid. This is a bad argument. Hannity and company lie to their viewers so Reid should be able to lie to hers? Is that what things have come to? I don't want anyone lying to me. Period. For a journalist I think it's particularly disgraceful. You can't call out Trump for his lies if you're up there telling ridiculous stories about getting hacked. A journalist who lies should find another line of work.
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