Helen Thomas And the View From Nowhere

Helen Thomas - USNWR

Matt Welch at last delivers the interesting take on Helen Thomas that the level of interest in her proposal that we disband Israel and send its Jewish population back to Poland or Germany demands. In his view, this is a sort of idiosyncratic manifestation of what happens when news reporters are asked to suppress their political views in the name of objectivity:

Straight reporters have been taught for six decades to submerge or even smother their political and philosophical views in the workplace. Like all varieties of censorship, this process creates resentment and distortion. Whatever it is that you feel prevented from saying, you will be more likely to scream once given the chance. This is why, for example, some of the most politically opinionated people you’ll ever meet are newspaper reporters a couple drinks in out yakking with their colleagues.

Degrading the quality of that discussion still further is the likelihood that the partisanship-averse journos haven’t bothered to construct their own self-conscious political philosophy, beyond identifying Bad Guys and wanting to Fix Problems. Show me the world’s most intractable problems–the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the inability to produce mass amounts of energy without negatively impacting the environment, the search for a beer that tastes great and is less filling–and I’ll show you reporters in bars having conversations worthy of the Alex Jones show. It’s not that they’re all Helen Thomases–she is truly one of a kind–but that in the absence of subjecting their own beliefs to journalistic rigor, they are more likely than many would expect to quietly nurture beliefs that outsiders would find surprisingly slanted and even extreme.

I think there’s a lot to that. When you get in the habit of arguing about politics professionally, you tend to learn something about what the other side’s counterarguments are and hopefully develop some better arguments of your own. If you just kind of sit around in the vicinity of important issues stewing in your own views but never working on articulating them or developing them, then you’ve set the stage to cut loose with some serious nonsense.