Here's an example of a little exchange that occurred this morning, shortly after my weekly radio interview by Bob Brill on KNX 1070 all-news radio, in which I was talking about the MoveOn.org - General Petraeus "Betray Us" controversy.
My position: Most people - just about everyone, I'd say - can understand the difference between a General giving advice to Congress, supporting a President in his harmful foreign policy, that betrays the best interests of our country. This is what the MoveOn.org ad was clearly saying. Not that the General was betraying us on the battlefield, or by working with the enemy - a clearly absurd point to make, and which no one, even the war's most bitter opponents, has ever suggested.
But the Republicans are clearly trying to pretend that the literal traitor point is what the MoveOn.org ad in the New York Times was saying.
Here is the e-mail I received, followed by my reply. (Out of courtesy to the writer of the e-mail, I'm not printing his name - even though as a recipient of an unsolicited e-mail, I'm under no legal or ethical obligation to not publish the name of the writer.)
I heard your comments this AM on the radio concerning the Moveon.org ad in the NY Times. I was stunned by your take on it, but I suppose I shouldn’t be. You were simply reflecting your liberal bias and confirmed exactly what most know about academics in the liberal arts. Your views are so tainted by your liberal leanings, it’s impossible for you to present an evenhanded report on anything.
I guess I live in an ivory tower (slightly to the right of yours,) as I have not heard one utterance which described the ad the way you did. Perhaps in the liberal bastions of Manhattan, that nexus of all learning and civilization, one could believe in one’s heart that the average American took the ad to mean something entirely different than the words as written, but my guess is that if you spent a bit of time out in good old “flyover” country you would find that most Americans knew exactly what the folks at Moveon.org meant. They were simply calling the general a traitor. The doublespeak you used to dance around the meaning was certainly the stuff of legend and on that I must commend.
It’s almost as classic as “we support the troops but don’t support the war” and the like.
Is the job of a journalist to report the facts without bias or comment or is it to advance a personal agenda? The answer you give to that question, the answer you give when you look yourself in the eye brushing your teeth in the morning, will tell us where you stand.
And my reply ...
You're the one who should have trouble looking at yourself in the mirror: you're obviously intelligent, and therefore must know that there's a big difference between saying someone's advice or assessment betrays the best interests of this country (which is what the MoveOn ad is saying about the General), and saying someone is betraying us on the battlefield or in dealings with foreign powers (which is what the Republicans are claiming).
But I'd guess you're probably very familiar with what the Republicans are up to - you write as if you're on their payroll. Are you? Did you actually hear me on the radio, or are you responding to a mass e-mail that some Republican factotum sent out to you?
As for me, I have no agenda, other than what I've been doing in my 30 years of publishing books and articles, and teaching about the media: which is, provide independent scholarly assessments. (And, by the way, I was interviewed as a commentator and a scholar - not a journalist. In other words, I was interviewed by KNX because they were interested in my opinions and assessments.)
If you'd like to learn more about my opinions, I hope you keep listening to KNX - I'm on every Sunday morning at 7:20am. You might also enjoy my book, The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution - where you'll see that I criticize Democrats as well as Republicans when they're dishonest with the American people, or pursuing an unconstitutional and therefore illegal war.
All best wishes,