Journalists are supposed to keep a check on this. We're taught in school, and at work, to play straight with all others, so we can play straight with our readers.
Yet we are human. We lie to ourselves all the time. And when we do it's up to others to call us on it.
One hallmark of this era, within journalism, has been a self delusion among its elite practitioners that they are somehow above the market, and above the fray, that they are impartial arbiters of what is happening around them.
This is a misreading of our role. We're not umpires. We are witnesses.
But thinking ourselves umpires gives us a feeling of power. It boosts our egos. This is a very dangerous way to live and work, but on TeeVee it's often encouraged, because TeeVee is a "hot" medium, excitement a form of acting, so puffing yourself up and preening is what makes you acceptable to the camera.
I got a nasty taste of this on MSNBC recently, during Keith Olbermann's Countdown. He was chatting with Jonathan Alter (left) about the constant right-wing refrain that "the press is biased." Both laughed, called it "working the refs," and agreed that it never works.
(It's at around 5:10 in the video which follows)
At the heart of the Nixon Thesis of Conflict lies the idea that the media can be bullied and gulled into doing the politicians' bidding, the willingness to practice such bullying ruthlessly, and the success of that bullying on the media itself.
How do you think we got into Iraq, Jonathan? Where were you, and Broder, and the rest of the so-called "impartial refs" when the war was coming down the tracks? Where were you when the Dixie Chicks were abused, and what did that teach you, other than to STFU? Which you did, for a remarkably long time.
The most dangerous self delusion is the delusion that you can't be deluded. The so-called liberal media engages in this delusion at its peril. As we saw in the Iraq War, to all our perils. We expect that kind of nonsense from Fox News, which is owned by a right-winger and reflects his views slavishly. We don't expect it, and we should not accept it, from the network that fired Phil Donahue despite having the network's best ratings and then thought Tucker Carlson was a a centrist.
Which means those of us outside the media elite have to work the refs harder than ever, to continue taking them all down a peg, and to take anything they say about anything with several pounds of salt. Until they're dragged off their pedestals, kicking and screaming, none of them will get the message.
Not even those who claim to be on our side.