Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fake expert leaves reporters feeling shameful and looking biased.

Photo of phony McCain adviser Martin Eisenstadt.
Courtesy of

As the post-election hype rolls on, the Palin-coverage took a twisted turn, which left viewers scratching their heads.

According to NYT, a pair of filmmakers pulled an elaborate Internet hoax by impersonating a McCain adviser.

When Fox News reported that an unnamed McCain adviser said Palin did not know that Africa was a continent, no one thought to ask the defendant whether or not the fact was true. Instead, the anonymous source's Palin/Africa story spread like rapid fire. Well, because, on top of her infinite foreign policy widsom, it was another Palin-fumble, right? Soon after, MSNBC anchor David Shuster reported Monday that it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who leaked the claims.

The only problem is, Eisenstadt is a made-up character.

Dan Mirvish and Eitan Gorlin admitted to creating created Eisenstadt and convincing blogs to pitch a TV show based on the character.

Shamefully, MSNBC reported a retraction, saying, "Eisenstadt should not have made air." But also, they claimed, "someone in the newsroom received the Palin item in an e-mail message from a colleague and assumed it had been checked out."

Had exposing everything negative about Palin become so routine that no one remembered to fact check their sources? You would think after the Stephen Glass fiasco, reporters would be more careful...

But while right-wing supporters pointed the finger at a liberal-biased media who was too "anxious to report any negative reports on Sarah Palin without first confirming the information (Michael Calderone's Politico blog), Howard Rosenberg argues otherwise in his article.

With the 24-hour news cycle they (today’s media) rush into anything they can find,” Mirvish told The New York Times. (
Rather than accuse MSNBC for possessing a liberal slant, Rosenberg says, "it was rushed on the air because MNBC–as do so many in the media these days–was moving Too Fast to Think."

But my problem , however, is how easily we were dooped by bloggers, who got an even bigger voice through careless news broadcasters. Should we consider Gorlin and Morvish abusers of the Internet for its impacts and benefits of an open forum? Or have they just opened the media's eyes (big media, like Fox News and MSNBC, for that matter) to rely less on the Internet for sources and more on reporting, next time?

1 comment:

M. Dery said...

Fascinating subject, with some keen insights from you, buttressed by carefully chosen links. The kicker is a little limp, however; why pass the buck, wondering aloud if it's X or Y, when a critic with the courage of her own convictions would tell her reader what she thinks? You're the media critic; sift through all the available facts, then have the intellectual courage to give us your considered opinion! Random thoughts: Wish you had looked into the history of hoaxing the media, a form of sociopolitical satire and avant-garde media criticism known as "culture jamming." Joey Skaggs has made it his life's work, yet the MSM never seem to grow a clue. As you point out, if someone had only done due diligence on Eisenstadt, they would have exposed this for the hoax it was. Just as a little due diligence would have exposed Judith Miller's WoMD reporting. Or Glass, as you point out. Would have loved to have seen you dig deeper into the media's tendency to swallow up questionable "facts" that confirm deeply held prejudices, i.e., Palin is widely held to be dumb as a box of rocks, therefore no one questions a leak alleging that she doesn't know that Africa is a continent. The book DAMN LIES has a thing or two to say about this tendency.