One Newspaper, One Rag, and the Faceless Rest

True, it's unnecessary to express opposition on every issue; sometimes agreeing with the government is permitted. But that's not the rule. The rule is not to have any fear, whereas in this country there is fear. So good night to you, watchdog, and pleasant dreams about a good bite.

This week I participated in the annual journalists' convention, and once again I realized: Not only non-professionals, but even journalists themselves find it difficult to define their job. The refrain about the obligation to be "objective" and "balanced" was repeated there. Nonsense. Only in provincial Israel are people still pretending.

In England, we can assume, they understand something about democracy: The role of the opposition is to oppose, that's what they believe in the cradle of parliamentarianism. And if that's true of the opposition, how much more so of the media. It's true that it's unnecessary to express opposition on every issue, sometimes agreeing with the government is permitted, but that's not the rule. The rule is not to have any fear, whereas in this country there is fear. Good night to you, watchdog, and pleasant dreams about a good bite.

Is there any self-respecting media outlet in America that did not present its viewpoint - for Obama or for Romney? Even small-town newspapers revealed their opinion: in favor of one candidate for Congress and against another candidate. And they weren't ashamed. On the contrary, they are proud of their transparency, and anyone who is ambiguous is the loser.

Who doesn't know that The New York Times and MSNBC supported Obama unequivocally, while the The Wall Street Journal and the Fox network honored Romney with their endorsements? Disclosure is better than concealment, which arouses suspicion of fear and calculation, as in the days of Tammany Hall.

Not only in America. Media outlets all over the free world identify themselves, and the consumer has no need to investigate what is obscured from him, or to check off the political identities of the providers of news and opinion. Britain's Guardian is liberal left, just as the London Times is conservative right. And if the French newspaper Liberation is on the left, Figaro is on the right. Fairness, certainly, is necessary - but not pretense.

It's always necessary to oppose, or at least to cast doubt, because every government practices deception and some governments and administrations do so more than others.

Are the media to blame for the fact that a prime minister is known far and wide as a liar and a charlatan, as evasive and greedy? Isn't he the one who did that to his reputation? And all his acquaintances, both domestic and foreign, who were burned, are cautious and warn about him: Obama, Merkel, Sarkozy, Hollande, Ban Ki-Moon, Peres, Ashkenazi, Dagan, Diskin, Lipkin-Shahak, Yadlin, Mordechai, Sharon, Bennett, Shalom, Begin, Meridor and Kahlon - each in turn and in his own way. And the list is a partial one: Leftists who have forgotten how to be Jews, and Ishmaelites who are unqualified to bear witness, have been omitted. These are all character witnesses, and the media only have to cite the words in the names of those who said them, and to publish their decision.

Only one newspaper does so. Haaretz alone makes sure to publish an editorial, and all the rest have long since stopped doing so. Why get into trouble with a newspaper opinion that is liable to clash with public opinion, which will flood the subscription office with angry phone calls. And perhaps that is also the explanation for the great shift by journalists from the media to politics: in order to be released from the bonds of self-censorship, and to remove the muzzle with their hands free.

Even Israel Hayom doesn't hide between the lines. Two days ago, its agenda-driven but entirely objective writing went down the drain, together with $100 million, which the Jewish dice player risked for Israel. It turned out to be too dangerous a gamble.

The distance between these two transparent newspapers is like the distance from East to West. There is a difference between a newspaper that believes in a path and will support anyone who follows it, and a newspaper that worships a prime minister wherever he goes. A newspaper that works for the government is not a newspaper, it's a rag. There's nothing wrong with an article praising a dear leader, but there is something wrong with a newspaper that amounts to one long, regularly appearing article devoted to his glorification.

And every year we'll go down to the convention in Eilat to clarify what's clear to the entire world: Neither "court" media on the one hand, nor neutral media on the other, are worth a damn.