MOTIVATIONISM. Picking up on Greg Sargent's latest post on the media, let me note that there's something rather illogical about the habit of dismissing media criticism from progressive blogs or, say, Media Matters on the grounds that it's "partisan" in its motivations. After all, what's motive got to do with it? If The New York Times were to, say, slander a new car from Toyota as unsafe when it was, in fact, quite safe, one assumes the Times would hear about it from someone at Toyota. Toyota's interest in the matter would, of course, be the corporate bottom line rather than an abstract concern for journalism. But, still, you'd have a car, its actual safety record, a Times article, and what the article says about the car's safety record. If the article was wrong or unfair, that's a problem. If a Toyota PR guy points out the problem, you don't question his motives, you fix the problem. Of course, if the Toyota PR guy complains about negative coverage that actually was fair and accurate, then you dismiss him. But you dismiss him for being wrong, not for his motives.
Political coverage is the same way. Of course, progressive audiences and progressive institutions are overwhelmingly going to have partisan and/or ideological axes to grind as they offer their complaints. But so what? Anyone who complains about anything is going to be doing it for some reason or other. The question becomes: Is the complaint warranted or isn't it? Calling the critics' motives into question isn't a defense or even the beginning of a defense.
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