While the truth is putting its boots on

Eric Alterman looks at what happens when people don’t think truth matters.

It’s a truism that once an accusation is leveled, it’s impossible to erase entirely from the public memory. This is doubly true when it comes to the deceased, and doubly dangerous in our political world, in which debate is driven by cable news networks that show little interest in quaint questions involving what’s actually true…Given the fact that most casual news consumers cannot be expected to sift through competing claims of evidence and the like, the media’s disregard for traditional standards of verification is one of the right wing’s most potent weapons.

Alterman cites a story (originally based on a mistake) that I F Stone was a Soviet spy, and the fact that it keeps being trotted out despite the lack of any evidence to support it.

Stone died in 1989 at age 81, but the smear never has. The leaders of this campaign have been the professionally paranoid red-hunter Herbert Romerstein, the comically misnamed “Accuracy in Media,” wind-up shrieking doll Ann Coulter and, most tellingly, Robert Novak…Novak has been peddling the phony Stone story for more than a decade now. When I appeared on CNN’s Crossfire with him fourteen years ago, he raised it in order to smear my work and my reputation (Stone was my friend and journalistic mentor during his last decade). Following the show, I wrote a letter to then-CNN president Tom Johnson asking for the record to be corrected but received no response. I’ve tried a few more times to force the issue with Novak, but he has run away from every appearance. And the slander continues. When John Edwards spoke of Stone’s Trial of Socrates during the 2004 presidential campaign, Novak fulminated on CNN that this was an outrage, as “Stone received secret payments from the Kremlin.” Again, CNN did not bother with a rebuttal, much less a correction.

Which is bad, because it ought to be an important part of CNN’s job not to get things wrong. It’s bad that the CNN president didn’t even answer Alterman. It’s bad that PBS has yet to respond to Allen Esterson’s complaint ‘complaint about the numerous errors and misconceptions that permeate the PBS Einstein’s Wife website material and associated Lesson Plans.’

False information circulating and the gatekeepers refusing to do anything about it; bad, bad, very bad.

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