It Is the Antithesis of Journalism
At this point, it is impossible to believe that even Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) believes that there is anything remotely journalistically sound or truth-evidencing about giving exclusive access to 44,000 hours of Capitol videotapes from Jan. 6 to commentator Tucker Carlson of Fox News.
Rather, McCarthy, who refuses to discuss his decision to hand over the tapes, clearly is hoping for a slick presentation that can counter the accepted story we all witnessed in which loyalists to Donald Trump assembled and rioted to stop an election count that would anoint Joe Biden as president. McCarthy, who denounced Jan. 6 until he didn’t, says it is Democrats who politicized the investigation of the insurrection attempt.
Carlson himself says that even before he has had his staff look at the tapes, he knows they can be edited to show a different version of Jan. 6 than that supported by the special congressional committee and hundreds guilty verdicts for breaking into the Capitol and rioting.
It is blatantly clear that Carlson, who has described Jan. 6 as a minor event in which rioters in the Capitol were taking pictures and strolling around as tourists, wants to cherry-pick images that prove a predetermined point of view.
I’m sure he will do a good job of it, as he has previously. In 2021, Carlson produced “Patriot Purge,” a would-be documentary series that purported to tell an alternative story of the Jan. 6 insurrection and featured at least one subject who suggests the event may have been a “false flag” operation.
But Carlson’s process is not journalism; it is film editing in pursuit of a political outcome – the stuff for which the news organizations for whom I worked would fire someone. At best, it is sales of an idea — propaganda — or annotated opinion in pursuit of political goals. It won’t be believable, unless you are a fan already committed to the next opinion to pop out of his mouth without verification or put through a test of rigor.
It is the antithesis of journalism.
There are several ironies at play here. Release of the videotapes came in the same week as disclosures in court documents that Fox News personalities all the way to the top – and including Tucker Carlson – repeatedly lied on aIr about Trump, the baseless claims of election fraud and Jan. 6 itself. Indeed, what came across in the documents from the attacked Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit is that Carlson and his fellow anchors were more concerned about Fox holding onto its viewers from drifting to right-leaning competitors than to any semblance of journalism.
It is equally ironic that the first announced lawsuit against McCarthy for releasing the tapes is not from journalistic rivals, but from Mike Lindell, the My Pillow guy, for preempting his desires to undercut the Jan. 6 narrative emerging from multiple official sources as well as our eyes and ears.
It’s too bad, because there probably are lots of other stories to tell with access to the expanded video file about Capitol police planning and response, about whether the reported “tours” by various Republican members of Congress to groups of “visitors” on Jan. 5 are true, on whether the rioters already had been familiarized hiding places.
We’ll never know from Tucker Carlson, who, from his own description of what he intends, is ready to roll back the official versions of the day for some watered-down effort to link to left-leaning groups not even present and not under arrest.
The sole solution here is for others in Congress to make the tapes more accessible to other journalists.
Yes, it is concerning that the release of the video evidence from cameras throughout the Capitol may put future members of Congress at risk by disclosing safe routes away from the House and Senate chambers. There are procedures in place to curb that, though none of those seem to be applied in this case.
For me, I’m more concerned about another burial for truth-telling.
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