W. Joseph Campbell

‘A debunker’s work is never done’

In Bay of Pigs, Bra-burning, Cronkite Moment, Debunking, Furnish the war, Media myths, Murrow-McCarthy myth, New York Times, Reviews, War of the Worlds, Washington Post, Watergate myth, Yellow Journalism on May 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm

So notes the inestimable media critic Jack Shafer in his review of my forthcoming book, Getting It Wrong, posted today at slate.com.

And what a generous, engaging, and insightful review it is.

Under the headline “The Master of Debunk,” Shafer notes that “the only way to debunk an enshrined falsehood is with maximum reportorial firepower.

“Toting big guns and an itchy trigger-finger is American University professor W. Joseph Campbell, whose new book Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism flattens established myths that you were brought up to believe were true.”

Shafer’s review specifically discusses a variety of media-driven myths, including William Randolph Hearst’s purported vow to “furnish the war” with Spain; the so-called “Cronkite moment” that supposedly altered President Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam policy; the Bay of Pigs suppression myth that erroneously says President John F. Kennedy persuaded the New York Times to spike a story about the pending U.S.-backed invasion of Cuba, and the heroic-journalist myth of Watergate.

Shafer rightly points out that “a debunker’s work is never done” and to that end notes my recent post at Media Myth Alert about Evan Thomas’ new book, The War Lovers. The book embraces myths of the yellow press period in American journalism, including the Hearst vow.

Shafer thoughtfully considers the tenacity of media-driven myths, writing:

“Some myths endure because the stories are so compelling, like the Hearst tale and the alleged mayhem caused by Orson Welles’ [War of the Worlds] broadcast. Others survive because our prejudices nourish them (“crack babies,” bra burners) or because pure repetition has drummed them into our heads, smothering the truth in the process.

“The best tonic for the brain fever caused by media myths is an open mind and a free inquiry,” he writes.

Shafer wraps up the review by invoking this observation, by Jonathan Rauch:

“It is the error we punish, not the errant.”

Shafers adds:

“Of course when you do such a good job punishing the error, as Campbell does, you don’t need to bother with the errant.”

WJC

Related:

About these ads
  1. [...] ‘A debunker’s work is never done’ [...]

  2. [...] ‘A debunker’s work is never done’ [...]

  3. [...] The review closes by taking up the suggestion I offer in the conclusion of Getting It Wrong, namely that there are more media myths to debunk. [...]

  4. [...] interview wrapped up, Lanigan said he’s “sure there will be another” volume, a sequel, to Getting It [...]

  5. [...] ‘A debunker’s work is never done’ [...]

  6. [...] I discuss in Getting It Wrong, my new book that debunks 10 prominent media-driven myths, legend has it that Murrow “single-handedly confronted and [...]

  7. [...] than 120 people were there as I reviewed three of the 10 media-driven myths that are addressed and debunked in my latest book, Getting It [...]

  8. [...] I discuss in Getting It Wrong–which debunks 10 prominent media-driven myths–the notion of bra-burning stems from the women’s [...]

  9. [...] a popular but dubious claim–a media myth, really–that lives on as a cautionary tale about the dark potential of media [...]

  10. [...] It was standing-room-only at the Knight Hall conference room, where I discussed several chapters in my latest book, Getting It Wrong, which debunks 10 prominent media-driven myths. [...]

  11. [...] ‘A debunker’s work is never done’ [...]

  12. [...] I noted often at Media Myth Alert: No, the Post [...]

  13. [...] corrupt presidency in the Watergate scandal is a hardy meme–and is one of 10 prominent media-driven myths I debunk in my latest book, Getting It [...]

  14. [...] ‘A debunker’s work is never done’ [...]

  15. [...] A debunker’s work is never done [...]

  16. [...] famous line is almost certainly apocryphal, as I discuss in Getting It Wrong, which addresses and debunks 10 prominent media-driven [...]

  17. [...] Moment” — and it’s also a media-driven myth, one of 10 I address and debunk in my latest book, Getting It [...]

  18. [...] ‘A debunker’s work is never done’ [...]

  19. [...] A debunker’s work is never done [...]

  20. [...] Recalling that a ‘debunker’s work is never done’ In Bay of Pigs, Bra-burning, Cronkite Moment, Debunking, Furnish the war, Jessica Lynch, Media myths, Murrow-McCarthy myth, New York Times, Reviews, War of the Worlds, Washington Post, Watergate myth, Yellow Journalism on May 20, 2011 at 5:45 am It’s been a year since Jack Shafer, media critic for slate.com, posted his review of my media-mythbusting book, Getting It Wrong. The review offered the telling observation that a “debunker’s work is never done.” [...]

  21. [...] ‘A debunker’s work is never done’ [...]

  22. [...] ‘A debunker’s work is never done’ [...]

  23. [...] ‘A debunker’s work is never done’ [...]

  24. [...] ‘A debunker’s work is never done’ [...]

  25. […] A debunker’s work is never done […]

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,770 other followers

%d bloggers like this: