A few weeks ago, Mountain Democrat Editor Mike Raffety wrote a column which could be summed up thusly: If you want propaganda, read the front page of the New York Times, but if you want facts and truth, then go to the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Sure thing, Mike. And if you want truth on television, listen to FOX News and, on radio, tune in to Sean Hannity. All three are owned, body and soul, by Rupert Murdoch.
So I decided to check Mr. Raffety’s dubious assumption. On Sept. 27, on a flight to the east coast, I bought the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Both papers featured prominently the Justice Department’s fine/restitution to defrauded mortgage holders of $11 billion.
The Times played the story straight, in the tradition of Journalism 101: who, what, when, where and how. J.P. Morgan’s chairman, Jamie Diamond, accepted the Justice Department’s charges that his bank was guilty of massive fraud, although he was quick to blame underlings, subsidiaries, overseas branches — everybody but himself and his management team. Nevertheless, Diamond agreed to pay an $11 billion fine and restitution to defrauded mortgage holders. No organization would agree to pay an $11 billion fine, and take such a big hit on its reputation, unless it knew the Justice Department had an air-tight case.
The Times did editorialize a bit when it pointed out that Mr. Diamond is now in “damage control” mode, and is fighting the possibility that the Justice Department will force J.P. Morgan Chase to admit guilt, which would open it to thousands of individual lawsuits. This was the only “opinion” part of the Times’ story.
The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, did not treat this major story as “news.” Instead, it chose to deal with it on its “Opinion” page with an editorial entitled “Robbery at J.P. Morgan.” It accuses the U.S. government of looking for easy money by blackmailing a rich bank; the editorial nurtures the impression that the Justice Deptartment strong-armed Jamie Diamond into admitting that his bank had participated in massive fraud. I waited to read that President Obama himself had driven a 10-wheeler to J.P. Morgan’s vault to haul away the loot. The WSJ tried to elicit sympathy for those poor, innocent Wall Street banksters and place the blame on the victims who were defrauded. Apparently, Mike Raffety considers “blame the victim” rationalization as “fact-based news.” This scenario can only play in the fertile minds of right-wing zealots and Obama haters.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial also stands logic on its head by declaring “preposterous” the idea that J.P. Morgan should be accused of wrongdoing since many of the victims were “almost all large institutions, including Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac,” implying that big guys don’t complain, even when they’ve been robbed in the dubious moral and ethical world in which mega banks, the WSJ and other right-wing publications (e.g. the Mountain Democrat) operate; defrauding big borrowers that represent taxpayers is deemed OK, while the banksters that commit the fraud ought to be immune. Not exactly the kind of morality tale one would expect from the Mountain Democrat, a newspaper that passes itself off as “family oriented.”