Who else could be racing into the Twilight Zone he describes faster than CNN? To judge by the gushing of CNN/US chief Jonathan Klein, Lou Dobbs is the latest paragon of splenetic emotive truth, or, as Kinsley puts it so much better:
Klein is a man who goes with the flow. Only five months before anointing Cooper CNN's new messiah (nothing human is alien to Anderson Cooper; nothing alien is human to Lou Dobbs), he killed CNN's long-running debate show Crossfire, on the grounds that viewers wanted information and not opinions. He said he agreed "wholeheartedly" with Jon Stewart's widely discussed and uncharacteristically stuffy remark that Crossfire and similar shows were "hurting America" with their occasionally raucous displays of emotional commitment to a political point of view.
Dobbs' ratings rose while he ranted about Dubai and the UAE and got a little sputum-flecked around the lips, so Klein has dubbed him Sir Gotcha.
Aaron Brown was a seasoned journalist, and yes a little less in-your-face than Anderson Cooper. But Klein is in the middle of destroying the CNN News brand, it appears, as he hyperfabulates over each new twitch in his management wand. Kinsley does get serious after giving the CNN Keystone Krew their well-deserved bitch-slaps.
Abandoning the pretense of objectivity does not mean abandoning the journalist's most important obligation, which is factual accuracy. In fact, the practice of opinion journalism brings additional ethical obligations. These can be summarized in two words: intellectual honesty. Are you writing or saying what you really think? Have you tested it against the available counterarguments? Will you stand by an expressed principle in different situations, when it leads to an unpleasing conclusion? Are you open to new evidence or argument that might change your mind? Do you retain at least a tiny, healthy sliver of a doubt about the argument you choose to make?
Much of today's opinion journalism, especially on TV, is not a great advertisement for the notion that American journalism could be improved by more opinion and less effort at objectivity. But that's because the conditions under which much opinion journalism is practiced today make honesty harder and doubt practically impossible. Like the mopey vicar in Evelyn Waugh's novel Decline and Fall, who loses a cushy parish when struck by a case of "Doubts," TV pundits need to radiate certainty for the sake of their careers. As Lou Dobbs has demonstrated, this doesn't mean you can't change your mind, as long as you are as certain in your opinion today as you were of the opposite opinion a couple of days ago.
Dobbs is a ridiculous straw man, but the recent second thoughts of Francis Fukuyama concerning the Iraq adventure have got the neo-cons in a tizzy. Of course, FF was immediately embraced by the NYT, no great exemplar of objective journalism since the Pinch Sulzberger era has removed even the fig-leaf of respectability from that rant-rag. Whether you prefer your carrots raw or like them cooked, you'd better not switch preferences, unless you work for CNN and then it's a crap-shoot.