Thursday, October 12, 2006


It used to was that newspaper stories were counted among the raw stuff of history, the on-the-spot accounts one used, albeit with caution, as primary sources. They were contemporaneous with events, after all, and journalists putatively strove to speak the truth. With Watergate and Vietnam investigative reporting in what's now called the mainstream media entered its golden age--a short period that came to a close by 1988 with the Miami Herald's stakeout of Gary Hart and subsequent photos of him with Donna Rice on the Monkey Business. But when it comes to the 'war on terror,' including the deadly fiasco in Iraq, time after time the exposes have largely come in books, not infrequently by reporters--Bob Woodward in State of Denial, Thomas E. Ricks in Fiasco, and Ron Suskind in The One Percent Doctrine, among others. I would hope that they are not deliberately withholding information. I think they are not; rather, I think the material is being kept out of the mainstream media for a host of reasons inherent in contemporary American political journalism, particularly the tendency to view every issue in dualistic terms--Republican-Democratic; conservative-liberal; Bush as president-opposition to Bush; support current Iraq policy or favor cutting and running. Putatively, both sides are given equal measure; in practice, the Bushy himself and his minions usually define the terms of debate. The rest is catch-up because the mainstream media, afraid of being accused of bias, prints the propaganda and lies of the Bushies, often without even attempting to set the record straight. Thus does a profession ostensibly devoted to Truth become party to deception.

The phenomenon is clearly on display at Bush press conferences, such as the one on Wednesday, October 11, where he repeatedly asserted that Kim Jong Il's detonation of an atomic device was due to the Clinton Administration's failed diplomacy, as if Bush has not been in power the last nearly six years, the same Bush who, according to Woodward, asked the Saudi Prince Bander--on the eve of the 2000 campaign--why he should care about North Korea. Or there was Bushy declaring that the terriors must be defeated on the battlefield--and not through police work, then without missing a beat, claiming that U.S. investigators were front and center with their British counterparts in breaking up the plot to blow up transAtlantic flights, when, according to reports, the U.S. jumped the gun for political reasons. Police work cracked that "case," if case it was. Or there was Bushy condemning the Senators who voted to deny him the authority--legal cover--to torture and voted to preserve habeas corpus. Bushy claims the dissenters refused to give the CIA interogators the tools they need to protect the "homeland." I won't even talk about his rejection of a new study estimating 600,000-plus Iraqi's dead because of his delusiions

Just as it was the responsibility of those Senators to filibuster the torture bill, so it is the responsibility of the media to pursue truth and accuracy by not blandly repeating lies. Book authors and the best bloggers have been successful in doing so precisely because they are not bound by allegiance to false objectivity. Bloggers operate from an identifiable perspective that, for the best, becomes transparent in a way that enhances their veracity. That's finally why many of the corporate powers who rule the mainstream media fear bloggers--not all of whom, I well recognize, rise above the level of self absorption. The problem with the lag time is that it allows Bushy and his crowd to stay a step or five ahead of being publicly called to account for their perfidy--and I say publicly because the Congress will never do it.

After watching Bushy's performance at his most recent press conference, for example, it seems to me fair and proper for journalists--and long past due--to investigate the man's sanity. Thanks to Suskind, we have known since the last election that Bushy doesn't occupy a "reality based world," and there have long been rumors--whispers, if you will--of continued drinking. If the Mark Foley case shows anything, it is that there is too much "wink, wink, nod, nod" over officials' 'private' behavior, too much pretending that it has no effect on their performance. Bunk. The issue of Bushy's competence is of a paramount importance, yet except when an hhistorian weighs in, it is largely ignored--ignored while people are tortured and are killed in the name of his delusions. Similarly, journalists must stop giving Bushy and his minions, especially his Dark Lords a free pass on their lies and misrepresentations. If reported, a correction should immediately follow in the text--and not as something "Democrats" said. Thee rules apply to everyone, oof course, not just the Bushies. Anyone who follows this route will initially be called biased--look at the opprobrium Keith Olbermann on MSNBC receives--or worse, but there is no other choice.


faculty for workplace justice said...

the ease and smugness with which bush joked with the journalists about attire -- and this the day after the announcement of the iraqi 600,000 and north korea's nuclear test -- felt sickeningly revealing to me. i promised myself i'll never, ever abuse whatever authority the classroom gives me to force what is de facto a captive audience to be complicit with my self-love. i just wish no one, not a single one, of the journalists had given him any satisfaction whatsoever -- truthfully, i wish they had walked out. but of course the whole press conference was a thin disguise for self-congratulatory speechifying on bush's part. see as evidence that the journalists' mics were cut the moment they were done with their questions.

Mark Derr said...

I also though the comments on attire were jejeune. The press is, indeed, far to easy on him.