to Kill the Messenger
By Brad Friedman
As much as I like to criticize the media for being lazy -
which they are - I should probably add a word or two in praise
of having such an open, independent press in this country
in the first place. Such a declaration of the obvious seems
hardly necessary - particularly in light of recent events
and their constant reminder of how "our freedoms are what
the evil-doers hate."
Yet ironically, it too often seems to be precisely those
freedoms under attack these days from the Bush syncophants
on the hard right wing in the Blogosphere, on Talk Radio and
Instead of speaking out vociferously against the appalling
treatment of Iraqi prisoners, these right wingers have - all
too predictably by now - chosen to use their time to attack
CBS for having aired the story in the first place (after CBS
first held the story for two weeks at the request of the Pentagon,
I should add).
As this week's Newsweek article
and interview with Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski (the commander
who oversaw the guards at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq,
including those at Saddam Hussein's former torture center
at Abu Ghraib, where the photos
were taken) reminds us, we are very lucky to have a free and
independent media in this country to keep our leaders in check.
Especially when they are running so wildly adrift with dangerous
and self-destructive foreign policies.
She says she warned her superiors from the first
about the ill-treatment of Iraqi prisoners....The trouble
was, Karpinski says, she didn't have enough troops or resources
to do the job right, and the men at the top ignored her
complaints. "They just wanted it to go away," she told NEWSWEEK
last week. In the end, several of her soldiers apparently
went out of control.
It has been suggested by at least one right
wing blog (which ironically calls itself "The Blog of
Truth,") that CBS should have informed the administration
of what they learned and then simply "shut up" in light of
and apparently in support of current policy in Iraq. The blog's
author claims not that CBS is biased - the usual tribal rallying
cry - but more revealingly, that "they are neutral" and he
finds that to be the problem.
But Karpinski's own words underscore the need for the independence
of a free - and yes, "neutral" - media, willing to whistle-blow
in service to our country - even with the possibility that
such reporting may cause short-term damage to existing administration
Karpinski's words, taken only at face value to be sure,
since she is currently being held responsible by the military
along with the soldiers who actually committed the alleged
atrocities at Abu Ghraib, once again underscore the reasons
why the fourth estate is so necessary in this country.
Taking her statements at face value - and there should be
a paper trail from which to verify them - such behavior, when
kept in-house and out of the media, only allows that behavior
to continue unchecked. It was, of course, only after
CBS went to the Pentagon with the pictures to prove the allegations
that the Pentagon finally sprang into action. Since they had
presumably already heard the warnings from Karpinski previously,
it was only the threat of public disclosure that seems to
have forced them to take action.
Of course, CBS could have warned the Pentagon about going
public with these pictures, and then not done so after the
Pentagon supposedly took appropriate action. But, as Dubya
might say, a threat is only good if you follow through with
it. If CBS hadn't then released the pictures, after appropriately
giving the Pentagon time to adquately respond, it would simply
send the message to the Pentagon that they needn't worry about
being embarrassed in such a way in the future. They'd have
the media in their pocket, which seems to be precisely what
the extreme right wing is calling for.
If the right hopes to remain anywhere within the American
mainstream after all of this nonsense eases up, they would
be wise to re-examine their own self-proclaimed set of "American
values" as they continue to perpetrate reprehensible attacks
on the messenger instead of the message.
Such behavior surely points up the weakness inherent in
their own current positions, but that point must be lost on
them, as they continue the same drum beat with every bit of
media disclosure that they simply don't care for.
If they continue to avoid such sage advice however, hopefully
they will soon find themselves relegated to the same extreme
margins of American public policy where they - mistakenly
- assume American liberals with real patriotic values currently
Proceed at your own peril, boys.
Brad Friedman is a freelance writer and software designer.
He is also a proud "Liberal Hollywood Elitist" sharing all
of the great esteem and many rewards that come with it. His
blog can be read at http://www.BradFriedman.com/BradBlog.