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JohnyCanuck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-14-04 11:00 AM
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"Why the Press Failed," article by Orville Schell
Edited on Wed Jul-14-04 11:26 AM by JohnyCanuck
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Why the Press Failed

By Orville Schell

When, on May 26, 2004, the editors of the New York Times published a mea culpa for the paper's one-sided reporting on weapons of mass destruction and the Iraq war, they admitted to "a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been." They also commented that they had since come to "wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining claims" made by the Bush Administration. But we are still left to wonder why the Times, like many other major media outlets in this country, was so lacking in skepticism toward administration rationales for war? How could such a poorly thought through policy, based on spurious exile intelligence sources, have been so blithely accepted, even embraced, by so many members of the media? In short, what happened to the press's vaunted role, so carefully spelled out by the Founding Fathers, as a skeptical "watchdog" over government?

There's nothing like seeing a well-oiled machine clank to a halt to help you spot problems. Now that the Bush administration is in full defensive mode and angry leakers in the Pentagon, the CIA, and elsewhere in the Washington bureaucracy are slipping documents, secrets, and charges to reporters, our press looks more recognizably journalistic. But that shouldn't stop us from asking how an "independent" press in a "free" country could have been so paralyzed for so long. It not only failed to seriously investigate administration rationales for war, but little took into account the myriad voices in the on-line, alternative, and world press that sought to do so. It was certainly no secret that a number of our Western allies (and other countries), administrators of various NGOs, and figures like Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Hans Blix, head of the UN's Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission, had quite different pre-war views of the "Iraqi threat."


As Michael Massing pointed out recently in the New York Review of Books, Bush administration insinuations that critics were unpatriotic -- White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer infamously warned reporters as war approached, "People had better watch what they say" -- had an undeniably chilling effect on the media. But other forms of pressure also effectively inhibited the press. The President held few press conferences and rarely submitted to truly open exchanges. Secretive and disciplined to begin with, the administration adeptly used the threat of denied access as a way to intimidate reporters who showed evidence of independence. For reporters, this meant no one-on-one interviews, special tips, or leaks, being passed over in press conference question-and-answer periods, and exclusion from select events as well as important trips.

After the war began, for instance, Jim Wilkinson, a 32 year-old Texan who ran Centcom's Coalition Media Center in Qatar, was, according to Massing, known to rebuke reporters whose copy was deemed insufficiently "supportive of the war," and "darkly warned one correspondent that he was on a 'list' along with two other reporters at his paper." In the play-along world of the Bush Administration, critical reporting was a quick ticket to exile.

Why the Press Failed
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indigobusiness Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-14-04 12:40 PM
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1. "People had better watch what they say" --Newspeak Patriotism
What will it take to shock the people supporting this subterfuge?

this snippet is particularly chilling:

Just as the free exchange of information plays little role in the relationship between a fundamentalist believer and his or her God, so it has played a distinctly diminished role in our recent parallel world of divine political revelation. After all, if you already know the answer to a question, of what use is the media, except to broadcast that answer? The task at hand, then, is never to listen but to proselytize the political gospel among non-believers, thereby transforming a once interactive process between citizen and leader into evangelism.

Although in the Bush political universe, "freedom has been endlessly extolled in principle, it has had little utility in practice. What possible role could a free press play when revelation trumps fact and conclusions are preordained? A probing press is logically viewed as a spoiler under such conditions, stepping between the administration and those whose only true salvation lies in becoming part of a nation of true believers. Since there was little need, and less respect, for an opposition (loyal or otherwise), the information feedback loops in which the press should have played a crucial role in any functioning democracy, ceased operating. The media synapses which normally transmit warnings from citizen to government froze shut.

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LastDemocratInSC Donating Member (580 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-14-04 06:44 PM
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2. They hate us for our freedom to watch what we say (n/t)
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whirlygigspin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-14-04 07:41 PM
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3. You gotta love it
" On the eve of his recent sojourn in Europe, President Bush had an unpleasant run-in with a species of creature he had not previously encountered often: a journalist."

"The President, as he is generally used to doing, went on autopilot and began reeling off rambling, somewhat incoherent combinations of "answers" in the way he's done a million times before without challenge..."

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