At the Chicago Tribune blog, The Swamp (what is it with this name? TIME Mag’s blog is called Swampland, fairly revealing, not to mention unflattering, names for blogs staffed by professional journalists), Frank James writes of Bill Moyers “Buying the War” documentary:
Bill Moyers’s PBS program “Buying the War” which was broadcast this week was the latest in a line of examinations of the mainstream media’s complicity in spreading what amounted to Bush Administration propaganda.
Its thesis was that too many journalists at big news outlets uncritically bought the White House spin, communicating it to the American people who accepted it as truth.
It’s indisputably true, especially with hindsight’s clarity, that many journalists too readily accepted the White House’s version of the potential Iraqi threat, that there wasn’t enough skepticism. Journalists certainly should take responsibility for this, learn from it and vow not to repeat the same mistakes.
The problem with Moyers’s take and so many other criticisms of the media’s role in the run-up to war is that they excuse a major player in what happened–the American people.
After pointing to a few of the major media stories that expressed doubts and still made it to the front page – and he admits there weren’t that many – he concludes:
The stories that aired such skepticism about the administration’s case, however, were running against a very strong tide — the public’s desire to retaliate for 9/11 however. And as we all know, revenge often trumps reason.
Then, in a country where more people probably know who Sanjaya is than the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and who are untroubled by that fact, it isn’t surprising that more of an effort wasn’t made by many Americans to explore more deeply the arguments for and against going to war.
So, yes, while we in the media did make the mistakes Moyers pointed to, the fault also lies not just with our media stars but in ourselves as American citizens.
His point isn’t terribly clear (he doesn’t write all that well, actually) but I take him to mean that the papers didn’t do a better job of covering the deceptions that led us into war because a majority of us, bent on “revenge”, didn’t want to hear about it. In response, commenter perlewhite wrote:
Yes, Frank, most of the American public are compliant sheep, content to be led by the nose by those we believe have our best interests at heart – out elected officials and the news media we assume will do it’s job as a watchdog. Yes, we also dropped the ball on this one, according to your view. But tell me, Frank, short of storming the White House ala the French Revolution, just how was the American public supposed to stop this lie-based juggernaut???
What I think James is trying to say is that being an American means being a citizen and it’s a citizen’s duty to demand truth instead of pillow-talk. If we refuse, then we have to shoulder a share of the blame for whatever follows our dereliction of that duty. I’ve said the same thing many times.
But perlewhite has put his/her finger directly on the key question arising from James’ post: even assuming we, as citizens, had done the work, seen through the Bush Administration’s avalanche of lies and propaganda, resisted the drumbeat of justifications and cult-like sycophancy exuding like pus from 95% of the nation’s press, and reached the conclusion that the invasion was a mistake and shouldn’t happen, what could we then have done to stop it?
George Tenet’s new book has stirred up some supposed controversy, primarily by acknowledging and confirming a bunch of stuff we already knew. Why any of this should be “controversial” at this point is beyond me. Maybe because the Great American “Don’t Tell Me, I Don’t Want to Know” Public remains as inexcusably clueless as it was when almost half of it voted for the Emperor for the second – count ’em, second – time and is determined to stay that way.
There’s no “news” here despite the “Today’s Circus” blanket coverage by the so-called “news” media except for two minor details. The first is the surprising – and disappointing – decision by “I’ll Fall on My Sword for You” Tenet to continue covering Junior’s ass. He’s still willing to take the rap for Bush on behalf of the CIA for “mistaken” intel when actually his agency got it right it –
Mr. Tenet takes blame for the flawed 2002 National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq’s weapons programs, calling the episode “one of the lowest moments of my seven-year tenure.” He expresses regret that the document was not more nuanced, but says there was no doubt in his mind at the time that Saddam Hussein possessed unconventional weapons. “In retrospect, we got it wrong partly because the truth was so implausible,” he writes.
– and he continues to praise Dear Leader’s cynical exploitation of 9/11.
Despite such sweeping indictments, Mr. Bush, who in 2004 awarded Mr. Tenet a Presidential Medal of Freedom, is portrayed personally in a largely positive light, with particular praise for the his leadership after the 2001 attacks. “He was absolutely in charge, determined, and directed,” Mr. Tenet writes of the president, whom he describes as a blunt-spoken kindred spirit.
He puts all the responsibility on Cheney, writing as if Junior, you know, didn’t realize the VP was up to all that shit.
David Halberstam died in a car accident yesterday. He was 73.
Given our current discussion on how the news media got that way, it’s particularly fitting that we honor Halberstam here. After all, he wrote two seminal books bearing closely on the subjects at hand – Viet Nam and the nation’s press establishment.
I used to have a first edition hardcover of Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest, and by the time circumstances forced me to sell most of my books, it was in pretty rocky shape. I took good care of my books, but when you read something 20 times and lug it around with you everywhere and lend it to anyone who shows the slightest interest and then have to hound them to get it back because they either don’t want to give it up or have passed it along to someone else, things happen.
ne*go*ti*ate (ne-go’-shee-ayt) n. 1. what Republicans call it when they stake out a position from which they then refuse to budge 2. what Republicans call it when they refuse to speak to anyone with whom they disagree
lie (lye) v. 1. any fact a Republican chooses not to believe 2. everything a Democrat says no matter how much evidence s/he has to back it up (the evidence is all lies, too) 3. anything from the MSM unless it originates on Fox, in the WSJ, the NR, the Weekly Standard, Pajamas Media, or WorldNetDaily, or with Rev Moon (see impartial)
truth (trooth) n. 1. anything Bush says no matter how divorced from reality 2. anything a Republican says no matter how divorced from reality 3. anything Rush Limbaugh says even if he admits he made it up
de*bate (duh-bait’) n. 1. a fair and honest exchange of views between Republicans
de*ba*ting so*ci*e*ty (duh-bait’-in so-sy’-i-tee) n. 1. a useless bunch of talk when action feels better 2. what Democrats turn any discussion into simply by insisting on joining it 3. any Congress in which Democrats have a majority 4. any group using diplomacy instead of military action to solve a foreign crisis, such as the UN
sub*stance (sub’-stuhns) n. 1. the core of any Republican issue 2. the critical importance of every statement by any right-wing crackpot 3. what Democrats never have
em*bol*den (em-bowl’-den) v. 1. what Democrats, merely by existing, do for terrorists 2. what Republicans do for each other when things go bump in the night
Having built a bond of trust between themselves and the American public that seemed to be made of iron and steel, how did the press ever come to the point where no one on either side of the political divide trusts much of anything they say, write, or show?
The answer is one of the 20th century’s greatest ironies: they lost our trust because they insisted on living up to it.
The two most important challenges of the post-WW II US were the Viet Nam War and Richard Nixon’s presidency. The first was based on lies, excused and explained by the sophomoric – not to say childish – Domino Theory, and kept going long after it was clear that it was a monumental bungle because neither Lyndon Johnson nor the people around him – chiefly McNamara – could admit that they’d made a mistake. The second was the nation’s first real experience with quasi-authoritarianism: an imperial president with no conscience and few scruples who was paranoid and semi-delusional. He was a drunk who thought he was above the law, a failure out for revenge on imaginary enemies, and an anal-retentive with an almost psychotic need for rigid controls put into office during a time when the foundations of society were in upheaval and flexibility and patience were what was desperately needed.
As voters, we blew that election Big Time. Instead of pitying Queeg and sending him to the showers, we put him in charge of the whole shebang.
In both cases, it was left to the American press to make it clear what a mess we’d made, and in both cases they did, coming through for us with flying colors.
For which we never forgave them.
Well, I watched some of the Gonzales hearing yesterday and what I saw was an unholy mess. This guy’s a lawyer? Really? He seemed to have no idea what he was doing there. After all, went his defense, he’s just keeping a seat warm:
- He had no idea what Sampson was doing, The “updates” he’s finally admitted to getting were, he now says, along these lines: “How’s it coming, Kyle?” “Fine. Still working on it.” End of discussion.
- He didn’t decide who went onto the list and he doesn’t know who did.
- He doesn’t know what criteria was used by whoever used it to decide who was going to be fired but he knows it wasn’t improper. Feingold: “If you don’t know what it was, how do you know it wasn’t improper?” Gonzo: “I know I didn’t do anything improper.”
- He doesn’t know who was in charge of the “process”. He thought it was Sampson. Told that everybody, including Sampson, said they weren’t, he was at a complete loss.
- He never evaluated the attorneys’ performance and he didn’t know who did or if anyone had.
- He didn’t know if a performance review had ever been done by anyone on any USA. If it had, nobody told him about it.
- He can’t remember making the decision. That is, he can remember making it but he can’t remember when or why or how.
He gave his favorite answer – “I don’t know, Senator” – more than 50 times in the morning session alone. Yet, despite insisting he knew nothing that was going on in the agency he’s supposed to be running, he claimed he was too busy in his supervisory role to supervise the firing process.
Yah gotta love these Bushies.
One came away from his testimony wondering just what the hell he did do? He seems to have delegated virtually every normal duty of the AG to inexperienced underlings and then walked away to play Pong on the computer. Or something. We don’t know what he was doing except whatever it was, it wasn’t his job.