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What will the Media do with Bush and the War Now?

Written by Subject: Media: Television

Questions of Character

Posted by Butler Shaffer at 04:35 PM

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Paul Krugman makes some good points, but his analysis of the pathetic state of American journalism doesn't go far enough. Now that Mr. Bush is in a politically-weakened state, we can expect more journalists to be critical of him in ways none were prepared to do in previous years. This is not because any of them will have discovered a moral backbone or a semblance of journalistic integrity, but because of the president's vulnerability. This is little more than a playing out of the social dynamics of the school playground: when the bully is strong, compliance and flattery prevail. When the bully has been weakened, his erstwhile victims eagerly pile on in a desperate effort to reclaim their courage, not realizing that they are now playing the same bullying game.

When the Bush/neocon cabal finally comes unglued, there will be an abundance of so-called journalists, politicians, and denizens of the shallow end of many think-tanks who will one day have to provide an answer to the same question posed by young Germans to their Hitler-era parents: "what did YOU do when the police state was being put together?"

It is telling, perhaps, that a current film about Edward R. Murrow has drawn a good deal of attention, particularly from establishment journalists who, long ago, put aside any pretensions of intellectual courage and integrity. The H.L. Menckens and Albert Jay Nocks are no longer to be found in traditional journalistic outlets. Their places have been taken by men and women whose capacities to analyze events are restricted to the reporting of public opinion polls, or asking people how they "feel."

The journalistic record post-9/11 is about as poor as one could imagine. Reporting on the Afghan/Iraq war has been virtually monopolized by military and other pro-war voices eager to pump up popular support for whatever fantasies Mr. Bush maintained and whatever actions he wanted to undertake. While C-SPAN did an honest job allowing alternative opinions, one searched in vain elsewhere for a Bob Higgs, Lewis Lapham, Lew Rockwell, John Pilger, Alexander Cockburn, Amy Goodman, Gore Vidal, Justin Raimondo, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, or any other informed critics of the war mania. Intelligent people in the rest of the world laugh at what American journalism has become. It says a lot when the Comedy Central Channel's program, "The Daily Show," wins awards for the best in television news coverage.

Stay awake as the major media journalists try to catch up with the serious work done by others on the Internet. Watch as they, like vultures circling a dying beast, begin a feeding frenzy on the Bush administration. But be sure to ask them the question all of them hope never to have to confront, even in their own minds: "where were you in the days and weeks after 9/11?"