Friday, May 30, 2008

Nonparallel realities

Again, the "news value" in Scott McClellan's new book, "What Happened," isn't that the Bush administration alternately lied to and deceived the American public on the Iraq war, or botched the response to Katrina, or systematically (and successfully) set out to neutralize the mainstream media by co-opting them on the war effort. No, the news value is that mainstream television and print "journalists" like Tim Russert, Charles Gibson, David Gregory, the White House press pool, the talking heads on the network and cable news shows, the Washington-based "opinion" journals and think-tanks that traffic in dispensing and nurturing conventional wisdom are attempting to mount a "defense" of their culpability in working with the Bush administration rather than challenging the lame "assertions" that flowed forth from people like . . . uh, well, Scott McClellan that everything the president and his administration did was just fine. For those of us who have never had any interest in climbing the Washington social ladder by buying into the "Hey, we're just all in this together, governing and instructing the country" so that poor yokels like me can have the freedom to shop and take our kids to their activities on the weekend, watching the establishment media respond to McClellan would be comical if that results of the Bush administration's "culture of deception" had not cost thousands of Americans (and coalition forces and Iraqis) their lives.

Here is what ABC television personality Charles Gibson had to say about the establishment media's performance on the war:

"I think the questions were asked. I respectfully disagree with the gentle lady from the Columbia Broadcasting System . I think the questions were asked. . . . I can remember getting in trouble with administration officials for asking questions they didn't feel comfortable with.

It was just a drumbeat of support from the administration. And it is not our job to debate them; it's our job to ask the questions."

So there you go. A reporter's job is not to question the government's motives, information or public positions; it is to ask questions like, "Does President Bush ever let his greatness go to his head?" or "Who's playing shortstop at the White House correspondents vs. the Bush administration softball game this year?"

Plenty of chances were available to reporters long before the Bush administration began its accelerated push to invade Iraq in the summer of 2002. For the best summation of the establishment media's missed opportunities -- most of them willful -- on the Iraq war and so much else, see the Nukes & Spooks comment here, a blog written by three McClatchy reporters: Jonathan S. Landay (national security and intelligence), Warren P. Strobel (foreign affairs and the State Department), and Nancy Youssef (Pentagon). McClatchy, by the way, owns Knight-Ridder, the media corporation which owns several newspapers and broadcast media outlets. These are not basement-and-pajama bloggers, folks.

Perhaps one day the establishment media will realize that their day is up and over. The Internet has democratized access to news and opinion (and their distribution) in a way unimaginable ten years ago. As fewer and fewer people come to rely on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times (and the bland, predictable and generally worthless Op-Ed writers and commentators that comprise the opinion-making class), more and more people will discover a whole world out there that exists beyond the narrow confines of the media elite. This is a development that will benefit everyone. And the sooner and the better.

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