Tuesday, November 08, 2005

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others, One of These Things Just Doesn't Belong...

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These days, I don’t usually see the Sunday morning news analysis shows, like “Meet the Press,” “This Week” and the like.

Oh, there was once a time when, news junkie that I am, I never missed “This Week.” But then Brinkley left the show, and let’s face it, George Snuffleupagus just doesn’t have the same gravitas. Plus, I had kids who got up first and commandeered the set to watch “Spongebob Squarepants” or some other such abomination. So I got out of the habit.

But this past week, I found myself out of town in a hotel room on Sunday morning, getting ready for a brunch/book signing, and I flipped on the TV. The topic under discussion was, of course, Friday’s indictment of vice-presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators.

The show (and I confess, I honestly can’t remember which one it was) segued into a little retrospective of previous White House scandals. Among the ones they covered were, of course, Watergate, Reagan’s Iran-Contra mess (and Bush the Elder’s controversial pardon of several of those involved) and, of course, Monicagate. Suddenly, I flashed back to the old song that they used to sing on “Sesame Street”: “One of these things is not like the others…”

Let’s review. Watergate was the president of the United States using the resources of the office to bug, burglarize, and otherwise harass political enemies. Iran-Contra was a conspiracy to sell weapons illegally to a sworn enemy of the United States, then illegally divert the profits to an organization Congress had forbidden the government to support. Clinton’s “biggest scandal” was an attempt to cover up an embarrassing and stupid sexual lapse, one that the judge hearing his civil case explicitly ruled wasn’t material to the underlying case.

I’m not trying to say Clinton was perfect; I’m just saying he didn’t sell anti-aircraft missiles to people who’d cheerfully use them against us.

Abuse of presidential power. Arms to enemies. Lying about an affair. These things are not the same. Trust me.

But that’s the “liberal media,” a phrase which I can no longer say without snickering. They’ve gotten so buffaloed by years of right-wingers yammering about supposed “bias” that they try to create “balance” where none exists.

Another aspect of the recent Plamegate scandal has shown up this “liberal media” idea as the farce that it is.

Among the people involved was New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who actually spent time in jail rather than reveal the “inside source” from whom she got information about Joseph Wilson and his wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Miller and her supporters claimed that reporters needed to be able to keep sources confidential. Otherwise, they argued, whistleblowers might be afraid to come forward with exposes, for fear of losing their jobs or worse.

But once Miller finally revealed what she’d been hiding, it turns out that she wasn’t protecting some endangered insider like “Deep Throat” in the movie “All the President’s Men.”

Instead, Miller and other so-called journalists, such as Robert Novak, were nothing more than mouthpieces, conduits for whatever information or disinformation the administration wanted to get out, willing accomplices in selling the American people on the war the Bushistas had already decided to wage.

In an extraordinary editorial published in The Times, Miller’s boss, Bill Keller, admitted that, had he known more about Miller’s “entanglement” with Scooter Libby, he might have been a little less vigorous in resisting the prosecutor’s subpoena. Miller got indignant over the word “entanglement,” apparently thinking it implied something more than a professional relationship.

To her, I’d like to say: There’s more than one kind of harlotry, Judy. You don’t have to literally be in bed with the administration to sell yourself to them. And it doesn’t even have to be for money, although as the Armstrong Williams case shows, there are some so-called journalists willing to sell out their integrity for that as well.

But some sell out for the access. They sell out because they get the inside dope nobody else gets, so long as they don’t examine that information too closely. As always, the biggest problem with modern journalism is not liberalism or conservatism — it’s careerism. At best, it leads to reporting the wrong information because a reporter wanted to be first so bad he or she failed to do any fact-checking. At worst, it leads to reporters being used as shills by a corrupt and cynical administration.

I’d like to believe that the kid-gloves way that the press has handled this administration (up until very recently) would once and for all dispel this malarkey about the “liberal media.”

Of course, I held out the same hope after the way the press savaged Bill Clinton on a daily basis and eagerly, almost gleefully, repeated Republican smears against Al Gore and John Kerry. Sadly, however, some myths just refuse to die.

As for me, I get all my news from “The Daily Show.” At least they know they’re ridiculous.

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. He says he’s also become quite fond of the “Colbert Report.”

1 comment:

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Great post. Couldn't have said it better.