Tuesday, August 23, 2005

17 members weigh in on the media, this summer and the silencing of dissent

A number of members wanted to weigh in with their thoughts on the media, this summer and the silencing of dissent previously. Most echoed (Rob among them) that the issue of "cues" from the media was one of the reasons Bully Boy has gotten by so with much. I'm pulling comments from seventeen members. (Were it not so late, I'd pull more.)

Trina: You were just made to feel like you were crazy if you didn't want to wrap the Bully Boy in a hug. If you had a serious issue or question about one of his half-baked proposals, you were told you were unAmerican. I was called that repeatedly prior to the [2004] election.

Zach: The clutch the pearls set, who now seem to use all their energies to scream, "We can't pull out!" over and over, shamed and attacked anyone who suggested that their Bully Boy was a Bully. The lesson here is not just to dig in and stand up, it's to notice that when the chattering heads all circle the wagons, you need to look closely because there's a reason for the circling.

Rob: The only thing that ever destroys the media's cues is the thing that they really can't stand, reality. It will break through their Operation Happy Talk, to their distortions of the attempted coup in Venezuela, on and on. The mainstream media wants to be trusted but they're revealed to be liars repeatedly. I don't think that word's too harsh. The way they fell in to march behind the administration's views of Hugo Chavez is a key moment of our modern day press. When people want to say "free press" they need to remember that. "Free press" these days means free to distort, lie and omit. The New York Times would do well to start informing and stop trying to shape opinion with their news stories. Pru's and Gareth's comments about the "reporting" in the paper on London is only one example of how lazy journalism gets a pass provided it is cueing you to see things the way the administration wants you to. I think the paper's done a hideous job reporting on the Middle East of late. As they've focused on Israeli's losing their homes, where is the coverage of the Palestinians? It's the same thing with Iraq where the only Iraqis popping up in the coverage are the ones we've backed for leadership roles. We're cued to look here and not notice this or that. Green Zone or not, it's a huge problem, and a hallmark of the paper, that after two years in Iraq, Iraqis still fail to register, in the reporting, as anything other than props.

Melanie: I think the thing is they aren't in the business of reporting, they're in the business of shaping. When I was a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons, I used to get a headache from all the commercials attempting to convince me that every kid had this toy, ate that cereal, played this game, etc. I get the same feeling when I read NYT. I'm not being informed, I'm being sold. Juan Forero is one of the worst when it comes to this but I'd put Dexter Filkins and Todd Purdum as tied for a close second.

Martha: You just have to keep telling yourself that this press that kept telling you Bully Boy is a great man is the same press that tore Bill Clinton apart repeatedly. Week after week, they tried to invent one scandal after another and tried to outrage America but when they've actually got scandals on the Bully Boy (Enron, the Downing Street Memo, his embarrassing Bunny Fu-Fu hop across the country on 9/11 . . .), the cat's got their tongues. Can you imagine what the press would have done with the Denver Three if that had happened under Bill Clinton? "Attack on Free Speech Gate!" would scream the headlines from our mainstream media. They've actually done a service in a way, the easy pass they've given the Bully Boy has disproven once and for all the lie of "liberal media."

Wally: Agree 100% that we have to take a stand and we have to take the lead in informing the people around us because we saw that with Cindy Sheehan and the Downing Street Memos. I think we had a wake up call this summer and I hope to God we stay awake.

Brent: There's only so much nonsense you can take before you have to face the fact that the average report has little value to anyone. They take a statement from the main person, get a statement that backs that up, then a statement that contradicts it, pull it all together, usually with some attitude sprinkled on top, and they call it reporting. It's no wonder they've so fallen in the eyes of the people.

Rodney: I don't like Judith Miller and I think she lied intentionally in all of her WMD reporting in the lead up to the war with Iraq but I do agree that she didn't control the media and that everyone's hiding beneath her skirt to avoid owning up to the schilling they did themselves. The thing that bothers me about Judith Miller coverage isn't that people make fun of her but that they want to act like it was her and her alone. I don't have any sympathy for her and she can stay in jail for years and I won't cry one tear but I'm not ever going to forget that, to be Randi [Rhodes], right there on my TV screen, and I wasn't watching Fox, I saw the same claims reported as fact by a lot of different men and women. If we had a really free press they'd all be fired because they either lied or were too stupid to know how to do their jobs.

Trevor: While we're tossing out the attacks on dissent and all that, let's also note that our media went into over drive to knock the French. One example: Washington Post doing that cruel editorial where they mocked the elderly French people who died in the heatwave. How does a paper justify that? They were carrying water for the administration and they can't justify that editorial. It's something everyone should always remember and it should be the first thing to come to mind when someone says "Washington Post."

Gore Vidal Is God: Noam's [Chomsky] Manufacturing Consent got to the heart of the problem. We don't have an independent press, we really never have. In the days before all the deregulation, we did have a chance of some stories getting out just because a paper had to compete with another paper. Now we're left with cities that only have one paper and all we get on are local news is one crime report after another.

Lynda: I agree that we've got a lesson in real time and I hope everyone's paid attention and will remember to pass it on but I also have a feeling that we're going to be stuck reinventing the wheel in ten years. These failures have a tendency to vanish down the rabbit hole like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

Portland: My personal feelings on Judith Miller are that she's this big thing because it lets others get off. I get tired of going all over the web and seeing one beat up Judith Miller piece after another. If people want to provide a service, they should start exposing the other Miller's who took part in the lies to war. Just seems like she's an easy target and I don't give points for bravery or originality when I'm reading the 50th attack on Miller that week. I think she should be fired, by the way, but I don't think she should be in jail. I agree with Rick MacArthur of Harper's Magaine.

Maria: This should have been a feeding frenzy summer. We found out that Karl Rove did pass on information about Valerie Plame. Bully Boy didn't fire him. We found proof, via the Downing St. Memos, that we were lied into war. We found someone in Cindy Sheehan who wouldn't be intimidated by the goons and the talking heads. I think we've seen real progress this summer but I think we've got a ways to go. I'm most disappointed in the silence by so many prominent Democratic politicians to address any of the above other than the exposure of Valerie Plame.

Lyle: Here's my take on this summer. You saw people turn against the war and you saw them demand accountability from the press so we got a tiny slice of that. Enough that reporters could claim to do their jobs. I think this could be a great beginning where we demand that the press do its job. If we can hit hard on that and continue to be on our media, it really doesn't matter what the mainstream press does or doesn't do because they make themselves useless and insignificant. Like Marcia says, "Democracy Now! always worth watching." The rest you can and should ignore.

Tara: So I'm studying the Constitution and, try as I may, I don't see the part that says "Judy Miller shall declare all wars." Am I missing it? Why is there so much focus on attacking Miller?
Lousy reporter? Got it. Knew it in 2003, knew it in 2001. Don't understand, however, that puts the blame for the war on her shoulders. Nor can I grasp, and maybe I'm reading an abridged Constitution, where it says that the feeding frenzy of speculation is okay. I wasn't for it when NYT went after Wen Ho Lee and I don't grasp it now that so many on the left toss out one theory after another and feed off each one to the point that the net is starting to become like a really bad version of that game Telephone. With each speculation post, someone grabs an item, runs with it as truth and builds on it. Maybe that's why there's so much rage aimed at Judy Miller and so little demand for accountability from Bully Boy? I think Cindy Sheehan's helping us refocus on the real priorities.

Krista: This time last year, I would've thought a lot of the things in "Scattered Thoughts" but I wouldn't have said them. I'm one of those people that really did think no one else had serious problems with the direction the Bully was forcing us into. Now I feel differently and that comes from finding the voices that speak to me and they aren't the mainstream ones. This community has steered me towards voices I couldn't get with the 57 channels and there's nothing on* mainstream media. To watch or listen or read the mainstream is to hear over and over that we must "stay the course." As we head over the cliff, we must stay the course. Tom Hayden and Katrina vanden Heuvel don't think that way. Norman Solomon doesn't -- everyone should read his War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. I can find all these voices that won't make it onto commercial TV or PBS that are asking their hard questions. I think that we the people have gone through a huge education experience and it's the politicians and the corportate press that haven't kept up.

Marcus: The editorial "Editorial: Mainstream Press Do Your Homework on the pre-invasion bombings"** said it all. I'm still waiting.

[* "57 Channels (And There's Nothing On)" was written and performed by Bruce Springsteen on his album Human Touch.
** "Editorial: Mainstream Press Do Your Homework on the pre-invasion bombings" is an editorial from The Third Estate Sunday Review.]

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