Mary Pitt: Planned Media Gag May Save America
Planned Media Gag May Save America
by Mary Pitt
Senator Pat Roberts, (R-KS), has announced that he is working on a bill that. if passed, will criminalize the publication of any "classified" information by the media. This would make the reporter who writes, and the news media for whom they work, equally liable under the anti-spy regulations with any whistle-blower who dares to try to get the truth out regarding the misfeasance and malfeasance of this administration. However, the very suggestion of the revocation of the First Amendment may be the one thing that will wake up our sleeping media to the truth of what has been and is being done to our democracy. Now the test for publish-ability will not be truth and verifiability but permission from the White House on pain of spending a long vacation in Halliburton's new Camp Northwoods.
For much too long the media, like most of the citizenry, have viewed the ultimate takeover of our nation by the Neo-Cons as "just politics", a simple little game where we choose sides and cheer for our favorite team. Much of the failure of the media as the watchdog of our liberty may be blamed on the revolution in the culture that causes most people to receive their news from their television sets. In that setting, much of the "news" is merely read by some young person who is chosen for looks, personality and ability to "perform" before the cameras. We no longer have the Walter Crockite or the Edward R. Murrow who will really go out and report on the news first-hand. Now, the second-generation television reporters like Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings have gone on to greener pastures and we have been left with the "readers".
We were spoon-fed the story about the "heroism" and the "rescue" of Jessica Lynch in Iraq when the truth was something quite different. We were regaled with tales of the valiant death of Pat Tillman who, with all due respect, was not the hero that they told us he was but a victim of "friendly fire". The stories were written as propaganda by "media consultants" before it was ever presented to the reporters. For the past five years, the "news" on television, radio, and too often, in the written media has consisted of plants, press releases, and political hype. However, some few reporters have remembered their legacy and have actually reported independent news that is really important to the American people. We have learned of the manipulations of Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff, the perfidy of I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby and "other un-named sources" in exposing the identity of a CIA operative, the warrantless tapping of our telephone lines, the loss of control of our seaports, and the constant invasion of our nation by some millions of illegal immigrants across our Southern border, many of them armed and dangerous. The alarm has been sounded. This independent streak in the press must be stopped and it will be criminalized!
In the "news commentary", we have had the rabid partisans like Bill O'Reilly and Tucker Carlson and the Republicrats like Chris Matthews who try to walk on both sides of the street at the same time. These are not "reporters" of whom we have far too few. Recently we have had the right to be proud of those reporters who were on the scene in New Orleans, apparently before the White House realized there was a problem and who made live reports that were complete and truthful. If they had been allowed to do this at the onset of the "War on Terror", it is entirely possible that Afghanistan would be pacified and Iran would not have been attacked in the first place! We would have known that the infamous World Trade Center bombers were from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Dubai and their only connection with Afghanistan was that it was the place where Osma bin Laden had taken up temporary residence. We would have known that there was a lot of doubt about Saddam's possession of the infamous WMD and his ties to Osama Bin Laden. We would have been aware that we were being lied to and we would have made this a one-term presidency.
But this administration "took office" on a claim of "openness and transparency" and promptly locked the door and pulled the shades! Reporters were instantly reduced to the status of stenographers as they dutifully wrote down the words of Scott McClellan to be parroted by the "commentators" on the nighly news. In turn, those commentators with their pre-arranged guests spouting the "party line" spent a mesmerizing few minutes smoothing out the edges of the real news and reassuring us that this was still the same good ole U S of A. A few managed to come close to criticism of the president and his hired flunkies, but then they felt the big bulge in their pants and backed off. No, not that bulge, silly! It was their fat Republican wallets!
We saw the spectacle of Judy Miller being trucked off to jail for refusing to divulge which administration official revealed the identity of Valerie Plame while others were threatened with the same. However heroic this may seem, the fact is that the investigation was by an independent prosecutor investigating malfeasance by the adminstration! The gist of that story is that it is all right for the administration to break the law and require confidentiality from the press but that a "whistle-blower" will not be accorded the same rights. Even the vaunted "Gray Lady", The New York Times was so intimidated that they sat on the story that the government was eavesdropping on the telephones of American citizens for a year at the request of the administration.
Will the members of the press realize that they have been used like a two-dollar whore and are being put back on the street? Now that the "freedom of the press" is being threatened, will we see a burst of real reportorial zeal? Now that they are face-to-face with a gag, will they dig harder for the truth and actually tell it to the public? Will they, after all, become the public interest organ which has brought down such tyrants as Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon? Or have they lost their fire and become, as have so many Americans, afraid to take the scab off the festering sore that has invaded our democratic government and allow it to be treated by the disinfectant of the ballot box?