Saturday, June 28, 2008

The News Media Is Not What It Should Be

Exactly one month ago Eric Boehlert wrote an excellent article on Senator Edward Kennedy and how he has been treated by the news media. At the time Senator Kennedy had recently been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and was receiving extensive and sympathetic news coverage. He was given the respect and attention that a man of his position and tenure deserves. Mr. Boehlert then goes on to contrast this with the coverage Senator Kennedy received in 2002 when he gave a speech that challenged President Bush about going to war with Iraq.

From Why did the press ignore Ted Kennedy in 2002?

Unfortunately, that hasn't always been the case. Just a few years ago, when Republicans were riding high on Iraq war fever and Democrats were seen as on the retreat politically, the press cavalierly snubbed Kennedy.

Specifically, back in September 2002, with the Bush administration and much of the Beltway media rushing to embrace war with Iraq, Kennedy delivered a passionate, provocative, and newsworthy speech raising all sorts of doubts about a possible invasion. Unlike today, the political press wasn't very interested in Kennedy or what he had to say about the most pressing issue facing the nation. Back in that media environment, being the voice of American liberals didn't mean much.

I've been thinking about Kennedy's speech a lot lately. Not just because the senator has been in the news, but also because of the Pentagon's still-unfolding propaganda scandal involving retired U.S. generals who, at times, were used as puppets on network and cable television during the war, where they repeated administration talking points while presenting themselves as independent analysts. That outlets eagerly embraced the Pentagon's pro-war generals while mostly dismissing Kennedy's warnings perfectly captured the media's mindset during the run-up to the war.
Mr. Boehlert then gives several examples detailing how the press and television media ignored Senator Kennedy. I would like to point out that one of the television programs mentioned is Meet the Press.
The address was given on a Friday. Two days later on the Sunday talk shows, where Iraq was discussed in detail, Kennedy's name never came up on NBC's Meet the Press, on CBS' Face the Nation, or on ABC's This Week.

For the network pundits, Kennedy's anti-war speech did not exist. It was irrelevant to the around-the-clock media chatter about a looming war.
The news media is not what it should be. They ignore important things and glorify unimportant things. Is the name Tim Russert entering your mind right about now? If not, it should be. Russert as host of Meet the Press totally ignored an important speech by a senior United States senator. Yet the press practically declared Russert a saint when he died. Russert might have been jovial and likable, but he was not a great journalist. He was not even a good one. He was too one-sided. He did not challenge the Bush administration enough. He and most of the news media are partially responsible for the Iraq War.

Why was Kennedy’s speech important? Mr. Boehlert gives us some highlights of the speech.
Some key passages from the Kennedy speech:

• "[T]he Administration has not made a convincing case that we face such an imminent threat to our national security that a unilateral, pre-emptive American strike and an immediate war are necessary."

• "[T]he Administration has not explicitly acknowledged, let alone explained to the American people, the immense post-war commitment that will be required to create a stable Iraq."

• "A largely unilateral American war that is widely perceived in the Muslim world as untimely or unjust could worsen, not lessen, the threat of terrorism."

• "War with Iraq before a genuine attempt at inspection and disarmament, or without genuine international support -- could swell the ranks of Al Qaeda sympathizers and trigger an escalation in terrorist acts."

• "[I]nformation from the intelligence community over the past six months does not point to Iraq as an imminent threat to the United States or a major proliferator of weapons of mass destruction."

• "[T]here is no clear and convincing pattern of Iraqi relations with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban."

Talk about a greatest-hits performance. Kennedy nailed virtually every major problem and shortfall that emerged in the wake of the invasion. Yet in real time, the press, which was producing voluminous reports and commentary about the possible war, showed only superficial interest in Kennedy's prophetic comments.
Mr. Boehlert then goes on to point out that some news organizations actually claimed that Senator Kennedy’s position on Iraq was not very different from President Bush’s position. Absolutely amazing, isn’t it?

Besides wanting to alert you to the excellent article by Mr. Boehlert, by basically stealing half of it, I also want to share some of my own thoughts with you.

Why did the press ignore Ted Kennedy in 2002? points out how the news media can be very selective in what it chooses to report and in what it chooses to ignore. Eric Boehlert wonders why an important speech by an important Senator was ignored at a very crucial time in our history. I’d like to go one step further and ask why the press gave President Bush such an easy time of it in 2002? What kind of power does President George W. Bush have?

I realize that President Bush is not very popular and that the Democrats won the Senate in 2006. However, President Bush is still in office and the Republicans still seem to be in power in the Senate. What evidence supports this statement? Bush has not been impeached and probably never will be. The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act was defeated in the Senate thanks to the Republicans. The Iraq War just received $161.8 billion in new funds. Barack Obama and the Senate are considering giving telecoms immunity in that awful FISA bill, which is expected to pass.

Ronald Reagan was dubbed the “teflon president”; however, I think that the name should now be transferred to President Bush. Bush has not been held accountable for any of his numerous screw-ups, and we are all just waiting it out until his time in office is up. Why? Clinton was impeached, why not Bush?

Bush became president because the media was selective in what it chose to report about him and in what it chose to ignore about him. Ditto for Al Gore.

And now, after having written all of this about George W. Bush and the media love affair with him, I have just discovered (while looking for evidence to support the previous paragraph) that someone has already written a book on this very topic. That someone is Eric Boehlert. The book is called Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush.

I am still left with the question of Why? Why does President Bush (and probably his entire family) have so much power and control over the United States of America? Perhaps Mr. Boehlert’s next book could be titled “Bush Dynasty: WHY the Press Rolled Over for Bush.”

0 comments - Post a comment :

Post a Comment