They feed readers, viewers and listeners a steady diet of conservative pabulum. They are boosters of America, not the harsh critics they should be.
Capitalism is good, socialism is bad. People-rule in Venezuela is bad. Why? Because the United States has always ruled Latin America with gunboat diplomacy, economic coercion and engineered coups. The U.S. war state is glorious no matter what the Arabs or Russians think.
While the American media do a fine job of ferreting out corruption and crooked, lying politicians, they are protective of power.
The media lament the “gargantuan” and “unprecedented” budget deficit but never tell of the Bush II tax cuts for the wealthy and endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Wall Street Journal’s investigative reporter knew all about the Madoff financial scam but sat on the story for four years. The New York Times had explosive information from FBI Director Patrick Gray about the Watergate break-in just two months after it happened. It refused to run a story.
The Times also sat on a devastating story for one year about domestic spying by the National Security Agency. It did so at the bidding of a White House fearful that it might harm President Bush’s re-election campaign. The fears were correct.
The Times has a correspondent as chief of the Jerusalem bureau, Ethan Bronner, whose son serves in the Israeli army.
Conflict of interest? Certainly. Times public editor Clark Hoyt agreed. But Bill Keller, Times executive editor, said it wasn’t a conflict. Keller “won” the battle but the public lost.
Reassigning Bronner would be “pandering to zealots,” caving in “to the more savage partisans,” Keller said. His reasoning is fatuous. It’s why Times coverage of the Middle East conflict is invariably pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian.
The Times beat the drums for the war in Iraq where no rational grounds existed. It is clamoring today for sanctions on Iran, which doesn’t have a nuclear capability although the U.S. client state of Israel does.
It has been ever thus. Newsweek and Time magazines demonized Iran’s Mossadegh before he was ousted in a CIA coup in 1953. He had the “effrontery” to nationalize oil.
The media gatekeepers, editors and publishers, grew up engulfed by conservatism. They hear conservative broadcasts and read conservative newspapers in print or online. They are timid souls when it comes to power.
Journalism schools are part of the Establishment. They graduate young people who will do the master’s bidding. They do not get to be masters by urging progressivism.
What the media needs is an adversarial relationship. They should be speaking truth to power, not kowtowing to it. They should not let politicians get away with appalling simplicities and irrelevancies.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told ABC interviewer Charlie Gibson in 2008 that she had foreign policy experience because she could see Russia from Alaska.
Gibson should have followed up: “How does that qualify you to make policy?” Her stammering would have driven Palin back to Wasilla, Alaska, to the obscurity she richly deserves.
As blogger Ravi Somaiya has observed: “Political interviewers fawn and simper over their subjects. If anchors, interviewers and White House correspondents did their jobs politicians of all stripes would not get away with distortion and outright lying. Roveian veneers would be scraped away by eight words: “That is not true. Please answer my question.”
Instead, the veneers, the birthers, the myths about death panels and the cries of socialism are repeated ad nauseam on CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, CNN and MSNBC.
Then there is the bad-mouthing by Establishment media. HBO recently ran a documentary on Dr. Jack Kevorkian, “You Don’t Know Jack,” starring Al Pacino. The Times reviewer sneered that Kevorkian was Dr. Death, “a self-serving zealot,” an egomaniac with “crackpot charm.”
Another Times reviewer said Kevorkian “became notorious for assisting in more than 130 suicides.”
The truth is otherwise. Kevorkian is one of the few heros of our time. Life is sacred. But when intense pain makes life not worth living euthanasia is the answer. Kevorkian believed fervently in mercy killing, in the right to die.
Let’s make judgments on Kevorkian’s deeds, not his character.
As Pacino told an interviewer: “Kevorkian turned away the vast majority of people who came to him, he didn’t take money for what he did and he did not see these patients as people he was killing. He saw them as people whose pain he could relieve.”
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.