Saturday, May 31, 2008


JEFF COHEN, OUR FUTURE - No sooner had Bush's ex-press secretary (now author) Scott McClellan accused President Bush and his former collaborators of misleading our country into Iraq than the squeals of protest turned into a mighty roar.

I'm not talking about the vitriol directed at him by former White House colleagues like Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer. I'm talking about McClellan's other war collaborators: the movers and shakers in corporate media. The people McClellan refers to in his book as "deferential, complicit enablers" of Bush administration war propaganda.

One after another, news stars defended themselves with the tired old myth that no one doubted the Iraq WMD claims at the time. The yarn about hindsight being 20/20 was served up more times than a Rev. Wright clip on Fox News.

Katie Couric, whose coverage on CBS of the Iraq troop surge has been almost fawning, was one of the few stars to be candid about pre-invasion coverage, saying days ago, "I think it's one of the most embarrassing chapters in American journalism." She spoke of "pressure" from corporate management, not just Team Bush, to "really squash any dissent." Then a co-host of NBC Today, she says network brass criticized her for challenging the administration.

NBC execs apparently didn't complain when - two weeks into the invasion - Couric thanked a Navy commander for coming on the show, adding, "And I just want you to know, I think Navy SEALs rock!"

Given how TV networks danced to the White House tune sung by the Roves and Fleischers and McClellans in the first years of W's reign, it's fitting that it took the words of a longtime Bush insider to force their self- examination over Iraq. Top media figures had shunned years of well-documented criticism of their Iraq failure as religiously as they shunned war critics in 2003.

Speaking of religious, it wasn't until two days ago that retired NBC warhorse Tom Brokaw was able to admit on-air that Bush's push toward invasion was "more theology than anything else." On day one of the war, it was anchor Brokaw who turned to an Admiral and declared, "One of the things that we don't want to do is destroy the infrastructure of Iraq, because in a few days we're going to own that country."

Asked this week about the charge that media transmitted war propaganda, Brokaw blamed the White House and its "unbelievable ability to control the flow of information at any time, but especially during the time that they're preparing to go to war." This is an old canard: The worst censors pre-war were not governments, but major outlets that chose to exclude and smear dissenting experts.

Wolf Blitzer, whose persona on CNN is that of a carnival barker, defended his network's coverage: "I think we were pretty strong. But certainly, with hindsight, we could have done an even better job."

Coverage might have been better if CNN news chief Eason Jordan hadn't gotten a Pentagon "thumbs-up" on the retired generals they featured. Or if Jordan hadn't gone on the air to dismiss a dissenting WMD expert: "Scott Ritter's chameleon-like behavior has really bewildered a lot of people. . . . U.S. officials no longer give Scott Ritter much credibility."

ABC anchor Charlie Gibson, the closest thing to a Fox News anchor at a big three network, took offense at McClellan: "I think the media did a pretty good job." He claimed "there was a lot of skepticism raised" about Colin Powell's pre-war U.N. speech. Media critic Glenn Greenwald called Gibson's claim "one of the falsest statements ever uttered on TV" - and made his point using Gibson's unskeptical Powell coverage at the time.

In February 2003, there was huge mainstream media skepticism about Powell's U.N. speech . . . overseas. But U.S. TV networks banished antiwar perspectives in the crucial two weeks surrounding that error-filled speech. FAIR studied all on-camera sources on the nightly ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS newscasts: Less than 1 percent - three out of 393 sources - were antiwar. Only 6 percent were skeptical sources. This at a time when 60 percent of Americans in polls wanted more time for diplomacy and inspections.


At May 31, 2008 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Journalists in the U.S. admitting they were wrong would require some sort of integrity or ethics among U.S. journalists. Don't hold your breath.

At May 31, 2008 9:04 PM, Anonymous m said...

It is not just that the media was complicit in the hyping of WMD propaganda. Even if Iraq had WMD, there would have been no legal justification under US or international law for the invasion.

It was not just WMD propaganda either. Even when Bush told obvious stupid bonehead lies, or contradicted what he said a few weeks before, or even in the same speech, the media ignored the blunders. Endless blandishments of the worst president in US history went far beyond being excused by patriotic fervor.

The media was, and for the most part remains, complicit with this archetype of a malevolent neer-do-well.

At June 1, 2008 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they had any integrity whatsoever, they could just list some of the worst laws that bush broke, what the punishments are, and tell their viewers a couple phone numbers in congress to complain. But it can't be that simple because we're all assumed too stupid by the really smart executives.

At June 3, 2008 11:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In what got to be a comical pas de deux, during the buildup to the Iraq War I kept getting assurances from a Chris Matthews' HARDBALL booker about an appearance on the show to discuss both Middle East politics -- which I'd covered for print and television through the years -- and separately HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE IN AMERICA in the form of POLYGAMY, which I'd written about extensively in key mainstream newspapers. The booker complained about the pressures on him to book the generals.
Then I watched in shock as Hardball booked JOHN MCCAIN (the FLDS polygamist cult has been headquartered in Arizona and Utah for almost 100 years), Orrin Hatch and Mike Leavitt with Matthews failing to discuss the HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE OF POLYGAMY.

Ever wonder what makes Chris Matthews smile?


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