Nothing is more stultifying than one-party rule. Its a simple rule of perception that unchanging samenessthey always win, no matter whatdulls the senses. My feeling is that right now the American people are taking a little breather. They got through the war on Christmas and thats enough for now. The Dow Jones hit 1100 for the first time since 9/11. People are drinking more, smoking more, sleeping. Burrowing into their families. Going to see Brokeback Mountain (I highly recommend it). Working. Above all, they are ignoring. They are tuning out the political process, because it is nothing but nonsense and stuff they cant do anything about.
They same is true for activists. Constant focus on the puppets who are out front can only lead to feelings of futility. We have to start thinking about the players behind the scenes. Its time to go back to the beginning and try to understand our enemy. Time to consider the question, who is the enemy.
For example, Ive gotten into the unconscious habit of thinking of journalists as reluctant accomplices to this rightwing takeover, as unhappy, hijacked professionals much like the experts in the State Departmentand, for that matter, the experts throughout government. I think that because I forget that the media are their own best apologists. The truth is, the corporate media are leading this revolution, not merely following along and scavenging.
I realize the Democrats are blameless only because they were ruthlessly cut out of the action, but its still a treat watching Wolf Blitzer trying to twist the facts to fit the bipartisan scenario demanded by the RNC talking points of the day. I highly recommend this video of Blitzer interviewing Howard Dean for a little comic relief.
Its time we learned the rudiments of scandalology, as John Dean calls it in his excellent book, Worse Than Watergate. For a scandal to be a scandal, Dean says, the media must certify it. When Newsweeks Howard Fineman said of Bill Clinton at the height of the Lewinsky scandal, We have to wonder whether we can continue to respect ourselves as a people if a man like this remains president, he was expressing exactly the kind of moral outrage that makes a scandal.
In that regard, Plamegate set a benchmark in the journalistic management of Bush-based scandals: suddenly, after years and years of hearing about the character issue, the accepted standard for press censure of a president became criminal indictments. And even after the indictment, pundits argued that the indictments were too few, or for puny crimes (i.e., perjury instead of treason).
Bob Woodward was one of those publicly scoffing at the seriousness of the charges. The Washington Post quoted Mr. Woodward as saying of Plamegate that ultimately there is going to be nothing to it. And it is a shame. And the special prosecutor in the case, his behavior, in my view, has been disgraceful. Furthermore, Woodward warned, Fitzgerald made a big mistake in going after Judy Miller.
But that was before someone in the White House tipped Fitzgerald that Woodward knew about Plame even before Libby did. After he got caught, Mr. Woodward started singing a much less bellicose tune. Suddenly it was pretty frightening that Judy went to jail.
I hunkered down, Woodward said in an interview. Im in the habit of keeping secrets. I didnt want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed.
Woodward is, of course, famous for his part in the prototypical media scandal of our times, Watergate. One could argue that the arc of Woodwards career perfectly describes the whole trajectory of media in the electronic age. In the early seventies, the media landscape was highly diversified. Virtually all cities and most towns had their own independent newspapers. There were a large number of independently owned radio stations, rooted in the communities they served, and FCC regulations for radio and television included the now-obsolete fairness and equal time doctrines.
In the seventies, the Times published the Pentagon papers and the Post competed with the Watergate story. The regulated press performed their function as economic competitors to each other and adversaries to unbridled and secretive government. Because of the press, Richard Nixon resigned. The political class did their bit, too, certainly, but the press acted as the public conscience. The press enforced and enacted respect for the law.
Thirty years down the road things have changed just a bit. Now Woodward is not only a managing editor at the Post, but he has a sweetheart deal where he can sit on scoops he gathers for his books in return for serializing them first in the Post. Good for him, bad for us. Very, very bad for us, as it turns out. The hero of Watergate has become a wealthy businessman.
But thats only possible because of a lot of other changes that have occurred. It took years of work, years of capitalist indoctrinationgreed is good, greed is good, greed worksbut bit by bit the FCC regulations designed to prevent the kind of propaganda machine built by the Third Reich have been chipped away: equal time, fairness, the laws against consolidation and monopoly. The result: Rupert Murdochs dark parody of equal time and fairness, fair and balanced news.
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