by Deck Deckert
(Swans - July 3, 2006) The New York Times and a few other papers have finally begun, however timidly, to act like newspapers, and the Bush administration and Republicans have erupted with massive fury.
"Those who wrote, published and leaked the story should be tried for treason," Senator Jim Bunning thundered after The New York Times exposed the massive spying that the Bushites have conducted on international financial transactions.
Representative Peter King wants criminal charges brought against the Times. House Speaker Dennis Hastert ranted. "It's not news. It's classified information our government is using to fight terrorists."
"There can be no excuse for anyone entrusted with vital intelligence to leak it, and no excuse for any newspaper to print it," President George Bush whined.
I have been a longtime critic of the corporate media, and there is a lot to be critical about. Newspapers and TV "news" programs were cheerleaders for the war in Iraq and have sanitized it ever since. They have ignored the stolen elections, barely covered the massive corruption in Congress and corporations like Halliburton, pay virtually no attention to the spiraling national debt. They have, in short, been partners in crime with the Bush administration.
So a critic like me should be happy when the partners in crime have a falling out, right?
Of course...maybe...probably not.
The track record of this administration is too alarming, too ugly, too frightening. In a very few years, Bush and the neocons have come very close to destroying our democracy. If they succeed in further intimidating the media, the fight to save it may be lost.
Up until now, the media has been more seduced than intimidated. Oh sure, reporters and columnists have lost their jobs for speaking out against the administration and the ersatz "War on Terror." Even someone with the power and influence of Dan Rather can be forced out for daring to examine Bush's war record. But for the most part, it has been a mutual support pact.
The corporate media has a quick and easy accessibility to government figures for comments, statements, announcements, proposals, photo ops ..."news" in general. It costs the media virtually nothing. Granted, White House correspondents are paid a pretty penny, but compared to the cost of doing their own digging, doing their own investigative reporting, it costs essentially nothing.
In exchange for this, the media acts as "news" and propaganda pipelines to the public. The media doesn't question what they are told, what they're spoon fed -- they don't criticize, they don't add any perspective, they don't add any understanding. They are, to quote a valuable cliché, just stenographers of power.
They get more, of course. Big corporate media is an oligarchy. Five or six corporations -- perhaps a few more, depending how you break things down -- control almost all the media in this country. That's everything -- newspapers, TV stations, TV networks, magazines, radio, book publishers, music publishers, and soon, maybe, the Internet. It is the government that makes that possible. The 1996 Telecommunications Act paved the way for this massive consolidation. And government actions make it ongoing.
Monopolies and oligarchies are always enormously profitable.
Beyond that, the corporate media reflects the values of corporations -- attention to the bottom line, preservation of wealth, conservative social values, dislike or disdain of workers, extreme antipathy to unions, dismissal of the environment and global warming, etc. -- values similar to that of the Bush administration.
So the alliance of the Bush administration, big government, and the big corporate media has been a natural one, however detrimental it is to the public who needs honest and accurate reporting to gauge the state of their democracy.
But is it now shredding? And if it is, is that a hopeful sign?
Don't count on it.
The corporate media is still protecting Bush on so many fronts. If they question Bush on one issue, there is no sign that they will pressure him on others.
But if they do, the Bush administration may be able to crush the media using the same techniques as it has used to crush Congress and the Democrats -- slander and Swift Boating, lying, total disregard of the law, criminalization of dissent.
If you think the Bush administration would never be so brazen as to directly attack newspapers, would never cross that line, you could be living in a dream world. The lines that Bush has already crossed are stunning and frightening -- stolen elections, torture, Guantánamo and other concentration camps, indefinite detention, rendition, mass spying, laws Bush says brazenly don't apply to him. And, of course, preemptive and eternal war. (Satirist Andy Borowitz quotes Bush as saying that we will stay in Iraq until we know the reason we are there "and if that means forever, so be it.")
The Bush administration is vastly unpopular, its war in Iraq is an unmitigated disaster, the public is worried about corruption in Congress and the White House, and while generally supportive, uneasy about the unconstitutional spying.
At this point, it would seem that the Bush administration would steer very carefully in any confrontation with the media. The truism used to be that you never picked a fight with someone who buys ink by the gallon. But times have changed. Both because it is desperate, and because it has been so very successful in manipulating the government through repressive means, the Bush administration could very well crack down on the media -- successfully.
The First Amendment? A quaint bit of history, like the Fourth Amendment.
It is not a sure bet that media will fight. If they don't, we may have seen the end of democracy as we have always known it.
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