Doug Gibson’s blog post a couple days ago about the current wave of screaming matches over health care cited anti-Bush riots in Seattle in 2002 and says, essentially, that the so-called “liberal” media didn’t play those protests up, so why are they making such a big deal about noisy protests over health care now?
There is much discussion about whether the protestors, then, were being accused of being unpatriotic, and whether the accusastions by a few that the protestors now are being un-American are being fair.
There’s no end to that debate, but one poster, Mel, put some interesting discussion up about why would the allegedly liberal media in this nation (and I say allegedly because I don’t think it is liberal at all) hide those protests? After all, if the so-called “liberal” media hates Bush so much, why would it not trumpet such protests from the highest tree?
He then says that maybe the Bush Administration actually had a hand in hiding that news, or stifling it, and says he finds the realization rather depressing. As well he should.
I then put the following up, and repeat it here because I think it is something that hasn’t been talked about much, but needs to be.
There seems to be a general assumption — dating back to Nixon’s very hostile relationship with the media that were exposing his crimes — that the professional media is some sort of liberal plot against the government, and I guess it is if you want to call “finding out the truth” a liberal plot. Nixon, of course, didn’t want the truth of his crimes discovered, so he decided to demonize those trying to discover it, siccing Spiro Agnew and his “nattering nabobs of negativism” ideas.
The goal was to make the press — which in truth is about as coordinated as a herd of cats — into some sort of unified cabal, a coordinated enemy that could then be condemned, and while the effort didn’t save Nixon, the premise has survived and is still used today by people who find a “liberal” media to be a convenient straw man to condemn because that distracts people from looking more closely at whatever it is they are up to.
Anyway, Mel apparently assumes this so-called “liberal” media exists, says it was obviously shut up by some unseen power, and says the apparent existence of that power distresses him.
Here’s my answer (it doesn’t precisely match my answer on Doug’s blog because I took a little more time here):
It may be sadder than that, Mel — in 2002 the many individual reporters, and corporate entities, who make up the “main stream media” were thoroughly cowed following the 911 attack , both on a personal and on a corportate level. They kept quiet about dissent out of fear of being accused of not being patriotic because, you may recall, those were a time when patriotism, a desire to pull together, were paramount.
The idea of critical reporting of the government pretty much went by the boards — it was an extremely frustrating time for me, a reporter with 30-plus years of experience, to see my profession essentially roll over and play dead.
The Bush administration didn’t have to control the media — the media controlled themselves.
Example: Remember when Colin Powell gave his wonderful speech at the UN and talked about, among many things, those idiotic tubes Iraq had that were allegedly going to be used to build centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel? The International Atomic monitoring body whose name escapes me. had, a week or two before, issued a finding that those tubes were NOT of the sort that could be made into centrifuges, they were for missiles.
And yet, there was Powell saying they were for centrifuges. Did anyone, anywhere, in the US media question Powell’s assertion? No. Not one. OK, I sat here in the newsroom and raged, but who the hell listens to me?
This is why, several years later (sorry, can’t remember precisely when) both the NYTimes and the WaPost ran very long, 18-inch, apology/corrections for their really abysmal coverage of the runup to the Iraq war. The NYTimes fired at least one key reporter for, as it turned out, being a de-facto PR person for Rumsfeld, a pal of the puppet Iraqi — Chalabi, I think it was – who Rummy had planned to put into power once US troops won the war. This reporter wanted to be the one who reported the victory, thought she had the inside line, and she tossed out critical thinking in the process.
It was astonishingly ugly.
Why weren’t anti-Bush protests that Mr. Gibson cites covered more? No plot, no government control. The media in this country was being patriotic in 2002. It abdicated it’s role in protecting the nation from its leaders in the process, and the result you see, daily, in flag-covered coffins.