Ask anyone today about the US media’s role in misguiding our nation into Iraq and most will perhaps agree that the media is as guilty as both Republicans and Democrats when it comes to misleading the American people into war. The revelation of Washington Post writer Robert Woodward in respect to the Valerie Plame leak case makes this perception of media culpability in what is beginning to look like Iraqgate, even stronger. Woodward has stepped up to say that he, and not Libby was the first to learn of Valerie Plame’s CIA status from a Bush administration official. Some are saying that this bit of information will exonerate Libby. Others, including myself, wonder what relevance Woodward’s remarks have in respect to Libby’s pending trial, considering that Libby was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, and not for revealing Plame’s name and CIA employment status. Woodward’s confession suggests that government insiders were pretty sure that certain reporters might cooperate with them in an attempt to punish Plame and her husband, former Amb. Joseph Wilson. Someone in our government was clearly out to get anyone who threatened Zionist attempts to get our military, Israel’s so-called “proxy army” into war in Iraq. This person, or persons may have sought to use Woodward, along with perhaps other reporters, yet, that certainly does not mean that Libby didn’t lie to the grand jury, or seek to obstruct justice. It simply means that whereas Woodward wouldn’t play along, he also wouldn’t do anything to thwart the plan, like going to the FBI or someone and saying that there is an attempt underway to expose a CIA covert operative. Woodward may have known nothing about the possible conspiracy, and he may have known everything. What we know, because Woodward said so is that he did not want to be subpoenaed. The rush by Libby’s lawyers, and his friends to capitalize on the Woodward confession, gives the impression that they are really desperate, and ready to take whatever they can get in the form of an alibi or excuse to explain their clients seemingly illegal behavior. That could mean that there is no simple truth, like, “he didn’t do it” that is expected to vindicate Libby.
After all is said and done, including Woodward’s confession, it’s pretty clear that whatever lies we were told about Iraq and WMD, it wasn’t our next-door neighbors who spread the gossip, it was the media. What we didn’t know then, now seems as important as the lies that were told, and proves, along with Woodward’s confession, that the media not only selects and shapes information, it absolutely controls most of the information that we as a society are dependant upon to make sense of the world that we live in, impacting very significantly our ability to understand how to act as responsible and conscientious citizens in that world.
Today’s media operates much more like an information gathering and state propaganda mechanism, than it does as journalism. The difference, which is becoming increasingly apparent, is that journalists used to be independent observers whose job it was to tell us, the American public, “who, what, where, and sometimes why” about everything. They were to not only uncover facts, but also to confirm the truth, and dispel mistruths, before, and not after they were reported. Journalists were to have no stake in the answers to such questions, their job being merely to report the truth, and nothing but the truth. We allow editorializing that is identified as editorializing. The American people will never accept that our media should feed us propaganda, and especially not propaganda fed into our society at the behest of foreign governments, in the interest of foreign governments, and in opposition to our own interest, and at the cost of our children’s lives. In respect to Iraqgate, the pre-war propaganda circulated by the media has led to the deaths of more than 2000 US soldiers and Marines, and perhaps hundreds and thousands of Iraqi citizens.
In return for the media’s willingness to ruffle feathers, uncover the truth and serve as the public’s eyes, and ears, society in turn sought to protect journalism and journalists to a greater extent than almost any other category of public servants. Even doctors, who provide what is without doubt, a much more treasured and essential public service, do not enjoy the protections from lawsuits, and freedoms in respect to discretionary public disclosure of information that journalists do. If we compare the limits that we place upon police power, and political power, etc., with the almost absolute freedom, and immunities against accountability enjoyed by the media, we might begin to understand exactly what Professor Amos Perlmutter meant when he said that international politics is carried out in the media. It is the only domain where there are no checks and balances. There is plenty of unfettered government access, access to intelligence and classified information, opportunity and power to control public perceptions, and also the public’s actions through the manipulation of information.To get a good idea of the type of power that we are speaking of, consider that it was the media’s unwillingness to second guess former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, and others on WMD, and their unwillingness to report the truth about the UN inspector’s reports on the dismantlement of Iraq’s WMD programs, that literally launched the most powerful military in the world, catapulting our children into a war thousands of miles away from home, where they are dying for no reason except to bolster Israel’s status in the region. If our intent was solely to remove Hussein from power, we could have invited him to the White house for lunch, locked him up in the basement, then rendered him to the Hague to be tried for war crimes. It would have been cheaper, cost fewer lives, and been easier to explain. That sounds pretty absurd right? Well imagine the situation we are in now, in Iraq. Is it any less absurd? More than 2000 Americans have died, and we don’t even know if Hussein will be found guilty of war crimes, or if he will remain imprisoned and out of power. Just to show you how mixed up our government is, perhaps beaten senseless by the US media’s fondness for providing publicity for the insurgents, we began to lobby for places in the new Iraq government and parliament for Saddam loyalists who most would bet, will do whatever they can to get Hussein back at the helm of the Iraqi government. Under the guise of promoting democracy, elements within our government actually sought to get Saddam loyalists into the new government, even though we have put everything at risk to unseat him, and to destroy his influence.
Read some of the media discussions on democracy in Iraq, and it becomes immediately apparent that every step of the way, both before and now that the war has ensued, the media has played a major role in guiding us into war, and shaping the outcome of this misadventure. Many in the media argued passionately that there could be no real democracy in Iraq unless Saddam loyalists were given places in the government, even though they boycotted and sought to undermine the elections process through intimidation and violence against Iraqi citizens, and also US troops. This same media was silent in the debate on voting rights for convicted US felons, the majority of who are Black and Latino, some first offenders. Not once did they ask “How can we have democracy in the US when a large and growing number of our young people are loosing their voting rights by stealth, through a judicial rather than a legislative process?” Even after paying their debt to society, these men and women are denied the right to vote. Is democracy more important to the US media in respect to Iraq, than in respect to the US?
Polls show that most Americans now feel that going to war in Iraq was a mistake, and that if we knew what we know now, most Americans would not have supported the decision to go to war. What that tells us is that the influence of the media is very powerful in our society, and that this power extends beyond the ability to merely decide what is reported and what is not. This power can be used to also eliminate choices, create false perceptions, deceive, frustrate sound judgment and compel behaviors. Polls also show that fewer Americans trust the media, and more are concerned about how the media uses its influence. The American people hold the media in lower esteem today, than we do either the Republicans or Democrats who are blamed for misleading us into war, since the media served as their messenger, and was complicit. They showed greater loyalty to Israel, a non-democratic and exclusively Jewish state, than they did to the people of this nation of all faiths, and political worldviews who supported the media as both a financial and a civic enterprise.
The delicate balance of power in societies between the various branches of government, and the people, and also between the people and our auxiliary institutions, which includes the media, significantly impacts our freedom, safety and quality of life. A free press, with limited power is indispensable in a democratic society, and also in a republic. Today, our challenge, along with restoring faith and trust in our political process and government, is to restore faith in, and the integrity of our media, so that it cannot only be free, but also trusted. A free press that is not trusted, that covets power, and that sees itself as above the law, and a servant to governments and the rich, is a threat to democratic freedoms, and also the rule, and effectiveness of the law. The solution to the problem might be as simple as to expand and strengthen the FCC’s authority over the media to include not only preventing media monopolies, but also prosecuting media abuses of power, and also abuses of the public’s trust. When corporations like Enron abused the public trust and failed, the Justice Department went after the CEO’s. Who’s accountable when our media fails and spins out of public control?