Thursday, April 26, 2007
The Bill Moyers documentary on our failed and barren press
Apr. 26, 2007 | If you didn't watch Bill Moyers' documentary last night regarding the joint, coordinated behavior of our government and its media in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, I can't recommend it highly enough. You can watch it here.
For those who have been following these issues, there was no single, specific blockbuster revelation that was not previously known, although Moyers' focus on the superb (and largely ignored) pre-war work of Real Journalists at Knight-Ridder (now at McClatchy) does cast a new light on the profound malfeasance of our most influential media outlets. Most of all, the documentary very powerfully compiles some of the most incriminating facts, and it unapologetically identifies many of the guiltiest and most destructive wrongdoers in our government and in the press.
For that reason, the documentary is -- in one sense -- a very valuable historical account of the corrupt behavior by our dominant political and media institutions which deceived the country into the invasion of Iraq. But on another, more significant level, it illustrates the corruption that continues to propel our political and media culture.
One of the most important points came at the end. The institutional decay which Moyers chronicles is not merely a matter of historical interest. Instead, it continues to shape our mainstream political dialogue every bit as much as it did back in 2002 and 2003. The people who committed the journalistic crimes Moyers so potently documents do not think they are guilty of anything -- ask them and they will tell you -- and as a result, they have not changed their behavior in the slightest.
Just consider that, as Moyers notes, there has been no examination by any television news network of the role played by the American media in enabling the Bush administration and its warmonger propagandists to disseminate pure falsehoods to the American public. People like Eric Boehlert have written books about it, and Moyers has now produced a comprehensive PBS program documenting it. But the national media outlets themselves have virtually ignored this entire story -- arguably the most significant political story of the last decade -- because they do not think there is any story here at all.
The fraud that was manufactured by our government officials and endorsed by our media establishment is one of the great political crimes of the last many decades. Yet those who are responsible for it have not been held accountable in the slightest. Quite the contrary, their media prominence -- as Moyers demonstrates -- has only increased, as culpable propagandists and warmongers such as Charles Krauthammer (now of Time and The Washington Post), Bill Kristol (now of Time), Jonah Goldberg (now of The Los Angeles Times, Peter Beinert (now of Time and The Washington Post), and Tom Friedman (revered by media stars everywhere) have all seen their profiles enhanced greatly in our national media.
And while Judy Miller became the scapegoat for the media's failures, most of the media stars responsible for the worst journalistic abuses -- from Michael Gordon to Tim Russert to Fred Hiatt to most of The Washington Post, to say nothing of the Fox stars and cogs of the right-wing noise machine -- continue merrily along as before, with virtually no recognition of fault and no reduction in their platforms.
Moyers did a superb job of questioning both Tim Russert and Peter Beinart, and both were -- appropriately and enjoyably -- extremely defensive about their behavior. Beinart, along with his good friend and mirror image Jonah Goldberg, participated in one of the most vile -- though not all that unusual -- smear campaigns against a war opponent, Scott Ritter. The smear campaign was necessary precisely because Ritter was one of the very few individuals in this country who (completely unlike Goldberg, Beinart and all of the other faux warrior-experts parading across television screens loyally reciting the Bush line) actually knew what he was talking about when it came to the Iraqi weapons program and its "relationship" to Al Qaeda, and continuously warned (to little effect) about all of the warmongers' false claims about those topics.
But credit is at least due to both Russert and Beinart for appearing on Moyers' program and facing his appropriately confrontational questions. Their willingness to account for their conduct stands in stark contrast to the long list of cowards who still constantly strut around self-lovingly touting their own courage, resolve, Churchillian backbone, and all of their other little self-glorifying platitudes, yet were too afraid to face questioning from a real journalist about all of the fact-free, false propaganda they spewed for years (and continue to spew).
That disgraceful, dishonorable roster of Great Warriors hiding under their beds from Bill Moyers includes Fox's Krauthammer, Fox's Kristol, Fox's Roger Ailes, Bill Safire and Judith Miller. As The Washington Post's own Tom Shales put it:
Among those who declined -- and thus became a part of the story more than they already were -- are Judith Miller of the New York Times, a reporter who became a relentless drumbeater for war; Times pundit William Safire, who'd predicted that Iraqis would welcome Americans as liberators when they marched into Baghdad; columnist Charles Krauthammer, another hawkish columnist who's usually anything but camera-shy; and Fox boss Roger Ailes.People like Bill Kristol and Krauthammer will only go and sit with the likes of Brit Hume and speak only to Fox audiences, so they are never reminded of the literally countless falsehoods they churned out not only to justify the invasion but to profoundly mislead Americans for years about the ongoing occupation. And they both continue to issue one-way decrees from the pages of Time and The Washington Post, where they are never held to account for what they have done.
William Kristol, a conservative columnist who, Moyers says, "led the march to Baghdad behind a battery of Washington microphones . . . has not responded to any of our requests for an interview, but he still shows up on TV as an expert, most often on Fox News."
Moyers' documentary is a superb piece of journalism and makes inescapably clear how profoundly corrupt our dominant political and media institutions were prior to the invasion. But most national "journalists" will simply ignore the whole program (as Digby notes, The New York Times, one of the principal culprits, did not even review it).
They will almost certainly dismiss Moyers as a liberal partisan, not a real journalist, and continue to insist that they are doing a superb and even-handed job. They will continue to revere the most guilty parties responsible for the deceit and destruction of the last six years.
And, worst of all, the sicknesses documented so potently by Moyers will continue to pervade our dominant media and political institutions. Comparing 2002 and now, however, there is a significant difference: as Moyers' documentary illustrates, as does the emergence of political blogs, more and more people are increasingly recognizing how pervasive those deficiencies are, and consequently, are developing multiple alternatives to the rancid governing Beltway system.
-- Glenn Greenwald