Tuesday, February 01, 2005

When Did A Free Press Become The Enemy? 

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow points us to this Wa Po essay by Paul Farhi, a reporter for the paper's style section, who describes in stunning detail the ever-finer honing of the Bush notion of press freedom - that a free press is free to grovel at the feet of government power, but watch out if it chooses any other path.
Reporters who cover the White House are accustomed to being spun by administration officials. The modern presidential toolbox includes carefully rationed press conferences, say-nothing spokesmen, dead-of-night releases of unfavorable news, and phony "town hall" meetings composed solely of sycophantic supporters. More recently, government agencies have issued fake-news videos and secretly contracted with two pundits to promote the administration's policies on education and marriage.

But now the art of press handling has evolved into actual manhandling.
Read the rest. And then consider the possibility that some of the readiness of the SCLM to grovel, to accept this president strictly on the terms he dictates is a response akin to what happens to wives who are locked into abusive marital relationships. Even Mr. Farhi finds it necessary to talk about "the modern Presidential toolbox," as if there is nothing all that special about phony "town hall" meetings where attendees are screened for correct levels of sycophancy.

Something else that's new: significant numbers of journalists who are as ready to limit press freedom as the administration. Kevin Drum comments on an astonishing statement by Fred Barnes, writing in The Weekly Standard, that exhorts the President to produce "stronger countermeasures" to deal with Democratic obstructionism, including "a clear delineation of what's permissible and what's out of bounds in dissent on Iraq."

I don't know about you, but I'm getting so tired of keeping track of these atrocities against the first amendment. I mentioned two yesterday from the NYPost; here's Podhoretz-fils for whom the Iraqi elections the day before meant one thing and one thing only:
WHEN you heard about the stunning success of the Iraqi elections, were you thrilled? Did you see it as a triumph for democracy and for the armed forces of the United States that have sacrificed and suffered and fought so valiantly over the past 18 months to get Iraq to this moment?

Or did you momentarily feel an onrush of disappointment because you knew, you just knew, that this was going to redound to the credit of George W. Bush? This means you, Michael Moore. I'm talking to you, Teddy Kennedy.

And not just to the two of you, but to all those who follow in your train.

There are literally millions of Americans who are unhappy today because millions of Iraqis went to the polls yesterday. And why? Because this isn't just a success for Bush. It's a huge win. It's a colossal vindication.

It's a big fat gigantic winning vindication of the guy that the Moores and Kennedys and millions of others still can't believe anybody voted for.

And they know it.

And it's killing them.

Were Mr. Podhoretz's first thoughts about the Iraqi election that it was a thrilling vindication of the Iraqi people, or even that it was a thrilling vindication of democracy? Not from the evidence displayed in this column. Even while he accuses his political opponents of bad faith of a particularly ugly sort, with that total lack of embarrassment so typical of right-wing pundits, he displays exactly the attitude he's criticising. What matters most for the Pod? That Bush has won a colossal vindication, and better yet, it's killing the people whom the Pod hates. All that stuff about the American military and their sacrifices is for the purpose of suggesting that anyone who disagrees with his point of view is un-American. And that includes John Kerry whose interview on Sunday's Meet The Press, Podhoretz promptly mangles until it's unrecognizable. One tiny sample: After accusing Kerry of under-hyping the election by answering Russert's question about legitimacy by saying the election had "a kind of legitimacy," to which Podhoretz adds an "only," he then tries to make fun of Kerry's claim that he was for the elections going on as scheduled:
At the worst possible time to express pessimistic skepticism, Kerry did just that. The election only had a "kind of legitimacy," he said. He said he "was for the election taking place" (how big of him!), but then said that "it's gone as expected.

"Hey, wait a second. If it went as Kerry "expected," how could he have been "for the election taking place" — since the election only had, in his view, a "kind of legitimacy"?

I mean, who would want an election with only a "kind of legitimacy"?

Is Kerry perhaps saying he was for the election before he was against it?

If the only election possible, one being demanded by Ali-Sistanni, the most influential Shite in Iraq, is an election with a kind of legitimacy, one might well be for it. Now then, that wasn't hard, was it? Check out what Kerry actually says, and tell me if you think any fair-minded person would conclude that Kerry was either unclear or evasive in his answers.

Deborah Orin takes a slightly different tack in her column, published yesterday in the Post. She starts with much praise for the Iraqi people and their bravery; unlike everyone else in the entire world, Deborah and President Bush weren't surprised by anything.

Iraqis, after all, lived through decades when Saddam Hussein fed people to Doberman Pinschers and plastic shredders and murdered hundreds of thousands who were buried in mass graves.
The contempt contained in that description for the actual history of the Iraqi people under Saddam could not be any starker. The freshest of those mass graves contain the bodies of Shia who rose up at the urgent invitation of George Bush's father, only to find themselves left to their fate, insurrectionary rifles versus Saddam's helicopter gunships, which we allowed him to use, then looked the other way, though we had an army in the neighboring desert, and at least one Senator, one Albert Gore, went to the floor of the Senate to insist that we should not stand by and watch this massacre.

Here's the real subject of the column - an attack on that ever-lovin' liberal media, and on Democrats.

The fact that Iraq's election triumph came as a surprise to so many Americans shows how badly they have been served by most press and TV coverage, which told mostly of deaths and trouble and ignored the first glimmerings of new hope.


After Iraqis showed their yearning for freedom, do Democrats really want Dean as their new national chairman? Are they proud of lionizing "Fahrenheit 9/11" film-maker Michael Moore for painting Iraq's terror thugs as heroes and "Minutemen"?

All the Iraqis dancing with their flags yesterday were a reason for Americans to be proud of the war that toppled Saddam Hussein and opened the door to freedom — suddenly Bush's second inaugural speech just 10 days before sounded prophetic. "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors," Bush said then. "When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you."
In this rightwing version of America, the Iraqis and Iraq are props, the real drama is the vanquishing of all Americans who have a different vision of their country.

If the insides of your teeth are beginning to hurt about now, here's Charles Pierce's inspired answer to all this Bush triumphalism from yesterdays Altercation: it's so good I'm just going to go ahead and quote the whole damn thing, after thanking Eric, whose essential generosity has made his MSNBC blog one of the few media addresses where all-American voices like Pierce's are allowed to ring:
You do not own their courage.

The people who stood in line Sunday did not stand in line to make Americans feel good about themselves.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to justify lies about Saddam and al-Qaeda, so you don't own their courage, Stephen Hayes. They did not stand in line to justify lies about weapons of mass destruction, or to justify the artful dodginess of Ahmad Chalabi, so you don't own their courage, Judith Miller. They did not stand in line to provide pretty pictures for vapid suits to fawn over, so you don't own their courage, Howard Fineman, and neither do you, Chris Matthews.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line in order to justify the dereliction of a kept press. They did not stand in line to make right the wrongs born out of laziness, cowardice, and the easy acceptance of casual lying. They did not stand in line for anyone's grand designs. They did not stand in line to play pawns in anyone's great game, so you don't own their courage, you guys in the PNAC gallery.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to provide American dilettantes with easy rhetorical weapons, so you don't own their courage, Glenn Reynolds, with your cornpone McCarran act out of the bowels of a great university that deserves a helluva lot better than your sorry hide. They did not stand in line to be the instruments of tawdry vilification and triumphal hooting from bloghound commandos. They did not stand in line to become useful cudgels for cheap American political thuggery, so you don't own their courage, Freeper Nation.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to justify a thousand mistakes that have led to more than a thousand American bodies. They did not stand in line for the purpose of being a national hypnotic for a nation not even their own. They did not stand in line for being the last casus belli standing. They did not stand in line on behalf of people's book deals, TV spots, honorarium checks, or tinpot celebrity. They did not stand in line to be anyone's talking points.

You do not own their courage.

We all should remember that.

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