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Media Lapdogs

Posted on May 4, 2006
Press conference

A presidential press conference.

In a new book, Salon senior writer Eric Boehlert chronicles “one of the great journalistic collapses of our time”: the media’s failure to sufficiently challenge the president in the run-up to the Iraq war. Check out the extended excerpt.

... Battered by accusations of a liberal bias and determined to prove their conservative critics wrong, the press during the run-up to the war—timid, deferential, unsure, cautious, and often intentionally unthinking—came as close as possible to abdicating its reason for existing in the first place, which is to accurately inform citizens, particularly during times of great national interest. Indeed, the MSM’s failings were all the more important because of the unusually influential role they played in advance of the war-of-choice with Iraq. “When America has been attacked—at Pearl Harbor, or as on September 11—the government needed merely to tell the people that it was our duty to respond, and the people rightly conferred their authority,” noted Harold Meyerson in the American Prospect magazine. “But a war of choice is a different matter entirely. In that circumstance, the people will ask why. The people will need to be convinced that their sons and daughters and husbands and wives should go halfway around the world to fight a nemesis that they didn’t really know was a nemesis.”

It’s not fair to suggest the MSM alone convinced Americans to send some sons and daughter to fight. But the press went out of its way to tell a pleasing, administration-friendly tale about the pending war. In truth, Bush never could have ordered the invasion of Iraq—never could have sold the idea at home—if it weren’t for the help he received from the MSM, and particularly the stamp of approval he received from so-called liberal media institutions such as the Washington Post, which in February of 2003 alone, editorialized in favor of war nine times. (Between September 2002 and February 2003, the paper editorialized twenty-six times in favor of the war.) The Post had plenty of company from the liberal East Coast media cabal, with high-profile columnists and editors—the newfound liberal hawks—at the New Yorker, Newsweek, Time, the New York Times, the New Republic and elsewhere all signing on for a war of preemption. By the time the invasion began, the de facto position among the Beltway chattering class was clearly one that backed Bush and favored war. Years later the New York Times Magazine wrote that most “journalists in Washington found it almost inconceivable, even during the period before a fiercely contested midterm election [in 2002], that the intelligence used to justify the war might simply be invented.” Hollywood peace activists could conceive it, but serious Beltway journalists could not? That’s hard to believe. More likely journalists could conceive it but, understanding the MSM unspoken guidelines—both social and political—were too timid to express it at the time of war.


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By felicity smith, May 6, 2006 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment
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Off topic, but maybe not, Zahn’s recent “interview” of McGovern following his encounter with Rummy was a glaring case in point of the media attacking the attacker - a common practice these days.  Not only does the media cowtow to Belchway types, it overtly attacks their critics.  Matthews seems to have backed off lately, but don’t cross your fingers.

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By ETSpoon, May 6, 2006 at 9:07 am Link to this comment
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Nothing new here.

May I refer you to Robert Perry’s 1999 book, “Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, The Press And ‘Project Truth’”

The MSM and the White House Correspondents corps have been GOP lapdogs at least since Reagan’s administration.

It’s going to take a very long time to undo the incestuous relationship of the MSM, Beltway insiders and corporate boardrooms.

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By Hilding Lindquist, May 5, 2006 at 9:58 pm Link to this comment
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Molly Ivins in “Race Card Backfires on Republicans” wrote: “The conservatives have been preaching this Me First stuff as though life were a race to the finish and the only object is to pick up as much money as you can.”

What is showing up all over the place in these United States is the attitude: “It’s all about me, about me getting my share of [the money] [the interviews] [the promotions] [(fill in the blank)].”

Most MSM reporters follow the Bob Woodward model rather than the Carl Bernstein model for success. “I gotta be nice to these people or they won’t invite me back, and then I won’t get the power interview that advances [my career] [my book sales] [(fill in the blank)].”

How many remember the words of our Declaration of Independence just above the signatures?: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

We the people need to take our country back and re-establish the values and principles for what we believe we ought to become, constantly striving to make that oughtness the isness of the future.

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By John Farley, May 5, 2006 at 6:00 am Link to this comment
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The US invasion of Iraq is a war of aggression (a more accurate term than a “war of choice”). It was Step One. And what is Step Two? Invading Iran?

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By candide, May 5, 2006 at 5:57 am Link to this comment
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Think about what the term embedded really means.

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By bg, May 4, 2006 at 11:03 pm Link to this comment
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How do we prevent a repeat of this failure by the MSM?

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