Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Stepford Press

For at least the past five years, the so-called liberal media have been in the hip pockets of the current regime. Too many reporters have been happy to regurgitate 'talking points' issued by the Republican White House without comment or analysis and have been only too happy to write entire stories based on "anonymous" sources who have "leaked" information that the White House wanted on the front page. A few reporters, however, have taken a different route and actually done their jobs on such issues as the NSA domestic spying program and the existence of secret CIA prisons. Those few reporters and their honest work really upset the apple court and the powers that rule this nation. As a result, there are some pretty draconian measures being considered. A NY Times story in this morning's edition describes those measures.

Earlier administrations have fired and prosecuted government officials who provided classified information to the press. They have also tried to force reporters to identify their sources.

But the Bush administration is exploring a more radical measure to protect information it says is vital to national security: the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws

Such an approach would signal a thorough revision of the informal rules of engagement that have governed the relationship between the press and the government for many decades. Leaking in Washington is commonplace and typically entails tolerable risks for government officials and, at worst, the possibility of subpoenas to journalists seeking the identities of sources.

But the Bush administration is putting pressure on the press as never before, and it is operating in a judicial climate that seems increasingly receptive to constraints on journalists.

...One example of the administration's new approach is the F.B.I.'s recent effort to reclaim classified documents in the files of the late columnist Jack Anderson, a move that legal experts say was surprising if not unheard of.
[Emphasis added]

Clearly it is easier to go after the printer than the leaker because the printer's identity is known. The result of even one prosecution, whether successful or not, will have the desired chilling effect on the press. Reporters will have to turn away sources who might be revealing information which will upset the White House powers, whether truly dealing with national security or not, for fear that the FBI will be knocking on their cubicles with warrants in hand. Whistleblowers will go unheard; government abuse will go unrevealed. And that is the whole point of the White House plan to further emasculate the press.

We will have a Stepford Press, only more so, and one of the most important of the First Amendment rights will have been made moot.

Scary times, these. Very, very scary.


Blogger spocko said...

Hi cabearie:
Spotted your blog whoring over at Atrios.

Pretty damn chilling. Since you were posting in the topic, If you have a chance check out Eric Boehlert's new book. I'd like a lawyer to read it and see if any of the methods that Rove/Huges use to intimidate the press cross any legal boundaries. I don't think so. It's usually just denying them access.

Of course if your career is destroyed because the vice president kicks you off his plane for asking questions he doesn't like I guess it doesn't count.

I'm working with Eric (gratis) to prep for media interviews and I'd love to have an answer to any editor who asks, "Is it legal what the White House does or is their intimdation just par for the course?"

10:36 AM  
Blogger spocko said...

Oh and you can drop me an email at
spockosemail @ gmail com

the blog is

10:38 AM  

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