Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free Press: Epic Fail

Yesterday, the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times patted itself on the back for having had the wisdom to endorse Barack Obama for President from the primaries right on through the general election in an editorial that also promised to keep an eye on the new president.

...recent history supplies a sobering lesson in what happens when support for a president dulls the skepticism needed to ensure public accountability. In the weeks and months after Sept. 11, 2001, the world rallied behind President Bush, and journalists were among those who sympathized too much. Claims of Iraqi involvement in the attacks and support for Al Qaeda were too readily accepted, as were reports that Iraq harbored weapons of mass destruction. The result was a war launched on false pretenses, with profound consequences for America's standing in the world and its identity at home. We once were a nation that would have been shocked to learn that the government spied on citizens without warrants, locked up suspects without trial, engaged in torture. But too many of us accepted those compromises of basic American principles as necessary accommodations for going to war.

Journalism was not to blame for those travesties, any more than it was for the administration's callous disregard for hurricane-swept New Orleans. But journalists' responsibilities during any administration of either party remain fixed: We must search out what the government would prefer to keep from the public; we must remind those in power of the pledges that brought them to office; we must encourage debate, not out of cynicism but in the conviction that openness and public discussion produce the most satisfying results in a democratic society.
[Emphasis added]

While it was comforting to see that the editorial board remembers the lessons from Journalism 101 (even if belatedly), the board's refusal to acknowledge that by its silence and the silence of major media outlets across the board for nearly all of the past eight years our vaunted free press does in fact share some of the blame for "the travesties" of the last administration. The media were complicit, as complicit as the Congress to the extent everyone in both august bodies refused to question even the most egregious and appalling violations of domestic and international law by the Bush junta. Now, with a new administration, a Democratic one, the press is suddenly willing to shake off its narcolepsy and get back to its proper role.

How unsurprising.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

And before they were responsible for the Iraq war, they were responsible for our having gwb as president. The man you'd rather throw a beer at.
Journalism 101, the Short Course: since most of your revenues come from advertising, suck up to the advertisers and print their content.

7:49 AM  
Blogger the bewilderness said...

Indeed, all they did was set the table for the feast and served up dissenters well roasted.

12:46 PM  

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