Sometimes I feel like we forget just how problematic the media's coverage of the lead-up to the Iraq War was. I don't care if you're on the left, right, north, south, whatever, if your media is incapable of deciphering pure government propaganda for a war, your society is in a lot of trouble. We cannot be "oh, we know the media stinks, la di da" about this.
This is the kind of stuff that can bring down a (quasi) democratic system. If your press recites the government's talking points with minimal effort to double-check the information (or, is run with an eye towards the bottom line so that they cut budgets to the point that they don't employ many people who actually do real research on the supposed facts), and your government puts out disinformation (which all governments anywhere want to do), how exactly do you correct the problems? This is a really frightening problem, one that the FCC hasn't helped on at all.
The only thing we can hope for is that some journalists call out the propaganda, and get recognized for it. David Barstow of the NY Times was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for his stories about the Pentagon's propaganda machine leading into the war. As a reminder...they basically bought out a bunch of military types to go on the airwaves and follow their scripts about Iraq leading up to the war, without disclosing the fact that they were following a script and on the payroll. That, my friends, is called manufacturing consent. Get people who others think are good sources to go out and lie to the masses. These military officers who sacrificed for America before, basically sacrificed America with these despicable actions. But the story didn't stay in the news cycle for a long time when it came out. Shocking. Anyway, Barstow had a great interview on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman on Friday that I recommend you all listen to.
In terms of what we can do about this...make sure people are aware of what was done, and what is still going on. The media still does minimal research. Their coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan is abysmal, and might lead us to support actions that are not in our, or Pakistanis and Afghanis, interests. Same with Iran. We need to make the public aware just how dangerous the media situation is. Our government, whether Republican or Democrat, has an incentive to lie. What the Pentagon did prior to Iraq was borderline treasonous. Its up to the press to do their job as the fist line of defense for the public. But they are asleep at the wheel. The only way that will change is a) if the masses know they're being had, and b) putting pressure on the FCC and the networks. David Gregory gives this line about how he thinks the media did a good job leading up to the Iraq War. I was 20 feet from him when he said this once. He should be booed and challenged every time he utters that nonsense. All the press members who mutter that crap should. Make them feel real heat. Challenge the FCC to do their job in regulating the press. Oppose media consolidation efforts. Support independent news sources if you can. Write letters. Get out in the streets. Organize groups to confront your congressional leaders on this issue. The future of our democracy depends on it.
Note: I guess this was well-timed...I totally forgot the White House Correspondents' Dinner is tonight. A few hours after writing this, I biked right by it - lots of journalists in tuxes and gowns, a handful of celebrities, and tons of security - the Obama's were supposed to arrive a few minutes after I rode by. A few years ago, Stephen Colbert used this event to skewer Bush and the media. Hopefully Wanda Sykes drops some gems tonight. The dinner is, of course, a prime example of the entirely-too-friendly relationship between the media and the government. Frank Rich wrote a great piece in 2007 about this, and the NY Times, a paper I both like and hate, has since boycotted the event.