Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,

The Bush administration does NOT spin the news

I was reading a NY Times article about the BBC's report that the arms expert who died was their source for the contested report (the report which claimed that the Blair administration deliberately "sexed up" a dossier about Iraq). There were many interesting things to read in that, including an implication that the BBC "sexed up" the news story. While that won't bode well for the BBC, it still looks like the scientist's death, whether suicide or not, is going to cause problems for Blair.

And that was my long-winded way of getting around to the paragraph which really incensed me. (Emphasis mine)

BBC audience figures in the United States are rising, but BBC news correspondents are more aggressive and contrarian in their interviewing techniques than their American counterparts, and this can leave them open to charges of taking sides by people accustomed to a less hectoring approach to public figures and policy claims.

While the NY Times was very careful not to include themselves by obliquely referring to "people" who might make such accusations, this entire paragraph begs the question "why the hell is aggressive interviewing a bad thing?"

We have well-known "journalists" in the US (such a Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and their ilk) who bend over backward to spin everything with a pro-US slant. These charlatans are nothing more than cheerleaders with suits. And the NY Times has the audacity to suggest that a bit of skepticism in one's reporting might not be a good thing? Give me a break

A perfect example that illustrates the problem: after "President" Bush urged foreigners to attack our troops with his infamous "bring it on" statement, one conservative commentator suggested that this was a cunning ploy to draw enemy combatants out of hiding. This is propaganda, pure and simple. Forget about "spin". There is no such thing as spin. A few decades ago, we called that propaganda. When our own side was caught, we somehow made it seem less offensive by calling it "spin".

Another example, widely known outside of the US but receiving scant attention here, is the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue after the fall of Baghdad. Viewers were treated to views of a mob surrounding the statue, throwing ropes around it and pulling it down. Naturally, many red-blooded US patriots get excited about this and start pumping their fists in the air with defiant chants of "I told you so!" to any "traitors" they might happen to know (I've been called a traitor for speaking out against the war). What those same red-blooded patriots didn't see and probably wouldn't care about, are the wide-angle shots of the plaza which housed Hussein's statue. While there were definitely people surrounding Hussein's statue, the plaza itself was empty. There were only a handful of people trying to topple that statue, but news organizations chose tight shots of those people to make it look like a crowd. That's not "spin", that's propaganda and you should be mad that our news organizations are lying to you.

I think most US journalists do care about the truth. I also think that they're given assignments where the truth doesn't matter ("A new shop opened in the mall today, Bruce"), or they're not given adequate resources to cover a story. When Greg Palast (one of the few good journalists left) uncovered proof that the Governor's office in Florida had knowingly and illegally removed many eligible voters (most of whom were Democrats or minorities) from the polls before Florida's vote in the last US presidential election, some US news organizations over here did not report these allegations because the Governor's office denied the report.

What the hell is that? If you're accused of a crime and you tell the judge you didn't do it does he say "oh, sorry for the inconvenience. You can go now." No. That's not the way it's supposed to work, but that's how US journalism seems to work. And who's fault is that?

It's ours. We let them off the hook. We're not writing letters to the editor. We're not asking journalists to really dig for the truth. Somehow these monolithic media conglomerates keep telling us about the "liberal media" and we take our soma and dutifully repeat that idiocy over the water cooler at work. If you're one of the few people left in this country who still gives a damn (and I'm not sure that I'm one of them anymore), then do something about it. Next time you're out and about, pay attention to just how many billboards say "Clear Channel" on them and think about what that implies.

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