Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
No, I'm arguing that the excellent reporting is irrelevant if it doesn't influence policy - because policy is locked down elsewhere.

Otherwise it's just noise, and a useful safety valve. The Soviet-era press had very similar 'excellent reporting' with specific criticisms of individuals and of collective decisions, and news items that would have passed for honest debate if read individually.

Reading the news is not the same as taking part in a debate. Nor is reading op-eds. To take part in a debate, you have to be in a position to have some chance of having your views turned into policy.

And no matter how much Krugman writes, there is currently no chance at all of any of his sort-of-progressive ideas being turned into Washington or Wall St policy. The fact that he appears in print doesn't change this. All it does is create an illusion of possibility which isn't matched by political reality.

Breaking a story like Walter Reed is irrelevant if the abuse keeps happening. Likewise with torture. Likewise with Iraqi pork.

That lack of effectiveness is the giveaway - just as the ability of the media machines to get creatures like Sarkozy and Berlusconi elected is the flip side.

An active press has the power to change these things - literally. The press could have swiftboated the swiftboaters in 2004. Bush and Cheney could have been asked some aggressive difficult questions about their past, their business links, and their future plans. Iraqi pork spending could have been held up to the light - not just as a one-off, but as part of a reliable editorial line.

A passive press has the power to allow them to continue, or to enable them and make sure they're not challenged. It's one of the defining characteristics of fascism that while you can blame expendable scapegoats for transgressions, you never, ever undermine the sacred patriotic authority of the leader.

Have you seen any critical stories from Iraq recently? It must be quiet over there now that the surge is working. How about that latest $120 billion to keep us all safe? Didn't FEMA do a great job with the recent flooding?

And so on. Even though Bush's usefulness is nearly used up, the pandering continues - a little less dedicated and a little more questioning than it used to be, but still solid enough to prevent impeachment or accountability.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 09:01:34 PM EST
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