TIME Out: Another Death Knell for American Journalism
First there was the self-disembowelment of The New Republic; now TIME magazine has joined the list of big media publications which have jumped the tracks, all in the never ending quest of promoting World Socialism and torpedoing the United States--especially when it is at war. Fortunately there are Uncle Jimbos, Gateway Pundits, and Instapundits out there to expose them for the poseurs they are. But is that enough?
The vision of Clare Booth Luce is officially dead. TIME under the Turner Administration has become little more than a dumbed-down version of The Nation. And CNN too for that matter. MSNBC is as hyper-partisan as is The Daily Kos. CBS?? Dan Rather. Katie Couric. 60 Minutes. Need I say more?
Chomsky lives !
Another premature report of death was noted recently in the New York Times:
At a news conference after his spirited address to the United Nations on Wednesday, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela expressed one regret: not having met that icon of the American left, the linguist Noam Chomsky, before his death.
... At 77, Mr. Chomsky has joined the exclusive club of luminaries, like the actor Abe Vigoda and Mark Twain, who were reported dead before their time, only to contradict the reports by continuing to breathe.
"I continue to work and write," he said, speaking from his house in Lexington, Mass.
Mr. Chávez, while addressing world leaders at the United Nations, flagged "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance," which Mr. Chomsky published in 2003, as a must-read.
... Mr. Chomsky said he had taken no offense at Mr. Chávez's remarks about his being dead. In fact, Mr. Chávez's promotion of the book propelled it yesterday into Amazon's top 10 best sellers.
New York Times
"Sometimes they get things through"
In 1988 Chomsky and Herman wrote "Manufacturing Consent", a thoroughly researched study of the journalistic failings of US media institutions (even then). However Chomsky, despite his general criticism of US media, emphasises that there are journalists who try very hard to get published stories which are important and will embarrass the powerful. This becomes more possible when there is some scandal. I like Chomsky's combination of well-researched realism and respect for those trying to effect change from inside the beast:
While the propaganda model [in Manufacturing Consent] describes a global system that results in the ignoring or suppression of voices of dissent, Chomsky does not argue that it is an all-encompassing theory. Reportage asked whether the model allows scope for journalists wanting to remain independent and to avoid becoming a mouthpiece for the ruling elites.
[Chomsky] "It is well known among serious journalists that after a major scandal, like say Watergate or Iran-Contra or something, there is a period of a couple of months when the media tend to be more open. And then you can sneak in the stories that you've been storing up.
"So if you take a close look at the media you'll discover that the really smart reporters often are coming out with things in that window of opportunity that opens up in reaction to the scandal.
"On top of that there is just plenty of people with integrity and who are really working hard to stretch the limits, and sometimes they get things through."
A golden age of US journalism?
Chomsky began his career as a "public intellectual" during the Vietnam War. It's important to remember that the 1960s, for example, weren't some lost golden age of journalism. Thus in the early years of the Vietnam War, as David Halberstam admitted, while US journalists might have criticised HOW the war was being conducted, they didn't generally question whether the US should be there at all:
David Halberstam in the "quagmire" of Vietnam
For a very clear explanation of why going on to Baghdad in the first Gulf War would have landed the US in a "quagmire" see this (from 1994) - by none other than Dick Cheney !
Halberstam: ... we were frequently criticized for being too pessimistic, I believe that a more valid criticism would have been that we were too optimistic. This is debatable, of course, but I think that anyone watching so much bravery squandered during those months could not have helped wondering what would happen if that talent were properly employed.
However, as in the case of even staunch defenders of the attack on Iraq at the beginning, the reality of their experience in Vietnam forced most journalists to acknowledge that it was a disaster, and then, as now, they were labelled "traitors" for doing so:
Initially persuaded that U.S. involvement in Vietnam was correct, Halberstam soon realized that there were yawning differences between what he and other reporters were seeing and what the administration was telling the people back home. He knew that military advisors and others on the scene in Saigon could see that the United States was marching into a political swamp that would consume it. He also knew that the government wasn't paying attention to its own advisors. And he said so.
His reporting from Vietnam earned him a Pulitzer Prize, as well as the ire of the Kennedy administration. John Kennedy asked Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger to send Halberstam someplace else. Later, Lyndon Johnson accused Halberstam of being a "traitor to his country." For doing his job. For telling the truth about failed policies and their consequences.
Signs of life
Today there are still distinct signs of life, even in the mainstream media. Of course such journalism is not likely to fully satisfy most Eurotribbers, but we can find much to agree with, even in the New York Times.
The examples which follow are well worth reading in full, and many here might enjoy the verbal kicking given to Republican presidential candidates.
They are not just politely chided for some policies, but described in such terms as:
"the collective nastiness of the Republican field"
Frank Rich op-ed in the New York Times
"The Republican pack is one extremely unappealing bunch of politicians"
Gail Collins op-ed in the New York Times
"Knee-deep in religion"
In the US things are made even more difficult for "liberal" journalists today by the shift of the political spectrum to the right (see "astuteblooger" above) and the increasing influence of conservative Christians, e.g. on the Republican candidates. Even a conservative like Charles Krauthammer is exasperated by the Republican candidates craven attitude regarding religion (in this case in the Washington Post):
... This campaign is knee-deep in religion, and it's only going to get worse. I'd thought that the limits of professed public piety had already been achieved during the Republican CNN-YouTube debate when some squirrelly looking guy held up a Bible and asked, "Do you believe every word of this book?" -- and not one candidate dared reply: None of your damn business.
The NYT is not, of course, a mouthpiece for Noam Chomsky, but nor is it just like Fox News; we need to be a bit discriminating, even while deploring the overall inadequacies of the system. The NYT engaged in a bit of much-deserved self-flagellation over its coverage of the run-up to the attack on Iraq. Lessons have been learned, if not by the neo-cons, and NYT opinion can be very robustly critical, especially that of Maureen Dowd:
The man crowned by Tommy Franks as "the dumbest [expletive] guy on the planet" just made the dumbest [expletive] speech on the planet.
Doug Feith, the former Rummy gofer who drove the neocon plan to get us into Iraq, and then dawdled without a plan as Iraq crashed into chaos, was the headliner at a reunion meeting of the wooly-headed hawks Monday night at the American Enterprise Institute.
He noted that in battles through American history, "the military fights better over time." This from a guy who sent our military into Iraq without the right armor, the right force numbers or the right counterinsurgency training.
New York Times
Recently the NYT even has op-ed pieces singing the praises of Europe! - in this case, while taking a swipe at Romney:
Secular Europe's Merits
By ROGER COHEN, December 13, 2007, ST. ANDREWS, Scotland
The cathedral here, on which work began in the 12th century, was once the largest in Scotland, until a mob of reformers bent on eradicating lavish manifestations of "Popery" ransacked the place in 1559, leaving gulls to swoop through the surviving facade.
Europe's cathedrals are indeed "so inspired, so grand, so empty," as Mitt Romney, a Mormon, put it last week in charting his vision of a faith-based presidency.
Religion informed America's birth. But its distancing from politics was decisive to the republic's success. Indeed, the devastating European experience of religious war influenced the founders' thinking. That is why I find Romney's speech and the society it reflects far more troubling than Europe's vacant cathedrals.
Romney rejects the "religion of secularism," of which Europe tends to be proud. But he should consider that Washington is well worth a Mass. The fires of the Reformation that reduced St. Andrews Cathedral to ruin are fires of faith that endure in different, but no less explosive, forms. Jefferson's "wall of separation" must be restored if those who would destroy the West's Enlightenment values are to be defeated.
New York Times
Actual experience of living in Europe, and benefiting from some of aspects of its social system, can have a radicalising effect on Americans. On French TV some Americans living in Paris were interviewed and generally they were very happy with the French system, particularly health care.
From the NYT again:
By PAMELA DRUCKERMAN, PARIS December 13, 2007
I HAD a chance to think about the American health-care debate recently, while I was undergoing a procedure that's mostly paid for by the French state: re-education.
This has nothing to do with adult learning, or with those work camps organized by the Khmer Rouge. It's a girl thing. After a woman has a baby, perineal re-education shapes up her stretched-out birth canal. It also strengthens her pelvic floor for the next child, and helps keep her from leaking a little bit every time she sneezes. My doctor prescribed 10 sessions of it after my daughter was born. (American doctors typically suggest just doing some Kegel exercises, if anything.)
Where do America's presidential hopefuls stand on re-education? I think it's safe to assume that no Republicans would think the government should meddle with my pelvic floor.
I don't doubt the rewards of re-education, but what about the costs of a system that would provide such a seeming luxury? Well, France spent $3,464 per person on health care in 2004, compared with $6,096 in the United States, according to the World Health Organization. Yet Frenchmen live on average two years longer than American men do, and Frenchwomen live four years longer. The infant mortality rate in France is 43 percent lower than in the United States.
... This American has certainly been converted. Do I want the government in my crotch? Of course I do.
Pamela Druckerman is the author of "Lust in Translation: The Rules of Infidelity From Tokyo to Tennessee."
New York Times
In a more general op-ed on the health system, the authors criticise Democratic candidates for adopting a Nixon-style "mandate" approach to health care - this time the positive reference is to Canada, but also to Europe by implication (there's also an allusion to Al Gore and his "An Inconvenient Truth"):
I Am Not a Health Reform
... The "mandate model" for reform rests on impeccable political logic: avoid challenging insurance firms' stranglehold on health care. But it is economic nonsense. The reliance on private insurers makes universal coverage unaffordable.
With the exception of Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic presidential hopefuls sidestep an inconvenient truth: only a single-payer system of national health care can save what we estimate is the $350 billion wasted annually on medical bureaucracy and redirect those funds to expanded coverage. Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama tout cost savings through computerization and improved care management, but Congressional Budget Office studies have found no evidence for these claims.
In 1971, New Brunswick became the last Canadian province to institute that nation's single-payer plan. Back then, the relative merits of single-payer versus Nixon's mandate were debatable. Almost four decades later, the debate should be over. How sad that the leading Democrats are still kicking around Nixon's discredited ideas for health reform.
David U. Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler are professors of medicine at Harvard and the co-founders of Physicians for a National Health Program.
New York Times
"Bush team ... brain dead on the climate issue"
The NYT's Thomas Friedman complains of the idiocy of the Bush gang in relation to climate change:
While the Bush team came into office brain dead on the climate issue and will leave office with a perfect record of having done nothing significant to mitigate climate change, I'm heartened that our country is increasingly alive on this challenge.
First, Google said last week that it was going to invest millions in developing its own energy business. ...
Its primary focus, said Google.org's energy expert, Dan Reicher, will be to advance new solar thermal, geothermal and wind solutions "across the valley of death." That is, so many good ideas work in the lab but never get a chance to scale up because they get swallowed by a lack of financing or difficulties in implementation. Do not underestimate these people.
New York Times
THE NYT reports Gore's criticism in Bali:
The escalating bitterness between the European Union and the United States came as former Vice President Al Gore told delegates in a speech that "My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali."
New York Times
"Think big, start small, act now"
Reporting from Bali, Friedman sounds like Al Gore, but with pessimism about market forces!:
... Market-driven forces emanating primarily from China, Europe and America have become so powerful that Indonesia recently made the Guinness World Records for having the fastest rate of deforestation in the world.
Indonesia is now losing tropical forests the size of Maryland every year, and the carbon released by the cutting and clearing -- much of it from illegal logging -- has made Indonesia the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, after the United States and China. Deforestation actually accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars and trucks in the world, an issue the Bali conference finally addressed.
I interviewed Barnabas Suebu, the governor of the Indonesian province of Papua, home to some of its richest forests. He waxed eloquent about how difficult it is to create jobs that will give his villagers anything close to the income they can get from chopping down a tree and selling it to smugglers, who will ship it to Malaysia or China to be made into furniture for Americans or Europeans. He said his motto was, "Think big, start small, act now -- before everything becomes too late."
New York Times
A NYT editorial deplores the Bush team's negative attitude:
From the United States the delegates got nothing, except a promise to participate in the forthcoming negotiations. Even prying that out of the Bush administration required enormous effort.
The decision to maintain the tax breaks was particularly shameful. Blessed by $90-a-barrel oil, the companies are rolling in profits, and there is no evidence to support the claim that they need these breaks to be able to explore for new resources. Yet the White House had the gall to argue that the breaks are necessary to protect consumers at the pump, and the Senate was craven enough to go along.
New York Times
Meanwhile, more NYT criticism of the Republican presidential candidates, in this case focusing on Giuliani:
... While running as the master antiterrorist, for example, Mr. Giuliani declines to lay out his post-9/11 security business dealings with high officials in Qatar, reported by The Wall Street Journal. Qatar is now host of a United States air base, but the 9/11 commission found that its government provided sanctuary a decade ago to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, then under indictment in New York and later the mastermind of the 9/11 atrocities.
Mr. Giuliani should explain all of his dealings, and set the bar for the entire field of candidates to provide the truth.
New York Times
The Democrats don't escape censure, Hillary gets a good satirical kicking from Maureen Dowd in relation to a member of the Clinton team's comments about Obama and drugs - condemned by Hillary:
... WASHBURN: Can you both please describe the key features of what you consider to be the best education system in the world?
CLINTON: Well, I know that some of my supporters have been spreading gossip that Senator Obama loves the madrassa system for pre-K through terrorist training camp. But there is not a gram of truth in those accusations. We shouldn't inject intolerance into this race.
WASHBURN: I would like to talk about the Peru free trade deal that was signed on Friday. You both missed the vote.
CLINTON: Oh, Barack should take that one. His views on Peruvian are positively flaky.
OBAMA: You're the flaky one, Hillary, backing up the president when he wanted to rush into Iraq and wage this trillion-dollar war.
CLINTON: It's no wonder you didn't want to go into Iraq, Barack. There are no free bases there.
WASHBURN: All right, you two. We're out of time. Have a Merry Christmas and --
CLINTON: And I am sure that Senator Obama is dreaming of his usual White Christmas. Hitch up the reindeer!
WASHBURN: As I was saying, a Happy New Year.
CLINTON: He gets no kick from Champagne ...
New York Times
"Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will" A. Gramsci
It would be a pity of Eurotribbers missed such stuff. Those who are trying to live up to the best journalistic traditions deserve support in what are admittedly difficult times.
Chomsky's message for journalists is that there is a way of bringing information to the public that many would prefer to see kept secret. His message, in the face of his own theories of media dominance by the powerful elites, is given with a surprising optimism.