Death Of “Mainstream� Journalism

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For the past few weeks the Lewis “Scooter” Libby trial has Washington abuzz.

Libby, a White House aide, is being prosecuted for perjured testimony revolving around the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. The outing was apparently sanctioned by White House heavyweights to punish Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson for debunking the Administration’s fabrications that Iraq was receiving uranium from the African country of Niger—one of many lies used to lead this country into a destructive war.

In this treasonous affair Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Libby worked in the summer of 2003 to discredit Wilson’s findings that pointed out the lies of the Administration. Decisions were made to—illegally—disclose the name of Wilson’s wife to journalists, whereupon, conservative columnist Robert Novak published Plame’s name in his column. Richard Armitage and Karl Rove were fingered as the “senior Administration officials” who revealed Plame’s identity. But who really sanctioned this? Rove? Cheney? Bush? Or was the decision made by committee?

The Libby trial illustrates two things that history will judge harshly: the illegality of the Bush Administration and the failures of American journalism. First of all, it shows the utter disregard that Bush and company have for law. Again and again, this White House has flagrantly broken laws they give abundant lip-service to. They have conducted illegal domestic wiretaps, engaged in the torture of prisoners at Abu Gharib, Guantanamo Bay and in the use of “extraordinary rendition” in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and lied the country into a war for profit under the guise of “fighting terrorism.”    

In the Libby trial, we see the disclosing of an American agent’s name without caring about any operation—or lives—that revealing her name would compromise. Remember, this was done by a White House that preaches incessantly about “supporting our troops!”  Yet, they flagrantly jeopardized the life of untold undercover agents because they knew that Wilson’s report highlighted their mendacious claims and cast doubts on their justification for the disastrous war of attrition now being waged in Iraq.    

This trial also, points to the fact that this presidency deserves impeachment. Because, has there ever been a more morally bankrupt White House? Yes, this trial is one more reason why Bush should be impeached. But this trial is an indictment of not only Libby, Cheney or this Administration. It is also, an indictment of American journalism.    

Ever since it was revealed that Judith Miller, of the New York Times, wrote uncritical, uncorroborated stories amplifying White House war propaganda many questions regarding the relationship between the media and government have been raised. This trial only serves to raise more of those questions. Indeed, judging by what we have seen so far in this case that relationship appears to be extremely incestuous.    

To say that this isn’t American journalism’s finest hour would be an understatement. And the list of names involved in this sordid mess reads like a who’s who of American journalism. They include: Judith Miller, Tim Russert, Bob Woodward, Matthew Cooper, Walter Pincus and Robert Novak. And several have been called to testify.

Novak’s relationship with this story has a foul smell. It’s no secret that the conservative columnist has backed this Administration. Both Novak and his son are linked to Regnery Publishing who published the infamous Swift Boat ads.  Therefore, the question must be asked: was Novak just a propaganda patsy for this presidency or is he one of these journalistic double agents consciously performing this Administration’s bidding?

Here, as a reference point, we should recall the Armstrong Williams (as well as Jeff—the gay prostitute “reporter”—Gannon) scandal. Williams took money—along with journalists like Maggie Gallagher and Mike McManus—from government officials to tout White House programs like the so-called “No Child Left Behind” legislation. The GAO (Government Accounting Office) has repeatedly chastised the White House for this practice, which has also made its way into procuring propaganda to infiltrate Iraqi journalism. Keeping this in mind, Novak’s role in this affair appears curious. Then there is the equally curious involvement of Bob Woodward.    

I remember when Plamegate first made headlines turning on CNN and seeing Woodward on a panel. At that time, one couldn’t tell that Woodward was involved in Plamegate. In fact, he was there in a capacity as an expert pundit. But, then lo and behold it was revealed that he was one of the reporters privy to this leaked information. What’s that about?
Woodward’s conduct suggests that he was hiding his involvement and what he knew. But then what did he know? But all these questions can be encapsulated by one: has mainstream media abrogated its responsibility as credible seekers of truth by being too cozy with those in control of the reins of power? Some critics have always maintained that corporate media are mere apologists for the status quo.

In recent years, polls have rated the credibility of journalists as only slightly better than that of lawyers. Given the dubious behavior of mainstream journalism in Plamegate is there any wonder why the public doesn’t trust the media? Plamegate has exposed the lies of this White House and has indicted American journalism. American journalism has been found to be wanting and guilty of failing America in its quest for true democracy.


Benjamin is a member of The Black Star News' editorial board.

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