March 11, 2003

Flogging a Dead Corpse

The embarrassing acquiescence by the White House press corps to the Bush administration's conversion of the First Amendment into a prep school code of conduct continues to draw fire.

Matt Taibi of the New York Press says President Bush's scripted press conference last week was a "mini-Alamo for American journalism." While I don't necessarily agree that all of American journalism should, as Taibi urges, "be herded into a cargo plane, flown to an altitude of 30,000 feet, and pushed out, kicking and screaming, over the North Atlantic," hyperbole in this case serves to make the point.

Tom Wicker, whose journalistic chops are immensely deeper than Taibi's, also rakes the ranks of reporters by accusing them, in an Editor & Publisher column, of presenting Bush's reasons for war to the public "as if they were gospel," and then goes on to articulate which questions the press should be asking. Among them:

"Why was the United States willing to pay such enormous sums to Turkey to win permission to use military bases? Wasn't the Turkish government, in effect, blackmailing Uncle Sam? If so, who's more to be condemned -- the seller or the buyer?" [Read Wicker's entire column]

Even the Canadians are getting in a shot. Antonia Zerbisas opines in the Toronto Star that the "Valium-drip presidential news conference" was covered by a "well-choreographed ballet of sleepwalkers" and reprises earlier comments from Tom Shales, who said Bush set the tone for the event by being "ever so slightly medicated."

As I said yesterday when I commented on the 13 questions: It's time for the press to wake up, drop the lapdog act and become the watchdog it is supposed to be. The public deserves it and the First Amendment demands it.

UPDATE, 3/12/03: In the New York Observer, ABC News White House correspondent Terry Moran says Bush left the press corps "looking like zombies."

UPDATE II, 3/12/03: Robert Fisk tells the San Francisco Bay Guardian that the purpose of journalism is to monitor the centers of power to challenge officialdom. By and large, the media in the United States has totally failed in its obligation to do that. Instead of challenging officialdom, it's become a conduit, a funnel down which officialdom can talk to us."

Links
 Tom Wicker Press Isn't Asking Right Questions About Iraq
 Toronto Star Bush-league script enraging press
 New York Press Cleaning the Pool
 New York Observer Bush Eats the Press
 San Francisco Bay Guardian Spoon-feeding the press

Posted by Tim Porter at March 11, 2003 09:36 PM