Published on Monday, June 13, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Newsweek Makes Up After Break Up
by Andrew Christie
|As it becomes ever more clear that the story Newsweek retracted about the
flushed Koran was essentially true, Newsweek has printed a far more
problematic piece, one that actually deserves to -- but won't -- bring down
the firestorm of criticism and retribution recently visited upon it, and
which is clearly aimed at getting it back into the good graces of the power
As an affable newsweekly of moderate hipness, carefully shooting for "balance" with a Jonathan Alter column here, a frown over mismanagement of our well-intentioned Iraq adventure there, Newsweek has always toed the corporate line in its cover stories and main features, sending the necessary messages to the dominant culture on where its dominant sympathies lie, rounding out the package with a standard garnish of paeans to consumerism, heavily larded with symbiotic article/advertising spreads for the pharmaceutical industry.
So the blow-up over its brief squib on Koran abuse at Guantanamo and its new status as administration punching bag and Judas goat must have come as an especially painful shock. Fortunately, a few weeks later, the revelation of the identity of Deep Throat gave the battered weekly its chance to make amends.
It does so in its June 13 issue, with a cover story looking back at Watergate and the last 30 years of U.S. history, giving Evan Thomas the honor of re-writing both.
"All the President's Men," it seems, "does not tell the whole story, or even the real story, of the Watergate scandal, and it gives a misleading picture of the real stakes involved." By placing glamorous movie stars in a well-lit newsroom -- "bright, open, a place of truth" -- and making everything else "dark, shadowy nests of liars and prevaricators," the movie obscures what Thomas wants us to understand was the real story of Watergate: Not the defeat of a gangster administration that tried to hijack the Constitution, but an amoral power struggle between the traditional executors of power -- "the White House, the Pentagon, the intelligence agencies" and "the courts, the press, [and] congressional watchdog committees," with the latter coming to dominate the former.
Reporters and lawyers went on to become "one giant scandal machine that, at times, seemed bent on bringing down anyone in an official position of authority."
Upshot: The victory of a free press and representative democracy over an executive branch run amok is responsible for What Went Wrong With the Country. Government bureaucrats and intelligence officials became cautious, fearful of accusation and investigation. It made our military responses ineffectual. It made us weak. Watergate -- not the criminality that was exposed, but the exposure of it -- led straight to 9/11. But after that, thank God, "the sleeping giant was awake, and beginning to stir."
And now, needless to say, that weakness and caution (and over-aggressive media) is pretty much all gone. Though sometimes it is possible to detect "signs of the old inertia, the fear that a wrong move could land an unlucky bureaucrat in the hot seat of a congressional investigating committee," in the Oval Office, it's all about forward-leaning.
One cannot miss the subtextual plea to the powers that be: "Okay? So now will you please stop hitting us? Please? Remember those profiles of the president where we reveal that his aides report he lets his guard down in private and behaves like a regular guy and common man? Let's be pals again, huh? We'll be good."
Former Washington Post cub reporter William Greider put paid to Newsweek's immoral ten-page violation of history with five sentences in the June 20 edition of The Nation: "Bob and Carl had the guts and the methodology to find the story.... Then Bradlee and Graham had the guts to publish it. Quaint as it seems, this is called courage. Their example is the Watergate legacy. It's not surprising that contemporary Washington wishes to devalue it."
As do contemporary Washington's very best friends in the corporate media.
Andrew Christie is an environmental activist in San Luis Obispo, CA