"Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."
Yesterday afternoon at 1, CNN's Kyra Phillips gave us the headlines, and then paused dramatically, "First, the story everybody's talking about today ..."
A news junkie could be forgiven for expecting the lead item to be how U.S. President George W. Bush's approval ratings are 49 per cent, an all-time low. It is now undeniable that the White House misled the country into war. It is so under the gun that, yesterday, Bush announced an "independent" panel to examine the false falsified, surely intelligence that hurled his nation into the Iraqi quagmire and a fiscal nightmare.
But no. Instead Janet Jackson's nipple jewelry was flashdanced again, as if hundreds of millions of people hadn't already caught her Super Bowl boob job over and over again.
The news biz as usual.
At least CNN ran Bush's announcement of the "independent bipartisan commission" second in its line-up and gave major play to the story throughout the day. But, if anybody cast doubt on Bush's previous truthfulness, I must have been out walking the dog because I never heard it, certainly not with the force that the networks employed when challenging former president Bill Clinton's denial of sexual involvement with "that woman".
The mainstream media tide is starting to turn against the Bushites. The formerly compliant press corps is starting to mobilize, in the realization that its mission is not to propagandize for the administration but to keep watch over it. Finally but more than a year too late for the dead and mutilated.
Last week, editorialists at most of the top American newspapers demanded a probe into the reasons for war. Some even came out and said that citizens had been "deceived".
What took so long? Did they have to wait for Democratic presidential contenders to find their courage and tongues first? Or did they really need to hear David Kay, the U.S.'s former chief weapons inspector, describe last month how all the intelligence demonstrating that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had WMDs was wrong and how any information that suggested he had no real firepower was ignored or rejected?
Actually, that's not completely fair: The Washington Post, The New York Times and a few other mainstream publications, as well as the alternative press, have been tracking the Dubya double talk, albeit in a restrained fashion.
But overall, even The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, which makes a joke out of everything, has been harder-hitting. For example, last week, its editors excerpted clips from an interview National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice did on NBC's Today Show in which she used the obviously rehearsed phrases "dangerous man" (Saddam) and "world's most dangerous region" umpteen times.
Last year's phrase du jour was "smoking gun." This year, it should be we're blowing smoke up your you-know.
Now it's up to the media to hold the administration's feet to the fire and emphasize that, if Bush himself is "putting together a independent bipartisan commission" which he is then it won't be so independent.
They should ask why CIA director George Tenet remains in the job, surviving the agency's failure to prevent 9/11 or get Osama Bin Laden. Tenet, despite being appointed by Clinton, has very close ties with Bush, both senior and junior. Who is protecting whom here?
The media should also ensure that the blame doesn't fall completely on the CIA since there's plenty of evidence that the Bush administration heard only what it wanted to, and ignored anything contradicting its contention that Iraq had nuclear and deadly capabilities. (For a look at that evidence and the administration's lies check out http://www.americanprogress.org.)
The media must also remind citizens that the White House has consistently undermined the 9/11 Independent Commission, which is investigating the tragedy that Bush used to justify later foreign aggressions. But coverage of the commission has been scandalously scanty.
There should be a huge outcry over how the White House has refused to extend the commission's deadline, which the 9/11 families say will result in an incomplete investigation. In fact, Newsweek reports, the administration will only grant an extension if the deadline is moved beyond the November election.
Last year, the U.S. media acted as Bush's cheerleaders and half-time entertainment.
In this critical election year, it's time for the naked truth.
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