Meet the Press's Idea of a 'Debate'
On Sunday, Meet the Press hosted a panel discussion to debate two primary issues: (1) foreign policy -- specifically, the war in Afghanistan, and (2) health care. The panel: Rudy Giuliani, Tom Friedman, Harold Ford, Jr., and Tom Brokaw (as Jay Rosen often notes, Meet the Press is doing a fantastic job of fulfilling its pledge to present "fresh voices" in its discussions).
With regard to Afghanistan, there is a major debate currently taking place about whether we should stay in that country. A majority of Americans now opposes the war. But there was not a single participant there who shares that view. All of them believe that it is imperative we remain, and put on their little General hats to exchange deeply Serious analyses of how we need to adjust our strategy and tactics for greater mission success. Of course, all of three of those whose views were known about Iraq -- Friedman, Ford and Giuliani -- were vehement supporters of the invasion. As always, not only does support for that war not produce shame or even impair one's credibility and Seriousness, but the opposite is true: having supported it is a prerequisite for being considered credible and Serious, which is why those are the only people -- still -- from whom we hear when it's time to convene Serious discussions of foreign policy. What an odd filtering standard for The Liberal Media to use.
On health care, the same dynamic repeated itself. The prime controversy in that debate is over the inclusion of a "public option," with large numbers of Americans supporting it. Yet once again, not a single member of the panel advocated it (though David Axelrod was interviewed before the panel and paid lip service to the public option on his way to clearly signaling it would not be part of the ultimate plan). Guiliani warned there would be no health care with a public option; Ford told his "liberal friends in Congress" that they will have to be disappointed by the outcome; Friedman insisted that Obama adopt the proposals of Mitt Romney and John McCain and ensure he has the support of centrist Republicans (Brokaw offered some mild pushback against the attempt to demonize the public option). The words "single payer" were never spoken.
What you had with the health care discussion, just as was true with the Afghanistan debate and the lead-up to the Iraq War, is one that -- by design -- completely excluded any views to the "left" of DLC Chair Harold Ford, even where such views are held by large numbers of Americans. With very rare exception, that is the spectrum of opinion typically allowed on Liberal Media shows like Meet the Press. The Liberal Media doesn't even pretend to include liberal views.
One last point: the two Toms -- Friedman and Brokaw -- shared "get off my lawn" sentiments by lamenting the irresponsible opinions which the Internet permits. Here's what Friedman -- who, prior to the advent of the Internet, was rarely criticized in any forum -- had to say about this serious matter:
MR. FRIEDMAN: You know, David, I just want to say one thing to pick up on Tom's point, which is the Internet is an open sewer of untreated, unfiltered information, left, right, center, up, down, and requires that kind of filtering by anyone. And I always felt, you know, when modems first came out, when that was how we got connected to the Internet, that every modem sold in America should actually come with a warning from the surgeon general that would have said, "judgment not included," OK? That you have to upload the old-fashioned way. Church, synagogue, temple, mosque, teachers, schools, you know. And too often now people say, and we've all heard it, "But I read it on the Internet," as if that solves the bar bet, you know? And I'm afraid not.
Indeed. I even heard that, before the Iraq war, there were people on the Internet saying that Saddam Hussein had purchased aluminum tubes that were used to build nuclear weapons, and that was then repeated by other blogs without challenge. Some reckless bloggers even dismissed European objections to the invasion as "not Serious"; demonzied war opposition as coming from " knee-jerk liberals and pacifists"; justified the war with the demented desire to make Iraqis "Suck On This"; and called for France to be removed from the U.N. Security Council. Unfiltered Internet hacks uncritically repeated what they were told by the U.S. military to disseminate myths about Jessica Lynch's heroic firefight and Pat Tillman's tragic death at the hands of Taliban monsters. One particularly unfiltered blog spent a week screaming to the country that government tests showed Saddam was likely responsible for the anthrax attacks. In fairness, Friedman is right about one thing, as the Meet the Press panel demonstrates: outside of the Internet, there is an extreme amount of "filtering" that determines what one hears.
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On a related note -- concerning the failure of progressive views to be heard -- Jane Hamsher, in the context of discussing the Van Jones controversy, has an important post on the annexation of "progressive" groups by the Obama White House, which I highly recommend.
UPDATE: One of TV's assigned "liberals" for attacking the Left -- Newsweek's Jonathan Alter -- earlier today unleashed a very strange, multi-step outburst on his Twitter feed regarding the foolish Left, the public option, and a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago documenting and criticizing his 180-degree/White-House-mimicking reversal on health care reform (effectuated while he's writing an Obama book dependent upon White House access). Jane Hamsher dissects this behavior as only she can (as but one example: Alter complains that my criticism of his White-House-pleasing reversal was "[my] typical ad hominem tripe" and then two minutes later -- literally -- writes: "Greenwald is smart but a total snake--ready to screw anyone for a post," without any apparent recognition of the contradiction).
I just want to add to one point Hamsher made. Alter's Newsweek column this week argues that Dick Cheney is worse than many of the most notorious torture-reliant tyrants because, unlike them, "Cheney creates a moral argument for torture." That's a fair enough point -- I agree with it -- but Alter neglects to mention that Cheney had company in "creating a moral argument for torture" -- namely, "liberal" Jon Alter, who wrote a November, 2001 column in Newsweek entitled "Time to Think About Torture," in which Alter argued we must do exactly that in order to defeat Al Qaeda. Notably, in this week's column, Alter argues that we must not prosecute anyone for torture, including Cheney. As I noted the other day, behind virtually every Broderian establishment pundit opposing torture prosecutions is a shameful record of supporting or otherwise enabling Bush radicalism and lawlessness, including torture.
But that's our mainstream spectrum: "liberals" such as Alter are allowed on TV as long as they spend much of their time mocking the foolish, unhinged Left; opposing torture prosecutions; supporting warrantless eavesdropping and telecom immunity as a "restoration of the Constitution" (while mocking the Left for "pulling their hair out over this"); and endorsing things like the torture regime itself. I don't blame Alter for being upset when such things are pointed out, but they're not "ad hominem" observations -- just facts.
UPDATE II: This is how you treat actual Terrorists: you charge them, try them in a real court, convict them, and imprison them. Of course, that view -- based on nothing more than the most basic precepts of Western justice -- is yet another belief deemed so far "to the Left" that it is almost never heard. Those who object to the imprisonment of Terrorists without such niceties of due process are dismissed as examples of Alter's hysterical Leftists "pulling their hair out over this" or by the sorts of "I'm-a-liberal-here-to-attack-Leftist-extremists-and-civil-liberties-absolutists" screeds perfected by the pioneer of that Beltway ritual.
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