Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Ministry of Truth

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Founding Fathers felt so strongly that a free and independent press was vital to a functioning democracy, they put it in the very first item of the Bill of Rights. (Ironic that the White House includes the Bill of Rights on their site.)

Contrast the Founding Fathers' vision with that of George W. Bush's. Eric Boehlert writes in Salon this morning about Bush's war on the legitimate media.

For the last four years the persistent story line about the White House's relationship with the press has focused on the administration's discipline, denial of access, and ability to stay on message. The Bush administration, according to this account, is expert at managing information, using secrecy, carrots and sticks, and carefully crafted talking points to control the news.

But in the wake of revelations about the aggressive and unprecedented tactics employed by the White House to manipulate the news, that relatively benign interpretation is being reexamined. Recent headlines about paid-off pundits, video press releases disguised as news telecasts, and the remarkable press access granted to a right-wing pseudo-journalist working under a phony name, have led some to conclude that the White House is not simply aggressively managing the news, but is out to sabotage the press corps from within, to undermine the integrity and reputation of journalism itself.

The White House and its media allies, echoing a deep-rooted conservative antagonism toward the so-called liberal media, say they are simply countering its bias. But critics charge that the White House, along with partners like Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting, organizations whose allegiance to the Republican Party outweighs their commitment to journalism, is actually trying to permanently weaken the press. Its motivation, they say, is twofold. Weakening the press weakens an institution that's structurally an adversary of the White House. And if the press loses its credibility, that eliminates agreed-upon facts -- the commonly accepted information that is central to public debate.
That's the one that gets me. The utter LACK of agreed-upon facts. There are things out there that are facts, but people in the White House refer to facts thusly:
The most egregious example of this almost metaphysical chutzpah appears in an October 2004 article for the New York Times Magazine, in which Suskind quotes a senior Bush advisor who dismissed reporters for living in the "the reality-based community." The advisor said, "That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."
What's not scary about that? This administration has launched a full-on propaganda initiative, the depths of which we have no idea. If it was so easy to find out about Armstrong Willams and Gannon/Guckert, just imagine the creepy shit that's going on that they've covered up with the guile of which we know they are capable. I'm telling you, people, we are marching down a road to totalitarianism. I can't say that enough. The pieces are in place:

  • the press who are either lazy and obsequious, or intentionally producing pro-government/nationalistic propaganda

  • the Patriot Act which allows almost unlimited search and seizure

  • the self-proclaimed "right" of the government to take anyone, citizen or otherwise, and hold them indefinitely without ever seeing a lawyer or a courtroom

  • all three branches of government controlled by one party

  • a militaristic executive branch which starts unprovoked imperial wars based on lies and preys upon peoples fears to drum up support

    I know you abhor Hitler comparisons, but do you really think he had it this easy when he was elected to office? We are not supposed to just trust the president. The constitution was written with specific checks and balances in order to prevent the president from becoming a too-powerful monarch. But Bush has eliminated all those checks and balances; hell, he is on the record as having contempt for those checks and balances (and by association, contempt for the constitution of the United States). His power (and desire for more power) knows no limits. He even fired everyone on his staff who didn't kowtow to his every whim. This is a dangerous man, and a dangerous situation in which we find ourselves. If the press can't stop him, I don't see anything that can. Wake the fuck up, people! It looks like we're on our own here; we have to stop this. But first you have to start caring.

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