Monday, June 2, 2008

Obedience Is Job One

A salient feature of the Scott McClellan media spasm is how, after being shown yet another corrupt aspect of the political system, liberals cling even more firmly to this very system. The concept of breaking away and attacking this corruption from an independent, or dare I say it, radical angle, does not appeal to them in the slightest. So when corporate media figures like Katie Couric admit that they were in the tank for Bush's invasion of Iraq, the liberal reply is, "You weren't doing your job!"

Not. Doing. Their. Job. This touching faith in powerful institutions ceased being cute long ago, and now merely adds superfluous layers of delusion and deceit to our fully-caked propaganda system. And of course it lets the propagandists off the hook, since all they need to do is apologize and Do Their Jobs, which will reverse the flood of lies and wash us all in refreshing truths.

The thing is, during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, the corporate media did do its job, and did so beautifully and effectively. Under the American corporate system, the chief task of the propaganda wing, amusingly called "journalism," is to sell whatever the state and the elites who run it are pushing -- in this case, invading Iraq -- and demonizing and marginalizing anyone who openly dissents, like Scott Ritter, for example. That is the American media's job; and had Bush's invasion gone smoother, eliminating resistance while consolidating control, we wouldn't be having this discussion. The corporate press would be congratulating itself for getting the big issue right, with the Dems and their supporters looking to share in the general celebration. Hillary's pro-war vote would be highlighted every hour, while Obama would scramble to explain his tactical opposition, saying that since he was not yet in the Senate, his unfortunate skepticism had no serious, negative effect. But as president, he wouldn't hesitate to use force if . . . you know the script.

Yes, yes -- there are good journalists who strive to find hidden truths beneath the bullshit. But they are not in the majority, nor do they reach a mass audience. And if they dig a little too deeply, as did Gary Webb with the contra/cocaine connection, they will be sold out and destroyed should their reporting call the system itself into serious question. Mistakes, errors, reckless optimism, being misled or even intimidated -- all of this is fine, indeed encouraged, as we currently see with McClellan. Systemic criminality? The natural extension of imperial design?

Will someone call security?

Back in my media crit youth, I too shared this mindset, as did many others at FAIR. Well, to be honest, we expressed this mindset publicly, since our stated purpose was to encourage democratic journalism and the separation of press and state. But privately, we usually harbored more radical thoughts about the media, yet were verboten from making these arguments public. Part of this was cover, since we didn't want to be perceived as whacked-out commies; and part of this was to make working journalists more comfortable with our approach. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Depended on the national political mood or the given topic. But more often than not, FAIR played to the stereotype of Journalists Not Doing Their Jobs, thus joining the dominant media chorus, instead of exposing how deceptive this tired old tune has become. Looking at FAIR's recent statement about McClellan's revelations, it's clear that my old colleagues are still tapping their toes to the beat:

"Reporters are supposed to treat [a press secretary's] talking points with skepticism, as one would any official government source. The fact that some reporters seem confused by this is a significant concern -- evidence that this White House, or any other, will have little trouble misleading the corporate press. Above all, exercising a vigilant form of skepticism in the run-up to the Iraq War should have been the obvious position for the media to take -- whatever one made of the supposed intelligence on Iraq's weapons."

Will someone call the retirement home?