Friday, April 27, 2007

Glimmers of hope

Something unusual occurred on TV the other night—they aired some truth. The kick-off to Bill Moyers’ new program on PBS, called Buying the War, documented the bill of goods that we were sold in the lead-up to the Iraq War. Although it strung together all the lies of Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell, and the rest of the gang, the real focus was on what we’ve come to call “the media”—the mainstream press, particularly the New York Times and Washington Post, and the network and cable news outlets. In painstaking detail, Moyers showed how the media regurgitated what they were told by the administration, relegating criticism and questioning of the official line to oblivion, or the back pages at best. And while those of us who have followed events closely are familiar with the players, seeing all the names and faces of the administration’s enablers lined up together on a 90-minute program brought back the pain and dismay of that period (from late 2001 to the invasion in 2003) with vividness. Judith Miller, Tim Russert, Paula Zahn, Jim Lehrer, Lesley Stahl, Tom Brokaw, even Oprah Winfrey lapping up all the rubbish from Chalabi and the other U.S.-sponsored exiles, and of course the bobble-head pundits like George Will, Charles Krauthammer and the zombies at Fox News in their endless right-wing echo chamber.

In contrast we were shown one example of journalists doing their jobs--John Walcott, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel at Knight-Ridder—demonstrating that the story was there if someone would just do the footwork. Knight-Ridder reported that the WMD claims were not backed up by credible evidence. But of course, they don’t have offices in New York or Washington. Moyers also exposed one of the motives for journalistic timidity: fear. Anyone questioning Bush was liable to become a target for the Republican attack machine. Just having Scott Ritter on his show (despite being “balanced” with a war supporter) was enough to get Phil Donahue fired from MSNBC.

Bill Moyers coming back to TV is good news for the country. He is intelligent, thoughtful, and thorough. And he’s also fair. Although TNR’s Peter Beinart reveals himself as a callow opportunist, Moyers gives him credit for being one of the few (the only?) pro-war pundit to admit that he was wrong about the WMDs. It’s a measure of how corrupt and useless TV news has become that a gentleman like Moyers is practically one-of-a-kind, and that he’s reviled or marginalized in what passes today for the mainstream.

There actually is a bright side to this dark night of journalism, and that’s the progressive blogosphere. As the media went brain dead, a lot of brave, smart people took to the internet, and I think that they have had a lot to do with the resurgence of a progressive movement in this country. Moyers highlighted one of them on his second show which aired tonight: Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. The inestimable, even-tempered Marshall broke the U.S. attorney scandal that is currently rocking official Washington.

There are also a lot of opinion blogs, or blogs that mix news and commentary. The incredibly well-written Hullabaloo, with digby and tristero, is at the head of the pack, followed by firedoglake (the premiere source of news on the Plame scandal), the fiercely intelligent Glenn Greenwald, and many others such as Crooks & Liars, Blue Meme, and Mahablog. There are also wonderful satirist blogs who regularly demolish right-wing nonsense, such as TBogg, The Poor Man Institute, and the brilliant Driftglass. Finally, there are sites that connect the threads of the progressive blogosphere together, highlighting links from all over the web to help us find interesting information and comment. The raucous Buzzflash has been doing excellent work for years, and I also admire the modest and hard-working Shaun Dale over at Upper Left.

I’m a small fry in a big pond, unleashing a rant once a week or so, and I definitely feel humbled when I read the work of these folks who write great stuff every day (and many others I don’t have the space to mention, but check out the blogroll on the left). I also feel very grateful. Can you imagine where we’d be without the internet? If all we had were the TV networks and the print news? Do you think the Dems would have taken back the Congress without the internet? I know things look grim a lot of the time, but there’s a whole hell of a lot of us talking together and agitating for change. I believe it’s making a difference.

1 comment:

Roger Drowne EC said...

" Truth Is Sweet In the Ear and On the Toung "

Yea... Bill Moyers, U R the Best