Monday, October 31, 2005

The new role of the Media in contemporary American politics

Here's an excerpt from Sunday's Reliable Sources with Howard Kurtz interviewing Dana Milbank of the Washington Post.

Howie is asking Milbank if he feels that Republican scandals like the CIA agent leak, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, etc are going to stay in the news for long, and if they will be a factor in the coming 2006 Congressional campaigns.
MILBANK: Well, a lot of it has to do with how the opposition party plays it. And as usual, the journalists are not really the crusaders here. We're following what's going on in Congress.

Now, for the 2006 elections, the Democrats intend to use this, along with Tom DeLay, Bill Frist and the whole thing...

KURTZ: ... I want to know how the journalists intend to use this, thanks to all these front page stories?

MILBANK: That's what I'm answering. If the Democrats are constantly going to beat the drums on this, that will keep it as a news story. Because we follow; we don't lead.

KURTZ: You say we're dependent on outside critics?

MILBANK: We are not leaders in campaigns. We are followers. And if the Democrats are going to make this the central 2006 issue, it stays alive.
So what Milbank is blatantly stating as a fact is that in recent years, the media has been delegated to the role of reporting whatever politicians decide is worthy of being reported. What he is implying is that the Press is not really going to engage in any fact-checking or investigative journalism of it's own, it is going to be content with regurgitating propaganda that politicians keep spewing out. And, it will not decide if a story is newsworthy based on it's own objective analysis of it, but on whether a politician deems it to be so.

How more pathetically lethargic can the media get? It is this same "follow the leader" attitude of the American media that led to the relentless sliming of Presidential hopeful John Kerry with outright lies perpetuated by the Republican smear machine. Never in that unending disgusting saga did any journalist make even a feeble attempt to find out whether even a single accusation the Swift boat veterans were making was true or not. And the non-story just kept on grabbing headlines because as Mr Milbank says, the media was just "following" the screechers. And this media apathy is at the root of most problems facing the nation now, including the misguided war in Iraq.

Kind of makes you wonder if Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were from another planet altogether.

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