Media Abets Public Trust Betrayal

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron!" -- H. L. Mencken, journalist and satirist (1880-1956)

Rife with hypocrisy, political narcissism and a blind eye to corruption, our nation's leadership in recent years has not only betrayed the public trust but destroyed our reputation as a world leader.

Before we the people assume the role of judge, jury and "executioner," however, we must ask ourselves who elected these people who have chosen political goals over true moral values, secrecy over transparency, greed over ethics and imperialism over peacekeeping.

As we note the fact that it has been five years since Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration along with its self-styled army of political pundits insists on repeating ad nauseam to an unwitting public its Big Lie that since that infamous day everything has changed, when in fact little has changed.

W., Rummy and "Locked 'n' Loaded" Cheney have successfully adopted George Orwell's observation that if you keep telling the Big Lie enough times, more than likely most people will come to believe it as the truth.

As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman properly notes: "We now know that from the very beginning, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress saw the terrorist threat not as a problem to be solved, but as a political opportunity to be exploited. The story of the latest terror plot makes the administration's fecklessness and cynicism on terrorism clearer than ever."

A large majority of the American public still believes the many lies that were endlessly repeated to them as our grounds for invasion of Iraq while the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks at this writing remains free and at large.

As columnist Robert Scheer demonstrates, "government-induced hysteria thrives on public ignorance, which is why President Bush is so confident of turning the British bomb plot to his partisan purposes. Otherwise, how could he dare claim that his policies have made the nation safer?

"Abetted by apologists in both parties," Sheer continues, "the Bush administration has instead fabricated the dangerous notion that anybody who opposes US or Israeli interests in the region -- be they secular or religious, Arab or Persian, Sunni or Shi'ite -- is by definition a terrorist, who cannot be negotiated with or tolerated. So far, however, this approach has been disastrous for the United States and Israel, with costly defeats in both Iraq and Lebanon that will reverberate in the region for decades, directly strengthening the hand of extremists of all stripes."

Yet at a time in our nation's history when it is of vital importance that a voting public has some sense of those forces abroad that are shaping our destiny, we see the vast majority of our media retreating to more and more local news -- most often just a daily retelling of the local police blotter -- at the expense of in-depth foreign reporting.

As former Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Richard C. Longworth argues, newspapers are doing themselves and their readers a disservice by so strictly obeying the industry's latest mantra: "Local news dominates, and it's not just local, but 'local, local, local‚' they've gotta repeat it three times -- and it's coming at the expense of the news hole for international news."

News editors need to understand, as ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson recently pointed out to Charlie Rose, that the coverage of news is like a continuum with what the public wants to know at one end and what they need to know at the other end.

Unfortunately too many news editors cave in to such insatiable stories as a public's desire to know more about Lindsay Lohan's spoiled-child antics or who killed Baby JonBenet at the cost of knowing that an average of more than 110 Iraqis were killed each day in July and that the total number of civilian deaths that month, 3,438, was a 9% increase over the tally in June and nearly double the toll in January.

Each day as we witness more mounting anger toward the US around the world, we are frequently reminded how pervasive economic and political corruption have become in our own country.

One does not have to search the alternative media or blogs to learn of this corruption; one needs only to read the news pages of the Wall Street Journal, a publication that could be called the Wall Street Crime Reporter.

This situation has reached such a crisis state that, as Thomas Frank, the populist author of What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, writing an August guest op-ed in the New York Times, observes:

"By now, even the most dedicated 'values voter' is aware that an orgy of plunder and predation grinds merrily on in the capital, yet if polls are to be believed, the Democrats can persuade almost nobody to switch their vote on that basis. That's because, while they have many nice slogans on the subject, Democrats offer no larger theory of corruption, no way to help voters understand what is essentially Republican about the pillage currently being visited on our national government."

In fact, the same forces that precipitated the agrarian populist rebellion of the late 19th and early 20th century are still at work today, even more powerful and even more corrupt.

As Frank points out, "a century ago, it was conservative stalwarts, not liberal reformers, who were the natural party of government. And they were forthright about what they stood for as well as what they were against: They were for rule by a better class of people, for a Hamiltonian state in which business was unified with government.

"And conservatism is still for those things, tacitly at least. ... These ought to be easy things to deplore. They ought to arouse precisely the kind of simmering fury that millions of Americans feel toward lewd half-time shows and checkout clerks who don't say 'Merry Christmas.'

"But," Frank laments, "we have difficulty holding conservatives accountable for them, so potent is their brand image as angry outsiders. What conservatives do, as everyone knows, is protest government, protest modernity; to hold them responsible for government or for modernity is to bring on cognitive dissonance."

In the end, therefore, it is incumbent on the public to understand that, in the words of Krugman, "all Mr. Bush and his party can do at this point is demonize their opposition. And my guess is that the public won't go for it, that Americans are fed up with leadership that has nothing to hope for but fear itself."

One can only hope those words will resonate with the public in November and 2008.

A.V. Krebs publishes the online newsletter, The Agribusiness Examiner. Email

From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2006

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