Saturday, March 05, 2005

The War on Journalists

What follows is an amateurish rant. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Eason Jordan resigned from his job as CNN’s chief news executive because he (apparently) said that the US military was targeting journalists. Shock and cries of moral outrage followed his statement. (Though, interestingly, shock and moral outrage did not follow the actual deaths of a dozen journalists in Iraq.)

The problem is, Jordan was right. Metaphorically if not literally, journalists are in the crosshairs of the Bush administration. Nearly every day we find new examples of the Bushzi’s strategy to manipulate, intimidate, bribe, slander, and, when necessary, kill members of the media. Let’s take a gander at some of the more egregious examples.

Criminal prosecution: Reporters Matt Cooper (Time) and Judith Miller (NY Times) may be wearing orange jumpsuits for the next 18 months because they refuse to name the Bush officials who leaked the news Valerie Plame was a spook. Meanwhile, Bush-friendly Robert Novak—the one person in this whole mess that we know got handed the leak--continues to be a free man, seemingly untouched by any investigation. If he has spilled the beans, why prosecute Cooper & Miller? If he hasn’t, why isn’t Novak facing jail time? This investigation has been turned 180 degrees; the targets are unfriendly reporters, not the officials who may have committed a felony by revealing the name of an active CIA agent.

Let’s not forget that this whole affair started as a newspaper article. The Valerie Plame outing was retribution for an op-ed, written by her husband Joseph Wilson and published in the New York Times, that accused the Bushzis of using a false nuclear threat to sell the war in Iraq.

Punish the wicked: So now the Bush proxies and right-wing bloglodytes are attacking Helen Thomas--and not just the “old Arab” slur by that sack of offal with legs. In the topsy-turvy dog-shit-is-caviar world of the Republicans, Jeff “Bulldog” Gannon’s sycophantic ass kissing is somehow justified by Helen Thomas’s hard-nosed questions. Never mind that she’s been asking tough questions of all presidents, including Democrats, since the early 1960s. Never mind that the woman has never lobbed up a big fat juicy one in her entire career. In the bloglodyte spin, they’re all ‘partisan’.

Meanwhile, they’re trying to paint Maureen Dowd as a drunk. You can see it creep though the blogs like well-orchestrated whispering campaign. This is the script. What’s next--Frank Rich, child molester? Michael Moore, closet vegetarian?

Reward the faithful: We all know there’s more than one whore in the White House press corps. The payments to Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher, and Michael McManus make up a tiny fraction of the $250 million of taxpayer money the Bushzis shelled out for PR during their first four years. This ‘coalition of the shilling’ has benefitted handsomely from lip-synching to W’s tune (Ashlee Simpson could take lessons). Who else has been a good little reporter this year? I’ll bet Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly find something nice under the tree next Xmas.

About those bullets: Jordan was hardly the first journalist to levy the charge that the US military was taking potshots at reporters. On April 8, 2003, US forces fired a rocket into Al Jazeera headquarters, killing one reporter. Later that day a US tank fired a shell at the Palestine Hotel, killing two Reuters cameramen. Scores of witnesses refute the US claim that they were receiving enemy fire from both locations. There are other examples.

Intentional? No one will ever be able to prove that somebody said ‘let’s kill a few reporters.’ But the message is clear: If you report anything we don’t want the world to see, the world may not be seeing much of you before long.

This is not just a war on journalists. It’s a war on any system where facts outweigh faith. It’s a war on dissent. It’s a war on speech. It’s a war on all of us.

Free Speech: Use it or Lose It.


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