Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The News Media: NBC Furthering Fiction...NBC Furthering Lies=Propaganda 101
"I think the questions were asked. I think we pushed. I think we prodded. I think we challenged the president. I think not only those of us in the White House press corps did that, but others in the rest of the landscape of the media did that. … The right questions were asked. I think there’s a lot of critics-and I guess we can count Scott McClellan as one-who think that, if we did not debate the president, debate the policy in our role as journalists, if we did not stand up and say, ‘This is bogus,’ and ‘You’re a liar,’ and ‘Why are you doing this?’ that we didn’t do our job. And I respectfully disagree. It’s not our role."
That was NBC correspondent David Gregory, appearing on MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews.” He was responding to former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s new book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.” McClellan has challenged the role of the U.S. media in investigating and reporting U.S. policy in times of conflict, especially when it comes to covering the government itself.
While the diversity of the United States dictates that there will be a divergence of consensus when it comes to individual values and ideals, the collective ought to agree that the foundation upon which all American values and ideals should be judged is the U.S. Constitution, setting forth as it does a framework of law which unites us all. To hold the Constitution up as a basis upon which to criticize the actions of any given president is perhaps the most patriotic act an American can engage in. As Theodore Roosevelt himself noted, “No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man’s permission when we ask him to obey it.”
Now David Gregory, and others who populate that curious slice of Americana known as “the media,” may hold that they, as journalists, operate on a different level than the average American citizen. As Mr. Gregory notes, it is not their “role” to question or debate policy set forth by the president. This is curious, coming from a leading member of a news team that prides itself on the “investigative” quality of its reporting. If we take Gregory at face value, it seems his only job (or “role”) is to simply parrot the policy formulations put forward by administration officials, that the integrity of journalism precludes the reporter from taking sides, and that any aggressive questioning concerning the veracity, or morality, or legality of any given policy would, in its own right, constitute opposition to said policy, and as such would be “taking sides.”
This, of course, is journalism in its most puritanical form, the ideal that the reporter simply reports, and keeps his or her personal opinion segregated from the “facts” as they are being presented. While it would be a farcical stretch for David Gregory, or any other mainstream reporter or correspondent, to realistically claim ownership of such a noble mantle, it appears that is exactly what Gregory did when he set forth the parameters of what his “role” was, and is, in reporting on stories such as the issue of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the Bush administration’s case for war. For this to be valid, however, the issue of journalistic integrity would need to apply not only to the individual reporter or correspondent, but also to the entire system to which the given reporter or correspondent belonged. In the case of Gregory, therefore, we must not only bring into the mix his own individual performance, but also that of NBC News and its parent organization, General Electric.
The media were not interested in reporting the facts, but rather furthering a fiction. Time after time, I backed my opposition to the Bush administration’s “case” for war on Iraq with hard facts, citing evidence that could be readily checked by these erstwhile journalists had they been so inclined. Instead, my integrity and character were impugned by these simple recorders of “fact”, further enabling the fiction pushed by the administration into the mainstream, unchallenged and unquestioned, to be digested by the American public as truth.
Scott McClellan is correct to point out the complicity of the media in facilitating the rush to war. David Gregory is disingenuous in his denial that this was indeed the case. Jeff Cohen, a former producer at MSNBC, has written about the pressures placed on him and Phil Donahue leading to the cancellation of the latter’s top-rated television show just before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Katie Couric, the former co-host of NBC’s “Today Show” (and current news anchor for CBS News), has tacitly acknowledged “PRESSURE” from above when it came to framing interviews in a manner that was detrimental to the Bush administration’s case for war. Jessica Yellin, who before the war in Iraq worked for MSNBC, put it best: “I think the press corps dropped the ball at the beginning,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.“When the lead-up to the war began, the press corps was under ENORMOUS PRESSURE FROM CORPORATE EXECUTIVES, frankly, to make sure that this was a WAR THAT WAS PRESENTED in a way that was CONSISTENT WITH THE PATRIOTIC FEVER AND THE PRESIDENT'S HIGH APPROVAL RATINGS.”
Now, one would think that a journalist with the self-proclaimed integrity of Gregory would jump at the opportunity to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and focus on this story line, if for no other reason than to prove it wrong and thereby clear his name (guilty by association, at the very least) and the name of the organization he represents. The matter is simple, on the surface: NBC network executives either did, or didn’t, pressure their producers and reporters when it came to covering and framing stories. Surely an investigative reporter of Gregory’s talent can get to the bottom of this one?
David Gregory has vociferously defended the role he and NBC News played in the lead-up to the Iraq war. Scott McClellan’s new book, combined with testimony from other sources, including those from within the NBC News family, has called into question the integrity of the operation Gregory serves. An allegation from a credible source has been made, and any denial must therefore be backed with verifiable, documented information. To paraphrase former Secretary of State Colin Powell when talking about Iraq before the invasion, the burden is on NBC to prove that it wasn’t complicit with the Bush administration concerning its reporting on Iraq and administration policies, and not on NBC’s critics to prove that it was.
The old proverb notes that " a fish stinks from its head." Something that aptly describes the General Electric/NBC News team when discussing the issue of Iraq. I challenge David Gregory to demonstrate otherwise.
-Scott Ritter ("Investigate This," TruthDig, 6-10-2008)