Friday, September 01, 2006

It's About Time

(Hat tip: R' Gil)

From the Washington Post: [excerpts]
WE'RE RELUCTANT to return to the subject of former CIA employee Valerie Plame... But all those who have opined on this affair ought to take note of the not-so-surprising disclosure that the primary source of the newspaper column in which Ms. Plame's cover as an agent was purportedly blown in 2003 was former deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage.

Mr. Armitage was one of the Bush administration officials who supported the invasion of Iraq only reluctantly. He was a political rival of the White House and Pentagon officials who championed the war and whom Mr. Wilson accused of twisting intelligence about Iraq and then plotting to destroy him. ...

It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House -- that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame's identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson -- is untrue. ...

Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is [Ez: her own husband] Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.
Amen to that. (Funny, I said some of this over a year ago.) What's interesting is just how much this one story has affected the perception people have of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Karl Rove over the past three years. I've made this point before, but it's worth repeating: The number of stories that reflect poorly on President Bush - major stories - that have later been proven completely false is astounding and unprecedented in history. The way in which this has affected the thinking of the people of this country - even among moderate Democrats and Republicans - is immeasurable.

Forget the fact that at this point, most people will always think that Cheney and Rove tried to out a CIA employee. Even among those who know that it's not true, our perception of this administration has been colored by the allegations placed on it by the media. Whenever someone is accused of something, it affects the way people perceive that person in other situations - and even if it later turns out to be completely false, the damage has already been done. A good portion of this country hates this administration, hates this President, and hates the direction of this country: And that hate has been built primarily on false and exaggerated stories reported by the media.

The time has come that we focus our anger on the right people. As I wrote last time,
Isn't it beyond ridiculous already? How much longer are we the people going to allow our news media to get away with this willful lack of standards? Think through the major stories that were breathlessly reported over the past couple of years - how many have been proven false as the dust clears:
Valerie Plame's outing. Tens of thousands dead during Katrina. Black people left to die during Katrina. Tens of thousands dead at the Superdome. Israel kills seven at beach. Israel kills. Israel kills. Israel kills. Haditha. Missile attack in Afghanistan by US soldiers wipes out village. Karl Rove to be indicted. Vice President Cheney to be indicted. Military recruitment down. US torturing people at secret camps in Europe. US tapping domestic phone calls. US compiling all phone records from phone companies. Speaker Hastert to be investigated.
The list goes on and on. All of the above were major headlines for at least a day or two - some for much longer. All turned out to be false or very different than originally reported. In many cases, the truth could have been discovered quickly simply by asking the right people (as discussed previously). It is absolutely pathetic that the news media reports with no compunction, with no fear of backlash, with no worry that their irresponsibility may one day hurt them. It simply never does.

What kind of standards are we holding our news media to?

Apparently, none.
Even with Reuters getting busted for a few fake photos, the answer is still basically the same. How many people know that less than 3% of Beirut was bombed? How many think that Bush ignored intelligence about Niger? How many still think that more black people died in Katrina than white people? How many think that the US can listen to calls within the United States?

Let's take a moment and remember where many of our problems come from. The problem is not this government. The problem lies with the people who report on them.