Tonight, I watched one of my favorite movies, "The Insider" and was reminded of one of the harshest realities to which many Americans have had to adjust since 9/11. Over the past six years, we have had to live with the knowledge that the news sources that we once trusted can bow to corporate and political influences. And that's been a very,very painful lesson for baby boomers who grew up believing that if a story was seen on "60 Minutes" or CNN it had to be true.
The journalists were the heroes of our generation. They opened the doors that we could not enter. They asked the questions that we all wanted answered. We believed that they were on the front line of our on-going struggle for democracy. We believed that saying: "the pen is mightier than the sword".
We were such news junkies that our generation gave birth to the 24 hour news network. We mixed our music with our news and hence, Rolling Stone magazine. We even mixed our sexuality with our news to the point that men actually got away with claiming that they read Playboy magazine for the articles.
As much as we loved our athletes, movie stars and musicians we equally loved to see Dan Rather or Mike Wallace out some corrupt person right in front of our eyes. We believed that government should be transparent and corporations should be accountable to the public. And if either of the aforementioned got out of line, the journalists would hold their feet to the fire. We knew that the corporations owned the media outlets but somehow we lived under the illusion that the journalists were immune to their influence.
And now we have FOX News. We have a media that outs CIA agents not because of their questionable actions in some foreign country, but as a favor to a political party. We know that CBS betrayed Dan Rather. We know that the mainstream media was complicit in selling us the argument for the Iraq war. We know that media outlets are trying to dumb us down with the never-ending tales of Britney and Paris. We know that, more often than not, the news outlets that we used to trust bow to the interests of their corporate masters, the advertisers or the White House. And we know that the best journalists can be blackballed and cast into the netherworld at a moment's notice.
So what should we do when we think that we've found that rare journalist that still reports the facts and speaks truth to power? We need to value them and more importantly, protect them.
A hero is a rare thing.
Journalism and its discontents | Salon.com
By Sidney Blumenthal
Editor's note: The following is the author's afterword for a reissue of Walter Lippman's "Liberty and the News," to be published this month by Princeton University Press.
Ninety years after Walter Lippmann first railed against the complicity of the media in wartime propaganda, we're back at ground zero.
"Everywhere today," Lippmann wrote in Liberty and the News, "men are conscious that somehow they must deal with questions more intricate than any that church or school had prepared them to understand. Increasingly they know that they cannot understand them if the facts are not quickly and steadily available. Increasingly they are baffled because the facts are not available; and they are wondering whether government by consent can survive in a time when the manufacture of consent is an unregulated private enterprise."
Lippmann had witnessed firsthand how the "manufacture of consent" had deranged democracy. But he did not hold those in government solely responsible. He also described how the press corps was carried away on the wave of patriotism and became self-censors, enforcers, and sheer propagandists. Their careerism, cynicism, and error made them destroyers of "liberty of opinion" and agents of intolerance, who subverted the American constitutional system of self-government. Even the great newspaper owners, he wrote, "believe that edification is more important than veracity. They believe it profoundly, violently, relentlessly. They preen themselves upon it. To patriotism, as they define it from day to day, all other considerations must yield. That is their pride. And yet what is this but one more among myriad examples of the doctrine that the end justifies the means? A more insidiously misleading rule of conduct was, I believe, never devised among men."