May 29, 2008
I don't know if it is because of the forthcoming McClellan book or what, but lately I keep seeing internet chatter and coverage about how media figures keep shifting the blame away from themselves regarding their utterly catastrophic failure to question Bush Administration efforts leading up to the Iraq War. We've seen bits and pieces of this type of thing ever since the MSM realized we'd sorta messed up by invading, but lately the tide seems to have strengthened.
Glenn Greenwald has been all over this lately, from pointing out defensive arguments raised by Brian Wilson and Charlie Gibson and blame-shifting to the White House (by Katie Couric) and corporate honchos (by Jessica Yellin). Both posts also contain numerous links to other talking heads and their full-throated defenses of the MSM establisment.
For the record, I call bullshit on all of these people. (Bullshit!)
But the one I want to complain about specifically is Yellin's excuse-ridden, half-assed mea culpa.
In a nutshell, she claims that corporate pressure came down to coerce news organizations to reject critical coverage in favor of stories less likely to upset the folks on Pennsylvania Ave. Moreover, she claims that there was a direct positive correlation between Bush's level of approval an this pressure.
That seems plausible, at first. But then you start to think about the dynamics of Bush's approval over these last several years and it seems a little more like, well, a crappy and empirically unsupported excuse.
For example, beyond a few spikes in approval -- a HUGE one immediately following 9/11, a sizeable yet smaller one following the Iraq invasion, and a minor and short-lived boost following the capture of Saddam Hussein midterms -- Bush's level of approval has been a consistent downward trend. Following the argument that corporate pressure increases as approval increases, then corporate pressure should have declined over time, barring idiosyncratic spikes. In fact, while Bush and co fought hardest to sell the war (i.e., the several months leading up to the actual invasion), the president's numbers were dropping week after week, falling from the fear-based and impossible-to-maintain levels of late fall 2001.
Now I'm not saying that the Bushies are getting a raw deal here -- far from that. Those guys were as deceptive and disingenuous as we've ever seen in the Oval Office. And I'm not saying the corporate stooges are blameless, either. I have no doubt that they were pressing for the type of coverage that would gain the most viewers and, thus, sell the most advertising. After all, they are corporate stooges -- bottom-line thinking is pretty much their job, for good or ill.
What I am saying is that these blame-dodging, self-congratulating, rationalizing and just plain lame media figures ought to do is suck it up, realize that they really hurt their country by failing at their jobs, and make their peace with the facts that they either sold their souls or were too stupid to realize they were being deceived by the Keystone Kops of White House chicanery.