“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”
People who write content for the web have been known to revel in the sentiment behind Liebling’s oft-quoted aphorism. The web has been perceived to be the great equalizer of the disenfranchised.
Republicans are out to change all that. And, to me, this is perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the Republican strategy — the concerted effort to control the press.
- They try to incarcerate Judith Miller for not revealing her sources about who leaked the identity of the now-legendary CIA operative Valerie Plame to Robert Novak, rather than going after Robert Novak for reporting it. (Those of a more cynical frame of mind might say that Robert Novak is being rewarded for doing the dirty work of the Administration.) Result: They discredit the nation’s newspaper of record and put the few remaining actual investigative reporters on notice that they can be thrown in jail if they report truth.
- They shame CBS News for airing a memo whose substance was true but whose source was questionable. Result: Dan Rather bites the dust and other networks are put on notice. (O.K., so I like Dan Rather’s similes about as much as a Texas longhorn likes a disease ridden horsefly biting its ass, but I would defend to the death his right to inflict them upon us.)
- They take Newsweek to task for an article about the desecration of the Koran that is essentially true but whose details may be slightly askew. Then, in a move that has Karl Rove’s name tattooed all over its ass, they blame Newsweek for the unrest in the world (instead of acknowledging that Administration policies and a greed-based war might have something to do with it). Result: Newsweek capitulates and retracts the story, and other media outlets are consequently put on notice. Never mind that the Pentagon itself releases information only a few days later confirming almost exactly what the original Newsweek article had said regarding the desecration of the Koran, minus only the toilet. Apparently, in the hierarchy of desecration, there’s a major distinction between putting a Koran in the toilet and merely urinating on it.
- They work to cut funding to Public Radio and Public TV, because those outlets attempt to report all aspects of the news, not just the lockstep party line and, especially, because they can’t get Bill Moyers to buckle the way other so-called journalists have buckled. Result: Have you listened to Public Radio lately? They now have all the political edge of Kathie Lee Gifford on thorazine. Puh-leeze, NPR! How many homespun Baxter Black-wannabes can we be expected to tolerate?
- They invite the likes of “Jeff Gannon” into the White House. Need I say more?
This list only scratches the surface. But the net result of these offenses and the others like them is that the noise from the dominant press machine (controlled in large part by media conglomerates with a financial interest in remaining in good standing with the Administration) is loud enough to all but drown out the alternative voices.
What’s the next target? “My Weekly Reader”?