WTMA commentary broadcast 6/3/08:
In 2001, one of my favorite books was “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News,” written by 28 year-veteran CBS reporter and producer Bernard Goldberg. Goldberg confirmed what many conservatives had long believed – that there was an unmistakable liberal slant to how the mainstream media delivered the news. Goldberg contended that his colleagues were more interested in promoting a political agenda than objective journalism. He was right.
In 2008, one of my favorite books promises to be “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and What’s Wrong with Washington,” written by former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. McClellan’s observations confirmed what many Bush critics had long believed – that there was an unmistakable neoconservative slant to how the mainstream media covered the war in Iraq. McClellan contended that “In the fall of 2002, Bush and his White House were engaging in a carefully-orchestrated campaign to shape and manipulate sources of public approval to our advantage… And through it all, the media would serve as complicit enablers. Their primary focus would be on covering the campaign to sell the war, rather than aggressively questioning the rationale for war or pursuing the truth behind it.” Like Goldberg, McClellan is right.
CNN White House correspondent Jessica Yellin agrees; “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 in the nation… and my own experience at the White House was that, the higher the president’s approval ratings… the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the President.”
Whereas for decades, liberal ideology had driven men like Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather to cherry pick news according to their own politics, the press coverage of the invasion of Iraq and the events leading up to it, reflected the media’s willingness to capitalize on the early popularity of Bush and his war – even at the expense of objective journalism. As the most successful neoconservative president, promoting Bush naturally meant promoting neoconservative ideology. To this day, many journalists will deny this, in the same way they still deny the existence of a “liberal media.”
Neoconservative influence in the media is by no means limited to straight news. Writes former Reagan White House Aide, Paul Craig Roberts “It wasn’t just Bush, Cheney, and the neoconservatives… It was the American media… (and) Two of the worst handmaidens, Billy Kristol and Thomas Friedman, have been rewarded for their treachery to America by the New York Times, which pays these men, who have never been right about anything, to pontificate from columns on its pages… The benefit of being a name columnist at a name newspaper is that it puts you on the lucrative speaking circuit… for example… Friedman is paid $65,000 for a speech.”
Roberts is right. After all, columnists like Pat Buchanan – whose predictions have not only been absolutely right concerning Iraq, but on issues like illegal immigration and NAFTA – are never given the same prominence or paid as handsomely as men like Kristol or Friedman, whose predictions have never come to fruition and couldn’t have been more wrong about the same issues. If opinion makers were judged by the same standards as most American workers – by their job performance – columnists like Kristol and Friedman, would have been fired, disgraced and discredited – not given promotions.
Explains Roberts; “The same interest groups that control the government offer the most extravagant fees on the speaking circuit. Global corporations that are driving up their stock prices and management bonuses by moving American jobs offshore reward journalists who write propaganda about the benefits of globalism. The military-security complex rewards journalists that feed hysteria about terrorism and foreign threats.” As Roberts makes clear – men like Bill Kristol and Tom Friedman are rewarded simply for making political and corporate sales pitches – not merely giving their honest, patriotic opinions, as they like to pretend.
Whereas Americans once had to contend simply with a liberal media that insisted on big government, now we must contend with a neoconservative media that insists on big government both at home and around the world, where military, corporate and political global dominance, are consistently promoted at the expense of not only America’s national interest – but our health, safety and soul.
In the end, neoconservatives are basically more ambitious liberals. And like their predecessors, now they control enough of the media to get the job done.