Saturday, April 17, 2004

Grading Time

It's final examinations time for a lot of students, and I think that we should have examinations for the politicians and the media, too. An article on president Bush's policy towards Afghanistan and Iraq in the late fall and early winter of 2001 states this:

Following an important meeting on Iraq war planning in late 2001, President Bush told the public that the discussions were about Afghanistan. He made no mention afterward about Iraq even though that was the real focus of the session at his ranch.
"I'm right now focused on the military operations in Afghanistan," Bush told reporters after talks on Dec. 28, 2001, with top aides and generals.
A "war update" was the White House description of the news conference Bush held with Gen. Tommy Franks, who was in charge of the Afghan war as head of U.S. Central Command.
Details of the meeting's focus on Iraq have since emerged in a recent speech by Franks, who now is retired, and in a new book by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.

Now, many of us knew this, of course. It was impossible not to see that the Iraq war plans had been hatched years before the government's initial propaganda campaign on them. But I at least didn't know that Bush was fibbing about what was going on to his employers; and make no mistake about it: the voters are the employers here. What would you do to an employee who isn't working on the project he says he's working on? Or a student who's not answering the question the examination has set? What grade should Bush get here?

And what about the media, the watchdogs of democracy? Do they still deserve that name, or should they be renamed something more suitable, say, the guarddogs of the government. It doesn't matter that we don't have to rely on one state-run information channel when all the different channels that we do have act as if they've been employed to uncritically report on the government's views.

Consider this commentary on the recent press conference president Bush gave:

But no one followed up on Bush's admission that even if he had known Saddam didn't have WMD stockpiles, he still would have pushed the Iraq War! And no one had the courage to challenge the President on his intimidation tactic in response to the first question, which was about the Vietnam comparison. Bush said, "That analogy sends the wrong message to our troops, and sends the wrong message to the enemy." Instead of pointing out how chilling Bush's statement was, the reporters focused on the personal. Five times, they asked him variations of the question: Was he going to apologize, or take responsibility, for any mistakes he might have made? Once would have been enough. This should not have been a personal morality play. It should have been about the fundamental policies of the U.S. government, which right now are jeopardizing the lives of U.S. troops, and, in a profound way, the lives of Americans everywhere. Bush has given only three prime-time news conferences in his Presidency, and reporters lost one of their few opportunities to hold him accountable.

What grade should the journalists get? How well are they informing us about the goings-on in the government? Is democracy kept transparent and safe by the media? Or are all the media outlets nowadays as 'fair and balanced' as the famous Faux News Channel?

I'm angry, as you may have noticed. We demand that ordinary workers work hard and act ethically, we demand that students work hard and don't cheat, but what do we demand of those who really have the power to influence things?Whatever we might demand, what we get is mostly bread and circus. Remember last time that was a governmental policy, in ancient Rome, and what happened next?