Sunday, October 09, 2005

Media In The Age Of Wingnuts

Two interesting stories have surfaced today in the lefty blogosphere, one on Steve Gilliard's blog about the treatment of an Irish journalist by the Bush cabal and another one on Left Coaster about the CBS news initially planning to air a Sixty Minutes episode consisting solely of smears against Bill Clinton with no rebuttal. A weak rebuttal has supposedly been added, but the program still consists of largely wingnut anti-Clinton propaganda.

Carole Coleman, the Irish journalist who interviewed George Bush, has written about the experience in a book soon-to-be-published. She was shocked to find out that the Bush administration didn't at all approve of a real interview with the president. She should have been less assertive, she was told. In this excerpt she tells us of a phone call she had from Bush's administration, a person she calls MC:

She estimated that I had interrupted the president eight times and added that I had upset him. I was upset too, I told her. The line started to break up; I was in a basement with a bad phone signal. I took her number and agreed to call her back. I dialled the White House number and she was on the line again.

"I'm here with Colby," she indicated.


"You were given an opportunity to interview the leader of the free world and you blew it," she began.

I was beginning to feel as if I might be dreaming. I had naively believed the American president was referred to as the "leader of the free world" only in an unofficial tongue-in-cheek sort of way by outsiders, and not among his closest staff.

"You were more vicious than any of the White House press corps or even some of them up on Capitol Hill . . .The president leads the interview," she said.

"I don't agree," I replied, my initial worry now turning to frustration. "It's the journalist's job to lead the interview."

Indeed it is, in countries like Ireland and Great Britain. But not, it seems, in the United States. Or if you try you probably never get another opening to the inner circles. So you better stay nice.

Maybe this is the lesson Sixty Minutes has learned? For why else would they let Louis Freeh, a former FBI director, peddle a book that has many controversial arguments without adding a real critic of the work to the program? Let me guess: Because Freeh says things which are pleasing in the ears of this administration.

Let me hasten to add that many in the media are doing a good job and are not caving in at the demands of the Bush administration. We should and do support those voices, and all voices which refuse to run a Pravda-type government news service.