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We're Shocked, Shocked!

By Cockburn, Alexander | The Nation, June 23, 2003 | Go to article overview

We're Shocked, Shocked!


Cockburn, Alexander, The Nation


It's hard to choose which deserves the coarser jeer: the excited baying in the press about the nondiscovery of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or the wailing about the 3-to-2 decision of the Federal Communications Commission in early June to allow corporate media giants to increase their domination of the market.

Actually, they're all part of the same bundle of nonsense, and if we meld the two, we're left with the following absurd proposition, most eagerly promoted by Democrats to impart the impression that only greedy Republicans are serfs of the corporate media titans, and that the Telecommunications "Reform" Act of 1996 was actually a well-intended effort to return the airwaves to We the People.

The absurd proposition: Before the June 2 FCC ruling unleashed darkness upon the land, we were afforded diversity of choice and a multiplicity of analyses, not just from hole-in-the-wall operations like Pacifica or satellite-based LINKS TV but from the journalistic mainstream. But now, after the FCC decision, these voices will soon be stilled. We are entering the era of Big Brother.

You think I'm joking? Here's what one of the two Democratic FCC commissioners, Michael Copps, said before the vote, with his grand words now approvingly quoted by liberal editorial writers and pundits: "Today the Federal Communications Commission empowers America's new media elite with unacceptable levels of influence over the ideas and information upon which our society and our democracy so heavily depend. The decision we five make today will recast our entire media landscape for years to come. At issue is whether a few corporations will be ceded enhanced gatekeeper control over the civil dialogue of our country; more content control over our music, entertainment and information; and veto power over the majority of what our families watch, hear and read."

Now, didn't this happen, oh, forty, fifty, maybe seventy years ago? Of course it did. All that happened on June 2 is that things got slightly worse, but not to any degree instantly apparent to the long-suffering national audience.

The press is now happily passing the buck to the intelligence services, quoting former analysts from the CIA and DIA complaining that scholarly objectivity collapsed in the face of political pressure. We're shocked, shocked!

Intelligence services invariably succumb in the face of political bullying. But it didn't matter that the CIA and DIA were cowed by the wild men in Rumsfeld's DoD, who said Iraq was still bristling with WMDs. Any enterprising news editor could have found (and some did) plenty of solid evidence to support the claim that Saddam had destroyed his WMDs; that he had no alliance with Al Qaeda.

In the run-up to the attack on Iraq, the worst journalistic outrages came in two publications at the supposed pinnacle of the profession: the New York Times, which recycled the Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi's agenda through its reporter Judith Miller; and The New Yorker, which printed Jeffrey Goldberg's nonsense about the Saddam/Al Qaeda "connection.

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