Is America Necessary? Conservative, Liberal, & Socialist Perspectives of United States Political Institutions

By Henry Etzkowitz; Peter Schwab | Go to book overview

Conservative

Paul H. Weaver. The new journalism and the old-- thoughts after Watergate.

The "fourth estate" of the realm--that was Burke's way of summing up the role of the press in his time, and when one has discounted the medieval terminology, his phrase is no less apt today. It reminds us that the press, as the coequal of other "estates," is a political institution in its own right, intimately bound up with all the institutions of government. It affects them and is affected by them in turn, and together they determine the nature of the regime and the quality of public life. Governmental institutions have political effects through their exercise of legislative, executive, or judicial powers; the press achieves its impact through the way it influences the entry of ideas and information into the "public space" in which political life takes place. So the basic question to be asked about the press is: What is its relation to other political institutions, and how does it consequently manage the "public space"?

The aftermath of Watergate provides a suitable occasion for rethinking this question--though not because the press was in any way at fault in this episode. The Watergate scandals emerge solely from the Nixon Administration's abuse of its Presidential powers in matters ranging from campaign finance and civil liberties to national security. By covering the emerging scandals as it did, the press was acting in accord with a venerable journalistic tradition that dates back to The New York Times' exposé of the corrupt Tweed Ring in 1871.

Yet Watergate was more than a series of criminal and corrupt actions; it also has raised basic Constitutional questions concerning the interrelationship among all our political institutions, including of course the press. One of these issues was the freedom of the press. Many of the abuses symbolized by Watergate--the Plumbers, unjustified investigations and wiretaps, and so forth-- were in fact directed at the press as part of the Administration's campaign to make the news media less critical. If these efforts had been successful, they would have reduced press freedom and altered the balance between government and the press in favor of the former. For the time being at least, that danger has been averted.

So the press emerges from Watergate as free, self-confident, and enterprising as at any other time in its history. But it also emerges a bit different from what is was before. For the press today is an institution in limbo--an institution in that distinctive kind of trouble which derives from not having a settled idea of its role and purpose. It is in limbo because it now occupies an ambiguous middle ground between its longstanding tradition of "objective" journalism and a new movement for an "adversary" journalism--no longer massively committed to the one but not yet certain, let alone unanimous, about the other. To the extent that it is committed to the new movement, it is committed to a journalistic idea that is not easily compatible with American institutions in their current form, nor easily reconciled with some of its most valuable traditions. And to the extent that the press embraces this movement, its political role will remain in flux until some new practical adaptation to adversary journalism is worked out by government, public opinion, and the press itself. Watergate did not create this problem--it has been growing for a decade now--but it did intensify it. And this is the problem which confronts American journalism after Watergate.


Two kinds of journalism

To put the matter briefly: Traditionally, American journalism has been very close to, dependent upon, and cooperative with, official sources. This has been one of its problems, but it has also been its greatest strength and virtue. For in various ways this arrangement has maximized both the openness and flexibility of American government and the amount of information available to the citizenry. Over the past ten years, how-

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Is America Necessary? Conservative, Liberal, & Socialist Perspectives of United States Political Institutions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One 15
  • 1 - Where Do I Stand? 17
  • Conservative 21
  • Conclusion 28
  • Socialist 44
  • Notes 46
  • Part Two 57
  • 2 - The Presidency 61
  • Conservative 67
  • Socialist 79
  • Notes 85
  • 3 - The Pentagon 101
  • Conservative 107
  • Socialist 117
  • 4 - The Secret Police 133
  • Conservative 139
  • Socialist 152
  • Notes 160
  • Part Three 167
  • 5 - Elite Clubs and Associations 169
  • Conservative 173
  • Notes 184
  • Notes 192
  • 6 - Multinational Corporations 209
  • Conservative 213
  • Socialist 221
  • Notes 244
  • 7 - Organized Crime 257
  • Conservative 259
  • Socialist 264
  • Part Four 283
  • 8 - Congress 285
  • Conservative 289
  • Socialist 296
  • Notes 303
  • 9 - The Courts 315
  • Conservative 319
  • Socialist 330
  • Notes 337
  • 10 - Regulatory Agencies 347
  • Conservative 349
  • Socialist 361
  • Notes 369
  • Political Parties 385
  • Conservative 387
  • Liberal 396
  • Conclusion 410
  • 12 - Academia 413
  • Conservative 416
  • References 427
  • Notes 434
  • Part Five 449
  • 13 - The Media 451
  • Conservative 453
  • Liberal 467
  • Notes 474
  • 14 - Banks 483
  • Conservative The Great Banking Retreat. 485
  • Socialist 489
  • Notes 497
  • 15 - Unions 511
  • Conservative 513
  • Notes 519
  • A Critical Issue 537
  • 16 - The Economic Crisis 539
  • Conservative 542
  • Socialist 544
  • Notes 550
  • Part Seven 557
  • 17 - Political Programs 567
  • Louis Banks. the Mission Of Our Business Society. 568
  • Ralph Nader and Donald Ross. Toward an Initiatory Democracy. 576
  • Stanley Aronowitz. On Organization: A Good Party Is Hard to Find. 581
  • Mass Parties and Reformism 587
  • Notes 596
  • Fred R. Harris. Up With Those Who'Re Down. 602
  • Part Eight 613
  • Appendix 621
  • Note 644
  • Index 649
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