If you read the establishment press’ trade journals, you can appreciate just how lost the news industry is today — just how badly it has drifted from its moorings.
The July 12, 1997, issue of Editor & Publisher is a case in point. Inside is a two-page spread about just how wonderful it is that eight newspapers in five states got together to combine their investigative and publishing resources on a very special series.
Now, what do you suppose the project was all about? Do you imagine the papers teamed up to examine how their fellow taxpayers’ money was being wasted by government? No. Do you think they looked at the many ways government was pushing itself into the lives of their readers? No. Do you suppose they commenced a full-court press against government fraud, waste and corruption? No.
Surely you jest. The age of the press as a government watchdog is over, done, finished, completed, passé. Today’s journalists don’t even remember that this was, historically, the principal role of a free press in a free society. Believe me, I’ve seen the blank looks in the faces of many colleagues when this fact has been brought to their attention.
So, what is Editor & Publisher all excited about? I’ll tell you. The journalistic community is breathless about the fact that eight Northwest daily newspapers jointly published a five-day series on “anti-government groups.” Yeah, of course. That’s where the real threat to freedom is coming from, after all.
“The five-state project coincided with the second anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing and the trial of accused bomber Timothy McVeigh,” the story said.
How convenient! What good timing! I mean, we all know that the Oklahoma City bombing was simply the work of one or more anti-government, militia-style nutcases, right? There is no evidence that government agents served as provocateurs, correct? There is no evidence government agencies had warning about the bombing and evacuated personnel, yes? And there is certainly no evidence that more than one bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, is there?
As is so often the case, these days, the Oklahoma bombing is a perfect example of how the press, today, dutifully publishes handouts from the government and never questions authority or official sources. It’s pathetic. There is more evidence of government complicity in the Oklahoma bombing than there is that Hitler burned down the Reichstag. But that’s another story for another day. Back to the sad state of the news business
Think about the process these papers went through. They wanted to pick a topic they could all get behind — all get excited about. So they chose to investigate, as they put it, “groups that have crossed the line and, in some cases, wreaked havoc on a community because the government has been the enemy.”
Here’s a perfect illustration of how press people confuse issues of balance, fairness and truth. One of the managing editors of the papers involved in this series commented: “Many people in our readership area identify at least to some extent with (the) militia movement and the ‘constitutional’ views addressed in the series. We thought it was important that the people espousing those views be given ample opportunity to defend and explain their positions, and I think the Pioneer Newspapers series accomplished that.”
Isn’t that open-minded of him? It reminds me of the old western-movie line: “We’ll give him a fair trial and then we’ll hang him.” Let’s face it. The point of this series, like so many others we’ve seen in the press in the last few years, is that anti-government people are dangerous kooks. Yeah, we’ll interview a few of them. Let them have their say. Use their own words to damn them. And we’ll call it balance and fairness.
This is another example, albeit a local one, of what I call “the government-media complex.” And it’s more threatening and dangerous to the foundation of this country than Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” ever thought about being.
The media are playing right into the hands of the big-government crusaders. The press helps to manufacture “crises,” and the government’s always right there to save the public. Such a well-oiled propaganda machine could never have been developed through conspiracy. It has happened because the press has allowed it to happen — because the press has forgotten its mission.