Center for Citizen Media Rotating Header Image

Washington Politicians, Journalists Now Protect the Govt. Lawbreakers They Aided and Abetted

Glenn Greenwald (Salon): Establishment Washington unifies against prosecutions. As confirmed accounts emerged years ago of chronic presidential lawbreaking, warrantless eavesdropping, systematic torture, rendition, “black site” prisons, corruption in every realm, and all sorts of other dark crimes, where were journalists and other opinion-making elites? Very few of them with any significant platform can point to anything they did or said to oppose or stop any of it — and they know that. Many of them, even when much of this became conclusively proven, were still explicitly praising Bush officials. Most of them supported the underlying enabling policies (Guantanamo and the permanent state of war in Iraq and “on terror”), and then cheered on laws — the Military Commissions Act and the FISA Amendments Act — designed to legalize these activities and retroactively immunize the lawbreakers and war criminals from prosecution. So when these media and political elites are defending Bush officials, mitigating their crimes, and arguing that they shouldn’t be held accountable, they’re actually defending themselves. Just as Nancy Pelosi and Jay Rockefeller can’t possibly demand investigations for crimes in which they were complicit, media stars can’t possibly condemn acts which they supported or, at the very best, towards which they turned a blissfully blind eye. They can’t indict Bush officials for what they did because to do so would be to indict themselves. Bush officials need to be exonerated, or at least have their crimes forgotten (look to the future and ignore the past, they all chime in unison), so that their own involvement in it will also be cleansed and then forgotten.

This is a harsh indictment, but it’s hard to argue with Greenwald. With rare exceptions, Washington journalists have been complicit in the lawbreaking that characterized the Bush administration. Now, even as they admit that the crimes were crimes, they want everyone to forgive and forget — but mostly forget.

This is another chapter in the breakdown of journalism as one of the few institutions that holds power accountable. In this case, it would mean holding journalism accountable, too. Not going to happen.

0 Comments on “Washington Politicians, Journalists Now Protect the Govt. Lawbreakers They Aided and Abetted”

  1. #1 Jon Garfunkel
    on Jan 15th, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Help me out here.
    If, as Brother Jay says, “the Internet weakens the authority of the press,” why is Brother Glenn so exasperated about the persistent power of the “establishment media” to establish the agenda?

    It’s possible that there are some dissenters in the press. But to Greenwald, there is “virtual unanimity.” So much for the nuance that database-backed websites could provide…

    Time for the Hearsay Network, after 4 years of first floating the idea?

  2. #2 Dan Gillmor
    on Jan 18th, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    There’s no contradiction from my perspective. Over time the Net will weaken the authority of the press. We’re just not there yet.

  3. #3 Seth Finkelstein
    on Jan 19th, 2009 at 1:26 am

    Then when would it be fair to assess it right or wrong?

  4. #4 Jon Garfunkel
    on Jan 19th, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Wouldn’t you know it, on Thursday Glenn interviewed Jay for Salon Radio! (transcript) Here’s the core of the exchange:

    GG: “…So, in terms of what blogs are doing in that regard, does that undermine in a meaningful way, the media’s hold on dominant public discourse?…”

    JR: “…It’s a much more open game than it was, and more and more I think journalists are influenced by actors who would have been silent in the sphere of deviance before, and now have a lot more tools at their disposal, and journalists themselves, at least some of the smarter ones, are readers of the blogosphere, and they themselves use it to correct the narrative they get from the press, and it’s simply a messier but more interesting and varied world now…”

    From Jay: “Journalists … use [new tools] to correct the narrative they get from the press.” But they are the press…?

    I guess it comes down to this. What is the net effect of Glenn and Jay? I’d say motivating ordinary blogger-activists. Will it change “establishment journalism”? Probably not, EJ’s are still trying to convey what the establishment thinks, lest the common-tariat get false hopes. Should public opinion be swayed by EJ? Probably not totally. What will ultimately change establishment journalism? Economics.