29 June, 2006

Press credentials

The news has been wall-to-wall debates over whether the New York Times should lose its White House press passes because of its treasonous act of reporting on this "secret" organization along with the Wall Street Journal and L.A. Times. Leave aside the fact that this is the most ridiculous demagoguery ever: it is getting tremendous traction among the kind of people who vote in cable-TV call-in polls and is almost certainly a more popular idea than the idea of leaving Bush in charge of the country for another week.

I'm not going to argue against this idea. Plenty of smarter people have. Instead, I like to think about what would happen if they did lose their press credentials. I think it would be the best thing to happen to them since the Pentagon Papers. They now dedicate at least one reporter for half of every workday to sitting around in a crumbling little room transcribing non-denial denials and noncomittal assents from a guy who doesn't know, doesn't even want to know, squat about turkey. It's worse when the POTUS travels, as they have to send some fancy-pants reporter along to see -- usually nothing. It's partly what the wire reporters call deathwatch: you just need to be there in case the guy gets shot. But as far as news, it tends quickly to turn into stories about what the press was interested in or how the grounds are kept at Crawford, because the president and his flaks don't provide information. They barely provide entertainment. I doubt that a picture of the president on the cover of a newspaper sells as many copies as a picture of a pretty sunset.

Meanwhile, the White House press corps does more for the President than he does for them. They continue to quote his lies, put his ugly mug on the front page, and otherwise treat him like a celebrity and important character rather than the pathetic pawn he is. He needs them to prop up his image more than they need him to improve sales or to enhance truth.

Instead, that $100,000+ a year top-notch high-speed reporter could be spending day after day pursuing news containing has both information and entertainment value. Sell papers and support democracy at the same time.

Does Sy Hersh have a White House press pass? He might, but you can't tell from his stories. Still, he has helped the New Yorker become a serious news organ while exposing some of the worst crimes in Iraq, such as Abu Ghraib. How about it?

Why not give up the little plastic cards? The White House soon will learn -- they are much better off keeping you inside than forcing you to go out and write real news.


the bushies are assisted by the unbelievable scale and scope of the difference between what they say/imply they're going to do and what they do. by blacking out all the doors and windows of the executive branch, they've created the equivalent of the overnight release of a 10,000 page document - nobody has time to both figure out what the bureaucracy is supposed  to be doing and discover the actual practice. essentially they've sent plausible deniability all the way down the ladder, creating exponential layers of opacity. by the end of the term, almost regardless of which party controls the congress, they will have accomplished huge chunks of the anti-popular-government crowd's agenda, either in name or in sum.

press passes or not, the major news outlets could care less if the feds are doing the will of the people. a strongly worded argument and a black box turns away most of the eyes, and the rest end up chasing foxes in the woods while the house is being burned down.

people are all hot and bothered about the signing statements, about torture, pick an exposed issue, without wondering, are they doing anything as expected or required? are there any rules on the book they follow with regularity? what hidden changes have they made at the IRS? or agriculture? or education, their sworn enemy?

all this while the clock twirls on the really big stuff. a couple nights ago, al gore went on the daily show and said, "i do think that the situation we're facing is outside the boundaries of what the political system is used to contemplating, and that's part of the problem."

well what IS the political system contemplating. is it something the press is really ready to discover? that an american administration would obey none of the rules that had been negotiated in something like good faith over the years, corrected for corruption and class? 

Posted by hibiscus

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