2/16/2005

Media for a post-truth society

Eric Alterman on Alternet:
The United States government is currently run by a group of people for whom verifiable truth holds no particular privilege over ideologically inspired nonsense. For members of the mainstream media, trying to maintain a sense of self-importance and solemnity and to keep the wing nuts from crowing for more scalps, this requires a series of stratagems to keep up the scripted charade, no matter how foolish it makes them look or feel while doing so.
The easiest of these stratagems is simply to stack the coverage with political partisans and give them free rein to spout GOP propaganda. That's what the cable news networks do, as Media Matters for America has demonstrated. Consistent with cable inauguration coverage, for example, MSNBC offered viewers of its State of the Union commentary 11 right-wing pundits and just two Democrats or liberals in response.
A second technique is more often deployed on network television, where such naked partisanship is frowned upon, but executives are, if anything, even more worried about appearing unsympathetic to the red-state, red-meat offerings of George W. Bush. This is to ignore the substance and focus on the spectacle, the "feelings" and the atmosphere.
...Of course, journalism is by definition a process of selection and omission, so it can be a little unfair to single out what reporters failed to report about Bush's SOTU speech. But the unhappy fact is that almost everything this administration tries to sell to Americans is snake oil, and the mere act of reporting it without comment implicates the media in the fundamental dishonesty that is this president's modus operandi. When he says "freedom," he means the freedom of the United States and its allies to jail and torture anyone they choose. When he says "liberty," he means the liberty of other governments to profess to share the alleged aims of U.S. foreign policy and then – like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Egypt – jail and silence all critics without inconvenient criticism from the United States. (If you play the game right, you can even provide weapons to anti-American terrorists and fund anti-American and anti-Semitic propaganda on behalf of the terrorists, all the while remaining a close friend of Bush & Co.)
This is apparently what NBC's Andrea Mitchell had in mind when she spoke of the administration's "democracy agenda that Condi Rice is going to be bringing to Europe and the Middle East." Or perhaps she meant an American invasion of Iran; or the destruction of Social Security. It's hard to know in a post-truth society what anything means anymore, except more nonsense and lies, dutifully reported.

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