March 29, 2004

No one was explicitly censoring the news, but the political climate, dominated by an Administration which polarized the challenge as "you are with us or against us" led to corporate timidity and self censorship.

It's the Media, Stupid.

Danny Schecter, Media Channel: No one was explicitly censoring the news, but the political climate, dominated by an Administration which polarized the challenge as "you are with us or against us" led to corporate timidity and self censorship.

Break the Bush Cabal Stranglehold on the "US
Mainstream News Media," Show Up for Democracy in 204:
Defeat Bush (again!)

Published on Monday, March 29, 2004 by
Clarke and the Media Failures of 9-11
by Danny Schecter

NEW YORK, March 29, 2004 -- Please raise your hand if
the name Richard Clarke rang a bell for you three
weeks ago?

How many of us knew who he was or what he did? And who
among us can cite examples of TV stories or
commentators discussing in any detail his contention
that the War on Iraq undermined the war on Terror?

I don't see too many hands and I can't really answer
these questions with appropriate detail to my own
satisfaction. Yes. there were discussions of the
problems with the Iraq war and the lack of priority
paid to the search for Al Qaeda but not the direct
relationship between the two in the way Clarke sees
the issue.

How many times have you seen that issue investigated
in documentaries or hard hitting media stories? How
many stories have there even been on 9-11 issues and
questions before these hearings legitimized the issue?

As Richard Clarke points to intelligence failures and
apologizes to 9-11 families for the government's
inability to prevent the attack, who was going to
raise the issue of the media's failure to discuss
these issues in detail before this past week?

Who in our media will have the courage to apologize
for giving the Administration a soft sell and a big

Media Failures

Perhaps it takes a silver haired, hawkish hardliner
and Washington insider and Securocrat to finally put
some, but hardly all, of the 9-11 issues on the
agenda. Clarke's difference with Clinton is that he
wanted more bombing. His analysis of the roots of what
he calls Islamic radicalism was superficial. He even
expressed a wish that Fidel Castro be taken out.

This is not new. More liberal critics or people who
reject the Washington cold war foreign policy
consensus are rarely heard or taken seriously. It is
only defectors from the right that seem to get heard
like Treasury Secretary O'Neil. Even Dan Ellseberg who
gave us the Pentagon Papers was credible to the
Beltway crowd because he had worked for the Pentagon
and Rand Corporation.

As anyone who has followed these issues knows, a whole
body of questions being raised on hundreds of
websites, and by independent investigators and groups
of 9-11 families were marginalized and for the most
part ignored. Have a look at for
a sampling.

It seems like you have to be in "the club" to be taken
seriously. The irony of course is that the hearings
only took place because of the persistence of a
handful of outsiders-- activist wives of 9-11 victims
who lobbied for the investigation like crazy and then
walked out in disgust when many of their questions
were sidelined and after national Security Advisor
Condoleeza Rice refused to testify because of a bogus
separation of powers "principle," which she claims
precludes her from testifying before Congress. She
made the same claim in an all too friendly interview
on 60 Minutes.

Neither correspondent Ed Bradley nor other
commentators have pointed out to her that this
Commission was appointed by the President, not the
Congress and only met in a room on the Hill. The
reference to testifying before Congress is misplaced.

What she did say that was interesting was to allude to
the kind of context and background that is missing in
most of the media, "You have to go back into the 70's
and 80's," she said. Her reading of that history was
very selective but at least she cited it. That is
precisely what the 9-11 investigation and the media
coverage has NOT done.

Changing The Subject

Ever since Clarke testified, the Administration has
cleverly changed the subject from the issues he raised
to his own credibility. Is he a partisan? Did he write
different things in a press release he issued for the
White House when he worked for President Bush than in
his book, which challenges the President? Tim Russert
threw every criticism that has been raised about him
to him on Meet The Press this week. Clarke decried the
attack politics but also answered the questions.

It was like a game of ping pong better known as 'they
say/you say."

You have heard this politicizing of his testimony
aided and abetted by virtually every show on the air.
He has been on 15 or more news programs and on most of
them the questions were the same, as commentator Harry
Browne noted on

"Providing their usual support for big government, TV
and press reporters repeated and discussed statements
Clarke made in 2001 and 2002 -- statements that seemed
to back up the charge that Clarke was an opportunistic

"But did you notice that every reporter showed us
exactly the same statements from Clarke? Some of the
apparent 'statements' weren't even complete sentences.
Why did everyone who commented on Clarke's apparent
flip-flop focus on exactly the same fragments?

"They did so because those were the only fragments
they had to work with. The quotes were all provided by
the Bush administration -- and they're the only quotes
available. If the reporters had possessed the original
documents, some of them would have picked out other
statements or fragments from those documents.

Attack Dogs Get Air Time A Plenty

Media programs could not do enough to provide a
platform for Administration officials to respond, to
get some heat rather than light going, to "balance"
the issue rather than advance it with tougher
reporting. These interviews aimed to provide Bush
supporters with ammunition, not information.

Notes Browne: "Top administration officials have
already appeared on numerous national news shows.
Condoleezza Rice showed up on all five national
morning shows (on NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and CNN). The
attack dogs said very little about the actual charges,
preferring to attack Clarke personally as a hypocrite
who previously praised President Bush's response to

This reflects a pattern of how controversial issues
that challenge those in power invariably get
personalized and narrowed when they should be
broadened and deepened.

Why The Media Cop-Out?

Why has the media establishment being been unwilling
or unable take on the political establishment? What
accounts for the lack of bravery and determination to
seek the truth?

Some newspapers like The Wall Steet Journal have done
a good job. Independent muckrakers alike Greg Palast
have dug up some dirt. But far too many TV reporters
have opted to become semi-official stenographers with
American flags in their lapel. What were they afraid
of in the years since 9-11 and the advent of a
political season that has finally created some space
for tough journalism.

No one was explicitly censoring the news, but the
political climate, dominated by an Administration
which polarized the challenge as "you are with us or
against us" led to corporate timidity and self

With Fox News functioning as "bully boys," to use
Christianne Amanpour's phrase, many networks muzzled
and self-censored themselves.

War correspondent Peter Arnett saw a psychological
subtext. He told me: "Don't forget the American media
is based in NYC, and every reporter in NYC saw the
World Trade Towers collapse and they took it
personally. There was a sense of revenge and fear,
which was reflected in the coverage of Afghanistan and
the War on Terror. As we moved into Iraq, a more
pre-emptive strike, the media maintained this sort of
romance, you might say with government."

Rather "Humbled"

CBS's Dan Rather embodied the kind of personal
schizophrenia that 9-11 produced in many journalists.
Just after 9-11. He went on the Letterman show and
professed his patriotism. He said: "I would willingly
die for my country at a moment's notice and on the
command of my president…."

The following spring in May 2002 he went on BBC's
Newsnight, their "Nightline," and spoke of ways he
pulled his punches because of personal fears. He
invoked the memory of black South Africans necklacing
informers by putting burning tires around their necks.
He must have been a haunted when he explained:

"In some ways, the fear is that you will be necklaced
here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of
patriotism put around your neck. It's that fear that
keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the
tough questions and to continue to bore-in on the
tough questions so often. Again, I'm humbled to say I
do not except myself from this criticism."

You can see the interview and read about it on the
BBC's website here.

In England, it was considered big news that an anchor
of Rather's prominence would confess to not asking
tough questions. Almost every newspaper in London put
the story on its front page.

In the U.S. the interview was mostly not covered at
all, and certainly not on Rather's own network. The
only reference to it I saw was a quote in The Los
Angeles Times' Calendar Section

In short, it was buried.

As has much of this issue. 9-11 is not just about
intelligence failures or mismanagement in the White
House. It is about deeper political failures on both
sides of the aisle.

As you watch the get Clarke brigades do their things
on the networks recognize that the same media outlets
that did such a good job covering what happened on
9-11, did a really lousy job of explaining how it
could have happened by failing to systematically
investigate government incompetence -- and even

This story is not over yet. We have just touched the
surface. Like the Kennedy Assassination, it is
predicable that more and more Americans will come to
distrust the official narrative.

News Dissector Danny Schechter writes the News
Dissector Blog on His book "Media
Wars" discusses coverage gaps of the 9-11 attack and
news at a time of terror.

©, 2004


Posted by richard at March 29, 2004 02:49 PM