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That damn liberal media, with their tricks and agendas, always trying to take down the president…
About 50 members of the White House press corps accepted President Bush’s invitation last night to come over to his house in Crawford, eat his food, drink his booze, hang around the pool and schmooze with him — while promising not to tell anyone what he said afterward… in spite of all the recent press demands for senior administration officials to stay on the record more often, the press corps can’t resist an offer of face time with the president, pretty much no matter what the conditions.
Watchdogs who can literally be brought to heel by throwing them tablescraps. Fried catfish and homemade cheese, in this case. Fucking pathetic.
I’m told that several reporters expressed squeamishness about last night’s event, particularly as the press-pool vans drove by antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan’s “Camp Casey” site. And later, a small handful watched askance as the rest fawned over Bush, following him around in packs every time he moved.
Oh no, the soccer moms might wave their “War is Bad” signs at the tinted windows of our air-conditioned vans! Viewing the peasants at such close distance might distract me as we drink the president’s beer poolside and lovingly nuzzle at his crotch!
Okay, here’s the deal. Real investigative journalism is dangerous. As the saying goes, its purpose is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” And the comfortable usually have a fair amount of power, and have few qualms about afflicting anyone who threatens that comfort. Meaning that if you’re a journalist with any kind of audience, you will constantly have powerful people angry at you, possibly even trying to get you discredited, fired, killed, destroyed, etc. You’re not “speaking truth to power”, but as Ward Churchill fittingly put it, you’re “speaking truth to people, while in the teeth of power.”
The press corps that cover the powerful, however, have been co-opted. They have negotiated cozy roles for themselves in which they can report news while ruffling a minimum of feathers. That way, the reporters keep their jobs, the powerful keep their comfort, and the public keep their afflictions.
Writing this post really should have reminded me of one of Jon’s that I’ve been meaning to talk about. Essentially, he tells of attending a fancy Yale event where a Washington Post columnist which confirms his idea that both the media and the country’s politicians share a point of view that a group of elite individuals are fit to run things, while everyone else should be kept in the dark. He quotes Thomas Jefferson to sum it up:
Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depository of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still, and pursue the same object. The last appellation of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.
So by Jon’s reckoning, the DC press corps aren’t just people who have carved themselves cozy niches by leaving the rich in power. He seems to feel that the DC press corps are consciously in the business of making sure that the reins of power are in the hands of “their betters.” They truly are not small-d democrats, the ones who believe that people ought to have a say in their own lives. They are literally aristocrats, believing that the people should be ruled by a small elite class. You and I are a bunch of yokels who can’t be trusted to make our own decisions, only these Great Men deserve to, distinguished by their… damned if I know.
And I suppose that feeling grows. The more you trick, decieve and rob people, the more you think they deserve it. I mean, they must be awfully stupid to fall for it, which means that you’re smarter than them. Which means that it’s better for you to make their decisions for them than to let them make their own. And in exchange for this benevolent service, for keeping watch over the idiot masses–who’d surely drown in their own toilets without your guidance and wisdom otherwise– you’re allowed whatever you want. Anything.
I imagine the press corps feel that they belong to this class as well, that they do their part to help lead the sheep. Probably not in those harsh terms, of course.
Sigh. Any more and this’ll start reading like a manifesto. I’ll stop.