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Bush and the Press

Writing in The Nation, Eric Alterman has quite the attack on the Bush administration’s “War on the Press“:

Make no mistake: The Bush Administration and its ideological allies are employing every means available to undermine journalists’ ability to exercise their First Amendment function to hold power accountable….

Bush himself, on more than one occasion, has told reporters he does not read their work and prefers to live inside the information bubble blown by his loyal minions. Vice President Cheney feels free to kick the New York Times off his press plane, and John Ashcroft can refuse to speak with any print reporters during his Patriot-Act-a-palooza publicity tour, just to compliant local TV…. For those who didn’t like it, another Bush adviser explained, “Let me clue you in. We don’t care. You see, you’re outnumbered two to one by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don’t read the New York Times or Washington Post or the LA Times.”

Alterman goes on to attack at length the administration’s three main tools: “Secrecy, lies, and fake news.” He concludes, “‘Two cheers for democracy,’ wrote E.M. Forster, ‘one because it admits variety and two because it permits criticism.’ But the aim of the Bush offensive against the press is to do just the opposite; to insure, as far as possible, that only one voice is heard and that no criticism is sanctioned. The press may be the battleground, but the target is democracy itself.”

Not one to leave many standing once he’s finished, Alterman saves a fair amount of ammo to blast the media itself–from The Note‘s coziness to Len Downie’s stubbornness.

He accuses the press of being both witting and unwitting accomplices in the battle of its own undoing. But reading the article, it’s hard to see how the battle will advance–the responses necessary for the press to really fight this one seem to be far outside the bounds of the Washington establishment media.

After all, nothing says cozy like a Washington journalist, and–as Ron Hutcheson found out when he walked out of a useless anonymous briefing–changing the established practices can be a lonely endeavor.

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