The Blue Raccoon

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Wake, Live And In Color
The passing of a media giant

The death of Meet The Press moderator Tim Russert, at 58, visits bereavement and grief to his immediate circle of family and friends. The nation will be deprived in this current election cycle of his great experience and knowledge of the process. However, I am not under the impression that Russert would've wanted non-stop memorializing of him by his colleagues and associates. These are people whose grief is apparent while they are trying to hold themselves together to give on-air eulogies. This is what they do; they are on television.

We are experiencing a wake, live and in color, and perhaps fitting to the extent that it joins Mr. Russert's faith with his vocation. That being said, however, Mr. Russert was not a head of state. He was not killed by a violent tragedy. He suffered a massive heart attack while preparing for his Sunday telecast. To see images of him, repeating now on almost every cable channel, makes the death all the more surreal. He is gone from this planet, but not yet from television. He has become a ghost in the machine.

The answer to my frustration, of seeking news somewhere that is void of show-biz clatter (Why do new stories need theme music and laser light show graphics?), is to just turn the damn thing off. Which I do. And then enter into an interior debate about whether Turner Classic Movies and Indieplex is worth everything else one must wade through, in addition to the rising expense for, well, passive entertainment. And let's face facts; anything you watch on television, whether its disaster coverage or American Gladiators, is entertainment because you are sitting down and viewing this when you could be doing something else (like, I dunno, reading a book or planting your Victory Garden, or reading a book).

And I know that my time--and, yes, billion-eyed audience--your time-- should be more valuable than parking in front of the Decomposition Box. But I'm just as narcotized by the moving images as anybody. Which is another reason we should just unplug.

Television is sheer subversive genius, whether intended, or not, the effect is the same. Rather than Big Brother watching you, you are watching him, though he comes in many guises and varieties. Oh, it isn't that the individuals are doing anything more than their job. But added up, in totality, this is the most powerful force for information--and persuasion-- ever conceived of. And those who are on the screen with any regularity, in particular if they are in the news aspect, have a tremendous responsibility to the public. But we've come to expect less.

The sudden nature of Mr. Russert's passing comes a shock, to be certain, and that alone has sent many reeling; however, I have felt, that there was an aspect to his position as one of the nation's most visible journalist that, when demonstrated, I found difficult to comprehend.

Below is a video excerpt, with accompanying transcript, from Bill Moyers' methodical demolition of the pretexts for the war in Iraq. I viewed the program when it aired last year, and lost what little faith I had in the major journalistic organizations as institutions: from the New York Times to NBC to you name it. Individual reporters, sometimes acting with great fortitude, stand out as champions. Almost everybody else comes off looking bad, but, the frightening aspect of this is, that those who were supposed to be getting at the truth in these matters of war and peace were instead complicit in their own deception.

Shocking it is to see, there at minute 7:46 in this excerpt, Mr. Russert getting played like a bass viol by Vice-President Dick Cheney. When I watched this, I found it difficult to understand how such a sad situation could come to pass.

Bob Simon, who put his life on the line in Iraq to report this story, leaves in tatters the great credit Russert is given for his research -- at least in respect to this particular moment in time.




DICK CHENEY (MEET THE PRESS NBC 9/8/02): There's a story in the NEW YORK TIMES this morning, this is-- and I want to attribute this to the TIMES. I don't want to talk about obviously specific intelligence sources, but--

JONATHAN LANDAY: Now, ordinarily information like the aluminum tubes wouldn't appear. It was top secret intelligence, and the Vice President and the National Security Advisor would not be allowed to talk about this on the Sunday talk shows. But, it appeared that morning in the NEW YORK TIMES and, therefore, they were able to talk about it.

DICK CHENEY (MEET THE PRESS NBC 9/8/02): It's now public that, in fact, he has been seeking to acquire and we have been able to intercept to prevent him from acquiring through this particular channel the kinds of tubes that are necessary to build a centrifuge and the centrifuge is required to take low-grade uranium and enhance it into highly-enriched uranium which is what you have to have in order to build a bomb."

BILL MOYERS: Did you see that performance?

BOB SIMON: I did.

BILL MOYERS: What did you think?

BOB SIMON: I thought it was remarkable.

BILL MOYERS: Why?

BOB SIMON: Remarkable. You leak a story, and then you quote the story. I mean, that's a remarkable thing to do.

BILL MOYERS: AND THAT'S ONLY PART OF IT. USING THE IDENTICAL LANGUAGE OF THE ANONYMOUS SOURCES QUOTED IN THE TIMES, TOP OFFICIALS WERE NOW INVOKING THE ULTIMATE SPECTRE OF NUCLEAR WAR - THE SMOKING GUN AS MUSHROOM CLOUD.

CONDOLEEZA RICE (CNN 9/8/02): There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire a nuclear weapon. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

ERIC BOEHLERT: Those sorts of stories when they appear on the front page of the so called liberal NEW YORK TIMES, it absolutely comes with a stamp of approval. I mean if the NEW YORK TIMES thinks Saddam is on the precipice of mushroom clouds, then, there's really no debate.

BOB SCHEIFFER: (FACE THE NATION, CBS 9/8/02) We read in the NEW YORK TIMES today a story that says that Saddam Hussein is closer to acquiring nuclear weapons... Does he have nuclear weapons, is there a smoking gun here?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Smoking gun is an interesting phrase.

COLIN POWELL: Then as we saw in reporting just this morning...

TIM RUSSERT: What specifically has he obtained that you believe will enhance his nuclear development program.

BILL MOYERS: Was it just a coincidence in your mind that Cheney came on your show and others went on the other Sunday shows, the very morning that that story appeared?

TIM RUSSERT: I don't know. The NEW YORK TIMES is a better judge of that than I am.

BILL MOYERS: No one tipped you that it was going to happen?

TIM RUSSERT: No, no. I mean-

BILL MOYERS: The Cheney office didn't leak to you that there's gonna be a big story?

TIM RUSSERT: No. No. I mean, I don't have the-- This is, you know-- on MEET THE PRESS, people come on and there are no ground rules. We can ask any question we want. I did not know about the aluminum tubes story until I read it in the NEW YORK TIMES.

BILL MOYERS: Critics point to September eight, 2002 and to your show in particular, as the classic case of how the press and the government became inseparable. Someone in the Administration plants a dramatic story in the NEW YORK TIMES And then the Vice President comes on your show and points to the NEW YORK TIMES. It's a circular, self-confirming leak.

TIM RUSSERT: I don't know how Judith Miller and Michael Gordon reported that story, who their sources were. It was a front-page story of the NEW YORK TIMES. When Secretary Rice and Vice President Cheney and others came up that Sunday morning on all the Sunday shows, they did exactly that.

My concern was, is that there were concerns expressed by other government officials. And to this day, I wish my phone had rung, or I had access to them.

BILL MOYERS: BOB SIMON DIDN'T WAIT FOR THE PHONE TO RING.

BILL MOYERS: You said a moment ago when we started talking to people who knew about aluminum tubes. What people-who were you talking to?

BOB SIMON: We were talking to people - to scientists - to scientists and to researchers, and to people who had been investigating Iraq from the start.

BILL MOYERS: Would these people have been available to any reporter who called or were they exclusive sources for 60 MINUTES?

BOB SIMON: No, I think that many of them would have been available to any reporter who called.

BILL MOYERS: And you just picked up the phone?

BOB SIMON: Just picked up the phone.

BILL MOYERS: Talked to them?

BOB SIMON: Talked to them and then went down with the cameras.

BILL MOYERS: FEW JOURNALISTS FOLLOWED SUIT. AND THROUGHOUT THE FALL OF 2002 HIGH OFFICIALS WERE REPEATING APOCALYPTIC WARNINGS WITH VIRTUALLY NO DEMAND FROM THE ESTABLISHMENT PRESS FOR EVIDENCE.

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2 Comments:

At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Jean said...

More here:
http://acropolisreview.com/2008/06/video-bill-moyers-on-media-journalism.html

 
At 9:18 AM, Blogger HEK said...

Jean:

Thanks for visiting his corner of the Internets. I appreciate the link--I took time to listen though through my computer down load Moyers was herky-jerky like in a nickelodian.

I love me some Bill Moyers. My hope is that his words inspire younger members of media culture, but the forces arrayed against the truth seekers is large and annoyed, and its appetite for the inconsequential bottomless.

 

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