"They Sent Out the Directive"
It so happened, on my second night here in this town that exudes a class and sophistication completely unbecoming the faux Texas twit currently in residence in that awesome, foreboding and utterly secluded mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., that I sat down with my girlfriend to relax and have some tea at a cafe in Dupont Circle.
That Dupont Circle and its environs presented one of the few locales in this strange city still bustling with people at a late hour on this balmy night was a relief, and presented the rare opportunity to see a diverse mix of the city's populace--and to sit in close proximity to them in the crowded cafe.
Seated next to me were three Midwestern-looking Caucasian men in their mid-30's to early 40's, enjoying Chai and Jasmine teas over rice paneer dishes. I had just been remarking to my girlfriend that, while it seemed nerdy but somewhat arcane to speak of complex political matters in Los Angeles, here in D.C. where everyone lives, eats, and breathes politics and travels on buses with advertisements for C-Span and against Roe v. Wade plastered ubiquitously, it seemed almost arrogantly pedantic to talk politics at any decibel above a murmer in public--if not unwise, for you never know who is listening.
It was a lesson that one of the men next to me should well have heeded; for it is one of the incredible revolutions of the online political world that you never know who the unassuming-looking person next to you might be. It might just be a blogger with the power to act as a megaphone with the potential to carry your conversation to a million people.
And so it was that, as my girlfriend and I were discussing sotto voce the dark aura that had seemed to exude from the well-guarded Gates of Mordor at 1600 Pennsylvania earlier in the day, one of the men asked his acquaintance how his job was, and where exactly it was that he worked.
"Well, it's nothing special. I basically sit in the news room of CNN's World News section and write copy for and review stories that go out. That and get people's coffee!"
At this point my ears perked up, I shushed the conversation with my girlfriend, and listened intently to what was said next.
After discussing coffee for a time, one of the men mentioned Bush's abysmal popularity ratings, and asked how this might be affecting news coverage. Fully expecting a diplomatic answer to the tune of, "It doesn't matter, we try our best to report the news as we see it," I was shocked by what was actually said in return. And by how low the media has truly fallen.
The reply was as follows:
"Well, you know, that's an interesting question.
Back sometime in 2004, I was writing copy for an article about one of the U.S. troop deaths--it was like the 1,507th or something like that. My sentence on the subject said something like, 'Sgt. Major so-and-so, the 1507th casualty so far in the Iraqi front of the American War on Terror...'
I submitted it to the managing editor, and he came back and told me, 'No. You've got to take that out. We don't put things like that in our stories to remind people of the casualty count.'
And I was like, 'ok, but may I ask why?'. And he said, 'It's just policy.'"
"Just policy?" "We don't...remind people of the casualty count?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Of course, we all knew it had to be true--we were on top of the awful media bias at the time.
Personally, my first thought as I listened to this story was that the phrase "Iraqi Front of the American War on Terror" was biased enough already--but apparently it was a prounounced failure to be adequately biased in the favor of jingoistic propaganda at what LGF calls the "Communist News Network". It's "pravda" all right--it's just moving the other direction.
But what followed was even more fascinating:
"But now, you see, in 2005, every other story that comes out from our offices contains an updated number of the war dead. And why? Because Bush's poll numbers are down.
They finally felt it was safe enough to tell the truth, so they sent out the directive that every story about a troop death in the Iraq war should now carry a casualty count.
So yeah, I would say that Bush's poll numbers are a factor. But we weren't permitted to tell the truth before the election, when it would have made any difference."
I was blowing steam out my ears.
Does anyone remember the scene from "Twelve Angry Men" when the Sports Nut changes his vote from "Guilty" to "Not Guilty" just to get out of the room faster? When the immigrant (voting "Not Guilty") stands up and asks him why he changed his vote, and the Sports Nut answers "Just Because," the immigrant says something to the effect of, "What kind of man are you? A man's life is at stake here! If you believe he is guilty, you should speak the truth, and if you believe he is not guilty, you should do the same! Don't change your vote just because you find it convenient--do it out of conviction! Or what kind of a man are you?"
Because the media is nothing but this. It's not (for the most part) owned by BushCo. It's not right-wing, per se. It's neither a watchdog for truth nor an exploiter of the innocent.
The media is just a cowardly dog, peeing down its shaking back legs, with its tail tucked squarely behind. If Bush is up, it serves as his propaganda piece. And when Bush is down, it feels like it can start hitting him.
It is no longer the comforter of the afflicted and the afflicter of the comfortable. It IS the comfortable. And it afflicts whoever is most afflicted.
And like Sam Jackson's Jules in "Pulp Fiction," it stopped being the shepherd long ago; it's now just the tyranny of evil men, trying hard to be the shepherd. And failing.
It's time for a revolution. The gates are crashing down--not only in Democratic politics, but in the media world as well. Access is now becoming truly democratic.
And while the media is finally starting to become comfortable with beating on Bush while he's down, that doesn't mean it's become comfortable with telling the truth. It's just the bully's little helper--and a stopped clock is right twice a day.
The truth will set you free. And we're the only ones at this point who can tell it.
Keep fighting, my fellow followers of Diogenes. And I'll keep my ears out for stories from the wild of our government and its "insiders" in their natural habitat.