Monday, April 20, 2009

Hiding the Truth From the Public

Photo: The super massive black hole at the center of our Galaxy

Glenn Greenwald
wrote an excellent blog post yesterday about how the views about torture of a large portion of Americans are not represented in the establishment media.  Glenn sites various recent polls that show large numbers of Americans favor investigations into the Bush torture program even though our beltway establishment does not. He then uses an example of what is typically shown on TV whenever the issue is discussed. 

The example Greenwald used was the panel discussion on this past Sunday's Meet the Press that supposedly "debated' the torture memos. As Glenn rightfully points out it really wasn't a debate because all of the people on the panel held the same "beltway insiders" view that there should be no investigation or prosecution for torture even though that view is completely at odds with the views of a majority of Americans.

Consider yesterday's Meet the Press panel discussion of this issue involving David Gregory and five exceedingly typical Beltway insiders -- The Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein, Fortune's Nina Easton, Time's Rick Stengel, former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and former "moderate" Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr.  That's three ostensibly non-partisan journalists, a right-wing fanatic, and a New Republic/DLC Democrat from Tennessee whose career was built on proving how much he embraces GOP policies -- that's called "diversity of views" in Establishment Media World.  
Exactly as one would expect, they were all in full and complete agreement that there must be no investigations or prosecutions.  There was not a syllable uttered that political officials should be treated the same as ordinary Americans when they got caught breaking the law.  As always, only the suffocatingly narrow Beltway consensus is heard in our political debates, even when huge percentages of Americans reject it

In addition to the media panels, where everyone agrees that there should be no investigation or prosecution, that Glenn correctly documented yesterday, there is also a second type of establishment media discussion about this issue, that while appearing to give voice to alternative views on this issue, actually promotes the same inside-the-beltway conclusion that there should be no accountability for torture.

This alternative, media approved discussion about torture uses a "crossfire" type setting. The typical "discussion"  always has a "conservative" pitted against a "liberal." The conservative always argues for using torture and the liberal always argues against it. Usually there will be either a third person added to this mix or the "moderator" will themselves act as the third person that supposedly represents the "centrist" viewpoint, when in reality they represent the "inside-the-beltway" viewpoint.  The "centrist" is always portrayed as the "reasonable" member of the trio. They usually argue against using torture (not always) and they always argue that there should be no legal accountability for torture.

In these discussions the use of factual information is not only not required but the more extreme and factually ignorant your rhetoric the better our media seems to like it. In fact, having a guest with an extreme view on torture, like CNN did recently when they used convicted felon, G. Gordon Liddy, they guarantee that the rhetoric will be so extreme and factually false that the guest on the left (in the CNN example Joan Walsh from will usually end up having to abandon their own argument in order to take time out to counter the crazy off-the-wall comments coming from the radical torture apologist guest on the right.  

By having both the guests going at it tooth and nail arguing over red herrings the viewer frequently loses sight of the real argument (this CNN example is actually quite mild compared to what we normally see). This, of course,  is what the media wants to achieve all along because then their "centrist" can look oh, so reasonable compared to the squabbling guests.  So what does the establishment media hope to achieve by setting up these crossfire type exchanges?

They want the viewers to believe: 

1. All conservatives favor using torture and are not for politically "vindictive"  prosecutions  
2. All liberals are against using torture but they are for politically "vindictive" prosecutions
3. Centrists are against using torture but are also against politically "vindictive" prosecutions
4. All conservatives are crazy torturers
5. All liberals are petty, unreasonable, smug and "vindictive" scolds
6. Centrists are rational adults who are reasonable and not "vindictive"

These shows aren't real debates about the issues any more than the panel discussions, where everyone agrees with each other are real discussions. These are nothing more than a cynical marketing ploy used by our media in an effort to protect the status quo by selling the American people on the idea that while torture may be bad we shouldn't hold any officials legally accountable for it because that's nothing but political payback - "liberal score-settling" or as President Obama and his people claim - Retribution. 

All of this brings me to what I'd originally planned on writing this blog post about. I've noticed for a long time that our establishment media has tried to sell the public on the false idea that the torture issue is all about liberals vs. conservatives, left vs. right  or Republicans vs. Democrats. They are doing this so that citizens of all political persuasions, who are horrified about what our government has done in our names, will not band together to force our government to hold these war criminals accountable.  Our media and political elite want us to continue squabbling with each other, just like the guests do on the "crossfire" type shows, in order to divide us so that our power to demand accountability will be diluted. That's why they don't want us to know that there are conservatives who favor accountability (more on that in my next post) or liberals who don't advocate  prosecutions of Bush administration officials just because they hate Republicans. That's also why they don't want us to know that there are more people who favor accountability for torture than those who don't. 

Our establishment media and political elites know that if we know the truth about all of these things that there will be no way for them to stop us from forcing our government to hold our leaders accountable. They also know that once we stop viewing each other as the "enemy" that we will all discover who our "real" enemies have been all of these years. And once that happens then the chummy club of insiders, who have had a stranglehold on our country for decades, will no longer be running the show and calling the shots. And the thought of having a true democracy positively scares them to death.

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