What has become of the print and TV media watchdogs who hounded President Nixon from office because he lied about when he learned of a minor burglary of no consequence in itself?
What became of the watchdog media that bayed after President Reagan because some low-level neoconservative officials sold arms to Iran and diverted the money to anti-communist insurgents in Latin America?
President Clinton was impeached by the House, though not convicted by the Senate, for lying about a sexcapade with a White House intern.
Now that we really need them, the watchdog media has hired out as public relations and propaganda shills for the Bush administration and the neocon network.
The entire Bush administrationu2014not merely the presidentu2014is involved in the most extraordinary lies and fabrication of false intelligence claims in order to lead America into an unwarranted and illegal invasion of Iraq, an invasion that has cost the US taxpayers $300 billion and resulted in the deaths and maiming of tens of thousands of people.
The sordid affair has been revealed in leaked top-secret Downing Street memos, which were prepared for UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his cabinet. Unlike the Nixon episode, there is no need to search for a "smoking gun." Smoking guns have been printed all over the pages of the London Times. Yet hardly a peep from the watchdog media.
The August 1 issue of The American Conservative reports that Vice President Cheney has instructed the US Strategic Command to prepare a plan to spread the war by attacking Iran with tactical nuclear weapons in the event of another terrorist attack on the US. Appalled US Air Force officers have leaked the story, but you have not learned of it from the tamed media.
A federal prosecutor seems to be closing in on Karl Rove, president Bush’s right-hand man, and on Scooter Libby, vice president Cheney’s right-hand man. The two are suspected of leaking the identity of a covert CIA agent, a felony. Both have had to hire lawyers. But there is no demand for accountability from the US media.
American civil liberties have been trounced by the "Patriot" Act. Torture of detainees is now a routine practice of the US government and defended by the attorney general. Senators and military officers who try to place constraints on the inhumane treatment of detainees are stonewalled by the White House.
The mainstream media has been co-opted as propaganda organ for the Bush administration. How did this come about?
It came about through media concentration. There are no longer independent voices in the mainstream media. American news reporting is a corporate operation run with a view to advertising profits and the accommodation of government in order to protect holdings of valuable federal licenses. For reporters and editors, knowing what to say and not to say is the main qualification for job security.
A person who wants to find out anything must go online and spend time learning the sites that are trustworthy.
The Internet, thought invaluable for spreading news, hasn’t the impact on the public of a story pounded over and over on TV news or newspaper front pages. Exposure on the Internet doesn’t have the same embarrassment factor as exposure on TV news and the New York Times front page.
The public is still socialized into taking its cue from the old TV and print media. This media is now heavily controlled, partly through job fears of editors and reporters.
This raises the question whether government officials who have broken the law and betrayed trust will be held accountable.
Consider the implications if the Bush administration escapes accountability:
The executive branch will have established itself as above the law.
The executive, armed with a compliant media, will have war-making power subject only to successful PR spin. It means the final end of the people’s right to declare war via elected representatives in Congress.
The few remaining restraints on the executive’s ability to detain people indefinitely without charges will be removed. This power will silence the Internet.
Spiteful neighbors, employees, former spouses, whomever will gain the power to report any disliked person. The anti-terrorist apparatus needs victims to demonstrate its effectiveness, and as warrants, hearings, and evidence are no longer required, Americans will simply disappear like Soviet citizens in the Stalin era.
The "imperial judiciary" will disappear overnight. No checks and balances will remain.
Gentle reader, you can continue with this theme in "How the Worst Get on Top," a chapter in F.A. Hayek’s classic, The Road to Serfdom. You might as well learn what it is going to be like as you are already half way there.
The worst rise rapidly as the honest depart the corrupt system. Two US Military prosecutors, Major Robert Preston and Captain John Carr, resigned after denouncing rigged Guantanamo trials of detainees as "a severe threat to the reputation of the military justice system and a fraud on the American people."
Altogether now, let’s yell, "I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any longer."
Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor for National Review, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.