Monday, June 09, 2008

Dan Rather busts ass on the MSM--UPDATED! Moyers does too!

This post has been UPDATED to include The Great Bill Moyers' presentation at the same conference.

Fellow Texans The Great Bill Moyers and former CBS anchorman Dan Rather had a few choice words to say about the corporate media this weekend at the National Conference for Media Reform hosted by Free Press.

Some highlights, first from Rather:

The Framers of our Constitution enshrined freedom of the press in the very first Amendment, up at the top of the Bill of Rights, not because they were great fans of journalists - like many politicians, then and now, they were not - but rather because they knew, as Thomas Jefferson put it, that, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was and never will be."

In the news and on the news, one could, to be sure, find persons and views that did not agree with all or parts of this official narrative. Hans Blix, the former U.N. chief weapons inspector, comes to mind as an example. But the burden of proof, implicitly or explicitly, was put on these dissenting views and persons... the burden of proof was not put on an administration that was demonstrably moving towards a large-scale military action that would represent a break with American precedent and stated policy of how, when, and under what circumstances this nation goes to war.

And these questions are met with what is now called, euphemistically and much too kindly, what is now called "message discipline." Well, we used to have a better and more accurate term for "message discipline." We called it "stonewalling."

But when a tough question is asked and not answered, when reputable people come before the public and say, "wait a minute, something's not right here," the press has treated them like voices crying in the wilderness.

But it is rare, now, to find a major news organization owned by an individual, someone who can say, in effect, "The buck stops here." The more likely motto now is: "The news stops... with making bucks."

One might ask just where the news fits into this model. And if you really need an answer, you can turn on your television, where you will see the following:
--Political analysis reduced to in-studio shouting matches between partisans armed with little more than the day's talking points.
--Precious time and resources wasted on so-called human-interest stories, celebrity fluff, sensationalist trials, and gossip.
--A proliferation of "news you can use" that amounts to thinly-disguised press releases for the latest consumer products.

Ensuring that a free press remains free will require vigilance, and it will require work. Please, take tonight's energy and inspiration home with you. Take it back to your desks and your workplaces, to your colleagues and your fellow citizens. magnify it, multiply it, and spread it. Make it viral. Make it something that cannot be ignored - not by the powers in Washington, not by the owners and executives of media companies. Write these people. Call them. Send them the message that you know your rights, you know that you are entitled to news media as diverse and varied as the American people... and that you deserve a press that provides the raw material of democracy, the good information that Americans need to be full participants in our government of, by, and for the people.

Then from Moyers:

"As journalism goes, so goes democracy," renowned PBS host Bill Moyers told the
crowd at the National Conference for Media Reform.

[Media consolidation is] …a corrosive social force. It robs them of their voice in public affairs, pollutes the political culture, and turns the debate over profound issues into a shouting match of polarized views promulgated by partisan apologists who trivialize democracy while refusing to speak the truth about how our country is being plundered.

So it is that democracy without honest information creates the illusion of popular consent while enhancing the power of the state and the privileged interests protected by it.

This is the role in which Rather can continue to make a difference: as critic of the MSM and a motivator to the public for action against the corporate media. I see this as more of his penance for playing Bush-lapdog (as most journalists did) for those years in the anchor chair at CBS Evening News. His piece on electronic voting machines was another bit of his penance, another "Our Father" hurled at the devil that is the corporate-owned media and its slavish devotion to BushCo.

Moyers has spent his career speaking truth to power; his Journal series was telling the truth about BushCo's lies and the media's peddling of those lies over a year ago. He didn't need Scotty McLellan to tell him Bush was lying.

I hope we keep getting more from Rather and Moyers--a couple of classic newsmen who still realize the importance of protecting the public from a hostile and controlling government. And I hope their example inspires a new generation of journalists to take the responsibilities of their profession as seriously as Rather and Moyers do.


Germaine Gregarious said...

I would find myself able to take Mr. Rather more seriously if he hadn't folded his little tent and gone home over the whole Killian memo mess.

He should have had Mary Mapes' back.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Bill Moyers for Vice President!

CDP said...

I'm with Germaine here; however, it does seem as if he's trying to atone now. And his analysis is dead right, particularly regarding "message discipline" and the whole trumped-up idea of "news you can use".

Bradda said...

Unfortunately I don't see the owners giving us a free press again anytime soon. The current system suits them just fine.

karenzipdrive said...

Funny, nobody ever disputed the content of Bush's service documents, just the print on the paper itself.
I think Karl Rove must have retyped them verbatim on a PC before he handed them off.
As for Rather folding his little tent, I think when people get fired they tend to have to pack up and leave.
Real journalists are trained not to focus stories on themselves, so I think he was just being true to his nature by not immediately speaking out.

FranIAm said...

Karen makes a good point - I have a friend who worked in the NY MSM at that time and Rather was kicked in the ass.

How he handled it -well all open to discussion, but the deal was set.

The media is a business and journalism is not.

This is a big problem - profits and loyalties trump truth, as we know.

Distributorcap said...

i have met dan rather many times (when i worked at CBS) --- i never thought he was one to cave when the Bush military stuff came up --- i understand his anger now, but it is too late....

phil_in_ny said...

I agree. Rather is in serious damage control right now.

Matty Boy said...

Over on Huffington Post, there's a ten minute unedited video of one of Bill O'Reilly's producers ambushing Bill Moyers and Moyers countering him very effectively. It ends with the O'Reilly producer being chased out of the building with reporters asking him questions.

Ten minutes o' fun, I can assure you.

Randal Graves said...

Be part of the system, then come out after your time is done issuing mea culpas. Methinks I've heard this about 17 billion times already.

Let me know when someone in a position of power comes clean while still in a position of power.

dguzman said...

Germaine--have to agree with you on that one--I think there must've been more to the story than what we were told by the media (surprise!). Moyers wouldn't have done that.

Dr. M--but, but, but your candidacy! Still--he could be your Sec of State.

CDP--as I said, there must've been more to it--or he just plain got his ego bruised. Who knows? I do feel like he's redeeming himself and serving as a good example. I too loved that "news you can use" rip--it's pure bullshit. Murrow would be throwing up endlessly if he watched that crap.

Bradda--too true; they are protected by the very government they're supposed to be watchdogging.

Zipdrive--maybe so, I hadn't thought about the "not wanting to focus on himself" thing. And he was completely hung out to dry, after decades of loyal and exemplary service. That would fuck anybody up, even a hard-boiled guy like Rather. Still--I just thought he'd make more noise, stand up for the story more--for anyone who'd listen. I was still listening.

Fran--yes, it's open to interpretation.


PiNY--as long as he takes down BushCo even a little bit, he can do whatever damage control he wants to do!

Matty Boy--I watched that yesterday and meant to link it but forgot. I'll update. That little guy is such a shill, and Moyers respectfully tells him he doesn't have to be--but the dumbass never gets it. I love how he leaves in a huff and is rude to the other reporters. Waah!

Randal--Dead-on. All this after-the-fact shit is fine and good, but with the exception of a few whistleblowers who've been duly shitted on for their bravery, most people just wimp out instead of telling the truth. I suppose it's that instinct to protect oneself. But it's not very noble.

Liberality said...

I have been saying that the MSM is bought & paid for I don't know how many years now. Always ask questions of any story they do. What is it's slant and why are they covering it? It isn't for our benefit I can assure you. Moyers is different however. That man has integrity.

vikkitikkitavi said...

I always thought Rather was underrated.