We also know now that the MSM is largely useless for adjudicating between conflicting claims and establishing what the facts are. The Bush/Cheney onslaught against its critics is being covered lavishly – but only as theater. Look at the Democrats cry “manipulation”! Look at the Republicans cry “treason”! A war is at stake. The nation’s reputation around the world is at stake. Lives hang in the balance. And all the media can do is cover tactics, politics, the melodrama of thrust-and-parry. The rare reporters who have attempted to create a useful scorecard are battling their weasel-minded editors’ insistence on a bizarre postmodern notion of balance. You know the CYA drill: if you say a good word about Darwin, ya gotta juxtapose it with some intelligent design whackball’s counterquote; if you say Cheney lied about the Saddam connection to 9/11, you’ve still got to dredge up every nutjob’s assertion that the Atta meeting in Prague can’t be disproved.
The worst – and this is what pushed me over the edge – is the disgraceful mischaracterization of the impact of the Woodward revelation on Fitzgerald’s case against Libby. With the exception of Keith Olberman, everyone is parroting Libby’s lawyer’s lie that this disproves Fitzgerald’s assertion that Libby was the first person in the Administration to leak Valerie Plame’s name. Fitzgerald, of course, didn’t say that. He said that Libby was “the first government official known to have told a reporter.” This is not a small distinction; it is not quibbling about words. If Woodward hadn’t decided that the World-According-to-Bob rules meant that he could keep his mouth shut while the Grand Jury was still empaneled, then Fitzgerald would have been able to add the leak to Woodward to his timetable. (And if Libby hadn’t thrown sand in Fitzgerald’s eyes, the investigation could have gone deeper.)
And yet now the Washington Post, ABC News, CNN, NBC and the AP have spread the lie, and soon every lazy stenographer on the planet posing as a journalist will gladly cut and paste this Republican propaganda into their narrative of the most troubling chapter in modern American history. What does it say about the news profession when most of the voices determined to ensure accuracy are onliners working without benefit of staffs below them, editors above them, or brand-name seals of approval from the priesthood?
The good guys? MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, whose show Countdown is always worth a watch, and Knight-Ridder-- the news agency now up for sale and thus in danger of becoming just another corporate source of infotainment.