Thursday, August 28, 2003

No Wonder The Washington Post Goes AWOL Most Of The Time

From a recent interview with Leonard Downie, editor of the Washington Post, courtesy of Cursor...
I don't know how much the American public is engaged in these questions of the rationale for the war. If you looked at the polling, the American public as always is I think more sophisticated than we in the media give it credit for, and you know they never put too much stock in a lot of the rationale for going to war in the first place except for the fact that they didn't like Saddam Hussein and they're glad that he's been defeated, and they're glad that it's happened at a relative low cost of American lives, and they seem to be watching the occupation in the same way by judging how long is this going to take, how much is it going to cost, how dangerous is it going to be for the troops that we have there and how long are their fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and husbands and wives going to have to stay over there? My gut feeling -- since that's what you asked about -- is that those factors will matter more in how the public judges the administration's conduct of this war than the technicalities of how well the administration made its case.

Reeeaaaalllllyyy. Is this behavior by the American people really a sign of sophistication, or some combination of naivete, inattention, and cynicism? If one was to have been out on the battlegrounds, on the Internet, where people were arguing the merits of the war, of its justifications, you will find that there was a passion on both sides. That each side believed itself to be right. There was no insinuation at the time, in the heat of debate, by the defenders of the war, that the facts forwarded by the administration were just out of convenience, and without merit. They were defended rigorously, though always with the inevitable emotional fallbacks, since the case was so weak in terms of factual information.

As for the American people, the vast majority were not even involved in the debate. Why? Because there was no debate, and this is a direct result, and failing, of the American media, not to mention the political opposition. There seemingly were no doubts at the time, judging by the vast majority of reporting on the issue. For the most part, you got rehashes of the information coming from the top, from the President and the Pentagon, and little or no critical analysis, or investigative reporting, to consider the administration's, or alternative, claims. There was no reason for the American people to question the war, for the most part, except for the presence of millions of Americans on the streets protesting the war, which itself has become a rote exercise, in the media, of focusing on the spectacle of their being on the streets rather than examination of their substantive beliefs and passions.

So to call this sophistication is a tad mind-boggling, and all the explanation I need to grok why the Washington Post is seemingly so misguided, untimely, and spineless. Look at the editor. Somehow he confuses naivete, lack of concern, and emotional manipulation as sophistication. What a joke. Truly absurd. The real sophistication is in the methods and techniques by which this public opinion shaping is accomplished, by which these political Don Juans earn their keep, and in which the Washington Post is a just a piece in the process. How about a follow-up story on the 1/2 million people on the streets of New York, site of Ground Zero? Not likely, and not even very possible since the roots and means by which they were on the streets never was seriously considered and communicated.

In the end, the American people are victimized by the whole process, almost like a battered or betrayed lover. Led this way and that, all they come to realize is that all politicians are crooks, the system is rigged, and they are along for the ride. This is not a healthy vision of America. Nor of human relations. It's time the Washington Post, and other American media outlets, steps up to the plate and starts acting by its mandate, and in the vision of American freedom and justice. Nothing lasts forever, and without a fierce, independent media, it is too easy to slide from the esteemed position of being a country about and established for freedom, to a country hellbent on retaining dominance, wealth, and power over the rest of the world at any cost.

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(further reflections)

"they didn't like Saddam Hussein and they're glad that he's been defeated”

This is sophistication? Equating foreign policy along the lines of the cult of personality? Is Saddam Hussein our problem now in Iraq? Does he have any impact on the success or length of our occupation?

Why do people dislike Saddam Hussein so? Why would this ever be characterized in any manner as a “sophisticated” belief or understanding? Quite to the contrary, this is clearly a simplified, na├»ve picture of the world-at-large. How is it that a major American newspaper editor defines this as the opposite, as sophistication? How is it that these over-simplified characterizations can drive irrationality and rampant emotionalism to the extremes of war and even to projected “defensive” use of WMD as a result of our own aggression?

Is “bombing them back to the Stone Age” also considered sophisticated? How about the oft-heard water cooler throw-away remark, “ah, just nuke ‘em”? It’s time the editor of the Washington Post starts listening to what’s being discussed around ordinary American water coolers, rather than his own insulated one, and then make evaluations about the veracity of these beliefs and opinions. He’s in a for a big surprise.