Thomas Jefferson Was Right

Thomas Jefferson, who was constantly and viciously hounded by his opponents in the press, once declared that, given the choice, he’d still rather have newspapers and no government than government and no newspapers.  Fortunately, television had not yet been invented, so that Sally Hemings story took a couple of hundred years to take off; maybe he’d feel differently today.  Nonetheless, now we find ourselves in 2010, muddling along with the latter system Jefferson decidedly didn’t want, whether or not we’d ever been asked to choose, and the “newspapers” themselves created it.

Paradoxically, the death of the Fourth Estate began with Watergate, which though it’s often considered to be a triumph of a free press over an increasingly lawless and secretive government, turned out, in the end, to be the opposite.  As a lifelong scholar of that particular scandal, my three shelves of Watergate books (not a few written in jail…) told the story we all know today: time and again, the Nixon administration used every legal tool and many illegal ones to bring a truth-telling press to heel, and they failed.  Later, though, I expanded my research into magazines of the era, and they told a different story: throughout Watergate, Nixon and his henchmen coasted to reelection, and nearly survived, by successfully stopping any number of unflattering stories, typically by going over the heads of news divisions to publishers and network executives, and this created a palpable chill in newsrooms that has reached its apotheosis today: no one today’s overpaid and heavily concentrated media even remembers what real journalism actually looked like, and those who do are too busy with the plastic surgeons to care.

The July 8, 1974 cover of Time pictured above, dated exactly one month before Nixon’s historic resignation, graphically demonstrates that even in that heady time for the power of the free press, corporate boots were already starting to stomp on journalistic heads for their failure to sufficiently “support” the government by not being so darned critical all the time.  A disturbing number of letter writers, then as now, agreed that the media had gotten out of hand, and that was all the increasingly corporatized media needed to hear; every merger (the first wave of which were spawned by Nixon’s ironically named “Newspaper Preservation Act), made the growing media monopolies less and less comfortable speaking truth to power, a tendency which has culminated in the embarrassing media uproar over Wikileaks.  Now the media have, practically unanimously, come out firmly against the very practice of journalism epitomized by Wikileaks, in favor of whatever it is they do these days to draw their unprecedentedly hefty paychecks.   Katharine Graham, who was willing to go to jail to defend her paper’s right to challenge the government, must be rolling over in her grave.

Therein lies the rub…  The most fanatical denunciations of Wikileaks come not just from the usual suspects, i.e. right-wing politicians who depend on media indulgence of lying, but from the media itself, which in recent years has been caught more times with its pants down than Bill Clinton could ever hope to.   They are, clearly, more invested in the lies they’ve been telling that the politicians (and donors) who benefitted from them, and they’d sooner piss on an electric (border?)  fence than admit how they’ve actively helped to fuck up the country by relentlessly doing the exact opposite of what the First Amendment presumes is their job.

The story is depressingly familiar; the truth wafts into the room like a bad smell, and the media rushes in to open the windows, and breathlessly spray lies around as though they were a can of air freshener, and the “story” becomes a parable about how everyone should just shut up and, say, give up their Social Security, cut taxes on the heiresses, and support a new war, while ostentatiously plugging their noses to the palpable stench.  Heck, it’s worked before, and it pays the hairdresser bills.

Sadly, after all these years a lot of people, numbed as they inescapably are by the steady drip of this brain-destroying anesthesia pumped into their eyes and ears, are just as reluctant to accept the truth as the pancaked boobs who have avoided it like the plague for all this time, and by the time you read this, Wikileaks may already have been extinguished, to cheers from all around.

Nice work if you can get it.

12 Comments

  1. dirigo says:

    Let us all decamp to Madrid with our umbrellas and picnic baskets and watch the court proceedings there.

  2. michlib says:

    The press is not free – it has been captured by the Kleptocracy and chirps and mewls whatever tune it is told to purvey. Rachel was right – Bubba was our best Republican prez ( NAFTA, GATT, WTO, China most favored nation, Media deregulation/concentration, Wall Street gettin’ Rubinized, end of “welfare as we know it” and a plethora of other triangulation gems that refined Reaganomics to fatal precision and effectiveness ), but damn if Barry O isn’t giving him a run for his money !!!

    • cocktailhag says:

      I don’t think the Plutocracy will ever again accept anything close to an actual Democrat, who does Democratic things.
      Funny, though, what craziness they accept from the right.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Great article, except for being so depressing. Personally, I see the Beck model winning hands down, if only because that’s what the big money wants.

  3. meremark says:

    -

    I so recommend Wayne Madsen Report .com by ex-NSA guy. But it’s a 30-bucks-a-year subscription to read behind the paywall … where WMR encourages all to relay his material into circulation.
    Since few here might go to it, do allow me to bring it on here. Viz:

    December 1, 2010 –SPECIAL REPORT. Suspicious and alarming nexus of interests emerges from selectively leaked State Dept. cables.

    In further proof that the so-called Wikileaks leaked State Department cables are being selectively cherry-picked to advance a number of agendas, including those that benefit Israel and neocon policy makers in Washington, one particular U.S. diplomat has emerged as a key in stirring up problems and reporting back to Washington on the activities of members of the British royal family, including heir apparent Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. The diplomat in question is Tatiana Gfoeller, who authorized cables reporting negatively on members of the British royal family from her diplomatic perches as U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan and Consul General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

    What is certain is that a lone Private First Class, like Bradley Manning, now imprisoned for suspicion that he was singly responsible for the leak of hundreds of thousand classified Pentagon and State Department documents and videos copied undetected on a single “Lady Gaga” compact disk and passed to Wikileaks, is a ruse to protect one or more persons at very high levels in the State Department who had the authority, means, and motive to release classified documents that paint dozens of nations in a bad light but leaves Israel and its leaders virtually unscathed.

    December 2, 2010 — U.S. intelligence retaliates against Israel’s role in Wikileaks’s disclosures

    With Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, continuing their gloating over the disclosure by Wikileaks of classified U.S. State Department cables, the U.S. intelligence community is taking off its gloves and is releasing some embarrassing information about Netanyahu ….

    Wikileaks’s founder, Julian Assange, singled out Netanyahu for praise as a world leader who believes the embarrassing leaks will aid “global diplomacy.” In an interview with Time magazine, Assange said “Netanyahu believes that the result of this publication, which makes the sentiments of many privately held beliefs public, are promising a pretty good . . . . [and] will lead to some kind of increase in the peace process in the Middle East and particularly in relation to Iran.” Assange, who is believed to be in the United Kingdom, is the subject of an INTERPOL arrest warrant for alleged “sex crimes” in Sweden.

    Huseyin Celik, the deputy chief of Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), said that Israel appeared to have had advance knowledge of the contents of the latest release of State Department cables. Celik said of the leaks: “One should look at which country is content. Israel is extremely content.”

    Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay stated from Ankara that “It seems to us that the country which is not mentioned much, especially in the Middle East, or which this development seems to favor, is Israel. This is how we see it in a way when we look in the context of who is benefiting and who is being harmed.”

    WMR previously reported that Wikileaks, or “WikIsrael”, was part of a Mossad operation having links within the neocon and Israel Lobby apparatus of the United States government. Turkey has reasons to be suspicious of the leaks. Various leaked State Department cables suggested that Iran was helping Hamas and secretly helping Iran with its nuclear program.

    The notorious pro-Israeli publisher of The New Republic, Martin Peretz, chimed in with a column in his magazine stating that the leaks from the U.S. embassy in Ankara proved that Obama’s outreach to the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a “failure.”

    In fact, many of the leaked cables favoring Israel, hostile to Russia and China, or proving very embarrassing to President Obama appear to have been written in total or in part or contain quotes by political appointee or career Jewish diplomats with close ties to Israel and its lobby in the United States: U.S. ambassadors to Turkey Eric Edelman and James Jeffrey; Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg; U.S. ambassador to Brazil Clifford Sobel; U.S. charge d’affaires in Saudi Arabia Michael Gfoeller; Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip H. Gordon; ambassador-at-large Daniel Fried; U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson; among others.

    A source within the U.S. Secret Service, on deep background and on the condition of anonymity, informed WMR that while on a “business trip” to New York on November 8, Netanyahu visited a performing arts theater in West Greenwich Village. U.S. Secret Service personnel were required to accompany Netanyahu to the theater. The performance involved extreme sado-masochistic, as well as homosexual themes, according to our source, who added, “I almost threw up.” Netanyahu was passing through New York on his way to New Orleans where he addressed the general assembly of the Jewish Federation of North America.

    These are likely the first of many retaliatory moves by intelligence agencies around the world against Israel. As one informed source put it, “Israel overplayed its hand with these Wikileaks releases, now it will suffer the ‘blowback.’”

    And previously, last summer:

    July 28, 2010 — The top secret Israeli-US program to establish “Al Qaeda”

    Press clips gathered by the CIA and discovered in the National Archives’ stored CIA files point to an agency keenly interested in any leaks about the highly-classified CIA-Mossad program to establish Osama Bin Laden and the most radical elements of the Afghan Mujaheddin as the primary leaders of the anti-Soviet rebels in the 1980s.

    WMR has pored through the CIA files and a complicated picture emerges of America’s and Israel’s top intelligence agencies, in cahoots with Saudi Arabia, establishing financial links and carve out intelligence programs to provide manpower and financial support to Bin Laden and his allies in Afghanistan. It was these very elements that later created the so-called “Al Qaeda,” which the late British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook described as nothing more than a “database” of CIA front organizations, financial supporters, and field operatives. However, one component omitted by Cook in the Al Qaeda construct is the Israeli participation.

    And before that (in WMR archives), referring back to a time when Nixon exasperated about “getting the Jews out of the Treasury Dept.” and counter-threatened the CIA — that ‘they’ dare not challenge his hold on power since he “knew all about the ‘Bay of Pigs’ thing” — there is this:

    January 8, 2009 — Bob Woodward an intelligence agent? So claims new book about the Bush family

    George W. Bush has scoffed at critics of his policies, pointing out that history will judge him. However, if Russ Baker’s new book, “Family of Secrets,” is any indication of things to come, history will not be kind to the 43rd President.

    One of the most intriguing contentions in the new book is that the Washington Post’s highly-acclaimed reporter, Bob Woodward, of Woodward and Bernstein Watergate fame, is depicted as a scheming intelligence agent, placed within the Post in order to influence the events that would bring down the presidency of Richard Nixon.

    The book recounts how Woodward’s Navy service included a stint on the naval communications ship, USS Wright, where his Commanding Officer was Rear Admiral Robert Welander. The admiral would later surface in the Nixon White House. After transferring to Washington, Woodward ended up on the staff of Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Thomas Moorer, who later became the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the entire Watergate scandal.

    As an aide to Moorer, Woodward, a Midwestern-born Republican, provided briefings to top Nixon White House officials. Woodward’s haunts were the basement offices of the West Wing carrying documents from Moorer to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger’s chief deputy Alexander Haig.

    Baker interviewed Woodward in 2008 about his Nixon White House service. Woodward denied having any intelligence connections, working in the White House, or providing briefings to officials there. Woodward told Baker, “It’s a matter of record in the Navy what I did, what I didn’t do . . . And this Navy Intelligence, Haig, and so forth, you know, I’d be more than happy to acknowledge it if it’s true. It just isn’t. Can you accept that?”

    However, Baker cites audiotaped interviews by author Robert Gettlin that have Moorer, then-Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, Pentagon spokesperson Jerry Freidheim, and Woodward’s own father Al confirming Woodward’s White House service while in the Navy.

    In 1970, Woodward, who was not trained as a journalist — a former Post editor, Harry Rosenfeld, is quoted as stating Woodward did not know how “to put the paper in the typewriter” — showed up at the Post, apparently on the recommendation of Navy Secretary Paul Ignatius. (Ignatius’ son, David Ignatius, is a current columnist for the Post).

    Woodward was given a one-year try-out at the Montgomery County Sentinel. In September 1971, Woodward was hired for the Metro desk at the Post where he worked with Carl Bernstein. In 1972, Woodward began collecting “scoops” from White House insider sources, including detailed information on Alabama Governor George Wallace’s would-be assassin Arthur Bremer.

    After the break-in at the Watergate, Woodward was johnny-on-the spot and, along with Bernstein, owned the story on behalf of the Post. Baker cites a memo from Senator Howard Baker’s chief counsel on the Senate Watergate committee, Fred Thompson, asking CIA director William Colby if Woodward was employed by the CIA. Hours after Colby received the memo, Woodward called Howard Baker to complain. Someone at the CIA had leaked the memo to Woodward the minute it was received.

    Woodward’s special “chain-of-command” was verified to this editor a few years ago by a Post source. Woodward never thought twice about bypassing his editor Barry Sussman and meeting directly with Post managing editor Ben Bradlee and even Post publisher Katherine Graham.

    During the Reagan administration, Woodward conducted an unrecorded four-minute deathbed interview with CIA director William Casey for the book “Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987.” It was an amazing feat considering that Casey was in a virtual coma, suffering a sudden stroke just hours before he was due to testify to Congress about the Iran-contra affair. Woodward said Casey came out of his coma long enough to admit that he knew about the diversion of funds to the Nicaraguan contras. Once Woodward got his story from Casey, the CIA director went off to meet his maker. Casey’s wife Sofia denied any such encounter took place. Curiously, in the 543-page “Veil,” no mention is made of then-presidential candidate George H. W. Bush’s role in Iran-contra as Vice President who was the man Reagan put in charge of covert operations. Bush claimed that he was “out of the loop” on the covert shenanigans that almost cost Reagan his presidency.

    Woodward would hit pay dirt again by being granted virtually unheard of access to George W. Bush. Bush, it will be recalled, told Woodward that he didn’t speak to his own father about the Iraq war but spoke to a “higher father.” Woodward’s White House contacts also gave him knowledge o the Bush White House’s role in leaking the name of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson’s name to the press. Woodward withheld the information to the federal investigator and the Post. Woodward later apologized to the Post for his inaction.

    Even the ‘free’ public material, new items, Madsen selects for his home page daily, raises eyebrows and drops jaws worldwide.

  4. mikeinportc says:

    meremark , re various usual suspects using Wikileaks to make dubious points in favor of their usual agenda ( Attacking Iran, for ex.) , Arthur Silber nails it . ( As usual)
    Of course they will . That’s what they do with everything .

  5. timothy3 says:

    Here’s something weird: a guy named Steven Aftergood, as Glenn Greenwald put it

    the long-time transparency advocate with Federation for American Scientists and Secrecy News

    had this to say about Wikileaks:

    Much could be forgiven to WikiLeaks if it were true that its activities were succeeding in transforming government information policy in favor of increased openness and accountability — as opposed to merely generating reams of publicity for itself.

    So because Wikileaks hasn’t transformed the nation — or, rather, “government information policy” — overnight, it’s a less-than-zero operation.

    Some reasoning there, innit?

    Of course, Time, the NYTimes, the Washington Post, etc. etc., ad nauseum, don’t fall under the same rulebook that Wikileaks does.
    “You haven’t transformed government? Get thee out!”

    • cocktailhag says:

      Oh, they’ve transformed government, for the worse. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I haven’t listened to the GG podcast, but now I might have to, just to maintain my bad mood.