Sunday, July 09, 2006

Where’s the Wolf?

I read an entry by Jack Shafer over at Slate about who he trusts more: the administration or the editors of NYTimes and WaPo. He comes down on the side of the MSM. It seems a pot or fire choice to me. Within his story he hyperlinked a opinion piece by Robert G. Kaiser, who was WaPo’s managing editor from 1991 to 1998 and is now an associate editor, which listed and spun secrets that have been revealed up to, but not including, the latest about the SWIFT secret. Just how secret the SWIFT secret was is of course not known – that’s just the point.

Problem with the administration’s charge that here we go again the press is revealing secrets is that it is also the Republican strategy of working the press the way some baseball managers even when they know they are wrong jump up and protest a call excessively in close vicinity of the referees called “working the refs”.

The Republican strategy that has been building since Goldwater peaked in the Reagan years and was supposed to be reborn in second Bush’s administration. One aspect of that strategy has always been that the press was not our friend. And treating the press as the problem is easier and provides a more solid target than real problems.

The influence of this anti-press strategy has been a resounding success in red state America. The working class in red state America has been convinced that newspapers are elitists rags – except for the sports pages. One segment of broadcast industry has help convince the red staters that the MSM reports news with liberal bias.

If only that were the MSM’s problem, we would all be better served.

How long can the “working the refs” strategy work? What happens when all the referees and all the fans know some manager “works the refs”? It becomes a show. Like the chicken and the seventh inning stretch, it becomes part of the world of baseball. Everybody expects it and the game goes on.

But what happens when the same thing occurs in politics? How long before the red staters come to realize they too are being worked? Will it take as long as it took me to realize I had more to fear for my freedom from the anti-communist than I did from the communists? Long after almost everyone in the world recognized that planned economies did not perform as well as free markets and communism was doomed to the footnotes of history, the anti-communist still held sway in the U.S., and were deciding policy. Will it take that long? Only a few short years ago, "Pinko" had a hold other implication than it does today.

Besides, in my little analogy its not the wolf that the little boy is yelling about that finally got him. And Jack trusts the Herculean Pillars of MSM more than he trusts the administration. If I thought that the worse of the MSM’s problems was liberal biasness, I’d trust them more too.

As bad as the Pentagon Papers may have been for the Nixon Administration, no leaked sensitive information was as damaging to U.S. foreign policy than Walter Cronkite standing in the ruins of the 1968 Tet Offensive and saying there is no light at the end of the tunnel. When LBJ saw that, he knew he had lost the war. Contrite was wrong, but LBJ was right.

The Tet Offensive counter attack was a resounding success for the U.S. It was a bigger victory for the U.S. than the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. And the MSM totally missed it. They played to the anti-war movement and they committed a gross disservice to America. Perhaps if someone had leaked it to the MSM, the victory would have gotten better play.


That little bit of history and not the sensitivity of some leaked story or access to administration leakers is what journalists should be thinking about as they report Iraq and Afghanistan. Like I said Jack, sounds like you’re asking me to choose between the pot and the fire on this one. And of course you are right, that’s the choice I got.
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