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May 08, 2007

Neverending Hackery: A Feature, Not A Bug

Greg Sargent points to an AP smear job on Nancy Pelosi and asks "How the hell do we make the hackery stop?" Atrios responds, "You can't. They really just don't care."

It goes beyond indifference, however. And it's nothing new at AP. Here's Robert Parry, writing in his book Secrecy & Privilege, about his experience working at AP in the early eighties:

Many working-level journalists bent over backwards not to be tagged as "liberal" because they knew that most senior editors and network executives tilted conservative. At the Associated Press, for instance, AP's general manager Keith Fuller, the company's top news executive, was known to share many of the Reagan-Bush political views...

"As we look back on the turbulent Sixties, we shudder with the memory of a time that seemed to tear at the very sinews of this country," Fuller said in a speech on January 28, 1982 in Worcester, Massachusetts. "While our soldiers were dying in old Indochina, our young people, at least some of them, were chanting familiar communist slogans on the campuses around this nation...Popular entertainers of that day were openly supporting a communist regime, denouncing the American position and a propaganda barrage was loosed in places like France and Britain and Scandinavia, Italy, Greece, all carefully financed and orchestrated by the USSR...

"A nation is saying, 'We don't really believe that criminal rights should take precedence over the rights of victims. We don't believe that the union of Adam and Bruce is really the same as Adam and Eve in the eyes of Creation. We don't believe people should cash welfare checks and spend them on booze and narcotics. We don't don't really believe that a simple prayer or a pledge of allegiance is against the national interest in the classroom. We're sick of your social engineering. We're fed up with your tolerance of crime, drugs and pornography. But most of all, we're sick of your self-perpetuating, burdening bureaucracy weighing ever more heavily on our backs."

Though Fuller presented his commentary as analysis, rank-and-file AP journalists understood that his litany of complaints represented his personal opinions...reporters knew that in the murky world of mixed or uncertain evidence, they couldn't expect much support if the White House lodged a complaint or if conservative pressure groups went on the attack.

Parry later worked at Newsweek, and broke the first stories about Iran-contra. He describes what happened then in another book, Lost History:

How quickly the investigative space was closing down hit home to me on March 10, 1987. I had been asked to attend a dinner at the home of bureau chief Evan Thomas in an exclusive neighborhood in northwest Washington. The guests that night were retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who was one of three members of the Tower Commission [set up by Reagan to investigate Iran-contra], and Rep. Dick Cheney, R-Wyo., who was the ranking House Republican on the congressional Iran-contra committee.

At the table also were some of Newsweek's top executives and a few of us lowly correspondents. As the catered dinner progressed and a tuxedoed waiter kept the wine glasses full, the guests were politely questioned. Scowcroft, a studious-looking man, fidgeted as if he wanted to get something off his chest. "Maybe I shouldn't say this but," he began with a slight hesitation. He then continued, "If I were advising Admiral Poindexter and he had told the president about the diversion, I would advise him to say that he hadn't."

I quietly put down my fork. Not fully cognizant of the etiquette of these affairs, I asked with undisguised amazement in my voice: "General, you're not suggesting that the admiral should commit perjury, are you?" My question was greeted with an embarrassed silence around the table.

Scowcroft hesitated as if contemplating his answer. But Newsweek editor Maynard Parker came to his rescue, tut-tutting my impertinence. "Sometimes," Maynard boomed, "you have to do what's good for the country." From around the table, a chorus of guffaws ended the uncomfortable moment. Scowcroft never answered my question.

Curse you, liberal media!

Now might be a good time to go donate to Parry's Consortium News.

Posted at May 8, 2007 06:15 PM | TrackBack

Hey, the national interest is the national interest. Gotta do what's good for the nation.

Posted by: abb1 at May 9, 2007 02:10 AM

methinks George,jr is slightly worse than Nixon, insofar as he started a whole new unnecessary war, whereas Nixon merely needlessly expanded an ongoing unnecessary war. Does that mean HRC may prove to be another Nixon? If so, who will be her Kissinger?

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at May 9, 2007 07:58 AM

HENRY will be her "Kissinger" (still alive, still working, it's a cold cruel world)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 9, 2007 11:40 AM

Yeah, Henry Kissinger may have missed a few spots in Cambodia but I am sure the dems would be more than glad to help him bomb what he missed last time. Whoops, I forgot, today’s target is the Middle East and the leading dems have said they will not take anything off the table. Any sympathy I may have had for the dems have evaporated. Maybe the dems will nuke the AP.

Posted by: rob payne at May 9, 2007 01:03 PM

henry has been advising cheney for years. the whole "leaving is losing" thing comes from him.

Posted by: hibiscus at May 9, 2007 05:52 PM

I don't want to nuke the AP, but if we were living in a Futurama episode we could build a rampaging 1,000 foot tall Bob SomersbyBot to unleash on anybody who jerks people around with shifty reporting. That would pretty sweet.

Posted by: Jonathan "I watch too much teevee" Versen at May 9, 2007 05:54 PM

uh, that would be pretty sweet.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at May 9, 2007 05:55 PM

1) I am no longer able to endure the talking heads and their weekly roundup of "the news" - I cannot even stand Diane Rehm's radio show any more. I blame the internets. I do have more free time, however, so I'm not complaining - as Mr Zimmerman wrote in "Watch the River Flow" - "people disagreein' ever'where you look, makes me want to stop and read a book"

2) And speaking of Herr Kissinger, Bill Richardson's earlier close association with him is disquieting - although Christopher Hitchens has apparently taken permanent leave of his senses (or vice versa) in these latter days, I found his "war criminal" portrait of Kissinger very persuasive

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at May 10, 2007 09:37 AM

Hitchens tries to confuse people by being right about Kissinger and a bloody loonie about everything else. He does it on purpose, and clearly he's up to something.

But this just serves to reinforce my point about our collective need for a 1,000 ft tall rampaging Bob SomerbyBot. If we had one, Hitchens would start acting right.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at May 11, 2007 07:58 AM

To be fair, Nixon inherited a huge war from LBJ and converted it to a different sort of war employing airpower to replace troops, along with some creative geopolitical maneuvering (engagement with China) that restricted North Vietnam's Soviet supply chain to sea delivery, which could be (and was) interdicted by mining.
I also resist the notion that Nixon and Kissinger "expanded" the war into Cambodia; it was already there in the form of military forces and depots belonging to the other side. Henry Kissinger has a lot to answer for, but "war criminal"? I've never quite bought that label.

On point, I think Scowcroft and the senior media personalities mentioned had a more rigorous view of realpolitik that presupposed excluding many things from public discussion and/or congressional oversight. A generational thing, probably.

Posted by: Ralph Hitchens at May 11, 2007 11:08 AM

Fuller's speech, cited in Parry's story, was delivered while Reagan was in the White House. Twenty-five years later, the problem of press sycophancy appears to be unchanged, or even worse, under a regime which is much more criminal than Reagan's.

Should we conclude, then, that there is no effective limit to press support for a Republican president? That is, if we have a police state regime in power, we will have police-state news media? If we have a death-camp regime, the papers will support the death camps?

Part of the problem for progressives during the Bush era has been that many of us assumed there would be some limit to press support of the regime, as it strayed further from democratic and human values. Apparently that was a forlorn hope.

Posted by: Ralph at June 21, 2007 07:03 AM