Sunday, February 18, 2007

PBS blows it

I just watched the latest Frontline documentary, News War, and while I was initially excited about what it might reveal it actually does a great disservice to the historical record. It starts with the lead up to the war in Iraq and how most of the press got it wrong. However, the documentary then focuses on 'Plamegate' affair and reaches the conclusion that the press and Bush White House are at war. In this war, the press is cast as the hero and the White House as a villain.

Yet, as anyone who has lived through the last 7 years can attest, the press has not performed heroically. In fact, one of the problems with the press is that it has NOT opposed this administration. And what is interesting is that they asked all of the pertinent questions, yet decided not to include it. If you go to the website you can read all of the interviews they did on this subject. However, to paint a pretty picture, the documentary does the following:

  1. Suggests that the refusal of reporters to reveal their sources in the Plame affair is equivalent to all other types of confidential protection. Yet, the Plame affair was qualitatively different and they only briefly covered this. The reporters were protecting the powerful in this instance, they were not protecting sources worried about persecution from the powerful. The press was being used by the White House to attack a critic.

  2. The documentary did not look at how cozy the relationship between the press and the administration can be. As evidenced by testimony in the Libby trial, it is shocking how close these two parties are.

  3. Presents Judith Miller as a martyr and really doesn't scrutinize her relationship to the Bush administration and the War in Iraq. She had far too cozy of a relationship with her sources on this and was dishonest when citing who her sources were. To pretend that she was somehow behaving admirably is ridiculous.

  4. Does not challenge Bob Woodward. At the end of the first hour we learn that Bob Woodward was the first journalist to be told about Valerie Plame. However, there are no follow up questions about why it took him so long to come forward or why he did not tell his editor about what he knew.


Pork Rinds said...

Aw, that's too bad. I heard an interview with producer Lowell Bergmann on Fresh Air and it sounded like there was potential for News War to get into the gritty details of what's really gone on, but it did sound way too much like propaganda in favor of the last decades of media behavior. On the bright side it does expose the current administration as the fascists that they are, independent of the media's complicity.

Pork Rinds said...

Actually, now I'm going to counterpoint my own point. Ahem. They also talked about Josh Wolf, the video blogger who holds the record for time spent in jail by any reporter for not revealing his source. To wit, the point of this whole program is to, 1) as Broca pointed out, paint the false and heroic picture that the news media and the government are at odds with one another, even though we all know that's not true, and 2) to warn average Jane and Joe blogger that picking up the slack and doing the media's job will only result in record-setting jail time. You have been warned.