The Sunday-morning talk shows ignored the piece. No surprise that, perhaps, as the story suggested that news programs on ABC, CBS and NBC had broadcast the analysts’ talking points about the Iraq war and other military matters without asking too many questions about the provenance of their information.
Oddly, though, the Pentagon caper likewise seemed a nonstarter on the blogosphere, which is famed for blowing up minor PR brush fires into massive conflagrations. The left-leaning Huffington Post, for instance, offered a link to the New York Times piece but mostly let slide the opportunity to pound away at another perceived Bush lapse.
By Monday morning, the Pentagon TV story was still mostly missing from network radar screens. NBC’s Brian Williams, who’s been known to take a rooting interest in media-industry shopkeeping, didn’t even mention it on his “Daily Nightly” blog. “The talk of the staff meetings today was the Pope’s surprising visit (a huge media tour de force, by most reviews here in New York and elsewhere), and tomorrow’s vote in Pennsylvania,” Williams wrote.
That pointed up a second problem with the Times story: Bad timing. Whatever the exigencies of newspaper deadlines, it was hard to showcase a major investigation on a weekend dominated by a hotly contested primary and the pope’s visit to America. Beset by breaking news, the networks had relatively limited shelf space for an enterprise story they obviously weren’t thrilled about to begin with.
But the biggest hurdle for the story’s impact may have been one journalists have trouble seeing. Many Americans confronted with stories of media manipulation by government officials aren’t, at this point, shocked and awed. Instead they’ve come to expect it. Increasingly, they consider the media simply a mouthpiece for whoever has the most power. You don’t have to tell John Q. Public that the fix is in; he takes it for granted.
So, many Americans, confronted with evidence that TV’s talking heads are taking orders not just from government officials but also military-contractor clients, can be excused for not being all that surprised. That is the price we pay for having a government that’s not afraid to use sophisticated — and often brazenly misleading — PR tactics.
WELL THAT’S ALL OKAY THEN WHAT’S THE BIG FUCKING DEAL WHY DON’T WE ALL JUST GO BACK TO BED.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to scream. I know it’s rude. I know it scares the neighbors. I know it upsets the pets; Puck just emitted a little puff of shedded fur and fled the room. But sometimes, man, sometimes, I tell you … it’s either that or leave Mr. A to a long night of cleaning up beer bottles and cigarette butts, and in the end, I think screaming may be healthier. So let me just ask:
WHAT IN THE UNHOLY BLUE FUCK IS GOING ON?
People can be excused for thinking this is okay? No they fucking can’t. Scott Collins up there may excuse them but I fucking don’t. And not for nothing, but this type of coverage, Collins’ blasé dismissal of a propaganda operation run by the US government as something most people wouldn’t be surprised by (and since when is “surprise” the arbiter of “okay,” anyway?) is part and parcel of the cynicism it purports to decry. You can’t treat everything like it’s a big ironic joke (the story broke on the wrong weekend?) and the use as fodder for your story that people have come to the independent conclusion that everything is a big ironic joke.
God, I hate this fucking dodge, where reporters write about the media and its influence on and role in society as though they aren’t part of it at all, as though they had nothing to do with it. They set the fucking place on fire and then stand back and describe the totally spontaneous flames. Why didn’t it “make a splash?” The fucking fuck I know, maybe because the people who are the gatekeepers of this conversation, like those who work at the LA Times among others, just took it as a matter of their own little superior gospel that nobody would give a shit and went back to their breakfasts.
Ever notice they only ever protest the limits of their power when they’re trying to get out of covering something they know they should have covered? Ever notice that? When they’re whipping up a frenzy over some bullshit Obama or Hillary controversy, then it’s FEEL THE SIZE OF MY MANGIFICENT PRESS MANHOOD but when somebody asks them why they can’t be arsed to spend more than ten seconds at a crack on any one issue of interest to, say, a whole swath of the country that’s been hurricaned into oblivion, then out come the timid protestations ofbut we just didn’t have the time and it hurts, mommy, stop paddling me. Fuck me blind, the level of self-absorption and responsibility-avoidance in action here is enough to stop a moose in its tracks.