Here's something I've been working on the past few days, a collection of ideas and links, and some rather telling truths. I thought I'd throw it out there and see what you all think.
To say that former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's new tell-all book has created a virtual shitstorm in the Bush White House, the blogosphere and in the media itself is quite the understatement.
In the new book, What Happened, due out next week, McClellan, a former member of President Bush's inner circle, is very candid about the goings-on in the White House over the past several years, covering events such as the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina and the Valarie Plame scandal. McClellan claimed that the Bush Administration "veered terribly off course." Needless to say, right-wingers are pretty pissed off at 'Scotty the Snitch.'
McClellan's baring of his soul may also lead to another consequence, namely the complicity of the news media in all of this. Since details of the book hit the public, we are actually starting to find out more about how American media works. Yes, the same American media that right-wingers claim is 'liberally-biased.'
On Wednesday night, CNN's Jessica Yellin talked to Anderson Cooper about McClellan's memoir and agreed with the former press secretary that White House reporters "dropped the ball" during the run-up to war.
But Yellin went much further, revealing that news executives--presumably at ABC News, where she'd worked from July 2003 to August 2007--actively pushed her not do hard-hitting pieces on the Bush administration.
"The press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings," Yellin said.
"And my own experience at the White House was that the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives--and I was not at this network at the time--but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president, I think over time...."
But then a shocked Cooper jumped in, asking, "You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?"
"Not in that exact.... They wouldn't say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces," Yellin said. "They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical, and try to put on pieces that were more positive. Yes, that was my experience."
COOPER: Jessica, McClellan took press to task for not upholding their reputation. He writes: “The national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The ‘liberal media’ — in quotes — didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.” Dan Bartlett, former Bush adviser, called the allegation “total crap.”What is your take? Did the press corps drop the ball?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I wouldn’t go that far. I think the press corps dropped the ball at the beginning. When the lead-up to the war began, the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president’s high approval ratings. And my own experience at the White House was that, the higher the president’s approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives — and I was not at this network at the time — but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president. I think, over time…
COOPER: You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?
YELLIN: Not in that exact — they wouldn’t say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces. They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical and try to put on pieces that were more positive, yes. That was my experience.
From Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com:
Network executives obviously know that these revelations are quite threatening to their brand. Yesterday, they wheeled out their full stable of multi-millionaire corporate stars who play the role of authoritative journalists on the TV to join with their White House allies in mocking and deriding McClellan's claims. One media star after the next -- Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, Charlie Gibson and Brian Williams, Tim Russert, Wolf Blitzer -- materialized in sync to insist that nothing could be more absurd than the suggestion that they are "deferential, complicit enablers" in government propaganda.
I have little doubt that they would be telling the truth if they denied what Yellin reported last night. People like Williams, Gibson and Gregory don't need to be told to refrain from reporting critically about the war and the White House because challenging Government claims isn't what they do. And amazingly, they admitted that explicitly yesterday. Gibson and Gregory both invoked the cliched excuse of the low-level bureaucrat using almost identical language: exposing government lies "is not our job."
Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson and company are paid to play the role of TV reporters but, in reality, are mere television emcees -- far more akin to circus ringleaders than journalists. It's just as simple as that. David Halberstam pointed that out some time ago. Unlike Yellin, Donahue and Banfield, nobody needed to pressure the likes of Williams, Gibson and Russert to serve as propaganda handmaidens for the White House. It's what they do quite eagerly on their own, which is precisely why they're in the corporate positions they're in. They are smooth, undisruptive personalities who don't create problems for their executives. Watching them finally describe how they perceive of "their role" leaves no doubt about any of that.
Alas, a mere day or two later, the so-called 'liberal media' is moving on, and they are, as of this writing, trying to manufacture outrage and build up yet another (albeit weak) Rev. Jeremiah Wright-type 'scandal.' Or how about arguably the most ridiculous one yet, desperately cobbled together by right-wing nutcase Michelle Malkin - painting TV domestic goddess Rachael Ray as a Palestinian terrorist that eats donuts and drinks iced coffee? Which leads one to ask, is the media reporting the news, creating it or just plain being lazy?
Considering the entities that own our so-called 'liberal media,' the answers could be quite interesting. As the saying goes, the media is only as liberal as the major corporations that own it.