Requiem for a Free Press in the US: Where Did the Tradition of Journalists Speaking Truth to Power Go?

By Dave Lindorff

Plenty of press, but not so free

            It’s easy to let time and nostalgia get in the way of remembering what American journalism was really like back in the last century. Certainly it was not all Watergate and Pentagon Papers exposés, and even those two prime examples of the media’s standing up to government threats and taking on the powerful were not easy to get past the owners and managers of the media and into print and on the air.

            That said, it’s clear to me — a journalist who’s seen a lot over my 47 years in the business — that what we have today in the US in terms of what passes for journalism in the corporate mainstream is a pale imitation of what we had back in the 1960s and ‘70s.

            We got a glimpse how badly the profession and the news media themselves have decayed in a public complaint made public Friday by a reporter who quit NBC News.

            William M. Arkin, a long-time investigative reporter at NBC News, offers a scathing criticism of the employer he left after 30 years with the network. In an email message to his NBC News bosses and to the colleagues he is leaving, Arkin, one of the few reporters in the mainstream media to insist, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq by US forces, that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — the argument the Bush/Cheney Administration used to justify a war of aggression against that country in 2003 — wrote:

            “I argued endlessly with MSNBC about all things national security for years, doing the daily blah, blah, blah in Secaucus, but also poking at the conventional wisdom of everyone from [Chris] Matthews to [John] Hockenberry. And yet I feel like I’ve failed to convey this larger truth about the hopelessness of our way of doing things, especially disheartened to watch NBC and much of the rest of the news media somehow become a defender of Washington and the system.”

            Author of the book American Coup, about the encroaching fascism of the Patriot Act and the whole sprawling federal post-9/11 Homeland Security operation, Arkin wrote, referring to the failure of the Obama administration to offer any real change or to slow or reverse that fascist trend:

“Somewhere in all of that, and particularly as the social media wave began, it was clear that NBC (like the rest of the news media) could no longer keep up with the world. Added to that was the intellectual challenge of how to report our new kind of wars when there were no real fronts and no actual measures of success. To me there is also a larger problem: though they produce nothing that resembles actual safety and security, the national security leaders and generals we have are allowed to do their thing unmolested. Despite being at ‘war,’ no great wartime leaders or visionaries are emerging. There is not a soul in Washington who can say that they have won or stopped any conflict. And though there might be the beloved perfumed princes in the form of the Petraeus’ and Wes Clarks’, or the so-called warrior monks like Mattis and McMaster, we’ve had more than a generation of national security leaders who sadly and fraudulently have done little of consequence. And yet we (and others) embrace them, even the highly partisan formers who masquerade as ‘analysts’”…


For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF, a veteran award-winning journalist for nearly half a century, in ThisCantBeHappening!, the uncompromised, collectively run, six-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative news site, please go to:

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