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The Death of Journalistic Ethics


Downing Street Memos Verify Death of Journalistic Ethics
by Carmen Yarrusso

The preamble to the Code of Ethics for the Society of Professional Journalists eloquently declares: "journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues."

Yeah, right!

Mainstream media's dismal failure to enlighten the public to the dire implications of the Downing Street memos is the final nail in the coffin of journalism ethics. Our mainstream media have officially given up all pretense of "public enlightenment" or "seeking truth" (much less "providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues") and instead have effectively acknowledged being a propaganda tool of our government.

Two pillars of mainstream media (The New York Times and The Washington Post) reluctantly confessed their complicity in selling the bogus WMD "threat" to the public. They conceded any trace of "public enlightenment" or "seeking truth" was buried in the back of their newspapers while war mongering propaganda from the likes of Judith Miller was featured on their front pages. But their act of contrition was a day late and a dollar short. An "enlightened" America was already killing and being killed in the deserts of Iraq.

When the WMD threat proved false, when Iraq's connection to 9/11 proved false, when Iraq's support for terrorists proved false, when Iraq's collaboration with al Qaeda proved false, when the mobile labs proved false, when the aluminum tubes proved false, did mainstream media give us public enlightenment or start seeking the truth about the proclaimed rationale for war? No way. They simply started selling the latest excuse de jour, Operation Iraqi Freedom, hoping the public wouldn't notice the bait and switch and also wouldn't notice who "enlightened" them into this bloody mess in the first place.

Then came the Downing Street memos.

These top-secret memos corroborated pre-invasion evidence and arguments that were downplayed, ridiculed or totally ignored by mainstream media at the time. The memos clearly contradicted what Bush and Blair were telling the public before the war. But any "public enlightenment" about the significance of these revelations would shine a spotlight on mainstream media's role in selling a war based on a pack of lies. A deafening silence came over America's mainstream media.

There would be no public enlightenment informing us that, prior to the invasion, British war planners (with intimate inside knowledge of US war plans) believed the Iraq threat was minimal, the case for war was thin, the intelligence was being fixed around policy, the action was likely illegal, and, amazingly, Bush and Blair had begun extensive bombing months before they got approval from their governments. The quaint concept of "obeying the law" (national or international) didn't mean much to Bush and Blair.

Taking chutzpah and irony to dizzying new heights, mainstream media conveniently echoed our government and dismissed these inside illuminations of pre-war planning as merely "old news". Indeed, it was the very same "old news" that mainstream media had ignored or downplayed when it was "new news", when it could have enlightened the public to the truth BEFORE we got into this quagmire. To hell with "public enlightenment"! To hell with "seeking truth"! To hell with "the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy"! To hell with journalism ethics!

Could anything be more serious, more relevant to "the foundation of democracy", more vital to public interest, or more deserving of "a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues", than powerful primary-source evidence strongly suggesting the Bush and Blair administrations deliberately deceived the public about their rationale for war?

Mainstream media claim to enlighten the public, but instead they put the public to sleep. They claim to seek the truth, but instead they hide the truth. They serve to distract us while our government "services" us. Instead of respecting their Code of Ethics and "providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues", we are given a fair and comprehensive account of Michael Jackson's sex life. This is what journalism ethics has become.

Thomas Jefferson wrote: "Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppression of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."

Conversely, tyranny and oppression of body and mind will surely flourish when those we entrust to enlighten us abdicate their moral responsibility and tell us with a straight face that high crimes and misdemeanors is "old news".

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This may be right. I can see no other reason for the CNN special titled "Dead Wrong" which aired over the weekend. It was pretty good, but where was it two years ago? It's as though they're trying to reclaim some of their reputation. Good luck.

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