Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Reporting on the Classification State

If you do what you should not, you must hear what you would not.--Poor Richard

One of the critical problems the Bush/TexANG story symptomizes is the new classification state. When government records are doctored or hidden decades past the end of a political career, how can we even pretend to have advice and consent of the governed? Advice and consent over the character of candidates we'll find out about in thirty years? Over policy we'll finally hear about in thirty years?

That's one of the reasons the Vietnam debate WAS actually politically relevant in a way. Now that four decades have passed we actually know a lot about how much the government lied to us and what a sham the prosecution of war crimes was by the Army and Rumsfeld's Pentagon in particular. Now that forty years have passed and some documents have finally been released the public--if it really cared to--is almost in a position to have a genuinely informed debate about the profound ignorance and criminality of US policy in Vietnam.

By 2044, we might know enough details about the atrocities committed by this administratin in Iraq for the US public to pass judgment on that too.

We either need to begin to develop alternate standards of proof (which don't give the benefit of the doubt to habitual government liars), or we should just stop pretending we have a public sphere that can treat public policy as a debate rather than a product launch.

Newsroom consideration of Chomsky's discussion of bias in what passes for expert commentary (Manufacture of Consent, pp.18-26) in the mass media might be a good place to start. Can we stack the decks any higher against the people's right to know its own business?