Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Responding to Rosen's Deep Throat, J-School, and Newsroom Religion

Jay,
This is an important and central chapter in your ongoing demystification of the fossilized news church you write about. After accounting for the narcissistic, false heroism of Woodward and Bernstein and Bush's decertification of the press, however, there is another part of the media environment still left to be addressed. I'm just a year older than yourself and I also have very formative memories of the Watergate hearings.

I was raised in a deeply Republican midwestern family and to this day, my mom thinks Dick Nixon's country did him wrong. Naturally I was rooting for Nixon to be exonerated. As the hearings went on, I was increasingly impressed with Republicans on the committee, such as the Republican Senator from Tennessee, who demonstrated an actual interest in the facts as well as a protectiveness of Nixon. Republicans like him allowed me to maintain at least a modicum of self-respect as a Republican. At a certain point, it became clear that there were Republicans with scruples who were ashamed by what Nixon had done and were determined to help the opposition party put a stop to it BECAUSE IT WAS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE COUNTRY EVEN IF IT WOULD TEMPORARILY HURT THE PARTY. Nixon was revealed as a lawless tyrant. How could that be a pro-Republican party value? In the early seventies, influential Republicans were ashamed when their leaders held themselves to be above the law, even if they felt the degree of wrongdoing was exaggerated (in fact, just the opposite proved to be true).

Based on the MSM's PR stage for convicted Nixon stormtroopers like Liddy and Colson this last week you'd never guess that moment in history had occurred. For today's Republicans, truth stops at the party's edge. The cult of party personality requires rallying around a lawless tyrant caught red-handed. Mark Felt has a character flaw because his loyalty to the tyrant wavered while the tyrant's attorney general was busy destroying evidence. My point is the one Stephen Colbert made on the Daily Show the other day: the problem today is not that the media lacks the credibility to take on lawlessness within the government, our problem is that today THE TRUTH lacks the credibility to get anything done.

If Liddy and Colson and Noonan and Buchanon were intentionally trying to position the Republicans as the party of lawless, tyrant-friendly, totalitarians, they couldn't be doing a better job. For Republicans, the truth and respect for the country don't have enought credibility to require withholding support for the cult of Nixonian tyranny. Stalin was popular too. Maybe that should give Hewitt pause when he equates approval ratings and profits with ethical standards. He and his fellow apologists for tyranny might want to start drawing slightly finer distinctions in this area. I realize the regular practice of corporate law (same goes for the Powerliners) requires that be done in your spare time.

During Watergate, the truth eventually led to Republican shame and return to the rule of law. Today, truthful exposure of a lawless executive run amok simply leads to more and bigger lies. Raging right alongside the myth of Woodward and Bernstein, we have the seething victim complex of the ruling party that THEY are the heroes unjustly shot down by the falsity of unscrupulous media bias, that ANYTHING coming from the press that criticizes a Republican is biased on its face because it criticizes a Republican. These myths are of a piece.

Demythologizing the heroism of the Washington Post also requires demythologizing the Republicans' quasi-Nazi interpretation of media coverage of the TET offensive as the stab in the back that plunged the US into decades of moral darkness, that Watergate was a Democratic conspiracy to undermine a great American hero, that Nixon's documented crimes can just be politically wished away and it will be so--away from the light of Nixonian tyranny and Ford Administration support for Pol Pot.

The Republicans' "They stabbed our heroes in the back just as we were saving the free world"* victim mythology also needs the curtain pulled back on it. Thanks to people like Colson, Noonan, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and McLellan, as well as full blown fascists like Liddy and Coulter, the truth doesn't have the credibility that it once had.

*In Bush Republican-speak, "saving the free world" means sending 500,000 Americans across the Pacific to kill millions of Vietnamese in their own country after they rebelled against the French colonial government we restored to power after we defeated the Japanese. Would staying longer and killing millions more Vietnamese have prevented mass murder in Cambodia? That's Noonan's calculus.