Sunday, July 06, 2008

Russert and the messengers of the state

It goes without saying that the death of a man as young and active as journalist Tim Russert is a tragedy and should bring no joy to anyone. But it is puzzling to see his career re-packaged in a way that makes the real man almost unrecognizable.

I did not watch the televised memorial service, but I did see clips of it on the nightly news, and observed what appeared to be hundreds of representatives of the establishment mainstream media (referred to by some as the "Drive-by Media") along with countless politicians filing in, to offer their final respects. This all seemed in order to me, since I always considered "Meet The Press" the epitome of the uncritical media whose purpose was and is to offer venues to the high and mighty political bureaucracy, so they might disseminate their biased propaganda.

Years ago, when I learned that General Electric, the massive defense contractor, owned NBC, the network that owned Tim Russert and "Meet The Press," I felt I was in on a joke. Was I really supposed to believe, during all those months of yapping that took place on that program in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, that the lack of direct, relentless probing of all those Bush administration toadies was simply inadvertent?

In "The Messenger Is the Message" (, 6/16/08), Butler Shaffer offers some observations about the owners of the "message machines": "If, as McLuhan observed, 'the medium is the message,' who are the scriptwriters of the message? There is a hierarchy of interests at work within the mainstream media that parallels the state apparatus itself. Atop this pyramid of power rest the corporate interests who own not only the political system, but the message machines."

Shaffer charges: "The message machine owners – subdivided into various radio/television networks and print media who, nonetheless have a shared interest in the message content – hire the 'journalists,' commentators, and others, to write and deliver the agreed-upon script. It is into this class of people that Tim Russert – along with other members of the fraternity who now lament his passing – was accepted by the owners. He was safe for their purposes, not the sort of person to ask unsettling questions."

Chris Hedges, in "The Hedonists of Power" (Truthdig, 6/23/08), had this to say:

The past week was a good one if you were a courtier. We were instructed by the high priests on television over the past few days to mourn a Sunday morning talk show host, who made $5 million a year and who gave a platform to the powerful and the famous so they could spin, equivocate and lie to the nation. We were repeatedly told by these television courtiers, people like Tom Brokaw and Wolf Blitzer, that this talk show host was one of our nation’s greatest journalists, as if sitting in a studio, putting on makeup and chatting with Dick Cheney or George W. Bush have much to do with journalism.

No journalist makes $5 million a year. No journalist has a comfortable, cozy relationship with the powerful. No journalist believes that acting as a conduit, or a stenographer, for the powerful is a primary part of his or her calling. Those in power fear and dislike real journalists.
• • •

And Justin Raimondo, in "Enough Already!" (, 6/18/08), describes how Russert, "an enabler of neocons," allowed his influential TV program "to function as the War Party's sounding board." He writes:

It wasn't just his sycophancy in the presence of power that motivates my little exercise in Russert revisionism – it's what was clearly his vehement hostility to anyone who challenged the status quo in any way and sought to provide an antidote to the Dick Cheneys of this world. Example number one: his disgraceful interview with GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who made opposition to the war and our foreign policy of "preemptive" imperialism the linchpin of his remarkable campaign.

In what has got to be one of the worst examples of high-handed hectoring and attempted intellectual intimidation I've seen in my lifetime, Russert tore into Paul the way he should have lit into Cheney, impugning his integrity, spending half the interview on the arcane subject of the Civil War – which Paul had never made a speech about, and obviously wasn't even a minor issue in the campaign. . . .

Oh yes, Russert did his research, all right, but he only utilized it to the War Party's advantage. He sucked up to power and was little more than a stenographer for high government officials whose confidence he coveted. He was, in short, a great journalist, at least by today's standards, and that's why the media blowhards are turning his death into a celebration of… themselves. Because they're virtually all the same – shameless, sycophantic suck-ups who will do anything to advance their careers and could care less about where it takes the country.
• • •

To return to Butler Shaffer, he reflects on the same old hacks being interviewed on news programs, and requests readers to let him know "the next time you see any of these persons interviewed on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN or Fox News."

• Becky Akers
• Jim Bovard
• Alexander Cockburn
• Robert Fisk
• Amy Goodman
• Glenn Greenwald
• Chris Hedges
• Seymour Hersh
• Bob Higgs
• Chalmers Johnson
• Karen Kwiatkowski
• John Pilger
• Justin Raimondo
• Paul Craig Roberts
• Lew Rockwell

How about some real "diversity" for a change among TV's talking heads?

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