Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ari .... Baby .....

Since Scott McClellan's mia culpa book came out criticizing the press for it's lousy Iraq war coverage, the media has been doing the usual hand-wringing about it's coverage. Via Froomkin, we have this jewel from Ari Fleischer who claims that the press did a plenty good job!

Not surprisingly, Fleischer was able to fish out a few examples of aggressive questioning from the voluminous press-briefing archives for his Washington Post op-ed on Sunday. But his argument ultimately boils down to an unpersuasive exercise in self-pity.

Fleischer cites McClellan's charge that the press "failed to aggressively question the rationale for war," and responds: "As someone whose duty it was to assume the position of a human piƱata every day in the briefing room, I only wish Scott were right. . . .

"At the risk of agreeing with one of my toughest protagonists in the briefing room -- NBC's David Gregory-- the press was tough, plenty tough. I have the scars -- and the transcripts -- to prove it. . . .

"'I often returned to my office beaten down from the clashes in the briefing room.'"

Poor Ari. He doesn't seem to understand the fundamental difference between a reporters questions and the coverage that takes place in the actual outlet. Sure David Gregory can ask some tough questions, but does it make it into the news broadcast in any meaningful way? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise?

Come on Ari. Don't be so conservatively literal. It's why I've contended that the White House briefings are meaningless. The press secretary's job is to get on the podium and lie spin in response to wet kisses tough questions from the media. Helen Thomas is a poster child for this dynamic. Thomas used to be typical, part of a crowd and a institutional apparatus designed to represent The People. Now she's been marginalized into a clown-like figure of fringe government skepticism.

Even when questions and skepticism abounds, the filtering by editors, producers and talking heads is so profound as to make any real reporting from the front end meaningless. That is the essence of "corporate" media. It's not that reporters don't "do their jobs", they often do. It's that the powers that be above them refuse to do the fourth estate's job out of fear and greed. It's much safer to do a hatchet job on the latests white woman kidnapper than the President.

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