I have recently complained about the poor state of professionalism of the establishment media in America and how embedded journalists have contributed to the former administration’s propaganda campaigns. At the same time, though, I have become a big fan of Glen Greenwald who, though one may disagree with his politics, is playing the formidable role at Salon.com as a journalistic watch dog.
For example, in three recent pieces — “UAE ‘torture’ scandal and cover-up sparks outrage in the U.S.“, “The NYT’s definition of blinding American exceptionalism” and “Roxana Saberi’s plight and American media propaganda” — Greenwald calls out the media big wigs on their double standard in decrying the activities of foreign actors while practically ignoring similar behavior by the U.S. government. In the latter piece, he compares the hypocritical press’s attention to the American journalist’s imprisonment in Iran with their unwillingness to cover any of the U.S. government’s detentions without trial of journalists as part of the “War on Terror”. Greenwald writes,
Many people scoff at the notion that the American media propagandizes the American citizenry, but here one sees the vivid essence of that process. Our establishment media loves to point to and loudly condemn the behavior of other governments as proof of how tyrannical and evil they are — look at those Iranian mullah-fanatics imprisoning journalists/look at those primitive, corrupt, lawless Iraqis and their “culture of impunity“/look at the UAE and their tolerance of torture — while completely ignoring, when they aren’t justifying, identical behavior by our own government.
In Iran, at least Saberi received the pretense of an actual trial and appeal (one that resulted in her rather rapid release, a mere three weeks after she was convicted), as compared to the journalists put in cages for years by the U.S. Government with no charges of any kind, or as compared to the individuals whom we continue to abduct, transport to Bagram, and insist on the right to imprison indefinitely with no charges of any kind. Who was treated better and more consistently with ostensible Western precepts of justice and press freedoms: Roxana Saberi or Sami al-Haj? Saberi or Bilal Hussein? Saberi or Ibrahim Jassam? Saberi or the Bagram detainees shipped to Afghanistan and held in a dank prison, away from the sight of the entire world, without even a pretense of judicial review, a power the Obama administration continues to insist it possesses?
Pointing to other governments and highlighting their oppressive behavior can be cathartic, fun and gratifying in a self-justifying sort of way. Ask Fred Hiatt; it’s virtually all he ever does. But the first duty of the American media — like the first duty of American citizens — is to oppose oppressive behavior by our own government. That’s not as fun or as easy, but it is far more important. Moreover, obsessively complaining about the rights-abridging behavior of other countries while ignoring the same behavior from our own government is worse than a mere failure of duty. It is propagandistic and deceitful, as it paints a misleading picture that it is other governments — but not our own — which engage in such conduct.
I recommend that you read these articles.