New Hope for Defending Democracy
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Executive Subversion of the Mass Media
The mass media's main function today is to serve as a public relations arm for the Executive. There are dozens of honest and talented investigative reporters who expose Executive wrongdoing. But they constitute a small minority of the nation's mass media, and while they often deserve their Pulitzers they have at best a marginal impact on overall Executive behavior.
Washington Post reporter Dana Priest with Bill Arkin deservedly won plaudits for Top Secret America , one of the most important books of the decade. But their reporting had no noticeable impact on the growth of the Executive Surveillance State. Much such "adversarial" reporting even has the paradoxical effect of maintaining the illusion of "free press" while Executive officials continue their war-making unimpeded by media reporting, congressional action, or public opinion. There are also dozens of reporters who, day to day, report essential facts about Executive activities. The diligent reader, looking for a story here, a paragraph there, can piece together much useful information about U.S. warmaking abroad.
The heart of Executive information operations in America are the constant stream of media reports based on the statements by Executive Branch officials. Journalists do this because their jobs depend upon it. Top journalists, e.g., covering the Defense, State or Homeland Security departments, depend on their Executive Branch "sources." Maintaining their relationships with these officials is critical to their careers and livelihoods.
Over the last several decades there has been so much intermingling between top journalistic and Executive officials that they have become indistinguishable from each other, a collusion that is on display each year at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
CBS correspondent Bernie Kalb capped off his career by becoming a spokesman for Reagan's State Department, defending Central American death squad and contra murders. The present White House spokesman, Jay Carney, is a former executive. Former Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs and political director David Axelrod have landed lucrative gigs with MSNBC, as have dozens of other Executive Branch officials.
And the ties go even deeper. As the Washington Post has reported, "ABC News President BenSherwood is the brother of Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, a top national-security adviser to President Obama. His counterpart at CBS, news division president David Rhodes, is the brother of Benjamin Rhodes, a key foreign-policy specialist.CNN's deputy Washington bureau chief, Virginia Moseley, is married to Tom Nides, who until earlier this year was deputy secretary of state under Hillary Rodham Clinton. White House press secretary Jay Carney's wife is Claire Shipman, a veteran reporter for ABC. And NPR's White House correspondent, Ari Shapiro, is married to a lawyer, Michael Gottlieb, who joined the White House counsel's office in April. Biden's current communications director, Shailagh Murray is married to Neil King, one of the Wall Street Journal's top political reporters."
What emerges out of this combination of careerism, well-paying jobs, revolving doors, and even intermarriage between top Executive officials and journalists is a shared mindset. Yes, a top journalist can occasionally point to stories that embarrass government officials. But even such stories are a drop in the bucket compared to their day-to-day, hour-by-hour stories conveying Executive Branch information operations to the public. The Executive Branch does not tell mass media journalists what to write. It has absorbed them.
Executive Subversion of the Judiciary
Although judicial rubberstamping of Executive activities is significant, the Executive Branch subversion of judicial power goes far deeper, and is far more serious. Because the Executive dominates Congress, it has had Congress pass numerous of laws that increase its power and shield it from judicial redress.