Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

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Location: New York, United States

The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Book Review: Lapdogs

Lapdogs by Eric Boehlert ****

Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, is a devastating indictment of the so-called mainstream media (MSM) for their fawning, credulous treatment of the Bush administration throughout its tenure, particularly but not exclusively in the wake of 9/11 and the lead-up to the Iraq war. With meticulous documentation of his accusations, Boehlert makes mincemeat of the right-wing cry of “liberal bias” and shows that while the MSM may not necessarily be conservative, their fear of attack by the well-oiled right-wing echo chamber means that they effectively are, for the most part, a mouthpiece for the administration. Economic considerations such as media consolidation, cuts in newsroom staff, the drive for profit, and the healthy incomes of many media higher-ups also play a part.

Although he acknowledges honorable exceptions, Boehlert shows over and over again how the media spun administration and right-wing talking points, ignored and marginalized critics and dissenters, and often, when they did do real investigative reporting, as with the NSA wiretapping story and disturbing information about some of Bush’s judicial nominees, only came through when it was too late to make the difference it should have. Reporting of the NSA story or Bush’s probable cheating in the debates, for example, might have led to a different outcome in the 2004 election, but the electorate was denied vital information that might have affected their decision.

Particularly instructive is Boehlert’s in-depth analysis of two similar stories and their diametrically opposed treatment by the MSM: the ignoring of the credible allegation that Bush blew off his National Guard duty (which did not depend solely on Dan Rather’s questionable memos but were supported by careful study of thousands of government documents); and the respect, even deference, shown by the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose claims were easily debunked, contradictory and shown to be partisan by the most cursory examination of their backgrounds.

A depressing and sobering analysis of a true nadir in the history of American journalism.

Note: Considering the hysterical, vitriolic denunciation of the NY Times (and, for the most part, only the NY Times) in the past week over its story about the administration’s investigation of banking records, we can now see what they were afraid of. It remains to be seen whether the foaming-at-the-mouth accusations of treason, etc. will have a chilling effect or make the Times and others in the MSM realize just how stupid they have been over the past five and a half years.

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