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REPORTING THE GUANTANAMO FILES April 28, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Democracy.
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Terms including mainstream media are given wide currency from both sides of the non-establishment political spectrum.

Of course, it is perhaps the role of the major media to define the boundaries of the political debate, and particularly in the United States who can run for office, including determining when they should withdraw. As a side issue, it would be convenient on this assumption to attribute the absence of quality of public office holders to the media. And while from the interests of the ruling classes, or corporate elites, Obama has been a great success, this is not a view shared by many who supported him.

If it is assumed that Obama has been a failure as president despite his obvious personal talents (although not obvious to Donald Trump) it raises one obvious question that has not been asked: What are the background and attributes should a president possess? Or, in the case of the lack of cabinet government in the US, or so it seems: What the set of skills and experience required by his team of immediate advisers and office holders?

Accountability for this power elite is for the most part cursory. President Obama campaigned and was elected on the intended closing of the “concentration camp” in Cuba, to quote Chris Floyd. We hear stories, for example, by force of personality, Rahm Emmanuel whose position was not approved by the Senate determined outcomes for detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

What we are not hearing now, as was the case when Richard Nixon handed the office to his Vice President following the release by Daniel Ellsberg of the top secret Pentagon Papers to be published by The Washington Post: “See the system works”. Instead The New York Times has sought the approval to publish the Wikileaks documents from the Department of Justice, and has sought to deny the documents are connected to Wikileaks. The aspect that struck me about their reporting was their refusal to acknowledge that the detainees held in the Unites States prisons in Cuba were tortured.

Others have taken a more deeper critique of the behavior of The New York Times as a symptom of the failure of democratic governance. Unlike the earlier instance involving the Pentagon Papers there has been the readily available example of other newspapers treatment of the same information. The Guardian, as an English language newspaper is the most obvious example – although their relationship with Julian Assange seems to have gone from bad to worst.

Robert Scheer at Truthdig makes the case against The New York Times:

There is a craven disconnect between the eagerness of leading editors to exploit the important news revealed by WikiLeaks and their efforts to distance themselves from both the courageous website and Bradley Manning, the alleged source of documents posted there. Alleged is required when referring to the Army private so as not to repeat the egregious error of a constitutional-law-professor-turned-president who has already presumed Manning guilty of crimes for which he is not even formally charged.

. . . Why indeed is Manning the one behind bars and not the government officials who kept hidden unpleasant truths about this nation’s policies that the public has a right to know? And why do leaders of our constitutionally protected free press now seek to distance themselves from news sources that have performed a great public service? A service documented by the fact, as tallied by The Atlantic magazine, that more than half of the issues of The New York Times this year have carried stories that relied on WikiLeaks’ disclosures.

Carol Rosenberg and Tom Lasseter, McClatchy Newspapers, via Truthout argue that files reveal that the military was ineffective and was making it up as it went along. Of course, that is one of the purposes of secrecy, even low level classification, to protect the bureaucracy, in this instance the Pentagon. And yet it seems, that President Obama is beholden to the Pentagon and to the CIA, or at least to the dominant mindset that was shaped by the Bush Administration. Heedless to observe, the bureaucratic and economic interests of the Military Industrial Complex are seemingly immune to budgetary scrutiny – or for that matter media scrutiny.

So it may well be implied that the greatest threat to the traditional mass media – television and print – is not as sometimes supposed the internet but the failure to perform their democratic function, albeit as business or government organizations. And unless representative democracy is fundamentally change, the failure of mass media, as illustrated by this case study of The New York Times is symptomatic of the failure of democracy at a national level.

POSTSCRIPT:

It was clear to me that the birther allegation with respect to President Obama’s nationality was racist, but foolishly perhaps I did not read the subtext in Trump’s denigration of the President’s academic accomplishments. However, I did like the comment that now we have seen Obama’s birth certificate, let’s see Trumps tax return.

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