Maybe it’s just me, but lately I’m noticing a greater swaggering amongst the US mainstream left-of-center media. Some of it can be of course attributed to the euphoria of Barack Obama’s election, but I think for the most part it is collective relief after eight years of news oppression.
This is where the diehard fans of former President George W. Bush begin protesting, but the facts are indisputable. The chill over the news outlets was obvious from the start; the massive protest and subsequent abuse of protesters during Bush’s 2001 presidential inauguration was largely ignored by the mainstream media. To this day one has to veer off the beaten path to find any details. Wikipedia glosses over the incident… but findings of Washington DC police spying on activists show that the subject is certainly deserved of more attention.
After that came a series of executive orders targeted directly at freedom of speech. From restricting release of presidential papers to dangerously vague attacks against the right to dissent, the Bush administration conducted an assault on American speech unprecedented in scale. The effects even chilled entertainment media, leading to massive FCC fines for brief nipple flashes on television and censorship of harmless comic routines. True, one cannot blame the former president for every act, but the buck-stoppers at the White House set the tone and media moguls proved themselves all too willing to get on board. Why else so meekly and easily comply with an order banning photographs of military coffins (Obama promises it will be reconsidered)? The editorial protests were too few and subdued in my opinion.
During those eight years it seemed the only mainstream voice truly taking the administration to task was that of Keith Olbermann, who never held back in his judgment against perceived wrongdoings. He’s increasingly joined front-and-center by CNN’s Jack Cafferty and Campbell Brown, who seem to think righteous indignation is enough to match Olbermann’s measured tenor.
It’s good to see this newfound spirit in the press, but even if it is due to the removal of fear, I have to question the sincerity. I miss the sober reason of Ted Koppel, who has long struck me as the most objective journalist in modern times. I highly recommend his excellent book, Off Camera. I can only hope his daughter Andrea has inherited Koppel’s ethical sense… and that her peers will do a better job holding the Obama administration acountable than we saw in the previous eight years. Sheer brashness alone won’t cut it.
But we shall see.