15 January 2007

Sick of me yet?

Frances links to what she very nicely describes as an example of real reporting. Frances praises the article as an effort 'to evaluate the truth of the administration's claims'. I couldn't agree more with the praise, but I think I might describe it a bit differently. And, I'd do so in a way that Paul would find amusing (note: Paul is the first of the TG comments, but his particular comment is quoted by the second TG comment - yes folks, they are different people, but they are a bit difficult to tell apart), by turning again to discourse.

To get to the point: it's a great article not only because it critically evaluates the claims the administration makes (rather than merely doing the ridiculous 'he said, she said' bullshit), but also because it steps back from the individual comments of members of the administration to see what kind of discourse they are trying to form, what kind of narrative they are very self-consciously seeking to construct. When reporters merely focus in on the specific fact (and then say it's affirmed on one side and denied on the other) they actually contribute to the administration's attempt to get the narrative out there - and they do so no matter the truth or falsity of the particular statement. It's the broader discourse that matters most.

Take WMD, for example. In the run-up to the Iraq war, each time a reporter would focus on WMD as the reason for going to war, they would actually reify the causal logic (i.e. must invade Iraq because they have WMD), even if they 'objectively' also reported on the 'opposing view' that there were no WMD. Put otherwise, all of this press about WMD (no matter its content) meant that the frame, the discourse, was always going to be WMD - and not 'a war for oil', not the 'neocon vision of the middle east', not 'the liberation of oppressed people's, not 'the march of democracy', not any other discourse.

But the article Frances links to steps back a bit from the particular claim about the importance of bombing the Samarra shrine. This lets it evaluate the truth of that claim, yes, but it also lets it show how the claim itself is a part of a broader discourse that the administration is trying to construct. In this discourse 2006 was a turning point (downward) but only because of a few anomalies, and we can correct those anomalies with a 'surge' (or whatever the hell we're supposed to call it).

My specific point: the more the Bushies can get this discourse out there, the less they'll have to deal with alternative discourses, e.g. those in which 2006 was not an anomaly but part and parcel of an utter failure of vision, coupled with complete incompetence of execution.

My general point: the Bush administration has consistently proved itself ingenius in using its ability to control the message it puts out (e.g. with press secretaries who never say anything, by flooding the Sunday talk shows, but insisting on 'talking points' up and down the party ranks and throughout much of the 'press') in order to help it consciously construct its discourses. Hence, the MSM has been a (silent or not) accomplice in this process, because they never step back and connect the dots. Hence, also, the genius of Jon Stewart, who does just this sort of dot-connecting on a regular basis (and also compares previous discourses with the current one 'greeted as liberators', 'can't imagine the occupation would cost more than the liberation', etc. in order to expose them) simply by showing lots of clips.


Transient Gadfly said...

just to add to and echo your rant, there's this article a few minutes ago from the freaking AP:

Bush chides Iraq over recent executions

which includes these quotes:
"President Bush said Tuesday the unruly execution of Saddam Hussein 'looked like it was kind of a revenge killing,' making it harder to persuade a skeptical U.S. public that Iraq's government will keep promises"

"'I was disappointed and felt like they fumbled the — particularly the Saddam Hussein execution'"

"Bush said he had expressed his displeasure"

nevermind how much "disappointment," "chide," and "displeasure," are not just inappropriate but downright offensive terms to describe these events (out of anyone's mouth let alone the president's). but it also offends the crap out of me that the AP's pretense at "reporting" this involves alternating paragraphs (okay, sentences, but such is the way, seemingly, with online news articles) of what bush said and feels (disappointed) with info about polls, stubborn demoncrats, number of dead, and the real hard time bush is having convincing the american people of the for-their-own-good-if-somewhat-confusing-to-them troop escalation. wow, it's tough not to feel bad for the hard working dad who is just disappointed with his naughty charges and has to scold them and then comes home to unruly children who just will not see that father knows best.


no more yelling. must go to bed so can be cute and perky first day teacher in the morning. but boy do they make it hard.


Frances said...

I completely agree with Sam's excellent (and superior) gloss on the McClatchy report. The report is most remarkable because it systematically undercuts a whole interpretation of events that the administration is pushing. It isn't merely quibbling with the administration's individual fact claims.

The reason why the administration's narratives have been so dominant is that they have so rarely been challenged in toto, with alternative interpretations advanced in their place. It's not just a matter of media coverage and punditry, either. Democratic politicians are some of the worst offenders, as well.

Democrats simply accepted the idea that the US should go to war to keep Iraq from obtaining WMD. If WMD then war, and no one questioned the link. Not that the US and international institutions had successfully prevented proliferation through negotiation for years. Not that WMD armed countries can manage their disputes without going to war. Nor any other alternative large-scale world view.

The upsetting thing is that the failures that gave us the Iraq War could all happen again. Democrats are almost as craven in their response to the administration's war-mongering on Iran as they were 4 years ago on Iraq. They all fall into the trap of accepting the premise that Iran obtaining WMD would be an unthinkable calamity and that "nothing can be taken off the table" in order to stop it. And, of course, the only thing ever on that table is military force.