Why We Need A Blogosphere

Television news was a great idea. Just think of it: A box that sits in your living room and brings you important information from around the block or around the world. Sounds too good to be true. And apparently it is.

Whatever value television adds to the distribution of news must be weighed against the harm it produces through its incorporation of bias, selective editing, and the pursuit of its own self interest.

SpinComFor example, last year David Barstow of the New York Times wrote a meticulously well researched and documented story that should have sparked a national uproar. The story described how the Pentagon in the Bush administration conspired to train and deploy former military personnel to spread propaganda in support of the war in Iraq. And if that weren’t bad enough, the program also permitted them to use their high profile media platform to enrich themselves and the defense contractors to whom they were attached.

Barstow’s story was received with what some call a “deafening silence,” particularly from the TV news community. Then, last week, Barstow won a Pulitzer Prize for the story. The silence built into a crushing whisper. Even progressive media icons like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow only glanced over this story. Obviously there are strong arm tactics being employed to prevent the public from learning that our government purposefully and unlawfully engaged in propaganda directed squarely at us. The TV news networks are simply covering their own asses since it was primarily their facilities that hosted the phony military analysts.

Yesterday, Barstow was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now to discuss the announcement that the Pentagon inspector general’s office had withdrawn its own report that had previously exoneraed the program. In the interview Goodman asked Barstow to comment on the lack of reporting on his story. Barstow said…

“You know, to be honest with you, I haven’t received many invitations-in fact, any invitations-to appear on any of the main network or cable programs. I can’t say I’m hugely shocked by that.”

“On the other hand, while there’s been kind of deafening silence, as you put it, on the network side of this, the stories have had-sparked an enormous debate in the blogosphere. And to this day, I continue to get regular phone calls from not just in this country but around the world, where other democracies are confronting similar kinds of issues about the control of their media and the influence of their media by the government.”

“So it’s been an interesting experience to see the sort of two reactions, one being silence from the networks and the cable programs, and the other being this really lively debate in the blogosphere. “

When an important and newsworthy story that exposes government wrongdoing at the highest levels – a story that appears on the front page of the New York Times and wins a Pulitzer Prize – cannot get the attention of television news outlets, there is something seriously wrong with that medium. When a respected journalist has to console himself with having his story get traction only on the Internet, it tells us a great deal about how corrupt the corporate-run news divisions of America have become.

Barstow should not have to be satisfied with generating lively debate in the blogosphere. The revelations in his article illustrate a betrayal of trust on the part of our government. The public deserves and needs to know the facts about this affair. But the failure of the television news enterprises to responsibly carry out their duties is also a betrayal of trust. How are we supposed to rely on their journalistic integrity if they refuse to exhibit any?

I don’t expect Sean Hannity to be issuing an invitation to Barstow anytime soon. Fox News has always been as deeply integrated into the Bush administration’s propaganda machine as any of these Pentagon Pundits. But if Olbermann, Maddow, Ed Schultz, or even Chris Matthews don’t extend an invitation to Barstow, then we need to let them know that they are failing to serve the public and they are buckling under to a media conspiracy to keep the people ignorant.

If it embarrasses NBC/MSNBC to admit that they participated in this charade, they need to suck it up, take responsibility, and ask for forgiveness. Permitting these phony analysts on their air was bad enough. They should not compound the offense by attempting to cover it up.

Barstow is right about the blogosphere. But we need to shape it into something more than a forum for debate. We need to use it to make the old media behave responsibly; to hold their feet to the fire. And this is as good an issue as any with which to assert that principle.

Contact MSNBC
MSNBC General
Keith Olbermann
Rachel Maddow
Ed Schultz
David Shuster
Chris Matthews