Monday, March 14, 2005

The 4th branch of government

I'm outraged over the fact that our government has been working towards turning the 4th estate into a propaganda machine. This comprises a serious threat to the basic prinicples of democracy. Why don't we hold our gov't accountable for its actions? Why do we not care that our taxes are being used to decieve us?

Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind act. The administration's response? Not our fault, and it was an isolated incident to be looked into.

Not long after Williams was exposed it was discovered that Maggie Gallagher was paid to promote the president's healthy marriage initiative - so much for an isolated incident. Since then it has also been discovered that a third journalist - Michael McManus - was also paid to shill for the administration.

On top of paying pundits off the administration has also been releasing prepackaged news reports (registration to the site is free) to local stations, in which actors pose as journalists and the releases are presented as if they are real news. The administrations response? Not our fault. Of course not. Nothing is this administration's fault, the administration isn't accountable for any actions.

But having journalists on the payroll and releasing bogus news reports wasn't enough for the administration, they also needed a plant in White House press corps. Enter Jeff Gannon, a fake reporter from a fake news agency, a man using an alias, who had no journalistic credentials, but worked for a Texas Republican delegate's partisan activist organization, who was allowed into White House press briefings for two years without ever receiving a hard pass which is necessary for such extended access to the President, so that he could ask questions which were little more than rhetorical devices meant to smear opposition to the administration rather than actually gain information. The administration's response? Not our fault, and no big deal.

Simply disseminating disinformation still wasn't enough for the administration, however. Unfavorable information needed to be supressed. Take for instance, the leak of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative shortly after her husband wrote an article for the New York Times critical of the administration's pre-war wmd intelligence. And oddly enough, apparently Jeff Gannon may have been one of several journalists that Plame's identity was leaked to.

The reason why the founding fathers protected journalism under the first amendment was because they realized that a free press was essential in creating an informed public to particpate in the democratic political process, and that a free press was necessary to keep government honest by holding it accountable for its actions. When the press becomes an arm of the government, a tool to push an ideological agenda, the very foundations of democracy are threatened.

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