Back in my heady media activist/critic days, hours hours hours were spent dissecting each line in James LeMoyne's and Stephen Kinzer's pro-administration New York Times reports from the Central American wars, then reading the Washington Post's and Wall Street Journal's op-ed pages while channel-surfing the evening network newscasts, then taking note of who MacNeil/Lehrer thought should analyze the day's events followed up with perusals of George Will's Newsweek columns and John Leo's reactionary cultural blasts in US News & World Report, then a quick check of Ted Koppel's "Nightline" guest list before a nightcap and bed.
Every day for years was like this -- not only did I monitor the mainstream press, but I read as many of the (openly) ideological magazines as I could: National Review, American Spectator, Human Events, Policy Review, The World & I, New Republic, Dissent, In These Times, The Nation, Mother Jones, The Progressive, Workers Vanguard. My head swirled with bylines and opinions. There were few journos and columnists that I didn't recognize on, say, C-SPAN, and naturally I'd phone in and attack them, knowing each one's political slant and most recent work.
Funny thing is, whenever I'd talk about this world with family members back in the Midwest, they'd tell me that they had no idea who or what I was talking about. When I showed them videos of me on John McLaughlin's old CNBC show or of me debating the American Spectator's Terry Eagleton on C-SPAN, they were proud that I was on TV, but they had little interest in what I was saying. As one older relative put it after watching me rebut the WSJ's Jude Wanniski by employing a Chomskyian take on the corporate media, "You lost me there, son."
After reading and watching countless opinions, takes and reports on Judith Miller, the New York Times and Scooter Libby, I'm beginning to see my older relative's point. The lib blogs are enjoying this fine Fall feast of newsroom gossip, legal wrangling and Beltway intrigue, but I suspect that the larger population couldn't care less about Millergate. Ask the average American what he or she thinks about the New York Times and chances are good that you'll receive either a general answer devoid of real knowledge, or rightwing hostility toward the Left Wing Media. In other words, most people don't have the time nor the interest in the minutiae of Miller and her insider friends. Hell, I know who all the main characters are in this saga, and after 10 mins of reading about their corrupt incestuous world, I'm ready to kick over my screen and go see how Danny Bonaduce is doing in rehab.
If you want a decent breakdown, complete with the requisite minutiae, read Billmon's take on Miller & company. (Editor & Publisher's Greg Mitchell has some tart words as well.) But if you want a brief synopsis, here it is: Judith Miller worked with the Bush White House to sell the Iraq war based on lies and false information. Now that it's all coming apart, hired hands like Miller, Libby and Karl Rove are being thrown to the legal wolves, a feeding frenzy still in progress. The New York Times, represented by Bill Keller, is distancing itself from Miller while avoiding any real self-criticism for transmitting Miller's falsehoods. The corporate media is focusing on the personalities involved, but is glossing over the deeper crime of selling a war that has plunged Iraq into bloody chaos and destroyed countless thousands of lives.
Oh, Miller also snagged a $1.2 million book deal to tell "the real story" about What Happened. Her Times colleague, Tom Friedman, no stranger to large book deals himself, told CNN that, at bottom, people are jealous of Miller because she's "a pioneer and an agent of change."
Lies. Death. Destruction. Denial. Corruption. Insider deals. Greed. Vanity. Mega-profits.
Business as usual. It's all pretty simple, actually.