No Respect and No Shame

Yesterday, I told you about Ed Brayton and Todd Heywood’s experience trying to cover the Michigan Republicon Party’s convention. The saga continues, with Michigan Cons denying the intrepid independent reporters media credentials for the second straight day. But this time, the Cons are on the record with their sorry-ass excuses:

Party officials described the denial as “a consequence” of Messenger’s coverage of the Michigan Republican Party, specifically Eartha Jane Melzer’s article from last September titled “Lose your house, lose your vote.” The story cited a GOP official in Macomb County as saying the party planned on Election Day to use foreclosure lists as the basis for challenging voter eligibility.

“It [the article] wasn’t very favorable to the party, and we just chose not to give you guys credentials,” said a man who would only give his first name, Greg, and identified himself as the new media coordinator for the party.

Party spokesperson Robert Wolfe denied that the GOP was censoring the media.

“We’re in favor of allowing media into our conventions that we feel are going to give us fair coverage. Based on our previous experiences with you, we do not feel that you are such an outlet,” he said.

Apparently, the Cons define the phrase “fair coverage” the same way they define the word “bipartisanship.” They also have a rather sad grasp of censorship. When you deny reporters credentials with which to cover you because you’re afraid they’ll write something honest, you have just censored the media. It may not be the dictionary definition, but that is the effect. And it’s anathema in a democracy.

Ed is righteously pissed:

The upshot of all this is quite simple. It’s an attempt by the Republicans to intimidate news outlets into giving them favorable coverage. The message is clear: you do a story about us that we don’t like, we’ll shut you out and you won’t get any access. This has been going on for months. We’ve gotten no response at all out of Michigan Republicans, including government officials in office, virtually since the story broke.

And the most grating thing about it: they didn’t have the courage to just tell us that up front. They didn’t return our calls all week seeking credentials for the convention. And when we got there last night, they lied right to our faces and told us that we didn’t need credentials, only to find out later that we did and that they wouldn’t allow us on the convention floor. And the media coordinator refused repeatedly to tell us who made the decision so they could be held to account for it.

Not only are they corrupt, not only do they not give a damn about freedom of the press, not only are they authoritarians who seek to punish legitimate news outlets that dare to publish true stories that make them look bad – they’re also cowards to boot.

Lying, corrupt cowards – yup. That’s the GOP in a nutshell. Ed forgot the part about them being tantrum-throwing toddlers, but I guess that goes without saying by now.

Two sound thrashings didn’t work. Looks like we’ll have to throw them in kiddie boot camp next election. Prepare to proffer political pain, my poppets. And a variety of other Con-pummelling slogans that don’t necessarily employ the letter P, but come down to one thing: the only way these sons-of-motherless-goats will ever be taught the proper respect for the press and our political system is by dealing them yet another resounding electoral defeat.

Not that the third time’s the charm with fucktards this dense, but at least there won’t be so many of them around screwing things up.

No Respect and No Shame

Afraid of Independent Press, Are We?

I’m not sure if Ed Brayton’s experience with the Michigan Con party is more funny, pathetic, or outrageous:

On Friday night, I went with my colleague from the Michigan Messenger, Todd Heywood, to cover the Michigan Republican state convention in Lansing. We got to the convention center and stood in line at the registration desk to find out where we got our press credentials. A lady there then told us to go over to the hotel, right next door, and to a particular room.

So we go to the hotel, go to that room, and talk to the person we were told to talk to. He tells us that we don’t need any special credentials at all, we just had to sign in – so we did.

So far, so good, right? They’re in and doing what professional journalists do – i.e., acting as the watchdogs of democracy – which is where problems arise. Todd got stopped by one of Attorney General Mike Cox’s aides while trying to snap a picture for the paper.

Finally Todd asked what he was doing and the guy asked if he was media. He said yes and showed him his ID from the Michigan Messenger and the guy says no, you need a green media pass to be here. So Todd goes back to the guy who told us we didn’t need credentials and the guy told him that, in fact, he had lied to us and that the decision was made not to issue credentials to anyone from the Michigan Messenger. [emphasis exasperatedly added]

Ladies and gentlemen, the Michigan Republican Party.

Not only are they still addicted to censorship, even their minions are pathological liars. Is it any wonder I hope the Con party ends up ratfucking itself out of existence?

Afraid of Independent Press, Are We?

America's Free Press: Slip-Sliding Down

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

-United States Constitution, First Amendment

I confess that I do not entertain that firm and complete attachment to the liberty of the press which is wont to be excited by things that are supremely good in their very nature. I approve of it from a consideration more of the evils it prevents than of the advantages it ensures.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Saturday, May 3rd, was World Press Freedom Day. Freedom House released its Freedom of the Press 2008 survey, which covers 2007. The United States ranks 24th.

Here’s some perspective: there are 64 countries listed as “free” in Freedom House’s report. We don’t even break the top third.

In 2005, the year of jailed journalists, revelations that Bush had “paid several political commentators who supported certain domestic policy initiatives through grants from agencies of the federal government,” and the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting stepping down in disgrace after attempts to politicize the agency, the United States ranked 17th.

We are slipping.

Our vaunted free press is no longer first in the world. It’s not even in the first third. We’ve been slip-sliding down ever since Bush got his grubby hands on our government and started telling us that we had to trade freedom for security. William Bennett Turner took on this “Assault on Press Freedom” in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006:

But U.S. press freedom has been slipping away since Sept. 11, 2001. Now that we are in a seemingly permanent “war” on terrorism, the government claims wartime powers that result in restricting press freedom.

The Bush administration has multiplied exponentially the number of documents it classifies as secret, shielding them from public view. It has classified literally millions of documents “top secret,” according to reports filed with the National Archives; and the office of Vice President Dick Cheney claims to be exempt from reporting even the numbers of records it brands with the “classified” stamp. (The administration has also tried to retrieve antique classified documents from columnist Jack Anderson’s estate, contending that only the government may possess such documents, however old.) Within weeks after 9/11, President Bush issued Executive Order 13233, allowing him to veto public release not only of his own presidential papers but those of former President Ronald Reagan, Bush’s father and former President Bill Clinton.

Things haven’t gotten much better since then. Bush signed a new Freedom of Information Act on December 31st, 2007 – after the CIA safely destroyed videotapes of its interrogations of terror suspects. But a bill to shield reporters from being forced to reveal confidential sources is stalled in the Senate. The covert propaganda campaign continues apace. Most recently, we discovered that the Bush Administration had bought off retired generals to act as “message force multipliers.” That’s Pentagon-speak for “government propaganda footsoldiers.”

The freedom of our press isn’t overtly threatened so often – the Constitution still holds there – but its health is continually undermined by covert propaganda techniques, appeals to patriotism, and attacks from the right-wing noise machine. Our press has gone from robust to moribund. Glenn Greenwald has relentlessly documented the decline, here:

Last night was a perfect microcosm of how our political process works. The Right creates stupid, petty personality-based attacks to ensure that our elections aren’t decided on issues (where they have a decisive disadvantage). Media stars — some due to sloth, some due to ideology, some due to an eagerness to please the Right and convince them how Good and Fair they are — eat up the shallow trash they’re fed and then spew it out relentlessly, ensuring that our political discourse is overwhelmed by it, our elections dictated by it. That happens over and over. It’s how our media and our elections function.

And here:

In the past two weeks, the following events transpired. A Department of Justice memo, authored by John Yoo, was released which authorized torture and presidential lawbreaking. It was revealed that the Bush administration declared the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights to be inapplicable to “domestic military operations” within the U.S. The U.S. Attorney General appears to have fabricated a key event leading to the 9/11 attacks and made patently false statements about surveillance laws and related lawsuits. Barack Obama went bowling in Pennsylvania and had a low score.

Here are the number of times, according to NEXIS, that various topics have been mentioned in the media over the past thirty days:

“Yoo and torture” – 102
“Mukasey and 9/11” — 73
“Yoo and Fourth Amendment” — 16
“Obama and bowling” — 1,043
“Obama and Wright” — More than 3,000 (too many to be counted)
“Obama and patriotism” – 1,607
“Clinton and Lewinsky” — 1,079

And just about everywhere.

Our press dies by degrees, by the day. And I really, really wish I could put the entire blame on Bush, but I can’t.

We let this happen.

We didn’t demand substantive coverage of issues rather than inanity. We didn’t hit back as the right wing gradually insinuated itself into every aspect of our mainstream media. We didn’t insist on investigative journalism and vigilant criticism of the government. We let the Administration tell us these things would compromise the War on Terror. We let fear get the better of us in the months and years just after September 11th. We let self-censorship take over because we were afraid. We let vapid gossip stand in for actual news because reality was too tough to face. We let the Administration use our press for propaganda because we didn’t want to look unpatriotic by raising hell, and we sure as fuck couldn’t believe our government could be that evil.

We’re paying for it now.

But there are signs that the watchdogs of democracy are starting to wake up and sniff the air. There’s been some major revelations made by real, live investigative journalists: ABC broke the Torture Memos story. The New York Times broke the Pentagon
case. Journalism is being committed with increasing frequency. It’s starting to look as if it might start performing the function de Tocqueville lauded and start preventing some evil rather than aiding and abetting it.

If we encourge this good behavior and demand more, we may just have a free, robust press come next World Press Freedom Day.

Wouldn’t that be lovely?

America's Free Press: Slip-Sliding Down