Sunday, September 11, 2011

George Lakoff and Bill Keller on Role of Mainstream Media, Post 9/11

George Lakoff at Huffington Post on the role of the mainstream media in propagating right-wing frames for the significant issues we face in the post-9/11 world:

Since the 2008 election, America has returned to post-9/11 conservative intimidation by framing. The intimidation does not use violence. It uses media. When conservatives, using their moral system, are able to frame the main values that define public discourse, the media follows suit, because that is how "mainstream" public discourse has been defined. The media, encountering more conservative language, picks up on that language and uses it. Since conservative language evokes conservative frames and values, which are carried with it, the media (liberal or not) winds up helping conservatives. Even arguing against conservatives, liberal pundits in the media first quote what they say. Liberals in the media help the conservatives by quoting their language, even to argue against it.

In the post-2008 return to 9/11 style intimidation by framing, conservatives have been winning. They have protected banks from financial regulation, health insurance companies from government insurance, and corporations from serious environmental regulation. They have successfully attacked the very idea of the public -- public education, employees, unions, parks, housing, and safety nets. 

And  Bill Keller in the New York Times, admitting frankly that he and others--the mainstream media in general--were duped by Bush-Cheney about the rationale for war in Iraq, and should have been more vigilant in their reporting: 

We now know that the consensus [about WMD] was wrong, and that it was built in part on intelligence that our analysts had good reason to believe was cooked. Should we — those of us without security clearances — have known it in 2003? Certainly we should have been more suspicious of the administration’s assurances. Kenneth Pollack, the former C.I.A. analyst who is now at the Brookings Institution, concedes that he should have drilled deeper into the claims of the intelligence crunchers; he was misled, he says, by the fact that they had seriously underestimated Hussein in the past. 

I applaud Mr. Keller's admission that he was wrong.  At the same time, I wonder why it ought to have taken the discovery that he and other reporters were being cynically lied to by the Bush administration to lead him to conclude, "Certainly we should have been more suspicious of the administration’s assurances."

That's the very job of the media: to be suspicious of the assurances of all official and powerful organizations that hold sway over the lives of large numbers of citizens.  Such vigilance is written into the job description of the media.

The real question that those who care about maintaining democracy in the post-9/11 era should be asking now is this: How has it happened that our media have become overt, unabashed shills for the rich and powerful?  And how is it possible to change this fact?  

Is it possible at all?

A small postscript to the Keller piece: I read at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish site recently that some readers of his blog would like for him to notify them when he is linking to a NY Times article, so that they don't exhaust the number of Times articles they can read on a given day without a subscription.  But I'm pretty sure I read, when the Times implemented its new subscription policy, that reading links from blog sites to the Times does not count in the tally of articles one may read daily at the Times site.  If any readers of this blog have more information about that, could you please confirm or correct me here?

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