Glenn Greenwald is on, of late. And hence, he puts the Samantha Power kerfuffle in its appropriate perspective, as outlined here in this thoughtful discussion of the remarks of Tucker Carlson on the current practice of symbiotic “journalism”.
Like me, Glenn is concerned both with our nation’s inner police state (and how it is relentlessly continuing to assert itself), and with the principal means of getting that police state into place, i.e., the failure of our “fourth estate,” the only profession outside of government recognized in our Constitution. The press has been, to put it politely, falling down on the job the last few years, as it fawns over the powerful to get “access” (and presumably cocktail party invitations). And hence, Glenn recites Carlson’s noting that the Power episode would never have happened had she been talking to an American “journalist” who would have “respected” her “off the record” disclaimer when she called Hillary a “monster.”
It’s extremely likely, though, that had Power been speaking to a typical reporter from the American establishment media, her request to keep her comments a secret would have been honored. In one of the ultimate paradoxes, for American journalists — whose role in theory is to expose the secrets of the powerful — secrecy is actually their central religious tenet, especially when it comes to dealing with the most powerful. Protecting, rather than exposing, the secrets of the powerful is the fuel of American journalism. That’s how they maintain their access to and good relations with those in power.
Illustrating that point as vividly as anything I can recall, MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson had Peev on his show last night and angrily criticized her publication of Power’s remarks. Carlson upbraided Peev for her lack of deference to someone as important as Power, and Peev retorted by pointing out exactly what that attitude reflects about Carlson and the American press generally (via LEXIS; h/t Mike Stark):
CARLSON: What — she wanted it off the record. Typically, the arrangement is if someone you’re interviewing wants a quote off the record, you give it to them off the record. Why didn’t you do that?
PEEV: Are you really that acquiescent in the United States? In the United Kingdom, journalists believe that on or off the record is a principle that’s decided ahead of the interview. If a figure in public life.
PEEV: Someone who’s ostensibly going to be an advisor to the man who could be the most powerful politician in the world, if she makes a comment and decides it’s a bit too controversial and wants to withdraw it immediately after, unfortunately if the interview is on the record, it has to go ahead.
CARLSON: Right. Well, it’s a little.
PEEV: I didn’t set out in any way, shape.
CARLSON: Right. But I mean, since journalistic standards in Great Britain are so much dramatically lower than they are here, it’s a little much being lectured on journalistic ethics by a reporter from the “Scotsman,” but I wonder if you could just explain what you think the effect is on the relationship between the press and the powerful. People don’t talk to you when you go out of your way to hurt them as you did in this piece.
Don’t you think that hurts the rest of us in our effort to get to the truth from the principals in these campaigns?
PEEV: If this is the first time that candid remarks have been published about what one campaign team thinks of the other candidate, then I would argue that your journalists aren’t doing a very good job of getting to the truth. Now I did not go out of my way in any way, shape or form to hurt Miss Power. I believe she’s an intelligent and perfectly affable woman. In fact, she’s — she is incredibly intelligent so she — who knows she may have known what she was doing.
She regretted it. She probably acted with integrity. It’s not for me to decide one way or the other whether she did the right thing. But I did not go out and try to end her career.
Credit to Tucker Carlson for being so (unintentionally) candid about the lowly, subservient role of the American press with regard to “the relationship between the press and the powerful.” A journalist should never do anything that “hurts” the powerful, otherwise the powerful won’t give access to the press any longer. Presumably, the press should only do things that please the powerful so that the powerful keep talking to the press, so that the press in turn can keep pleasing the powerful, in an endless, symbiotic, mutually beneficial cycle. Rarely does someone who plays the role of a “journalist” on TV so candidly describe their real function.
I’ll go further than Glenn’s piece there (addressed to journalists and the journalism “profession” here stateside), and add that much of our courts and our legislative branch, which are also expressly mentioned in our Constitution, have fallen down on their jobs, to ensure that the even more powerful are brought to account, particularly when the powerful trammel on rights laid out in the Constitution, or of course, they trammel on the prerogatives of the other branches of government. But it’s all of a piece: courage of any kind seems to be in short supply, even if only the courage simply to do one’s traditional job these days.
Some of us are shouting to the hills, baby. It’s all we can do. Look: human beings seem to be predisposed to being a fairly unique combination of herd animal and pack animal, with rather nightmarish consequences at times (seeTwentieth Century, The), genocide ironically being Prof. Power’s academic discipline and expertise, btw.
The American Republic, as horribly flawed as it was (slavery, Indian massacres, land-grabs from Mexico, etc.) was just about the first effort to change the rules of herd and pack animal, and treat human beings as… human beings, each with individual, arguably “inalienable” rights. And until one horrible morning in September of 2001, we had been moving not exactly steadily but at least regularly, forward, on expanding those rights and enabling individual fulfillment and freedom– and aspiring to those rights for all humanity– as our core value.
Until one incident– a big one to be sure– but it affected me and those of us in downtown Manhattan that day infinitely more than most of the people who are paranoid and crap-in-their-pants-afraid of the swarthy furriners planning our destruction… and we have, to this day, not reconciled any of this with the fact that (as the Unseen Editor recently reminded me) this fear is a legitimate feeling on the part of millions of Americans, and one entire party. We have to recognize that.
But it’s not about dismissing that fear (see Clinton, Hillary; Air America; Liberal Establishment, The) so much as reconciling it with the fact that turning ourselves into a police state is not the answer to addressing these fears, and, indeed, it is probably even counterproductive to doing what ultimately needs to be done to combat terrorism. Even if we make “battling terrorism” our number one priority, we can (and should) still do so as a more or less free country.
Of course, if our “journalists” and our “opposition party” and courts won’t talk about any of this, lest they give up their cherished privileged access to the powerful… well, see above re: shouting to the hills. Just saying.
This has been “Monsters, Ink.”
Just a coincidence, but Tucker got canned today or yesterday. 🙂