HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES ON CONTEMPORY POLITICAL EVENTS : FROM THE
THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS,
30 October 2005
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
From an historical perspective, World Capitalism is now entering a crisis more problematic than any it has undergone in its long and turbulent history. What new outlets can be found to maintain the rule of the private profit motive over human needs is anybody's guess....
Five hundred years ago, the European quest for commodities from Asia (known in the West as the "commercial revolution") led inevitably to a search for reduced transportation costs, via a sea route to India, but also to an aggressive search for new sources of precious metals to supplant the exhausted gold and silver mines of Western Europe, which had been heavily exploited for more than two centuries in order to purchase Asian commodities. The European fiscal crisis toward the end of the 15th century resulted in genocide for untold millions of indigenous peoples who inhabited the
In the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution, which was mostly funded by profits from the slave trade and labor exploitation on the early sugar plantations in the Caribbean, gave birth to an expanded form of democracy in
Before the end of the 19th Century, corporate elites had gained monopoly control of production in every sector of the industrial economy, and by the turn of the century all levels of government were taken hostage by corporate interests. For nearly a century this control was largely compatible with traditional middle-class values --the sanctity of private property, individual rights, indirect democracy, etc., etc....
But as the end of the 20th century grew near, it became increasingly evident that individualism and democracy could no longer be counted as an asset to corporate interests. Corporate capitalism ("corporatism") came to be acknowledged as the political force ruling society. "Citizenship" gave way to "consumerism" and concepts such as Security, Loyalty, Obedience, and just generally "getting along" came to displace traditional virtues like "honesty," "independence," and critical thinking. A new ethos for running the state-capitalist machine came into full view: the former concepts quickly became the guiding virtues of corporate society and bourgeois virtues vanished. In most cases today, it is simply Silence that rules --silence without debate. . . .
Out of this centuries-old matrix emerged Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the late 1970s. If looked at from an economic viewpoint, the continuity is remarkable: Thatcherism and Reaganism are but moments in which western ruling classes simply did what they had to do in order to protect their interests. The problem, of course, is that most people living on our planet do not share these interests, and they do not benefit from the policies promoted by this small social class of owners of capital.
Given the new technologies in the communication industry (known as the "communication revolution") it appears that a new age of democracy is about to emerge into the light of day. It may take the form of a world-wide movement where no one can be excluded legitimately from public discussions on economic and political policy. This development presents serious problems for those elite who control, among other things, nuclear weapons. What they intend to do about this problem remains uncertain. . . .
Joining in our search for perspectives, the following four authors have written essays on the contemporary political economy in America :
Item A. is an article by James Quinnery discussing the general alarm that has been aroused by "the world's best kept secret", i.e. the recent anti-terrorist legislation in England that is now perceived as an assault on the very roots of Anglo-Saxon democratic traditions. By reversing King John's historic agreement at the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, Tony Blair has suspended the right of habeas corpus and trial by jury. "Terrorist suspects" (a term as vague as you wish it to be) are now ferried off from
Item B. is an essay by David Martin, describing the historical significance of the "Reagan Revolution" up to today's constitutional crisis in the
Item C. is an article sent to us by Michael Albert, in which Girish Mishra of
Item D. is an article by Jeff Cohen, founder of the media watch group FAIR. In this piece Cohen celebrates the current White House scandal and explains what we can expect from the mainstream media during this criminal investigation.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université Stendhal-Grenoble III
from James Quinnery :
October 27, 2005
ZNet | Europe
by James Quinney
In 1943, as Britain was facing the threat of Nazi
Winston Churchill wrote: "The power of the executive to cast a man in
prison without formulating any charge known to the law and particularly
him the judgment of his peers is in the highest degree odious and is
foundation of all totalitarian government, whether Nazi or Communist."
Recent Anti-terror legislation in the UK (such as the Bill on Civil Contingencies which the Guardian's editors called "the greatest threat to civil liberty that any parliament is ever likely to consider") includes the right to detain people without charge and without access to legal council, thus, by Winston Churchill's standards, elevating the UK to the status of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.
Perhaps Ian Macdonald, one of the government's own Special Advocates authorized to work on "terrorism related issues", was reminded of Churchill's comments when he said that the government's new Anti-terror laws are "an odious blot on our legal landscape". He said this as he handed in his resignation "for reasons of conscience" adding that his "role has been altered to provide a false legitimacy to indefinite detention without knowledge of the accusations being made and without any kind of criminal charge or trial."  He joins a host of other prominent critics such as the former leading anti terrorist police chief, George Churchill Coleman, who warned that the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, is "transforming Britain into a police state'". George Churchill Coleman, who headed Scotland Yard's anti terrorist squad as they worked to counter the IRA during their mainland attacks in the late 1980s and early 1990s said Mr Clarke's proposals to extend powers to include, for example, the ability to place suspects under indefinite house arrest, were "not practical" and threatened to "further marginalise minority communities." He went on to say "I have a horrible feeling that we are sinking into a police state, and that's not good for anybody. We live in a democracy and we should police on those standards... I have serious worries and concerns about these ideas on both ethical and practical terms. You cannot lock people up just because someone says they are terrorists. Internment didn't work in
"Terrorism jolts most people, but a few react by calmly seizing the opportunity to push long nurtured demands" reads the cover story in the August edition of Economist. However, the "few" they are referring to are not government Ministers, but the "notoriously militant RMT transport workers' union" who after the recent threat to the capital's transport system have "insisted on a flurry of opportunistic demands" such as "plans to reduce station staff be put on hold and extra guards be added to trains." It should be of no surprise that the business community's leading journal is reflexively anti-union to the point where even ideas that would seem quite rational must be vehemently rejected. However, what is interesting is that even the Economist concludes: "Of all the shocks caused by the bombings, none will endure as long as the measures that are put into place to stop them... In the aftermath of terrorist attacks, the extravagant use of... police powers might seem tolerable, or even desirable. In the long term, the consequences are more likely to prove otherwise." 
After September 11th, harsh, repressive forces have "reacted calmly by seizing the opportunity to push forward long nurtured demands" all over the world. In a recent interview, Boris Berzovsky (one of
Leading human rights groups have reported that "Russian forces have carried out indiscriminate attacks or direct attacks on civilians, which are grave breaches of international humanitarian law" but this has met with little concern from
Other consequences of new measures announced by the Prime Minister in the wake of the July bombings of
In his regular report, Alvaro Gil-Robles (the Council of Europe's Human Rights commissioner) did not fail to comment on this chasm between
The Blair government has created an impressive arsenal of legislation with which to deal with political dissent, although it must be noted that much of this legislation follows on from reforms brought in by the previous Conservative government in their attempts to repeal the rights that were won in the 1960's, or as Tony Blair shamefully refers to it as marking "an end to the 1960s liberal, social consensus on law and order" as reported in the Guardian's Leader, which goes on to note in the same article that despite "the largest and most sustained fall in crime for over a century... we are still sending proportionately more people to prison than the most repressive foreign regimes: Burma, Saudi Arabia and China."  Meanwhile the charity Prison Reform Trust comments that "Prisons are the most shaming of all our public institutions. The
This is deemed by many to be an acceptable form of state action, serving the social function of population control and providing yet another stimulus to the economy. Security is a growing market for British corporations, both at home and overseas, as they are lured by the promise of large subsidies provided for by the tax-payer. An industry circular with the dubious title of "Business Continuity and Corporate Security" optimistically announces that now is the time to get in on the act: "Budgets for corporate security are increasing... This is your opportunity to get on the 2006 budget with major corporate decision-makers. Katrina and the London Tube events are game-changing circumstances that will increase budgets for 2006." 
The effect of these values are essentially that people no longer have any other rights than those you can buy on the market. The Journal of Law and Society in a 2001 article noted that since the 1980s "with increasing frequency individuals and corporations" have been "filing retaliatory lawsuits, usually claiming libel, against individuals and organizations whose lobbying campaigns, protests or demonstrations were perceived to threaten the filers' economic interests." These are often referred to as "'strategic lawsuits against public participation,' or SLAPPs..." The journal goes on to describe SLAPPs in more detail as: "private lawsuits filed against individuals or groups in response to political activities such as 'circulating a petition, writing a letter to the editor, testifying at a public hearing, reporting violations of law, lobbying for legislation, peacefully demonstrating, or otherwise attempting to influence government action.'" They also report that these cases are nearly always successful due to the fact that the "plaintiffs had considerably more resources to pursue their claims than were available to the targets of their law suits." 
This is very rarely reported because, as Greg Philo of the Glasgow University Media Unit observes, "Journalists work with routine assumptions about status and who has the 'legitimate' right to speak... Broadcasting does not stray far beyond such parameters to criticise or set any independent agendas, even if many of the population do not feel well informed or properly represented by such structures. The decisions which shape our lives and indeed the whole global economy are often made out of our sight. To challenge such structures of power and interest and to ask fundamental questions about the allocation of world resources would require an innovative and critical journalism and a truly independent broadcasting. But at present the parameters and agendas of media comment are set by the political and commercial structures which themselves stand so much in need of critical scrutiny." 
Further scrutiny was provided by Dr Des Freedman from
The report was based on interviews with 40 leading media policy-makers and argues that "key decisions... are made by government insiders, often in concert with industry lobbyists and sometimes against the wishes of the public... This seems to be a process marked less by a commitment to meaningful forms of accountability than it is to ensuring the continuing influence of a restricted number of powerful stakeholders." 
Across most of the mainstream media, what we find is a flood of patriotism that assumes the government is identified with the population, the country and the culture and therefore criticism of these policies can be considered anti-British - another profoundly totalitarian ideal. Instead the Sun urges its readership in one recent editorial to "write to your MP demanding that this crazy [human rights] law is repealed." 
The journal Social Policy & Administration states that "Fewer than half the public have heard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" and only 58% have heard of the European Convention of Human Rights. Presumably even fewer know what it actually is. Amnesty International's Conor Foley and Keir Starmer go on to note that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been described as "the world's best kept secret" but it provides "the basis for an international system of protection by which the people of the world can hold their governments to account for their human rights records." 
As Karen Bartlett of Charter 88 observes. "Instead of heralding a new era in which rights are taken seriously, the Human Rights Act has languished as the kicking boy of everybody from the Daily Mail to Prince Charles in his letters to Ministers. The lamentable failure of most on the left to speak up on its behalf leaves the Act fated to be both toothless and vulnerable to demolition by a future government, even less likely to support it than the current one. Creating a separate Human Rights Commission would, it seems, simply cause Ministers too much inconvenience in the courts." 
Although the task of standing up to this renewed crack down on civil and human rights will not be easy, the matters at stake are crucially important. The leading science journal Nature observes: "The looming threat of environmental degradation poses a complex and confounding problem for all humanity. Yet, many governments, policy-makers and societal actors are unwilling or unable to make the changes necessary to prevent or lessen the destruction of our ecosystem... one doubts if those concerned with national security as a traditional great power endeavour will be easily swayed, particularly in the post-September 11 climate."  This is because, as the Journal of Development Economics points out, the "connection between environmental protection and civil and political rights is a close one. As a general rule, political and civil liberties are instrumentally powerful in protecting the environmental resource base," logically because "more democratic governments respond favourably to environmental demands by the populace." 
By comparative standards, we enjoy remarkable freedom in this country. We can choose to throw away this legacy of hard won rights or we can make use of it and build on it to create the basis for a functioning democratic culture. One in which the public can play an active role that goes beyond putting a cross in a box every few years.
 Telegram by Churchill from Cairo, Egypt to Home Secretary Herbert Morrison (21 November 1943)
 The Guardian leader - June 20, 2003
 BBC News - December 20, 2004
 Britain 'sliding into police state' - Alan Travis, Clare Dyer and Michael White, The Guardian, January 28, 2005
 Terrorism - Learning to live with it - The Economist, July 28 2005
 Putin Is Wrong in Chechnya - NPQ, winter 2003
 The right not to be bombed outweighs liberties, says Clarke - David Rennie, The Telegraph, July 14 2005
 BBC News August 23, 2005
 Coucil of Europe rebukes UK on human rights - Simon Jeffery, The Guardian, June 8, 2005
 The Guardian leader - July 20, 2004
 Private Eye, 1142
 Public Protests, Private Lawsuits, and the Market - Douglas W. Vick and Kevin Campbell, Jounral of Law and Society, Vol 28, 2, 2001
 Television, Politics and the New Right - Greg Philo, http://www.gla.ac.uk/departments/sociology/units/media/
 Media policy dominated by 'cosy cartel', says report - Dominic Timms, The Guardian, September 20, 2005
 The Sun, August 04, 2005
 Historical Significance of the Universal Declaration - Asbjrn Eide, International Social Science Journal, Vol 50, 158, 1998
 The Observer - October 27, 2002
 Small-minded government - Nature, Vol 437, 7056, 2005
 Democracy and environmental quality - Y. Hossein Farzin and Craig A. Bond, Journal of Development Economics, 2005
*Thanks to David Cromwell and David Edwards at Medialens
from David Martin :
October 26, 2005
Started, Bush Is Finishing
by David Martin
In recent weeks,
every mornings newspaper seems to carry
documenting the accelerating tailspin of George Bushs
administration into disastrous fiasco. Political pundits may attribute
ongoing self-immolation of George Bush to the general ineptitude of the
Mayberry Machiavellis with whom he has
But there is another, more historically correct explanation for the current presidential unraveling: the disaster that is George Bush is the inevitable culmination of the revolution wrought by Ronald Reagan.
The Great Charlatan swept into office proclaiming that government was the problem. If only it got out of the way, the energy, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector would be unleashed and a golden economic age would dawn. A rising tide of affluence would lift all boats, and we would all sail off into a rosy sunset.
Now after eight years of the Gipper, four years of Bush I, eight years of Republican Lite under
The bright and shining morning in
The trickle down promised by supply-side economists has diminished to a slow drip. The tax policies of George Bush have only exacerbated this problem. The combined effect of his tax cuts has been to reduce federal tax revenue to its lowest level as a share of the economy since 1950.2 The inevitable result is the return of Reaganesque tax deficits that Bill Clinton worked so hard to erase. George Bush is mortgaging our future, and the Chinese hold the note.
Reagan came into office promising to shrink government to keep it from stifling private initiative. He and his successors may not have been too successful in shrinking the size of the government, but they have certainly magnified its ineptitude. The government that once put a man on the moon now cannot deliver ice to the
The American military that conducted a multi-front war to defeat the formidable powers of
Privatization was another of Reagans sacred tenets. The theory was that privatizing services once provided by government would result in greater efficiencies at lower costs. The
Two years after the American invasion the Iraqis have only intermittent electrical service and inadequate water supplies. But the construction firms did prove efficient in at least one area: ripping off the American taxpayer. Billions of dollars have disappeared into the black hole of
The Bush administration may have fumbled relief efforts in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But it was well prepared to apply the lessons of
The same well-connected, underperforming firms from
Politicians and their supporters love to wax romantic about the legacy they leave behind. Heres the Reagan/Bush legacy: failed wars, support of terrorists, environmental degradation, the income distribution of a banana republic, a credit rating a third world country would be ashamed of, falling health standards, the disappearance of guaranteed retirement pensions, and corporate malfeasance on an unprecedented scale.
George Bush loves to end his speeches with a request for God to bless the
1 Figures taken from Congressional Budget Office report, Historical Effective Federal Tax Rates: 1979 to 2002, March 2005.
2 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Tax Returns, A Comprehensive Assessment of the Bush Administrations Record on Cutting Taxes, April 23, 2004.
from Girish Mishra :
October 26, 2005
Criminal Capitalism and Quixotic Devotee
by Girish Mishra
Raymond W. Baker
knows of the
working of world capitalist system in all its intricacies to the
details as he worked for almost four decades in Africa and
The thesis, he has propounded in this book, is two fold: capitalism is rotten and badly stinking, yet it needs to be reformed, as there is no alternative to it. Baker, in his experience over a period of more than 40 years in more than 60 countries, has seen the freemarket system operate illicitly and corruptly and its impact on the lives of disadvantaged people on all six inhabited continents. He very candidly admits that The basic structure of our global economic system has fundamental flaws, and the accompanying risks are beginning to be evident to wealthy and impoverished alike.
When Baker, after finishing Harvard Business School and teaching a course in management at the University of New Hampshire, joined the business world in Nigeria, he was surprised to find that a lot of people invested their money in one place but reaped huge profits somewhere else through a complicated mechanism based on over- and under-invoicing and transfer pricing among other things. To quote Baker, It took me two or three years to realize that most foreign-owned companies were doing largely the same thing. And then it took another couple of years to learn that most wealthy Africans involved in foreign trade were illegally moving money abroad by the same means. As the decades rolled on and my activities spread to dozens of countries across the planet, I observed that countless forms of financial chicanery are prevalent in international business. Like an iceberg, the little that is visible is supported by vastly more hidden beneath the surface.
Baker has found the reputation of free-market system, even in the West, in the mud as it abounds in all kinds of frauds, scandals and illegalities. An assortment of frauds, thefts, corrupt practices, accounting irregularities, earning restatements, asset write downs, tax shenanigans, conflicts of interest, and other charges, probes, malpractices, and allegations have corroded the reputations of dozens of companies and sapped the net worth of untold numbers of shareholders and retirees. The list of financial institutions tarnished in the press reads like what should otherwise be the Whos Who of propriety: Citigroup, J. P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Bankers Trust, Bank of New York and some 55 more on the roster I maintain. The corporate rap sheet, ranging from spectacular failures to merely disgraced executives, includes Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Halliburton, and nearly 100 more on my list. All Big 5 accounting firms have been tarred and feathered. The number of law firms taking heat is too long to recount.
It has been claimed time and again that uninterrupted operation of market forces globally will do away with all kinds of corruption and criminal activities, which are supposed to arise from government interventions and regulations and the emergence of monopolies. What has happened in practice is quite the opposite. Baker has come out with a damning indictment: Since the end of the Cold War, the opening years of the globalizing era have produced an explosion in the volume of illegitimate commercial and financial transactions. North American and European banking and investment institutions have been flooded with laundered and ill-gotten gains. Totaling trillions of dollars, most of these sums generated through secret arrangements between cooperating but distant private-sector entities. Lagging legal codes have proven inadequate to deal with the situation. Much of the subject is a taboo in business and government circles, yet this torrent of stolen, disguised, and hidden resources poses a major risk to state stability, corporate security, democracy, and free enterprise across the planet.
The major portion of the book is devoted to a discussion of dirty money, its various components, the mechanism by which it is generated, how the tax havens and Western financial institutions facilitate its generation and its laundering, and the way the
There are three main components of dirty money, namely, criminal, corrupt, and commercial. The criminal component comprises wide-ranging evil activities such as racketeering, smuggling of men as well as material goods, all kinds of fraud, counterfeiting of goods and currency notes, embezzlement, fraud, forgery, prostitution, piracy of all types and so on. It needs to be noted that most countries have banned proceeds of drug trafficking, bank fraud, and terrorism. The corrupt component has in its fold the yield of bribery and theft by foreign government officials. The commercial component is generally the result of tax-evasion and it does not find any place in official records.
According to Baker, What is most striking is that all three forms of dirty money criminal, corrupt, and commercialutilize basically the same subterfuges to roll through international channels: false documentation, dummy, corporations, shell banks, tax havens, offshore secrecy jurisdictions, mispricing, collusion, kickbacks, numbered accounts, wire transfers that disguise transactions, and more. Whether its moving drug money or tax-evading money, whether its a thug or tyrant or terrorist or corporate titan, all use the same bag of tricks. And the truth is, western business and banking sectors have developed and promoted the mechanisms for other countries for more than a century.
There are many ways to get rich while the government and the society do not know where the money comes from. One of them is under- and over-invoicing. This is a very old tactics resorted to in international trade, real estate deals, purchase of services, etc. that form part of international business transactions. To give an example, an Indian businessman may export textiles worth $10m but show in the invoice just $8m and understanding is reached before hand with the importer that he would remit to the exporter $8m and deposit the rest in some Swiss bank account or somewhere else after deducting his commission or service charges. Similarly, some Indian businessman imports machinery and equipment worth $8m but bills, as per the secret understanding, for $10m. The Reserve Bank of
Baker has found that not only goods but services also can be mispriced or subject to over- and under-invoicing. Insurance is a regular candidate with premiums marked up to provide offshore kickbacks. Foreign advertising is another popular vehicle. Consulting contracts and advisory services are easy to load with kickbacks. Technical assistance agreements offer a regular outflow of money that can be shifted into offshore bank accounts. Similarly, royalties, patents, and licenses have become a recent favorite among skilled money shifters.
The Indian governments scheme of offering subsidy to exporters has led to inflating the items entering export trade to corner as much subsidy as possible. Lots of exporters continue to get rich off their governments programs, so be alert to this money-making opportunity. This is one of the findings of Baker so far as
Another very useful trick is transfer pricing by multinational corporations who resort to the use of trade to shift money at will between parents, subsidiaries, and affiliates operating in dozens of countries. For many multinational corporations, exaggerated transfer pricing is standard procedure, a major part of global strategies to minimize taxes and maximize profits. Further, Intracompany trade across borders represents about 50 to 60 per cent of all cross border trade. I have never known a multinational, multibillion-dollar, multiproduct corporation that did not use fictitious transfer pricing in some part of its business to shift money between some of its entities.
Consulting contracts claims arising out of imaginary damages, warranty payments, countertrade deals, etc. are some of the other effective tricks to generate dirty money and fleece developing countries.
Another frequently used device is the formation of dummy or bogus companies. It is very simple, a reinvoicing company is formed that buys, changes prices, issues a new commercial invoice, and resells. This dummy company requires only a computer, a letterhead, and a bank account to come into play. Baker has given a number of concrete examples to illustrate the operation of dummy companies.
Dummy companies play a major role in disguising the source of dirty money and then help launder it. Baker has named a number of delightful places where you can situate and purchase your secret companies. In all, they come to 63 jurisdictions providing varying degrees of incorporation concealment and protection from probing eyes. There are printed manuals that guide all the way. These dummy companies have a number of variations such as trusts, foundations, and so on. Offshore dummy companies are known as international business corporations (IBCs) or personal investment corporations (PICs). If we believe Baker, then the
What Baker says is beyond any dispute. To quote: Use of instruments in the dirty-money user kit carries a high price. The price is damage to the capitalist system. The price is bolstering international crime and terrorism. The price is deprivation for billions of people. The price is heightened risk to the shared security of a globalizing world.
Raymond W. Bakers study presents in great details how corruption industry has flourished over the years in
Prestigious banks and financial institutions of the world actively helped all these plunderers of public funds. Take, for example, the case of Sani Abacha of
Criminal component of dirty money has its source largely in drug trafficking, mostly from
Baker, in the context of what happened on 9/11, asks: Was it just religious extremism that brought on the terrorists, power disparities, income imbalances, and social disaffections evident in their motivations?
Baker thinks that, in spite of all its rottenness, capitalism has no alternative and it can be reformed and rejuvenated to take the humanity forward. It is difficult to accept this proposition because it is nothing but pure and simple quixotic.
Before we conclude, let us draw the attention of our readers to a write-up in Guardian (October 25, 2005), which says that the Mayor of London is ready to welcome the robber barons fleeing from Russia after plundering it mercilessly. Obviously, capitalism feels at ease with criminals of all kind.
from Jeff Cohen :
28 October 2005
by Jeff Cohen
I admit it: I'm gleeful about the White House scandal, as indictments appear imminent. These last days have been some of the happiest since Team Bush seized power 57 months ago. It couldn't happen to a more reckless bunch of bullies-- who launched one of the most disastrous wars in history.
It's traditional in elite punditry to grouse about how such a scandal hurts our country or our image abroad. I take a different view: If the White House is demoralized and paralyzed, our country and world can breathe easier.
But there's a special reason this scandal is so personally satisfying to me as a media critic. It's because elite journalism is on trial. Powerful journalists are playing the role usually played in these scandals by besieged White House operatives. They're in the witness dock. It's a New York Times reporter who is failing to recall key facts...mysteriously locating misplaced documents...being leaned on to synchronize alibis.
Elite journalism is at the center of Weaponsgate, and it can't extricate itself from the scandal. Because, at its core, Weaponsgate (or, if you're in a hurry, "Wargate") is about how the White House and media institutions jointly sold a war based on deception -- and how the White House turned to these media institutions to neutralize a war critic who challenged the deception.
When the Nixon White House went after war critic Dan Ellsberg, it turned to former CIA guys, specialists in break-ins. When the Bush White House went after war critic Joe Wilson (and his wife), it turned to journalists like Bob Novak and Judy Miller.
Today, elite journalists can't pretend to be on the outside looking in at a scandal that doesn't involve them. This scandal is about them -- it's about White House-media cronyism, about journalists on the top rung of the phone trees of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, two of the dirtiest smear artists in
In the past, elite journalists were up to their neck in scandals -- but they were deft about writing themselves out of the story. That can't happen in this scandal involving the origins of the
It did happen in the scandal at the origins of the Vietnam War: the
But there'd been no such attack on the
When the truth on
Around the same time as the
When the FBI's anti-King operation became public years later, journalists largely avoided scrutiny of their own role. But in the words of black novelist John A. Williams, they'd been the FBI's "silent partners."
Decades have passed since the scandals of
P.S. Friday's Wall Street Journal reports that
special prosecutor may charge White House officials "with leaking
garden-variety classified information" under the vaguely-worded,
rarely-used 1917 Espionage Act prohibiting disclosure of "national
defense" information. If so, glee could turn to gloom.
too much is classified, such a prosecution would chill legitimate
whistle-blowers, not the Roves and Libbys.
Jeff Cohen (www.jeffcohen.org) is founder of the media watch group FAIR (www.fair.org).
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université Grenoble III