Monday, June 27, 2005

Bernstein and Woodward Were Lucky to not Have the Internet

Background
Last week, my local newspaper, The Contra Costa Times, carried some fun trivia in its Arts & Entertainment Section.

I didn’t read the article, but from what I scanned, it appears that the article was about the 100 most well-known movie quotes.

As I read quotes like “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and “Here’s looking at you, kid”, I realized that, at age 55, I’ve never seen any of the classics from which the quotes were taken. Suddenly, that seemed sort of unacceptable to me. So I rented seven of these classics from my local video rental place. I paid $7.00 to have the privilege of keeping seven of these movies for seven days.

Movies
The movies I rented were “Apocalypse Now”, “Casablanca”, “All The President’s Men”, “The Graduate”, “On The Waterfront”, “Chinatown” and “Dr. Strangelove”.

I first watched what has been touted as the first anti Vietnam War feature film. “Apocalypse Now” was, indeed, a powerful commentary on the toll that war took on far too many people. “Platoon” and “Full Metal Jacket” eventually followed “Apocalypse Now” to corroborate the commentary.

I next watched “Casablanca”, arguably the most quoted film on the list.

In that movie Victor Laszlow works with an anti-Nazi underground group. Although he spends time in a concentration camp, he’s determined to defeat the Nazis who have overtaken his homeland of Czechoslovakia.

Laszlow, played by Paul Henreid, says something prophetic to his Nazi captors when they ask him to name names of other members of the Underground.

Laszlow responds, “And what if you track down these men and kill them? What if you murdered all of us? From every corner of your Republic, thousands would rise to take our places. Even Nazis can't kill that fast.”

That quote from “Casablanca” isn’t very well known and, of course, didn’t make the list.

However, after hearing it, it became obvious to me that, in 1942, we already knew what we had to learn again in Korea, then learn again in Vietnam and are learning again in Iraq. When a people have something precious to protect, like their homeland, they never run out of recruits. Resistance fighters will continue to be produced in lands which outsiders are trying, for one reason or another, to occupy, and those people, fighting with that passion and knowing the local landscape, will always triumph over the invaders. Maybe President Bush has never seen “Casablanca”.

Heck, wasn’t it proven by Americans in the last part of the eighteenth century? It was and we are, consequently, The United States of America.

A Similarity Between Watergate and The Downing Street Memos

At this point, I’ve only watched three of the old movies, “Apocalypse Now”, “Casablanca” and “All The President’s Men”.

Before we began watching “All The President’s Men”, I said to my wife, “This will give me hope that eventually another Woodward and/or Bernstein will emerge from today’s mainstream media.”

In fact, a writer for The Contra Costa Times wrote an editorial not long ago asking where the Woodwards and Bernsteins of 2005 are. Where are the investigative reporters who will create the stir that The Downing Street Memos deserve?

Ironically, Jack Warden, who plays Harry M. Rosenfeld, The Metro Editor of The Washington Post, tells Woodward and Bernstein at one point, and I paraphrase, “I bet that half the nation has never heard of Watergate.”

I couldn’t help feeling even more encouraged after hearing that quote. Because of today’s milquetoast mainstream media, which, sadly, includes The Washington Post, more than half of the American public has never heard of The Downing Street Memos.

The Epiphany
As I watched Woodward and Bernstein work on the Watergate story, phoning people, walking from house to house, rummaging through mounds of paper, staying up until all times of the day or night, it hit me like a two by four.

Asking, “Where are the Woodsteins (a nickname acquired by Woodward and Bernstein) of today?” is the wrong question. The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough Woodsteins today. The trouble is we have too many.

The internet has been a wonderful tool in keeping people aware of major news developments. I, personally, get most of my news from Antiwar.com and CommonDreams.org. I get my news from these sources because the mainstream media doesn’t cover the important news and I refuse to go to the web sites of Bush ideologues. I’ve visited Bush supporter blogs and web sites and, in my opinion, the arguments against the so called conspiracy theories are mostly character assassinations upon those who do support these theories.

Herein lies the problem and the difference between Watergate and Downing Street.

During Watergate, two newspapers were competing to break the story open, The Washington Post and The New York Times.

The investigative reporters worked their fingers to the bone and the soles of their shoes to the sock. They tried as hard as they could to get first tier sources and, although lots of these sources remained confidential, they talked nonetheless.

I happen to believe in today’s conspiracy theorists who claim that George W. Bush has needlessly caused death and destruction to advance his personal agendas.

I’ve read two very interesting books by David Ray Griffin, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy of Religion at the Claremont School of Theology in California. One is called “THE NEW PEARL HARBOR; Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11”. The other is entitled “THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT; Omissions and Distortions”.

Professor Griffin goes much further than The Downing Street Memos in alleging crimes by the Bush Administration.

Even my most progressive friends and acquaintances say, “I know Bush is evil and is the reason for death and destruction in Iraq, but even Bush wouldn’t do what Griffin suggests. Not even Bush would do that.”

It seems to me that’s exactly what the Bush Administration wants people to think. Also, if one reads either or both of these books, one can clearly see that the motive is there. In fact, as the president’s poll numbers drop, don’t be surprised if we witness yet another “Pearl Harbor”, produced especially to gain support for the new needless war with Iran for which the president is gearing up the nation.

However, even Griffin, as much as I tend to have an extremely open mind toward his theory, uses books and papers written by others who claim this same theory. In other words, it doesn’t seem as though authors or investigative reporters are going to first tier sources for their information as much as they’re using the ideas of others which support their allegations.

Woodward and Bernstein, as I mentioned, were competing with The New York Times to get the story out.

Whichever newspaper got it out first, people in 1972 would have found and, indeed, did find the Watergate break-in shocking. It was news exposed by investigative reporters for the top two newspapers in the nation. It wasn’t news regurgitated by “investigative reporter” after “investigative reporter” based upon, in the case of The Downing Street Memos, the real investigative reporting of Michael Smith of The Sunday Times of London.

I might also add that the denials in 1972 weren’t denial after denial regurgitated by Nixon apologists based upon what other Nixon apologists had written.

If this was 1972, Michael Smith would have obtained these memos and the mainstream news, after Smith had sufficiently built up a case, which I think he has, would have been all over The Downing Street Memos. The public would have heard of them by now and the public would have turned against the administration.

The administration, or administrations, we should take Blair’s government into account as well as Bush’s, would have had to continue to issue their own denials. Today, they have people running interference for them and spokespeople for the administrations don’t have to refer to the memos.

The mainstream media sees the debate going on on the web and stays away from the story because both sides have “good” arguments and it doesn’t want to tick anyone off. In fact, by doing what it does, the mainstream media ticks off everyone.

The left calls the mainstream media stenographers for the administration and the right says that the mainstream media has a liberal bias.

As long as the mainstream media keeps stories like Michael Jackson’s trial and runaway brides on the front pages, people can get their fill of “reality news reporting” and still be shielded from hearing about what’s really going on in Iraq or in the governments that they elected.

What Is The Question
If “where are today’s Bernstein and Woodward?” is not the question that we should be asking today, what is the question we should be asking?

In truth, I don’t know. I know that looking for another Bernstein and Woodward is not the answer – or is it?

I’ve said that there are “too many” Woodsteins. But are there?

Do the “investigative reporters” of today work anywhere near as hard as Bernstein and Woodward worked to get to first tier sources? Has the internet, with all of its potential to keep us informed, created a “lazier” investigative reporter, one who’s credibility is questioned because she or he uses the opinions of others, in many cases, as “sources”?

Do we have to wait for people like Republican Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina of “freedom fries” fame to have attacks of conscience? If that’s the case, with partisan ideology so strong, it may take a very long time, maybe too long, for people to hear the truth.

An Unlikely “Hero”?
I know that an “unlikely hero” would be of great help right now.

If Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Collin Powell or anyone who speaks to and has the trust of conservatives were to say, “I know that blindly following this administration is wrong and that Americans are being unnecessarily killed daily and I just can’t play this “conservative vs. liberal” game anymore just for profit or popularity”, the entire nation, no matter what a person’s political stripes, would hold that person in very high esteem and he or she would become a national hero. This person can become a hero the likes of which we haven’t seen since Walter Cronkite denounced the Vietnam War during one of his nightly news broadcasts.

Status Quo
Until such a hero emerges, we’ll all continue to get our news from the internet. That’s good because the mainstream media, is, indeed, a stenography service. They just write what they hear and see from Jackson’s lawyers, from witnesses of murders and kidnappings and from the mouths of international politicians.

The internet is not good because, as I’ve already chosen to believe the news published by left leaning sites, others have already chosen to believe the attacks of the right leaning sites.

There’s not a news outlet anywhere that will be as credible to everyone as the Post and the Times were in 1972 – unless an “unlikely hero” emerges.

This administration wants to keep this nation divided and the internet, along with the milquetoast mainstream media, is unwittingly doing that for them

We need an “unlikely hero”.

To friendship,
Michael

“The only defensible war is a war of defense.” – G. K. Chesterton

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