Friday, 27 July 2007

Bullying the press

It's no secret: the Bush administration puts an unbelievable amount of spin on press releases, as to limit governmental transparency as much as possible. (Politicians always do that — they just take it to the next level.) But now it has sunk to a new low. On Wednesday the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, singled out a reporter and told him to 'correct' his article, which, in Snow's humble opinion, 'twisted [Snow's rhetoric] out of context'. The reporter's name was Les Kinsolving, a fairly liberal reporter and talk radio host...

The Raw Story (note: has a strong anti-Bush bent, for those of you not familiar with it; I usually don't cite it) reported that

Kinsolving asked Snow whether the President thinks it would be a good idea for all Americans to prepare an emergency survival kit for a possible terrorist attack or natural disaster.

Snow quickly said he couldn't comment, and then proceeded to take time out to lecture Kinsolving on his job, "Let me just point out," Snow said, "that you need to ask questions that bear on the President's responsibilities."

Snow continued to press Kinsolving, "I saw the piece you wrote the other day, that has been thoroughly twisting[sic] out of context." At this point Kinsolving tried to get a word in, but Snow was having none of it, "You know what I don't care, because the fact is, if someone is going to take questions about things that don't fall under the president's purview, and I answer that question, and it gets twisted, it is a disservice to this White House and the craft of journalism."

It was never clear exactly what piece Snow was objecting to, but he was annoyed enough to suggest, "that if I were you, I would pick up the phone and tell them to start cleaning up or writing corrections."

You can see the whole thing on video too in the aforelinked article. When the government's 'requesting' the press act with less criticism, it is certainly not acting in the interest of democracy. We've seen that plenty with the Bush White House and the so-called liberal news media (or SCLNM, as it is also known as on Daily Kos). Kinsolving has apparently stepped down from his post as White House correspondent.

Mr. Snow: reporters are there to let the people — and remember the US government is (supposed to be) a government of the people, by the people, for the people — know what the heck their government is doing, or at least as much as they can get out of your narrow and opinionated announcements. The Bush administration has already done enough to the press, a pillar of democracy, especially when dealing with the topics of national security, war, and executive affairs. Secretism and spin are two of the strongest traits this White House has to offer. Too bad it doesn't have more positive and constructive strong points.

No matter who's asking the questions (at least in the White House Press Corps), they often warrant an answer more revealing than the ever ubiquitous "No comment" or the loyal "The President believes...". Democracy requires transparency; it requires the people to ask the government and the government to answer to the people. In this modern age, the fact that the 24-minute-long Daily Show with John Stewart reveals more than four hours of any national news network does is worrying.

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