Do You See What I See?

Michael Kinsley recently defined “spin” as a “description of reality that suits your purposes. Whether it resembles the reality we all share is an issue that doesn’t even arise.”

As the Bush Administration proposes to further relax the rules restricting concentration of media ownership, it seems fair to look at the current performance of the conglomerates that increasingly decide what Americans should know. 

Case in point: the BBC has reported that the “rescue” of Private Jessica Lynch was “one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived.” According to the BBC, Pvt. Lynch did not have stab and bullet wounds, as widely reported. She had a broken arm, broken thigh and dislocated ankle, from an automobile accident. The special forces filmed “rescuing” her “knew that the Iraqi military had fled a day before they swooped on the hospital,”  they fired blanks, not bullets, and made sounds of explosions for benefit of the cameras that accompanied them on the “daring rescue.” And, according to the BBC, there was “one more twist.” Two days before the rescue squad arrived, the doctor who treated Lynch had arranged to deliver her to the Americans in an ambulance. But as the ambulance approached a checkpoint, “American troops opened fire, forcing it to flee back to the hospital. The Americans had almost killed their prize catch.”

When Lynch’s mother was asked to comment, she said the Army had told the family not to discuss the rescue.

The Pentagon, of course, disputes the BBC’s story.

I don’t know who is telling the truth, but I do know that the accusation is news and we haven’t seen it in the U.S. In fact, our homegrown media has given this administration a pass on a whole number of issues.

There was plenty of fanfare when the President signed the tax cut bill, but where were the cameras when he signed a bill increasing the federal debt limit by nearly a trillion dollars?

Where were the front page stories when the Administration suppressed a  Treasury Department report that the United States will face a future of “chronic federal budget deficits totaling at least 44 trillion dollars?’

When President Bush announced, two weeks after the fall of Baghdad, that “life is returning to normal” why weren’t reporters asking him if widespread looting, lack of water and electricity, and streets filled with garbage were “normal”?

Before the war, the media extensively reported Administration assurances that it had incontrovertible evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Why aren’t reporters asking hard questions now that we know  (whatever Iraqi weapons may eventually be found) no such proof existed? Why haven’t they followed up on numerous stories from overseas media, ostensibly leaked by members of the American CIA, detailing how that “proof” was fabricated? True or false, surely these are allegations that responsible media outlets should investigate.

The First Amendment protects freedom of the press because the press is supposed to be the eyes and ears of the people. The Founders didn’t envision a time when media was just another business cozying up to government—a business that is cheaper to run if it’s a monopoly; cheaper too if you don’t pay for independent reporting.