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Weapons of mass deception
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I was strolling the aisles of my favorite video store recently, trying to decide if I wanted to rent some big-dollar action blockbuster, or if I should go with the latest juvenile toilet movie.

I picked up something entirely forgettable, and as I made my way toward the counter I happened to spy a copy of All the President’s Men. On a whim, I grabbed that as well.

Remember All the President’s Men? Robert Redford as Bob Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as a shaggy-haired, bell-bottom-wearing Carl Bernstein, both actors doing a tremendous job portraying these two reporters’ doggedness and tenacity in pursuing the story of the Watergate burglaries for the Washington Post.

It was their doggedness and tenacity, along with the integrity and professionalism of the Post’s editors and publisher, which led to the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon.

How did these two reporters accomplish this trick, this latter-day coup d’etat? The answer to that is very simple - they kept asking questions until they uncovered the truth. The movie is nothing but a series of phone calls and interviews -- and more phone calls and more interviews.

The work done by these two investigative journalists wasn’t overly romantic, although they were subject to surveillance, wire-tapping and intimidation tactics. It was a matter of sticking to their guns when the story threatened to fizzle out. And due to their hard work, stubbornness, and persistence in asking tough questions, an American president was held accountable for criminal actions -- and he was brought down.

Well, I guess things like journalistic integrity, and the desire to provide real information to the public were present in the mainstream media way back in 1973. I wouldn’t know - I was only six.

But if today’s coverage of the War on Terror (cue the huge red, white and blue graphic and Wagner music) and the Invasion of Iraq (not quite as big a graphic) is any indication of the attitude of today’s major media outlets, then we, as a democracy, are in humble shape.

Not long ago, Fox News published a poll which showed that over seventy percent of Americans polled believed that Iraq had something to do with the 9/11 attack on New York. Even the 9/11 Commission has since refuted such a connection.

Now, it’s easy to dismiss reports from Fox News, given their very obvious right-wing partisan slant. But I have met this seventy percent. I’m sorry to say that members of my own family believe 9/11 and the War in Iraq (have we named this catastrophe yet?) are indistinguishable.

You know, we’ve all heard people defend the American invasion of Iraq: “Well they attacked us first!” Now we won’t get into how disgustingly racist and religiously intolerant such statements are. Let’s just call such statements what they are -- ignorant.

The American public is growing more ignorant of the functioning of their government every day. This, with a media industry growing in number of sources and technological advances every day. How is that possible?

The liability for this serious decline of civic education and civic duty in the voting public can be attributed to a number of sources: a failing public school system, a lessening sense of community and nation within the American culture, youth’s fascination with video games, and a million others.

But the prime culprit is undeniably the news media. Those major media outlets to which Americans have turned for information for years - ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times, etc. These institutions are overtly responsible for the ongoing “dumbing down” of the American public.

Since September 11, 2001, and who knows how long before that, the major media outlets have not asked one single tough question of the current presidential administration.

A quintessential example of media complicity in propaganda can be found in the New York Times‚ coverage of the search for “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in Iraq. Times reporter Judith Miller was more than happy to publish as fact every single unsubstantiated government claim about Iraqi WMDs that she was issued.

This is propaganda operating on a national level. But it is present, and even more insidious, in our local media sources as well.

Those of us who read the Savannah Morning News on a regular basis have grown accustomed to the overt conservative bent of its editorial page. Perhaps we are even amused by this fact.

But there was absolutely nothing amusing about the March 24 editorial in the Morning News entitled, “The 9/11 Blame Game.” In their otherwise uninteresting indictment of former federal counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke, the editors wrote, “Mr. Clarke didn’t help his cause when he asserted . . . that ‘There’s absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting Al Qaeda, ever.’”

The Morning News goes on to dispute this claim by Clarke, stating, “On the contrary, there are many intriguing threads of evidence connecting Saddam to bin Laden, from Iraq harboring Al Qaeda leaders to the Clinton Administration citing an understanding‚ between bin Laden and Iraq in its indictment of bin Laden for the 1998 African embassy bombings, just for starters.”

Whoa, now! I read the Morning News more often than not, and I can’t recall any story they’ve done about these “threads of evidence.” Instead, they sneak this lame assertion in as an editorial, knowing full well that some of their readers respect the editors as part of the journalistic process. They are gleefully contributing to that seventy percent.

I’ve gone on about the evils of the mainstream media, but there are plenty of reputable and respectable news sources available to Americans. It just takes work to find them.

Greg Palast is an investigative journalist on a par, in my estimation at least, with Woodward and Bernstein. His book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, is full of nauseating detail and photocopies of sources to validate his very distressing reports. I recommend as a good jumping off spot.

And, of course, the best place to get real news about America is the foreign press. The Guardian, the BBC, any Canadian paper, or El Pais, if you read Spanish, will offer more answers to any burning questions one may have about the American government than the lame American institutions already mentioned.

See, in the foreign and independent press -- they still ask questions.