Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Media, the Truth, the Nazis, and Your Neighbor

It seems unfathomable that in this age of so much media, with its capacity for instant worldwide communication, it is harder and takes longer than ever to get the truth about politics.

The Watergate affair of the Nixon administration unraveled in a little over two years, from the commission of the crime, to the cover-up, through its unveiling in the media, to the congressional hearings, and the resignation of the president.

By comparison, it is almost 4 years since the Bush administration manipulated intelligence information to lead us into war in Iraq, and conspired criminally to discredit its critics, and so far only one official has been charged with a crime, and we are still in the midst of the trial.

Hillary Clinton is campaigning for president as a candidate of towering intellect and vast knowledge of the workings of Washington. Yet when asked about her vote for the war in Iraq, she says she didn't know enough at the time to vote against it.

She didn't? Everyone I know did. So what was Hillary reading? Or not reading?

It might be that the profusion of the media works against the truth. It provides that many more outlets to propagate lies. It makes it infinitely easier to drown out the truth, and to further crooked aims.

Fifteen years ago, I left journalism school in a bout of disillusionment of the willingness of the media to put forth the truth. A teacher said to me, "Look, if you want to find out the truth, don't talk to a journalist or a politician. They have too much to protect. Talk to your neighbor."

And this story might not be true, but I heard it, and it is at least instructive. In the 1960's, a Nazi official in jail for war crimes was talking about the Third Reich, and its success at deceiving the German citizenry with its propaganda. He said, wistfully, "If we had had television?... There would have been no stopping us."

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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