An excellent article on April 10th at Salon.com by Gary Kamiya about media self-censorship from 9/11 to the war in Iraq, where he discusses in depth the various personal and institutional reasons for self-censorship. He also references some of the sources - books in particular - which were accurate and insightful in their analysis prior to the war (hmmmm...so that explains my sagging bookshelf - and alas - I have none of the books he cites).
Kamiya's article is also referenced at Juan Cole's site on April 11th. I won't quote much from it here since you should read it yourself, but he makes this point which has otherwise been lost in the discussion of the failures of the media prior to the war:
American society in general has a strongly pro-Israel orientation -- one that journalists generally share (or are too intimidated or ignorant to contest) -- which inevitably guides their assumptions and beliefs about Arabs, terrorism and the Middle East in general. The historian Tony Judt argued in the London Review of Books that the support so many liberal journalists and pundits gave to Bush's war is best explained by their backing for Israel. This orientation, because it is deemed "appropriate," affects virtually every aspect of the media's coverage of the Middle East. Arab and Muslim perspectives, because they tend to be anti-Israeli, are rarely heard in the American media; if they had been, many Americans might have had quite a different assessment of the Iraq war's chances of success. Instead, the U.S. media works within a tiny ideological spectrum on the Middle East, using the same center-right and right-wing sources again and again. To take just one specific example, the New York Times, when it needs comment on Israeli affairs, often relies on experts from the Washington Institute on Near East Affairs (WINEP), a center-right, pro-Israel think tank. The Times rarely asks center-left or left-wing Middle East experts like Cobban or M.J. Rosenberg to comment on Israel. There is no evidence that the Iraq debacle, which these right-wing pundits almost universally supported, has led the media to rethink its sources or its ideological orientation.
That is not his only point, of course - he has many more, some of which have been discussed elsewhere. But I think it's reflective of a failing both in the MSM and on DKos, where opinions which challenge the Israeli government are automatically seen by some as anti-semitic.
Kamiya further argues:
The media was unable to deal with the abstract and highly ideological motivations for Bush's war -- especially because those motivations, as Paul Wolfowitz notoriously admitted, were never really made clear. To oppose the war, one had to challenge the two real reasons behind it -- the neoconservative crusade against "Islamofascism" and the cold warriors' desire to assert American power -- head on. But this meant not only taking on the sacred cows of 9/11 and Israel, but also dealing with the refusal of the administration to publicly acknowledge these abstract reasons, and challenging a White House that "for bureaucratic reasons," in Wolfowitz's words, was hiding behind its trumped-up "evidence" about Saddam's WMD.
I can understand why the MSM wouldn't want to take on neocon ideology, if for no other reason than time constraints; that's why Chomsky rarely gets airtime. What I still can't understand is why a few simple questions were rarely if ever asked by the media:
- why did 9/11 happen? ("They hate us for our freedoms" isn't an answer)
- what distinguishes 9/11 from what we did in Nicaragua? (or El Salvador, etc, where far more people were killed due to our state-sponsored terrorism)
- why were we planning to attack a country which had never attacked us? (Had no one in the MSM ever read the UN charter, and had they forgotten Nuremberg?).
It seems to me that it wouldn't have taken a rocket scientist, or a Chomsky, to render the administration's casus belli moot, yet few made the effort for the reasons Kamiya cites. Nor is he hopeful for the future of the press in this country.