I was going to write a lengthy diary with a lot of analysis, but I realized that my principal subjects had already made my case pretty well, so I'll let them do much of the talking:
President George W. Bush, October 2003:
I'm mindful of the filter through which some news travels, and somehow you just got to go over the heads of the filter and speak directly to the people."
President George W. Bush at the third presidential debate, October 13, 2004:
In all due respect, I'm not so sure it's credible to quote leading news organizations about -- oh, never mind.
RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman
in a letter in January:
The president has great goals for our country: a growing economy, strong homeland and national defense, tort and Social Security reform and affordable health care. But we need your help to get the president's message past the liberal media filter and directly to the American people.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan
There is a certain journalistic standard that should be met and in this case it was not.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
It's appalling that this story got out there.
As these quotes show, the latest White House attacks on media--Newsweek in particular this time--fit into a larger ploy to gain greater control over the information (and misinformation) that reaches the American people. This scheme should hereafter be referred to as Truthful Information Unawareness.
Attacks such as those most recently directed toward the media work in two key ways, the first of which is to discredit the press. Now, I'm not a big fan of our media. I'm disgusted by the failure to cover the Downing Street Memo and just about every other big story. It's probably been over a year since I've read Newsweek. That said, we can't afford for the press to lose credibility over this because the alternative will be the information coming directly out of the White House. With each new Newsweek-Guantanomo or CBS memo story, the American people will put more faith in the scripted lies and distortions coming directly from Bush, Cheney, Rove, and McClellan.
I also see this as an attempt to rein in the media. A few weeks ago, I was hearing in liberal circles that perhaps Bush's honeymoon with the media was over, and that the media were finally waking up and that stuff might start sticking to the Teflon® President. Obviously, this Newsweek story is still playing out, but it's hard to imagine that Newsweek won't be more hesitant to print anything that reflects negatively on the Bush Administration for a while. To an extent, it will probably rub off on other media outlets as well. If you think the media are subservient now, just wait until you see the coverage of the President after three more years of the White House attacking the press like this.
What we are bound to be left with is far more dangerous than any government-run media. Sure, Pravda was not a reliable source of information, but people know that. Our media will be controlled by the government via a very short leash but considered by the general public to be liberal. Meanwhile, the administration will be free to spew its lies and distortions on television and be quoted directly by the media in print without any comment, all because the press fear further attacks from the White House.
You might think we're there already, but the way things are going, it is bound to get more extreme. The White House will take every opportunity to make it so. It won't be pretty.