SURELY YOU WOULDN'T WANT OUR NEWS DIVISION TO BORE YOU WITH ACTUAL NEWS
An ex-network news guy talks about the post-9/11 executive decision to try to keep America stupid (and, presumably, primed for any nonsense the Bushies were ready to serve up):
A former "Dateline NBC" correspondent claims that in the aftermath of September 11, the network diverted him from reporting on al Qaeda and instead wanted him to ride along with the country's "forgotten heroes," firefighters.
John Hockenberry, who was laid off from "Dateline" in early 2005, wrote in this month's Technology Review that on the Sunday after the September 2001 attacks he was pitching stories on the origins of al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism. He claimed that then-NBC programming chief Jeff Zucker, who came into a meeting Hockenberry was having with "Dateline" executive producer David Corvo, said "Dateline" should instead focus on the firefighters and perhaps ride along with them a la "Cops," the Fox reality series.
According to Hockenberry, Zucker said "that he had no time for any subtitled interviews with jihadists raging about Palestine." ...
Another bombshell is Hockenberry's claims that General Electric, NBC's parent company, discouraged him from talking to the Bin Laden family about their estranged family member. Hockenberry asked GE, which does business with the Bin Laden family company, to help him get in contact with them. Instead, a PR executive called Hockenberry's hotel room in Saudi Arabia and read a statement about how GE didn't see its "valuable business relationship" with the Bin Laden Group as having anything to do with "Dateline." ...
Yeah, GE's a defense contractor, but I'm not sure how much political calculation is involved here. I'm more inclined to suspect network-news groupthink, according to which Americans want nothing but mush and simple emotions -- bathos, outrage, maybe a little titillation or cat-stuck-in-tree regression to childhood -- in their nightly fare. The corporations that own the other networks aren't defense contractors, yet hard news is scarce and pabulum is everywhere.
Whatever the reason, in a country that gets a disproportionate percentage of its news from TV, broadcasters' failure to give provide adequate news and information in the aftermath of 9/11 created a compound problem: People weren't learning what they needed to know, but the phony seriousness of the TV news operations made people think they were getting what news there was, so they didn't think they had to hunt elsewhere for real information.
Whether by accident or design, it was the ideal environment for the half-truths and outright lies of the Bush administration.
Hockenberry's article can be read here and here.
UPDATE: Bafflingly, I see that Michelle Malkin is linking the Hockenberry article; "[t]ons of readers are sending" it to her, she says. For the love of God, why? Why would right-wingers care?
I know, I know: It's an article of faith on the right that mainstream news is monolithically liberal (or worse; in an unrelated sidebar, Malkin reproduces the NBC logo in red, with a hammer and sickle replacing the C -- subtle as a flying mallet, Michelle -- because NBC won't air Ari Fleischer's Freedom's Watch propaganda ads). But fer crissakes, there's nothing liberal about refusing to do stories on al-Qaeda because you'd rather do content-free human-interest nonsense intended to turn firefighters into flavor-of-the-month heroes.
And Michelle, excuse me -- the post-9/11 "news" environment set the table perfectly for precious war in Iraq. Why on earth are you complaining? What if, thanks to a vigorous press, America had actually come to a genuine understanding of the difference between the ultrafundamentalist jihadis and the highly secular Saddam, or grasped that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were what Bush said Iraq was vis-a-vis jihadist terrorism? Surely you wouldn't have wanted that, Michelle. So count your blessings, for heaven's sake. Get down on your knees and thank God the press kept us stupid, so your agenda could sail through, and 19-year-olds could get killed in the streets of Baghdad thinking they were avenging the victims in the towers.