The Statist Media, Ct'd…


Two more data points for my theory that the legacy media aren't liberal, they're just authoritarian.

First, while covering this week's Senate TSA hearings, Time Washington correspondent Alex Altman rises above the the fray, and bravely throws cold water on all you shrill anti-TSA types. Here's his lede:

Some dramas seem tailor-made for the Internet's ephemeral obsessions, and the kerfuffle over the Transportation Security Administration's new airport screening procedures is a perfect example. It's got all the ingredients to feed a media circus: a whiff of government overreach, children prodded to tears, bold push-back, splashy protests, federal employees apparently frisking nuns–an irresistible  recipe seasoned by the immediacy of next week's Thanksgiving travel crunch.

Altman then goes on to debunk all this infantile Internet screaming by citing a poorly-worded public opinion poll showing support for x-ray scanners, and helpfully pointing out that members of no less an esteemed, august institution than the U.S. Senate expressed solidarity with the TSA.

Well. I guess we stand corrected, then.

Altman doesn't really get into whether these invasive new measures will actually make flying any safer, or whether the x-ray machines themselves are safe for passengers (where's that damned Precautionary Principle when you need it?). No, his evidence that all this talk about the government abrogating our rights in the name of security theater is mere "drama", "tailor-made for the Internet's ephemeral obsessions" is a series of quotes saying as much from . . . members of the government.

It's especially rich to see this in Time, a magazine with a long history of ginning up hysteria over the likes of Pokemon, satanic cults, dirty words, and Internet porn, and which has never met a faddish new drug that wasn't just as bad as heroin. Of course, Time's attempts to gin up moral panic have always at root been about people exercising their personal freedom in ways Time writers and editors find objectionable; the stories are always wrapped in urgent we must do something appeals for government to protect people from themselves. The TSA backlash is about government violating personal freedom. So of course now is the hour for a Time correspondent to step up all sober-minded like to call foul on the protests.

The other example comes from Glenn Greenwald, who had a bizarre exchange with NPR National Security Correspondent Dina Temple-Raston over the Obama administration's plan to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki, and, more broadly, its assertion that it has the power to assassinate American citizens without trial, oversight, or even letting anyone know it happened. You can watch video of the exchange at the link, but here's a summary from The American Prospect's Adam Serwer:

It's really an amazing exchange—Temple-Raston snaps at Greenwald, asking him, "Isn't it possible that I've seen something you haven't seen?" When asked about the evidence of al-Awlaki's operational role in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, she smugly tells him that "he doesn't do national security for a living."

As Serwer explains, the point here isn't whether al-Awlaki is a good person, though let's not forget that we were repeatedly told that only the "worst of the worst" were housed at Gitmo. The issue is whether the executive can be trusted with this sort of power, not just with al-Awlaki, but in the future.

There's no more important function of the press than government watchdog. Whether it's to protect or curry favor with official sources, to preserve access, or just a jones for authority and the cult of expertise, the legacy media too often comes off as government's biggest fan. And it's a problem that transcends left-right ideology.