Media

Arianna Huffington's 9/13 Spirit

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Never forget!

Below, Lucy Steigerwald linked to Arianna Huffington's 2011 homage to the coming-together spirit Americans showed beginning on 9/12/01. So how did Huffington herself embody that sense of national togetherness 10 years ago? By writing an angry 9/13 column with the headline "A Wake-Up Call For The Media Oligarchy?" Excerpt from that:

Near the top of many people's list of culpable parties is the U.S. intelligence community. The phrase "massive failure of intelligence" became one of this week's numbing cliches. But what no one is talking about is another, equally serious, intelligence failure. It is the failure of the media to properly estimate the intelligence of the American people by catering to the lowest common denominator in pursuit of ratings and, of course, money.

As shocking as the four-pronged attack was, it shouldn't have been quite so surprising. Only seven months ago, a congressionally mandated federal commission released a prophetic report predicting this kind of terrorist assault on U.S. soil, concluding that the question was not if a terrorist attack on America could happen but when. […]

That was the book that she was selling at the time

In our modern, information-drenched times, the power of the media has increased as dramatically as the number of people wielding that power has shrunk. We are at their mercy. They set the agenda, they decide what we as a nation should be concentrating on.

But the First Amendment wasn't intended as a license to make billions. It's there to guarantee that the people are informed. And when the media fail at this job, we all suffer.

Unfortunately, the American press's penchant for rigorous reporting is rapidly disappearing, a victim of corporate pressure to build the bottom line and not rock the highly profitable status quo. Muckraking has been replaced by smutraking, with the media hunting down the latest sensation as opposed to the hard stories that are essential to maintaining our freedom and democracy. […]

Hindsight is always 20/20. But we'll forever wonder: Would the World Trade Center still be standing today if the Hart-Rudman report had been spotlighted instead of swept under the Gary Condit rug?

I'm pretty sure I was AT that party, which may have been back when she and Nick Denton still liked each other.

For what it's worth, "Hart-Rudman" brings forth just four links on a Google News search; we can mostly thank the committee for laying down the blueprints for the Department of Homeland Security. I presume, given her career trajectory since then, that Arianna has moved on from misbelieving that "we" are at the "mercy" of the shamestream media. And as for "smutraking," that's as good a phrase as any for one of the keys to the HuffPost's considerable success. NTTAWWT.

What about Huffington's 9/20/01 spirit? It involved blaming lobbyists, and pining for a counterterrorism "industry" to write fat checks to Washington players (wish granted!). Her 9/24 contribution included this memorable bit of overreaction to advertisers pulling out from Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" show over his comment that "We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away":

The resemblance to ABC executives is striking

What becomes of a country when opinions considered perfectly legitimate—and indeed uttered by hundreds of academics, journalists and members of Congress—suddenly become a crime worthy of the media death penalty?

If the attacks on innocent American lives end up making us more like our attackers, don't they most spectacularly win? And don't the corporate sponsors, the affiliates and ABC itself see the inconsistency in the fact that, as a way of showing solidarity against the Taliban, they are using the Taliban's trademark weapon—the stifling of dissent?

The latter bit became fodder for my second-ever column for Reason, titled "Censorship Gravy Train." Below, Bill Maher's non-death is proven by our own Nick Gillespie:

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