It's 2008 -- five years after the major news media in USA "learned its lesson" about failing to report the truth on the justification for the invasion of Iraq -- and inanity still rules the airwaves on the evening news.
On every evening since Benazir Bhutto's assassination on Dec 27, I zapped through one television news show or channel after another, waiting -- praying -- for some newscaster to speak of the likelihood that the assassination was the work of President Pervez Musharraf's administration as well as (if not more than) the work of Al Qaeda. I zapped and I watched and I waited in vain.
From the conservative news channels to the moderate-minded evening shows to even the best liberal shows, our major news outlets tiptoed gingerly around the facts, facts that were widely known from day one on the Pakistan streets. "Musharraf is a dog!" they shouted in Lahore and Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Every five year old kid in Pakistan knows that Musharraf is a dog, that it's highly likely Musharraf helped to arrange the murder of the politician who was about to win an election. So why aren't Charlie Gibson and Brian Williams and Katie Couric and Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann saying this? Why on earth do our television reporters refuse to report to American viewers what everybody else in Pakistan and around the world believes to be true?
I don't know the answer to this question, but I believe the problem has more to do with conformity than with conspiracy. USA news media is always eager for an Al Qaeda terrorist story. This one came rolling in, bullets and bombs and blood, and the evening news shows ran with it. They're still running. They should do less running and more thinking.
Many reporters are even giving credulous treatment to the Musharraf government's ridiculous shaggy dog stories (an incriminating phone call from the shadowy Baitullah Mehsud, a medical report that Bhutto died a coward's death from ducking into her limousine). Where are the hard-hitting journalists here? Is anybody even paying attention to this story, or are they all suffering from Iowa fever?
It's not just Pakistan that's getting junior varsity coverage; our top television journalists have been no more incisive on the horrifying and genocidal crisis currently ravaging Kenya. Brian Williams sleepily assured us last night that "it's a tribal conflict." Thanks a lot, Brian. Maybe we ought to send some CARE packages over.
The American public must demand more aggressive and more skeptical journalism from our top news providers. Or else we have learned no lessons since the days of the smoking mushroom cloud in 2003.