There are those who take umbrage with the suggestion that President Bush's tactics are comparable to Hitler's. Yet, Elliot D. Cohen and Bruce W. Fraser show the similarities between the two men in their recent book aptly titled, The Last Days of Democracy: How Big Media and Power-Hungry Government Are Turning America into a Dictatorship. The authors write, "In Nazi Germany, there was a systematic program of indoctrination and brainwashing in place. Radio, newspapers, movies, and all other forms of media were carefully monitored by the government to make sure that the German people read, saw, and listened to only what the Nazis wanted the people to read, see, and hear. There was also an officer of disinformation (a 'minister of propaganda') -- not unlike our own Karl Rove -- whose job it was to make sure journalists toed the Nazi line."
Cohen and Fraser do not pull any punches: The index cross-references the president with the word dictatorship. Over the top? Well, let's see: If he behaves like a dictator and rules like a dictator, well then...the cross reference is justified. What is just as culpable, though, is the media allowing the president's actions to go unchecked.
The book is not a liberal attempt to bash a conservative president. Instead, it's a warning for all Americans, and the title says as much. The reader is reminded that the media has "become a docile lapdog of government" while "failing at keeping Americans informed." Unfortunately, it's a matter of preaching to the choir here on the Huffington Post, especially since the appendix includes this site as one of the few independent online news sources. However, one wonders if those who stay tuned to Fox News, CNN or any other corporate-owned news source realize that the bottom line is what determines "newsworthy" without having the public's interest in mind.
Just a few decades ago, how we got our news was radically different. This was all the more apparent when I was watching a recent documentary in honor of Walter Cronkite's 90th birthday. One moment in history that the program recalled was when Cronkite reported on CBS Evening News that there wasn't a role for U.S. troops in Vietnam anymore. Former President Lyndon Johnson responded: "That's the end of the war."
Often, Cronkite is praised for his journalistic integrity. How sad that he has to be an anomaly. Yet, reporters today should remember that it wasn't so much the man, but the message he carried that made the difference. After all, "that's the way it is" meant simply that, rather than, "that's the way we want it to be."
Now when the mainstream media reports from Afghanistan, Iraq, or anywhere around the world, including here in the United States, it is in cooperation with the government. How different it was when Cronkite was reporting to how it is now where reporters kowtow to the administration without questioning its actions. Americans have to work especially hard to get to the truth in order to make informed decisions. We have to educate ourselves to see the difference between propaganda and real news. The question is, are we willing to do so? Or will we surrender, like A.J. Soprano, because it's just easier?
Many people are still talking about the last episode of The Sopranos. For me, the scene that had the most impact was when A.J., who had begun to take a political interest in the world around him, reverted to his apathetic state. Slouched once again on the couch in front of the TV, he laughed at footage of rappin' Rove dancing with David Gregory. Like A.J., many Americans find that it's easier being entertained rather than investing ambition.
The Last Days of Democracy is an unsettling albeit informative book. Instead of cowering in hopeless fear of "what if," it provides ways to combat what could be the inevitable. In other words, independent journalists must be relentless in doing the work the mainstream media has abandoned, since the authors caution, "Without a functioning media, there is no stopping government from divesting us of our freedom."