06/05/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Seen But Not Heard

Why no hearings to divine the truth behind this country's practice of torture? Why, really?

Is it because Team Obama realizes that almost any high profile political event will, in the hands of an unrestrained media, become the next OJ super-trial-style reality show, full of daily misleading headlines and salacious gossip rife with revelations both profound and inane; speculation about the sexual preferences of hunky bailiffs; the color and subsequent significance of a) Senator Leahy's tie, b) David Addington's cravat or c) Condi Rice's chastity brooch?

Or that even if and when pertinent details emerge about the culpability of the formerly untouchable neo-con artists Rummy, Dick and W (the Manny, Moe and Jack of capitalisto-fascism), details which would irrefutably confirm what the thinking majority of the Earth knows all too well---that they and their ilk bilked, highjacked and scuttled America---it won't make all that much difference because really: do we want to upset the entire apple cart at a time when all those apples are rotten and flavorless and the cart itself is spindly and its construction was outsourced to a country with no regulations about toxicity in the paint or the minimum age of the laborers or their uncompensated friction burns and severed digits from their dangerous proximity to the perpetually running conveyor belt which churns out the carts? Hmm?

It's a pretty spectacle when justice is waylaid to make room for pop convenience, but one which we have gotten used to. Gone are the days of the televised, spin-free hearings, riveting for their unfiltered truth which can often result in tedium, a quality which is verboten in our current version of culture. C-Span has cornered the niche in that respect, one so narrow as to be relegated to the back shelves behind the neglected, dusty bottles of Brioski in our otherwise fully stocked media market.

But along with the televised tedium came galvanizing truths which served to remind the sitcom-sated public of their own mortality and morality---the fundamental underlying elements in the preservation of America's promise of justice for all. What emerged from the HUAC, Watergate, even the tragically impotent Iran-Contra hearings was not only a template for what would decades later devolve into the perverse format known as "infotainment" but an unfiltered examination of issues germane to the nation's character in a forum where the spectators at home were free to judge for themselves.

It's that last aspect---the freedom to judge---which, aside from texted votes for or against various potential idols, models and biggest losers, is the most endangered of species. The colossal sleight of hand employed by the media is, as purposeful misdirection goes, as effective as Slidini's though not nearly as charming. Twisting our heads in the direction of panic-inducing puffed-up pseudo pandemics and away from the relative humdrum which defines our occasional civic duty is television's specialty and could severely impact the effectiveness of any public trial which would rightly and salubriously expose the architects of America's downfall for all to see. Much of President Obama's power and appeal derives at least from the feeling that the public is a newly aware and reactivated force for change. In their hands popular support would provide motivation to entities reluctant to engage the reliably low-aiming media machine which would inevitably render the effectiveness of such hearings as futile.

And yet, almost more than any of its antecedents, a hearing to define what history will no doubt look on impartially as the time when this nation's highest office was more blatantly misused and abused by any administration which preceded it, will provide the way back, however painful, toward the dignity and progress so grossly trampled upon by BushCo.

Money, as G.B. Shaw said, is not made in the light. But it's in the light---even in the flickering of a plasma screen---where justice needs to be served.