Monday, September 11, 2006

Untruth and Consequences

I have heard a lot of insightful examination and truth-telling by our TV news pundits, in the past couple weeks, concerning our present challenges in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the “war on terror.” I hear intelligent, realistic recognition of the complex mix of motives behind the terror, the diversity of Muslim opinion, the tangled histories that make for unruly allegiances and animosities in the Middle East, the limitations of military power to affect these forces, the need for deep analysis before action, the pursuit of hearts and minds, the suspicion of cheap rhetoric, the toxic effects of our oil addiction, the need, in a time of war, for sacrifice and genuine involvement, and the thousand shades of gray that our foreign policy demands.

It’s infuriating. The TV heavyweights are now, for the first time, saying on the air things that I and many others privately discussed ad nauseum, three, four, five years ago.

I welcome their newfound honesty. The window has been opened, the fresh air is in the room now. But what bothers me is that these media bobbleheads are intelligent people, they had back then the same facts before them that I did, and more. They also must have had, in private during the past five years, some conversations at the level of reality. But only now, after a year of opinion polls have given them the buoyancy they feel they need, are they willing to go on the air with it.

What a disservice they have rendered us. All that precious time lost making us swallow you’re-with-us-or-you’re-with-the-terrorists, they-hate-our-freedoms, dead-or-alive, there-is-no-doubt, mushroom-cloud, shock-and-awe, welcome-us-with-flowers, mission-accomplished, “reconstruction,” bring-it-on, Geneva-Conventions-are-quaint, dead-enders, final-throes, turning-a-corner…

It’s not that the truth didn’t squeak out here and there over the airwaves (and all over the blogosphere). It’s that the hierarchy of media orthodoxy always privileged the notion that reality-based thinking was na├»ve, dangerous, and, ultimately, not sufficiently robustly patriotic.

Now, all that the belated media truth-telling is good for is to help us start to think about digging ourselves out of a deep, deep hole. To see the same guys who took their paychecks spouting the party line now displaying their authentic intelligence, how can you respect that? It only goes to show how, when the nation really needed them to make good use of their perches, they sent their integrity to the back of the bus.