Helen Thomas’ latest book, Watchdogs of Democracy? is a reflection on and lamentation about the profession of American journalism today. Its subtitle is “The waning Washington press corps and how it has failed the public.”
“Watchdogs” is laced with personal anecdotes and remembrances of better times, scrappier journalists and far more competent political leaders. It also provides words of caution and explanation to an American public as to why and how the US media uncritically sold the Bush administration’s concocted WMD story in the run up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Then when WMD turned up missing, W changed the narrative numerous times. Thomas details how the MSM let him get away with it hook, line and sinker.
Much of Thomas’ story has been told before – but there are knowledgeable, well-read Americans who still fail to grasp the ramifications of the erosion of the “Fourth Estate” over the past 15 or so years. They continue to ask why the public is so poorly informed about events of the day and how the context for putting those events in perspective has disappeared.
Others attack Thomas personally, not for what she says but because it’s clear they continue to follow this self-proclaimed “war president’s” line without bothering to read, listen or think about how his imperial presidency contorts the country’s democratic form of government by restricting the public’s right to know and impeding the media’s responsibility to inform them.
As I write this review (WV was one of the blogs offered a review copy from Simon and Schuster and I jumped at the chance), the outing of the long before outed Swift consortium international terrorist financial transaction monitoring story by the New York Times and several other major U.S. newspapers is being castigated by the right with equal amounts of vituperative venom, political bias – and lack of information – that got the country into the ill-fated Iraq invasion to start. These same people have also unsurprisingly turned on Helen Thomas for raising hard questions and demanding – to no avail - the truth.
Ever more reason that readable, reasonably short books on why the MSM has too often failed the U.S. public written by well known personalities and veteran practitioners like Thomas are always welcome.