In a 2004 op-ed, Al Gore accused President Bush and Republicans of “spreading purposeful confusion while punishing reporters who stand in the way.” An excerpt:
Dan Rather says that post-9/11 patriotism has stifled journalists from asking government officials “the toughest of the tough questions.” Rather went so far as to compare Administration efforts to intimidate the press to “necklacing” in apartheid South Africa, while acknowledging it as “an obscene comparison.” “The fear is that you will be necklaced here (in the U.S.), you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck,” Rather explained. It was CBS, remember, that withheld the Abu Ghraib photographs from the American people for two weeks at the request of the Bush Administration.
Donald Rumsfeld has said that criticism of the Administration’s policy “makes it complicated and more difficult” to fight the war. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour said on CNBC last September, “I think the press was muzzled and I think the press self-muzzled. I’m sorry to say but certainly television, and perhaps to a certain extent my station, was intimidated by the Administration.”
The Administration works closely with a network of “rapid response” digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for “undermining support for our troops.” Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, was one of the first journalists to regularly expose the President’s consistent distortions of the facts. Krugman writes, “Let’s not overlook the role of intimidation. After 9/11, if you were thinking of saying anything negative of the President…you had to expect right-wing pundits and publications to do all they could to ruin your reputation.
Bush and Cheney are spreading purposeful confusion while punishing reporters who stand in the way. It is understandably difficult for reporters and journalistic institutions to resist this pressure, which, in the case of individual journalists, threatens their livelihoods, and in the case of the broadcasters can lead to other forms of economic retribution. But resist they must, because without a press able to report “without fear or favor” our democracy will disappear.
I guess Gore’s view on the media doesn’t cover the media members who want to cover him:
But the world will hear just five minutes of his message – because that was all the journalists, invited by his hired PR flacks, would allow the media to hear of Gore’s speech before they were rudely pushed out the door.
And I mean pushed.
A certain flack physically placed her hand on my back at the Convention Centre when Gore was mid-sentence during his speech (you had to pay up to $2500 for the privilege of hearing it in full) and propelled me towards the exit.
Max Markson, whom Gore hired as his publicity and media management for the former US vice-president’s fleeting visit to Australia, insisted the decision to keep the media at arm’s length came from Gore’s office.
Well, that works. Here’s a man who’s made it his life’s mission to teach the globe about climate change and our doomed future but he won’t let us listen.
This is what the flacks told us by email earlier this week: “Media will be allowed access to listen to Al Gore deliver five minutes of his first speech, then media will be asked to leave.”
At least they stuck to their word.
Reporters, photographers and cameramen were kept in an isolated room for more than one hour before the Great Man got up to speak down the corridor in a hall filled with handsomely paying guests. When I asked if I could amble on down to listen to the preamble, the answer was a strict “no”.