Another Sign of the "End Times" for American Journalism

It is a sad state of affairs when a movie actor must tell a group of assembled journalists that they missed the mark on covering a huge voting scandal in Florida’s 2000 presidential election. Speaking at the National Press Club on April 15, actor Tim Robbins exhorted the media to investigate why 50,000 mostly African-American voters were scrubbed from the electoral rolls before Election Day. Robbins added that there is a Pulitzer Prize out there for the journalist willing to step up and fully investigate the scandal.

The voter registration scandal involved a contract awarded by then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris to Data Base Technologies Online, later a subsidiary of ChoicePoint, a firm that has given generously to Republican coffers over the years. Afer examining the registration files, DBT identified 173,000 ineligible voters. However, at least 50,000 voters were groundlessly dropped from the voters’ rolls. So on Election Day, thousands of African-Americans, who would have voted for Al Gore, were told by Florida election officials they could not vote. It was as if Jim Crow returned to Florida after a long hiatus.

After Robbins challenged the press to investigate the election scam in Florida, National Press Club President Tammy Lytle, Washington Bureau Chief of the Orlando Sentinel, interrupted the actor, “As someone who represents a major Florida newspaper, I can tell you we looked into that.” Robbins, knowing he was being fed a plethora of equine excrement, responded, “Really, I’d like to read that.”

Robbins, of course, knows better. Robbins referred to the miserable status of American journalism when he cited the “Aussie rags” in the United States, a reference to Rupert Murdoch’s growing and more menacing media empire. The Orlando Sentinel would never investigate Bush family malfeasance anywhere or anytime. Its editorial staff could be shown glossy 8 x 10 photos of George W. or Jeb in bed with a dead woman or a live boy and the paper, a longtime shill for the Republican Party, would simply pass on the story. A newspaper that owes its very existence to the capital of American artificiality, Disney World, along its gaudy central Florida clones, is hardly capable of launching a major investigation of the mass and systematic disenfranchisement of African-American voters. In fact, the Sentinel’s readership, locked behind their splendid little gated communities or holed up in their sterile condominiums, would not stand for the paper rocking the boat by suggesting that Jeb Bush and his purported girlfriend, Katherine Harris, criminally conspired to throw Florida’s 25 electoral votes into George W. Bush’s column. The Sentinel has shown what kind of editorial “independence” it maintains by repeatedly endorsing — election after election — George H.W., George W., and Jeb Bush.

A prime example of the pitiful reporting of the Sentinel is its lead story in its April 16 issue–a puff piece on retired General Jay Garner, the Bush administration’s pro-consul of Iraq and a resident of one of central Florida’s paranoia-obsessed gated communities in Windermere. Nowhere in the article is there a mention of Garner’s conflict of interest with his current employer, L-3 Communications, Inc., a major defense contractor and provider of mercenaries through its MPRI subsidiary. Instead, the Sentinel refers to Garner as “a ‘country boy’ with a purpose.” And if that’s not sycophantic enough, the following is but one passage about Garner that would have made the Soviet-era editors of Pravda and Izvestia quite proud: “Harlan McCall, vice president of the senior class when Garner was president, played football with Garner. ‘Jay was competitive; he would go after what he wanted,’ McCall said. ‘But there was not a mean bone in his body.'” That’s really hard-hitting stuff.

The Sentinel failed to mention Garner’s close ties to the Israeli right-wing lobby through his past association with the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and with key figures in William Kristol’s Project for a New American Century, which advocates taking America’s next wars to the gates of Damascus, the center of Tehran, and beyond.

Tim Robbins also had some other cogent advice for journalists. He said journalists must be at the forefront of protecting America’s democracy. He also suggested that the next time Ari Fleischer calls on one of the favored journalists at a White House press briefing, he or she should pass the opportunity to ask a question to the banished “journalist du jour” in the back of the room. Excellent idea Mr. Robbins. Again, it is sad state of affairs when an actor has to tell the Fourth Estate what it must do to remain a vital part of America’s democratic equilibrium.

Tim Robbins spoke about the climate of fear that has swept the nation, a climate in which people are afraid to speak out against the President, his war, and his divisive policies. The American people are obviously taking their cue from a sheepish press that is best exemplified by glorified public relations circulars like the Orlando Sentinel.

But it not only the print media that Robbins was excoriating. He spoke of “19th Century Fox” and one of its stars, a former entertainment reporter, parading around as a no-spinning political sage. Robbins understands that what is billed as news on the three major cable news outlets is nothing more than propaganda churned out by Washington policy-laundering think tanks, retired military brass fronting for defense contractors, and scurrilous Republican Party operatives. Robbins said he didn’t know what candidate he would support in the next presidential election. Well, Tim, although we have had one actor as President, it would be entirely suitable to have another and one with independent thought and the ability to reason. If you decide to run, you’ve got my vote.

WAYNE MADSEN is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth.

Madsen can be reached at: WMadsen777@aol.com


More articles by:
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It