Hold Those Pulitzers!

It’s been a bad twelve months for American journalism. Given fourth estate gullibility re Bush’s WMD claims, plus fictioneering at the New York Times and USA Today, I’d been hoping (with the dulled, hopeless hope that people on Death Row clutch to their bosoms) that maybe this year the Pulitzer Board would give its prizes a pass, at least so far as the press is concerned.

But the Pulitzer industry, eternally clubby and corrupt, is designed in part to reassure the citizens that, all available evidence notwithstanding, the press is a vigilant watchdog for our liberties and fully deserves those Constitutional protections that guarantee it a 20 per cent rate of return on capital invested.

People are dying in Fallujah and other towns across Iraq in part because the US press didn’t do its job and mostly swallowed, hook, line, sinker, reel and rod, the WMD claims of Bush, Powell, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the others. Right now US forces, either in uniform or disguised as civilian contractors, are hunting for Sadr the Shia cleric on the grounds his newspaper is telling lies. There’s an idea! Send the troops into the New York Times newsroom and arrest Judith Miller! Then run across town and arrest the editor of the New Yorker for printing Jeffrey Goldberg’s endless fictions about the Saddam-Al Qaeda connection.

The year after 9/11 they gave the New York Times seven Pulitzers, a ridiculous number. The Times’s coverage was mostly maudlin tripe. The idea was to proclaim to the world that the Twin Towers may have fallen but New York City still could boast a titan to tell the tale. This year the Los Angeles Times scoops five, which is still ridiculous. I guess the idea was to distract attention from the New York Times’ fall from grace by whooping up a new titan on the other end of the country.

Footnote: You want a concise chronicle of all the lies spooned out by the Bush crowd, cheered lustily by most Democrats and dispensed by the corporate press? Best deal in town, one click away on this same page, is Imperial Crusades, editor Jeffrey St Clair and myself. It’s a journal of America’s recent wars, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia. It’s a fierce chronicle of the imperial bandwagon and the pipers in the press who eased its path.


Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.