Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Self-Censored Questions by Career Questioners

I’ve always been intrigued by the major questions not asked by reporters at press conferences, not asked by legislators at public hearings or even the questions citizens at town meetings don’t ask public officials. It’s not that they do not know about or could not easily become informed enough about a given issue and ask substantive questions. It’s just that so many taboos are packed into these questioners’ ideological mindset, career goals or concern with what other people over them might think. Maybe it is a culturally-rooted fear of challenging entrenched power brokers.

Decades ago, I noticed that press conferences, symposia and formal studies and reports on the toll of highway traffic fatalities never mentioned the role of motor vehicle design and construction.

The focus was almost entirely on the driver, or what some auto bosses called “the nut behind the wheel.” What the drivers were driving – vehicles without seatbelts, padded dash panels, rollover and side protection from collisions, but with faulty tires and brakes or poor handling – never came up. Construction defects in vehicles were never formally recalled to be fixed by the culpable manufacturers.

Questions never asked assure that answers, solutions and public awareness will not emerge.

Today, reporters who go to the Pentagon press briefings rarely, if ever, ask about dubious test results from the unproven ballistic defense project costing taxpayers over three decades, rising to nine to ten billion dollars a year. Or when the Department of Defense is going to obey a 1992 law and provide auditable data to the Congress’s Government Accountability Office (GAO) so that DOD’s massive budget, with its waste and redundancies, can be audited.

Lengthy Congressional hearings on the nomination of U.S. Supreme Court Justices do not produce questions to the nominee about corporate personhood (corporations being considered people for constitutional purposes) or rampant corporate crime. Both issues are important matters for judges.

Think about all the news conferences and hearings about rescheduling marijuana, by taking it off the DEA’s Schedule I controlled substances list. Far less attention is paid to legalizing the domestic growing of industrial hemp – grown by our founding fathers – which provides food, fuel, clothing, paper, car parts and lubricants, among hundreds of other uses.

In meetings with reporters and editorial writers, politicians pledge to lower deficits and prevent waste, but almost never have to answer questions about instances of massive fraud on the taxpayers (such as corporate vendors ripping off Medicare other government programs).

With all the blather officials, such as former Rep. Tom Price (now Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services) devote to repressing medical malpractice lawsuits, when will the first reporter ask: “But Secretary Price, what are you going to do about the loss of 250,000 lives a year in our hospitals due to mishaps, incompetence, hospital-induced infections, etc. (documented by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine professors last May)? What will you do to prevent the 5,000 people in America losing their lives each week because of such failures?”

Back in 2000, the great Washington Post reporter, Morton Mintz, submitted numerous questions to the major presidential candidates. No response. So a group called TomPaine.com placed an advertorial on the New York Times op-ed page with the heading “Mort Wants to Know – Hard Questions Reporters Don’t Ask.” While reporters may not ask such questions, this group understood they were certainly the kind that voters welcome. Three questions were selected, as follows:

“Do you take campaign contributions from Exxon-Mobil, ARCO and other oil companies that cheated taxpayers out of billions of dollars owed for oil pumped from public land?”

“Should Congress investigate drug pricing by companies like Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Novartis, which charge Americans more for drugs that in other countries they sell for much less?”

“Rules pending in Congress would deny federal contracts to chronic corporate lawbreakers – those that repeatedly violate environmental, worker safety, tax and other laws. Where do you stand on these Rules?”

I would add one additional question to the many reporters bored with daily routine coverage of the major party candidates on the road: “What in the world keeps you from freeing your minds and asking the obvious  and important questions?”
More generally, time and again reporters do not respond to declarations and assertions by those in positions of power with two fundamental questions:

1. What is your legal authority for this decision?

2. What is your evidence to back up your claim, policy or practice?

Sure, we’re all likely to be against censorship. But let’s pay attention to the enablers of the censors – the self-censoring career questioners whose lack of inquisitiveness does the censors’ job for them.

To read stories from reporters who ask the hard questions, visit FAIR.org and projectcensored.org.

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail