The post-9/11 decline of media independence


The 10 years since 9/11 have been a momentous time in media history, with explosive Internet growth, the emergence of online search as the chief rudder of public attention, the boom in social networks, mobile devices, and tablets, and, now, the birth of specialized apps for every imaginable slice of information and entertainment.

The velocity and richness of media inventiveness come, however, amid a paradox: The sharp decline of the news media institutionally. By that I mean the media not as information utilities, where they are still indispensable, but as entities with the will, the material base, and the intellectual courage to stand up to the powerful winds of manipulation and to speak independently in what they believe is the public interest.

This past decade, which is about to be commemorated exhaustively, has been bookended by the two most egregious instances of media failure in the half-century since Vietnam. Both have had historic consequence. The first, soon after the Twin Towers fell, was the media’s enlistment into the Bush administration campaign for public support for its invasion and occupation of Iraq and, more broadly, into its War on Terror.

The media’s complicity in that post-9/11 panic had many elements. Their endorsement—with some notable exceptions—of the administration’s lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was only the most flagrantly destructive.

More toxic, in the long run, was the continuing and largely unquestioning acceptance of a number of dubious and transformative propositions: That the country needs a permanent global network of forward bases and a colossal Continue reading “The post-9/11 decline of media independence”