Commentary by Pat Murphy
Besides Howard Dean’s foot-in-mouth claim
of wanting to be "the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup
trucks," the big ruckus last week was over "The Reagans," the TV movie yanked by
CBS then buried on its less-watched Showtime cable network.
Conservative Republicans and their foot
soldiers accomplished their mission: They battered CBS into submission with a
torrent of shrill charges that "The Reagans" amounted to an insulting and—you
guessed it!—"liberal" fiction of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
But the self-styled fiction busters seemed
blind to real political image making.
Not a peep did they utter when Army Pfc.
Jessica Lynch blew the whistle on the Pentagon’s made-for-TV campaign, turning
her into a phony hero of the attack on Iraq.
She was "used" to promote the war, she
told ABC interviewer Diane Sawyer. She rejected the hero image created by
military public relations drum-beaters, who ignored more heroic GIs in Jessica’s
unit. (Imagine what other "facts" about the war are questionable.)
The Pentagon soap opera was this: Jessica
went down firing her rifle at Iraqi soldiers; she was beaten by her captors,
then bravely rescued by a special assault team, which conveniently brought along
a night vision camera to document the operation.
All fiction, Lynch said. Her rifle in fact
jammed and wouldn’t fire. Her injuries were not from a beating but from her
Humvee crashing during the ambush. Her rescue came after an Iraqi tipped off
U.S. forces that found her in a virtually abandoned, undefended hospital.
(Democrats have no reason to gloat.
Remember Scott O’Grady, the Air Force F-16 pilot shot down in Bosnia in 1995? He
was transformed into a "hero" by Bill Clinton’s Pentagon flacks. O’Grady
received full pomp treatment at a Pentagon welcome that included top brass and
President Clinton, who needed a "hero" at the time. O’Grady merely was shot
down, saved himself by hiding until Marine rescuers picked him up. O’Grady was
Clinton’s Jessica Lynch.)
Did concerns about "fiction" really drive
the campaign to force CBS to drop "The Reagans" from prime time?
Nope. It’s a new tactic in the long-range
ultraconservative strategy to subdue U.S. media independence.
The first phase: create the myth that news
media not owned by Rupert Murdoch’s unabashedly conservative Fox TV are
dangerously "liberal." That’s succeeded: Much of the Washington press now shies
from aggressive reporting of Bush administration failings to avoid criticism.
The edgiest commentaries on Bush policies now come from late night TV comedians.
But the conservative whine about "liberal"
media has become tiresome. So, now there’s a new ploy: attack TV for "fiction"
such as "The Reagans" and badger networks to cancel programs that cast GOP icons
in a critical light.
Disingenuous and intellectually dishonest
it may be. But it works. Democratic leaders in Washington have never been so
lifeless and uninspiring in rebuking right-wing deceit. And, sadly, too many
independent news media cower to avoid White House insinuations they’re