December 10, 2007
Glossing Over Getting Caught (Bob Franken)
@ 12:22 pm
Item: The CIA reveals it destroyed evidence of possibly illegal conduct by destroying tapes of torture. But only after The New York Times gets set to publish an article disclosing that possible obstruction of justice by getting rid of evidence that might be needed in future war crimes trials.
Item: After The Washington Post makes public the equally cruel treatment of shattered soldiers at Walter Reed hospital and elsewhere, the military grudgingly imposes reforms. Only then.
The stories about insurance companies, utilities and the airlines being shamed by public disclosure into giving customers what they paid for are so common we hardly pay attention.
And of course we are all familiar with the “Seven on Your Side” confrontations between the hapless person who had the misfortune to pay some lowlife for shoddy or non-existent work. Those are only resolved when TV’s version of the “Caped Crusader,” a heavily hair-sprayed local news reporter, milks the story for all it’s worth, by “ambushing” on camera the aforementioned lowlife.
It’s easy to understand why public officials and business owners so hate the press. If it weren’t for those bastards in the media, they would never have to revise, or answer for their negligence, lawbreaking, abuse, cheating, you name it.
No wonder a full industry has developed where consultants instruct politicians, bureaucrats and corporations how to hide their grotesque misdeeds and prevarications.
Do not, for a minute, think I’m suggesting the news media are heroic protectors of the American way. For the most part, coverage has been so trivialized by profit-hungry owners desperate for ratings, circulation and the advertising they bring that it’s exceedingly difficult to get information of even rudimentary importance. In fact, one could easily argue that the media are badly in need of an expose.
But every once in a while, we can score one for journalism as it exposes some outrage so severe that the government or corporate perpetrators are forced to abandon it and do right for its victims.
Of course, since that same lollipop TV and print coverage has left our country with the collective memory of a gnat, the PR experts usually counsel that their clients just wait things out. Then they can continue with their same misdeeds. They are now officially designated “old news.”
This means that the CIA will continue to torture and just be more careful about taping, and that the mistreatment of our wounded veterans will continue and that the public and private sectors will go on shortchanging all of us. In other words, business as usual. And our society, which needs trust to hold it together, will continue to come unglued. As the song goes, we need to change our evil ways, not try to hide them.