Saturday, August 26, 2006

Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife?

I wrote but two days ago that I would be posting more reports from the Third Galaxy, but something reminded me of an interview on Danish television I saw some time ago with Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State. The interview startled and puzzled me not a little at the time.

The interview took place in Denmark and Powell was interviewed by a Danish journalist who normally works on the Washington DC beat.

Much of the interview revolved around Powell’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq, his speech to the UN which persuaded the Security Council to pass the resolution which his boss, Mr. Bush later twisted to use as justification for preemptive war, invasion, occupation and total mismanagement of that unfortunate country.

Mr. Powell was sorry about his role with the UN resolution, but he managed to make it sound like that he had been given bad information without actually saying so and thus gave no opening for the journalist to call him on it. He also admitted that many mistakes had been made in handling Iraq. Somehow he made it sound like they were things that no one could have foreseen...

Powell admitted that the image of the American government had suffered but maintained that it was unavoidable. When you are the most powerful you have to take the lead whether you want to or not and some, perhaps a lot of people are going to resent this.

Then the journalist pitched his final question of the evening. He asked Powell if, knowing what he knew now and how things had developed the past three years, would he still have advocated an invasion of Iraq.

Powell’s answered with question: Let me ask you isn’t the world a better and safer place now that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power? This is a “Have you stopped beating your wife?” class of question meant to stop debate and it did.

The obvious answer is of course, no, not at all, in no way is it a better place and certainly not safer – not for us in Denmark and not in the USA and most certainly not for the people who live in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

Powell’s question was not made up on the spur of the moment. It is a “talking point”. A journalist who works in DC is familiar with them. Why he did not dare answer is something the journalist would have to answer himself. But I can surmise that it is exactly because the journalist works out of DC and therefore was afraid.

If he embarrassed the Great Man and Senior Diplomat Statesman, his access to politicians in DC could wither or at best become more formal. He might even find himself under more direct attack, like the Irish journalist who asked Mr. Bush real questions as if she expected to hear, if nor honest, at least real answers.

If politicians are allowed to wheel out their threadbare, retread talking points unchallenged, what is the use of it? We might just as well have Soviet journalists lobbing softballs to members of the Politburo.

This is very much like the sort of thing that happened in the Third Galaxy. Journalists became more and more talking bobble heads, lobbing soft balls. In the end it became almost and then in fact an act of treason to ask any government official, let alone Ronald Rexona, a real question as if expecting a real answer.

But these were just a couple of foreign journalists. American journalists are brave, investigative and hard hitting. The fact that 95% of the media is owned by 5 mega-corps and that news is seen as a form of entertainment does not affect them in their work.

That is why Americans are the best informed people in the world!

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