Friday, September 17, 2004

Tom Paine.common sense : Fahrenheit 9/11 For Grown-ups

Robert Jensen

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity from City Lights Books. He can be reached at

I’m a former full-time journalist turned journalism professor. I continue to commit occasional acts of journalism, and I retain a deep affection for, and commitment to, the craft and its ideals. That’s why it pains me to say this: The performance of the U.S. corporate commercial news media after 9/11 has been the most profound and dangerous failure of journalism in my lifetime.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the void is being filled by other institutions, including the Media Education Foundation with its new documentary, Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire.

That performance of journalists in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq was so abysmal that the country’s top two daily newspapers, the Washington Post and New York Times , eventually were forced to engage in a bit of self-criticism, albeit shallow and inadequate. The U.S. news media’s willingness to serve as a largely uncritical conduit for the lies, half-truths and distortions the Bush administration used to create the pretext for war showed how easily journalists can become de facto agents of a state propaganda campaign, which in this case mobilized public support for an illegal war.

But the lies that led to the Iraq war are only part of a bigger story, the most important story of the past three years: The Bush administration’s manipulation of the tragedy of 9/11 to extend and intensify the longstanding U.S. project of empire building (and the complicity of most Democrats in that endeavor).

No publication or network in the mainstream of U.S. journalism has offered an independent, critical analysis of that project. Only a few journalists, mostly on the margins, have even dared to take a crack at it. The best consistent work has been in the foreign press or the alternative media in the United States.

This also has been the year of the political documentary, and Hijacking Catastrophe is the best film in this genre to date.

(click on the title for the whole article)


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