I’ve written regularly about the mainstream media’s love of being close to power. Ooh, look over there, Hillary in a red pantsuit! How charming.
Sorry,… distracted by a very important news story.
Deakin University’s Scott Burchill tackles the same issue, challenging corporate reporter’s desire to be players:
To say that the WikiLeaks imbroglio has not been journalism’s finest hour fails to capture the extent to which the fourth estate has failed its basic responsibility to inform the public about the activities of government.
Putting aside the sour grapes that comes from being scooped by a rival, it is difficult to recall another occasion when so many journalists and opinionistas have expressed such unremitting hostility to the public’s right to know what is being discussed and decided in their name.
There have been honourable exceptions, but most remarkable is that they remain exceptions to an embarrassing and dishonourable rule. Journalists and commentators who have displayed a consistent opposition to WikiLeaks since the first tranche of Iraq war logs was released have been documented and dissected by Antony Loewenstein, in Australia, John Pilger in the UK and Glenn Greenwald in the US.
Rather than duplicate that work here, it is worth examining the psychology behind those in the media who have been exposed by this saga as enthusiastic servants of state power.
Proximity to the powerful has always had a disabling effect on the critical faculties of impressionable journalists. Some, who are easily flattered, like to get their photograph taken with the subjects they interview (Greg Sheridan with Condoleezza Rice, Leigh Sales with Hilary Clinton). Others see no conflict between their role as an independent journalist and accepting an award from a grateful government lobby group (Greg Sheridan and the Israel lobby).
There is the attraction of sharing confidential discussions with shakers and movers from the US (journalists who have attended the Australia-America Leadership Dialogue) or a fully-paid guided tour of the Holy Land (being duchessed around Israel and the occupied territories by Israeli PR functionaries). Occasionally being so close to the great and powerful can be too much for “giddy minds” and leads to a total dereliction of duty (Leigh Sales “interviewing” Hilary Clinton).
Invitations to a secretive inner circle where maintaining confidences is the password for entry can be very seductive. The magnetic effects of power are very effective tools of socialisation and politicians know just how to deploy them to advantage.