Saturday, October 29, 2005

The "Mistake"

"Control the press and you control the minds of men."
-Cecil Rhodes

In the English language, many words experience a shift in meaning over countless years of usage. 'Awful,' for instance, used to have the same definition as today’s 'awesome.' In fact, the no. 2 definition for 'awful' in the American Heritage dictionary states, “Commanding, inspiring, or filled with awe.” It’s easy to see why. When one sees the Sistine Chapel or the Grand Canyon for the first time, one is usually filled with awe. No one knows for sure how 'awful' shifted from meaning ‘inspiring’ to today’s meaning of ‘terrible.’ It was probably the same process by which ‘bad’ actually means ‘good’ in some circles.

Sometimes the rapidity with which words shift definitions has disturbingly Orwellian consequences. One such example is the rapidly changing definition of the word 'mistake.' Just a few short years ago, a mistake was an unintended action that usually produced an unpleasant result – like when you mistake salt for sugar in a recipe or when a foul ball smashes the neighbor’s window.

Today, however, 'mistake' has come to define any instance in which a famous or powerful person was caught red-handed doing something illegal or morally reprehensible. When Dwight Gooden got caught with cocaine in his system all those times, those were just ‘mistakes.’ On a recent installment of 60 Minutes, correspondent Ed Bradley asked New York Yankees infielder Derek Jeter whether he had difficulty reconciling teammate Jason Giambi’s steroid use with Jeter’s well publicized anti-drug stance, Jeter responded by saying, “well, yeah, but you understand that people make mistakes…”

Listen up, people. THESE ARE NOT MISTAKES. Jason Giambi did not slip and accidentally inject himself with steroids; he fucking cheated. He intentionally violated the rules, and he did so repeatedly until he got caught.

Big deal, you say? While it’s true that Giambi’s steroid use, or the drunken, drug-addled, sex-crazed misbehavior – often referred to as ‘mistakes’ – of countless rock stars and Hollywood luminaries, have little impact on society, this generous definition of the word 'mistake' has bled into the world of politics and journalism. The phrase, ‘intelligence failure,’ for example, is nothing but a euphemism for 'lie.' The only failure was in the administration’s inability to conceal the lies from the public – a trick at which they are usually quite skilled.

The same can be said for the main$tream media’s pre-war cheerleading. The leading lights of journalistic integrity, the New York Times and the Washington Post – badly burned by the failure to locate WMDs and the poor prosecution of the Iraq War – have issued a spate of ridiculous “oopses.”

But, unlike Giambi’s steroid use or, say, Robert Downey’s struggles with heroin, these ‘mistakes’ have immense, far-reaching consequences. As Z Magazine’s Mike Whitney points out, “Along with the New York Times, the Washington Post is perhaps the most widely syndicated news in the country. Their stories not only inform the national debate (on any given topic), but also establish the rationale for military action. The apocryphal stories that appeared on the front page of the Post were the basis for an illegal invasion and countless deaths.”

The fact that both the Times and the Post have issued mea culpas in recent months is evidence of their desperation to maintain their lucrative position as corporate shills. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” they seem to say, as Toto pulls the curtain aside. The other guilty parties – NBC, CNN, L.A. Times, et al – haven’t even bothered to issue apologies.

And the lying – or mistaking – continues.

In the hours following Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s Oct. 28 press conference, MSNBC’s coverage was blatantly skewed to the Right with commentary from such impartial judges as Pat Buchanan and Tucker Carlson, not to mention input from pundits and ‘analysts’ who appeared without the disclosure that they were from such notorious right wing institutions as the Cato Institute and the Washington Times.

But some of the biggest lies – or mistakes – come in the form of the lying-by-omission strategy so often employed by the so-called liberal media. After all, the real story here isn’t simply the outing of a covert operative; the real story is the fountain of lies that spewed out of the administration – and the press – in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lies such as these: that Sept. 11 mastermind, Mohammed Atta met with one of Saddam’s henchmen in Prague; that an intercepted shipment of aluminum tubes was intended for the manufacture of weapons grade plutonium; that Saddam was attempting to acquire yellowcake uranium from Niger. The bovine press has obediently omitted from its reporting that all of these lies have been thoroughly debunked. Moreover, there has been no mention in the M$M of the fact that National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley was the one who created the crudely forged documents purporting to show Saddam’s intent to procure the Niger Yellowcake that is at the center of this controversy.
Make no mistake – the press that you count on to provide balanced coverage of the events that impact millions of lives is lying to you. The only mistake they made was that you found out they were lying.

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