Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dissenting on the Tim Russert Elegy-Fest

Like many, I was surprised to learn that NBC's Tim Russert had died on Friday, 6/13. He seemed a decent enough man but I did not share in the media's outpouring of grief. Russert was an establishment mouthpiece through and through. No doubt he'll be missed by his loved ones and many admirers, but don't forget how he protected the powerful and acted the Smithers to the establishment's Burns.

Dick Cheney and Tim Russert on the set of "Meet the Press"

Herewith, a roundup of the best critiques of Russert and the cozy media/state union he represented:

The Messenger is the Message by Butler Shaffer
"The message machine owners – subdivided into various radio/television networks and print media who, nonetheless have a shared interest in the message content – hire the "journalists," commentators, and others, to write and deliver the agreed-upon script. It is into this class of people that Tim Russert – along with other members of the fraternity who now lament his passing – was accepted by the owners. He was safe for their purposes, not the sort of person to ask unsettling questions. One major media source referred to him as 'a towering figure in American journalism.' If such words were intended to acknowledge only that Russert was held in high regard by fellow disseminators of what is to the interest of the establishment to have the public believe, it is probably correct. If we are asked to believe, however, that he represented the kind of critical, journalistic inquiry that troubled the minds of the powerful, I strongly disagree."

Enough Already! by Justin Raimondo
"It wasn't just his sycophancy in the presence of power that motivates my little exercise in Russert revisionism – it's what was clearly his vehement hostility to anyone who challenged the status quo in any way and sought to provide an antidote to the Dick Cheneys of this world."

A Sinner's View of Tim Russert's Passing by Marc Cooper
"Indeed, without unfailingly pulling that last punch, Russert knew very well that he would risk excommunication from the Inner Sanctum of the Beltway. A harder landing for his guests could dry up that most cherished of press commodities: access and kinship with the powerful. That’s how Russert began his career, as a shrewd, smart political operative — a role he never really outgrew. Till the end, his temperament, his disposition and ambition positioned him to be a much, much better source than an actual reporter. When I go, I also want oodles of uncritical praise — but not from the subjects of my reporting."

Fuhrerprincip by Lew Rockwell
"Cable TV has been obsessed with [Russert] since his death. Time Magazine, we are reminded again and again, named him one of the 100 most powerful people in America, that is, one of the people most powerfully serving and advancing the state and the power elite. Of course, cable figures also lionize him because it enhances, or so they think, their own bloated sense of self-importance.

"We are also told that Russert asked tough questions of politicians. What a joke. He acted like their butler or valet--with one exception. When Russert interviewed Ron Paul, he was incredibly hostile, made lying insinuations, gave Ron almost no time to answer, and, in general, acted like a member of the Capitol Hill-neocon thugbund.

"Perhaps Russert, in confronting a genuine man of peace, felt guilty for his Bushian propaganda for war on Iraq, and the blood on his hands. The perpetually embedded journalist's body language was crabbed, and he never looked Ron in the eye."

(h/t to LRC for all links)

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