Saturday, December 4, 2010

The White House: It's unfortunate that news organizations determine what WikiLeak stories they should run

I've previously written about the recent trend that newspapers in the United States are asking the White House for advice on what stories they should avoid from the recent WikiLeaks cables. It appears that politicians move newspapers towards this position by maintaining the claim that the leaks are damaging to the United States and that it could put lives in danger.

Both the media and the White House have been relatively open about this tendency, probably because it could become an issue in itself if people starting asking why The Guardian is running stories New York Times isn't running. On a recent press conference, however, Philip J. Crowley (Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs), may have said a little more than he was supposed to when answering a question about the recent leaks. Crowley said:

"Unfortunately, it’s the news organizations that determine the redactions. We have made a range of requests." (Full transcript)

So the official position of the government is that it is "unfortunate" that the press is allowed to edit itself? That's quite remarkable considering the fact that the first amendment is very old! It is even more remarkable, however, that no one seem to raise any questions about it. The reason, it seems, is simply that the media has already given up their job of asking questions and instead embrace the government's position halfway, while performing their media duties halfway. And when the media isn't raising questions, people are not either.

A number of questions should be asked now:

If the information leaked by WikiLeaks can put people in danger, what good does it do that Americans don't know about that information? Is the American government afraid that Americans could be the ones that would put people in danger or why else is it so dangerous that Americans don't get to hear whatever it is that is being "redacted"? Does the American government think that foreigners read NY Times and watch CNN and have no other news sources? Why does this self-imposed form of censorship really help so much when the Guardian covers these leaks much better than any Americans news organizations? Wouldn't foreigners who might have an interest in hurting someone perhaps avoid New York Times as a primary source of their news?

I have a feeling that the answer is already out there. I've previously written about the American intervention in the Spanish law system to protect Bush officials. That involvement seems to have not been covered much in the US. MSNBC did a small segment on it and Fox Latino covered it briefly too. Other than that it has not been mentioned. The Guardian, meanwhile, has written at least five full stories on this case.

This story could only harm a few people: Alberto Gonzales and Barack Obama are two. It would be dangerous to the last one of them too, since it could affect his chances in the next election. Other than that, it simply isn't very dangerous.

But it was fortunate that the newspapers didn't run it.

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