Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"Mistakes And Derelictions"

General William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. troops in Vietnam from 1964-1968, died on Monday.

Westmoreland's relationship with the press is well-chronicled. He was a vocal advocate of censorship during wartime, and blamed much of our problems in Vietnam on freedom of the press. One of his infamous statements was "Vietnam was the first war ever fought without any censorship. Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind." His personal jihad against the press culminated in his rancorous, high-profile lawsuit against CBS in the early 1980's.

But in more reflective moments, he acknowledged the importance of a free and independent press. In his autobiography he wrote, "It is well to tolerate some mistakes and derelictions to make every effort to assure that total freedom and independence continue to exist."

I think the main threat today is the editorial pressure inherent in corporate ownership as opposed to the overt censorship advocated by many Vietnam hawks. But Westmoreland's more rational words have never been more relevant. And if they were good enough for him, they should be good enough for all the armchair generals on their own personal jihads against journalistic scapegoats.

44 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

have we learned anything since then?

7/19/2005 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Few take pride in their work anymore, and they have no self-respect. Fox staff must be laughing in their boots, saying, we can put anything in our news and look they *&%(& believe it. Ha. Ha. We got them now. We've prepared the populace for the administration's next act. Fox has lowered the standards for all jounalism.

If it is corporate ownership, I suggest we look for publications that are more independent.

Where's the American entrepreneurial spirit, good journalists should cut their ties with corporations, and work independently or form a partnership to do real journalism. Ah, but it is easier to sell your soul to make a buck because if you don't, there is someone right behind you that will.

I blamed the media for fostering the environment that maintained and enhanced the bubble, in the sense that all the news was hyperbole, CEO's and analysts weren't questioned by "journalists", and very little was realistic and meaningful to our financial lives. But a finance friend of mine said, it is ultimately the people that make the choice. I alway assume people are educationed and have correct information though. But the media rather than informing us of what we NEED to know, they appeal to the LCD. And now, even PBS is under attack by the radical Republicans to make it an extension of the administration. Ho hum.

I don't see anyone working on improvements, or even recognizing the problem, that is why I get my news from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart ;-|

7/19/2005 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you had any opions re: JP Morgans decision to cancel advertising with any entity which prints or broadcasts criticism of the company.

My bank (and investment portfolio) has recently been taken over by Chase which is connected to JPM, I am considering moving ALL of my accounts to protest the blatant unAmericanism of it all.

7/19/2005 11:49 AM  
Anonymous exclab said...

Westmoreland was the victim of a tendency in the US to blame the military for its political mistakes. The Vietnam War was a needless catastrophe and blame for its failure can be placed at the feet of a handful of politicians. Yet is was soldiers like Westmoreland that took the blame for simply doing what they were asked to do. Today Kennedy is treated as a hero, Johnson is said to have been competant, and we are always enjoined to see the good side of Nixon. Yet these men, from the beginning are responsible for the lousy execution of that war and its meaningless purpose.

7/19/2005 5:12 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

These last few years will probably be remembered as the golden age of information. For now, I have access to almost every major newspaper in the world. I have access to all sorts of other information that I never dreamed of before the internet. After 9/11, I went everywhere on the web to find out why it happened. LOL - I watched the Ayotollah of Iran on video proclaim that Pat Robertson was right about why 9/11 happened (Remember? God was mad about homosexuality and abortion!) I read all of the minutes of Saddam Hussein's cabinet meetings on the official Iraq website. A couple of times, I even visited jihadist websites.

I worry a lot about the future of the internet. I read that China wants to have one giant Chinese network so that the government can have complete control over internet access. (As an aside, why have so many people seem to have forgotten that China is communist? Chinese capitalism seems to have become synonymous with freedom.) How long before other governments follow suit? The other day I read that China, Brazil, Syria and some other country like Gabon issued statements in support of UN control over the internet. Spare me! Going back, the neocons in their Project For A New American Century alluded to military control of the internet in the same breath with control over space in 1997.

I probably spend way too much time in front of a computer but who knows how long this wonderful freedom will last?

7/19/2005 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a retired military officer, when it comes to choosing between the military and civilian leadership, I will ordinarily take the military hands-down. However, I have to caveat this by observing that the military's end of what is often a Faustian bargain is to always tell the unvarnished truth, even if a particular officer may not get a third or fourth star or a personal audience in the White House. This isn't something I just came up with: it is the very heart of the military ethos. Westmoreland failed the test.

If Westmoreland and a few other 4-star officers had had the fortitude to tell the truth to the Congress and the American people instead of acting as lap dogs for Johnson and MacNamara, our history might have been a lot different. For example, the only thing we might have ever heard about George W. Bush was that he was yet another rich kid who'd squandered the advantages he was given.

I trust Westmoreland has reserved a good seat next to him in hell for MacNamara, who will undoubtedly soon follow.

7/21/2005 4:28 AM  
Blogger Miss Bliss said...

I agree with you completely on the serious problems we have today with the corporate ownership of most news outlets. The internet gives many of us a quick path to a lot of information but certainly not the bulk of the pupulation. Television is still the main distributor of information to the people and without the clear legal definition of the airways as a public trust (they say it but it's no longer Federally protected) then there is little chance that the public will ever get "news" that isn't advantageous to the handful of corporations who own the television stations. They own most of the newspapers and radio stations too. Too much in the hands of too few. I thought we had already learned this lesson but I guess not.

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