by Robert Jensen
And there seems to be
public-relations gambit that the
So, there’s nothing unusual about either the Pentagon’s plans to pump up support for a failed war in Iraq by holding a Sept. 11 “Freedom Walk” in Washington, DC, or the Washington Post’s initial decision to be a sponsor of the event.
But the Post’s
of that sponsorship highlights the fundamental problem with
First, more about the
full title of which is the “America Supports You Freedom Walk.”
Just how are they linked? Well, they (the terrorists)
hate us for our freedoms, which we love. That’s why they (again, the
attacked us on 9/11. There are terrorists (maybe not the terrorists,
terrorists all the same) in
If some of the factual assertions and all of the logic in that seem a little off, well, just go to www.asyfreedomwalk.com for answers. Then click on “Register” and remember to include your t-shirt size so that you can be a walking billboard for years to come.
It’s not that freedom isn’t worth celebrating, or
people killed in terrorist attacks don’t deserve to be remembered, or
shouldn’t care about people in the armed forces. But this whole charade
motivated by a simple fact: Polls show a majority of people in the
That included Washington Post executives who signed up as a sponsor. When journalists and antiwar activists suggested there might be a problem with a news media company being identified with such an event, the newspaper dropped out. According to a company spokesman, “it appears that this event could become politicized” and “it is The Post’s practice to avoid activities that might lead readers to question the objectivity of The Post’s news coverage.”
Could become politicized? Is there any way a literate adult could look at the Freedom Walk and not realize it’s a political PR stunt? But the real problem lies deeper. The implication of the Post’s response is that a generic patriotic event -- one not so clearly constructed to build support for disastrous policy decisions -- would be politically neutral and acceptable.
This indicates just how narrow and naïve is mainstream corporate journalism’s political worldview.
In that mainstream, journalists make a promise: The public can trust us, because we’re neutral on political questions; we’ll be objective. Putting aside the fact that much of the public doesn’t believe such claims, the assertion is absurd. Nowhere is it more painfully obvious than in the discussion of patriotism.
Many people believe that patriotism -- defined as love of, or loyalty to, a nation-state -- is a moral virtue. Others argue for adherence to universal principles applied without loyalty to any particular political entity. A few folks even take the Christian Bible seriously, believing ultimate loyalty belongs to God and patriotism is idolatry.
Whatever we believe, the position we take is -- in the deepest sense of the term -- a political position. No matter how common patriotic declarations are, endorsing patriotism is not neutral.
So, no amount of rhetorical gymnastics could render the Freedom Walk an apolitical patriotic event. Patriotic events are, by definition, politicized.
Journalists can strive for independence, especially from concentrated centers of power such as the state or the corporation. Journalists can try to be open-minded about political positions they find distasteful and skeptical of those in which they believe.
But one thing journalists cannot be is neutral, because there is no neutral ground on which to stand -- for journalists or anyone else in this world.
Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the
University of Texas at Austin, board member of the Third Coast Activist
Resource Center (http://thirdcoastactivist.org),
and the author of The Heart of
Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege
and Citizens of the Empire: The
Struggle to Claim Our
Humanity. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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