YELLOW  JOURNALISM


The comedy of errors at CBS just goes on and on. The latest is that a couple of "outsiders" have been engaged to ferret out the facts about how and from where the forged documents presented by top newsman Dan Rather came into being. It's already known by their dual admission that Burkett of Texas fed the documents to Rather of CBS but will not divulge their origination, which obviously is not any Air National Guard file. Some say the copies originated in a Kinko document-copier installation, but, of course, the copies had to be copied from something or other…but what?

It's passing strange, of course, that CBS can't discover the origin of the peccadilloes of its employees. One would think that the business of getting the facts should be a no-brainer in an organization priding itself on getting the facts about everything. What perhaps isn't so strange is the simple fact that CBS probably knew the documents were false, but just used them anyway, figuring no one would question a firm with such prestige as CBS and its star propagandist, Rather. After all, the word is that the producer of the now infamous mishmash of mendacity had been working on deep-sixing George Bush for five years, never mind the constant vetting of his records since at least 1994, when he was first elected governor of Texas. One would hope that this is not the case, since it bespeaks a dishonesty so profound that the network news organization could never be taken seriously again. However, to believe otherwise is to believe that the movers and shakers of Rather's riot are at least on the cusp of naivete at best or rank hooliganism at worst.

On the other hand, who cares? CBS is treating - or at least pretending to treat - the forgery affair as if it were roughly equal to a matter of national and international interest. It isn't, of course. It becomes important if there are crimes to be considered, but it seems highly unlikely that any prosecution would take place. No money has been embezzled. The national security has not been compromised or threatened. Rather's reputation is hardly more impaired than it already is. People will continue to believe or disbelieve him more on the basis of their political viewpoint than on that of Rather's stature (or lack of it). It's certainly no secret that CBS is a Bushwhacking outfit, with Rather as the chief hired gun, so a little thing like pushing forged documents shouldn't be considered beyond the pale…at least to the believers in Bushwhacking at any cost. If inviting the outsiders to come in and point out the bad guys is supposed to restore the integrity - real or imagined - of the network, the effort is in vain because the die has been cast. CBS is no longer trusted, not least because it claims it cannot clean up its own act. Pathetic!

The mystery deepens, of course, with the entry into the equation of Kerry-campaign honcho Lockhart, who has also been in touch with Burkett…to discuss the hot Texas weather? Well, no. What is the appropriate connection between a presidential-election campaign outfit and a supposedly objective news organization? Well, none, to be exact, and there might have been none, except that the Rather fiasco-producer brought Lockhart and Burkett together. So, there is the triangle…Burkett-CBS-Lockhart. Does it stink? Well, yes. The obvious next question has to do with how and when did Kerry know about all this. Undoubtedly, he will claim to know nothing, meaning that he doesn't even know what's happening in his own campaign. How does that look with respect to how well he would run the country?

Burkett will not reveal his source, thus protecting confidentiality, though one wonders if Burkett is the source. After all, he is an admitted deceiver and claimed to have lied. But if he won't reveal his source, what good will the investigating "outsiders" bring about. Burkett says an emphatic no to them with respect to revealing his source, so what do they do next…threaten him with something dangerous enough to make him talk. Blackmail is out because he has already admitted to his deception, thus irreparably impairing his reputation, if indeed it could be impaired. If Burkett doesn't talk, the case is closed, unless there is enough incentive all around to loosen tongues, whether here, there, or anywhere, or by whom. Now, there's a thought, and the notions about incentive are left up to the reader.

If CBS hadn't been caught (by a blogger, at that), who would have been the recipient of whatever Rather might have construed as a windfall? Kerry, of course, although voters most likely are not nearly as interested in this matter as CBS or Rather believes. Who would have been hurt? George Bush, if anyone, actually. So…what is the conclusion? CBS is a propaganda machine for the Kerry campaign. This would have been true without the forgeries just on the merits, but with the forgeries, representing outrageous journalistic dishonesty, the intensity of CBS efforts is seen for what it is…yellow journalism carried to the nth degree. Shameful!