What Now?

Developments, encouraging and otherwise

"THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA HAS GONE MAD," announced a headline in The Times of London on January 15. This was at first glance worrisome, but at second less so, because the article turned out to be not a news report but an opinion column. It was the opinion, specifically, of John le Carré that "America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War."

Le Carré said that "the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded," the principal evidence being that, as concerns war with Iraq, "the combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press."

Ah, that madness: we aren't talking enough. As events moved closer to war with Iraq in December and January, the complaint grew among people (mostly of the left) who are strongly opposed to such a war that what had gone wrong was much due to a lack of informed debate, and that this, in turn, was much due to the refusal of a corrupt White-House-and-Wall-Street-mastered media to allow such debate.

I know that this complaint of a stifled debate and a Bush-lackeyish media is not Le Carré's alone, because I come across it frequently, from the stifled, in the opinion pages of major American and British papers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The New York Review of Books, the Guardian, and The Independent; on the programs of National Public Radio and its 680 member stations; on such Web sites of the left as openDemocracy.net, TomPaine.com, truthout.org, Talking Points Memo, American Politics Journal, Media Whores Online ("the site that set out to bring the media to their knees, but found they were already there"), and FAIR; in the print and online columns of Molly Ivins, The Village Voice's Nat Hentoff, The New York Observer's Joe Conason, and The Nation's Alexander Cockburn, David Corn, and Eric Alterman; in The American Prospect and The Washington Monthly; and so on.

I may also contemplate the debate-smothering bias of the major media from various points of view on the right, and these, too, are to be found in the opinion pages of major American and British papers; in the daily radio and television chatter on the Fox News Channel, The Rush Limbaugh Show, The O'Reilly Factor, and The Sean Hannity Show; on the Web sites of Andrew Sullivan ("unfit to print"), Mickey Kaus, John Ellis, Mark Steyn ("the one-man global content provider"), the Media Research Center, Ann Coulter, and the Jewish World Review; in National Review and on its Web site, from columnists such as Victor Davis Hanson, Larry Kudlow, and Rich Lowry; in The Weekly Standard and on its Web site, from columnists such as Fred Barnes and William Kristol; in The Washington Times and The New York Post; and so on.

Broadening my search for any honest debate not confined to "the loftier columns of the East Coast press", I may turn to such Web sites as the Drudge Report (which alone will link me to more than 225 news and opinion sites worldwide), Slate, Salon, and InstaPundit (which alone will link me to thirty-five "big journalism" sites ranging ideologically from Fox News to Andrew Sullivan to the libertarian Virginia Postrel to Joshua Micah Marshall; and to more than 200 "pure bloggers," including Armed Liberal, Big Arm Woman, BitchPundit, Cato the Youngest, Cold Fury, CounterRevolutionary, Nikita Demosthenes, The Fat Guy, Flit, FuturePundit, Gut Rumbles, Horsefeathers, The Inde-pundit, Pundit Watch, Rantburg, RealClear Politics, Right Wing News, War Liberal, and Dr. Weevil). Or I might check in with PejmanPundit, The American Times, Michael Barone, Media Life, Romenesko's MediaNews, Microcontent News, ABCNews's The Note, Political Wire, Slashdot, NewsMax ("America's News Page"), Rich Galen, the Volokh Conspiracy, James Lileks, GeekPress, Max Power, Man Without Qualities, The Corner, Eve Tushnet ("conservatism reborn in twisted sisterhood"), or JunkYard Blog ("born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad").

Presented by

Michael Kelly is editor at large of The Atlantic.

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