November 9, 2005
Truth and Duty : The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power (Hardcover) by Mary Mapes
This was a book that reportedly was almost kept from publication because it reveals how the corporate media so cravenly accedes to the demands of the Bush Administration. In this case, we are talking about the "L'affaire" Dan Rather and the Bush National Guard memos.
Mary Mapes was the senior producer on the story that ended up with Dan Rather's untimely retirement from CBS -- and with Mapes being fired.
This should be a blockbuster book because it blows the lid off of the notion that the mainstream television news media is independent when it comes to the truth and the White House. What CBS was primarily concerned about was not whether Mapes and Rather had their story right or wrong; no, CBS was worried that the White House was coming down hard on them and that it might affect the financial prospects of CBS's parent company, Viacom.
Forget for the moment that everything in the disputed memos was true. And forget that despite the source's changed stories about how he received the memo, the authenticity of the memos has never been actually disproven.
An orchestrated right wing Internet campaign, begun within moments of the CBS report -- and spearheaded by the mysterious "Buckhead" -- was designed to ignite the fires of the right wing media and political echo chamber. And it did.
There seems little doubt that Karl Rove and his minions had a hand to play in the Internet campaign to destroy Rather and muddy up the reputation of CBS, even though the facts contained in the memo were accurate.
Having been fired as a result of White House pressure (disguised as an internal CBS "investigation"), Mapes is free to chronicle -- as an insider -- how the major media takes its orders from the White House when push comes to shove. Reading the book, one can easily conclude that this was another Rovian set up job. It's got his modus operandi fingerprints all over it.
Like much of the Bush Administration, the truth is buried beneath slanderous assaults on character and integrity by the Rovian smear machine. His target was Dan Rather -- and Mapes just happened to be in the line of fire. Rove wanted another scalp to intimidate the already servile media even further into submission. And what could be a better trophy than Dan Rather's retirement announcement?
Rather stood by Mapes, but there was nothing he could do. The powers that be at CBS and Viacom knew which master they served: the Bush White House and not the truth.
This is a must-read book for anyone interested in a personal account of a corporate media that is no longer beholden to the public or the truth. It's a candid and chilling account from an accomplished professional broadcast veteran. It's the victim's perspective of the slash-and-burn media intimidation politics of the Bush Administration.
But the real victim is the American citizen, who no longer can trust the mainstream media. "Truth and Duty" is a personal testament to that fact.