Tuesday, August 5
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: Part II
Greg Palast - GregPalast.com
07.25.03 - "The guts for Michael Moore's opening screed on how Bush 'stole' the 2000 election," writes the Village Voice, "came from investigative reporter Greg Palast, whose own book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, has fast become a cult fave among progressives." Now, WorkingForChange brings you an exclusive serialization from Palast's New York Times bestseller. Over the next two weeks, you can get your daily dose of Palast's opening chapter, "Jim Crow in Cyberspace" -- which we will interrupt only to bring you BBC reporter Palast's latest comments -- on Liberia, on Iraq and on the economic wars at home.
This series is part of the WorkingForChange campaign, in cooperation with Martin Luther King III of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to prevent the theft of the presidential election of 2004. With each excerpt we are including links to sign onto the WorkingForChange/King petition.
Silence of the Media Lambs: The Unreported Story of How They Fixed the Vote in Florida --Part 2, from the book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (Penguin 2003) by Greg Palast
[In the opening excerpt from Palast's book we learned that five months before the November 2000 election, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida and his Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, moved to purge 57,7000 people from the voter rolls, supposedly criminals not allowed to vote. Almost every one was innocent of crimes -- though the majority were guilty of being African American. BBC reporter Palast asks, "How did 100,000 US journalist sent to cover the election fail to get this vote theft story?"]
Investigative reports share three things: They are risky, they upset the wisdom of the established order and they are very expensive to produce. Do profit-conscious enterprises, whether media companies or widget firms, seek extra costs, extra risk and the opportunity to be attacked? Not in any business text I’ve ever read. I can’t help but note that Britain’s Guardian and Observer newspapers, the only papers to report this scandal when it broke just weeks after the 2000 election, are the world’s only major newspapers owned by a not-for-profit corporation.
But if profit lust is the ultimate problem blocking significant investigative reportage, the more immediate cause of comatose coverage of the election and other issues is what is laughably called America’s “journalistic culture.” If the Rupert Murdochs of the globe are shepherds of the New World Order, they owe their success to breeding a fiock of docile sheep -- snoozy editors and reporters content to munch on, digest, then reprint a diet of press releases and canned stories provided by government and corporate public-relations operations.
Take this story of the list of Florida’s faux felons that cost Al Gore the presidential election. Shortly after the U.K. story hit the World Wide Web, I was contacted by a CBS TV network news producer eager to run a version of the story. The CBS hotshot was happy to pump me for information: names, phone numbers, all the items one needs for your typical quickie TV news report. I freely offered up to CBS this information: The office of the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, brother of the Republican presidential candidate, had illegally ordered the removal of the names of felons from voter rolls -- real felons who had served time but obtained clemency, with the right to vote under Florida law. As a result, another 40,000 legal voters (in addition to the 57,700 on the purge list), almost all of them Democrats, could not vote.
The only problem with this new hot info is that I was still in the midst of investigating it. Therefore, CBS would have to do some actual work -- reviewing documents and law, obtaining statements.
The next day I received a call from the producer, who said, “I’m sorry, but your story didn’t hold up.” And how do you think the multibillion-dollar CBS network determined this? Answer: “We called Jeb Bush’s office.” Oh.
I wasn’t surprised by this type of “investigation.” It is, in fact, standard operating procedure for the little lambs of American journalism. One good, slick explanation from a politician or corporate chieftain and it’s case closed, investigation over. The story ran on television, but once again, in the wrong country: I reported it on the BBC’s Newsnight. Notably, the BBC is a publicly owned network -- I mean a real public network, with no “funds generously provided by Archer Mobil Bigbucks.”
Let’s understand the pressures on the CBS TV producer that led her to kill the story simply because the target of the allegation said it ain’t so. The story demanded massive and quick review of documents, dozens of phone calls and interviews -- hardly a winner in the slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am school of U.S. journalism. Most difficult, the revelations in the story required a reporter to stand up and say that the big-name politicians, their lawyers and their PR people were freaking liars. [...]