Cultural Revolutions

Regime Change

Whenever Washington targets some poor, misbegotten country for “regime change,” references to that unfortunate nation’s media by Western journalists are usually preceded by the modifier state-owned or state-controlled.  The inference is clear: These guys are shills, not real journalists.  Yet the West has its own state-owned and controlled media: The Brits have the BBC, and continental Europeans all run the same show, the only difference being that the strings are a bit more visible.  State-funded propaganda is a feature of American “journalism” as well, although here the effort to pretend that PBS isn’t following a political line is more elaborate—and even convincing on occasion.

For example, during the Kosovo war, the NewsHour With Jim Lehrer (the PBS flagship news show) aired a segment on—at a time when the Clinton administration was emitting a barrage of war propaganda designed to justify an attack on a country—Serbia—that represented no threat to the United States or her legitimate interests.  During the Iraq war, however, they did no follow-up story—and the reason seems to be a discernible shift in ideological tone.

No one denies that public television and National Public Radio have an unmistakably liberal tinge, but one aspect of the liberal tradition that allows other views to get...

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