So true

Frank Rich's latest offers this observation:

IF you wanted to pick the moment when the American news business went on suicide watch, it was almost exactly three years ago. That's when Stephen Colbert, appearing at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, delivered a monologue accusing his hosts of being stenographers who had, in essence, let the Bush White House get away with murder (or at least the war in Iraq). To prove the point, the partying journalists in the Washington Hilton ballroom could be seen (courtesy of C-Span) fawning over government potentates — in some cases the very "sources" who had fed all those fictional sightings of Saddam Hussein's W.M.D.

Colbert's routine did not kill. The Washington Post reported that it "fell flat." The Times initially did not even mention it. But to the Beltway's bafflement, Colbert's riff went viral overnight, ultimately to have a marathon run as the most popular video on iTunes. The cultural disconnect between the journalism establishment and the public it aspires to serve could not have been more vividly dramatized.

It is now rather obvious that the mainstream press in the United States no longer observes the world so that American citizens can make informed judgments about that world. The mainstream press instead issues from the institutions it is meant to observe if it conformed to its ideal. As such, the mainstream press, taken as a whole, is a mere publicity mechanism and thus a tool of elite governance; it surely is not the institutional expression of some of the capacities inherent in a democratic concept of a citizen. Its system logic is that of the market in a for-profit, elite-driven, private property economy.

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