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October 22, 2009

Obama's Chill Wind of Media Suppression

[In the Spring of 2003]... following Major League Baseball's opening week and the second week of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon were denied an appearance at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Robbins and Sarandon, amongst many others, were planning to attend the Hall's fifteenth anniversary celebration of the classic baseball film "Bull Durham," in which they both starred and at the filming of which the couple first met. But the celebration was canceled by the Baseball Hall of Fame President, Dale Petroskey, because Robbins and Sarandon used their social consciences and their sense of activism to question the reasons for our country going to war.

Petroskey, a former assistant press secretary to Ronald Reagan, wrote a public letter to Robbins announcing his decision to call off the event, explaining: "The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum - and many players and executives in Baseball's family - has honored the United States and those who defend our freedoms. ... We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important - and sensitive - time in our nation's history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict."

Robbins wrote in his response to Petroskey's actions: "I had been unaware that baseball was a Republican sport. I was looking forward to a weekend away from politics and war to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of 'Bull Durham.' I am sorry that you have chosen to use baseball and your position at the Hall of Fame to make a political statement. ... As an American who believes that vigorous debate is necessary for the survival of a democracy, I reject your suggestion that one must be silent in a time of war."

In a moment of almost unanimous solidarity, baseball fans, sportswriters, political columnists and citizens from across the country, both for and against the war, expressed their anger with calls, letters, emails and columns of protest directed at the Baseball Hall of Fame president.

Of course, because there was no government censor, this wasn't anything close to government censorship:

Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a censor.

The Baseball Hall of Fame was a private organization composed of private citizens exercising their Constitutional right of free association. The Baseball Hall of Fame is not affiliated, run by, or owned by the federal government. There is no evidence whatsoever that the White House was involved, or even knew of Petrosky's decision. There was no legal or moral obligation for the Baseball Hall of Fame to provide a soapbox for Tim Robbins or for political statements they did not agree with.

That didn't prevent Hollywood, the press corps, and pundits from crying "Censorship!" A full year later the incident was still being relentlessly flogged as "evidence" that America was headed down the otter slide to a windowless cell at Gitmo where Timmy Robbins would feel the frilly panties of jackbooted oppression slowly being pulled over his screaming maw.

So where are all these brave truth to powerers, these ardent First Amendment activists now that the President of the United States has tried to ban an entire news network from covering an official press conference?

Decide for yourself what the most disgraceful aspect of this is. Was it the fact that Gibbs told Jake Tapper explicitly on Monday that the White House wouldn’t try to dictate to the press pool who should and shouldn’t be included — before doing precisely that? Was it Anita Dunn going out of her way to say she respects Major Garrett as a fair reporter — before the administration decided he didn’t deserve a crack here at Feinberg? Or was it the repeated insistence by Dunn and Axelrod that of course the administration will make its officials available to Fox — before pulling the plug today?

Nowhere to be found, that's where. Not one word. The President of the United States and his staff have openly tried to bully other networks into marginalizing (and thus silencing) criticism from Fox News.

Full marks to the other networks for standing up for what was right, and for forcing the President of the United States to behave like a grownup instead of a petulant, frightened child. Dan comments:

This weak administration is now certifiably insane. For the first time in my life I'm actually uncomfortable knowing that this guy has control of our military and Federal police forces. If he thinks he can simply shut down a member of the press on a whim, how long before he goes full Chavez?

Other media outlets rallied around Fox News so it didn't play. And I would certainly hope the editorial pages around the country mirror that sentiment this weekend, though I'm not sure we can even trust them. Still, no matter what, I can't see this playing with the American people at all. This guy's approval ratings are already terrible. Don't be surprised if they go down the tubes after this outrageous conduct.

We'll see.

They'd have to actually hear about it first. The press did the right thing ... behind closed doors. But as of the time of this posting I don't see ABC, MSNBC, or CNN have any plans to inform their readers of today's events.

If the White House tries to prevent an entire news network from reporting the news and no one hears about it, did it still happen?

*crickets chirping*

Posted by Cassandra at October 22, 2009 08:30 PM

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I am surprised in one sense, since FOX is their most successful competition.

OTOH, apparently they see the "writing on the wall"; they'd be next...

Posted by: camojack at October 23, 2009 01:55 AM

Team Won controlled the media and played it like a fiddle during its campaign, because it realized that was the key to winning the election. They also realize media control is the key to *maintaining* power. Fox is a challenge to that control, so, following Alinsky's Dicta, Team Won is marginalizing Fox in an attempt to either bring it to heel or eliminate it altogether.

The MSM may be venal, but it isn't entirely clueless. It knows that once Fox is gone, Team Won will decide it doesn't really need ten voices to spread the agitprop on the airwaves -- and three are much easier to control...

Posted by: BillT at October 23, 2009 06:55 AM

What is this strange little man doing now?
Perhaps he should get his crayons out and copy this down ... "I am not a king" ... and then repeat it over and over again until it's his time to go back to Chicago.

Posted by: Neo at October 23, 2009 10:38 AM

"and three are much easier to control..."
and ah, by the way, the salaries of the major media's surviving journalists, those now relegated to taking diction from Dunn & Gibbs, have been reduced by two thirds.

Have a nice day...

Posted by: bt_fear&loathing_in_DC_hun at October 23, 2009 10:41 AM