On August 17, 2008, I published an article decrying the coverage of the Russo-Georgian War by the American “mainstream” media. In that piece, I accused our media of disinformation, ignorance of the facts, and downright lying. Specifically, my condemnation centered on the impression our media gave that the conflict was entirely the fault of Russia. We were led to believe that Russia had invaded Georgia unprovoked and Georgia’s enlightened democratic president Mikhail Saakashvili was a victim of the big bad bear from the north.
Of course, I took a lot of abuse for siding with the bad guys. It was indicative of the “you're either with us or against us” mentality that our esteemed president has instilled into our cultural norms. Here's a sampling of some of the comments I received on that post: “Are you getting your news from TASS?”; “I suggest that from your perch in Zambia, you need better binoculars to see the action”; and my favorite, “Do cue me as to when I start playing the Russian national anthem on the violin here." I even received hate (e)mail from a woman of Georgian descent.
Now, I'm a big boy and I can take the abuse, even the email that condemned me to eternity in hell. And as a big boy I can also boast and say I told you so. On November 26, former Georgian ambassador to Russia Erosi Kitsmarishvili told a Georgian parliamentary commission that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was “itching” to do battle over South Ossetia. Kitsmarishvili labeled Georgia the aggressor in the conflict and claimed Georgian officials told him President Bush gave his blessing for such a use of force when he met the Georgian president in Washington in March.
Vindication is sweet, but I am sure that the same detractors will respond to this article by saying Kitsmarishvili is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Or perhaps he's really a Russian parading around as a Georgian ambassador. Or maybe he's just lying because he's a communist. In any event, these detractors will probably still not face the reality that their media and president have lied to them again. They will continue to have faith in the man who chewed his tie in front of live TV cameras.
But this isn't just about saying I told you so. It's a reminder that we shouldn’t believe everything the media in America tells us. Their perspective on most things is skewed. They've been socialized by public schools and the underlying persuasion in this country to believe the U.S. government can do little wrong. Most journalists have sold out to corporate employers who are more interested in courting the politicians for interviews or special favor than in doing their job of holding elected officials accountable. With the the Internet we do have more choice when it comes to media, and here’s hoping more Americans will overcome their socialized belief that if ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and Fox said it then it must be true.