I used to love the CBS news program 60 Minutes. I liked it because it offered accessible investigative news reports on the issues of the day. I continued watching it religiously up until three years ago or so when I went off to college and didn't have a TV. Since my break with 60 Minutes I have learned a lot about the world. Coming back to 60 Minutes now and again I would watch it much more critically, and sure enough, as with most mainstream media programming, holes began to appear.
Tonight's 60 Minutes program was possibly the worst product I have seen come from this bastion of mainstream television journalism. It was such an utterly pathetic program I could not stand to sit through the last 30 minutes. It was a perfect storm of unabashed propaganda, war baiting, sycophancy, and castrated questioning.
To understand why this 60 Minutes program was so bad you really have to watch it, but I will try to communicate what I found so disturbing briefly to the untainted reader.
By the end of this segment the keen and critical observer could see exactly what sort of conclusions the creators of the program wanted the viewer to walk away with: Israel is under threat; Israel can act decisively and humanely (they have "smart" bombs, never mind the thousands of Palestinian dead); If action is needed, Israel has every right to bomb Iran, just as it did against Saddam. The piece was propaganda, nothing more. Shameful propaganda. I don't know why or how something of its low-caliber and dubious type was produced. CBS ought to be ashamed.
The next section of the long hour was not quite as bad as the IAF piece, but it certainly showed just how far 60 Minutes has fallen. Lesley Stahl was assigned a two-part interview Antonin Scalia, the Conservative Supreme Court Justice. She brought up a few good points, which were subsequently brushed aside by the affable Scalia, including the infamous Bush v. Gore decision which handed the election to Bush. Right away the problem was obvious: Ms. Stahl was incredibly underprepared to actually press Scalia for answers that were half-way decent. Her duty is not to give the guy a pulpit from which to preach his point of view; as a journalist she must ask tough questions and get responses. Her lack of ability became too painful to watch when she brought up the question of torture, and then was quickly put on the defensive as Scalia cross-examined her on what she meant by saying that those being tortured were victims of "cruel and unusual punishment". "When he's hurting you trying to get information from you, you don't say he's punishing you; what's he punishing you for?" Lesley Stahl bumbled a response. How about talking about the Geneva Conventions Ms. Stahl, and how the Constitution instructs all members of government to abide by all treaties "made, under the authority of the United States," including the 1949 Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War? When the interview then cut to commercials instead of a followup question on this very pertinent point about torture, I could not watch any more. I left the room, got my computer, and began writing this little polemic.
The Scalia interview is nothing knew to the mainstream media. We hear soft-ball questioning all the time. What was really disturbing for me was recognizing the ever loudening drum-beats moving us towards war with Iran. I hope that the amorphous interest group that wants to fight this new, and undoubtably costly war fail miserably in the ill endeavor. I hope that more people speak up against attacking Iran than spoke up five years ago when we blundered, guns blaring and bombs thundering, into Iraq.
Here is part one of the 60 Minutes program.
Excuse the commercial; they couldn't do the good work they do without it.