Where's the conservative suspicion of the media now that we really need it? The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to roll back long-established rules limiting media ownership, a move that would make the media behemoths more powerful than ever. You might think that prospect would excite an outcry from the right as well as the left. But the FCC review is taking place with only scattered opposition and scarcely any public debate, thanks in part to a virtual news blackout by the media giants themselves.
"Integrity is everything," Groucho Marx once said. "If you can fake integrity, you've got it made." David Brock and Elizabeth McCaughey intuitively appreciate that point.
Poor David. Poor Betsy. Both had been doing so well. Brock had made it big as a writer in right-wing circles with his book The Real Anita Hill, then his sensational anti-Clinton stories in the American Spectator. It was Brock who broadcast charges by Arkansas state troopers that, as governor, Clinton had used them to arrange illicit meetings
Nineteen ninety-eight is the 200th anniversary of an event that I trust no one will care to celebrate: the Sedition Act of 1798, the single most egregious violation of freedom of speech in American history. Less than a decade after the adoption of the Bill of Rights, the Sedition Act made it a crime to defame President John Adams or the Congress, which was then in the hands of the Federalists. The Adams administration used the law to imprison most of the editors of the major opposition (Jeffersonian Republican) newspapers. Nothing in American history, not even McCarthyism, comes close in the scale of political repression, and thankfully nothing like it is on the horizon.
In politics and the public imagination, computers have gone from symbolizing our vulnerability to embodying our possibilities. In their early days during the 1950s and 1960s, computers seemed destined to increase the power of government and big corporations, and the great worry was how to protect privacy and individual freedom. Then the advent of the personal computer and other low-cost electronics suggested that information technology might be the ultimate tool of decentralization and individual empowerment, and the rise of global telecommunications and the Internet promised to annihilate national borders.
Like Woodrow Wilson during World War I, George W. Bush has held out the promise that by going to war, America can make the world safe for democracy. Once Saddam Hussein is ousted, we can turn Iraq into a political and economic model for the Arab world, addressing the causes of terrorism at their roots. Some liberals who support the war are attracted by this vision -- and indeed it has its attractions. But just as the outcome of World War I dashed the hopes of pro-war progressives and set the stage for an even more terrible conflict, so war in Iraq may bring not just disappointment but further cycles of bloodshed.