The thing that caught LI’s eye was not so much the content of this story as an oddly boastful passage making it clear that the reporters see themselves as a sort of signaling instrument for the Bush administration:
“The accounts of American concerns came from interviews with several senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they believed that openly criticizing Saudi Arabia would further alienate the Saudi royal family at a time when the United States is still trying to enlist Saudi support for Mr. Maliki and the Iraqi government, and for other American foreign policy goals in the Middle East, including an Arab-Israeli peace plan.
In agreeing to interviews in advance of the joint trip to Saudi Arabia, the officials were nevertheless clearly intent on sending a pointed signal to a top American ally. They expressed deep frustration that more private American appeals to the Saudis had failed to produce a change in course.”
This is the establishment talking – and it ain’t talking to you, reader. Clearly, the incentive and value of the article isn’t news - isn’t the independent and, as Joe Klein would put it, ‘serious’ investigation of a fact by this time known and well established in the Middle East. No, it is to operate as a middle man between the Bushies and the Saudis.
What an astonishing admission to make. More astonishing is, LI believes that nobody on the NYT sees it as an admission. They have been sunk up to their eyeballs so long in the petrified turds of the governing class, in the morass of talking points and tv talk fests, that they have lost the capacity to understand what “reporting” is. The NYT and the WAPO have taken their self-applied limits – to report or mention a very small bit of reality, and to censure any realities beyond that – and narrowed them in the past twenty years to the point where the caricature they serve up doesn’t even serve the governing class any more.
The double audience of the media – on the one side, the rubes, and on the other side, the ‘serious’ – functions on the level of the selection of what goes into the papers, or goes on tv. This is why the first question one has to ask about any article in a paper is: who is this for? Every letter is addressed in this world - although, as Derrida pointed out in another context:
"The divisibility of the letter... is what chances and sets off course, without guarantee of return, the remaining [restance ] of anything whatsoever: a letter does not always arrive at its destination, and from the moment that this possibility belongs to its structure one can say that it never truly arrives, that when it does arrive its capacity not to arrive torments it with an internal drifting."
In media terms - there are always unserious people out there.
So, when WAPO, week after week, throws one neo-con after another into their editorial mix, the rubes – the usual, slightly liberal audience of the WAPO – are puzzled and even outraged, especially as it just keeps coming in spite of its evidence lack of fit with the audience that the Washington Post has developed over the years. I’ve never read a comments thread on these columns that wasn’t almost completely appalled by the neo-con drivel, and puzzled by the reason it was appearing. So why would a business so callously keep slapping its customers in the face? These pieces appear because these columns have a second audience, that loose association of high government officials, upper management types, think tankers, and lobbyists, the people who count. These people are meme hungry, and the feeding of them is the main concern of the media decision makers. And of course the memes, regurgitated, then get to reappear in the articles - hence the proliferation, over the last year, of straight news reports from the Iraqi front that include, ritualistically, some accusation of Iranian training, weapons, interference, what have you.
Pleased as I am to see even the smallest hole in the dike that the Americans have thrown up against reality in the Middle East, I’m pretty sure that real reporting about the Saudis – and thus a real picture of what is going on in the Middle East – isn’t going to be breaking out in any major American paper any time soon. Such a picture would tell us things like, oh, who financed the Pakistani nuclear program and why – hint, the initials are S.A., as in Societe Anonyme – and how that has operated as a big time incentive to the Iranians. It would erase the favorite picture that the media likes to convey to the rubes – that the Iranian government is a bunch of mad mullahs. It would show that the Iraqi government as it is now constituted and for which the U.S. is fighting is an Iranian ally – which reality is one of the major reasons the U.S. hasn’t attacked Iran, the other being, of course, that the governing class has already decided that spending 12 billion a month to give George Bush a perpetual testosterone party in Mesopotamia is a bit rich, but spending 24 billion per month to pursue two losing wars is more than even the U.S. can afford – I mean, we are all for CEOs having a good time, and who could deny George that prerogative of masculinity which consists in amassing simply oodles of dead brown bodies, hundreds of thousands to mount on the wall, but face it: ROI time is ROI time.