New England Patriot

Location: Springfield, MA & New York City

Monday, December 18, 2006

The State of the Media: Where it is Now, and Where it's Heading

This is my lengthiest blog yet, and might be the longest I'll ever post, but it might be the most informative and interesting blog I've posted so far, so if you're a regular reader or just stopping by, please bear with me. In this blog, I'll briefly describe the six models of media we have and argue which of those models should serve as our media model. Then I'll evaluate mainstream media (MSM), or "big media," while comparing it with new media (NM). Finally, I'll look at what the future may hold for NM and whether it can fulfill the media model that I believe we should have.

Professor Jan Leighley, a media scholar, explains in her book, Mass Media and Politics: A Social Science Perspective, that there are five kinds of media models journalists and the media can operate under. Here's a short run-down of them (for further elucidation, see her book, pages 9-13):

1. Reporters of Objective Fact- This model says that reporters are only supposed to report the cold hard facts, and nothing else. Most members of the media would say that this is the model they subscribe to as professional journalists. However, biases can unconsciously creep into anyone's work; furthermore, reporters can't report all the facts, so choosing which facts to focus on is an important consideration that can have political consequences.

2. Neutral Adversary- According to this approach, the media should serve as a government watchdog and an outside, informal check on government. Many investigative reporters may claim to be following this model by trying to find out 'what the government is really doing,' or by "holding politicians accountable."

3. Public Advocate- This model assumes that the job of the media is to go beyond reporting the cold-hard facts and serving as a government watchdog to actively taking the side of the people against the government (or against other economic powers). 'Advocacy Journalism,' as it is sometimes termed, can be seen as the heir of the 'Muckrakers,' the Progressive Era journalists like Jacob Riis, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens who exposed the corrupt practices that occurred in cities, businesses, and society.

4. Profit Seeker- I don't think I was alone when I thought this Sunday's New York Times first section looked more like a shopping catalog than a newspaper. On most Sundays, and especially during the Holiday season, the actual news articles are buried under avalanches of ads so much so that the news-stand guy may as well ask you 'would you like some news stories with those ads?' The Times' website, by comparison, isn't quite as smothered in ads, but it's still chock-full of them.

But I shouldn't pick on the Times alone. Big Media today, be it widely circulated newspapers, network news, and highly-rated cable news programs, operate under the profit seeker model, which holds that the job of news is no different than any other segment of the media- to garner the most profits as possible. This has had serious consequences for the media, which I'll elaborate on later.

5. Propagandist- Leighley's final model holds that the media's role is to be the mouthpiece of government, or to be 'the keyboard on which the government can type.' In this model, the media is allowed to manipulate the public- if that's what the government wants it to do. While we don't have a propagandist media in the 'classical' sense, such as the Nazi or Soviet media machine (or even the repressive Chinese media today), critics have said that much of our media is a mere mouthpiece for the government in that they merely transcribe what government says without really questioning it. This was a serious criticism leveled by Eric Boehlert in his book Lapdogs. Boehlert pointed out that in the run-up to the Iraq war, the media barely questioned the rationale behind going to war- that Iraq possessed WMD and was an imminent threat to the United States.

Even though our media doesn't operate in the propagandist model, there are elements that do, such as the 'stenographer journalist' who only types down the spin of what Washington officials give out and distribute it to the public. Political advertising is suffused with propaganda, as I've discussed. If you want to be on the lookout for propaganda, here are some characteristics of it, according to Nicholas Jackson O'Shaughnessy in his book Politics and Propaganda: Weapons of Mass Seduction: propaganda appeals to the power of emotion over rationale; it conjures up utopian visions and repressed prejudices, and uses symbols, myths, and rhetoric that are "cognitive short-cuts" to convey its manipulative messages.

But on a lighter note, if we did have actual totalitarian-style propaganda, here's what it might look like:

6. The Tocquevillian Model- This is a media model coined by Professor Stephen Pimpare of Yeshiva University, a media and politics expert, that views the media as being responsible for adequately informing the public so that we have all the information we can possibly need, and in as convenient of a way as possible, in order to make the rational, well-thought out decisions (such as votes) that we have to make as a polity in order to be a flourishing democracy.

It's based on what Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in his essay On the Relations between Public Associations and Newspapers:

"Nothing but a newspaper can drop the same thought into a thousand minds at the
same moment. A newspaper is an adviser that does not require to be sought,
but that comes of its own accord and talks to you briefly every
day of the common weal, without distracting you from your private affairs...To suppose that they only serve to protect freedom would be to diminish their importance: they maintain civilization."
Yes, that's strong, but Tocqueville, as well as Pimpare, believes that newspapers- or today, the media, when functioning properly- actually uphold our democracy. And quite frankly, I agree. I believe that the media is such a powerful tool that for it to be used any other way than as a public service for which to properly inform the public is an egregious offense that can have disastrous consequences. The media operating in the propagandist model, or in the profit seeker model (as it currently does), has particularly horrible consequences.

But even functioning in the neutral adversary or public advocate models is not enough; if reporters are too caught up in trying to uncover secret government plots, they may neglect to cover the more transparent issues. If the goal of journalists is to inform the public as well as possible, then the positive aspects of the watchdog and advocacy models can be subsumed under the Tocquevillian model, since they also fall under the category of informing the public (and in those cases, informing the public of political corruption and making sure the government is also informed about the opinions of the people). The way to gauge how the media is performing is to examine whether it's upholding the republic by observing if it's keeping us as informed as possible.

(A big part of this model is that the media needs to serve as a "linkage institution" that not only informs the people of the workings of government but that also informs the government of the wishes of the people. This can be accomplished through well-done, truly random, representative, scientific polling, except that most of the polling that's done doesn't really measure public opinion, it is merely a reflection of attitudes conveyed by the media elite that are adopted by the audience. So most public opinion polls only measure the extent to which there's unity or dissent among elites in the media.)

So, looking at the media from a Tocquevillian framework, has MSM, or "big media," done a good job in maintaining the republic by keeping us as informed as possible? Well, the short answer is NO. Why the answer is no will require a bit more explanation.

The crux of the problem in terms of why MSM hasn't fulfilled the Tocquevillian model of media is because, unfortunately, it doesn't operate according to the Tocquevillian model; it operates according to the profit-seeker model. There has always been commercialization in journalism to a certain extent, but it has taken on a new level in recent times due to a contemporary drive towards media consolidation that has resulted in virtually every media outlet (except internet sites- at least not yet, but I'll get to that later) falling under the control of six giant conglomerates whose soul purpose is to maximize profits for themselves and their share-holders.

Robert McChesney discusses the "hyper-commercialism" of the media and the corporatization of journalism in his book The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st Century. He says that media consolidation and its resulting commercialization of news was not inevitable but was result of government policies of deregulation. It is something that can be reversed, as evidenced from the public uprising of 2003 against further FCC deregulation.

The 1976 movie Network, is a great portrayal of how the news business is obsessed with ratings and the lengths it'll go to achieve them:

News programs are expected to generate profits just like any other television program, and this has led to a dulling-down of the news that has made people less informed. Sensationalism, while also always present to a certain extent in journalism, has also taken off in news, as whatever can get ratings becomes news. So we're inundated with crime, sex, and human interest stories. The all-out media blitz and constant updates from the John Mark-Carr arrest in the media-favorite Jon Benet -Ramsey story was so overwhelming that you might've thought it was a Cuban Missile Crisis.

This problem is particularly acute in local news; no matter what part of the country you're in, your local news is probably a trail-mix of the latest murders, robberies, rapes, fires, high-speed police chases, and interstate highway car-crashes, combined with the weather (oh my God, it's winter and it's getting colder?! Who knew!), sprinkled with some "sweet" stories at the end like the world's tallest man who saved a dolphin (I'm not making this up), a report about a local school teacher nominated for a teaching award, or coverage of the annual Taste of Springfield food festival (the biggest "event" in my city of the year, after the Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony).

Because these kind of sensational stories, along with other "soft news" like celebrity news (e.g., the Tomkat marriage, Britney Spears's divorce, Madonna's African baby adoption) now takes up a lot more time in network news broadcasts, "hard news" (e.g., coverage of congress, the Supreme Court, and ongoing issues like poverty and African wars and epidemics) has been drastically cut down. Conversely, coverage of the President has increased, but it has increased because the President is a celebrity, and celebrity coverage gets ratings.

Therefore, since the public gets less information about serious policy issues, it knows less about them and can't make informed decisions on these issues. We've just emerged out of mid-term congressional elections that were highlighted by Foley-gate, Macaca-gate, and negative, sensational advertising a-la the anti-Ford ad in Tennessee. These were the main points of the campaign that were covered- the scandals and the sensationalism, not the actual policy issues. How can voters be expected to decided which candidate has a better plan for the Iraq War, solving global warming, or the economy, when all they hear is that George Allen is in trouble because he called someone "macaca" and because he just found out he 's Jewish?

Other symptoms of the commercialization of news include covering elections as horse-races, less international coverage (because it's too expensive to maintain foreign news bureaus), and less coverage of congress (because it's tedious and a process-oriented institution), as aforementioned. And what passes for "political debate" is mere shouting and conflict-driven news shows that do a serious disservice to Americans by turning them off from politics, as Jon Stewart argued on his famous (or infamous) Crossfire appearance:

Diana Murtz and Byron Reeves, in an article in the American Political Science Review 99, no. 1 entitled The New Videomalaise: Effects of Televised Incivility on Political Trust, demonstrated in a study that the more people are exposed to uncivil political debates- like the kind that dominate cable news shows- the less they trust government. Thus, not only is MSM falling far short of the Tocquevillian model, but it is covering news in a dangerous way, because, in addition to alienating people from politics, it isn't adequately educating us about politics and substantive political issues. When citizens don't know what the government is doing, it's easier for the government to get away with bad policies and it's easier for the government to manipulate the public.

Studies have shown that the greater your political knowledge, the less susceptible you are to mediated messages (i.e., propaganda) that try to manipulate you. This had disastrous results in the lead-up to the Iraq War, because the public wasn't well-informed about the pro's and con's of war. People were easily duped into believing that there was a connection between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The media plays a powerful role in agenda-setting and priming in terms of choosing what stories get covered, and the way the media framed the Iraq war- by covering it within a War on Terror framework- fed into the misperception that Iraq was somehow connected to 9/11. If the media had done its job and tried to give the public as much accurate information as it could have possibly done, we might not be in the situation we are today.

If Alexis de Tocqueville lived during our time and was a consumer of MSM and Big Media, I think it's safe to say he would not be pleased with the state of our media- at least, the state of our mainstream media. Because of the corporate control of media, people's knowledge of politics- and therefore, their participation in politics- has decreased. MSM has become an anti-democratic force.

But what would he think of NM? Is it doing a better or worse (or the same) job of conveniently giving people all the information they need to be informed, participatory citizens in a democratic polity? NM, on the surface, seems to have more potential for living up to the Tocquevillian model than MSM (for a discussion of some of the differences between MSM and NM, see a previous blog I've done on the subject).

In his book We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People, Dan Gillmor writes that the internet has changed journalism by opening up journalism for every person. Now, anyone can make and/or report news; anyone with a videophone, laptop and internet access can be a 'citizen journalist.' Indeed, blogging and YouTube have transformed the media in profound ways, as I've discussed, and MSM is checking out what blogs have to say. Time Magazine even named "You" the person of the year (Yes, imagine "I'd like to thank my parents, my professors, my...hey, don't play me off!...I'm not finished!..." x6 billion) for everyone's ability to make news, comment on it, and contribute to national and global discussion forums via the internet, the blogosphere, Wikipedia, and YouTube.

Blogging, since the 2004 elections, has become a crucial part of political campaigns, and Professor Pimpare predicts that blogs and other emerging technological tools like SMS, Wikis, and RSS will be central to the upcoming 2008 presidential campaign. "Bottom-up journalism," as Gillmor calls it, has become just that- going from the bottom- the people- upwards to the MSM elite. Gillmor believes that in the long run, the lines between "bottom-up", between traditional media and new media will be blurred, ushering in a new media era where journalism is more of a conversation, not a lecture.

However, there are obstacles to how much of an effect NM can have. Yes, you can get any kind of news you want anytime, but how do you know what blogs and internet news sources are the ones you need to be properly informed about the most important political issues? Also, perhaps more seriously, the same big six conglomerates, along with emerging internet mega-corporations like Yahoo and Google, are buying up more and more internet sites, and Cable and Phone companies are fighting for more restrictions on internet usage. Gillmor urges us to defend internet neutrality and its capabilities for grassroots journalism "with the same vigor we defend other liberties (page XXVIII)."

Personally, I'm worried that the big six will be able to buy up the entire internet just like they've bought up all the other media outlets, and new media will only be subsumed under traditional MSM. For my concerns on this topic and whether NM can live up to the Tocquevillian model, please see a blog I posted a few weeks ago on this subject.

Gillmor quotes a friend as saying "only a tiny elite engages with political/news blogs; democracy needs a *tomorrow journalism* that reaches and activates a broad audience (page 244)." Among the problems that NM presents, such as lack of blogger credibility and others I've mentioned, an additional one is that NM is not mainstream (the word "blog," even in its full form as "weblog," doesn't even register with spell-check); it is still a haven of the politoco/techno-elite. I believe that NM in its current state cannot fulfill the sixth model of the media; until the internet and certain blogs becomes as widespread as traditional network news and widely-circulated newspapers that can 'come to you every day and talk to you about the issues without distracting you from your daily affairs,' NM cannot succeed in maintaining civilization. Until the internet and its media capabilities reach that point, it will be left to our current MSM to somehow fill that void.

But perhaps what NM can do now is to start making people aware that we can seriously change the media and get it back to talking about substantive policy issues and real news rather than the latest updates on the Miss USA 'scandal' or whether O.J. will go through with his "If I did it, Here's How I Would've done it" book. Maybe, slowly, we can get profit-making out of the news business and make it more like C-SPAN, i.e., a public service operation that makes us smarter, better-informed citizens that can participate meaningfully in a democratic polity. As long as the media operates under the profit-seeker model of journalism, we'll just have to live with the media in its current state- which is not good.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Corporate Synergy Gone Wild

We know by now about the evils of corporate synergy, commercialization of the media, and shameless cross-promotion. I came across what I thought was a particularly egregious form of corporate synergy and shameless cross-promotion while watching Jimmy Kimmel's show the other night.

I'm not a Kimmel fan, but my roommate is, and he had the TV tuned to Kimmel Live. I watched in horror (well, not really horror, but definitely with some disgust) as Kimmel brought on Michael Irvin: Now, we know that celebrities usually go on late-night talk shows when they have something to promote: an upcoming movie, a book, a new album, etc. What was Irvin promoting? The Walt Disney company!

ABC is owned by Disney, and so is ESPN. Irvin, the former Dallas Cowboys star receiver, is on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown shows. This isn't connect-the-dots, this is look-at-the-already-connected-dots. Furthermore, Irvin convieniantly happened to be a teammate of NFL great Emmitt Smith while on the Cowboys. This allowed Kimmel to talk about Smith and therefore about Smith's appearance on ABC's Dancing with the Stars. Just sickening: ABC promoting ESPN promoting ABC. It's corporate synergy gone wild.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Blogging Takes Off

Here's a list of various bloggers who've worked for politicians during campaigns, via this past sunday's NY Times. Some of them were paid pretty well for what was probably just part-time work.

But what's interesting to me is that politicians are beginning to realize that blogs are influential (just look at the rise of Lamont and Jon Tester). They can mobilize lots of like-minded people behind a cause. The Netroots community is growing, and the political world is taking it more seriously.

The question, I believe, is how long it will be until blogs become MSM or are otherwise absorbed by them. If a few blogs rise to the top of the food chain, as it appears MyDD, Daily Kos and others are(or have already by some accounts), how long will it be before they become "mainstream"? Or do blogs and other internet media by their very nature remain outside the mainstream?

Personally, I believe the former- I think that the more people start getting their news from the internet and read blogs, the more blogs will become mainstream. We'll move into a new NM where a few blogs will be acknowledged as the standard bearers of internet punditry, and others will be, well, alternatives of some sort.

Thus, what I think will happen is some sort of merging between MSM and NM, where parts of NM become essentially part of MSM; just as cable news channels were once considered obscure but eventually became mainstream for the most part, so too, blogs began in relative obscurity but may very well end up being as much a part of MSM, if not more, as cable news is. Will political coverage change if the 2008 presidential candidates are conducting interviews on the Daily Kos over Larry King Live? We may not find out in two years, but we likely will sometime in the near future. And if you're reading this, Hillary, Obama, McCain, and everyone else who has declared they're running or just formed an "exploratory committee," you're welcome to come on New England Patriot for a cyber-interview. Don't worry- only softballs!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The YouTube Revolution

Much has been written about how YouTube is changing politics. Commentators have pointed out how anyone with a camera-phone can catch at a politician at his or her worst moment and put it on YouTube, where that moment can be shown to the world so that potentially every voter can see it. So far, YouTube has caught Conrad Burns dozing off in meetings and Joe Biden making some unsavory comments.

But the most infamous political YouTube moment so far is the George Allen macaca video, a statement many believed cost Allen his Senate seat and possibly his political career. For anyone that was trapped in a cave the past few months, here it is:

Ouch. Sure, Allen may've gained voters in southern Virginia with a bit of race-baiting, but I'm sure he lost a large amount of independents and centrists in the more populous area of Northern Virginia because of these comments. Senator Macacawitz, as Maureen Dowd calls him, is no more, thanks to YouTube. But I'm positive he's only the first of many politicians that will be derailed thanks to this video file-sharing website.

YouTube may indeed be part of a political technological revolution. Allen's macaca video had over 94,000 views on YouTube, and he only lost the election by a few thousand votes. In the past, where a politician's comments could only be seen and heard by a limited number of people, now, their comments can potentially be seen and heard by everyone in the world. Politicians will have to be more guarded and cautious wherever they go for fear that someone is catching them on a phone-camera or something of the like. Spontaneity, for better or for worse, may be gone from politics in the next few years. Can you imagine congressmen going to their local grocery stores and evading questions from the cashier as if they were on Meet the Press? I don't think we'll have to imagine in too long. Get ready for YouTube clips like this:

"So Bob, you goin to see Borat tonight? How'bout the new Bond movie, you gonna see that?"
"Jim, that's a decision I'll have to make when I'm sitting down with my family and discussing it. I'm not prepared to make a decision at this time."
"So I take it you'd rather see the Bond movie?"
"Jim, I cannot conclusively say yes or no at this time, it's something I'll have to discuss with my family."

Good times!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Citizen Journalism & New Media

Yesterday, we discussed "citizen journalism," which according to the simplest definition is journalism done by non-journalists. We raised the question of whether citizen journalism is anarchy, and whether we're better off with anarchic journalism than with heirarchic journalism.

While we seem to have reached the conclusion that our new form of democratic journalism is largely beneficial, we did discuss its possible negative consequences. Gillmor clearly believes that citizen journalism, or "new media," should supplement, not supplant, MSM. And with good reason: there are many benefits of having a MSM, which seems odd to say, because we've only been bashing MSM for the most part of this semester.

Here's one benefit of MSM and a possible downside to new media (can I call it NM?) that I don't think has been mentioned yet. If we are holding up the Tocquevellian model of the media as the ideal standard of how the media should function, then I think NM in its current state presents a problem. The problem, in my opinion, is that there are now so many blogs, podcasts, and independent journalists on the web that it can be overwhelming; furthermore, I think this multiplicity of blogs contradicts Tocqueville's model of media in that NM is not readily available at our doorstep every day. We have to actively go out and seek NM; we have to find out which blog is the flavor of the month, determine which blogs aren't real journalism and are mere punditry; we have to go out of our routine and disrupt life in actively seeking out NM.

The benefit of MSM is that it CAN still fulfill the Tocquevillian model: television news and daily newspapers don't disrupt your rhythm, and if MSM weren't run in the profit-seeker model and just sought to inform us about what we need to know to function as effective citizens, we'd have an ideal media. I'm not sure NM can fulfill the Tocquevillian model as well as MSM could if it didn't care about profit-making.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Is International News too Foreign for America?

For our (since collapsed) possible Final project, one of the ideas brought up was to attempt to get Al Jazeera's English news channel on American cable and satellite providers. While there are many reasons that such a project might not appeal to us, this doesn't mean that we should abandon the idea of trying to broaden our exposure to international news coverage.

While I was home for Thanksgiving, one of my friends brought up a good point: there are times when he's so fed up with the same CNN, MSNBC and Fox coverage that he'd just like to listen to the BBC like he did in Israel. So my question is, why can't we? Cable and Satellite providers these days carry hundreds of channels, and are constantly adding more and more niche-type networks(I discovered two new "sports" channels this weekend: Fuel, which I assume covers motor sports, and Versus, which I think covers rodeo...because America has been clamoring for 24/7 rodeo coverage for too long!), so what would be the big deal about adding the BBC, international CNN, or even (gasp!) foreign news channels with English sub-titles? Wouldn't it be fascinating to watch how a French, Japanese, or Australian news broadcast covers certain types of stories? (And no, whatever TV station Borat works for in Kazakhstan would not count for foreign news coverage...though I'm sure it'd be funnier. Maybe it'll be the flagship show of Comedy Central International.)

America may or may not be ready for Al Jazeera, but I think we could at least handle the BBC (though it may take some time learning to decipher some of the heavier English accents). I say bring it on. If we can get History Channel International (which I do), wouldn't it be logical to also be able to watch international current events? So before they consider The Volleyball Channel (and God knows they will) or Nickelodeon 3, how about the BBC?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lapdogs: Can the Media Stop a War?

Eric Boehlert claims in his book Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush that the Washington press corps has been less hostile to President George W. Bush than they were to President Clinton in that the press did not fulfill its duty of questioning the Bush administration Iraqi WMD intelligence, whereas the press went out of their way to criticize Clinton on dubious scandals like Whitewater. Boehlert calls out the media for “abdicating its reason for existing in the first place, which is to accurately inform citizens, particularly during times of great national interest.”

Boehlert goes so far as to say that “Bush never could have ordered the invasion of Iraq- never could have sold the idea at home- if it weren’t for the help he received from the MSM (mainstream media).” Maybe Bush could have never sold the idea of a preemptive war if the MSM had been peppering him with questions about it, but did they really have the power to stop the President from going to war? Does the MSM media really have that much power?

Perhaps if we assume that the MSM has the power to mold opinion- and indeed, we’ve seen that they do- then if the MSM could have convinced enough of the American people that war was a bad idea so that instead of two thirds being for the war, two thirds of the population would be against the war, maybe Bush would have relented. Maybe. This doesn’t seem like a President too concerned with public opinion, for better or for worse: two thirds of the country don’t support the war now, yet the closest Bush has come to ending the war so far has been dismissing Rumsfeld.

The other element to consider is that having a rational civic debate about the merits and demerits about whether to go to war before actually going to war sounds nice, and it is an ideal we should aspire to as a polity. However, historically, we have never had such debates in a run-up to war (which is called a run-up for a reason, because once an administration expresses desire to go to war, it is nearly impossible to stop it, so they’re merely “running up” to war). And before the Mexican War of 1846, which was an exception- there was some legitimate national debate- the Polk administration was too committed to war to hear any legitimate arguments against war. Otherwise, it takes a war becoming unsuccessful (and therefore unpopular), like the Vietnam War, for its rationale to be seriously questioned. Based on American history, Americans don’t dislike unnecessary wars (it was gung-ho for the Spanish American War and World War I), they only dislike unsuccessful wars. It’s hard to argue that the Korean War or the Spanish-American War were more legitimate than Vietnam. But since Vietnam turned out worse, it’s remembered, probably inaccurately, as our most unnecessary war.

In this vein, I believe that Dan Rather reflected the view of 99.9% of Americans when he said “Look, I’m an American. And when my country is at war, I want my country to win, whatever the definition of ‘win’ may be. Now, I can’t and don’t argue that that is coverage without a prejudice. About that I am prejudiced.” Of course we should want America to win its wars and for our soldiers to be successful. To root against our country in a war would be unpatriotic to an extreme degree, just as rooting against your favorite team would be disloyal and make you not a true fan (except when your team is out of playoff contention and you’re rooting for them to tank their last few games so they get a better draft pick…I’m not sure what the political equivalent would be).

But as William Fulbright said, it is not unpatriotic to be critical of your country if your aim is to argue that the country’s policies are leading it down a bad course. So to be a “lapdog” and blindly believe what the government tells you, as the MSM evidently did, is not patriotic; to be a patriot is to attempt to find out everything you can about a potential developing situation and use that information to make logical decisions about what the best option for your country would be. As Fulbright brilliantly articulated, it can be a greater act of patriotism to criticize your country than to reflexively obey it and keep quiet. The MSM clearly failed in this regard during the run-up to the Iraq War.