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Saturday, July 18, 2009

 
The Professional

by digby

As a certified boomer I, like all the rest of my behemoth cohort, grew up with Walter Cronkite as the the voice of authority. If he said it, it must be true. Obviously, that wasn't always the case, but we knew that if it wasn't true it wasn't because Cronkite was carrying some hidden agenda or blindly following conventional wisdom for social or careerist purposes. He was a professional journalist who saw his job as being important to the functioning of democracy.

That doesn't mean that he, like most of the journalists of his generation didn't serve as conduits for government propaganda. The WWII school were all bathed in trust for governmental integrity for a long, long time. But Cronkite was one of those who tried to keep his eyes open and when it became clear that he'd been lied to, he didn't retreat into blind allegiance to power, but rather used his own rather significant position to push back. There weren't a lot of people of his generation who did that.

He really did seem to represent that straight arrow, all American decent good fellow that the pale imitations like Tim Russert and his league of phony sycophants pretend to be. He would,at times, stand up and say what was obvious,as he famously did after going to Vietnam in 1968. But he continued to do so even recently when the entire DC press corps was behaving like a bunch of Jonas Brothers fanboys. (In 1998, he even used his "most trusted man in America" reputation to subtly admonish the DC panty sniffers.)

I always thought it was interesting that the man who everyone saw as the straightest of establishment straights during the turbulent 60s, had morphed 30 years later into someone who the DC establishment would have put on the far left if it had been anyone but him. He wasn't the one who'd changed.

The truth is that he knew what his job was and understood the job of citizen as well:

For a country’s citizens to be truly free and the government to be held accountable, he said people must have a free press that gathers all the facts.

He said an example of the alternative would be a situation like what he witnessed after WWII, after the Nazi concentration camps were freed. The people who lived in nearby towns cried at the sights of the persecuted Jews and told reporters they had no idea of what was going on behind the walls of the camps.

Many were probably telling the truth, he said, but that did not make them any less responsible.

“They applauded as Hitler closed down the independent newspaper and television stations and only gave them his propaganda,” Cronkite said. “When they did not rise up and say, ‘Give us a free press,’ they became just as guilty.”




Update: Gordon at C&L has some footage of Cronkite you aren't seeing in all the eulogies. His commentary was more sophisticated than I remembered.



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