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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

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 Fear keeps journalists from asking the toughest questions

Greg Palast writes:
"It's that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions," Rather told the British television audience in June 2002. After September 11, news on the US tube was bound and gagged. Any reporter who stepped out of line, he said, would be professionally lynched as un-American....

"It's an obscene comparison," he said, "but there was a time in South Africa when people would put flaming tires around people's necks if they dissented. In some ways, the fear is that you will be necklaced here. You will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck." No US reporter who values his neck or career will "bore in on the tough questions."

Indeed, Dan is in hot water for a report my own investigative team put in Britain's Guardian papers and on BBC TV years ago. Way back in 1999, I wrote that former Texas Lt. Governor Ben Barnes had put in the fix for little George Bush to get out of 'Nam and into the Air Guard.

What is hot news this month in the USA is a five-year-old story to the rest of the world. And you still wouldn't see it in the USA except that Dan Rather, with a 60 Minutes producer, finally got fed up and ready to step out of line. And, as Dan predicted, he stuck out his neck and got it chopped off....

This is not a story about Dan Rather. The white millionaire celebrity can defend himself without my help. This is really a story about fear, the fear that stops other reporters in the US from following the evidence about this Administration to where it leads. American news guys and news gals, practicing their smiles, adjusting their hairspray levels, bleaching their teeth and performing all the other activities that are at the heart of US TV journalism, will look to the treatment of Dan Rather and say, 'Not me, babe.' No questions will be asked, as Dan predicted, lest they risk necklacing and their careers as news actors burnt to death.

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