Two actually, who are both stuck in the era of All The President’s Men. First up, via PoliPundit, is USA Today founder Al Neuharth, who takes us back to that other touchstone of the media, the Tet Offensive, when a CBS anchorman could completely misread a military battle, and call for the US to cut and run:
Walter Cronkite, CBS-TV news anchor known as “the most trusted man in America,” after a combat tour of Vietnam in 1968 declared, “There is no way this war can be justified any longer.”
Johnson lamented to aides, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.” He announced he would not run for re-election.
The crucial difference between Vietnam and Iraq is that there is no Cronkite to call Bush’s bluff. Without a strong, trusted, non-political voice, too many of us remain Bush-blinded.
No, the crucial difference is that we no longer live in era of mass media dominated by three television channels. Because the big three controlled the flow of information the public received, they enjoyed a virtual lock on shaping public opinion.
The original three networks, plus the similarly biased CNN now compete with Fox, talk radio, and the Blogosphere for public opinion, each of whom have done yeoman work reminding the public that unlike the Al Neuharths of the world, that this isn’t 1968, and Iraq isn’t Vietnam.
Which makes it virtually impossible for one man to rise to the top of the opinion heap, unlike 1968 when Cronkite was at the peak of his powers as an opinion shaper–there’s just so many more choices, for people on both sides of the aisle now that, to borrow Alvin Toffler’s word, the media has been “de-massified”.
Of course, for Neuharth to say that Cronkite is non-political is naivet