Sunday, February 7, 2010

National Public Radio - too public?

Ever since I started interning for a gubernatorial campaign, I listen to NPR on the radio on the way to the office. Linked is a story from their website about the U.S.'s CIA and other covert groups performing drone strikes in the middle east. The main issue with the strikes (other than their covert status) is the civilians who are sometimes killed in the process. As is the norm in the news media (particularly broadcast), the broadcaster invited scholars and other knowledgeable parties to discuss the story and give their opinions.

As I listened to the story, I wasn't able to decide if I think drone strikes are against America's ethical code or if they are a necessary evil, a means to an end. The confusion of that story, and the implications it could make toward our president and our secret services make me wonder if the public always has the right to know. Even the scholars were torn in their opinions of the matter, so can we assume that the average American really understands the issues, really knows what is at stake?

Perhaps I am a cynic, or a snob, but I don't feel like the average American knows enough about covert operations, the Secret Services, or the power of political leaders in non-democratic nations to be able to make a moral judgment on the government's decision to perform drone strikes.

This is not just about the ethics of war. This is about the media system we have set up where the public knows everything. Are covert operations really covert if everyone hears about them? Are the Secret Service truly secret if all the media outlets are telling their story? Don't get me wrong. I was once a journalism major. I love NPR. But should some topics be off limits? Is a free press always in the best interests of the nation? Are the rules different in war time?

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