The Hightower Report

Why Media Companies Get No Respect; NYPD's 'Intelligence'


Time for another Gooberhead Award – presented periodically to those in the news who have their tongues going a hundred miles an hour … but forgot to put their brains in gear.

Today's award goes to a whole field of goobers: "The RNC Intelligence Squad" of the New York Police Department. This outfit is a gang of snoops who spied on protest groups planning to attend the Republican National Convention in 2004. But these goobers didn't have a whole lot of intelligence – in both meanings of the word.

Their rationale for spying on American citizens who were coming to a political event to exercise their First Amendment rights is that there might be "terrorists" among them – people who were going to engage in criminal violence. But the bulk of the squad's surveillance was on churches, theatre groups, environmentalists, and others with no intentions of breaking the law.

Yet, posing as fellow activists, the squad infiltrated such groups, traveling throughout the country on the taxpayers' dime to spy on the innocent. They filed hundreds of reports ominously marked "NYPD Secret." Let's peek into one of these.

It covers the plans of a group with the dangerous name of Bands Against Bush. The secret report reveals the astonishing news that BAB was planning concerts! Even more damning, these terrorists were scheduling speeches and videos between musical acts. Let me quote directly from the report: "Activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda."

Yes, BAB is an obvious threat to national security! We can't have people mixing music and political rhetoric in America! Haul 'em all off to Gitmo, I say!

Holy Woody Guthrie! These goobers would be hilarious … if they weren't so dangerous to America's liberties.


Call me quaint and old-fashioned, but aren't reporters supposed to be watchdogs for the public interest – rather than lapdogs for the power establishment?

Instead of digging into the juicy story of the White House hatchet job on seven U.S. attorneys, too many major media figures are clucking their tongues at those trying to investigate the scandal. A CNBC correspondent chastised Democrats for looking "too political in exploiting this," and Richard Stengel, Time magazine's managing editor, declared that the Democrats should back off their pursuit of truth "because it is so bad for them."

Excuse me – aren't journalists supposed to be hungry for truth, eager to uncover misconduct in high places, or at least be mildly curious about who did what in the White House? Far from doing their jobs, however, media figures are embarrassing themselves by rebuking members of Congress for trying to do their constitutional duty. As Stengel said of Congress' intention to subpoena White House officials: "That's not what voters want to see."

Really, Sherlock? Maybe he should look at the recent USA Today poll, which asked this question: "Do you think Congress should investigate the involvement of White House officials in this matter?" Seventy-two percent of respondents shouted yes! Also, the poll asked if Bush and his aides should "answer all questions," rather than try to hide behind executive privilege, and it asked if Congress should "issue subpoenas to force White House officials to testify under oath?" Yes, shouted 68% of the people.

Likewise, editorial boards are prissily tut-tutting Congress' effort to set a 2008 date for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. Once again, they are the ones out of step – a new Pew poll finds that six out of 10 Americans "would like to see their representatives vote for such legislation."

Media companies have become the establishment they're supposed to guard against. And they wonder why they get no respect.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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White House, U.S. attorneys, Time, USA Today, Congress, withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, Gooberhead Award, RNC Intelligence Squad, New York Police Department

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