CBS, CNN, the New York Times — these are not fringe media outlets. And when Anderson Cooper and Katie Couric complain about press barricades, you know that not only is the rumored media blackout very real, but it is clearly also very serious:
When reports started trickling in a month ago about journalists being prevented from documenting the oil spill by BP contractors and Coast Guard officials, myself and others wrote somewhat incendiary articles about the implied collusion between government officials and BP in keeping the real scope and impact of the oil spill hidden from the American public.
I backed off when, a few days later, President Obama announced his intention to more or less “take over” the operation, forcing BP to be more transparent with its process and offering daily reports to the press from the anointed point person, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen who stated "... the media will have uninhibited access anywhere we're doing operations."
Finally we started seeing more images — the gushing pipe on the sea floor, oil hitting the beaches, dead birds, dolphins swimming through plumes of dispersant — and it seemed like things were sort of back to normal press-wise. Yes, clearly the Gulf spill was a horrible disaster, but at least we had the free press to cover it blow by blow. Right?
But last week that started changing: More blockades. Flyover permits revoked. Photography banned on public beaches. Sick cleanup workers barred from speaking to the press. The restrictions imposed upon journalists been so bad that yesterday both the New York Times and CNN came out strong, calling out the U.S. government for its involvement in interfering with the press:
Journalists struggling to document the impact of the oil rig explosion have repeatedly found themselves turned away from public areas affected by the spill, not only by BP and its contractors, but by local law enforcement, the Coast Guard and government officials.
Today ABC posted a report about harassment of journalists by BP contractors, but Anderson Cooper in his television report made it clear that it was not just BP contractors but federal wildlife officials and national guardsman who were blockading CNN’s media team from filming the oil-soaked birds as they came in off the rescue boats.
This morning I heard a radio interview with documentary filmmaker James Fox who is in the region and who describes how strangely militarized the Gulf operation has become. Any time he approached someone to ask what was going on, he was completely ignored. He managed to get one 15-year-old boy to speak who said ominously, “The media’s not reporting one tenth of what’s going on up there.”
The fact that journalists are not being given access to cover what might possibly the worst environmental disaster in modern history is infuriating indeed. But that’s not what keeps me up at night. It’s this question:
Why would President Obama, a man who was elected on the promise of government transparency, greenlight one of the biggest media blackout operations in U.S. history? What is the administration attempting to hide? What could be SO bad that it would warrant Obama calling in the Coast Guard, the National Guard, local and state sheriffs, even U.S. wildlife officials to keep images of the Gulf spill out of the media?
At first I thought it was because the government was somehow backing for BP, supporting them in their attempt to keep the story from getting out of hand. Now I’m not so sure ...
This afternoon I received a text message sent on a borrowed phone from someone who had recently returned form the cleanup operation. The contents of that message were so mind-numbingly horrific that I cannot publish them here.
I am earnestly attempting to confirm what I was told, and I will be tweeting about my findings on @greendig.If true, it would explain WHY the government won’t let even the New York Times fly over the original site of Deepwater Horizon. And it would also explain why Obama has done a 180 on his policy of government transparency, choosing public deception over political capital.
If you have any theories or tips let me know below in the comments section or on this Facebook page.
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