Realitique: How has the Administration sought, if it has, to muzzle the media, and how, if they have, have the media responded? In particular, how has this one?
The government has always sought to muzzle the fourth estate, through many means and for many reasons. This particular administration, I think, is the worst in that not only is it the most secretive, but it actually makes it policy to "punish," as it were, those journalists who do not toe the line.
How does this administration muzzle journalists who are not "loyal"? On the most benign level, Rove and Co. will devalue a veteran journalist by removing them to the outer limits of press briefings, from where they cannot possibly ask a question or even be recognized on television. Take Helen Thomas for example. She is a veteran journalist and highly respected by her colleagues on the White House beat. She has spent decades in the front row, which took no small measure to achieve, and via this administration was forced to the back of the bus.
There are of course far more disturbing examples of how this administration muzzles journalists. One need only to say Rathergate to get the full implications of that lesson, namely, fact is not to be reported.
Even more striking is how easily the mainstream journalists can be rounded up into a circle, a firing squad at one another. Consider the example of Newsweek. The entire mainstream press, excluding the Times, reported White House talking points and propaganda but not the reality of the situation. Nor did anyone discuss the absolute non-sense of the finger pointing in this scenario. It was a firing squad aimed at the entire mainstream and they went along with it.
The alternative press and a small few in the mainstream, including Salon, Raw Story, the New York Times, and others all reported on the facts of the situation. It was largely through this effort that some of the truth managed to leak out over the White House noise machine.
There are also much darker and more nefarious ways by which reporters are muzzled, including threats, intimidation, and other such measures. Clearly, these more damning tactics are not something anyone can discuss with any amount of certainty or evidence, but it is quite evident that pressures of this type are exerted on publishers, editors, and journalists. What I am speaking of here are the allegations of reporters being "suicided," but as I have stated, there is not enough evidence and far too little documentation to prove or disprove these allegations. In journalistic circles, however, there is a great deal of suspicion.
If all else fails, this administration uses tax dollars to concoct news and pays well-placed faux journalists to report talking points.
The Media's Response?
The media juggernaut, unfortunately, does not respond as a block to protect their own. Instead one sees glimpses of ethics on an individual level. Gary Webb responded but to no avail and died in poverty. Dan Rather, having a career which spanned 30 years responded (albeit inadequately), and was forced to resign.
But imagine if the real and ethical fourth estate actually stood together in an unmovable block? Now that would be response and it would work. So the question really has to do with the media's lack of response to being muzzled and not the administration's insistence on controlling them.
What becomes clear then is that what the fourth estate has really become is a single corporate body, either contracted by the government or afraid of not being contracted by the government. Many people see Fox News as propaganda, as they should. Yet they use the MSM as an example of the "opposite" of what propaganda looks like. My feeling is that Fox is simply a foil, so that the MSM can at least look somewhat credible.
If there was doubt before about the MSM, the silence on the Downing Street Memo answered that question quite clearly.
I gave you the long answer, which could be longer. The short answer is that the media is muzzled because it allows itself to be, not because they have to be no matter the machinations of Rove and his Swifties.
Thank you, Mystery Reporter 1, for submitting the question.
BONUS: Byrne and Alexandrovna's interview with Rep. John Conyers(D-MI), in which the Downing Street memo and the national news media, among other subjects, are discussed is here.
UBER BONUS: Coalition of citizen groups seek formal inquiry into whether Bush acted illegally in push for Iraq war
POST-BONUS BONUS: E.J. Dionne on muzzling the media.
Other Washington Press Corpse Installments (in reverse chronological order):