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Vatican hires Fox News reporter as communications adviser June 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Media, Religion, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: Former Nazi youth Ratzinger’s Catholic Church, Fox News and the ultra-right Opus Dei, quite a trifecta of authoritarianism, elitism, racism, patriarchal sexism, and homophobia.  The Pope picked thee right (in all senses of the word) man for the job.

 

Published On Mon Jun 25 2012
 
Fox News journalist Greg Burke, poses in Rome on June 25. Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become a senior communications adviser in the Vatican's secretariat of state.Fox News journalist Greg Burke, poses in Rome on June 25. Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become a senior communications adviser in the Vatican’s secretariat of state.

ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Nicole Winfield and
Victor L. Simpson The Associated Press
 
VATICAN CITY—The Vatican has brought in the Fox News correspondent in Rome to help improve its communications strategy as it tries to cope with years of communications blunders and one of its most serious scandals in decades, officials said Saturday.

Greg Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become the senior communications adviser in the Vatican’s secretariat of state, the Vatican and Burke told The Associated Press.

“I’m a bit nervous but very excited. Let’s just say it’s a challenge,” Burke said in a phone interview.

He defined his job, which he said he had been offered twice before, as being along the lines of the White House senior communications adviser: “You’re shaping the message, you’re moulding the message, and you’re trying to make sure everyone remains on-message. And that’s tough.”

Burke, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, is a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement. Pope John Paul II’s longtime spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, was also a member of Opus Dei and was known for the papal access he enjoyed and his ability to craft the messages John Paul wanted to get out.

After Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, Navarro-Valls was replaced by the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Jesuit who had long headed Vatican Radio and still does, along with running the Vatican press office and Vatican television service.

Lombardi told the AP that Burke will help integrate communications issues within the Vatican’s top administrative office, the secretariat of state, and will help handle its relations with the Holy See press office and other Vatican communications offices. Burke will report to the Vatican undersecretary of state and the official who oversees Vatican communications in the secretariat.

Lombardi confirmed the news after the AP broke the story, several days before the Holy See had planned to announce it officially.

The Vatican has been bedevilled by communications blunders ever since Benedict’s 2005 election, and is currently dealing with a scandal over Vatican documents that were leaked to Italian journalists. While the scandal is serious — Benedict himself convened a special meeting of cardinals Saturday to try to cope with it — the Vatican’s communications problems long predate it.

Benedict’s now-infamous speech about Muslims and violence, his 2009 decision to rehabilitate a schismatic bishop who denied the Holocaust, and the Vatican’s response to the 2010 explosion of the sex abuse scandal are just a few of the blunders that have tarnished Benedict’s papacy.

Even the Vatican’s response to the leaks from within the Vatican of sensitive papal documents hasn’t involved a terribly sophisticated public relations strategy. Just last week the Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, blamed the media and the devil for fuelling the scandal and accused journalists of “pretending to be Dan Brown.”

Brown wrote “The Da Vinci Code,” the bestselling fictional account that portrayed Opus Dei — of which Bertone’s new communications adviser is a member — as being at the root of an international Catholic conspiracy.

Burke acknowledged the difficult task ahead but said that after turning down the Vatican twice before, he went with his gut and accepted the third time around. “This is an opportunity and challenge that I’m not going to get again,” he said.

He said he didn’t know what, if any, role his membership in Opus Dei played. Opus is greatly in favour in the Vatican these days, particularly as other new religious movements such as the Legion of Christ have lost credibility with their own problems. Currently, for example, the cardinal who is heading the Vatican’s internal investigation into the leaks of documents is the Opus Dei prelate, Cardinal Julian Herranz.

“I’m an old-fashioned Midwestern Catholic whose mother went to Mass every day,” Burke said. “Am I being hired because I’m in Opus Dei?” he asked. “It might come into play.” But he noted he was also in Opus when he was hired by Fox and Time magazine.

Burke has been a Fox correspondent since he joined the U.S. network in 2001. He was the Time magazine correspondent in Rome for a decade before that.

At Fox, he led the network’s coverage of the death of John Paul and election of Benedict in 2005, and has covered the papacy since then, travelling with the pope around the globe. But he has also used Rome as a base for non-Vatican reporting, including several stints in the Middle East during the last intifada, labour law protests in France and the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid.

He is a graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism

Regulators Reject Proposal That Would Bring Fox-Style News to Canada March 4, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Media, Right Wing.
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Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

President, Waterkeeper Alliance; Professor, Pace University

Posted: February 28, 2011 09:54 PM

As America’s middle class battles for its survival on the Wisconsin barricades — against various Koch Oil surrogates and the corporate toadies at Fox News — fans of enlightenment, democracy and justice can take comfort from a significant victory north of Wisconsin border. Fox News will not be moving into Canada after all! The reason: Canada regulators announced last week they would reject efforts by Canada’s right wing Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to repeal a law that forbids lying on broadcast news.

Canada’s Radio Act
requires that “a licenser may not broadcast….any false or misleading news.” The provision has kept Fox News and right wing talk radio out of Canada and helped make Canada a model for liberal democracy and freedom. As a result of that law, Canadians enjoy high quality news coverage including the kind of foreign affairs and investigative journalism that flourished in this country before Ronald Reagan abolished the “Fairness Doctrine” in 1987. Political dialogue in Canada is marked by civility, modesty, honesty, collegiality, and idealism that have pretty much disappeared on the U.S. airwaves. When Stephen Harper moved to abolish anti-lying provision of the Radio Act, Canadians rose up to oppose him fearing that their tradition of honest non partisan news would be replaced by the toxic, overtly partisan, biased and dishonest news coverage familiar to American citizens who listen to Fox News and talk radio. Harper’s proposal was timed to facilitate the launch of a new right wing network, “Sun TV News” which Canadians call “Fox News North.”

Harper, often referred to as “George W. Bush’s Mini Me,” is known for having mounted a Bush like war on government scientists, data collectors, transparency, and enlightenment in general. He is a wizard of all the familiar tools of demagoguery; false patriotism, bigotry, fear, selfishness and belligerent religiosity.

Harper’s attempts to make lying legal on Canadian television is a stark admission that right wing political ideology can only dominate national debate through dishonest propaganda. Since corporate profit-taking is not an attractive vessel for populism, a political party or broadcast network that makes itself the tool of corporate and financial elites must lie to make its agenda popular with the public. In the Unites States, Fox News and talk radio, the sock puppets of billionaires and corporate robber barons have become the masters of propaganda and distortion on the public airwaves. Fox News’s notoriously biased and dishonest coverage of the Wisconsin’s protests is a prime example of the brand of news coverage Canada has smartly avoided.

Those Authoritarian, Torture-Loving French March 18, 2010

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(Roger’s note: what Greenwald reports here is truly frightening.  There is probably no more fundamental precept in criminal justice than habeas corpus.  The idea that any individual, be it the President of the United States, has the right to put you in jail and throw away the key – that goes against the most precious safeguard we have.  Toward the end of this article we see that McCain and Lieberman and Obama apparently are in the process of creating legislation that will do just that.  The founding documents of the country reflected a healthy fear of governmental authority; the Bill of Rights, in particular, was created to grant protection against the misuse and arbitrary application of authority.  The Bush and Obama administrations have taken giant steps toward obliterating these fundamental protections.  These are ominous signs.)

Published on Thursday, March 18, 2010 by Salon.comby Glenn Greenwald

French documentarians conducted an experiment where they created a faux game show — with all the typical studio trappings — and then instructed participants (who believed it was a real TV program) to administer electric shock to unseen contestants each time they answered questions incorrectly, with increasing potency for each wrong answer.  Even as the unseen contestants (who were actors) screamed in agony and pleaded for mercy — and even once they went silent and were presumably dead — 81% of the participants continued to obey the instructions of the authority-figure/host and kept administering higher and higher levels of electric shock.  The experiment was a replica of the one conducted in 1961 by Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram, where 65% of participants obeyed instructions from a designated authority figure to administer electric shock to unseen individuals, and never stopped obeying even as they heard excruciating screams and then silence.  This new French experiment was designed to measure the added power of television to place people into submission to authority and induce them to administer torture.

None of this should be at all surprising to anyone who has observed, first, the American political and media class, and then large swaths of the American citizenry, enthusiastically embrace what was once the absolute taboo against torture, all because Government officials decreed that it was necessary to Stop the Terrorists.  But I just watched an amazing discussion of this French experiment on Fox News.  The Fox anchors — Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum — were shocked and outraged that these French people could be induced by the power of television to embrace torture. 

Speaking as employees of the corporation that produced the highly influential, torture-glorifying 24, and on the channel that has churned out years worth of pro-torture “news” advocacy, the anchors were particularly astonished that television could play such a powerful role in influencing people’s views and getting them to acquiesce to such heinous acts.  Ultimately, they speculated that perhaps it was something unique about the character and psychology of the French that made them so susceptible to external influences and so willing to submit to amoral authority, just like many of them submitted to and even supported the Nazis, they explained.  I kept waiting for them to make the connection to America’s torture policies and Fox’s support for it — if only to explain to their own game show participants at home Fox News viewers why that was totally different — but it really seemed the connection just never occurred to them.  They just prattled away — shocked, horrified and blissfully un-self-aware — about the evils of torture and mindless submission to authority and the role television plays in all of that.

Meanwhile, the bill recently introduced by Joe Lieberman and John McCain — the so-called “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act” — now has 9 co-sponsors, including the newly elected Scott Brown.  It’s probably the single most extremist, tyrannical and dangerous bill introduced in the Senate in the last several decades, far beyond the horrific, habeas-abolishing Military Commissions Act.  It literally empowers the President to imprison anyone he wants in his sole discretion by simply decreeing them a Terrorist suspect — including American citizens arrested on U.S. soil.  The bill requires that all such individuals be placed in military custody, and explicitly says that they “may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners,” which everyone expects to last decades, at least.  It’s basically a bill designed to formally authorize what the Bush administration did to American citizen Jose Padilla — arrest him on U.S. soil and imprison him for years in military custody with no charges. 

This bill has produced barely a ripple of controversy, its two main sponsors will continue to be treated as Serious Centrists and feted on Sunday shows, and it’s hard to imagine any real resistance to its passage.  Isn’t it shocking how easily led and authoritarian the French are?  

UPDATE:  Led by people like Rush Limbaugh, the American Right celebrated even the most extreme torture brutalities, such as those at Abu Ghraib, by embracing them as “a good time,” an “emotional release,” “blowing off steam,” a “fraternity prank,” and S&M pornography.  At least the contestants in the French show acquiesced to torture reluctantly and even with resistance, rather than with the demented pleasure, vicarious sensations of power, 24-type entertainment, and primal arousal which many disturbed individuals on the American Right derive from it.  And, as always, no discussion of the American torture and detention regime is complete without noting that the vast majority subjected to its horrors was completely innocent.

As for the McCain/Lieberman atrocity, it’s been reported that the Obama White House (a) is actively negotiating with Lindsey Graham on a bill to provide for indefinite detention power and (b) has already designated numerous detainees to be held indefinitely with no charges of any kind.  It remains to be seen what their (and, then, their supporters’) position on this bill will be.

© 2010 Salon.com

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

Right-Wing Rage: Hate Groups, Vigilantes and Conspiracists on the Verge of Violence March 3, 2010

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The radical right has caught fire, as broad-based anger over the past year has ignited an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across the nation.

March 2, 2010  |  
 
Southern Poverty Law Center / By Mark Potok
The radical right caught fire last year, as broad-based populist anger at political, demographic and economic changes in America ignited an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across the nation.

Hate groups stayed at record levels — almost 1,000 — despite the total collapse of the second largest neo-Nazi group in America. Furious anti-immigrant vigilante groups soared by nearly 80 percent, adding some 136 new groups during 2009. And, most remarkably of all, so-called “Patriot” groups — militias and other organizations that see the federal government as part of a plot to impose “one-world government” on liberty-loving Americans — came roaring back after years out of the limelight.

The anger seething across the American political landscape — over racial changes in the population, soaring public debt and the terrible economy, the bailouts of bankers and other elites, and an array of initiatives by the relatively liberal Obama Administration that are seen as “socialist” or even “fascist” — goes beyond the radical right. The “tea parties” and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism.

“We are in the midst of one of the most significant right-wing populist rebellions in United States history,” Chip Berlet, a veteran analyst of the American radical right, wrote earlier this year. “We see around us a series of overlapping social and political movements populated by people [who are] angry, resentful, and full of anxiety. They are raging against the machinery of the federal bureaucracy and liberal government programs and policies including health care, reform of immigration and labor laws, abortion, and gay marriage.”

Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the country is in decline, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Just a quarter think the government can be trusted. And the anti-tax tea party movement is viewed in much more positive terms than either the Democratic or Republican parties, the poll found.

The signs of growing radicalization are everywhere. Armed men have come to Obama speeches bearing signs suggesting that the “tree of liberty” needs to be “watered” with “the blood of tyrants.” The Conservative Political Action Conference held this February was co-sponsored by groups like the John Birch Society, which believes President Eisenhower was a Communist agent, and Oath Keepers, a Patriot outfit formed last year that suggests, in thinly veiled language, that the government has secret plans to declare martial law and intern patriotic Americans in concentration camps. Politicians pandering to the anti-government right in 37 states have introduced “Tenth Amendment Resolutions,” based on the constitutional provision keeping all powers not explicitly given to the federal government with the states. And, at the Web site titled “A Well Regulated Militia,” a recent discussion of how to build “clandestine safe houses” to stay clear of the federal government included a conversation about how mass murderers like Timothy McVeigh and Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph were supposedly betrayed at such houses. 

Doing the Numbers
The number of hate groups in America has been going up for years, rising 54 percent between 2000 and 2008 and driven largely by an angry backlash against non-white immigration and, starting in the last year of that period, the economic meltdown and the climb to power of an African American president.

According to the latest annual count by the Southern Poverty Law Center), these groups rose again slightly in 2009 — from 926 in 2008 to 932 last year — despite the demise of a key neo-Nazi group. The American National Socialist Workers Party, which had 35 chapters in 28 states, imploded shortly after the October 2008 arrest of founder Bill White for making threats against his enemies.

At the same time, the number of what the SPLC designates as “nativist extremist” groups — organizations that go beyond mere advocacy of restrictive immigration policy to actually confront or harass suspected immigrants — jumped from 173 groups in 2008 to 309 last year. Virtually all of these vigilante groups have appeared since the spring of 2005.

But the most dramatic story by far has been with the anti-government Patriots.

The militias and the larger Patriot movement first came to Americans’ attention in the mid-1990s, when they appeared as an angry reaction to what was seen as a tyrannical government bent on crushing all dissent. Sparked most dramatically by the death of 76 Branch Davidians during a 1993 law enforcement siege in Waco, Texas, those who joined the militias also railed against the Democratic Clinton Administration and initiatives like gun control and environmental regulation. Although the Patriot movement included people formerly associated with racially based hate groups, it was above all animated by a view of the federal government as the primary enemy, along with a fondness for anti-government conspiracy theories. By early this decade, the groups had largely disappeared from public view.

But last year, as noted in the SPLC’s August report, “The Second Wave: Return of the Militias,” a dramatic resurgence in the Patriot movement and its paramilitary wing, the militias, began. Now, the latest SPLC count finds that an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) — a 244 percent jump.

That is cause for grave concern. Individuals associated with the Patriot movement during its 1990s heyday produced an enormous amount of violence, most dramatically the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead.

Already there are signs of similar violence emanating from the radical right. Since the installation of Barack Obama, right-wing extremists have murdered six law enforcement officers. Racist skinheads and others have been arrested in alleged plots to assassinate the nation’s first black president. One man from Brockton, Mass. — who told police he had learned on white supremacist websites that a genocide was under way against whites — is charged with murdering two black people and planning to kill as many Jews as possible on the day after Obama’s inauguration. Most recently, a rash of individuals with antigovernment, survivalist or racist views have been arrested in a series of bomb cases.

As the movement has exploded, so has the reach of its ideas, aided and abetted by commentators and politicians in the ostensible mainstream. While in the 1990s, the movement got good reviews from a few lawmakers and talk-radio hosts, some of its central ideas today are being plugged by people with far larger audiences like FOX News’ Glenn Beck and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. Beck, for instance, re-popularized a key Patriot conspiracy theory — the charge that FEMA is secretly running concentration camps — before finally “debunking” it.

Last year also experienced levels of cross-pollination between different sectors of the radical right not seen in years. Nativist activists increasingly adopted the ideas of the Patriots; racist rants against Obama and others coursed through the Patriot movement; and conspiracy theories involving the government appeared in all kinds of right-wing venues. A good example is the upcoming Second Amendment March in Washington, D.C. The Web site promoting the march is topped by a picture of a colonial militiaman, and key supporters include Larry Pratt, a long-time militia enthusiast with connections to white supremacists, and Richard Mack, a conspiracy-mongering former sheriff associated with the Patriot group, Oath Keepers.

What may be most noteworthy about the march, however, is its date — April 19. That is the date of the first shots fired at Lexington in the Revolutionary War. And it is also the anniversary of the fiery end of the government siege in Waco and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Mark Potok is the editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s Intelligence Report.

10 years after Matthew Shepard and media still can’t get it right May 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Media.
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Karl Frisch

Posted May 9, 2009 | 02:44 PM (EST), www.huffingtonpost.com

Ten years ago, a gay University of Wyoming student was picked up at a bar by two young men, driven out to the middle of nowhere, pistol-whipped, tortured, robbed, tied to a fence and left for dead. Eighteen hours later he was found — still alive but comatose — by a bicyclist, who at first thought the seemingly lifeless body, its face completely covered in blood except for the skin-colored trails left by tears, was a “scarecrow.”

At the time of the brutal attack that resulted in Matthew Shepard‘s death six days later, I was working as finance director for then-Rep. Jim Nussle, an Iowa Republican with a staunchly anti-gay voting record.

Back then I’d never told a soul that I was gay. The attack did more than frighten me; it knocked the wind out of me. Raised in Los Angeles but now living in rural Iowa, I was concerned that should my secret ever be found out, I would face a fate similar to that of Shepard. The response from those around me within the conservative movement — that Shepard was a “fag,” that he shouldn’t have flirted with the defendants, that he would burn in hell for his sexual orientation — only sent me deeper into the closet.

During the ensuing trial of Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney, the prosecutor argued that the defendants had played gay in order to gain Shepard’s trust. Their girlfriends even testified under oath that Henderson and McKinney had planned in advance to rob a gay man. Ultimately, for kidnapping, robbing and murdering Shepard, Henderson and McKinney were each given two consecutive life sentences. Henderson avoided the death penalty in exchange for his guilty plea, and McKinney at the behest of Shepard’s parents upon his conviction.

In the years that followed, I would slowly come to grips with my sexuality. I came out to friends and family. I abandoned the conservative movement in search of greener, less hateful pastures. I embraced hope and rejected fear. The country was changing right alongside me as public attitudes toward gay and lesbian Americans steadily improved throughout the decade.

For all the progress, though, debate over enhancing the current federal hate crimes law by including gay, lesbian, and transgender people among its protected classes rages on — race, color, religion and national origin have been protected for years.

How can it be that 10 years after Shepard’s brutal, bias-motivated murder we still find ourselves caught up in the same tired debate?

Witness Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina. During a debate over hate crimes legislation that recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives, she said : “The hate crimes bill was named for [Shepard], but it’s really a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.” Foxx’s “hoax” comment was made in an effort to bolster her apparent belief that Shepard’s murder was the result of a robbery gone wrong. Where on Earth could she have come up with such an idea?

Enter ABC’s 20/20. In 2004 the long-running network newsmagazine aired a special on the Wyoming hate crime that, as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) put it at the time, attempted to “undermine the notion that anti-gay bias contributed to” the murder.

Most damning of all, GLAAD noted that “20/20’s piece relies heavily on the perceived credibility of Aaron McKinney, who is now claiming to have lied about the role anti-gay bias played in his decision to target and kill Shepard,” and that McKinney’s girlfriend “now claims she made up the story about McKinney’s homophobic rage against Shepard,” which she testified to at McKinney’s trial.

Among other things, GLAAD also found that 20/20 had ignored “several important sources and pieces of information.” There was “no discussion of the details of Aaron McKinney’s confession to the police, where anti-gay bias [was] central to his characterization,” “[n]o mention of the plea bargain that spared McKinney’s life,” and no mention of the provision of that plea bargain barring McKinney and his attorneys from discussing the case with the media.

Long before finding its way into Foxx’s “hoax” remarks on the House floor, 20/20’s report provided fodder for those opposed to an expanded federal hate crimes law.

Perhaps fearing a hate crimes bill that protects gay, lesbian, and transgender people will soon be enacted — thanks to a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers and the president — many media conservatives have seen fit to maliciously attack the legislation, just as 20/20 twisted and misreported the events surrounding Shepard’s death.

During a recent broadcast of his top-rated cable program, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly said of the hate crimes bill, which not only adds gay, lesbian, and transgender people to the list of protected classes but the disabled as well, “[Y]ou could make an argument that a pedophile has a disease, and because the disease is there, he’s a target or she’s a target.” O’Reilly later added that pedophiles could be included because “[d]isability is included. They have a mental disability.” He’s wrong. Pedophilia is not considered a “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; in fact, the ADA specifically excludes pedophilia. Bringing up “pedophilia” during discussion of gay and lesbian issues is old hat for those opposed to full equality for the LGBT community.

O’Reilly wasn’t alone pushing this line of attack at Fox News. Sean Hannity, Bill Hemmer, and The Fox Nation website all advanced the false claim that House Democrats voted to “protect” or “defend” pedophiles. On-screen text along the bottom of the screen on Fox quite literally read, “HOUSE DEMS VOTE TO PROTECT PEDOPHILES, BUT NOT VETERANS.”

When they weren’t spouting off nonsense about pedophiles being protected in the legislation, they were busy pushing the false notion that passage of the bill would somehow suppress religious thought or speech. During a segment on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, correspondent Molly Henneberg reported without question that religious groups are concerned that “they may be prosecuted for their religious beliefs if they believe that homosexuality is a sin, that it could gag ministers who preach that, or even if a church may not want to marry a gay couple. There is concern that they could face lawsuits as well.”

Let us be clear: The assertion that this legislation would allow individuals or groups to “be prosecuted for their religious beliefs” is patently false. Section 8 of the bill unambiguously states that “[n]othing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the Constitution” — which, of course, includes the First Amendment’s right to free speech and exercise of religion.

Reporters, hosts, anchors, and pundits — indeed, all Americans — are free to feel and speak as they wish about the gay, lesbian, and transgender community. It’s their right, even if they aren’t being honest. Unfortunately, too many have chosen to use this freedom with complete disregard for the facts.

Fox News and those who parrot its brand of deceptive reporting on this issue have been left behind by an America that continues its centuries-long march toward increased equality.

How frightened they must be.

Karl Frisch is a Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog, research, and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary.

The Pulitzer-Winning Investigation That Dare Not Be Uttered on TV April 21, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Media.
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by Glenn Greenwald

The New York Times‘ David Barstow won a richly deserved Pulitzer Prize yesterday for two articles that, despite being featured as major news stories on the front page of The Paper of Record, were completely suppressed by virtually every network and cable news show, which to this day have never informed their viewers about what Bartow uncovered.  Here is how the Pulitzer Committee described Barstow’s exposés:

Awarded to David Barstow of The New York Times for his tenacious reporting that revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq, and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to companies that benefited from policies they defended.

By whom were these “ties to companies” undisclosed and for whom did these deeply conflicted retired generals pose as “analysts”?  ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN and Fox — the very companies that have simply suppressed the story from their viewers.  They kept completely silent about Barstow’s story even though it sparked Congressional inquiries, vehement objections from the then-leading Democratic presidential candidates, and allegations that the Pentagon program violated legal prohibitions on domestic propaganda programs.  The Pentagon’s secret collaboration with these “independent analysts” shaped multiple news stories from each of these outlets on a variety of critical topics.  Most amazingly, many of them continue to employ as so-called “independent analysts” the very retired generals at the heart of Barstow’s story, yet still refuse to inform their viewers about any part of this story.

And even now that  Barstow yesterday won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting — one of the most prestigious awards any news story can win — these revelations still may not be uttered on television, tragically dashing the hope expressed yesterday (rhetorically, I presume) by Media Matters’ Jamison Foser that “maybe now that the story has won a Pulitzer for Barstow, they’ll pay attention.” Instead, it was Atrios’ prediction that was decisively confirmed: “I don’t think a Pulitzer will be enough to give the military analyst story more attention.”  Here is what Brian Williams said last night on his NBC News broadcast in reporting on the prestigious awards:

The Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and the arts were awarded today. The New York Times led the way with five, including awards for breaking news and international reporting.  Las Vegas Sun won for the public service category for its reporting on construction worker deaths in that city. Best commentary went to Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, who of course was an on-air commentator for us on MSNBC all through the election season and continues to be. And the award for best biography went to John Meacham, the editor of Newsweek magazine, for his book “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.”

No mention that among the five NYT prizes was one for investigative reporting.  Williams did manage to promote the fact that one of the award winners was an MSNBC contributor, but sadly did not find the time to inform his viewers that NBC News’ war reporting and one of Williams’ still-featured premiere “independent analysts,” Gen. Barry McCaffrey, was and continues to be at the heart of the scandal for which Barstow won the Pulitzer.  Williams’ refusal to inform his readers about this now-Pulitzer-winning story is particularly notable given his direct personal involvement in the secret, joint attempts by NBC and McCaffrey to contain P.R. damage to NBC from Barstow’s story, compounded by the fact that NBC was on notice of these multiple conflicts as early as April, 2003, when The Nation first reported on them

Identically, CNN ran an 898-word story on the various Pulitzer winners — describing virtually every winner — but was simply unable to find any space even to mention David Barstow’s name, let alone inform their readers that he won the Prize for uncovering core corruption at the heart of CNN’s coverage of the Iraq War and other military-related matters.  No other television news outlet implicated by Barstow’s story mentioned his award, at least as far as I can tell.

The outright refusal of any of these “news organizations” even to mention what Barstow uncovered about the Pentagon’s propaganda program and the way it infected their coverage is one of the most illuminating events revealing how they operate.  So transparently corrupt and journalistically disgraceful is their blackout of this story that even Howard Kurtz and Politico – that’s Howard Kurtz and Politico — lambasted them for this concealment.  Meaningful criticisms of media stars from media critic (and CNN star) Howie Kurtz is about as rare as prosecutions for politically powerful lawbreakers in America, yet this is what he said about the television media’s suppression of Barstow’s story:  “their coverage of this important issue has been pathetic.”

Has there ever been another Pulitzer-Prize-winning story for investigative reporting never to be mentioned on major television — let alone one that was twice featured as the lead story on the front page of The New York Times?  To pose the question is to answer it.

 

UPDATE:  Media Matters has more on the glaring omissions in Brian Williams’ “reporting” and on the pervasive impact of the Pentagon’s program on television news coverage.  Williams’ behavior has long been disgraceful on this issue, almost certainly due to the fact that some of the “analysts” most directly implicated by Barstow’s story are Williams’ favored sources and friends.

On a different note, CQ‘s Jeff Stein responds today to some of the objections to his Jane-Harman/AIPAC/Alberto-Gonazles blockbuster story — quite convincingly, in my view — and, as Christy Hardin Smith notes, the New York Times has now independently confirmed much of what Stein reported.

UPDATE II:  For some added irony:  on his NBS News broadcast last night suppressing any mention of David Barstow’s Pulitzer Prize, Brian Williams’ lead story concerned Obama’s trip to the CIA yesterday.  Featured in that story was commentary from Col. Jack Jacobs, identified on-screen this way:  “Retired, NBC News Military Analyst.”  Jacobs was one of the retired officers who was an active member of the Pentagon’s “military analyst” program, and indeed, he actively helped plan the Pentagon’s media strategy at the very same time he was posing as an “independent analyst” on NBC (h/t reader gc; via NEXIS).  So not only did Williams last night conceal from his viewers any mention of the Pentagon program, he featured — on the very same broadcast — “independent” commentary from one of the central figures involved in that propaganda program.

On a related note, Howard Kurtz was asked in his Washington Post chat yesterday about  Mike Allen’s grant of anonymity to a “top Bush official” that I highlighted on Saturday, and Kurtz — while defending much of Allen’s behavior — said:  “I don’t believe an ex-official should have been granted anonymity for that kind of harsh attack.”

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

Appomattox Again April 15, 2009

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by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Columnist

 

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.”

- Timothy McVeigh quoting from “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
    April 9 was a Sunday in 1865, and in the town of Appomattox, Virginia, the sun was shining down on the end of a war. Confederate forces, led by Gen. Robert E. Lee, had finally been brought to bay by Gen. Ulysses Grant after four grueling, blood-sodden years. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox was the conclusion of the largest and deadliest armed insurrection in American history.

    April 9 was a Thursday in 2009, and there are some lo these 144 years later who would very much like to see another armed insurrection erupt within these United States. The casus belli for today’s would-be revolutionaries is not states’ rights, slavery or economic independence, but is instead a toxic mix of fundamentalist Christianity, ultra-conservative orthodoxy and, more than anything else, guns.

    The existence of armed and angry insurrectionists in America is nothing new. As Robert Kennedy once observed, “One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time.” The militia movement, in one form or another, has been a part of our history literally since the founding of the nation itself, and memories of Waco, Ruby Ridge and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City remain acutely fresh in mind even years later.

    Lately, the news has been flooded with reports of citizens arming themselves to the teeth, egged on by right-wing media personalities prophesying doom, the rise of socialism, and that a Marxist dictator now sits in the Oval Office. This frenzy has been spilling from talk radio and television out into the streets for weeks now, and has recently metastasized into acts of outrageous violence. It smells like a new beginning of something this nation has not been forced to endure for nearly a decade.

    Last Monday, a man named Richard Poplawski ambushed and murdered three Pittsburgh police officers and tried to kill nine others. Poplawski’s motivations, according to friends and family, centered around his belief in the existence of a vast government conspiracy to destroy American freedoms while establishing a left-wing dictatorship under President Obama. Poplawski came to believe all this after listening to and reading the paranoid rantings of right-wing luminaries like Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

    Last July, a man named Jim Adkisson walked into a Universalist church in Knoxville and began blazing away with a 12-gauge shotgun, killing two people and wounding several others. He had 70 shotgun shells with him, and fully intended to massacre as many people in the church as possible before police killed him, but he was tackled and disarmed by members of the congregation before he could complete his task.

    Eric Boehlert, writing for Media Matters on April 7, said, “When investigators went to Adkisson’s home in search of a motive, as well as evidence for the pending trial, they found copies of Savage’s ‘Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder,’ ‘Let Freedom Ring’ by Sean Hannity, and ‘The O’Reilly Factor,’ by Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly. They also came across what was supposed to have been Adkisson’s suicide note: a handwritten, four-page manifesto explaining his murderous actions. The one-word answer for his deed? Hate. The three-word answer? He hated liberals.”

    “The only way we can rid ourselves of this evil,” wrote Adkisson, “is kill them in the streets. Kill them where they gather. I’d like to encourage other like minded people to do what I’ve done. If life aint worth living anymore don’t just Kill yourself. Do something for your Country before you go. Go Kill Liberals!”

    Describing the Pittsburgh incident, Boehlert wrote, “In the wake of the bloodbath, we learned that Poplawski was something of a conspiracy nut who embraced dark, radical rhetoric about America. He was convinced the government wanted to take away his guns, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Specifically, Poplawski, as one friend described it, feared ‘the Obama gun ban that’s on the way’ and ‘didn’t like our rights being infringed upon.’ (FYI, there is no Obama gun ban in the works.) The same friend said the shooter feared America was ‘going to see the end of our times.'”

    “Hysterical warnings of government gun grabs and a socialist takeover of the US are no longer the sole proprietary interest of fringe players like Jones,” wrote Max Blumenthal on Wednesday. “In the Obama era, Jones’s conspiracy theories have graduated to primetime on Fox News. And radicals like Poplawski are tuning in. Indeed, according to the Anti-Defamation League, the alleged killer posted a YouTube clip to (neo-Nazi web site) Stormfront of top-rated Fox News host Glenn Beck contemplating the existence of FEMA-managed concentration camps. (‘He backed out,’ Poplawski wrote cryptically beside the video.) Three weeks later, Poplawski posted another YouTube clip to Stormfront, this time of a video blogger advocating ‘Tea Parties,’ or grassroots conservative protests organized by Beck and Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich against President Barack Obama’s bailout plan.”

    There have been more stories like this in recent months, and if history is any guide, there will be more to come. The timing of all this is deeply troubling, and the media players involved are all too familiar. There is something sinister at work here, something malevolent, something sly.

    Consider the curious historical synchronicity of all this: after the inauguration of a new Democratic president, there has been a sudden upsurge of right-wing polemicists agitating right-wing citizens into right-wing-motivated acts of violence. The last time things came together like this was back in 1993, after the Waco and Ruby Ridge debacles, combined with the passage of NAFTA and the Brady Bill, detonated into a militia movement that was wildly active, and exceedingly violent, throughout the entirety of President Bill Clinton’s two terms.

    Dozens of militia-related incidents, including the Oklahoma City bombing, took place during those years. In 2001, however, these incidents stopped almost completely, and for the entirety of George W. Bush’s two terms as president, hardly a peep was heard from the militia movement that had been so robustly vigorous during the administration of Bush’s predecessor.

    A Democratic president takes office in 1993 and the militia movement explodes, egged on by a whole host of right-wing media voices.

    A Republican president takes office in 2001 and the militia movement, along with those media voices who sponsored it, all but disappear from the American political landscape.

    A Democratic president takes office in 2009, and once again, right-wing media voices begin their clarion call for armed revolution, and once again, a portion of their listeners erupt into violence.

    “In Politics,” President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

    Indeed.

»


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know” and “The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.” His newest book, “House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation,” is now available from PoliPointPress.

Up Is Down: The Military Budget April 8, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Media, War.
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David Swanson

www.opednews.com, April 8, 2009

The largest military budget in the history of the world is being increased. Certain weapons are being cut back, others expanded. But the overall budget is going UP. However, you don’t need me to tell you that. You’ve learned it from these fine news sources:

FoxNews.com:

“With Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposing broad cuts in Pentagon spending, a new war over the president’s budget has begun. While critics already are warning that the plan could compromise U.S. security, the greater resistance appears to be coming from lawmakers worried that the cuts threaten thousands of jobs in their states.”

There really are cuts and critics and chicken littles, but nowhere does Fox tell you that the overall budget is INCREASING. Then again, if Fox didn’t lie, how would we know what was true?

Rachel Maddow:

“Defense Secretary Robert Gates today proposed a massive overhaul of Pentagon spending. Since the year 2000 the already huge defense budget has risen 72 percent. Gates’ new budget would pry the Pentagon away from its preparations for big conventional you-line-up-here we’ll-line-up-here wars … Anticipating criticism that he is making too big a change away from things that the Pentagon has traditionally LOVED spending money on, Mr. Gates said this: ‘Every defense dollar spent to to overinsure against a remote or diminishing risk … is a dollar not available to take care of our people.’ … And that was the head of the Pentagon acknowledging that there isn’t infinite money available for his department, that there have to be tradeoffs. And that thump-thump-thump sound that you heard in the distance as he was talking was the sound of executives at all the big defense contractors passing out.”

Love ya three-quarters of the time, Rachel, but you really should have waved blue pom-poms for this one. As noted below, many “defense” contractors are cheering for Gates’ budget.

The New York Times:

“WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced a major reshaping of the Pentagon budget on Monday, with deep cuts in many traditional weapons systems but new billions of dollars for others, along with more troops and new technology to fight the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. … Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican, reacted strongly against Mr. Gates’s proposal to end spending for the F-22, which employs 25,000 workers in Georgia and across the country. ‘It’s outrageous that President Obama is willing to bury the country under a mountain of debt with his reckless domestic agenda but refuses to fund programs critical to our national defense,’ Mr. Price said in a statement. In addition, a bipartisan group of six senators urged Mr. Gates not to make large cuts in missile defense programs. In a letter to Mr. Obama, they said the reductions ‘could undermine our emerging missile defense capabilities to protect the United States against a growing threat.'”

If the New York Times didn’t use “objective” (quote one war monger and a second war monger) reporting to back militarism, how would we know we weren’t dreaming?

Air America:

“Regular Army No More? (Audio)
“By Ana Marie Cox
“Defense Secretary Robert Gates builds in unprecedented cuts to defense spending, especially on experimental and “next generation” weapons like the F-22 and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. What’s next? Lower-tech, proven options such as intelligence and counter insurgency. What it has in common with the rest of the Obama program may surprise you.”

I love Air America and was on it yesterday, but fluff is fluff and some of it I’m allergic to.

Center for American Progress:

“Gates Reins In Bloated Defense Budget
“Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced his recommendations for the department’s 2010 budget, offering ‘deep cuts in many traditional weapons systems but new billions of dollars for others, along with more troops and new technology to fight the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.’ The Los Angeles Times described his proposal offering ‘the most sweeping changes in military spending priorities in decades.’ The Wonk Room’s Matt Duss wrote yesterday that Gates’s recommendations represent ‘an appreciable shift in the way that the United States approaches the issue of military acquisitions.'”

This went on at length without ever mentioning that the budget was going UP not DOWN

True Majority:

“Tell Congress to support the Gates/Obama defense budget.
“Dear David,
“At last!
“Some of us wondered if this day would ever come. Today the Secretary of Defense explained to Congress exactly the points TrueMajority members have been making for years: wasting taxes on weapons which don’t work and have no conceivable use against real-world enemies makes us LESS strong as a nation1.
Show Congress we’re ready to invest in True Security — sign the petition.”

OK, I know this isn’t a news source. But this is an activist group that drives giant displays of Oreo cookies around the country to illustrate the relative sizes of the military budget and budgets for schools and healthcare. An Oreo got added to the military stack, and “True” Majority wants us to cheer instead of vomiting.

You could find the news if you searched, of course. CNN included the news in its 39th paragraph. AP included the total cost in its second paragraph but not whether it was an increase or decrease. A New York Times editorial in favor of more cuts included the total cost in its ninth paragraph. A USA Today editorial admirably noted and lamented the huge size of the budget but praised the supposed cutting of it and did not note that the overall budget was increasing. The Washington Post’s editorial claimed to approve the cuts but deemed them politically impossible, never noting the INCREASING military budget. And, of course, columnists in the Wall Street Journal screamed “Obama and Gates Gut the Military”.

But business sources told a very different story. Here’s Market Watch:

“Pentagon still a cash cow despite budget cuts
“Analysts weigh in on the winners and losers from Gates’ spending proposal
“By Christopher Hinton, MarketWatch
“NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — The proposed 2010 defense budget from the Pentagon had a lot of changes, but Wall Street analysts said Tuesday there’s still plenty of funding for the country’s top military contractors. ‘Lockheed Martin had the best outcome from [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates’ budget decisions, there was also strong support for Northrop Grumman’s and General Dynamics’ shipbuilding businesses,’ said Douglas Harned, an analyst with Bernstein Research. ‘Notably, there were no indications of plans to bring budgets down significantly in 2011.'”

Here’s Jane’s:

“US defence stocks surged on Gates’ budget proposal
“Major US defence stocks were raised out of the doldrums by Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ budget proposals thanks to the lifting of a degree of uncertainty and proposals that were not as dramatic as the markets expected. Fitch Ratings was among those who noted that although four of the top 10 US programmes face reductions or delays, several of the leading projects – including the F-35 and F/A-18 aircraft programmes – were to be increased. The proposal to increase intelligence and reconnaissance support by USD2 billion highlighted the new priorities of the Pentagon and threw up clear winners ranging from sensor and systems providers such as Raytheon (which closed 8.2 per cent up). Textron – which successfully divested its HR Textron unit the day before and increased its exposure to unmanned air systems through the buy of AAI Corporation – was the leader of the day, with a double-digit jump of 11.3 per cent.”

The second round articles tended to be worse than the first:

ABC News:

“Will New Military Budget Prolong Recession?
“Many Cities and Towns Rely on Government Spending to Keep Their Economies Strong
“By SCOTT MAYEROWITZ, ABC NEWS Business Unit
“April 8, 2009—Many cities and towns across this country rise and fall with military spending. And with Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ announcement earlier this week of new defense spending priorities, many communities are bracing for drastic cuts or a windfall.”

This article mentioned that the budget was actually increasing in its 35th paragraph.

My point is not that the reported cuts aren’t real, that jobs won’t be lost, or that congress members aren’t bought-and-paid-for schmucks. And my point is not just that the military should be cut and that non-military investment produces more and better paying jobs. My immediate point is that we are not getting the news, even from sources that would be screaming it from the rooftops if Obama had an “R” after his name.

Now, the last time I claimed that everybody had something wrong, Hullabaloo complained that they had got it right, so I checked and sure enough Hullabaloo got this right by quoting TPM which got this right. My advice is to follow such sources closely if you want to know you can believe what you’re reading.

As you may have figured out, Republicorporate news sources will disguise and promote military spending even if done by a Democratic president, and Democratic news sources will do so only if done by a Democratic president. Democrats in Congress will play along whoever is in the White House, but at least when it’s a Republican, SOME news sources will fill us in on what’s happening. Practice eternal vigilance.

Obama’s No Socialist. I Should Know. March 15, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Media, Revolution.
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by Billy Wharton

It took a massive global financial crisis, a failed military adventure and a popular repudiation of the Republican Party to make my national television debut possible. After 15 years of socialist political organizing — everything from licking envelopes and handing out leaflets to the more romantic task of speaking at street demonstrations — I found myself in the midtown Manhattan studio of the Fox Business Network on a cold February evening. Who ever thought that being the editor of the Socialist magazine, circulation 3,000, would launch me on a cable news career?

The media whirlwind began in October with a call from a New York Times writer. He wanted a tour of the Socialist Party USA’s national office. Although he was more interested in how much paper we used in our “socialist cubby hole” than in our politics, our media profile exploded. Next up, a pleasant interview by Swedish National Radio. Then Brian Moore, our 2008 presidential candidate, sparred with Stephen Colbert. Even the Wall Street Journal wanted a socialist to quote after the first bailout bill failed last fall. Traffic to our Web site multiplied, e-mail inquiries increased and meetings with potential recruits to the Socialist Party yielded more new members than ever before. Socialism — an idea with a long history — suddenly seemed to have a bright future in 21st-century America.

Whom did we have to thank for this moment in the spotlight? Oddly enough, Republican politicians such as Mike Huckabee and John McCain had become our most effective promoters. During his campaign, the ever-desperate McCain, his hard-charging running mate Sarah Palin and even a plumber named Joe lined up to call Barack Obama a “socialist.” Last month, Huckabee even exclaimed that, “The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may be dead, but the Union of American Socialist Republics is being born.”

We appreciated the newfound attention. But we also cringed as the debate took on the hysterical tone of a farcical McCarthyism. The question “Is Obama a socialist?” spread rapidly through a network of rightwing blogs, conservative television outlets and alarmist radio talk shows and quickly moved into the mainstream. “We Are All Socialists Now,” declared a Newsweek cover last month. A New York Times reporter recently pinned Obama down with the question, “Are you a socialist, as some people have suggested?” The normally unflappable politician stumbled through a response so unconvincing that it required a follow-up call in which Obama claimed impeccable free market credentials.

All this speculation over whether our current president is a socialist led me into the sea of business suits, BlackBerrys and self-promoters in the studio at Fox Business News. I quickly realized that the antagonistic anchor David Asman had little interest in exploring socialist ideas on bank nationalization. For Asman, nationalization was merely a code word for socialism. Using logic borrowed from the 1964 thriller “The Manchurian Candidate,” he portrayed Obama as a secret socialist, so far undercover that not even he understood that his policies were de facto socialist. I was merely a cudgel to be wielded against the president — a physical embodiment of guilt by association.

The funny thing is, of course, that socialists know that Barack Obama is not one of us. Not only is he not a socialist, he may in fact not even be a liberal. Socialists understand him more as a hedge-fund Democrat — one of a generation of neoliberal politicians firmly committed to free-market policies.

The first clear indication that Obama is not, in fact, a socialist, is the way his administration is avoiding structural changes to the financial system. Nationalization is simply not in the playbook of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his team. They favor costly, temporary measures that can easily be dismantled should the economy stabilize. Socialists support nationalization and see it as a means of creating a banking system that acts like a highly regulated public utility. The banks would then cease to be sinkholes for public funds or financial versions of casinos and would become essential to reenergizing productive sectors of the economy.

The same holds true for health care. A national health insurance system as embodied in the single-payer health plan reintroduced in legislation this year by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), makes perfect sense to us. That bill would provide comprehensive coverage, offer a full range of choice of doctors and services and eliminate the primary cause of personal bankruptcy — health-care bills. Obama’s plan would do the opposite. By mandating that every person be insured, ObamaCare would give private health insurance companies license to systematically underinsure policyholders while cashing in on the moral currency of universal coverage. If Obama is a socialist, then on health care, he’s doing a fairly good job of concealing it.

Issues of war and peace further weaken the commander in chief’s socialist credentials. Obama announced that all U.S. combat brigades will be removed from Iraq by August 2010, but he still intends to leave as many as 50,000 troops in Iraq and wishes to expand the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A socialist foreign policy would call for the immediate removal of all troops. It would seek to follow the proposal made recently by an Afghan parliamentarian, which called for the United States to send 30,000 scholars or engineers instead of more fighting forces.

Yet the president remains “the world’s best salesman of socialism,” according to Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina. DeMint encouraged supporters “to take to the streets to stop America’s slide into socialism.” Despite the fact that billions of dollars of public wealth are being transferred to private corporations, Huckabee still felt confident in proposing that “Lenin and Stalin would love” Obama’s bank bailout plan.

Huckabee is clearly no socialist scholar, and I doubt that any of Obama’s policies will someday appear in the annals of socialist history. The president has, however, been assigned the unenviable task of salvaging a capitalist system intent on devouring itself. The question is whether he can do so without addressing the deep inequalities that have become fundamental features of American society. So, President Obama, what I want to know is this: Can you lend legitimacy to a society in which 5 percent of the population controls 85 percent of the wealth? Can you sell a health-care reform package that will only end up enriching a private health insurance industry? Will you continue to favor military spending over infrastructure development and social services?

My guess is that the president will avoid these questions, further confirming that he is not a socialist except, perhaps, in the imaginations of an odd assortment of conservatives. Yet as the unemployment lines grow longer, the food pantries emptier and health care scarcer, socialism may be poised for a comeback in America. The doors of our “socialist cubby-hole” are open to anyone, including Obama. I encourage him to stop by for one of our monthly membership meetings. Be sure to arrive early to get a seat — we’re more popular than ever lately.

Rewriting the First Draft of History January 15, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, Uncategorized, War.
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 15 January 2009, www.truthout.org We’re all neocons now.
– Chris Matthews, MSNBC, 09 April 2003

by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Columnist

 

 

    Seeing as how we currently find ourselves hurtling along this downhill run towards new history – the countdown to the day America has itself a president named Obama can be measured in hours instead of days or weeks now – it seems an appropriate moment to pause and reflect on a bit of older history we’ve already passed through. I’m not talking about any kind of ancient history, mind you. For the purposes of this reflection, we need only take a small leap backwards in time, just six short years ago.

    We all passed through the little slice of history that began to take shape in the early months of 2003, and we all remember that time in our own way. Today, however, there is a great deal of effort being expended to make sure this bit of history is remembered differently than how it really happened. An even better result for those exerting this effort would be if this bit of history were not remembered at all. That may, in fact, be their ultimate goal.

    I am referring, of course, to the very beginning of another downhill run towards history, the one that began in 2003 and led us into the current Iraq debacle that is about to become another president’s problem.

    I am not, however, referring to anyone who works or once worked within the Bush administration. To be sure, Mr. Bush would prefer if we remembered all this differently than it happened, as would Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Powell, Mr. Wolfowitz, Mr. Feith, Ms. Rice, and every other one of the glorified think-tank cube-rats who ginned the whole thing up to begin with. Richard Perle, in an amusing aside, actually allowed himself to be quoted saying the neocons had nothing to do with Iraq, had no hand in the planning and implementation of same, and anyone who says differently is just wrong and dumb and should go away.

    That one’s a hoot, in’it?

    No, I am referring to an equally large, craven and culpable body outside the official bounds of our federal governmental: the mainstream American news media. They work fist in glove with that government now, worked with them yesterday, and will likewise be working with them tomorrow. Specifically, they will be working as hard as Bush & Co. to make us remember that downhill run to Iraq differently, because they never worked more closely with our government on anything than they did on Iraq just six short years ago.

    The mainstream news media did not concoct false evidence to justify a course for war, but they fobbed off that false proof as if it were holy truth. They did not lie to the American people about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but they passed on Bush administration lies to the American people with full-throated credulity. They did not browbeat the American people with dire threats of impending terrorism to cover up political liabilities, but they passed those threats on from Bush’s people to the American people with the kind of breathless energy only seen whenever media types have skyrocketing ratings and ad revenues twinkling in their eyes.

    The mainstream American news media is just as responsible for what has happened in Iraq as the Bush administration; they are as responsible for the lies they repeated as the ones who first told them, and are as guilty for what happened in Iraq as the Bush administration officials they enabled and covered for.

    Many people, by now, may have forgotten the manner in which this gruesome symbiosis played out six years ago. An organization called Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has compiled a little refresher course on the topic. Behold some of the highlights:

    “Oh, it was breathtaking. I mean I was almost starting to think that we had become inured to everything that we’d seen of this war over the past three weeks, all this sort of saturation. And finally, when we saw that it was such a just true, genuine expression. It was reminiscent, I think, of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And just sort of that pure emotional expression, not choreographed, not stage-managed, the way so many things these days seem to be. Really breathtaking.”

    – Ceci Connolly, Washington Post reporter, on Fox News Channel on 09 April 2003

    “This has been a tough war for commentators on the American left. To hope for defeat meant cheering for Saddam Hussein. To hope for victory meant cheering for President Bush. The toppling of Mr. Hussein, or at least a statue of him, has made their arguments even harder to defend. Liberal writers for ideologically driven magazines like The Nation and for less overtly political ones like The New Yorker did not predict a defeat, but the terrible consequences many warned of have not happened. Now liberal commentators must address the victory at hand and confront an ascendant conservative juggernaut that asserts United States might can set the world right.”

    – David Carr, New York Times reporter, 16 April 2003

    “We’re proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who’s physical, who’s not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who’s president. Women like a guy who’s president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It’s simple. We’re not like the Brits.”

    – Chris Matthews, MSNBC, 01 May 2003

    “He looked like an alternatively commander in chief, rock star, movie star and one of the guys.”

    – Lou Dobbs, CNN, 01 May 2003

    “We had controversial wars that divided the country. This war united the country and brought the military back.”

    – Howard Fineman, MSNBC, 07 May 2003

    Some people may remember hearing these lines when they were uttered. A great many people can probably remember hearing or reading similar comments during that time. The sentiment was all but ubiquitous, at least within the mainstream media’s echo chamber, that the weapons were there, that Bush was right, that war was necessary, so let’s go.

    I remember it a little differently.

    In the summer of 2002, after working in concert with former chief UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, I wrote and had published a book titled “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know.” The book argued that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, no al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq, no connection between Iraq and 9/11, thus there was no reason to go to war against Iraq, and that any such war would be a disaster of vast proportions.

    In short, the book was spot-on correct.

    The latter half of 2002, however, saw very few people arguing these points make their way into the mainstream media conversation. I tried, believe me. I did dozens of radio interviews with every small-market, community-based radio personality in and out of America. I traveled tens of thousands of miles trying to let people know what was what. By the spring of 2003, the book became a New York Times and international best seller, and was translated into 13 languages, but my own informed perspective on the issue had failed to break into the mainstream media conversation.

    Mine was not nearly the only voice shut out of the debate by the mainstream news media. From the very beginning, independent or investigative journalists were sounding the alarm, preparing the facts, and not getting heard. People like Amy Goodman, Sy Hersh, Mike Malloy, Juan Cole, Dahr Jamail, Bernard Weiner, Norman Solomon, William Greider, Joe Conason, Robert Scheer, Robert Kuttner, Molly Ivins and Naomi Klein have been horribly vindicated by the passage of time. There are many, many other voices like theirs which, had they been included in the conversation six years ago, could have perhaps saved us all from the disaster they saw coming a mile away.

    Of course, not everyone in the mainstream news media participated six years ago in making sure the Iraq war happened, but so very many of them did. Those well-known personalities who actively participated in selling the war, along with their editors, producers and corporate owners, want no part of being rightly remembered for their role in the debacle that is Iraq. For the last couple of years, they’ve been backpedaling furiously away from the mess they were deeply involved in creating; all those once-dismissed “left-wing” talking points about the folly of this war and the absence of Iraqi WMD, seemingly overnight, were adopted by the mainstream news media with nary a hiccup.

    Remember how that worked? From 2003 until around 2006, the line from the media was, “Of course everyone knows there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” But after the WMD’s failure to turn up entered a fourth year, a switch got thrown. Suddenly, the line from the media was, “Of course everyone knows there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” after which came all the anti-Bush rhetoric they’d once ridiculed.

    They skipped the all-important middle part. In between “Of course they have WMD” and “Of course they had no WMD” should have been a few deadly serious questions: Why did they tell us there were WMD? Why did we accept their version of the facts so easily? How responsible are we for making the American people believe all that WMD stuff was true?

    They skipped all that, because media people avoid self-analysis the way cats avoid water. Now, they want us to remember things differently than how they were. Again.

    The folks in the mainstream news media see themselves as the writers and crafters of the first edition of history. This is a position they monstrously abused regarding Iraq, and now, they would like to rewrite that first draft, so they can edit out their own direct involvement as major players in the drama.

    Bush must be held responsible, along with all his minions and Congressional enablers, for the bloodbath of criminal wrongdoing that took place and continues in Iraq. But the media must be held accountable, as well. They’d like us to forget what they did. Don’t let them let us forget. We all have skin in this particular game.

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William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know” and “The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.” His newest book, “House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation,” is now available from PoliPointPress.

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