Corrupt US Government Media
the former Chief of Staff of the the New York Times,called by his peers,
"The Dean of His Profession," was asked in 1953 togive a toast before
the NY Press Club; and this is what he said. After reading it, think about what
no such thing at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent
press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you that dares to write
his honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never
appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my opinions out of the paper I am
connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and
any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on
the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear
in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.
The business of journalists is to destroy truth; to pervert; to villify; to fawn
at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread.
You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press?
We are tools and vassals for rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping
jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and
our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual
prostitutes." (emphasis added)
Cohen, Senior Producer of CBS political news, stated:
are going to impose our agenda on the coverage by dealing with issues and
subjects that we choose."
former President of CBS News:
"Our job is
to give people not what they want, but what we decide they ought to have."
Public Enemy No. 1 The
WHAT YOU SAY!
The Buzzsaw' - 18 Tales Of US Media Censorship By Michelle Goldberg AlterNet
By Don Williams
And Afghanistan - How To Understand Media Spin
the Law Bush’s Racial Coup D’Etat and Intell Shutdown
By Greg Palast
SWEET MESSAGE FOR AMERICANS -- "WE ARE FAMILY"
By Norman Solomon / Creators Syndicate
opinion opposes the attack on Afghanistan By David Miller
no news is good news by Duncan Campbell
Hawk Down" – Hollywood drags bloody corpse of truth across movie screens
By Larry Chin
on the Media 1/9/02 CHOCOLATES AND NYLONS, SIR?
By David Podvin
Sullivan's selective Enron outrage The failed energy trader didn't just spend
money on politicians.
It gave handily to journalists, too. But why is Sullivan
most angry about the one liberal who cashed in?
THE MEDIA LIE
Corporate Structure Of The Mass Media
letter to Helen Thomas: Where are those AWOL skeptics?''
By George Lewandowski YellowTimes.org Content Director
Public Enemy No. 1 The Media!
By Ted Lang 12-1-5
No conspiracies, huh? And no media collaboration with
these conspiracies either, huh? When I tried to point out the unity of
government and media that continuously partner to propagandize illegal and
immoral policies guaranteed to destroy America's founding concept of maximum
individual human freedom, a so-called "libertarian" website put me down. I
wasted no time in relegating that highly articulate and totally ignorant moron
and "libertarian" gatekeeper and his website to the lowest level of news and
opinion writing. Fortunately for the mainstream libertarian Internet
philosophers, this is a lightly trafficked and not very popular site.
"The media is the enemy!" This is the title of the
introductory narrative of American Free Press.net. AFP offers: "In the old
Soviet Union, the government controlled the media. Not a word of substance could
be published without prior approval from the Bolshevik commissars. Today, in the
United States, the situation is starkly similar. But most Americans don't even
In the United States today, it is a select handful of
super-rich families and tightly-knit financial interests-a plutocratic elite-who
own the Big Media and who control the government through their ownership of that
media. . . . Every single one of the major media outlets is controlled by this
powerful interlocking combine."
Now if this isn't a revelation, I don't know what is.
It is well known that today's media is subservient to the Bush administration,
having consistently covered up the staggering number of Bush violations of both
domestic and international law and treaties. So there is nothing at all
revealing about such observed and proven fact. Let's digress for a moment and
review the long and growing list of totally spiked vital news issues and those
that have been severely delayed or underplayed to dilute their newsworthy
We can start with the spiriting out of the country by
the FBI, immediately following 9-11, of about two dozen relatives of Osama bin
Laden. Although briefly aired, the mainstream media quickly dismissed this
blockbuster issue and never revisited it in terms of commentary and analysis. No
one in America was allowed such rapid, secret and taxpayer-funded expatriation,
presumably for their own safety. And remember as well the connection between
9-11 Commissioner Tom Kean, the former governor of New Jersey, and his Amerada
Hess oil business association with Khalid bin Mahfouz, Osama's brother-in-law.
Do you recall either reading or seeing this blockbuster revelation air in "our"
mainstream media [MSM]?
What about the "Weehawken Five?" Remember when the MSM
first exposed the eyewitness account leading to the arrest of the "five
celebrating Arabs?" Was there any follow-up? Was there any emphasis in reporting
that the five were not only Israeli nationals, but were employed at the time of
their arrest as agents of the MOSSAD?! Recall the blockbuster headlines
revealing traces of explosives in their van, and box cutters, and over $4,000 in
cash? Recall the blockbuster headlines when Chertoff and "our" Department of
"Justice" quietly released them and allowed them to return to Israel? And what
of the four-part FOXNews Carl Cameron series about the 140 "art students," all
of whom were Mossad agents? Why has that archived story disappeared?
Then we have the spiking of the Downing Street Memo,
the confused reporting and media bumbling related to the Plame-CIA scandal, and
the virtual total spike of the AIPAC/Larry Franklin spy affair. And although
some news developments were appropriately aired initially, the Abu Ghraib and
the Sibel Edmonds exposés come to mind, there was no real investigative
follow-up and analysis on either. It was the Internet that blew the lid off
these government criminal activities.
These spikes, downplays and failed follow-ups are
easily verified by FAIR [Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting], the media watchdog
group founded by Jeff Cohen. The organization went totally ballistic when The
New York Times continuously refused to air the Downing Street Memo. A review of
the P. U. Awards on their site will list even more despicable journalistic
That all having been once again established, let's
return to what precisely constitutes the astonishing revelation offered by
American Free Press. It is AFP's position that it is not the government that
dominates the media, but just the other way around! After laundry listing the
big media newspapers and national TV networks, AFP goes on: "And these media
powerhouses control dozens-actually thousands-of other daily and weekly
newspapers, magazines, and radio and television outlets across America (and
around the globe)."
AFP continues: "To consolidate their influence, the
Masters of the Media and their international corporate allies reward obedient
journalists with membership in the Council on Foreign Relations or the
Trilateral Commission where they rub shoulders with others in the international
policy-making networks. A handful get promoted to the higher ranks of the secret
It has long been pointed out by Dr. Henry A, Makow,
that the Rothschild-Rockefeller satanic cult of international bankers,
identified as the "Illuminati," conveys their presence, influence and control
through these very same established, legitimized and powerful international
organizations. Bill Clinton was supported by the Trilateral Commission, while
just in the past presidential elections, Democrat John Edwards was picked by the
Bilderbergs as the vice presidential candidate after impressing them with his
public speaking capabilities.
It was Rush Limbaugh who so vituperatively and
correctly pointed to "liberal media bias," but only because the regime then in
power was the Clinton administration. A truckload of anti-media books hit the
conservative publication circuits, eventually led by media veteran Bernard
Goldberg. This episode of MSM bashing was what started their demise. Comparing
their favoritism for Clinton then, to their kowtowing for Bush now, their
dedication to any American regime that implements their policy negates the
validity of the existence of a "liberal" media. All that needs doing to verify
the falsehood of a "liberal" media is to read the angry editorials launched by
liberal Jeff Cohen at the "liberal" New York Times for not airing the Downing
The next dark void of political sophistry an inquiring
mind must traverse is that of the false journalistic posturing that offers that
the press is always mindful of the stresses of those in power in Washington,
especially during a time of war. This stance excuses journalists and the press
from asking the "hard" questions. But what is so biased about questions such as
those inquiring as to our military's body counts, or battle maps, or
communicating information in terms of front line combat film and videos as was
the practice in World War II, Korea and Vietnam? How about advancing this simple
question: Where's the "front?" Why virtually no combat videos or photos from any
MSM entity? Without even a rudimentary front line, it is clear we are fighting
armed civilians, armed civilians who are not "insurgents," but in reality
freedom fighters, constituting an armed resistance against Bush's illegal and
The nose-diving popularity of both Bush and his war
tell the story of an American public that is becoming increasingly informed, in
spite of news event and information manipulation by the "American" press.
Limbaugh brought it into focus, even if by way of inaccurate analogy; but now
it's here to stay! On an ever-increasing basis, Americans are beginning to
distrust the mainstream media Limbaugh first isolated via his "bias" label.
An article carried on DRUDGE and originated on
Breitbart.com and entitled "A future of empty doorsteps? Dark days for US
newspapers," once again laments the decreasing popularity and declining
circulation numbers of America's newspapers. Understandably, Matt Drudge,
obviously enjoying these glum statistics citing the continuing decline of the
American MSM, which they themselves admit to, relishes their misery as it serves
to alleviate any frustration whatsoever that he may have experienced for their
having banished him from their exclusive and elitist circles. His override of
the decision by the Washington Post, exacerbated by Michael Isikoff's flight
over the intended spike by the Post of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair and his
joining Newsweek, gave Drudge the break he needed to run with the story on the
Internet. The Lewinsky blockbuster was to the Internet what the Nixon-Kennedy
televised debates and Watergate were to network TV news.
The November 13th Breitbart article basically follows
on to the dismal reports first announced this year back in May, as offered by
the media's mainstream internal journal, Editor & Publisher. As presented by
Kevin Craver on Rathergate.com, in his "Opening thread declining newspaper
circulation," Craver writes, "The newspaper industry is calling May 2 'Black
Monday.' Editor & Publisher crunched the latest circulation numbers, and hoo-boy,
are they bad.
How bad, do you ask? The Baltimore Sun's circulation
dropped 11.5 percent in daily circulation and 8.4 percent in Sunday circulation.
In one year, the paper lost 10 percent of its readers.
As for other big losers, the Chicago Tribune was down
6.6 percent daily (as was the Rocky Mountain News) and 4.6 percent Sunday. The
Denver Post lost 6.3 percent for daily circ. The Los Angeles Times dropped 6.4
percent daily and 7.9 percent on Sunday. The Cleveland Plain Dealer lost 5.2
percent daily, and the San Francisco Chronicle slid by 6 percent daily and 7.7
percent on Sundays.
Nationwide the hurt was still significant. The Miami
Herald was down 3.7 percent daily and 3.9 percent Sunday. The Houston Chronicle
slipped by 3.9 percent daily, and the Washington Post was down 2.6 percent for
daily and 2.4 percent for Sunday."
As newspaper circulation continues to tank, viewership
of network TV news is also declining. I combined this observation, as well as
that of newspapers in a piece I wrote earlier challenging the myopic views of
one Evan Cornog, whom I introduced in that effort as being the publisher of the
Columbia Journalism Review, and who also serves as an associate dean of the
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. I then pointed out, as I am
doing once again, that it is his prestigious institution of higher learning that
awards the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism, and is, therefore indeed, a bastion of
journalistic professionalism in America. I reflected upon how Cornog sounded off
in New Jersey's largest newspaper, The Star-Ledger, complaining about the plight
of the poor underdog "free and independent press." He whined about the
government bullying of the press.
Apologizing for my redundancy in focusing on this
highly-credentialed superior elitist educator and enabler of the American press,
it is obvious that Cornog must keep tabs on the pulse and activities of all the
journalistic endeavors performed by the MSM, and evaluate and tailor
journalistic education to adequately prepare new and emerging journalistic
professionals for a successful career. As such, his adulation of the suffering
of Judith Miller was totally out of place, as confirmed by her and The New York
Times' parting of ways. It was only weeks after Cornog's myopic and incorrect
observations whereupon Miller departed the Times.
Confirming my earlier argument, the Miller debacle now
joins the Jason Blair debacle at The New York Times, the latter disgrace
resurrecting the 1932 Pulitzer Prize scandal of William Duranty. It was Cornog's
Columbia Graduate School that awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Duranty's cover-up
of the starvation murders of approximately eight million Ukrainians and his
shilling for Communist Dictator Josef Stalin. And to avoid redundancy, I will
point to only Cornog's title and subtitle in his Columbia Journalism Review
essay of January/February 2005: "Lets Blame the Reader Is it possible to do
great journalism if the public does not care?" The titles alone tell the story
Mr. Cornog is totally out of touch with reality.
Cornog's complaints are not only removed from reality;
they're twice removed! First, it is clear that Cornog would never subscribe to
the Limbaugh-originated charge of either a biased or "liberal" press. And
secondly, he would never entertain the idea of a small group of power brokers
using the press as an instrument to control government. Let's look at both these
aspects of the MSM.
Realistically, and starting with newspapers and/or
"news" pamphlets, the latter identified even by Cornog as having informed,
educated and then motivated a large number of American colonists to initiate the
Revolutionary War against England and King George III, it is unrealistic to cite
political objectivity in any journalistic endeavor. No matter how much effort is
expended to display an aura of objectivity delineating fact from opinion, there
really is no such thing. As offered by Doug Thompson, long-time journalist and
editor-publisher of Capitol Hill Blue, "Journalism is best served by those who
follow the story wherever it leads and don't let political or philosophical bias
sway their course. That's something that those who write from a partisan point
of view, and too many of those who teach journalism, can't possibly comprehend
but those of us who actually practice the craft understand. I've been doing it
that way for more than 40 years and I expect to be doing it for 40 more."
Thompson offered that statement in a combative piece
entitled, "Partisans can't be journalists," published in Capital Hill Blue in
his column "The Rant." Thompson wrote the article in anger, anger directed at a
fellow pundit and sometimes "liberal journalist," William Rivers Pitt. Permit me
once again, to digress for a bit. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a
journalist. But the rapid and astonishing demise of the political institutions
of our nation, in terms of our loss of domestic freedoms and our international
war crimes against all humanity, forces me to express my disdain for ALL
politics, thereby, in all likelihood, nullifying my baccalaureate diploma in
Political Science. I try to avoid name-calling or specific references to either
Internet websites or other writers, including the "libertarian" moron who set me
off on this effort.
But as Columbia's associate dean Cornog points out,
newspapers didn't take off in the Colonies until they aligned themselves
politically one way or another either for or against the English king.
Regrettably, that journalistic fact of life, establishing that there was indeed
a partisan bias on the part of the American press even back then, is now used to
protect both American politicians and the MSM today. There is NO BIAS in the MSM
they now ALL speak with one tongue. The growing irrelevance of newspapers and
the entire MSM is so precisely because they are now seen by the American public
as being a centralized, monolithic and totally homogenized political support
Journalistic bias in the MSM was never the problem! The
problem is lack of competition between journalistic sources that can build
support from the reading and news-consuming public. Competition is the key, and
not a monolithic press joined together by the one voice of the Masters of the
Media! Bush is being protected by these wealthy globalists! Serving the
military-industrial complex and Israel, both of which serve the globalists and
their New World Order agenda, is what motivates them in ensuring Bush and the
GOP's success! And as there is no "product differentiation" between MSM
entities, there is also no difference between Republicans and Democrats.
At first, I was repulsed by the partisanship that has
now infected the new "alternative media," the Internet. Here's Doug Thompson's
assessment: "Normally, I don't pay much attention to the patter on Internet
bulletin boards particularly extreme partisan boards like Free Republic on the
right or Democratic Underground on the left." There is no question, that the
larger and more successful and highly trafficked websites can be codified as
either "Republican" or "Democrat." This has, in the past, extremely depressed
me; but no longer. It may take time, but eventually, the freedom of the
Internet, allowing the news-consuming public to make choices, will serve to
inform the public of the truth much faster than a homogenized, monolithic MSM
controlled by eight plutocratic families.
Ideally, journalistic professionalism and objectivity
would be best, but this is increasingly recognized, at least by me, as becoming
an unattainable quest. Although Thompson seems well anchored in professionalism,
the mainstream sites in today's alternative media [AM] on the Internet are
evidencing the same start-up partisanship characteristic of our founding
loyalist versus radically-oriented American press. I subscribe fully to
Thompson's quest for the truth: "I don't like liars. I don't like elected
leaders who deceive the country they have sworn to serve. I've found in more
than 40 years of journalism that most elected officials are dishonest and put
their own political interests above what is best for the nation. It doesn't
matter if they are Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, left-wing or
Thompson reinforces his posture offering further: "And
I don't care much for partisans who claim to be journalists while publishing
under a political party banner. Truth is non-partisan. It doesn't' subscribe to
a particular political philosophy. And truth is not served by an alternative
media that looks at things from a partisan political slant. A Robert Novak who
writes that all things Democratic are bad is no different from a William Rivers
Pitt who claims the same things about Republicans." Perfectly said, and in fact,
a repeat of my own quote in my newsletter founding my own citizen's action
group: Truth is non-partisan.
Once this simple concept is grasped, the propaganda
rants of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, as well as those of Michael
Moore, Al Franken, and William Rivers Pitt, fall by the wayside. Their opinions
and statements are totally irrelevant. They support what is only the most evil
and immoral aspect of American life: politics.
Politics will not fix a flat tire. Politics will not
feed and clothe a hungry child. Politics doesn't protect human life it usually
serves to do just the opposite. Politics and its government institutions offer
absolutely nothing useful to the sustenance of human life it only takes away
from God's precious gift. The only value MSM political and statist whores focus
on is the speechmaking and speaking capabilities of politicians. They never take
lying politicians to task requiring them to follow through on either their
promises or oaths of office. Political campaigns are just another way of
separating hardworking Americans from their wealth and the fruits of their
labors by transferring tax dollars into campaign payoffs to the MSM's Masters;
the latter grow rich via the lies, falsehoods, criminal activities and mass
murders orchestrated by our criminal political ruling class and their evil
It is the corporate establishment mainstream media that
makes political crimes either acceptable or allows them to go completely
unnoticed. It is the MSM that is destroying America. And if the Masters of the
Media start to recognize that they are losing the ability to bullshit the
American people en masse, you can readily assume that these eight gangsters will
do whatever is necessary to bring the alternative media in line with their
globalists New World Order agenda. Control of the Internet is definitely on
their radar screen. Look at what the Internet has already done to retard and
obstruct the Bush/GOP agenda to sell America out to the New World Order.
But if the Masters of the Media destroy the Internet,
computer-based publishers and other non-professional journalists will again
start printing and handing out newsletters and pamphlets think of Tom Paine
and Benjamin Franklin. Our nation was launched by a pamphlet I see it being
saved by secretly distributed and circulated pamphlets and newsletters. The
truth has always been more powerful then any tyrant and his blue, brown or
black-shirted goons and thugs and their badges, uniforms, arm bands and guns.
Every dictatorship in human history has been brought down, either non-violently
or via the brute force of the people. Considering the terror-based people
control that Democrat and Republican partisans both are increasingly subscribing
to, there will indeed be a forceful overthrow of our criminal and tyrannical
despotic American political State. And I am hoping it will happen in my
Theodore E. Lang THEODORE E. LANG 11/30/05 All rights
reserved Ted Lang is a political analyst and freelance writer.
WHAT YOU SAY!
Democrat, Saturday, 10/13/01)
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001
13:28:48 -0700 From: Peter Phillips peter.phillips@SONOMA.EDU
Project Censored http://www.projectcensored.org/
Subject: WATCH WHAT YOU SAY!
WATCH WHAT YOU SAY! by Carl
(Press Democrat, Saturday,
The free flow of information
in America is slowing to a carefully monitored trickle.
The President of the United
States says he can only trust eight members of Congress.
The Attorney General
admonishes Congress to pass the controversial Anti-terrorism Act without debate.
The National Security
Adviser cautions the television networks not to broadcast press conferences with
Taliban leaders because they may contain hidden messages.
The military tells the press
this is a "different war" and thus can't observe the 1992 agreement
allowing the media more access to information.
The State Department tells
the Voice of America radio network not to broadcast an interview with Taliban
leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.
The President's press
secretary warns the media and all Americans, "to watch what they say and
watch what they do."
These are ominous signs for
a democracy. We may be united in our effort to bring the terrorists to justice
but we should not be so willing to give up our civil rights and civil liberties.
We must not allow patriotism
to become an excuse for censorship. This is where Project Censored, the national
media research project headquartered at Sonoma State University, plays such an
important role in our society.
Project Censored is an early
warning system of the problems that plague us. Over the years it tried to warn
us about many of the challenges we now face.
One of those challenges is
the threat of biological and chemical attacks in the United States. In the past
ten years, Project Censored raised the issue of biological and chemical warfare
seven times. A 1981 story reported that while research on these weapons was
banned in 1969 due to public pressure, the CIA still maintained biological
warfare stockpiles. Further, a 1998 story revealed that the biological weapons
materials the UN inspection teams were seeking in Iraq was supplied by U.S.
Another challenge is the
possible Taliban use of U.S.-made Stinger missiles against our aircraft. A
censored story of 1993 told how the CIA was desperately but unsuccessfully
trying to buy back hundreds of surface-to-air Stinger missiles that it secretly
gave the Afghan guerrillas a few years earlier. The top censored story of 1997
said the U.S. was the principal arms merchant for the world and warned that U.S.
troops may be at risk from our own weapons.
In 1984, Project Censored
reported that the U.S. had secretly given the Afghan rebels up to $300 million
in covert aid, far more than the controversial $24 million it had given the
Nicaraguan contras. A censored story in 1989 revealed how CBS News broadcast
pro-guerrilla biased news coverage of the Afghanistan war.
Ironically, one of the
censored stories of 1983 reported how the Pentagon wanted to establish special
"state defense forces" to prevent or suppress terrorism. The proposal
failed. For more information on these and other censored stories, please visit www.projectcensored.org
The tragic events of
September 11 shocked many Americans who could not believe anyone could hate us
that much. An explanation might be found in the number seven censored story of
1999. It reported how international news began to fade from America's newspapers
in the 1970s following the Vietnam War.
Journalist Peter Arnett
offered one explanation as to why Americans are less informed about what's going
on in the rest of the world. "...most of the nation's newspapers and
magazines and television stations, seeking greater profits through larger
audiences, fed the public a diet of crime news, celebrity gossip, and soft
features, choosing to exclude more serious topics that news managers feared
would not stimulate public attention."
All this is not to say that
the terrorist acts would not have taken place if the press had provided us with
more objective coverage of the Middle East but perhaps it would have made us
more vigilant and better prepared.
Unfortunately, instead of
alerting us to these and other important issues, the news media distracted us
with a phenomenon Project Censored calls junk food news--stories about O.J.
Simpson, Y2K, Monica Lewinsky, Gary Condit, and "reality" television
programs like "Survivor."
Finally we urge the press to
be responsible in its coverage of this conflict. It is far easier but less
responsible to beat the drums when jingoism runs loose in the streets than to
carefully report events in a context that makes sense.
In the same way we survived
Pearl Harbor, we will survive the 9/11 terrorist attack. In the meantime, let us
not be terrorized into giving up any of our constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Carl Jensen Founder of
Peter Phillips Ph.D.
Sociology Department/Project Censored Sonoma State University 1801 East Cotati
Ave. Rohnert Park, CA 94928 707-664-2588
Project Censored http://www.projectcensored.org/
The Buzzsaw' - 18 Tales Of US Media Censorship
Between them, the authors of
the incendiary new book "Into the Buzzsaw," out this month from
Prometheus, have won nearly every award journalism has to give -- a Pulitzer,
several Emmys, a Peabody, a prize from Investigative Reporters and Editor, an
Edward R. Murrorw and several accolades from the Society of Professional
Journalists. One is veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration and a best-
selling author, another is a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.
And most of them are
considered, at best, marginal by the mainstream media. At worst, they've been
deemed incompetent and crazy for having the audacity to uncover evidence of high
crimes and misdemeanors committed by government agencies and corporate octopi.
Edited by ex-CBS producer
Kristina Borjesson, "Into the Buzzsaw" is a collection of essays,
mostly by serious journalists excommunicated from the media establishment for
tackling subjects like the CIA's role in drug smuggling, lies perpetuated by the
investigators of TWA flight 800, POWs rotting in Vietnam, a Korean war massacre,
the disenfranchisement of black voters in Bush's election, bovine growth
hormone's dangers and a host of other unpopular issues.
"the buzzsaw" as "what can rip through you when you try to
investigate or expose anything this country's large institutions -- be they
corporate or government -- want to keep under wraps. The system fights back with
official lies, disinformation, and stonewalling. Your phone starts acting funny.
Strange people call you at strange hours to give you strange information. The
FBI calls you. Your car is broken into and the thief takes your computer and
your reporter's notebook and leaves everything else behind ... The sense of fear
and paranoia is, at times, overwhelming."
The majority of the eighteen
pieces in Borjesson's book are about hard-working mainstream journalists,
dedicated to the ideals of their profession, who stumble into the buzzsaw and
have their careers and reputations eviscerated. Though the subjects and
personalities involved are wildly diverse, the stories echo each other in
disturbing ways. Journalists are sent by their bosses to do their jobs -- in the
case of Borjesson, to investigate the crash of TWA Fight 800 as a producer for
CBS news. Sometimes what they find is impolitic, other times it brings threats
of corporate lawsuits. Suddenly, editors kill the story, or demand changes. In
some instances, like that of TV reporter Jane Akre, who was investigating the
use of Monsanto's Bovine Growth Hormone, reporters are ordered to insert
outright lies in their pieces or face firing. Other times, like with Gerard
Colby's book about the Du Pont family and Gary Webb's San Jose Mercury News
series about the CIA's role in the crack epidemic, the bosses are spooked after
the fact and withdraw their support from work already published, hanging
reporters out to dry.
In the aftermath of Enron,
plenty of journalists came forward to publicly wring their hands about the
press's failure to catch the story before it destroyed the life savings of
thousands. Since then, though, there's been little sign of renewed vigilance
towards malfeasance at other companies, even though many have written that
Enron's business practices weren't particularly unusual. Without addressing
Enron directly, "Into the Buzzsaw" makes it pretty clear why this is
by showing how journalists who took on companies like Monsanto and Du Pont were
abandoned by their own editors and publishers and embroiled in lawsuits.
When they speak out, buzzsaw
victims are usually treated as paranoid conspiracy theorists. Competing outlets
valiantly defend the status quo -- The New York Times, The Washington Post and
the LA Times launched concurrent attacks on Gary Webb's series, eventually
derailing his career and causing his paper to print a retraction (though not of
any specific facts mentioned in the story). Writing of this episode in the book
"Whiteout," Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair said, "From
the savage assaults on Webb by other members of his profession, those unfamiliar
with the series might have assumed that Webb had made a series of wild and
unsubstantiated charges, long on dramatic speculation and short of specific data
or sourcing. In fact, Webb's series was succinct and narrowly focused."
Borjesson was subject to
similar attempts at character assassination by her former peers. After Borjesson
was fired from CBS, she was asked to develop a pilot for a new investigative
series to be overseen by Oliver Stone. She gathered over thirty eyewitnesses who
disputed the official government story, but before production even started,
other journalists started sneering at the project. Newsweek called Stone the
"latest conspiracy crank to delve into the mysterious crash." Time
Magazine chimed in with an article headlined "The Conspiracy Channel?"
The New York Times dismissed Borjesson's reporting simply because government
agencies denied its truth (never mind they were the very agencies Borjesson was
There's something of an
X-Files feel to a lot of these stories, though not in the way that condescending
guardians of official truth think. Rather, their surreal feeling comes from the
first-person experiences of people finding the institutions they've served all
their lives suddenly turning on them. As Borjesson writes, "Walk into the
buzzsaw and you'll cut right to this layer of reality. You will feel a deep
sense of loss and betrayal. A shocking shift in paradigm. Anyone who hasn't
experienced it will call you crazy. Those who don't know the truth, or are
covering it up, will call you a conspiracy nut."
In fact, that's just what a
lot of these writers have been called. Once a journalist has been tossed out of
the inner circle, anything they write can be smeared as sour grapes or mere
ranting. The media has already branded them unreliable, so their charges are
extremely unlikely to be taken seriously.
A similar thing happens to
other progressive media critics. It's not that the media isn't interested in
media stories -- see the blanket coverage of Tina Brown's foibles at Talk. It's
just that few are interested in critiques that challenge the very essence of
journalists' romantic dreams of themselves as Robert Redford playing Bob
Woodward in "All the Presidents Men." Right-wingers like
"Bias" author Bernard Goldberg tend to get much more attention,
perhaps because their insights don't threaten most journalists' cherished
While most alternative press
readers are familiar with Noam Chomsky's scrupulous documentation of the way
government lies become the media's conventional wisdom and with Robert McChesney
(who wrote Buzzsaw's conclusion) and Mark Crispin Millers' analysis of corporate
consolidation, they are routinely written off by those policing the perimeters
of acceptable debate. They hardly ever appear in major newspapers or on network
TV. While not quibbling with their facts, most media people tar them as
alarmists or unrealistic utopians.
Indeed, some of the writers
in Buzzsaw say that, before their own experiences, they were among the scoffers.
Webb writes, "If we had met five years ago, you wouldn't have found a more
staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me ... I was winning awards,
getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging
journalism contests. So how could I possibly agree with people like Noam Chomsky
and Ben Bagdikian, who were claiming the system didn't work, that it was steered
by powerful special interests and corporations, and existed to protect the power
But, like most of the
contributors to "Into the Buzzsaw," he did his job too well and the
powers that be hurled him onto the other side of the looking glass. "And
then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had
been," he writes. "The reason I'd enjoyed such smooth sailing for so
long hadn't been, as I'd assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at
my job ... The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn't written anything
important enough to suppress."
The routine maginalizing of
media critics is one reason "Into the Buzzsaw" is so important. It
might be possible to discredit one erstwhile insider, but to argue that more
than a dozen veterans of organizations like CBS News, CNN, The AP, The BBC and
The San Jose Mercury News are all crazy in exactly the same way would be to
engage in conspiracy-mongering more far-fetched than anything these authors are
accused of. And while plenty of lefty writers have excoriated media monopolies,
rarely has the precise way that corporate ownership and intimidation warp
newsroom values been made quite so explicit. The value of these testimonies is
largely in their minute accumulation of detail (which occasionally makes for
tedious reading but enhances credibility). Borjesson is especially systematic,
laying out every meeting, every conversation, every contradiction in government
Some contributors aren't
quite so convincing. The book as a whole would have been stronger without April
Oliver's self-serving piece about her involvement in CNN's Tailwind debacle and
subsequent firing. She doesn't bother to refute the charges made against her or
defend the finer points of her work, which makes her essay seem like a
self-serving screed. But that's just one weak spot in an otherwise appallingly
convincing book, a book that suggests that the truth about our
media-military-industrial complex might go beyond even our paranoid imaginings.
Beyond the specifics of each
story, "Into the Buzzsaw" is about how the elite sector of the media
bestows the imprimatur of truth on its own interpretations of the world. In the
current landscape, of course, these same outlets largely take it upon themselves
to determine which books should be deemed serious. It will be interesting to see
if "Into the Buzzsaw" gets any play in the outlets it exposes.
Don't count on it.
Michelle Goldberg is a
freelance journalist based in Brooklyn.
Reproduced gratefully from: AlterNet.org
White House censorship
October 14, 2001—The TV
networks should not let the White House censor their news, even if Condoleeza
Rice's "gentle suggestion" had the implied threat of financial
punishment via adverse FCC actions.
Americans need to hear Osama
bin Laden's grievances, not because we will excuse Sept. 11 , but because we
need to determine if actions abroad by our corporations and their supporters in
the US government are contributing to the rise of attacks on America. The White
House may be worried about what bin Laden will reveal.
The Bush administration's
decision to let defense contractor Lockheed Martin sell 52 F16 fighters to
Israel, announced on Sept.5, may have triggered the Sept. 11 attacks one week
The Arab world was enraged
because Sharon had used F16s to attack the Palestinians this summer, after
President Bush adopted his hands off policy. (Lockheed had sold 50 F16s to
Israel earlier, in 1999, for $2.5 billion.
In interviews with CNN in
1997, with ABC News in 1998, and in his 1998 Jihad declaration, Osama Bin Laden
had explicitly cited US's support of Israel—and its harmful effects on Muslim
Palestinians—as one of the motivations for Jihad.
Why did Bush approve the F16
sale at this time? Vice President Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne Cheney, was on
Lockheed Martin's Board of Directors from 1994 until January of this year—she
may have exerted influence on Lockheed's behalf. The boost to the Fort Worth,
Texas, economy may have been a factor. Maybe they had to spend the money before
the end of the federal government's fiscal year—US taxpayers indirectly
subsidize the weapons sales, via the $3 billion in foreign aid that the US gives
Israel each year.
Another consideration is
that Cheney has long been interested in the huge Caspian Sea oil deposits. While
CEO at Halliburton, Cheney sat on Kazakhstan's Oil Advisory Board and his recent
energy report advocated that Bush direct the cabinet to "deepen their
commercial dialogue with Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and other Caspian states."
Interestingly enough, Kazakhstan also receives money from Lockheed Martin's
satellite launches at the Baikonur spaceport.
In the past, Cheney
advocated relaxation of sanctions against Iran so that a pipeline could be built
to carry Caspian oil to a tanker terminal on the Indian Ocean. Given China's
projected thirst for oil in the coming decades, the potential for profits is
enormous. However, a pipeline from Kazakhstan to the Indian Ocean via
Afghanistan and Pakistan would work equally well.
America will avenge Sept.
11. However, we should not be manipulated into a prolonged war that is not in
the national interest, even if it does promote some private business agendas.
Nor should US soldiers die simply to guard foreign investments of campaign
A few months ago, Bush gave
a huge tax break to America's wealthy. He should not now raid Social Security's
Trust Fund to protect the foreign investments of those same plutocrats. Even
before the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush's budget indicated that he would be borrowing
heavily from government trust funds ( Social Security, Medicare,etc.)— by
2011, the trust funds' assets will consist of $6 trillion in IOUs.
Recently, Bush pushed
through a huge increase in the defense budget. What he failed to mention is that
the US already spends more than the next 15 major powers combined. It is not
clear why $343 billion a year is not enough to protect the country, given that
our major opponents and allies spend much, much less: Russia $56 billion, China
$40 billion , Japan $46 billion, Britain $35 billion, Germany $23 billion,
France $27 billion.
After the Sept. 11 attacks,
the TV networks did something strange and unprecedented—they ran nearly
24-hour continuous coverage of the crisis for four days with no commercials.
Normally, the networks charge very high prices for advertising and they don't
give out much free airtime for public service—even during the national
Yet, a stock market report
indicates that the networks lost an estimated $100 million a day or $400 million
for the week. Since the networks had large expenses providing the coverage,
that's probably $400 million in lost profits. The owners of the four networks
are: General Electric (NBC ), Viacom (CBS), Disney (ABC) and AOL's CNN. Why did
the CEOs of all three corporations—known for an intense focus on profits—decide
to suffer such heavy losses?
Were the voters being
conditioned, by constant repetition of attack scenes and of people lost in
grief, to support some future government course of action? For whose benefit?
If you are interested in a
free subscription to The Konformist Newswire, please visit:
And Afghanistan - How To Understand Media Spin
Keller LewRockwell.com 11-3-1
Propaganda has accompanied
the majority of wars, as a precursor, during the war, and then as official
history after the dust has settled and the conquerors (aka peacekeepers) move
in. From Cato and Carthage down to Kuwaiti incubator babies, truth is indeed the
first casualty. Arguably, the first defeat for the US military in the propaganda
war was Vietnam. Being in the business of winning wars, the U.S. military
concocted new ways to control the media, and has adapted new strategies for an
increasingly connected world. The first test, and so far greatest victory for
the New World Order spin- masters, was the Persian Gulf War. We saw the daily
press briefing evolve into its current form as a carefully crafted propaganda
session designed to give the media the good news about how well the war is
going, and how the evil-doers are being punished. We saw the media assigned to
specific press liaison officers, and trucked around from location to location
under constant supervision. The press, as usual, ate it up.
The military employs
multiple strategies (and a PR firm or two) to shape public perception of the
news by controlling the information released to the media. Jared Israel wrote an
excellent article describing how these techniques are used in print (and
sometimes on TV). Words are chosen carefully based on the emotional response
they elicit. Certain facts are referred to again and again, while others are
completely ignored. Other "facts" are manufactured out of whole cloth,
usually with the tag "unsubstantiated" attached to allow weasel room
later. All events are scripted into a master storyline designed to paint the
conflict as one of good against evil. The side of righteous America is pitted
against the twisted Taliban, or Milosevic, or Iraq, or Noriega, etc.
Luckily (ha ha!), we have a
very recent military engagement to compare to our current situation. The
"humanitarian intervention" in Kosovo gives us something to compare
the selective use of images, interviews, and facts to understand how the
military and the media shape opinion. Let me restate: the government and
military use the media to shape your opinion, and they are very good at it. The
current bombing of Afghanistan and the 1999 bombing of Kosovo have a common
element that exposes the hypocrisy and selective reporting endemic to any war
effort. In both situations, military activity caused a massive refugee crisis,
but the way the refugees are portrayed is vastly different between the two wars.
Set aside whether the
refugees were the result of ethnic cleansing or people fleeing a bombing zone.
In Kosovo, close to two million refugees fled the province after the Nato
bombing campaign started. The media broadcast the suffering of hundreds of
thousands of refugees in the camps setup in neighboring Macedonia, Albania, and
Montenegro. Countless interviews, non-stop coverage of refugee columns, and an
appeal to send food and money to help the innocents driven out by war were the
common themes across all networks. Endless coverage of the refugees on TV made
the war for "humanitarian intervention" seem like a noble goal.
Americans were told that Slobodan Milosevic was carrying out his "final
solution" on Kosovo Albanians. Never mind that the refugees started leaving
Kosovo AFTER the bombs started falling.
During the bombing, the
talking heads in the media chattered about how the evil Serbs had caused such
misery. It was assumed that there was a deliberate program of ethnic cleansing.
This was easy to do with CIA trained KLA fighters providing all the translation
services, which invariably sounded like "They rounded us up and told us to
leave. They took our papers." These reports were taken at face value. So,
blame for the refugee crisis was placed squarely on the Serbs. There's plenty of
evidence that the refugee crisis in Kosovo was the result of bombing, and scant
little that it was an organized program. The Germans admitted as much when a top
general came clean about how his spies faked "Operation Horseshoe".
That and the fact that the body count on all sides has amounted to 3,200 instead
of the 100,000 that James Rubin claimed. That's after the bombing, and includes
military and civilian casualties on both sides. That's a forensics debate for
another day, however. For this article, we can even assume (for the sake of all
the Serb haters out there) that there was a program of ethnic cleansing.
Compare the non-stop
coverage of the Kosovo refugee crisis to the coverage of Afghan refugees. It's
estimated that over 80,000 refugees have made it into Pakistan since the bombing
started. The Red Cross states that over 2 million refugees are inside
Afghanistan, mostly headed for friendly Pakistan, but many have been turned
away. Two million Afghan refugees already live in Pakistani refugee camps. Where
are the camera crews in Pakistani refugee camps? I had to dig to turn up this
Reuters photo. You won't find the same kind of non- stop film coverage of an
even larger refugee crisis in Pakistan than the Kosovo refugees. Where is the
non-stop CNNBCBSMSNBCABC coverage, complete with clucking tongue commentary on
the cruelty of war? When the families of the dead are interviewed, or give
accounts of being bombed in their sleep, the Pentagon instructed media flacks
are quick to chime in with "those numbers of civilian casualties can't be
independently verified," a phrase seldom heard in the Kosovo conflict.
Let's compare the
government's handling of refugees in the Kosovo war with the current bombing of
Afghanistan. When the refugees started leaving Kosovo, the U.S. government asked
Macedonia, Montenegro, and (obviously) Albania to allow them across the border.
In this war, the U.S. has aided a willing Pakistani regime in keeping the
borders closed, and the refugees out. If too many refugees enter Pakistan, the
U.S. will be unable to convince the world, and more importantly, the Pakistani
government will be unable to convince their people, that this is a war of
"targeted strikes against terrorists, and not a humanitarian catastrophe in
the making. The war planners knew this and started dropping food packages early
on. The Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and the UNHCR agree that the food is
more for public relations than relieving hunger. We are scattering water drops
on a raging inferno of starvation, while blocking the fire trucks.
So, my question for the mass
media is this. Where are the CNN camera crews, pressed in around the refugees?
Where is Christiane Amanpore with her righteous indignation? Images are powerful
things. Americans see people suffering on TV, and they don't like it. The
military knows this. When it suited their purpose in Kosovo, they made sure to
pack the airwaves with images of the displaced and hungry. "See. We're
fighting to help save these people from oppression." When the story is
obviously one of suffering CAUSED by our military, the story gets reported in
print, if at all, and camera coverage is downplayed or outright spiked. No spin
in the world can hide that fact that our military has caused a massive refugee
crisis in Afghanistan. Will George W. Bush sit in the Hague kangaroo court with
Slobodan Milosevic to answer charges of genocide and ethnic cleansing? Not very
As I finish proofreading
this article, CNN manages to illustrate my point perfectly by calling for more
"balance" in reporting. Stop and think for a moment if you heard a
call to limit the amount of coverage given to civilian casualties in the Kosovo
war? Not for a second, because the Nato spin masters could pin it on the Hitler
de Jour, Mr. Milosevic.
This war isn't going all
that well. Americans are watching it while sitting in comfortable living rooms a
few feet from the refrigerator. If they see enough images of Afghan refugees
fleeing U.S. cluster bombs or digging for dead relatives in the remains of a
hospital hit by a "Bunker Buster" bomb, they might realize that this
war is not just. Don't be fooled by the media spin. Read for fact, verify facts,
avoid the biased words, and draw your own conclusions.
Copyright © 2001
the Law Bush’s Racial Coup D’Etat and Intell Shutdown
Did Jeb Bush fix the Florida
election long before any votes were cast? Did President Bush shut down the FBI,
CIA and other intelligence agencies’ investigations into terror networks prior
to 9-11, leaving America wide open to the attacks?
In a conversation with GNN
Executive Editor Anthony Lappé, journalist Greg Palast breaks down two of the
biggest scoops you’ve never heard and explains how they, and other
groundbreaking stories, are ignored by most mainstream news outlets.
Palast is no conspiracy nut.
His special investigations regularly lead the BBC’s Newsnight program. His
bi-weekly column for London’s Observer newspaper has earned him numerous
awards including the Financial Times David Thomas Prize. Last year, Salon.com
selected his report on the U.S. elections as politics story of the year.
Yet despite all the props,
Palast, a Canadian, works in exile in London - unable to find work in what he
calls the “gutless” North American media. Like the best muckrakers, he is
angry, opinionated and armed with a tireless desire to expose the truth. His
stories about Bush’s election theft and intelligence cover-up - both backed up
with smoking gun documents, inside sources and on-the-record interviews - will
shock even the most informed GuerrillaNews reader:
Above the Law
Bush’s Racial Coup D’Etat and Intell Shutdown
Lappé: Thanks Mr. Palast
for talking with us today.
You have broken two major
stories concerning President Bush in the last year - both of which have gotten
little play here in the U.S. Let’s start out by looking back at Florida: Last
week, the final report on the Florida recount funded by a consortium of various
media outlets was released. They found: Bush would have won if you only
recounted the counties the Gore team had requested, Gore would have won if it
But prior to all this, you
reported a story that looked into something that went down before the election
that in many ways makes these findings insignificant.
What did you find?
Palast: Yeah, insignificant.
No kidding. Maybe that’s what The New York Times sub-heading should be “All
the news that’s insignificant we print.”
First of all, the story I
broke was simple:
After looking at my evidence
printed in Britain, the Civil Rights Commission said the issue is not the count
of the votes in Florida – the issue is the no-count. What the commission meant
by the no-count is that it looks like maybe 100,000 people, at least 80,000
people, most of them black, were not permitted to vote who had a legal right to
vote in Florida.
That story was simply not
covered in the U.S. press. And that is how the election was won.
I reported that story for
the main paper of the nation. Unfortunately, it was the wrong nation. I reported
that story for the Guardian newspapers of Britain, and its related sister paper
The Observer, where I have a column on Sunday. I also reported it for BBC
television at the top of the nightly news, but again, it was the nightly news of
Britain where they found out who really won that election, just not in the U.S.
Here’s how they did it:
A few months before the
election, Katherine Harris’ office used computer systems to make up a list of
people to purge from the voter rolls of people who were supposedly felons –
people who committed serious crimes and therefore in Florida were not allowed to
vote. We now know those lists were as phony as a three-dollar bill. That maybe
approximately 90% of the people on those lists, and there were 57,700 people on
that list, approximately 90% were not felons and had the right to vote.
Surprise, surprise. At least 54% of the names on that list were black. We know
that because Florida is one of the few states under the U.S. Civil Rights Act
that actually has to track the race of each voter.
They used this racial
targeting system as a way to target and purge black voters. This was a very
sophisticated Jim Crow operation done by computers, completely hidden from the
public eye. And when they were asked about it they basically lied. The Governor,
the Secretary of State, and the head of the Florida Department of Elections all
lied under oath to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission about how that was done.
Now that was completely
covered in the British and European press. That is one of the reasons why when
Bush came over to Europe he was seen as a usurper and a pretender to the
presidency - not elected, but a guy who had conducted a sort of racial coup d’etat.
He was not seen as
The U.S. press did little
bits of the story and then buried it. My sister paper the Washington Post, (the
Guardian papers co-publish with the Washington Post) did run my story, buried, 7
months after the election. I wrote the story within 3 weeks of the election and
they didn’t publish it until seven months later, when it didn’t really
mater. And they only published it because the U.S. Civil Rights Commission said
my findings were correct. If I didn’t have that official approval, I don’t
think we would have seen that story at all.
And now these newspapers,
including the Washington Post and The New York Times, spent easily a couple of
million dollars doing what they called a “recount.” But in fact it was not a
recount. There were 180,000 votes in Florida that were never counted on order of
Katherine Harris, the Republican Secretary of State. These were 180,000 votes
that were never counted because they had some kind of technical error in them
– like a stray mark in it, or someone circled Al Gore’s name instead of
punching a hole, and it was not counted as an Al Gore vote.
Now you have to know I did
not support Al Gore, I am not here carrying his flag. I don’t care if he was
elected either way. That is not my interest. I am concerned about democracy.
The thing that those ballots
showed was something very simple: by a notable majority the people in Florida
voted for, and believed they voted for, and assumed their ballots would be
counted for, Al Gore.
Now how in the heck after
spending more than a million dollars and going through each of those ballots
that these so-called news organizations decided that Bush would have won it
anyway? What they said was under state of Florida rulings we exclude what people
wanted to do, we exclude what we see on the ballots, and we go by the Florida
rulings on what ballots should be excluded for technical reasons – and Bush
wins. Well, we knew that. We knew that because Katherine Harris already said
that Bush won on technical grounds. So we didn’t need to spend a million
We have to remember that
these news organizations had this information for months and withheld it. And
then in the middle of a war they release information and futsed with it so it
looked like Bush would have won anyway, or it’s hard to see, or Bush would
have won one way and Gore would have won another way. That’s nonsense. In a
democracy the intent of the voter is all that counts. In fact, the U.S. took
that position in two other elections in 2000: when Slobodan Milosevic
disqualified ballots and therefore won the presidency of Yugoslavia we refused
to recognize his government. And when Alberto Fujimori of Peru knocked out
counting of rural ballots for technical reasons, once again the U.S. refused to
recognize his presidency. The U.S. said you cannot win a presidency on a
technicality. We said that for Milosevic and for Fujimori but somehow we didn’t
say that to Mr. Bush.
It’s the votes that count
in a democracy. If the votes don’t count then it’s not a democracy.
If you go to my web site,
www.gregpalast.com, you can read my reports and watch the BBC reports for
yourself. I also have a book coming out called “The Best Democracy Money Can
Buy” (Pluto Press) which will be out in a couple of months in which I detail
as I did on BBC television, which you never saw in the U.S., how they had
planned to knock out the black voters well in advance and paid a Republican firm
$4 million to come up with a computer program to come up with a computer program
that would zoom in like a cruise missile and knock out these black voters.
They were so good knocking
out black voters they should hire this firm to knock out bin Laden. They were so
good at ferreting out democratic voters and purging them from the voter rolls,
we should have turned them on Al-Qaeda and maybe that would have made a
Lappé: Speaking of which,
let’s jump to the present and to another bombshell you recently reported: that
Bush has hindered the FBI’s investigation into various terrorist
organizations. What did you find?
Palast: We obtained
documents from inside the FBI showing that investigations had been shut down on
the bin Laden family, the royal family of Saudi Arabia - and that is big because
there are 20,000 princes in the royal family - and their connections to the
financing of terrorism.
Now there is one exception.
The FBI, the CIA and all the rest of the agencies are allowed to investigate
Osama, the so-called black sheep of the family. But what we were finding was
that there was an awful lot of gray sheeps in this family – which is a family
of billionaires which is tied in with the Saudi royal household which appears to
be involved in the funding of terrorist organizations or organizations linked to
terrorism. If you go the BBC site you will see me holding up documents from the
FBI talking about Abdullah bin Laden, Omar bin Laden and an organization called
the World Assembly of Muslim Youth which may or may not be a conduit for funds
to terrorists. Now the problem was the investigations were shut down. There were
problems that go back to Father Bush - when he was head of the CIA, he tried to
stop investigations of the Saudis, continued on under Reagan, Daddy Bush’s
president, and it continued under Clinton too, but not as severely. What I was
told by agents was that under Clinton agents were constrained but not prohibited
from taking on these investigations into the Saudis.
Lappé: Now what would be
behind all of this?
Palast: Let me get to this
one final point. While we did say FBI [in the article], I have to add it was
also CIA and all the other international agencies. You should know we were
attacked by friends of Bush for just mentioning the FBI. I have been trying to
protect my sources. But I can say that the sources are not just FBI trying to
get even with the other agencies, but in fact other agencies. The information
was that they were absolutely prohibited, until Sept. 11, at looking at the
Saudi funding of the Al-Qaeda network and other terrorist organizations.
There is no question we had
what looked like the biggest failure of the intelligence community since Pearl
Harbor but what we are learning now is it wasn’t a failure, it was a
directive. Now I am not part of the conspiracy nut crowd that believes George
Bush came up with a plan for an attack on the United States to save his
popularity. There is no evidence of that. That is completely outside of any
evidence I have seen. But what we find is something that, in a way, where the
effect is just the same – and it’s chilling. Which is that they blinded the
intelligence agencies and said you cannot look at the Saudis. Now the question
is why . . .
Now the answer kept coming
back with two words: One is Arbusto. The other was Carlyle. Now Arbusto is
Arbusto Oil. Arbusto means shrub in Spanish. Arbusto was the company that made
young George W. his first million. Now he had millions inherited from daddy and
grandpa, but this was his first million. He had established this basically
worthless company that kept digging dry holes in Texas and suddenly it got
financing from the Gulf region and Saudi Arabian-connected financiers and it was
taken over by a company called Harken Oil, which then received a very surprise
contract to drill in the Gulf. Suddenly, Arbusto Oil shares became worth quite a
The second company is
Carlyle. While people know companies like Boeing Aircraft and Lockheed, Carlyle
is just about the biggest defense contractor in the U.S. because behind a lot of
these companies like United Technology is the Carlyle investment group. Carlyle
is headed by Frank Carlucci who was Secretary of Defense under Daddy Bush and it
includes on its payroll James Baker, the Secretary of State under Daddy Bush,
who was very pro-Arab and pro-Saudi when he was in power. They have on their
payroll Daddy Bush, who is an advisor to their Asian panel, and he also
represented the company to the Saudi royal household in a couple of trips he
made there. In addition, our president George W. was collecting money from the
company by being on the Board of Directors of one of its subsidiaries, where I
am sure he added a lot of his business acumen to their operations. He picked up
$15,000-plus a year for showing up to a couple of board meetings. What is also
interesting in this company is that you have investment in the company by the
bin Laden family.
Now, let’s be careful I am
not a conspiracy nutter. I don’t think completely ill of the Bush family, and
I don’t think what happened here is that the bin Laden family and the Saudis
bought themselves two presidents of the United States, a simple purchase: “We
give you money and you call off the dogs and don’t let the CIA look at us.”
That is not what is going
What is going on is the Bush
family is an oil family. They have a natural business and political inclination
to support the royal household and their retainers like the bin Laden family.
These relationships are cemented by joint business ventures, by the Saudis
making your son, who becomes president, rich. It is not a pay-off. But let’s
put it this way: would you think that the people who just made your family
wealthier than it already is, made you a couple of a million bucks, would you
immediately think these people are also happen to be funding people who are
blowing up buildings in New York? You tend to say to your agencies which you
control: “Those are really good guys, leave them alone” – especially
because if we annoy them they will cut off our oil.
There seems to be this great
fear that the Saudi royal family will, I don’t know, fold their tents, get in
their Leer jets and go off to Monaco and let the fanatics take over Saudi Arabia
. . .
Lappé: Or if this comes out
this will weaken the rest of the American government’s resolve to support them
which will further weaken their ability to control the more radical forces
within the country . . .
Palast: Yeah, one of the
problems is exactly what is their relationship to the terror networks. One thing
you should know is that the Saudis say that they have removed Osama bin Laden’s
citizenship in Saudi Arabia. Of course, there are no citizens of Saudi Arabia,
there are only subjects. So he is not allowed to be a subject of the king of
Saudi Arabia. What a loss. And they have frozen his assets, supposedly. But the
information I am getting from other sources is that they have given tens of
millions of dollars to his networks. This is being done as much as a protection
racket as anything else.
Lappé: Some of this was
reported, or at least alluded to, in the recent Frontline report.
Palast: There was a little
bit of whispering in the Frontline by my buddy Lowell Bergman. He could go
further. At least you got a little bit of it on PBS. What is interesting is
Bergman, who is also a reporter for The New York Times, did not have this in The
New York Times.
Lappé: That is interesting,
I actually noticed that myself.
Palast: Now here is a guy
who has an agreement that whatever he puts on Frontline by contract can be put
in The New York Times exclusively. And here The New York Times skips the report.
Now we went further on BBC Newsnight, we had some of the same sources, and we
have been digging further. We are allowed to dig further.
We also had another source
explaining a meeting that was held, and I can’t give the details because I
would be scooping myself. But I got particulars of a meeting in which Saudi
billionaires up who would be responsible to paying what to Osama. And apparently
around the time of the meeting is when Osama blew up the Kohbar Towers in Saudi
Arabia killing 19 American servicemen. It was seen by the group as not so much a
political or emotional point, but as a reminder “to make your darn payment.”
Osama is often compared to
Hitler but he should be seen as John Gotti times one hundred. He is running a
massive international protection racket: Pay me or I will blow you up. The fact
these payments are made is one of the things the Bush administration is trying
very hard to cover-up.
Now whether these payments
were paid because they want to or it was coercion the Bush administration does
not want to make a point of it. I have to tell you the Clinton administration
was not exactly wonderful on this either. One of the points I made on the BBC
was there was a Saudi diplomat who defected. He had 14,000 documents in his
possession showing Saudi royal involvement in everything from assassinations to
terror funding. He offered the 14,000 documents to the FBI but they would not
accept them. The low-level agents wanted this stuff because they were tremendous
leads. But the upper-level people would not permit this, did not want to touch
this material. That is quite extraordinary. We don’t even want to look. We don’t
want to know. Because obviously going through 14,000 documents from the Saudi
government files would anger the Saudis. And it seems to be policy number one is
we don’t get these boys angry. Unfortunately, we see the results. We are
blowing up Afghanistan when 15 of the 19 bombers were from Saudi Arabia.
Not that I am friends of the
Taliban, who are vicious, brutal maniacs, but 15 of the 19 were Saudis and we
seem to be giving these guys a full and complete pass.
Lappé: Now let’s take
these two stories, the Florida election theft and the Saudi cover-up, together
as a backdrop. Paint me a picture of the Bush crew and how they operate. Are
they above the law?
Palast: Well, they are our
law. Remember they are two presidents of the United States, they go back
generations to the Mayflower. The Bush family is the one of the true royal
families of America. They have a long-term idea of what is good for us. Other
countries think it is quite spooky that we have a guy who came out of the CIA to
head of the nation. Just like Americans have a lot of doubts about Putin because
he was the head of the KGB. These people are used to secrecy and not letting
America know what would be frightening and troubling to us in our sweet
The problem is Sept. 11 took
away our innocence. The question is will it take away our blinders?
The U.S. press does not seem
capable of wanting to dig.
Lappé: Now why is that?
From an outsider looking in, you have the BBC, a news organization owned by the
government, and you have the American media, which has this great tradition of
Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate. They are independent organizations that
are not answerable to any government organization. Why is there this chasm
between investigative reporting in the U.K. and in America?
Palast: Well, first of all
you hit a good one. Woodward and Bernstein, which everyone comes back to, was
three decades ago! What has happened in thirty years? When have we had a story
in thirty years that has come close to that? I gave a talk with Seymour Hersh,
who is one of the guys who broke the My Lai story. That was thirty years ago. He
cannot work for an American newspaper. He writes for the New Yorker magazine.
Think about that. One of our best investigative reporters in America, he has won
at least two Pulitzer prizes, can’t even work for an American newspaper. What
is going on?
Investigative reporting is
so rare in America we had to make a movie out of it. I was on a panel at
Columbia University School of Journalism and there was a reporter who worked on
both continents who said that the odd thing he found was the worst thing you
could be called in an American newsroom is a “muckraker.” Someone who looks
like they are going after someone, someone who looks like they are getting too
enthusiastic about going after someone. No one likes that guy.
Look what happened to Lowell
Bergman. As soon as he said, ‘gee we really have to push a story that will
make corporate America a bit unhappy.’ They killed it. After all 60 Minutes
for the most part does mostly small potatoes stories. Small-time operators are
the ones basically in their sights. But when they took on a big operation like
tobacco they killed the story. I can tell you other stories with 60 Minutes that
are just insane that have gone by the boards. I did a story about George Bush’s
connections to a brutal gold mining company out of Canada. And 60 Minutes said,
“Oh we want to do a big story.” And I said, “Oh, no you don’t.” And
three days later they said, “Oh, we can’t do that story.”
Palast: They’re gutless.
No one has ever advanced their career in the last thirty years by coming up with
a great investigative piece. That is a way to get unemployed. Anyone who thinks
it’s all Murphy Brown and “All the President’s Men” out there is wrong.
That’s the fantasy. That’s all television and the movies. It’s not in the
newsrooms. If you say what I want to do is expensive and difficult and involves
getting inside documents, and upsetting the established order, you are not going
to get anywhere. Businessmen are the hardest ones to go after. You can go after
a crooked politician but go after a corporation . . .
Lappé: And their lawyers
will bury you . . .
Palast: Well, we have the
First Amendment, which by the way there is no First Amendment in Britain. There
is no freedom of speech or the press. Very difficult here legally, even though
culturally it’s easier to report the news here in Britain, even though you don’t
have the protection. But there is a great fear in the U.S. of corporate power,
which I think has a lot to do with losing advertisers. There is a legal question
because they can’t win lawsuits but they can cost you a lot of money. You are
looked at like some kind of left-wing, muckraker, conspiracy nut if you decide
to go past an official denial and say, “I don’t accept that. I want to see a
I got to tell you, I have
seen this over and over again: my story on the Florida elections - one of the
things I found out was that Jeb Bush had deliberately excluded at least 50,000
voters, 94% of them democrats, because they had been convicted of a crime in
another state. Now Florida under the U.S. constitution and its own constitution
they cannot do that – punish someone for a crime in another state by taking
away their right to vote in Florida. You can’t do that. They know that. When
we spoke to Jeb Bush’s functionaries they said we know we can’t do that, and
then quietly they said, but we do it anyway under instructions from our
superiors. The papers I was working for said, “Well, Jeb Bush denied it.”
And flat out denial from an official was enough to stop all these
investigations. Dead cold. I was with Salon.com. They killed the story. And it
was only later when the U.S. Civil Rights Commission said I was correct, and
then the state of Florida admitted what they did, and then I was vindicated.
The New York Times did a
story about how gold mining companies out of Nevada have tremendous influence
over the Bush administration. Nowhere in the story did they mention that George
Bush Sr. was on the board of the biggest gold mining company in Nevada. They
didn’t mention the name of the company. Here they are doing a story on gold
mining in Nevada and they don’t mention the name of overwhelmingly the biggest
company in Nevada, which by the way is called Barrick. And it had on its
advisory George Bush Sr.. It left out the name of the company and the fact it
had on its board a former president.
How did that happen? I can
tell you because that company sued my paper when I ran a story, and I have the
same lawyer as The New York Times. You can bet that The New York Times figured
out it was going to cost them money or create controversy. God forbid you create
controversy, that would be considered disastrous in a newsroom. When you get a
letter from a lawyer who says we disagree, the story gets blocked. The Globe and
Mail, which is the number one paper in Canada, was going to run the story. I was
told that the top people in the Globe and Mail killed the story. So you have
absolute direct corporate influence killing stories.
Most reporters understand
that it is not a career-maker to have these letters coming in. In other words,
you never want to have your killed. Because if your story is killed by corporate
big shots, from then on you are marked as a troublemaker and a problem, and your
career is in deep trouble. When a guy like Seymour Hersh can’t get a job with
an American newspaper. When Lowell Bergman has to work in the PBS ghetto. When
Greg Palast has to work in exile, there is a pretty evil pattern here.
What you see is
institutionalized gutlessness. I’m pissed off about it because I want to come
home and work. My kids have British accents. I wanna get home already.
Lappé: On that note, we’ll
wrap up. It seems that with this new war all of these trends you have talked
about are getting worse. Do you have any hope for the future of journalism?
Palast: My only hope for the
future of journalism is one word: the Internet.
The big boys are trying to
grab it and seize it and control it and own it and stop it and freeze it and
fill it up with corporate, commercialized crap and junk. But it is still the
conduit of the real information of the real information, the real news. You are
always being warned about things you read on the Internet. But be warned what
you read in The New York Times. At least when you read the Internet you know you
are getting all kinds of voices, some nuts, some real, and you evaluate it. The
problem with something like The New York Times is it is coming to you as the
stone-cold truth. It isn’t true that Bush would have won Florida anyway. When
the people voted they voted for Al Gore. He should have been inaugurated as
president, not because I like him, but because he got the vote nationwide and in
Florida, and they knew it and they didn’t tell you that.
I can tell you right now the
information I broadcasted on the BBC about the chilling of the investigation of
the FBI and the CIA of the bin Laden family and the Saudi royal family, and I
have more coming up, I can tell you that information was given to The New York
Times. They didn’t use it. It was given to 60 Minutes. Not that they aren’t
going to use it. It’s like my story about the elections. They run it seven
months later in the back of the paper. Or it’s just like the Florida vote
count. If you go to The New York Times web site you can get all the information
that shows that Gore won, but they either don’t run it, or eviscerate it, or
they give it to you chopped up and spin it so the order of things are not
I can’t tell you all the
reasons why that happens. I’m not sure myself. I think a lot of it is these
guys hang out together. They go to the same clubs and they go to each others’
It makes me ill.
It makes me want to throw up
when I watch Tom Brokaw, that fake fucking hairdo, go to dinner with Jiang Zemin
at the White House. He’s a reporter. What the fuck is he doing eating spring
rolls with a dictator? He should be reporting the story not breaking bread with
the powers-that-be. These guys can’t seem to find the distinction between
being in with the power and reporting on it.
So there you go.
Lappé: Thanks so much.
Mon, 26 Nov
Norman Solomon <firstname.lastname@example.org
SWEET MESSAGE FOR AMERICANS -- "WE ARE FAMILY"
Solomon / Creators Syndicate
On the magazine cover, the
big headline next to Oprah's shoulder is as warm and cuddly as the pair of
cocker spaniels in her lap. "WE ARE FAMILY," it says. "Now more
than ever: the power and pleasure of feeling connected."
Inside this new issue of O
-- "The Oprah Magazine" -- the editorial director's lead-off article
offers a profound explanation. "Our vision of family has been
expanded," writes Oprah Winfrey. "From the ashes of the World Trade
Center, the Pentagon, and that field in Pennsylvania arose a new spirit of
unity. We realize that we are all part of the family of America."
It's an appealing concept,
especially during these uncertain times. Ever since Sept. 11, countless media
outlets have provided similar themes. The December issue of O deftly hits the
now-familiar high notes. Three-quarters of the way through the thick, glossy,
ad-filled magazine, "We Are Family" reappears in large type, under an
American flag and over another message from Oprah. "America is a vast and
complicated family," she declares, "but -- as the smoke clears and the
dust settles -- a family nonetheless."
Such sentiments are lovely.
But what do they really mean? They're certainly not meant to be taken literally.
Oprah isn't inviting you or me over to her place for the holidays, and we
wouldn't even think of asking her to add us to her family's topnotch medical
Likewise, no amount of
uplifting rhetoric about the national family can cut much ice when it comes to
the cold hard realities of dividing up the national pie. Within a family, it
would be unusual for some at the dining room table to feast on one sumptuous
meal after another while others can't put enough food on a plate to meet their
minimal caloric needs. It would be odd if some family members got
top-of-the-line health care while others got none.
If the United States is one
big family, then it's a remarkably cruel one, with extremes of privilege and
deprivation. The recent book "Economic Apartheid in America," by Chuck
Collins and Felice Yeskel, presents sobering statistics. For instance: "In
the last 20 years, the overall wealth pie has grown, but virtually all the new
growth in wealth has gone to the richest 1 percent of the population." In
the United States, "the top 1 percent of households now has more wealth
than the entire bottom 95 percent."
"We are family"?
The latest O has some
macabre twists. Turn the page after reading Oprah's little "We Are
Family" essay, and a headline appears above a large photo of the first
female secretary of state: "Making Sense of the Unimaginable. Oprah talks
to Madeleine Albright."
When Albright was running
the State Department, she worked avidly in support of numerous regimes -- such
as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey and Indonesia -- routinely guilty of
horrendous human rights abuses. But in the current edition of O, when she
discusses Sept. 11, Albright depicts the U.S. government as a heroic defender of
Winfrey: "Is there any
way to make sense of this calamity?"
Albright: "The only way
to make sense of why this happened is that we are a country that stands up for
freedom, democracy and human rights."
But the magazine's next
spread includes a few paragraphs from novelist Isabel Allende, who recalls the
calamity that befell her native land: "I lived in Chile, a country that had
one of the oldest democracies in Latin America. We never thought that anything
like a military coup could happen to us -- those only happened in banana
republics! Until one day it did happen -- and the brutality lasted for 17 years.
The eerie coincidence is that it happened on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 1973. This was a
military coup orchestrated by the CIA -- a terrorist attack against
Speaking as someone who has
made her home in the United States for the last 14 years, Allende adds: "We
are a society that expects to be happy and entertained all the time. We are also
a spoiled society that hasn't had war in its territory in more than a century.
But we contribute to war in other countries all the time. We invaded Grenada and
support the worst dictatorships all over the world. And it is we who helped
create the Taliban."
Spinning the USA as a big
family is not only deceptive. It also reinforces the notion that Americans are
in a superlative class by themselves, distinct from the rest of humanity. In
contrast, Allende evokes a global vision: "More than 800 million people in
the world are hungry. The distribution of wealth is completely unfair and helps
to create conditions for hatred and violence. This can't continue forever
without paying the consequences."
Touting our country as a
family can produce fog that obscures actual national priorities and vast
economic inequities. To float off on a comforting media cloud, all we need to do
is ignore the real world.
Norman Solomon's weekly
syndicated column -- archived at www.fair.org/media-beat/
-- focuses on media and politics. His latest book is "The Habits of Highly
opinion opposes the attack on Afghanistan
According to Tony Blair and
George Bush respectively, 'world opinion' and the 'collective will of the world'
supported the attack on Afghanistan. Yet analysis of international opinion polls
shows that with only three exceptions majorities in all countries polled have
opposed the policy of the US and UK governments. Furthermore there have been
consistent majorities against the current action in the UK and sizeable numbers
of the US population had reservations about the bombing.
The biggest poll of world
opinion was carried out by Gallup International in 37 countries in late
September (Gallup International 2001). It found that apart from the US, Israel
and India a majority of people in every country surveyed preferred extradition
and trial of suspects to a US attack. Clear and sizeable majorities were
recorded in the UK (75%) and across Western Europe from 67% in France to 87% in
Switzerland. Between 64% (Czech Republic) and 83 % (Lithuania)of Eastern
Europeans concurred as did varying majorities in Korea, Pakistan, South Africa
and Zimbabwe. An even more emphatic answer obtained in Latin America where
between 80% (Panama) and 94% (Mexico) favoured extradition. The poll also found
that majorities in the US and Israel (both 56%) did not favour attacks on
civilians. Yet such polls have been ignored by the media and by many of the
polling companies. After the bombing started opposition seems to have grown in
Europe. As only the Mirror has reported, by early November 65 per cent in
Germany and 69 per cent in Spain wanted the US attacks to end (Yates, 2001).
Meanwhile in Russia polls before and after the bombing show majorities opposed
to the attacks. One slogan which reportedly commanded majority support doing the
rounds in Moscow at the end of September was 'World War III - Without Russia'
(Agency WPS 2001). After the bombing started Interfax reported a Gallup
International poll showing a majority of Moscow residents against the US
military action (BBC Worldwide Monitoring 2001)
The questions asked by a
number of polling companies such as MORI, Gallup and ICM have been seriously
inadequate. They have failed to give respondents a range of possible options in
relation to the war. When polling companies did ask about alternatives, support
for war falls away quite markedly. In the UK prior to the bombing, all except
one poll, which asked the question, showed a majority against bombing if it
caused civilian casualties. After the bombing started the polling companies
stopped asking about concern for civilians. From the start of the bombing to the
fall of Kabul on 13 November there were only four polls on British opinion (by
ICM (2001a, 2001b) and MORI (2001a, 2001b)) compared with 7 between the 11
September and the start of the bombing on October 7. None has asked adequate
questions about alternatives to bombing. ICM did ask one alternative questions
about whether bombing should stop to allow aid into Afghanistan and 54% said it
should (Guardian October 30). Where questions about aid or alternatives to
bombing are asked the results have been consistent: Clear and sometimes massive
majorities against the bombing. In an ignored poll, the Scottish Sunday Mail
found that fully 69% of Scots favoured sanctions, diplomacy or bringing Bin
Laden to trial. Only 17% favoured his execution and a minuscule 5% supported
bombing (21 October). The Herald in Glasgow also found only 6% favoured the then
current policy of bombing alone (3 November). It is well known that Scottish
opinion tends to be to the left of UK opinion, but not by more than a few points
on average. Although the Press Association picked up on the Herald poll it was
not reported in the British national press. Between the start of the bombing and
the fall of Kabul, (with the exception of the single question in the Guardian
poll showing 54% in favour of a pause in bombing) not a single polling company
asked the British public any questions about alternatives to war.
It is not altogether clear
whether the lack of options given to poll respondents is due to the media or the
polling companies. Certainly both UK and US polling companies have been guilty
of misrepresenting their own data almost without exception overemphasising
support for the war. For example Mori claimed that their polling in late October
had 'extinguished any lingering doubt' that support was 'fading' (Mortimore
2001). Of course this completely ignores all the poll data which would give an
alternative view and the fact that the polling questions have been inadequate.
Furthermore, according to Bob Worcester of MORI, (in an address to an LSE
meeting on the media and the war in November) the text of press reports on their
polls are cleared by MORI itself before they are published. This is clearly a
matter of good practice and should be applauded. But the benefit is fairly
marginal, if MORI are content for the press to distort the level of opposition
by concentrating on the 'overwhelming' support for the war and relegating
opposition to the war to the end of reports.
It comes as a surprise to
many in the UK and US to discover that opinion is so markedly opposed to or
ambivalent about the current action. One key reason is that the polls have been
systematically misreported in the media. Both television and the press in the US
and UK have continued to insist that massive majorities support the bombing.
Senior BBC journalists have expressed surprise and disbelief when shown the
evidence from the opinion polls. One told me that she didn't believe that the
polling companies were corrupt and that she thought it unlikely that the
Guardian would minimise the opposition to the war. This was days after the
Guardian published a poll purporting to show that 74% supported the bombing
(Travis 2001, 12 October). What the BBC journalist hadn't noticed was that the
Guardian's polls had asked only very limited questions and failed to give
respondents the option of saying they would prefer diplomatic solutions. In the
poll on 12 October one question was asked but only if people thought enough had
been done diplomatically. Given that the government and the media had been of
the opinion that enough had been done and alternative voices were marginalised,
it is surprising that as many as 37% said that enough had not been done.
Furthermore the Guardian's
editorial position has offered (qualified) support for the war and it did not
cover the demonstrations in London and Glasgow on 13 October. As a result of a
'flurry' of protests this was raised by the readers' editor at the Guardian's
editorial meeting on 14 October and the editor agreed that this had been a
'mistake'. But, the readers editor revealed that it is the papers 'general
policy' not to cover marches (Mayes 2001), thus condemning dissent to the
margins of the news agenda and leaving the field open for those with the
resources to stage 'proper' news events.
Elsewhere in the media,
almost every poll has been interpreted to indicate popular support for the war.
Where that interpretation is extremely difficult journalists have tried to
squeeze the figures to fit. One Scottish newspaper was so concerned at the low
numbers supporting bombing that they phoned me to ask how best to interpret the
findings. Another paper, the Sunday Mail showed only 5% support for bombing and
69% favouring conflict resolution. Nevertheless the closest they got to this in
their headline was that Scots were 'split' on bombing (21 October 2001).
TV news reporters have
routinely covered demonstrations in Britain and the US as if they represent only
a small minority of opinion. The underlying assumption is that demonstrators
only represent themselves rather than seeing them as an expression of a larger
constituency of dissent. Thus BBC reporters claim that 'the opinion polls say
that a majority of UK public opinion backs the war' (BBC1 Panorama, 14 October
2001) or in reporting the demonstrations in London that 'Despite the strength of
feelings here today those opposed to military action are still very much in the
minority' (BBC1 News 13 October 2001 21.50). These reports are at best naïve,
at worst mendacious, and a clear violation of the legal requirement of the BBC
to be balanced.
In the US dissent has been
markedly harder to find in the news media (Solomon 2001). The pictures of dead
children featured in the rest of the world press been hard to find (Lucas 2001)
and the debate on the use of cluster bombs and the 'daisy cutter' bombs (a
weapon of mass destruction) which were debated in the mainstream UK media in
late October were almost non existent on the television news in the US. * CNN
continued to report under the heading 'America Strikes back' which is of itself
a woefully partial version of what was happening. Polling companies in the US
have given their respondents little choice of policy options. Where they have
asked a variety of questions answers opposing US policy have been downplayed in
media reports. The New York Times reported on 25 September that 92% of
respondents agreed that the US should take military action against whoever is
responsible for the attacks'. But the text of the report belied the 'support for
war' headline indicating that fully 78% felt that the US should wait until it
was certain who is responsible', before responding. As Edward Herman, leading
critic of US foreign Policy has written of the inadequacy of polls which do not
ask about extradition, civilian casualties, or whether they would support action
which breaches international law (Herman 2001). One little reported poll for
Newsweek in early October showed that '58 percent of respondents said the U.S.
government's support for Israel may have been the cause' of the attacks, thus
indicating that America may have struck first rather that simply striking back
as CNN would have it.
Furthermore there is
evidence that dissent in the US is being underrepresented in responses to
opinion polls. In a Gallup poll 31% agreed that the attacks on the US had made
them 'less likely to say things that might be unpopular?' ( http://www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr011008c.asp
). And opposition to the war is pretty unpopular in media coverage of the war.
When Bill Maher, host of the Politically Incorrect chat show criticised remarks
by Bush describing the WTC attackers as 'cowards', the White House spokesman Ari
Fleischer said: 'There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch
what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that' (Usborne 2001). His
show lost advertisers and was dropped by some networks.
The most fundamental problem
with the polls is that they assume the public has perfect information. But,
notwithstanding some dissent in the press, the media in the UK, and even more
emphatically in the US, have been distorting what is happening in Afghanistan
especially on civilian casualties and alternatives to war. To ask about approval
of what is happening assumes that people actually know what is happening. But
given that a large proportion of the population receives little but
misinformation and propaganda (especially on TV news which is most peoples main
source of information) then it is less surprising that some should approve of
what they are told is happening - that the US and UK are doing their best to
avoid civilian casualties, that Blair exercises a moderating influence on Bush.
When they are asked their own preferences about what should happen (rather than
approval questions about what is happening) then there is much less support,
even in the US. In other words there is no world support for the attack on
Afghanistan and public opinion in the US and UK is at best dubious and at worst
flatly opposed to what is happening. If Bush and Blair were really democrats,
they would never have started the bombing.
David Miller is a member of
the Stirling Media Research Institute.
*Author's observation. The
author spent 10 days in the US between 26th October and 4th November and
compared the news in the US with the debates taking place in the media in the
Agency WPS (2001) 'What the
papers say. Part I', October 1, 2001, Monday 'RUSSIANS WON'T SUPPORT PUTIN IF HE
INVOLVES RUSSIA IN RETALIATION' Zavtra, September 27, 2001, p. 1
BBC Worldwide Monitoring
(2001) October 9, 2001, Tuesday,
'Public poll sees threat to
Russia from US military action' Interfax news agency, Moscow, in English 1137
gmt 9 Oct 01.
Gallup International (2001)
'Gallup International Poll on terrorism in the US', http://www.gallup-international.com/surveys.htm
ICM (2001a) ' ICM RESEARCH /
GUARDIAN POLL OCTOBER 2001', published in the Guardian, 12 October.
ICM (2001b) ' ICM RESEARCH /
THE GUARDIAN AFGHAN POLL - OCTOBER 2001', published in the Guardian, 30 October.
Herman, E. (2001) 'Nuggets
from a nuthouse', Z Magazine, November.
Lucas, S. (2001) 'How a free
press censors itself', New Statesman, 12 November, 14-15.
Mayes, I. (2001) 'Leading
lights', The Guardian, Saturday review, 20 October: 7.
MORI (2001a) 'First poll on
the Afghanistan War: Britons fully support Blair but fear retaliatory Strikes'
Poll for Tonight with Trevor McDonald, 11 October, 10.20pm, ITV. http://www.mori.com/polls/granada.shtml
MORI (2001b) 'War of
Afghanistan Poll' for the Mail on Sunday, 4 November 2001
Mortimore, R. (2001)
'Commentary: Britain at war' 26 October, http://www.mori.com/digest/2001/c011026.shtml
Solomon, N. (2001 'TV news:
a militarised zone', Znet, 9 October, http://www.zmag.org/solomonzone.htm
Usborne, D. (2001) 'Jokers
and peaceniks face patriotic wrath', Independent on Sunday, 30 September: 7.
Yates, N. (2001) 'War on
Terror: the World questions America', The Mirror, 9 November.
(London), 5 Dec 2001
no news is good news
A poll conducted last week in the United States by the Pew Research Centre for
the People and the Press found that 80% of people felt that censorship of the
news from Afghanistan was a "good idea".
The unanimously supportive coverage given to the war by all the main news media
in the US has also won approval, with 69% saying that the news media "stand
up for America", compared with 43% who thought that they did so before the
But does the supportive coverage come with drawbacks?
"Ask anybody who only watches CNN and network news how many civilians have
been killed and I don't think anyone knows that," said Stephen Rohde, the
president of the California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union at a
debate on private rights versus public security last week.
He said that he felt that the media was now an area of American life that has
been affected on the civil liberty front by the war.
Every country in times of crisis or war can generally rely on a supportive media
- as happened in the United Kingdom during the "Gotcha!" phase of the
Falklands War - but a growing number of American commentators are expressing
disquiet at what they feel is a lack of information which the media may deem in
some way harmful or unpatriotic.
After the Bush administration requested that interviews of Osama bin Laden not
be shown in full, all of the mainstream media abided by the request. Some news
services go further.
Fox News Channel, the conservative channel owned by Rupert Murdoch, makes no
pretence at objectivity in its coverage.
One of its news anchors, Brit Hume, told the New York Times that the network did
not give too much weight to reports about civilian casualties in Afghanistan and
said to NYT reporter Jim Rutenberg: "War is hell, people die. We know we're
at war. The fact that some people are dying, is that really news? And is it news
to be treated in a semi-straight-faced way? I think not."
Leslie Bennetts, writing in the current edition of Vanity Fair, says that
"Americans like a simple storyline that makes it easy to decide who the
good guys are and who the bad guys are and the byzantine tangle of international
politics, Islamic fundamentalism and American foreign policy is making many
citizens unused to grappling with such headache-inducing complexities want to
throw up their hands."
Bennetts suggests that "American newspapers and television companies have
reduced their foreign coverage by 70 to 80% during the last 15 to 20 years in
response to corporate demands for profits."
full article is at <www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,612403,00.html>
drags bloody corpse of truth across movie screens
By Larry Chin
January 3, 2002 --
True to its post-9/11 government-sanctioned role as US war propaganda
headquarters, Hollywood has released "Black Hawk Down," a
fictionalized account of the tragic 1993 US raid in Somalia. The Pentagon
assisted with the production, pleased for an opportunity to "set the record
straight." The film is a lie that compounds the original lie that was the
According to the myth, the
Somalia operation of 1993 was a humanitarian mission, and a shining example of
New World Order morality and altruism. In fact, US and UN troops waged an
undeclared war against an Islamic African populace that was hostile to foreign
Also contrary to the legend,
the 1993 Somalia raid was not a "Clinton foreign policy bungle." In
fact, the incoming Clinton administration inherited an operation that was
already in full swing -- planned and begun by outgoing President George Herbert
Walker Bush, spearheaded by deputy national security adviser Jonathan Howe (who
remained in charge of the UN operation after Clinton took office), and approved
by Colin Powell, then head of the Joint Chiefs.
The operation had nothing to
do with humanitarianism or Africa-love on the part of Bush or Clinton. Several
US oil companies, including Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips were positioned
to exploit Somalia's rich oil reserves. The companies had secured billion-dollar
concessions to explore and drill large portions of the Somali countryside during
the reign of pro-US President Mohamed Siad Barre. (In fact, Conoco's Mogadishu
office housed the US embassy and military headquarters.) A "secure"
Somalia also provided the West with strategic location on the coast of Arabian
UN military became necessary
when Barre was overthrown by warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid, suddenly rendering
Somalia inhospitable to US corporate interests.
Although the pretext for the
mission was to safeguard food shipments, and stop the "evil Aidid"
from stealing the food, the true UN goal was to remove Aidid from the political
equation, and form a pro- Western coalition government out of the nation's
warring clans. The US operation was met with "surprisingly fierce
resistance" -- surprising to US officials who underestimated Somalian
resolve, and even more surprising to US troops who were victims and pawns of UN
The highly documented series
by Mark Bowden of the Philadelphia Inquirer on which the film is based , focuses
on the participants, and the "untenable" situation in which troops
were placed. But even Bowden's gung-ho account makes no bones about provocative
American attacks that ultimately led to the decisive defeat in Mogadishu.
Bowden writes: "Task
Force Ranger was not in Mogadishu to feed the hungry. Over six weeks, from late
August to Oct. 3, it conducted six missions, raiding locations where either
Aidid or his lieutenants were believed to be meeting. The mission that resulted
in the Battle of Mogadishu came less than three months after a surprise missile
attack by U.S. helicopters (acting on behalf of the UN) on a meeting of Aidid
clansmen. Prompted by a Somalian ambush on June 5 that killed more than 20
Pakistani soldiers, the missile attack killed 50 to 70 clan elders and
intellectuals, many of them moderates seeking to reach a peaceful settlement
with the United Nations. After that July 12 helicopter attack, Aidid's clan was
officially at war with America -- a fact many Americans never realized."
Hundreds, perhaps thousands,
of Somalis were killed in the course of US incursions that took place over three
months. In his book The New Military Humanism, Noam Chomsky cites other
under-reported facts. "In October 1993, criminal incompetence by the US
military led to the slaughter of 1,000 Somalis by American firepower."
Chomsky writes. "The official estimate was 6-10,000 Somali casualties in
the summer of 1993 alone, two-thirds women and children. Marine Lt. Gen. Anthony
Zinni, who commanded the operation, informed the press that 'I'm not counting
bodies . . . I'm not interested.' Specific war crimes of US forces included
direct military attacks on a hospital and on civilian gatherings. Other Western
armies were implicated in serious crimes as well. Some of these were revealed at
an official Canadian inquiry, not duplicated by the US or other
Bowden's more forgiving
account does not contradict Chomsky's in this regard:
estimates of Somalian casualties at the time numbered 350 dead and 500 injured.
Somalian clan leaders made claims of more than 1,000 deaths. The United Nations
placed the number of dead at ``between 300 to 500.'' Doctors and intellectuals
in Mogadishu not aligned with the feuding clans say that 500 dead is probably
The attack on Mogadishu was
particularly vicious. Quoting Bowden: "The Task Force Ranger commander,
Maj. Gen. William F. Garrison, testifying before the Senate, said that if his
men had put any more ammunition into the city 'we would have sunk it.' Most
soldiers interviewed said that through most of the fight they fired on crowds
and eventually at anyone and anything they saw."
After 18 US Special Forces
soldiers were killed in the final Mogadishu firefight, which included the
downing of a US helicopter, television screens filled with the scene of a dead
US soldier being dragged through the streets by jubilant Somalis. Clinton
immediately called off the operation. US forces left Somalia in disgrace. Some
19,000 UN troops remained for a short period, but eventually left in futility.
The Somalia defeat elicited
howls of protest and rage from the military brass, congressional hawks, and
right-wing provocateurs itching for an excuse to declare political war on the
"liberal" Clinton administration.
syndrome" would dog Clinton throughout his presidency, and mar every
military mission during his tenure.
Today, as right-wing
extremist George W. Bush occupies the White House, surrounded by his father's
operatives, and many of the architects of the original raid, military fanaticism
is all the rage. A global war "without end" has just begun.
What a perfect moment to
"clean up" the past.
In promoting the film,
producer Jerry Bruckheimer (who rewrote another humiliating episode of US
military history with "Pearl Harbor") is seeking to convince Americans
that the Somalia operation was "not America's darkest hour, but America's
brightest hour;" that a bungled imperialist intervention was a noble
incident of grand moral magnificence.
CNN film reviewer Paul
Tatara describes "Black Hawk Down" as "pound for pound, one of
the most violent films ever released by a major studio," from "two of
the most pandering, tactless filmmakers in Hollywood history (Jerry Bruckheimer
and Ridley Scott)" who are attempting to "teach us about honor among
More important are the
film's true subtexts, and the likely emotional reaction of viewers.
What viewers see is
"brave and innocent young American boys" getting shot at and killed
for "no reason" by "crazy black Islamists" that the
Americans are "just trying to help." (Subtext one: America is good,
and it is impossible to understand why "they hate us." Subtext two:
"Those damned ungrateful foreigners." Subtext three: "Those
damned blacks." Subtext four: "Kill Arabs.")
What viewers will remember
is a line spoken by one of the "brave soldiers" about how, in the heat
of combat, "politics goes out the window." (Subtext one: there is no
need for thought; shoot first, talk later. Subtext two: it is right to abandon
one's sanity, morality and ethics when faced with chaos. Subtext three: when the
Twin Towers went down on 9/11, America was right in embracing radical militarism
and extreme violence, throwing all else "out the window.")
In the currently lethal
political climate, in which testosterone rage, mob mentality, and love of war
pass for normal behavior (while reason, critical thinking, and tolerance are
considered treasonous), "Black Hawk Down" will appeal to the most
violent elements of American society. Many who have seen the film report leaving
the theater feeling angry, itching to "kick some ass." In short, the
film is dangerous. And those who "love" it are dangerous.
Considering the fact that
Somalia is one of the targets in the next phase of the Bush administration's
"war on terrorism," the timing of the film is no coincidence.
As Herbert London of the
Hudson Institute said of "Black Hawk Down," "I would never deny
the importance of heroism in battle, but just as we should recognize and honor
heroes, we should also respect the truthfulness of the events surrounding their
heroic acts. In the case of 'Black Hawk Down,' we get a lot of the former and
almost nothing of the latter."
Larry Chin is a freelance
on the Media 1/9/02 CHOCOLATES AND NYLONS, SIR?
In 1992, shortly after being
named moderator of Meet The Press, Tim Russert was having lunch with a broadcast
executive. The mealtime conversation was about the pros and cons of working for
General Electric's NBC subsidiary. Russert expounded on how being employed by GE
had brought him to the realization that things functioned better when
Republicans were in charge.
"You know, Tim, you
used to be such a rabid Democrat when you worked for Pat Moynihan," said
the executive. "But now that you've gotten a glimpse of who's handing out
the money in this business, you've become quite the Jaycee. Were you wrong about
everything you used to believe so strongly?"
"I still believe,"
Russert said, leaning across the table. "I believe in everything I ever
did. But I also know that I never would have become moderator on Meet The Press
if my employers were uncomfortable with me. And, given the amount of money at
stake, millions of dollars, I don't blame them. This is business."
The executive agreed.
"But are you concerned about losing yourself? You know, selling out?"
Russert pounded the table.
"Integrity is for paupers!"
When Tim Russert joined NBC
News in 1984, he began a personal transformation from Democratic congressional
aide to broadcaster-in- charge of General Electric's political interests. His
early efforts for the network drew some criticism from the GE corporate suites
as being "too knee jerk", a euphemism for "insufficiently pro-GE/
Republican". The executives at General Electric viewed with hostility the
Democratic Party that wanted to burden them with obeying laws that the company
preferred to break and complying with regulations that it preferred to ignore.
While Republicans turned a blind eye to the serial environmental crimes and
bribery committed by GE, the Democrats were less submissive. The company was
especially upset that the Democratic Party had taken a position against
transferring public ownership of the broadcast airwaves to the media
The ambitious Russert soon
learned that, in order to climb the ladder at NBC News, he had to please two
sets of managers: the news executives who were ostensibly his bosses, and the
employers of the news executives. In the years that followed, he refined the
strategy to ingratiating himself to General Electric Chairman Jack Welch.
For much of the eighties,
Russert coordinated specials on summits and foreign policy related topics. His
breakthrough performance occurred in 1990, when he oversaw the production of the
prime time special, "A Day In The Life Of President Bush". The show
was so worshipful and fawning that one embarrassed production assistant referred
to it as "Deep Throat: The Missing Footage". By this time, however,
Russert had figured out that only one opinion counted. Jack Welch loved the
program, telling an associate that it "hit just the right note".
When the moderator position
on Meet The Press needed to be filled in 1991, Russert was chosen from on high.
The show had been struggling in the ratings, earning less than a million dollars
a year. The new moderator changed the format, eliminating the panel and turning
America's longest running program into The Tim Russert Show. The revised
philosophy of Meet The Press was borrowed from the book Animal Farm: All Guests
Are Equal, But Some Guests Are More Equal Than Others. The more equal ones, who
all coincidentally had an "R" appear after their names on the show's
graphics, were asked questions about policy and the moral shortcomings of the
opposition party. The lesser equals were usually challenged to disassociate
themselves from issues (liberal) and individuals (Democrats) that Russert found
to be lacking in virtue.
In 1992, Russert
enthusiastically led the media frenzy about the relationship between Gennifer
Flowers and Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton, but he refused to
report about a similar relationship between incumbent Republican President
George Bush and Jennifer Fitzgerald. Four years later, Russert focused on
questions about Clinton fundraising, while studiously ignoring the lengthy
record of well-documented influence peddling by Republican nominee Bob Dole.
Throughout 2000, with less
pretense of objectivity than ever, Russert dutifully echoed the Republican theme
that the Democratic nominee was "dishonest". Week after week, the
topic on Meet The Press was the "repeated lying" of Al Gore. One
lowlight of Russert's descent into shameless propagandist occurred when it was
revealed that George W. Bush had been convicted of drunk driving in Maine,
thereby proving that the Republican candidate had been deceitful when he was
questioned about whether he had ever been arrested.
Russert's immediate response
on national television was, "The question on everybody's mind is, `Did the
Gore campaign have something to do with the release of this information?'"
That was not the question on
everybody's mind; a poll taken immediately after the revelation showed that most
Americans did not believe that Gore was involved.
It was, however, the
question being faxed nationally by the Republicans in a memo circulated to their
operatives who were responsible for diverting attention from the fact that their
candidate was guilty of, for want of a better term, "repeated lying".
As media mogul and future
Fox network founder Rupert Murdoch noticed, Russert's brazenly partisan approach
attracted large numbers of white male viewers. In 2000, Meet The Press earned a
$50 million profit for General Electric, which was sixty times more than when
Russert was named moderator.
During the 2000 presidential
campaign, Russert established a link between Meet The Press and the G.O.P.
opposition research team that was responsible for digging up dirt/manufacturing
dirt on Al Gore. On election night, after conferring with Welch, Russert
demanded that Gore quit the race before the legally mandated recount took place
in Florida. The next morning, on the Today Show, he repeated the demand. During
the recount, Russert actively campaigned for Bush, going so far as to insist
that Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman endorse the counting
of illegally cast military ballots that would benefit George W.
There have been reports from
those who were present that journalist Tim Russert was wearing a Bush For
President lapel pin when he attended the traditional Al Smith Dinner in New York
shortly before the election. This should be interpreted as less of an
endorsement than a brownnosing. Russert was accompanied by Welch, who was a
strong supporter of Bush and completely intolerant of dissent on the matter.
During the Lewinsky episode,
Russert latched onto the sexual aspect of the scandal with obsessive fervor.
When the story appeared to be running out of steam, he showed America his
creative side. The following was written by Martin Schram of the Nando Times:
I was especially dismayed to
hear Russert present what sounded like a misbegotten Virtual Scoop:
"There are lots of
suggestions coming out of people close to Ken Starr that perhaps the Secret
Service 'facilitated' for President Clinton. Remember that code word -- it was
used about the state troopers in Little Rock ... Was the Secret Service -- was a
Secret Service agent -- an accomplice in trying to cover up a relationship with
Sounds like a major,
unsavory exclusive report from a source in the independent counsel's office --
that the Secret Service was pimping for a president of the United States.
But rewind and rethink. We
only heard Russert say there were "suggestions" from people
"close to" Starr that "perhaps" an agent had facilitated in
the president's philandering. Were these "suggestions" based on any
substantial evidence or proof obtained by the independent counsel? Or was it
just a prayerful hope of someone in Starr's office who hates Clinton but has not
a shred of evidence that this might have happened? Which of course means that it
would be a journalistic outrage to air the story if that was all it was.
Now fast-forward. It is
midday, on MSNBC, the all-news cable channel. Behind the scenes, Starr's
spokesman, Charles Bakaly, has called Russert, and Russert has conceded the
source wasn't in Starr's office; it was a congressional source. Which means it
may have been a political opponent of the president -- who may or may not know
if there is any substantive indication that such a thing had occurred.
Now, on MSNBC's regular
noontime show, "Investigating the President," Russert sounds like he
is just repeating his morning scoop. But he actually tells a much different,
much weaker version -- while never indicating that he is issuing a correction:
"This morning I
reported that congressional sources had told NBC News that Ken Starr is very
interested in finding out" what Secret Service agents may have done -- as
"accomplices" in a "cover-up."
Wait! This is more than just
saying the source was "congressional"; now Russert is saying that
Starr is merely "interested in finding out" if any agent had
facilitated on behalf of the president. Well, of course he is! And so am I! But
it is not newsworthy that either Starr or I want to ask these questions. It
would only be news if either Starr or I had proof that this happened.
Fast-forward again. On NBC's
"Nightly News," Russert reports live from the White House lawn:
"Members of Congress have been talking to investigators, people, lawyers
associated with the grand jury, people who are free to talk"-- what the
heck does all that mean? -- "and they are coming to some conclusions that
perhaps Secret Service agents may have been, quote, facilitating." (Again,
"We don't know whether
that's Republican spin, partisan spin, ideological spin, or there's a germ of
Translation: We don't have
any idea whether any of this is true. But we've spent all day raising the smarmy
specter that the Secret Service may have been pimping for the president -- just
as the president's political opponents hoped we would. Even though we didn't
have a germ of evidence that it was true.
Mr. Schram is an excessively
generous man, lavishing the undeserved benefit of the doubt on Russert in a
situation where there is no doubt. This was not a "misbegotten virtual
scoop". It was a lie. What was happening has been on public display
countless times before: Tim Russert was acting as an operative for the political
interests of the multinational corporation that keeps him fat and happy.
The spectacular rewards of
manipulating the public for GE were realized in 2001, when Russert received a
new contract worth tens of millions of dollars. The wages of sin have been huge,
while the cost has been the negligible loss of whatever integrity he might have
once possessed. He is not an objective journalist; he is a partisan deceiver. He
exaggerates Democratic wrongdoing, going to the extreme of inventing criminal
behavior. Conversely, he has been unrelentingly oblivious to all Republican
scandals; his infinite fascination with the missing intern in the case of
Democrat Gary Condit was accompanied by total disinterest in the dead intern who
was found on the office floor of Republican Joe Scarbrough. Russert spent years
obsessing about an ill fated land deal called Whitewater that involved a couple
of hundred thousand dollars, but he remains indifferent to the multi-trillion
dollar taxpayer funded kickbacks that George W. Bush has been ladling out to his
Russert has every right to
serve General Electric and its chosen political party, but truth in advertising
mandates that he should never appear on television without having "We Bring
Good Things To Life" emblazoned on his forehead.
The saga of Tim Russert is
not unique, or even uncommon. With minor changes, it could be the story of Peter
Jennings, or Brit Hume, or Jim Lehrer, ad nauseum. This is the modern reality of
the mainstream media: those who dutifully conform to the company line and
deceitfully ignore any facts that are incompatible with increasing corporate
profits are compensated with vast fortunes, while whatever democracy remains in
this country struggles to survive without a free press and an informed
The founders of America
conceived of a nation with an unregulated flow of information that would provide
the citizenry with access to the knowledge they needed to govern themselves.
That patriotic vision has been distorted by the huge conglomerates that control
the mainstream media, and by journalistic prostitutes like Tim Russert, who
corrupt our society with their eagerness to pervert the truth in exchange for
Sullivan's selective Enron outrage
energy trader didn't just spend money on politicians.
handily to journalists, too.
But why is
Sullivan most angry about the one liberal who cashed in?
By Eric Boehlert
Jan. 31, 2002 | It took a
few months, but the press has finally managed to carve out an angle about itself
in the Enron debacle: a controversy-in-a-teapot focusing on conflicts of
interest for the so- called Enron pundits.
The pundits include a group
of prominent political and economic commentators who in recent years (i.e.,
before former CEO Kenneth Lay replaced Osama bin Laden as Public Enemy No. 1)
made their way onto Enron's payroll and received big bucks for doing very little
work. Now they are being asked: How in good conscience can they comment on
Enron's fall after cashing Lay's obscenely generous checks?
The Enron sugar daddies
include Weekly Standard editor William Kristol ($100,000), CNBC host and
National Review Online columnist Lawrence Kudlow ($50,000), New York Times
columnist Paul Krugman ($50,000), Weekly Standard contributing editor and Sunday
Times of London columnist Irwin Stelzer (approximately $50,000) and Wall Street
Journal columnist Peggy Noonan ($25,000-$50,000; apparently she cannot recall
the exact sum).
We're assured this is a very
big deal. "The burgeoning scandal [has] replaced the war as the Beltway's
reigning obsession," the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
A review of the charges
makes clear that none of the Enron media players, who were all slow to cop to
their Houston boondoggles, come out looking very good. But that also goes for
their chief accuser, conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan. His selective
prosecution raises suspicion about whether he is simply trying to right an
ethical wrong or, more likely, hoping to damage one of the left's most
effectively critical voices -- Paul Krugman, a former MIT economist who has
landed punch after solid punch on the Bush administration over the past year.
Right from the outset,
Sullivan, using his daily online column, called for an "investigation"
into Krugman's alleged ethical lapse. (By who, the Pundit Police? Is that run
out of the Department of Justice?) He suggested Krugman and others "recuse
themselves" from the Enron situation, the way Attorney General John
Ashcroft did, since as a senator he received Enron contributions. According to
Sullivan, the Times columnist should return his Enron money, just as Senator
Hillary Clinton had returned the campaign contributions she'd received from
Enron. (In Washington, contributions and paychecks are seen as one and the
"Disclosure is a
must," wrote Sullivan. "We demand it of politicians. Why should we not
demand it of the journalists who police them? If it's corrupting for
politicians, why is it any less corrupting for pundits, who can exercise as much
power as many Congressmen and often have more influence than individual
Yes, both politicians and
the press depend on public trust, but the last time we checked pundits did not
have the power to pass legislation, prosecute criminals or declare war. Nor were
pundits answerable to the voters. Indeed, the level of importance granted by the
media to this Enron media tempest is more proof than we need of the warped sense
of self-importance such pundits have about themselves and their colleagues.
The absurd levels of
self-absorption are reminiscent of the time, early in George Bush's campaign, a
Boston television journalist sprang a pop quiz on a befuddled W. While the
cameras rolled, the reporter asked him to name several foreign leaders. Bush
stumbled badly. More than a few pundits then rushed forward to defend Bush,
suggesting even they wouldn't have been able to ace such a tough test. Their
courage in admitting to just skimming the international news section every
morning was commendable, but unlike Bush, those columnists weren't angling to
become the leader of the free world.
So, just what crimes did
these pundits commit?
Irwin Stelzer, contributing
editor for the Weekly Standard and a columnist for the Sunday Times of London.
To date, Stelzer still has
not disclosed to readers how much he was paid to serve on an Enron advisory
board that he helped organize. In a Weekly Standard piece about Enron last
November, Stelzer defended the company by stressing there was "no
indication that the mistakes were other than honest ones, or that investors were
deliberately kept in the dark or misled about the company's finances."
In that piece, Stelzer told
readers about serving on the advisory board, but not that he was paid tens of
thousands of dollars. This came after years of writing favorably about Enron
without giving readers a hint of his financial ties to the company.
Bill Kristol, editor of the
Not much better than
Stelzer's situation. Kristol collected $100,000 for serving two years on the
same lightweight Enron advisory board while editing a weekly magazine that
routinely covered energy and deregulation, policies Enron was actively trying to
shape. It wasn't until Stelzer's column last November that readers were told
about Kristol's Enron involvement. Just how much Kristol pocketed was revealed
only later, by other publications. If there's an ethics crime for Sullivan to
prosecute, it's the Weekly Standard's nonexistent conflict-of-interest
Last week, the New York
Times reported that Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, was
given a plum, $10,000-per-month consulting gig at Enron at the request of Bush
strategist Karl Rove. The clear implication being that the Bush camp was trying
to win over Reed as an ally by using Enron's payroll. Was a similar strategy at
work with Kristol? Kristol was not known as a Bush booster -- he backed Sen.
John McCain in the Republican primary. Could the board membership have been
designed as a way to quietly lead him to the Bush camp? Only Enron execs know
the answer to that question.
Peggy Noonan, columnist for
the Wall Street Journal.
The conservative opinion
maker outed herself last Friday; in a column critical of Enron and its culture
of wealth, she informed her readers that she'd once done speechwriting for the
failed Houston energy company. Like almost everyone else involved, however,
Noonan had trouble coming right out and telling readers how much she pocketed.
Instead, she wrote that "if memory serves," she earned between $25,000
and $50,000 for her work. But even those numbers were hard to come by -- readers
had to calculate on their own the number of hours she worked (between "100
to 200 hours"), and multiply that by the rate she charged ($250) in order
to get the final eye-popping invoice.
Noonan then admitted the
speech she wrote for Enron wasn't very good and that only portions of it were
even used. Yet going by her high- end estimate of 200 hours billed, Noonan spent
five weeks straight, working 40-hour work weeks, to deliver contributions that,
she conceded, "weren't helpful."
After initially criticizing
Noonan, Sullivan reversed course, writing that he'd been "a little
harsh" on her and that Noonan had been "had" and "used"
by the energy giant. Some at Enron might quibble with that assessment.
Lawrence Kudlow, cohost of
CNBC's "America Now" and an editor for National Review Online.
Kudlow earned $50,000 for a
year's consulting and two speaking fees. In his National Review column on
Monday, Kudlow claimed he had been "completely forthcoming with respect to
my brief consulting role with Enron and the fees I received for this
Not quite. Kudlow didn't
reveal his generous fees until Sullivan began his Enron pundit watch. And that
was after Kudlow had already written about the company without letting readers
in on his Enron finances.
When Kudlow finally did come
clean, he explained he had been "attracted by the personable Kenneth
Lay." Not Lay's checkbook, mind you, his personality. That was odd, because
in his previous column Kudlow undressed the "characters" at Enron
(presumably including Lay) who had "no moral fiber, no character, no
courage and no corporate responsibility."
Also worth noting is that it
took Kudlow several months to even address Enron's Page 1 debacle. That seems
like an odd oversight for somebody with the title of "financial economics
editor." Did the Enron money help keep Kudlow quiet?
Paul Krugman, columnist for
the New York Times.
This whole game of gotcha
began when the New York Times, deep in a recent Enron news story, reported that
Krugman had once received $50,000 to serve on Enron's now famous advisory board.
Months earlier Krugman himself had informed readers about his Enron work but
conveniently left out the five-figure number. Same was true when he wrote a
puffy Enron piece for Fortune magazine in 1999; the advisory board was
mentioned, handsome paychecks were not. (Today, Krugman is among Enron's
Sullivan's probably correct
in his surmise that the numbers were originally left out because most Times
readers, and even Fortune's white-collar readers, would probably be stunned to
read about that kind of pay for two days' work.
But Krugman, who cut his
Enron ties when he joined the Times in order to comply with the newspaper's
strict conflict-of-interest policy, flagged his association well before Enron
cratered, which is more than any of the other pundits can say.
By Sullivan's standards,
though, Krugman's the worst of the bunch, and that's where Sullivan's partisan
instincts drive his accountability crusade off the track. Rather than calling
all the pundits out for not disclosing their questionable Enron paydays,
Sullivan largely gives the other (conservative) commentators a pass, and zeroes
in on the only liberal among them.
For instance, assessing
Kudlow's Enron writings, Sullivan concluded, "Since [his] pieces were
harshly critical of Enron, there's no scandal." Yet no pundit this year has
been as harshly critical of Enron as Krugman has, so why is his work a scandal?
Applying a sort of
retroactive responsibility, Sullivan accused Krugman of "absconding with
$50,000 worth of dirty money from a criminal enterprise." Of course,
Krugman took the money three years ago, long before Enron's problems were
apparent. By contrast, Kudlow was cashing Enron checks for a speech given last
August, just as the company was beginning to unravel.
Sullivan patted Kristol on
the back for "getting [his $100,000 payment] out in the open." In the
open? Kristol pocketed twice as much as Krugman, yet the Weekly Standard still
hasn't printed any details about Kristol's cushy Enron payment.
Meanwhile, Sullivan accused
Krugman and the New York Times of somehow trying to cover up his Enron
affiliation. "Most readers of the Times would think [the $50,000 payment]
is relevant," Sullivan complained. Yet how did he find out about the
$50,000? He read it in the New York Times.
Later, Sullivan bemoaned
"vast amounts of corporate cash being handed over to journalists," and
how those vast amounts "might actually give an appearance of conflict of
interest for a journalist."
But was Krugman a
"journalist" in 1999 when Enron came calling? Over the years the
economist has undoubtedly been a prodigious writer, with outlets in Fortune and
Slate, among others. But to suggest Krugman was a journalist the way Noonan,
Kristol, Kudlow or Stelzer are is disingenuous. In 1999 He was primarily known
as a MIT professor of economics who, according to his own explanation, accepted
the Enron gig based on a long tradition of high-profile economics professors
cashing out at the expense of corporations.
So why, after the fact, does
Sullivan try to hold Krugman to a conflict-of-interest standard his future
employer would insist upon? Was Krugman supposed to know in 1999 that later in
the year he'd be hired by the New York Times, and therefore he shouldn't have
accepted the Enron money?
Krugman answered his critics
by claiming he was being smeared by a "broader effort by conservatives to
sling Enron muck toward their left, hoping that some of it would stick."
He's onto something.
Clearly, Krugman's constant flurry of punches over the last year have hit the
White House in the gut a few too many times for some conservatives. And his
punches hurt -- Krugman is an economist who knows his topic better than the
White House does. He's also untainted by the Clinton sex scandals. (He joined
the Times after those bloody battles had been fought.) And he's unusually blunt
in his assessment that President Bush is either a fool or a liar for pushing his
tax cut strategy.
Sullivan may have
inadvertently revealed his true motivation for targeting Krugman when he
immediately launched another media crusade: criticizing the New York Times'
"left-wing lurch" in its aggressive Enron news coverage.
(Specifically, Sullivan didn't think that a poll that found a vast majority of
Americans felt Republicans, not Democrats, had close ties to Enron was Page 1
There is an important lesson
about politics, money and power to be learned from the Enron pundit tale, but
it's not necessarily the one that Sullivan is shouting about.
About the writer Eric
Boehlert is a senior writer at Salon.
THE MEDIA LIE
Of The Mass Media
By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
11th September, in the
space of an hour and a half, the United States faced a sample of the same
brand of terrorism that has been inflicted on vast swathes of the world’s
population throughout the twentieth century by its own military forces. The
destruction of the World Trade Centre and the explosion that racked the
Pentagon, left America in shock and on high alert.
was not long before the perpetrators of the attack had supposedly been
discovered. Osama Bin Laden and his international terror network, Al-Qaeda,
was blamed, and the Taliban was pinpointed as a “government” harbouring
Al-Qaeda. A war on Afghanistan was justified, along with an unlimited
militarisation of US foreign policy, which has gone on to focus on key
strategic regions of the world as potential targets of US intervention, and
thus the expansion of US hegemony.
official story around 11th September
espoused by the US government and propagated by the mass media contains
innumerable anomalies and discrepancies. Some of these will be discussed in
the second part of this paper. In this part, we will focus on the principal
reason why the official story should be doubted by the public: the fact that
the media amounts to a propaganda machine for elite interests.
Independent Media: A Myth
those who have inspected the facts, it is clear that the mass media has failed
to generate genuine public awareness of the nature of Western policy. Majid
Tehranian, Professor of International Communication at the University of
Hawaii and Director of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy
Research, points out that:
their scholarship, William Appleton Williams, Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk,
Ramsey Clark, Ali Mazrui, and other critics of US foreign policies have
provided an abundance of evidence to support the charges on the
counter-democratic role of the United States in much of Asia, Africa, and
an extensive study of the US-UK special relationship, British historian Mark
Curtis, former Research Fellow at the Royal Institute for International
Affairs in London, finds that:
Anglo-American support in ordering the affairs of key nations and regions,
often with violence, to their design has been a consistent feature of the
era that followed the Second World War... Policy in, for example, Malaya,
Kenya, British Guiana and Iran was geared towards organising Third World
economies along guidelines in which British, and Western, interests would be
paramount, and those of the often malnourished populations would be ignored
or further undermined. Similarly, US interventions overseas – in Vietnam,
Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Chile, etcetera – were designed
to counter threats to the Western practice of assigning the Third World to
mere client status to Western business interests. British and US forces have
acted as mercenary – and often extremely violent – mobs intended to
restore ‘order’ in their domains and to preserve the existing privileges
of elites within their own societies.2
specialist Dr. J. W. Smith, who is Director of Research for the
California-based Institute for Economic Democracy, is even more explicit:
society will tolerate it if they knew that they (as a country) were
responsible for violently killing 12 to 15 million people since WW II and
causing the death of hundreds of millions more their economies were
destroyed or those countries were denied the right to restructure to care
for their people. Unknown as it is, and recognising that this has been
standard practice throughout colonialism, that is the record of the Western
imperial centres of capital from 1945 to 1990... While mouthing peace,
freedom, justice, rights, and majority rule, all over the world
state-sponsored terrorists were overthrowing democratic governments,
installing and protecting dictators, and preventing peace, freedom, justice,
rights, and majority rule. Twelve to fifteen million mostly innocent people
were slaughtered in that successful 45 year effort to suppress those breaks
for economic freedom which were bursting out all over the world... All
intelligence agencies have been, and are still in, the business of
destabilising undeveloped countries to maintain their dependency and the
flow of the world’s natural wealth to powerful nations’ industries at a
low price and to provide markets for those industries at a high price.3
is obvious that the media has failed to accurately portray the real nature of
Western foreign policy to the public. The question is, why does the media
conform to the dubious agenda of the government and corporate elite?
answer lies in an analysis of how the media works. Probably the most thorough
analysis is Manufacturing Consent, written by two leading US academics, Edward
Herman (Professor Emeritus of Finance at Wharton School in the University of
Pennsylvania) and Noam Chomsky (Institute Professor of Linguistics and
Philosophy at MIT).4
principal reason to begin with this study is that it contains arguably the
most thoroughly researched and empirically verified model of the media
available. Herman and Chomsky’s landmark book is recommended by America’s
leading national media watchdog, the Washington D.C.-based research group
Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). The Grand Rapids Institute for
Information Democracy (GRIID), affiliated to the U.S.-based Community Media
Centre (CMC) also recommends the book as an “essential resource for media
Oxford-based research and publishing group Corporate Watch describes the study
as “one of the most incisive critiques of the media’s role in society”.6 The
respected journal Publisher’s Weekly gives the following review of
of Wharton and Chomsky of MIT lucidly document their argument that
America’s government and its corporate giants exercise control over what
we read, see and hear. The authors identify the forces that they contend
make the national media propagandistic – the major three being the
motivation for profit through ad revenue, the media’s close links to and
often ownership by corporations, and their acceptance of information from
biased sources. In five case studies, the writers show how TV, newspapers
and radio distort world events… Extensive evidence is calmly presented,
and in the end an indictment against the guardians of our freedom is
substantiated. A disturbing picture emerges of a news system that panders to
the interest of America’s privileged and neglects its duties when the
concerns of minority groups and the underclass are at stake.
according to the leading US media scholar Robert W. McChesney – Research
Professor in the Institute of Communications Research and the Graduate School
of Information and Library Sciences at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign – any significant attempt to comprehend the structure and
operation of the mass media must begin with Herman and Chomsky’s
book promises to be a seminal work in critical media analysis and to open a
door through which future media analysis will follow… Manufacturing
Consent is a work of tremendous importance for scholars and activists
alike… Each chapter is meticulously researched and most draw heavily on
the authors’ earlier works in these areas.8
this provides ample reason to understand Herman and Chomsky’s model of the
propaganda model does not entail a grandiose conspiracy theory. Rather, it is
based on analysing the politico-economic influences on the mass media, and the
extent to which those influences condition the media’s reporting tendencies
in accord with the interests of power. The model can be described as a
‘guided free market’ model, arguing that the media’s reporting is
dominated by the same factors that guide corporate activity: the maximisation
of profit. A propaganda model of the media asserts that the media is
fundamentally conditioned by the profit-orientated activities of corporate
elites. As US media scholar Professor Robert W. McChesney observes:
and Chomsky quickly dismiss the standard mainstream critique of radical media
analysis that accuses it of offering some sort of ‘conspiracy’ theory for
media behaviour; rather, they argue, media bias arises from ‘the
preselection of right-thinking people, internalised preconceptions, and the
adaptation of personnel to the constraints’ of a series of objective filters
they present in their propaganda model. Hence the bias occurs largely through
self-censorship, which explains the superiority of the US mass media as a
propaganda system: it is far more credible than a system which relies on
official state censorship.9
1: Elite Ownership
and Chomsky’s model describes five ‘filters’ that limit what the media
reports in accord with governmental and corporate interests. Professor
McChesney observes that:
stories with a strong orientation to elite interests can pass through the
five filters unobstructed and receive ample media attention. The model also
explains how the media can conscientiously function when even a superficial
analysis of the evidence would indicate the preposterous nature of many of
the stories that receive ample publicity in the press and on the network
first filter consists of the size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth and
profit-orientation of the most dominant mass media firms. Media ownership
involves enormous costs, which imposes rigid limits on who is able to run a
media entity, even a small one. To cater to a mass audience, a media
organisation must be a fairly sizeable corporation. Consequently, it will be
owned either directly by the state, or by wealthy individuals. In 1986, out of
25,000 US media entities, a mere 29 largest media systems accounted for over
half the output of newspapers and for the majority of sales and audiences in
magazines, broadcasting, books and films. These massive media firms are
profit-orientated corporations, owned and controlled by wealthy
profit-orientated people, which are also “closely interlocked, and have
common interests, with other major corporations, banks, and government”.11 Because
they are often fully integrated into the stock market, they become subject to
powerful pressures from stockholders, directors and bankers to focus on
profitability. This means that they are united by a basic framework of special
interests, even though they remain in competition:
control groups obviously have a special stake in the status quo by virtue of
their wealth and their strategic position in one of the great institutions
of society [the stock market]. And they exercise the power of this strategic
position, if only by establishing the general aims of the company and
choosing its top management.12
media corporations thus tend to avoid news that questions the status quo in
terms of the actions of the wealthy: If media entities are owned by
profit-orientated corporations that have a vested interest in maintaining the
status quo, those corporations are clearly not going to employ individuals who
question the status quo to run their media entities. McChesney observes:
of these corporations have extensive holdings in other industries and
nations. Objectively, their needs for profit severely influence the news
operations and overall content of the media. Subjectively, there is a clear
conflict of interest when the media system upon which self-government rests
is controlled by a handful of corporations and operated in their
large amount of the information the public receives is controlled by a very
small number of media sources. Freedom House records that within states, out
of 187 governments, 92 have complete ownership of the television broadcasting
structure, while 67 have part ownership.14 Ownership
of the world’s media sources is growing increasingly concentrated. Thousands
of other sources do exist, but in comparison, their influence is negligible.
The leading US media analyst Ben Bagdikan – former Dean at the Graduate
School of Journalism at the University of California, and a winner of almost
every top prize in American journalism including the Pulitzer – noting that
despite more than 25,000 media entities in the US only “23 corporations
control most of the business in daily newspapers, magazines, television,
books, and motion pictures”, concludes that this endows corporations with
the extensive power to exercise influence over “news, information, public
ideas, popular culture, and political attitudes”.15
result is that a total of 12 corporations dominate the world’s mass media.
US media and communications expert Dr. Dean Alger – former Fellow in the
Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard
University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government – lists this ‘dominant
dozen’ as follows in order of power: Disney – Capital Cities – ABC; Time
Warner – Turner; News Corporation; Bertelsmann; Tele-Communications (TCI)
– AT&T; General Electric – NBC; CBS Inc.; Newshouse/Advance
Publications; Viacom; Microsoft; Matra – Hachette – Filipacchi; Gannet.
journalists have commented on the implications. Journalist and former top
editor of the Chicago Tribunal, James Squires, describes the
concentration of media-ownership in profit-orientated corporations:
its struggle for relevance and financial security in the modern information
age, the press as an institution appears ready to trade its tradition and
its public responsibility for whatever will make a buck. In the starkest
terms, the news media of the 1990s are a celebrity-oriented, Wall-Street
dominated, profit-driven entertainment enterprise dedicated foremost to
delivering advertising images to targeted groups of consumers.
Clurman, who was for years a leading figure in Time magazine, observes:
the news media became bigger and bigger business, the innovative traditions
led by creative editorial dominance began to erode... The media had grown
from a nicely profitable, creative business into a gigantic investment
opportunity. It was becoming harder to think of them as different from any
other business in free enterprise America.
Underwood – former reporter for The Seattle Times and the Gannett
News Service, now Professor of Communications at the University of Washington
– also confirms the drastic corporatisation of the media:
probably no surprise that in an era of mass media conglomerates, big chain
expansion, and multimillion dollar newspaper buy-outs, the editors of daily
newspapers have begun to behave more and more like the managers of any
elites who dominate the various institutions of society share a common set of
values and associations linked with their generally wealthy position as
members of a highly privileged class. These elites include the decision makers
over politics, investment, production, distribution; members of ideological
institutions involving editorial positions, control of journals and so on;
those in managerial positions, who manage corporations and have similar roles.
These different elite groups all interpenetrate one another in accord with
their shared values and associations. Furthermore, due to their common social
position, they are largely socialised into the traditional values that
characterise their wealthy class. This has a significant impact on their
outlook on the world, and consequently their attitude towards political
Britain, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) constitutes an obvious
example. The board of governors on the BBC tends to be drawn from the ranks of
the ‘great and good’ and to mirror the predominance of the upper middle
classes in the ranks of political life in elected and non-elected positions of
the eighty-five governors who have served in the first fifty years of the
BBC’s history, fifty-six had a university education (forty at Oxford or
Cambridge) and twenty were products of Eton, Harrow or Winchester. The
political experience of Board members has come mainly from the House of Lords
although there have been nineteen former MPs.18
Franklin, Reader in Media and Communication Studies at the University of
Sheffield, observes that abundant documentation proves that the elite “uses
its privileged access to media institutions to produce programming which is
partial and supportive of a particular class interest.” Franklin refers to
the series of Bad News studies by Glasgow University Media Group (GUMG),
offering ample evidence “of a systematic skew in the reporting of certain
kinds of news.”19 In
their first study, the Glasgow scholars concluded that “television news is a
cultural artifact; a sequence of socially-manufactured messages which carry
many of the culturally dominant assumptions of our society.” In a later
study titled More Bad News, they found that television news reporting
“consistently maintains and supports a cultural framework within which
viewpoints favourable to the status quo are given preferred and privileged
Editor-in-Chief David Bowman of the Sydney Morning Herald thus confirms
that “having thrown off one yoke, the press should now be falling under
another, in the form of a tiny and ever-contracting band of
businessmen-proprietors. Instead of developing as a diverse social
institution, serving the needs of democratic society, the press, and now the
media, have become or are becoming the property of a few, governed by whatever
social, political and cultural values the few think tolerable”.21 “The
danger”, he elsewhere observes, “is that the media of the future, the
channels of mass communication, will be dominated locally and world-wide by
the values – social, cultural and political – of a few individuals and
their huge corporations.”22
mass media also broadly restricts the ideological orientation of its staff,
the result being that the media becomes largely ideologically subservient to
the assumptions and interests of the elite. Bob Franklin notes that this is
because, editors are simply workers – albeit at a high grade – and, as
such, remain subject to the discipline of proprietors...
would certainly be difficult to persuade an editor that proprietors are no
longer in control of their newspapers. A succession of editors from Harold
Evans to Andrew Neil acknowledge the power of proprietors in autobiographies
which invariably detail their prompt removal from the editorial chair
following a disagreement with the owner... Proprietors’ power to ‘hire and
fire’ makes them formidable figures, but they also control all aspects of a
newspaper’s financial and staffing resources.23
expert Ben Bagdikan acknowledges the dictatorial control over public life
entailed by the increasing concentration in corporate ownership:
an authoritarian society there is a ministry, or a commissar, or a
directorate that controls what everybody will see and hear. We call that a
dictatorship. Here we have a handful of very powerful corporations led by a
handful of very powerful men and women who control everything we see and
hear beyond the natural environment and our own families. That’s something
which surrounds us every day and night. If it were one person we’d call
that a dictatorship, a ministry of information.24
extent of the power that elites have over the media can be grasped when we
recall that even Western intelligence agencies control the press. For example,
an internal committee of the CIA reported in 1992 that:
[i.e. the CIA] have relationships with reporters [that] have helped us turn
some intelligence failure stories into intelligence success stories. Some
responses to the media can be handled in a one-shot phone call.25
CIA Director William Colby went further, admitting: “The Central
Intelligence Agency owns anyone of any significance in the major media.”26
the legitimacy of elite interests are presupposed by the mass media in terms
of a general all-pervading set of assumptions. Since these assumptions are
rooted in the elite ideology, the mass media, owned by a corporate elite, is
generally unable to fundamentally question that ideology. Bob Franklin thus
concludes that “while it is possible to cite cases where the media have
toppled the powerful, there is a greater body of evidence to suggest that
their role is more typically to serve as a source of support.”27
is therefore not surprising that debate within the media is largely restricted
to the assumption of Western governmental and corporate benevolence, the
belief in the viability and legitimacy of the status quo. Dissent that
stretches beyond these limits by choosing to question the very assumptions
adopted at the outset by the media, will be neglected. Certainly, due to the
sheer mass of news it is also predictable that the odd dissenting report may
filter through – but the substantial majority of reports will “serve as a
source of support” for elite interests.
the American political scientist Michael Parenti writes, the result of
corporate ownership of the media where staffing will be especially restricted
to those who conform to the ideological requirements of corporate power, is
that journalists “rarely doubt their own objectivity even as they faithfully
echo the established political vocabularies and the prevailing
politico-economic orthodoxy. Since they do not cross any forbidden lines, they
are not reined in. So they are likely to have no awareness they are on an
ideological leash.”28 A
propaganda model clarifies the institutional structure of the media that
prevents criticism of elite policy from receiving little in-depth critical
analysis by the mainstream media. Permissible dissent then becomes powerless,
unable to question the ideological framework upon which the elite dominated
social structures are based. The result has been noted by media analyst W.
public is exposed to powerful persuasive messages from above and is unable
to communicate meaningfully through the media in response to these
messages... Leaders have usurped enormous amounts of political power and
reduced popular control over the political system by using the media to
generate support, compliance, and just plain confusion among the public.29
2: Elite Funding
second filter noted by Herman and Chomsky, related to the first filter, is
advertising. Professor McChesney notes that advertising “has colonised the
US mass media and is responsible for most of the media’s income.”30 The
growth of advertising has meant that newspapers and other media sources have a
primary source of funds other than their selling price. This means that the
media’s reporting tendencies can be influenced through the withdrawal or
offer of economic support. Since the mass media is largely financed through
advertising, it becomes financially dependent for its existence on advertising
revenue from corporations. All forms of media have to ensure that their
advertising profile is high to retain corporate investment in advertising, and
thereby to retain a source of funds. This is ideally achieved by becoming
ideologically appealing to an audience with a high buying capacity: i.e.
members of the elite and generally members of the wealthiest classes.
Newspapers that are attractive to advertisers are able to lower their price
below the cost of producing them, due to advertising revenue.
of course, constitute corporate sponsors. This means that newspapers that fail
to attract such corporate sponsors, are more likely to be either marginal or
non-existent. Additionally, a newspaper will be more favourable to advertisers
if it is biased towards the assumptions and values of a wealthy readership.
With newspapers having become so dependent on advertising to exist and
flourish, corporate sponsors effectively retain a significant control over
which newspapers survive, what they choose to report, and how they do so.
Consequently, newspapers unattractive to advertisers can be undercut –
without a good source of funds from advertising, their prices tend to be
higher, reducing sales and reducing profit by which to invest in improving
saleability (via quality, format, promotions, etc.). Such newspapers can
therefore be effectively marginalised – in some cases, driven completely out
their authoritative history of the British press, James Curran and Jean Seaton
conclude that the growth in both advertising and capital costs were critical
in eliminating the popular radical press that had emerged in the first half of
the nineteenth century. They record that “advertisers thus acquired a de
facto licensing authority since, without their support, newspapers ceased to
be economically viable”.31
two filters mean that the mass media is institutionally structured to be
subservient to the corporate elite. It is at once directly owned and thereby
structurally controlled by that elite, and indirectly influenced by financial
pressures from corporate sponsors related to advertising. The mass media as an
institution is intrinsically subservient to corporate ideology. As
Professor Edward Herman states, “capitalists control the media and they do
so to maximise profits”. What does this entail? Herman explains:
main element in corporate ideology is the belief in the sublimity of the
market and its unique capacity to serve as the efficient allocator of
resources. So important is the market in this ideology that ‘freedom’
has come to mean the absence of constraints on market participants, with
political and social democracy pushed into the background as supposed
derivatives of market freedom. This may help explain the tolerance by
market-freedom lovers of market-friendly totalitarians – Pinochet or
Marcos. A second and closely related constituent of corporate ideology is
the danger of government intervention and regulation, which allegedly tends
to proliferate, imposes unreasonable burdens on business, and therefore
hampers growth. A third element in the ideology is that growth is the proper
national objective, as opposed to equity, participation, social justice, or
cultural advance and integrity. Growth should be sustainable, which means
that the inflation threat should be a high priority and unemployment kept at
the level to assure the inflation threat is kept at bay. The resultant
increasingly unequal income distribution is also an acceptable price to pay.
Privatisation is also viewed as highly desirable in corporate ideology,
following naturally from the first two elements – market sublimity and the
threat of government. It also tends to weaken government by depriving it of
its direct control over assets, and therefore has the further merit of
reducing the ability of government to serve the general population through
democratic processes... [P]rivatisation yields enormous payoffs to the
bankers and purchasers participating in the sale of public assets.32
ideological positions become implicit assumptions pervading permissible
political discourse within the media. It is therefore extremely rare to find
these principles being subjected to fundamental critical examination by the
3: Elite Information Sources
third filter constitutes the sources that the mass media routinely relies on
for news. Because the media needs a steady and reliable source of news,
resources are focused where news can be most easily acquired. Unfortunately,
central news terminals of this type happen to be the White House, the Pentagon
and the State Department, as well as business corporations and trade groups.
The importance of such organisations as news sources is because they possess
the greatest resources for public relations and promotional material.
Consequently, “the mass media are drawn into a symbiotic relationship with
powerful sources of information by economic necessity and reciprocity of
media entities established by human rights organisations and other groups are
thus marginalised. The public then receives news and analysis that
fundamentally conforms to the elite ideology, and facts largely cannot be
scrutinised free from the assumptions of that ideology. News is thus filtered
in accordance with what is suitable to the requirements of elite power and its
interests. McChesney explains:
media rely heavily upon news provided them by corporate and government
sources, which have themselves developed enormous bureaucracies to provide
this material to the media. They have developed great expertise at
‘managing’ the media. In effect, these bureaucracies subsidise the media
and the media must be careful not to antagonise such an important supplier.
Furthermore, these corporate and government sources are instantly credible
by accepted journalistic practices. Anti-elite sources, on the other hand,
are regarded with utmost suspicion and have tremendous difficulty passing
successfully through this filter.34
example, the US Air Force publishes 140 newspapers per week, issuing 45,000
headquarters and unit news releases per year. Other government-related
institutions produce a similar proportion of information. This massive amount
of news produced by the state and corporations provides the media with
‘facts’ that easily acquired and inexpensive. Herman and Chomsky observe
consolidate their pre-eminent position as sources, government and
business-news promoters go to great pains to make things easy for news
organisations... In effect, the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidise
the mass media, and gain special access by their contribution to reducing
the media’s costs of acquiring the raw materials of, and producing, news.
The large entities that provide this subsidy become ‘routine’ news
sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must
struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the
impact of this, as Mark Fishman affirms, is that:
workers are predisposed to treat bureaucratic accounts as factual because
news personnel participate in upholding a normative order of authorised
knowers in the society. Reporters operate with the attitude that officials
ought to know what it is their job to know... In particular, a newsworker
will recognise an official’s claim to knowledge not merely as a claim, but
as a credible, competent piece of knowledge.
amounts to a moral division of labour: officials have and give the facts”,
which are therefore beyond question, however tenuous or absurd, while
“reporters merely get them” from the bureaucratic elite.36
4: Elite Flak
fourth filter Chomsky and Herman refer to is ‘flak’: the negative
responses to a media report in the form of letters, phone calls, petitions,
speeches, legal and parliamentary action, among other methods of complaint.
One of the most significant forms of flak already discussed is the withdrawal
of advertising revenue, which in itself can be sufficient for editors to
review their product. This form of flak can lead to the entire elimination of
a media source that is unfavourable to corporate sponsors and their interests.
Flak can also serve as a deterrent to producing certain kinds of programme or
story, and can even prevent reporters from investigating particular issues
because of how unlikely it is that such stories would be published. Business
organisations often come together to form organisations devoted solely to the
mass dissemination of flak, by which to impose immense pressure on the media
to follow the corporate lead.
the US, the conservative media organisation Accuracy In Media (AIM) is a clear
example of this – formed at the instigation of various giant corporations
with the view to impose flak on mainstream media sources who may occasionally
produce a piece questioning the legitimacy of elite ideology in some way. As
McChesney comments, right-wing corporate ‘flak’ producers such as Accuracy
in Media [act] to harass the mass media and to put pressure upon them to
follow the corporate agenda…
filter was developed extensively in the 1970s when major corporations and
wealthy right-wingers became increasingly dissatisfied with political
developments in the West and with media coverage… While ostensibly
antagonistic to the media, these flak machines provide the media with
legitimacy and are treated quite well by the media.37
of the most potent disseminators of flak is the government itself due to its
enormous resources. Compared with such corporate power, the ability of other
organisations representing the poor, the oppressed or the environment to
pressurise the media is dwarfed.38
5: Elite Ideology
the corporate ideology dominates the media by way of being almost
institutionally assumed, all ideologies that are in fundamental opposition to
the corporate ideology must similarly be institutionally assumed incorrect:
the fifth filter. Nationalist social movements around the world that
threatened the international capitalist system under US hegemony were
construed as totalitarian Communist movements. The final filter is thus the
ideology of “anticommunism”, a stance that has become integral to Western
political culture. According to McChesney: “Anticommunism has been ingrained
into acceptable journalistic practices in the United States, to the point that
even in periods of ‘detente’ it is fully appropriate and expected for
journalists to frame issues in terms of ‘our side’ versus the communist
‘bad guys’,” even when Communism is not the real ‘threat’ at all.39
can recall evidence for this when we compare the orthodox interpretation of
the Cold War espoused by most academic and media commentators with the fact
that there was no global Communist threat. Major covert operations, such as
the installation of the Shah in Iran after the elimination of the
democratically elected government of Mussadeq, or the intervention in
Nicaragua to overthrow the popular Sandinista Front, were undertaken on the
pretext of preventing the violent rise of totalitarian Communism and
protecting the independence of local populations. Herman and Chomsky observe:
“When anticommunist fervour is aroused, the demand for serious evidence in
support for claims of ‘communist’ abuses is suspended by the media, and
charlatans can thrive as evidential sources”.40
when journalists or editors challenge the prevailing anticommunist orthodoxy,
they “must meet far higher standards; in fact standards are often imposed
that can barely be met in the natural sciences”.41 This
filter is, however, not limited to anticommunism – rather it is related to
the prevailing pretext for Western policy at the time. After the collapse of
the Soviet Union, the noble fight against the non-existent international
Communist threat could no longer be pinpointed as a pretext for Western
military operations that had been undertaken for far more familiar reasons of
economic domination. Hence, it has been replaced by other diverse ideological
threats to be similarly exaggerated, distorted or even fabricated. A
particularly pertinent one in the present day is the alleged threat to the
United States and the West due to Islam and global Islamic terrorism.42
fifth filter is essentially synonymous with the elite ideology, since it is in
the context of this ideology that social movements and ideas in opposition to
the dominant ideology are interpreted within the media. Other elements of the
final filter will therefore include the benevolence of one’s government, the
universal merits of private enterprise, the benign character of corporations
and their activities, and so on. All of these inherently imply the
demonisation of the perceived threat to US hegemony with respect to these
the second part of this paper, we will discuss in further detail the new
alleged threat that has come to the fore, particularly in the aftermath of 11th September:
the threat of Islamic terrorism in the form of Osama Bin Laden’s “Al-Qaeda”.
Tehranian, Majid, ‘A Requiem for Realism?’, Peace & Policy,
3:1, Spring 1998.
2. Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power: British Foreign Policy Since 1945, Zed,
3. Smith, J. W., ‘Simultaneously Suppressing the World’s Break for
Freedom’, Economic Democracy: The Political Struggle of the Twenty-First
Century, M. E. Sharpe, New York, Armonk, 2000. Excerpts of this study can be
found at Institute for Economic Democracy, www.slonet.org/~ied.
In his Killing Hope, former State Department official and investigative
journalist William Blum confirms an even larger number of direct deaths than
that produced by Smith.
4. Herman, Edward S. and Chomsky, Noam, Manufacturing Consent: The Political
Economy of the Mass Media, Vintage, London, 1994.
5. FAIR, www.fair.org; GRIID,
affiliated with CMC, www.grmc.org, www.grcmc.org/griid.
6. ‘The Media’, Corporate Watch magazine, Issue 5 & 6.
7. McChesney, Robert W., ‘Introduction’ in Chomsky, Noam, Profit Over
People, op. cit.
8. McChesney, Robert, W., ‘Edward S. Herman on the propaganda model’, Monthly
Review, January 1989
11. Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, op. cit., p. 14.
12. Ibid., p. 8
13. McChesney, Monthly Review, January 1989.
14. US News & World Report, 11 November 1996, p. 48.
15. Bagdikan, Ben H., The Media Monopoly, Beacon Press, Boston, 1992, p. 4.
16. Alger, Dean, Megamedia: How Giant Corporations Dominate Mass Media,
Distort Competition, and Endanger Democracy, Rowman & Littlefield, Oxford,
1998. See this book for references on the previous citations.
17. All this is well understood. For studies of elite power in relation to
Britain see for instance John Scott, Who Rules Britain?, Polity Press,
Cambridge, 1991; Mark Curtis’s study in The Ambiguities of Power of the
mainstream British media is also very illuminating, disclosing the
subservience of the media in relation to Nicaragua and the Gulf War in
particular. A fairly competent analysis of the British media is Curran, James
and Seaton, Jean, Power without responsibility: The Press and Broadcasting in
Britain, Methuen, London, 1985; and especially Franklin, Bob, Newszak &
News Media, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1997. Also see Pilger, John,
Distant Voices, Vintage, London, 1992; Pilger, John, Hidden Agendas, Vintage,
London, 1998. Also see more general studies of the media that focus
particularly on the U.S., especially Chomsky and Herman, The Washington
Connection and Third World Fascism: The Political Economy of Human Rights,
South End Press, Boston, 1979; Smith, Anthony, The Geopolitics of Information:
How Western Culture Dominates the World, Faber & Faber, London, 1980;
Herman, Beyond Hypocrisy: Decoding the News in an Age of Propaganda, South End
Press, 1992; Parenti, Michael, Inventing Reality: The Politics of the News
Media, St. Martin’s Press, 1993; Herman, Edward S. and McChesney, Robert W.,
The Global Media and the New Missionaries of Global Capitalism, Cassell, 1997.
18. Dearlove, J. and Saunders, P. An Introduction to British Politics; cited
in Franklin, Bob, Newszak & News Media, St. Martin’s Press, New York,
1997, p. 41.
19. Franklin, Bob, ibid.
20. Cited in Ibid.
21. Cited in 24 Hours, Sydney, April 1996; Pilger, John, Hidden
Agendas, Vintage, London, 1998, p. 543.
22. Adelaide Review, February 1996.
23. Franklin, Bob, Newszak & News Media, op. cit. p. 40.
24. Ben Bagdikian interviewed by David Barsamian in ‘Navigating the
Media’, Z Magazine, September 1998.
25. Memorandum to Director of CIA, Task Force on Greater CIA Openness, 18 Nov.
26. Cited in McGowan, David, Derailing Democracy, Common Courage Press,
Monroe, Maine, 1999; from online e-mail bulletin, Political Literacy Course,
Common Courage Press, 20 March 2000, www.commoncouragepress.com.
27. Franklin, Bob, Newszak and News Media, op. cit., p. 31.
28. Parenti cited in Pilger, John, Hidden Agendas, op. cit., p. 4.
29. Bennet, W. Lance, News: The Politics of Illusion, Longman, New York, 1988,
30. McChesney, Monthly Review, January 1989.
31. Alger, Dan, Megamedia: How Giant Corporations Dominate Mass Media, Distort
Competition, and Endanger Democracy, Rowan & Littlefield, Oxford, 1998, p.
154, 158; Curran, James and Seaton, Jean, Power without responsibility: The
Press and Broadcasting in Britain, Methuen, London, 1985, p.31. Also see
Barnouw, Erik, The Sponsor: Notes on a Modern Potentate, Oxford University
32. Interview with Edward S. Herman and Robert W. McChesney by David Peterson,
‘The Global Media’, Z Magazine, June 1997.
33. Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, op. cit., p. 14.
34. McChesney, Monthly Review, January 1989.
35. Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, op. cit., p. 21-22.
36. Fishman, Mark, Manufacturing News, University of Texas Press, Austin,
37. McChesney, Monthly Review, January 1989.
38. For an introductory discussion of how the propaganda model can be extended
to explain and reveal the corporate conditioning of Western culture and
academia, see Edwards, David, Free To Be Human: Intellectual Self-Defence in
an Age of Illusions, A Resurgence Book, Green Books, Devon, 1995.
39. McChesney, Monthly Review, January 1989.
40. Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, op. cit., p. 25.
41. Ibid., p. 291.
See for example, Masud, Enver, The War On Islam, The Wisdom Fund, Madrasah
Books Division, Arlington, 2000.
Mosaddeq Ahmed is a political analyst and human rights activist, specialising
in Western foreign policy and its impact on human rights. He is Executive
Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development (IPRD), an
independent, interdisciplinary, non-profit think tank based in Brighton, UK.
The IPRD conducts research and analysis of local and global society for the
promotion of human rights, justice and peace. For further information, visit www.globalresearch.org.
© Copyright New Dawn
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letter to Helen Thomas:
Where are those AWOL skeptics?''
Friday, June 21, 2002 @ 11:46:24 EDT http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=412
Lewandowski YellowTimes.org Content Director
(YellowTimes.org) – Helen
Thomas is a syndicated columnist for the Hearst chain of newspapers. She served
fifty-nine years as a U.P.I. reporter and a White House correspondent. She
recently published a column in which she referenced the 1972 Watergate scandal
that toppled President Nixon and she claimed, among other things, that
"There is much more skepticism today, not only from journalists, but also
from the American people, who desperately want to believe in their leaders. That
is the sad legacy of the Watergate scandal." ( http://www.thebostonchannel.com/helenthomas/1518553/detail.html
Dear Ms. Thomas:
You recently wrote a column
("30-year-old scandal still affects us") in which you make the
puzzling assertion that Nixon's fall from grace "was a wake-up call for
journalists. Never again would they take a president's word at face value."
I won’t divulge a lady’s
age Ms. Thomas, but any journalist who has attended the press conferences of
eight different presidents, is old enough to know better. A skeptical,
questioning, suspicious press corps, if it existed today, would be a healthy
change, not a "sad legacy."
Pardon me for speaking
frankly, but I was alive and well, devouring daily newspapers like the Wall
Street Journal and the New York Times during the days before and after
Watergate. I remember the days when the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which of course
we now know to have been faked, was reported as fact, without question, by a
most gullible and cooperative press corps.
I also remember when our
president, sweating under the hot lights of the TV cameras, could see the
"light at the end of the tunnel" in Vietnam, and no reporter
questioned his vision or asked him to define "light."
I remember when every
Vietnamese villager who was instantly converted into a running, screaming human
torch by U.S. napalm was later identified as a "dead Communist." The
press adopted this simplistic labeling system, as if they had interviewed each
of the dead Vietnamese concerning his or her understanding of Marxist-Leninist
philosophy. Such interviews would have been tricky since so many of the
incinerated bodies belonged to infants too young to have mastered any language.
For some reason, the bodies
of 50,000 dead GIs were identified, not by their presumed ideology
(capitalists), but by their nationality - American. Perhaps U.P.I. reporters
found it emotionally difficult to interview fatally wounded GIs about their
personal allegiance to various theories presented in Adam Smith's "Wealth
of Nations." Anyway, the Nixon years were not a high water mark in U.S.
journalistic standards. They were days of insidious double standards, employed
by compliant writers to create mind-numbing propaganda.
Nixon's faithful press corps
never exhibited any skepticism about the sanity of sending an army of uniformed
soldiers, armed with bullets but with no consistent set of principles, to kill
an ideology. In retrospect, the "war on Communism" looks downright
cerebral compared to our present "War on Terrorism." At least in the
late 1960's there actually were some foreign demons who identified themselves as
"Communists." Who, among our rapidly expanding list of current
villains identifies himself as a “terrorist”? The arbitrary labeling is left
up to our chief executive, and the press never asks for any working definition.
Please explain what has
changed since Watergate. What has changed since those days when the Fifth Estate
repeatedly demonstrated a cowardly lack of integrity in order to appear docile
"presidential word" is no longer "taken at face value" as
you assert in your column? It certainly is not the word "terrorist."
Nor is it the word "extremist," nor "radical," nor
"fundamentalist," nor "religious cult," nor
"defend," nor "war," nor "rogue state," nor
"evil," nor "terrorist infrastructure," nor “security
alert,” nor "self-defense," nor "smaller government," nor
"smart sanctions," nor "patriotism," nor "freedom and
democracy," nor "weapons of mass destruction," nor
"peaceful," nor "right to life," nor "the rule of
law," nor "security," nor "conservation," nor
"pollution," nor "private enterprise," nor any of the other
thousands of words which perform forced labor in Bush’s Orwellian propaganda
These words are all being
tortured to death by politicians and journalists who pretend to be ignorant of
their historical and literal meanings.
Bush uses words in bizarre
new ways every day but the dewy eyed White House correspondents never get
inquisitive enough to ask him, "what do you mean when you use that word in
They never ask,"What do
you mean, for instance, when you call Ariel Sharon a man of peace? What is the
meaning of the word 'peace' when used to describe a man who turns his rifles and
fires upon BBC journalists who dared to photograph and report some details of
his armored assaults against civilian populations?"
By the way, why is it no
longer permissible for the press to call a bloody assault against unarmed
civilians a "massacre"? Instead, all reporters have agreed to refer to
such mechanized homicide as “incursions” or "mopping up." The
latter phrase probably originated in the South Pacific where the enemy was
actually armed and capable of fighting back. This term from some Tidy Bowl
commercial is currently pressed into duty to help the propaganda team sprinkle a
fresh clean fragrance over piles of rotting corpses in Jenin.
Words do matter, Helen, and
a real journalist would ask for precise meanings. Words describe our intentions
and enable us to evaluate our results.
The current ruler of the “free
world” (whatever that phrase means) has used volumes of unchallenged
"presidential words" to declare his war against some vague notion of
“evil” without offering any definitions or explaining any principles by
which we grownups could measure the consistency of his policies or the morality
of his actions.
We can't possibly criticize
his results because he describes his goals in such childish and simplistic terms
that any action, even the obliteration of a peasant village, can be construed as
fitting the objective of "destroying evil." Any village so reduced to
rubble might easily have once contained a naughty something or someone who could
conveniently be called "evil," if an excuse for the slaughter of
civilians was ever requested by the press.
Of course New York City is
also a village where bad people have been known to set up residence from time to
time. Some of New York's drug lords and organized gangsters could even be called
"evil" by polite society. Does New York City thus fit the new
presidential definition of "terrorist infrastructure" and
There was a very low level
of skepticism in 1972, but that level has dropped even lower today. If Nixon
were still alive and if he called for an unending war against an unnamed
"bad ideology,” located in some unnamed “bad place,” today’s
reporters would politely decline to even ask for the name of the target country!
Richard must be rolling in his grave, jealous of the press latitude now afforded
his successor in word crime.
So, dearest Helen, Grand
Dame of the White House press corps, veteran of so many presidential briefings,
where is the "skeptical press" that you assure us is our legacy from
Watergate? Are these wonderfully skeptical reporters hidden deep inside Mystery
Mountain with Bush's "Shadow Government," scouring their notebooks for
evidence of presidentially adulterated words? The private muttering that takes
place among reporters and columnists, in their favorite watering holes, hardly
qualifies as professional skepticism.
When I survey the current
crop of journalists, I see a fawning herd of patriotic but stupid stenographers,
decorating White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer’s fantasy prose with red
white and blue bunting. The pressroom flag flappers dutifully report the
Generalissimo's "great victory over evil" in Afghanistan, as if
something had actually been accomplished, something besides the replacement of
one gang of warlords with a more pipeline friendly team of tyrants.
The press casually refers to
this "victory in Afghanistan" as if that new oil pipeline had always
been the publicly declared justification for Bush’s war, and therefore it is
the only appropriate measure of his success.
On June 15th, the New York
Times published the following report: "Classified investigations of the
Qaeda threat now under way at the F.B.I. and C.I.A. have concluded that the war
in Afghanistan failed to diminish the threat to the United States, the officials
said. Instead, the war might have complicated counterterrorism efforts by
dispersing potential attackers across a wider geographic area."
Nevertheless, no major
newspaper, not even the New York Times, which carried this candid confession, is
about to cease and desist from making repetitious references to the
"victory in Afghanistan," as if it were a reality that had been
observed, measured, and verified by objective reporters. The big lie gets
endless front-page repetition while the truth is only an occasional footnote at
the bottom of page ten.
Please Helen, why don't your
skeptical comrades question any of what Norman Solomon calls the unspoken
"underlying assumptions" of the pabulum that sleepy stenographers are
spoon-fed every morning in Ari's Day Care Center? “Open wide," says Uncle
Ari. "Here comes another whopper.” Here come “pre-emptive strikes,”
and “nuclear first strike options,” and “unlawful combatants”.
If Watergate left the press
corps overly skeptical, as you claim, then why do they not fly overseas, like
real reporters, like British writer Robert Fisk for instance, to see for
themselves, and to ask other people what they see when they look toward the
West? Do foreign victims of oppression and starvation see an America that is
poised to lead the world out of its present darkness or do they only see a giant
bully, blinded by irrational rage, flailing against noises in the night with his
nuclear tipped sword?
Why do your skeptical
colleagues not ask our Commander in Chief to reveal his universal standards for
measuring moral behavior? What is the moral yardstick by which the president of
Iraq was once measured and declared to be a valuable ally to the “free
world," while he was gassing Kurds and killing Iranians? Later, when that
same murderous cretin became an "evil doer who killed his own people,”
was this because the man had changed, or was it because the yardstick had
What are the undefined
universal standards by which all men are to be judged, and some, like Saddam,
are found to be "evil," condemned to die at the hands of American
might, while other butchers, like those in Bogotá receive a presidential pat on
the back and a fresh shipment of torture racks?
What about the once evil
Nelson Mandela? How did he redefine himself, after years of official
condemnation as a “terrorist," an “extremist,” and a “radical”
into a national hero? He was convicted, by America’s apartheid ally, of
sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government by force. Now he is a “freedom
fighter.” When will the enemies of our other apartheid allies become “freedom
fighters”? What definitive dictionary does the press corps use for reference,
when slapping on such labels?
Larry Birns, head of the
Council on Hemispheric Affairs think tank in Washington, says, "What is
dangerous now is that the anti-terrorist war has no standards and no criteria.
It is whatever the Bush administration says it is at any given moment."
(The Guardian, May 7th 2002) Why aren’t our own reporters asking any questions
about these standards, Helen?
How can we possibly go to
war against “evil” without even attempting to pin down the constantly
shifting standard of official morality? Only a skeptical press corps can pose
such questions to our Commander. I never hear them trying.
Why are nuclear bombs
labeled as "weapons of mass destruction” only until they have been
decorated with stars and stripes, or with the bright blue Star of David? Why is
anthrax a "defensive weapon" when the spores are cultivated in a lab
in Fort Detrick, Maryland, but the very same spores become “weapons of mass
destruction” if they turn up in Cuba or Iraq?
These are the types of
questions that would be asked by a Watergate savvy press corps. I never hear
them being asked by our “skeptical” press.
In September 1939, Adolf
Hitler took to the airwaves to declare Germany's "right to defend
herself," then he sent the Luftwaffe to "strike back" against my
Polish ancestors who were still on horseback. With tanks and planes, he struck
"pre-emptively" against the Polish cavalry. Now we have a president
who talks of “pre-emptive” wars and incarcerations. Can you and your
colleagues really think of no skeptical questions to pose to our president about
this vague notion of “pre-emption”?
Like Bush, Hitler also
enjoyed the pleasant company of an adoring German press corps which never
questioned words like "striking back" or "terrorist." In
return, Adolf, who incidentally loved his obedient dog, always provided his
patriotic journalists with good theater, with "good visuals" as Uncle
Ari would put it.
Where are those post
Watergate newspapers which dare to ask basic questions about international
morality? All I see are shallow debates about tactics. Your colleagues love to
hold round table discussions about what methods would represent the most
efficient use of American military hardware to further suppress the Columbians,
and the Palestinians, or to wipe out the Cubans and the Iraqis.
Reporters think it impolite
to ask their president why the mightiest nation on Earth needs to finance the
destruction of such impoverished and oppressed people. This is like German
papers debating how best to beat down the Poles. Should the Luftwaffe waste
precious ammunition on the horses, or just use "smart bullets" to
neatly behead the riders?
The unquestioned assumption
behind such silly debates is that might makes right. Our current crop of post
Watergate sycophants loves to debate the “how” but never dares to ask “why.”
“The sad legacy of the
Watergate scandal,” as you called it, is not a skeptical press, but a
paralyzed press. Having accidentally exposed one petty tyrant for the amoral
fraud that he was, today’s timid press doesn’t want to make that mistake
again. “For the good of the nation” they bite their lip. Thirty years after
Watergate, America is desperately in need of a healthy dose of skepticism.
Please tell us where we can
find some, Helen.
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