The Corrupt US Government Media

       Page II

         

   

John Swinton, 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 he said.

"There is 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)

Richard M. Cohen, Senior Producer of CBS political news, stated:

 

 "We are going to impose our agenda on the coverage by dealing with issues and subjects that we choose."

Richard Salant, 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 Media!

    WATCH WHAT YOU SAY!  by Carl Jensen

   'Into The Buzzsaw' - 18 Tales Of US Media Censorship By Michelle Goldberg AlterNet 4-8-2

     White House censorship  By Don Williams

Yugoslavia And Afghanistan - How To Understand Media Spin 

 Above the Law Bush’s Racial Coup D’Etat and Intell Shutdown By Greg Palast

A SWEET MESSAGE FOR AMERICANS -- "WE ARE FAMILY" By Norman Solomon / Creators Syndicate

World opinion opposes the attack on Afghanistan By David Miller

       Where no news is good news by Duncan Campbell

   "Black Hawk Down" – Hollywood drags bloody corpse of truth across movie screens By Larry Chin

  Podvin on the Media 1/9/02 CHOCOLATES AND NYLONS, SIR? By David Podvin

Andrew 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?

WHY THE MEDIA LIE The Corporate Structure Of The Mass Media

''Open 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 know it.

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 significance.

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 practices.

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 Bilderberg Group."

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 Street Memo.

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 immoral invasion.

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 entity.

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 right-wing."

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 destructive governments.

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 lifetime!

Theodore E. Lang THEODORE E. LANG 11/30/05 All rights reserved Ted Lang is a political analyst and freelance writer.

 

 

 

     WATCH WHAT YOU SAY! 

         by Carl Jensen

            (Press 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 Jensen

(Press Democrat, Saturday, 10/13/01)

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. firms.

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 Project Censored

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/ 

 

 

 

'Into The Buzzsaw' - 18 Tales Of US Media Censorship

 By Michelle Goldberg 

AlterNet 4-8-2

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.

Borjesson describes "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 investigating).

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 self-conceptions.

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 elite?"

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 statements.

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

 

 

 

http://www.onlinejournal.com 

White House censorship 

By Don Williams

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 later.

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 donors.

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 elections.

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:

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Yugoslavia And Afghanistan - How To Understand Media Spin 

By John 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 damn likely.

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 LewRockwell.com http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/keller16.html 

Reproduced From: LewRockwell.com 

 

 

http://www.guerrillanews.com/counter_intelligence/231.html 

Above the Law Bush’s Racial Coup D’Etat and Intell Shutdown

By Greg Palast

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:

http://www.guerrillanews.com/counter_intelligence/231.html 

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 was statewide.

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 legitimate.

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 dollars.

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 difference.

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 bit.

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 on.

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 innocence.

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.”

Lappé: Why?

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 document.”

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 disturbed.

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’ daughters weddings.

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 <mediabeat@igc.org >

A SWEET MESSAGE FOR AMERICANS -- "WE ARE FAMILY"

By Norman 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 coverage.

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 decency.

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 democracy."

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 Deceptive Media."

 

 

http://staff.stir.ac.uk/david.miller/publications/World-opinion.html 

World opinion opposes the attack on Afghanistan 

  http://staff.stir.ac.uk/david.miller/publications/World-opinion.html 

By David Miller

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.

World opinion

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)

Polling companies.

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.

Media reporting

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.

Conclusion

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.

http://staff.stir.ac.uk/davidmiller 

*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 UK.


References

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.

http://www.icmresearch.co.uk/reviews/2001/guardian-afghan-poll-oct-2001.htm 

ICM (2001b) ' ICM RESEARCH / THE GUARDIAN AFGHAN POLL - OCTOBER 2001', published in the Guardian, 30 October.

http://www.icmresearch.co.uk/reviews/2001/guardian-afghan2-poll-oct-2001.htm 

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

http://www.mori.com/polls/2001/ms011104.shtml 

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.


Guardian (London), 5 Dec 2001

Where no news is good news

 by Duncan Campbell



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 attacks.
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>

*****

 

http://www.onlinejournal.com/Commentary/Chin010302/chin010302.html 

"Black Hawk Down" 

– Hollywood 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 operation itself.

Somalia: the facts

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 interests.

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 Sea.

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 policy makers.

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 governments."

Bowden's more forgiving account does not contradict Chomsky's in this regard:

"Official U.S. 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 accurate.

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.

The "Somalia 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.

Hollywood to the rescue

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 soldiers."

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 journalist.

 

 

 

http://makethemaccountable.com/podvin/media/020109_Russert.htm 

Podvin on the Media 1/9/02 CHOCOLATES AND NYLONS, SIR?

By David Podvin

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 conglomerates.

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 Monica Lewinsky?"

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, just perhaps.)

"We don't know whether that's Republican spin, partisan spin, ideological spin, or there's a germ of evidence."

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 campaign contributors.

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 electorate.

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 personal wealth.

 

 

 

Andrew 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?

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 same.)

"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 Senators? "

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 Weekly Standard.

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 guidelines.

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 consulting."

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 harshest critics.)

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 material.)

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.

 

 

 

WHY THE MEDIA LIE

The Corporate Structure
Of The Mass Media

 

Part 1

© By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

On 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.

It 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.

The 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.

The Independent Media: A Myth

For 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:

In 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 Latin America.1

In 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:

Mutual 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 

Development specialist Dr. J. W. Smith, who is Director of Research for the California-based Institute for Economic Democracy, is even more explicit:

No 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

It 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?

The 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 

The 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 literacy”.5 The 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 Manufacturing Consent:

Herman 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.

Indeed, 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 study.7 He observes that:

This 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 

All this provides ample reason to understand Herman and Chomsky’s model of the media.

A 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:

Herman 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

Filter 1: Elite Ownership

Herman and Chomsky’s model describes five ‘filters’ that limit what the media reports in accord with governmental and corporate interests. Professor McChesney observes that:

Only 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 news broadcasts.10 

The 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:

These 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 

Major 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:

Many 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 self-interest.13

A 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

The 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.

Leading 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:

In 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.

Richard Clurman, who was for years a leading figure in Time magazine, observes:

As 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.

Doug 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:

It’s 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 corporate entity.16 

The 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 affairs.17 

In 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 power…

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 

Bob 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 readings.”20

Former 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 

The 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...

It 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 

Media expert Ben Bagdikan acknowledges the dictatorial control over public life entailed by the increasing concentration in corporate ownership:

In 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 

The 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:

We [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 

Former CIA Director William Colby went further, admitting: “The Central Intelligence Agency owns anyone of any significance in the major media.”26 

Consequently, 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 

It 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.

As 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. Lance Bennett:

The 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

Filter 2: Elite Funding

The 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.

Advertisers, 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 of existence.

In 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 

These 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:

The 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

These 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 corporate-owned media.

Filter 3: Elite Information Sources

The 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 interest”.33 Alternative 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:

The 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

For 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 that:

To 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 gatekeepers.35 

The impact of this, as Mark Fishman affirms, is that:

News 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.

“This 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

Filter 4: Elite Flak

The 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.

In 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…

This 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 

One 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

Filter 5: Elite Ideology

Since 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 

We 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 

Conversely, 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 

The 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 aspects.

In 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”.

Notes:

1. Tehranian, Majid, ‘A Requiem for Realism?’, Peace & Policy, 3:1, Spring 1998.
2. Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power: British Foreign Policy Since 1945, Zed, London, 1995.
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
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
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. 1991.
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, p. 178-79.
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 Press, 1978.
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, 1980.
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.
42. See for example, Masud, Enver, The War On Islam, The Wisdom Fund, Madrasah Books Division, Arlington, 2000.

______________________________________________________________________________
Nafeez 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 Magazine, http://www.newdawnmagazine.com . Permission to re-send, post and place on web sites for non-commercial purposes, and if shown only in its entirety with no changes or additions. This notice must accompany all re-posting. 

 

 

 

''Open letter to Helen Thomas:
Where are those AWOL skeptics?'' 

Printed on Friday, June 21, 2002 @ 11:46:24 EDT http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=412 

By George 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 and patriotic?

Which particular "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 factory.

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 that way?"

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 "evil"?

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 changed?

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.

George Lewandowski encourages your comments: glewandowski@YellowTimes.org 

YellowTimes.org encourages its material to be reproduced, reprinted, or broadcast provided that any such reproduction must identify the original source, http://www.YellowTimes.org . Internet web links to http://www.YellowTimes.org  are appreciated.

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