March 13, 2009

Follow pastpeak On Twitter Media

Miss me? I've been busy. But multiple times per day I read or think something that I'd post if I had the time.

So I'm going to try something new. We'll see how it goes. I've taken the name pastpeak on Twitter, and I'll try to "tweet" when I come across something interesting that can be stuffed into 140 characters or less. Links to interesting pages, but other things, too, hopefully.

I hope to get back to some real blogging, too, in the relatively near future. But in the meantime, sign up to follow me on Twitter. Let's see if anybody's still out there.

Posted by Jonathan at 02:31 PM | Comments (3954) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Jon Stewart Plays Hardball Economy  Media

You've probably seen this wonderful, wonderful bit from The Daily Show a little over a week ago:

Just excellent.

CNBC's Jim Cramer took exception, and last night Stewart had him on the show. Stewart starts out funny, but then he plays some real hardball, in parts 2 and 3 especially. Unedited, uncensored version. Watch:


Why does it take a fake news show to ask real questions? (He asked rhetorically...)

Posted by Jonathan at 02:16 PM | Comments (5422) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

May 29, 2008

CNN Correspondent Blurts Out Some Truth Media

CNN correspondent Jessica Yellin, discussing Scott McClellan's new book on Anderson Cooper's show:

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When the lead-up to the war began, the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings.

And my own experience at the White House was that, the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives -- and I was not at this network at the time [she was at MSNBC] -- but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president.

I think, over time...


COOPER: You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?

YELLIN: Not in that exact -- they wouldn't say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces. They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical and try to put on pieces that were more positive, yes. That was my experience.

I'm shocked. Shocked.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:54 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

April 10, 2008

The Power Of An Image Media

A picture worth a thousand words, and then some:


By Margaret Bourke-White.

Simply superb.

[Thanks, Maurice]

Posted by Jonathan at 05:37 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

February 27, 2008

How Embarrassing Media  Politics

Until last night, I hadn't watched any of the presidential candidates' "debates." Partly because I don't watch tv, but mostly because I just don't have the stomach for it: politics as an episode of "American Idol" (not that I've ever watched "American Idol," either.) But last night I did watch online, and I have to say: what's the deal with Tim Russert and his gotcha questions? That's the state of American journalism and politics? (Rhetorical question.)

Gawd, it's embarrassing. (Digby agrees.)

Posted by Jonathan at 03:51 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

December 24, 2007

AOL, You Suck Media

This is just despicable. Gawd.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:45 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

November 19, 2007

It's Hard To Be This Breathtakingly, Jaw-Droppingly Dumb Media  Politics

Unless you're Tom Friedman. Gawd.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 03, 2007

The Emptiest Of Suits Media

There's a good chance you've already seen this, but if not:

Like a thousand fingernails on a thousand blackboards. But huge props to Jon Stewart.

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August 28, 2007

Dolphin Fighting Media

Too funny.

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August 22, 2007

Poisoning Our Own Well Corporations, Globalization  Media

This story's a couple of weeks old, but it's too important to let slide. AP:

Anything made by McDonald's tastes better, preschoolers said in a study that powerfully demonstrates how advertising can trick the taste buds of young children.

Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids when they were wrapped in the familiar packaging of the Golden Arches.

The study had youngsters sample identical McDonald's foods in name-brand and unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods always lost the taste test.

"You see a McDonald's label and kids start salivating," said Diane Levin, a childhood development specialist who campaigns against advertising to kids. She had no role in the research.

Levin said it was "the first study I know of that has shown so simply and clearly what's going on with (marketing to) young children."

Study author Dr. Tom Robinson said the kids' perception of taste was "physically altered by the branding." The Stanford University researcher said it was remarkable how children so young were already so influenced by advertising. [...]

The study included three McDonald's menu items -- hamburgers, chicken nuggets and french fries -- and store-bought milk or juice and carrots. Children got two identical samples of each food on a tray, one in McDonald's wrappers or cups and the other in plain, unmarked packaging. The kids were asked whether they tasted the same or whether one was better. (Some children didn't taste all the foods.)

McDonald's-labeled samples were the clear favorites. French fries were the biggest winner; almost 77 percent said the labeled fries tasted best while only 13 percent preferred the others.

Fifty-four percent preferred McDonald's-wrapped carrots versus 23 percent who liked the plain-wrapped sample. [...]

Fewer than one-fourth of the children said both samples of all foods tasted the same.

Imagine you're a visitor from Mars, suddenly plunked down in the middle of American society. How crazy would this look: everywhere you turn, you see corporations directing powerful mind-control tools at our own population — every one of us, cradle to grave — with all the skill, sophistication, and guile they can muster. Programming us with insatiable desire for that which will leave us sick and empty and drowning in garbage. Treating our psyches like things to be plundered. Consequences be damned.

And we wonder why we're collectively going crazy. A system that brainwashes its own children to make a buck is one that has clearly lost its way. But we're so immersed in it we scarcely even notice.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:35 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

August 20, 2007

Petraeus Report To Be Written By White House Iraq  Media  Politics

We're supposed to all be waiting to hear what General Petraeus will say in his September "progress" report. But buried deep in an LA Times story about the upcoming report, we find this:

Administration and military officials acknowledge that the September report will not show any significant progress on the political benchmarks laid out by Congress. How to deal in the report with the lack of national reconciliation between Iraq's warring sects has created some tension within the White House.

Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report's data.

The senior administration official said the process had created "uncomfortable positions" for the White House because of debates over what constitutes "satisfactory progress."

During internal White House discussion of a July interim report, some officials urged the administration to claim progress in policy areas such as legislation to divvy up Iraq's oil revenue, even though no final agreement had been reached. Others argued that such assertions would be disingenuous.

"There were some in the drafting of the report that said, 'Well, we can claim progress,'" the administration official said. "There were others who said: 'Wait a second. Sure we can claim progress, but it's not credible to...just neglect the fact that it's had no effect on the ground.'"

The Defense official skeptical of the troop buildup said he expected Petraeus to emphasize military accomplishments, including improving security in Baghdad neighborhoods and a slight reduction in the number of suicide bomb attacks. But the official said he did not believe such security improvements would translate into political progress or improvements in the daily lives of most Iraqis.

"Who cares how many neighborhoods of Baghdad are secured?" the official said. "Let's talk about the rest of the country: How come they have electricity twice a day, how come there is no running water?" [Emphasis added]

Everybody pretends the report will be from Petraeus, but it's being cooked up by political hacks in the White House. Which is to say, it will be completely useless as a basis for deciding anything. Watch, though, as the mainstream media play along and portray it as a serious evaluation originating from Petraeus himself. Pardon me while I retch.

Posted by Jonathan at 12:45 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

July 24, 2007

Unfair, Unbalanced, Unhinged Environment  Media

This really ticks me off:

Millions of people get their version of reality from Fox News. Not a trivial matter. Garbage in, garbage out.

Time to make their advertisers pay.

Petition (and more videos) here.

Posted by Jonathan at 03:46 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

July 22, 2007

NYT: Harry Potter Not A Best Seller Media

I read the first Harry Potter and stopped there. But I know plenty of bookish adults who are avid fans of the series. Some have read each book multiple times.

But apparently the grinches at the New York Times, pressured by publishers whose own books were blown out of the water by J. K. Rowling's, decided to categorize the Potter books as children's books to keep them off the influential NYT Bestseller list. In fact, they're not even on the main children's list; they're relegated to the Series Books subsection of the Children's List.

So the publishing phenomenon of all time is officially not a NYT Bestseller. Not earth-shaking, obviously, but not very sporting, either. Kind of dumb, really.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

July 16, 2007

How The News Works Humor & Fun  Iran  Iraq  Media

This is excellent.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

June 14, 2007

3400, 3500 Iraq  Media

The carnage continues in Iraq.

While I was gone from the blog, US troops deaths in Iraq passed the 3400 mark. Then 3500. US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 3513.


And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. For what?

230 US troops were killed in April and May, the worst two-month total of the entire war, a fact worthy of some public discussion, one might think.

The situation is deteriorating. Fox News responds by cutting its Iraq coverage, a policy Bill O'Reilly likes just fine. Yes, let's all shut our eyes, stick our fingers in our ears, and go "La la la la." As if this isn't all happening in a real place, to real people. Unspeakable.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

May 01, 2007

Narrowcasting Ads Via Focussed Audio Corporations, Globalization  Media  Science/Technology

Hearing voices? Maybe this is why. Boston Globe (via Cryptogon):

Advertisers have a new way to get into your head.

Marketers around the world are using innovative audio technology that sends sound in a narrow beam, just like light, making it possible to direct messages right into consumers' ears while they shop or sit in waiting rooms.

The audio spotlight device, created by Watertown firm Holosonic Research Labs Inc., has been used to hawk everything from cereals in supermarket aisles to glasses at doctor's offices. The messages are often quick and targeted -- and a little creepy to the uninitiated.

Court TV recently installed the audio spotlight in ceilings of bookstores to promote the network's new murder-mystery show. A voice, whispering, "Hey, you, can you hear me? Do you ever think about murder?" was beamed toward customers as they browsed the mystery section in several independent bookstores in New York.

For advertisers, the audio spotlight is a way of marketing to consumers, sending tailored messages without disturbing an entire store with loudspeaker announcements such as Kmart's iconic "Blue Light Special." The flat disk speakers with precision targeting have made sound possible in unlikely places -- from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts to the New York Public Library -- and are increasingly attractive to merchants trying to improve the shopping experience with a peaceful environment. [...]

Unlike traditional speakers, which broadcast sound in every direction, sound from an audio spotlight speaker can be focused directly at one spot, so no one else can hear it, or projected against a surface so that sound appears to come from the surface itself.

For example, a box of Fruity Pebbles can advertise its nutritional content, heard by shoppers only as they walk by boxes in the cereal aisle. The audio spotlight uses ultrasound to stimulate the air into making sound, which is emitted in focused, laser-like beams. [Emphasis added]

What an awful idea. First time I encounter one of these things in a store, I'm going to boycott that store for life.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:25 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

April 28, 2007

Blind Spot Extremism  Media

When is a terrorist attack on US soil not a terrorist attack — in fact, not even worthy of mention on the evening news?

When the target is a women's clinic.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:59 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

D-E-S-P-I-C-A-B-L-E Media

Despicable "satire" from Rush Limbaugh. How does he stay on the air?

Posted by Jonathan at 04:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

April 16, 2007

The Edge Culture  Future  Media  Science/Technology

Just wanted to make a plug for an extraordinary website called The Edge. It brings together world-class thinkers from a variety of fields and has them talk or write about what's on their minds: what's interesting and important to them right now, with an emphasis on leading edge ideas.

People like Lee Smolin, Steven Pinker, Jared Diamond, Lisa Randall, Stuart Kauffman, Daniel Dennett, Freeman Dyson, Richard Dawkins, Marvin Minsky, Ernst Mayr, Brian Greene, Susan Blackmore, John Barrow, Ray Kurzweil, E. O. Wilson, Esther Dyson, and an old professor of mine, John Allen Paulos. And many more.

Check out the page of videos, lots of goodies there.

Most addicting, though, is the World Question Center. Each year, a hundred or so luminaries are invited to submit a short answer to a question like "What's your dangerous idea?" or "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" The variety of viewpoints and ideas is astounding and endlessly fascinating. Mind-expanding in the best sense of the word.

Well worth a bookmark.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

April 09, 2007

Get Me Rewrite! Iran  Iraq  Media

A couple of months ago, the government line was that resurgents' use of EFPs was proof of high-level Iranian involvement. Remember this? CBS:

U.S. military officials charged on Sunday that the highest levels of the Iranian leadership ordered Shiite militants in Iraq to be armed with sophisticated armor-piercing roadside bombs that have killed more than 170 American forces. [...]

The deadly and highly sophisticated weapons the U.S. military said were coming into Iraq from Iran are known as "explosively formed penetrators," or EFPs.

But now Reuters says different:

"Iraqi army soldiers swept into the city of Diwaniya early this morning to disrupt militia activity and return security and stability of the volatile city back to the government of Iraq,” the US military said in a statement.

[Lieutenant-Colonel Scott] Bleichwehl said troops, facing scattered resistance, discovered a factory that produced "explosively formed penetrators" (EFPs), a particularly deadly type of explosive that can destroy a main battle tank and several weapons caches. [Emphasis added]

So the devices that couldn't possibly have come from anywhere but Iranian government sources are actually manufactured by insurgents in Iraq. Not surprising in itself: what don't they lie about? But the story doesn't end there. As Atrios noticed, the Washington Post online picked up the Reuters story, as captured by Google News:

Then almost immediately, the original version was down The Memory Hole, becoming instead:

The U.S. military said two U.S. soldiers died in separate roadside bombings in the east and west of Baghdad on Friday.

One of the bombs was an explosively formed projectile, a particularly deadly type of device which Washington accuses Iran of supplying Iraqi militants. [Emphasis added]

Like it was written by the Pentagon itself. Either it was, or the WaPo thinks it's their job to do the Pentagon's work without being asked. Either way, disgraceful.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

March 01, 2007

Goring Gore Media  Politics

Two things.

First, the world would be a very different place today if Al Gore had been elected (or selected) President in 2000. No war in Iraq, for starters. No attack on Iran, should it come to that. Nothing like the worldwide antipathy towards the United States we see today. One could go on.

Second, Al Gore would have been elected President — probably with relative ease — if the mainstream media had given him a fair shake. All that nonsense about Gore being stiff, unlikable, a serial exaggerator — inventor of the Internet, the subject of Love Story — while George Bush was the likable, straight-talking guy everybody'd want to have a beer with. It was unrelenting, and it made all the difference.

Which is to say, the US media have a lot of blood on their hands. But don't hold your breath waiting for them to acknowledge, let alone apologize for, the great wrong they did to Gore and the great harm they did to the country and the world.

Which brings us to Bob Somerby. He chronicled many of the media outrages at the time, and he hasn't forgotten who said and did what. And is still saying and doing what. In yesterday's Daily Howler, Somerby looks at how little things have changed, and he's pissed. It's a good read, and an important one, as the media prepare once again to sanctify the likes of McCain and Giuliani, while covering Hillary and Obama — and Gore — with snide innuendo. Go read it.

This isn't a game. The media's consensus narrative shapes people's perceptions and changes history. Millions of lives have been shattered by Bush's presidency. While the pundits feed their egos, ordinary people pay the price. You'd think the pundits would look around at what they have wrought, at the rising tide of wreckage and ruin that surrounds us, and feel chastened. But you'd be wrong.

Now watch, as they get ready to do it all again.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

This American Life Culture  Media

Best possible news for fans of NPR's "This American Life": starting on March 22, a new video version will premiere on Showtime. Here's the trailer:

Wow. This could turn out to be about the best tv show ever. Three weeks from today.

[Thanks, Ali]

Posted by Jonathan at 11:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

January 04, 2007

Olbermann On "Sacrifice" And The "White Noise" Of Endless War Iraq  Media  Politics

As Bush prepares to sell a troop surge escalation in Iraq in terms of "sacrifice", Keith Olbermann provides blistering commentary:


One of Olbermann's best. Just outstanding.

Posted by Jonathan at 01:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

December 30, 2006

Your Liberal Media Media

Scroll down here and find the interview with John Edwards. Imagine CNN hounding a Republican in the same way. John McCain, say. Never happen.

[Via Atrios]

Posted by Jonathan at 11:25 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

December 23, 2006

Stompin' Media

This is a lot of fun. Sound required.

I love the different ways they leave at the end.

Posted by Jonathan at 03:57 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

December 12, 2006

Teeing Off Media

Suburban Guerrilla has a blistering clip of Henry Rollins teeing off in favor of net neutrality. Strong stuff, and rightly so.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

November 15, 2006

Fair And Balanced Media

FOX News internal memo posted at HuffPo:

The elections and Rumsfeld's resignation were a major event, but not the end of the world. The war on terror goes on without interruption...And let's be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress. [...]

Just because the Dems won, the war on terror isn't over.

Shorter version: the election/Rumsfeld was a bummer, but cheer up, people: we still got our war!

Pardon me while I retch.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:25 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

November 02, 2006

Katie Couric Gets Shrill Iraq  Media

From the NBC Nightly News CBS Evening News (via Atrios):

Whoa. Things really must be unravelling over there if mainstream network news is this dark.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:14 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 31, 2006

Blacklisting Air America Media

Media Matters has obtained an internal ABC Radio Networks memo that lists nearly 100 advertisers who demand, according to the memo, that "NONE of their commercials air during AIR AMERICA programming."

Among the advertisers blacklisting Air America are Bank of America, Exxon Mobil, Federal Express, General Electric, McDonald's, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and the U.S. Navy.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 29, 2006

Letterman v. O'Reilly — Round Two Media

This is awesome. Bill O'Reilly gets pummelled by Dave Letterman. Video at Crooks and Liars. The usual blowhard condescension from O'Reilly, but Dave's having none of it. Not to be missed.

Sample Letterman lines:

I didn't say we're a bad country, I didn't say Bush is an evil liar. You’re putting words in my mouth. Just the way you put artificial facts in your head.


You raise some points, but the truth of it is, a reasonable person can't believe what you're saying.

Go watch. It'll brighten your day.

[Thanks, Paul]

Posted by Jonathan at 02:25 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 01, 2006

25 Most Censored Stories Media

Project Censored has published its list of the 25 most important news stories that went largely uncovered for the year. Here they are:

  1. Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media
  2. Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran
  3. Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger
  4. Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US
  5. High-Tech Genocide in Congo
  6. Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy
  7. US Operatives Torture Detainees to Death in Afghanistan and Iraq
  8. Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act
  9. The World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall
  10. Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians
  11. Dangers of Genetically Modified Food Confirmed
  12. Pentagon Plans to Build New Landmines
  13. New Evidence Establishes Dangers of Roundup
  14. Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention Centers in the US
  15. Chemical Industry is EPA's Primary Research Partner
  16. Ecuador and Mexico Defy US on International Criminal Court
  17. Iraq Invasion Promotes OPEC Agenda
  18. Physicist Challenges Official 9-11 Story
  19. Destruction of Rainforests Worst Ever
  20. Bottled Water: A Global Environmental Problem
  21. Gold Mining Threatens Ancient Andean Glaciers
  22. Billions in Homeland Security Spending Undisclosed
  23. US Oil Industry Targets Kyoto in Europe
  24. Cheney's Halliburton Stock Rose Over 3000 Percent Last Year
  25. US Military in Paraguay Threatens Region

No matter how much of a news junkie you are, many, if not most, of these stories will be news to you. Which is exactly the point. They're important stories, but media self-censorship keeps us from hearing about them.

Project Censored publishes extensive details on all of these stories. Check them out.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:17 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

September 20, 2006

Olbermann Demands An Apology 9/11, "War On Terror"  Media  Politics

[Thanks, Kevin]

Posted by Jonathan at 01:25 PM | Comments (4) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

August 31, 2006

Olbermann's Murrow Moment Media  Politics

Great stuff from Keith Olbermann:

The last three minutes, especially.

[Thanks, Ken]

Update: [5:08 PM] - Text is here.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:17 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

August 22, 2006

Garbage In, Garbage Out Media  Palestine/Middle East  War and Peace

Take a look at this shamelessly propagandistic slide show from The Jerusalem Post. Stunningly one-sided.

The problem with turning propaganda against your own population, whether in Israel, here in the US, or anywhere else, is that the short-term gains turn into long-term disaster: a population whose heads have been stuffed with phony nonsense is incapable of choosing well.

Accurate information has survival value. Garbage in, garbage out.

[Thanks, Miles]

Posted by Jonathan at 04:53 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

August 20, 2006

Chauncey Gardiners Media  Politics

Following a trail of links, I happened to arrive at Robert Parry's 1999 review of Edmund Morris's Reagan biography, Dutch. In a remarkable passage, Morris provides a rather shocking list of examples of Reagan's utter cluelessness. Parry:

[T]he Reagan in Dutch comes across as a shallow human being — a man so self-absorbed that he failed to recognize his own son, Michael, at his high school graduation.

Morris also judges Reagan as a one-dimensional leader who himself mixed fantasy with fact in the service of his ideological goals, a man who possessed an "encyclopedic ignorance."

In one sardonic passage, Morris wrote that "the world that rotates inside [Reagan's] cerebellum is, if not beautiful, encouragingly rich and self-renewing. It is washed by seas whose natural 'ozone' produces a healthful brown smog over coastal highways, and rinsed by rivers that purify themselves whenever they flow over gravel. ...

"Reagan's world is not entirely without environmental problems. It glows with the 'radioactivity' of coal burners (much more dangerous than nuclear plants), and is plagued by 'deadly diseases spread by insects, because pesticides such as DDT have been prematurely outlawed.' Acid rain, caused by an excess of trees, threatens much of the industrial northeast.

"Geopolitically, the globe presents many challenges. ... North and South Vietnam should never have been permitted to join, having been 'separate nations for centuries.' The Soviet Union [is] bent on invading the United States via Mexico (a strategem of 'Nikolai' Lenin). ... The economy of South America is a mess, particularly in Portuguese-speaking Bolivia."

See also Helen Caldicott's account of a meeting she had with Reagan, one of my very first posts here at Past Peak.

Morris calls Reagan an ideologue with a "Daliesque ability to bend reality to his purposes." He was aided immeasurably in this by his "encyclopedic ignorance." This was one of the secrets of Reagan's success as the Great Communicator. He could utter all manner of nonsense and lies with completely convincing sincerity because his inner world was unencumbered by facts. He believed what he was saying, and that made him believable.

The appearance of sincerity is one of the factors that made Reagan the perfect front man for the television age. It didn't hurt, too, that he was an "amiable dunce" (all the more so after his shooting by Bush family friend John Hinckley, from which Reagan never fully recovered). He seemed well-meaning and was so obviously clueless that to criticise him too sharply violated Americans' sense of fair play. Sure he was muddled, but he seemed such a sweet old guy. Picking on him was like picking on the mentally handicapped. This consequence of Reagan's cluelessness, together with his amiable sincerity, was the source of his famous Teflon coating.

Reagan's backers may not have anticipated in advance how spectacularly well Reagan's ideologically-driven cluelessness would play on tv, but the lesson surely was not lost on them as it played out. Bush, Sr. and Clinton, in contrast, were obviously not dunces, so they lacked the ignorance defense, and it cost them.

As the Republicans searched for someone to cast in the role of President in 2000, it seems clear that they looked for a telegenic figure with the same kind of ideological sincerity unencumbered by facts. Dubya doesn't have Reagan's doddering amiability, but he's got the encyclopedic ignorance and the reliance on "gut instinct" over analysis. And he's got something Reagan didn't have: a well-crafted image as a born-again, evangelical Christian. So, once again, we're in the position where pointed attacks on Bush's ignorance seem like picking on a dummy — rude and off-putting. Bush plays the front man, and behind him Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, et al, run the country.

Democrats look back on Clinton with nostalgia because he was so bright, so knowledgable, so nuanced, so talented. Republicans look back on Reagan with nostalgia because he was so uncomplicated, appealing to simplistic ideological belief, not analytical thought. You really didn't have to think or to know anything, you just had to believe in the man.

Look again at Morris's small peek into Reagan's bizarre inner world and consider that this man was leader of the free world for eight years. And now we've got Dubya. A political formula is being perfected. If we don't demand knowledgable, capable leaders, we are going to be subjected to a succession of dunces whose job is to go on tv, while the real power is exercised elsewhere.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:50 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

August 09, 2006

Lying Liar Media

Ann Coulter's a serial liar, but Republicans treat her like a rock star.

The GOP rewards people who reduce public discourse to a fact-free shouting match. Not hard to see why: the facts aren't on their side. But who needs facts when you can just make stuff up?

Meanwhile, mainstream media will continue to give Coulter a pass. It's like they think that everybody already knows Republicans are liars (and plagiarists), so Republican lies aren't news.

Posted by Jonathan at 01:04 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

July 29, 2006

Summer Rerun Iraq  Media

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Boy, are they ever. E&P:

An analysis released today by Frank Newport, director of The Gallup Poll, shows that current public wishes for U.S. policy in the Iraq war eerily echo attitudes about the Vietnam war in 1970.

The most recent Gallup poll this month found that 52% of adult Americans want to see all U.S. troops out of Iraq within a year, with 19% advocating immediate withdrawal. In the summer of 1970, Gallup found that 48% wanted a pullout within a year, with 23% embracing the "immediate" option. Just 7% want to send more troops now, vs. 10% then.

At present, 56% call the decision to invade Iraq a "mistake," with 41% disagreeing. Again this echoes the view of the Vietnam war in 1970, when that exact same number, 56%, in May 1970 called [Vietnam] a mistake in a Gallup poll.

While the U.S. involvement in the Korean war is often labeled unpopular, the highest number calling it a mistake in a Gallup poll was 51% in early 1952. That number actually declined to 43% by the end of that year. [Emphasis added]

So, the Iraq war is now tied for most unpopular American war ever.

There's one essential difference between now and 1970, though. Back then, opposition to the war had become a somewhat respectable position, openly advocated by the likes of Walter Cronkite and Bobby Kennedy. Today, if all you did was watch tv, you'd think it's only fringe elements who want the US to pull out of Iraq. Instead, it's a majority of Americans. Liberal media.

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July 22, 2006

Awesome Video Activism  Media

(For links, see the comments)

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July 14, 2006

The Few And The Many Media  Palestine/Middle East

You can read blogging from Lebanon, here. A recent post concludes with these words:

Lebanon is a hostage and all the Lebanese people are a pawn in the hands of the few.

One of the striking things about the Lebanon coverage here in the US is the extent to which it suggests that Hezbollah is somehow on a par with the IDF. CNN has even gone so far as to constantly mention the few Israeli casualties while largely ignoring the scores of Lebanese civilian casualties. (The US version of CNN, that is. The International version is more balanced, which should tell you something: CNN knows the facts but is tailoring the message to the audience.)

Hezbollah is not Lebanon, but it is the people of Lebanon who are being made to pay. Never mind that collective punishment is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. (But of course collective punishment is what the Palestinians have been facing for years.)

Hezbollah is no match for the IDF, but it's also not clear how Israel can defeat them. This is the conundrum of fourth generation war: how do you defeat a loosely-knit non-state enemy that is swimming in a sea of non-combatant civilians. It's what's defeating the US in Iraq. Billmon:

Hezbollah may have found the sweet spot in Fourth Generation War: It isn't a state and doesn't carry the political or defensive burdens of one, but it controls enough territory, commands enough popular loyalty and has enough allies to mount some fairly sophisticated military operations, using both conventional and nonconventional weapons. It's powerful enough to be successful — and be seen as successful — but not so powerful that state actors like Israel can fight it on equal terms. We may be looking at the New Model Army of the 21st century.

Israel, like the US in Iraq, may have started something it cannot finish — except by withdrawing.

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July 12, 2006

Bush At Stanford Media  Politics

Did you know this? I sure didn't. Paul Craig Roberts:

Gentle reader, did you know that, in April, President Bush went to Stanford University to speak to the Hoover Institution fellows at the invitation of former Secretary of State George Shultz but was not allowed on campus? The Stanford students got wind of it and blocked Bush's access to the campus. The Hoover fellows had to go to Shultz's home to hear Bush's pitch for war and more war.

A person might think that it would be national news that Stanford University students would not allow the President of the US on campus. It happened to be a day when hundreds of prospective freshmen were on campus with their parents, many of whom joined the demonstration against Bush. I did not hear or read a word about it. Did you? I learned of it from faculty friends in June when I attended Stanford's graduation to witness a relative receive her degree. The June 16 edition of The Stanford Daily reprinted its April 24 report of the episode. [Emphasis added]

How could this not have been news? Stanford's not just any university. Weird. And pretty unnerving. Where's our free press, now when we need it most?

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July 10, 2006

One Red Paper Clip Humor & Fun  Media

This is a fun story.

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July 09, 2006

Delusional Nonsense From Time Media

Gawd, this is stupid. Time:

Even more surprising than the [North Korean missile] test...was Bush's response. Long gone were the zero-tolerance warnings, "Axis of Evil" rhetoric and talk of pre-emptive action.

Instead, Bush pledged to "make sure we work with our friends and allies ... to continue to send a unified message" to Pyongyang. In a news conference after the missile test, he referred to diplomacy a half dozen times.

The shift under way in Bush's foreign policy is bigger and more seismic than a change of wardrobe or a modulation of tone.

Bush came to office pledging to focus on domestic issues and pursue a "humble" foreign policy that would avoid the entanglements of the Bill Clinton years.

After September 11, however, the Bush team embarked on a different path, outlining a muscular, idealistic, and unilateralist vision of American power and how to use it.

They aimed to lay the foundation for a grand strategy to fight Islamic terrorists and rogue states, by spreading democracy around the world and pre-empting gathering threats before they materialize. And the U.S. wasn't willing to wait for others to help.

The approach fit with Bush's personal style, his self-professed proclivity to dispense with the nuances of geopolitics and go with his gut. "The Bush Doctrine is actually being defined by action, as opposed to by words," Bush told Tom Brokaw aboard Air Force One in 2003.

But in the span of four years, the administration has been forced to rethink the doctrine by which it hoped to remake the world. Bush's response to the North Korean missile test was revealing: Under the old Bush Doctrine, defiance by a dictator like Kim Jong Il would have merited threats of punitive U.S. action. Instead, the administration has mainly been talking up multilateralism and downplaying Pyongyang's provocation.

What an utter crock. From start to finish.

What's the difference between North Korea and Iraq? One has enormous oil reserves, lies at the very heart of the world's richest oil-producing region, offers a site for bases to replace the US bases in Saudi Arabia, and was defenseless against US attack. The other, not.

The rest is delusion.

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June 14, 2006

Robert Newman's History Of Oil Activism  Humor & Fun  Media  War and Peace

This is absolutely, bar none, the most brilliant piece of political video ever. Also the funniest. No contest.

Learn the real cause of the First World War. Learn what Salvador Dali's checkbook has to do with the Axis of Evil and the current invasion of Iraq. And many more things besides.

It's genius.

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June 11, 2006

Al At The Movies Activism  Environment  Media

Who wants to see an Al Gore documentary about global warming? Lots of people, apparently. Weekend box office (via Atrios), per screen:

MoviePer Screen
An Inconvenient Truth$12,073
The Break-Up$6,669
A Prairie Home Companion$6,146
The Omen$5,673
X-Men: The Last Stand$4,225
The Da Vinci Code$3,103
Over the Hedge$2,920
Keeping Up with the Steins$2,037
Mission: Impossible III$1,592

Not too shabby.

122 screens this weekend, 400 next. Opens here in Madison Friday. Be there or be square.

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June 10, 2006

Information Media

This is amazing.

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June 05, 2006

Global Warming "Journalism" Environment  Media

In her recent interview of Al Gore, NPR's Terry Gross pointed out the following jaw-dropping facts:

Let me mention a study that you cite in your documentary and your book, An Inconvenient Truth. This is a study from the University of California at San Diego. A scientist there named Dr. Naomi Oreskes published in Science magazine a study of every peer-reviewed journal article on global warming from the previous 10 years, and then in her random sample of 928 articles, she found that no articles disagreed with the scientific consensus on global warming. Then another study on articles on global warming that were published in the previous 14 years in the press, specifically published in The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times and Wall Street Journal found that more than half of those stories gave equal weight to the scientific consensus and to the view that human beings played no role in global warming.

So just to sum up: the scientific journals, the scientists agreed about global warming, but in these four, you know, major American newspapers, equal weight was given in half the articles to the opposing view that human beings are not causing global warming.

Staggering — yet, in a sad way, unsurprising. This is what it has come to. Scientists publishing in peer-reviewed journals are 100% unanimous, have been for years, but readers of the newspapers of record would have no way of knowing that. No wonder people are confused. Journalists who insist on reporting the world-is-flat "side" of the "argument" have a lot to answer for.

The Daily Show (as usual) perfectly captured the essence of this kind of "journalism" back in August, 2004:

JON STEWART: Here's what puzzles me most, Rob. John Kerry's record in Vietnam is pretty much right there in the official records of the US military, and haven't been disputed for 35 years?

ROB CORDDRY: That's right, Jon, and that's certainly the spin you'll be hearing coming from the Kerry campaign over the next few days.

STEWART: Th-that's not a spin thing, that's a fact. That's established.

CORDDRY: Exactly, Jon, and that established, incontrovertible fact is one side of the story.

STEWART: But that should be — isn't that the end of the story? I mean, you've seen the records, haven't you? What's your opinion?

CORDDRY: I'm sorry, my opinion? No, I don't have 'o-pin-i-ons'. I'm a reporter, Jon, and my job is to spend half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other. Little thing called 'objectivity' — might wanna look it up some day.

STEWART: Doesn't objectivity mean objectively weighing the evidence, and calling out what's credible and what isn't?

CORDDRY: Whoa-ho! Well, well, well — sounds like someone wants the media to act as a filter! [high-pitched, effeminate] 'Ooh, this allegation is spurious! Upon investigation this claim lacks any basis in reality! Mmm, mmm, mmm.' Listen buddy: not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people listening to me.

It just makes you want to scream. Global warming is an issue where many millions of lives hang in the balance. Everlasting shame on all the big-shot reporters who comfort themselves with self-interested rationalizations about "objectivity". Their brand of "objectivity" is going to get a lot of people killed.

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May 28, 2006

Liberal Media Media

This is excellent.

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May 16, 2006

What's So Great About Blogs Media  Quotes

From Dave Winer (via Big Gav):

99 percent of blogs are about what someone has to say. 99 percent of traditional media is about making money. — Mark Cuban

Can I get that as a tattoo?

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May 14, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth Activism  Environment  Media

I know what I'll be doing June 16.

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May 02, 2006

NYT On Net Neutrality Corporations, Globalization  Media  Politics

From today's NYT editorial on Net neutrality:

"Net neutrality" is a concept that is still unfamiliar to most Americans, but it keeps the Internet democratic. Cable and telephone companies that provide Internet service are talking about creating a two-tiered Internet, in which Web sites that pay them large fees would get priority over everything else. Opponents of these plans are supporting Net-neutrality legislation, which would require all Web sites to be treated equally. Net neutrality recently suffered a setback in the House, but there is growing hope that the Senate will take up the cause.

One of the Internet's great strengths is that a single blogger or a small political group can inexpensively create a Web page that is just as accessible to the world as Microsoft's home page. But this democratic Internet would be in danger if the companies that deliver Internet service changed the rules so that Web sites that pay them money would be easily accessible, while little-guy sites would be harder to access, and slower to navigate. Providers could also block access to sites they do not like. [Emphasis added]

Make sure your Senators understand what's at stake. The Internet is the great intellectual commons of today's world. Ceding control to a few giant corporations, by government fiat, would be an enormous step backward.

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April 25, 2006

A Great Way To Spend $50 Activism  Iraq  Media

Documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films, who made Outfoxed, Uncovered, and Wal-Mart, is starting production on a new documentary, Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers.

This is from an email from Brave New Films:

Hello friends and brave new supporters,

Some exciting news at Brave New Films. We're ready to start production on Robert's new documentary: "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers." Over the last few months we've recruited a core team, and with the help of our volunteer field producers, have uncovered some devastating and powerful material that hasn't been seen before. We need your help to make it, more about that in a minute.

We can't tell you anything more specific about the film yet, but I can assure you it will have an enormous impact when it comes out shortly before the elections this November.

War time is about sacrificing for the common good. So many soldiers and families have paid unimaginable sacrifices, and for some to profit OBSCENELY from that sacrifice is one of the worst crimes possible. It's a crime against all of us, not just as Americans, but as human beings.

IRAQ FOR SALE: The War Profiteers will hold these corporations accountable for crimes against humanity. Watch the teaser trailer and a message from Robert here:

To start shooting, we need money. Overall, the film will cost about $750,000. We can expect about $450,000 of it to be offset by DVD sales, selling foreign rights, and an advance from our retail store distributor, but we still need $300,000.

A generous donor just stepped up and will contribute $100,000 if we can match it with $200,000 from someone else.

That someone else is you! 4000 people giving $50 each. We'll put everyone's name in the credits. You can give these donations as gifts in someone's name or in memory of a loved one if you'd like.

Imagine that. 4000 names scrolling by at the end of the film. Almost as many people as in the Lord of the Rings credits!

More importantly, this is people standing up to corporations. It's a clear message... a beautiful thing and exactly what the film is about. Every newspaper article written will talk about how IRAQ FOR SALE was funded by YOU.

This is 50 bucks well spent. I would love to see this film come out before the elections, and I'd love to know I helped make it possible. So I gave my $50, and I urge you to do the same.

This is extremely important material. So long as people in high places make a killing off of war, they'll continue to see war as a good idea. The best way to stop them is to expose them.

50 bucks. That's not even a tank of gas anymore. And how cool will it be to see your name in the credits (and on their web site). Go chip in.

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April 24, 2006

Highway Robbery Corporations, Globalization  Media  Politics

Congress is getting ready to hand control of the information superhighway over to the giant telecom carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast. Carriers heretofore have adhered to the principle of net neutrality, which says that all data on the Internet is to be treated equally; carriers don't discriminate based on content. My lowly blog has as much right to a fair share of Internet bandwidth as any giant commercial site.

The big carriers want to do away with net neutrality, however, so they can create a two-tiered Internet. Commercial sites that can pay the freight will get to use the "fast lane." Everybody else will be relegated to the "slow lane." Congress is getting ready to grant their wish via a bill with the Orwellian name of COPE: Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006. Read more about it here, here, and here.

Funny how these huge giveaways to corporate America always go unmentioned in the mainstream media until it's already too late.

Voting is scheduled for Wednesday. Contact your House members and tell them to vote NO. The Internet is not the private property of a handful of corporations, no matter how big their campaign contributions.

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March 26, 2006

Reporting For The CIA Media  Politics

Americans are naive. We're brought up to believe that we've got a free news media, we've got real representative politics, and so on. The game may be rigged in other countries, but not here. So, we know that the NSA listens to every scrap of electronic communications overseas, but we take it on faith that they don't listen to communications here in the US. But then it turns out they do.

We know also that the CIA is skilled in manipulating the news media overseas. We know they manipulate other countries' political processes, funding this candidate, smearing that one, bolstering a regime here, creating chaos there. But we take it on faith that they don't apply those skills internally. Why? If they believe the national security is at stake, why wouldn't they conclude it is their duty to bring to bear every tool at their disposal?

Actually, we don't have to guess. In 1977, Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame wrote an article for Rolling Stone that exposed the fact that hundreds of American journalists, including some of the biggest names in news, had secretly carried out assignments on behalf of the CIA. Bernstein:

[M]ore than 400 American the past twenty-five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. [...]

The Agency's relationship with the [New York] Times was by far its most valuable among newspapers, according to CIA officials. [It was] general Times provide assistance to the CIA whenever possible.

...[T]he Agency's working relationship with the Times was closer and more extensive than with any other paper...

CBS was unquestionably the CIA's most valuable broadcasting asset. CBS president William Paley and [CIA Director] Allen Dulles enjoyed an easy working and social relationship...[CBS] allowed reports by CBS correspondents to the Washington and New York newsrooms to be routinely monitored by the CIA. Once a year during the 1950s and early 1960s, CBS correspondents joined the CIA hierarchy for private dinners and briefings. [Emphasis added]

200 reporters, Bernstein said, had gone so far as to sign secrecy agreements with the CIA. That was in 1977. But CIA infiltration of the American news media isn't exactly something a CIA-infiltrated news media is going to report on, so, in the 30 years since Bernstein's article, we haven't heard much more about it.

But SusanG at DailyKos (link via Xymphora) has posted an interview she did with Daniel Ellsberg, who speculates on the current state of affairs as seen through the prism of the Judith Miller affair. Excerpt below the fold.


Over 200 reporters, according to Bernstein, had signed secrecy agreements with the CIA. There were a number of individuals who did really work to put stories in that they wanted, to publish stuff they wanted. I believe that's what they were saying about Joe Alsop and Stewart Alsop, that they were essentially assets of the CIA, which means they would put out CIA line. Not because they were literal employees, but because they were friends with people in the CIA.

Q: But that's a thin line isn't it? I'm not sure that anybody said specifically, write a story that's very positive about X so that we look good. I think a lot of it is just an understanding of being a part of that establishment back then and they saw it as patriotism, from what Bernstein said.

Certainly that is a major aspect to the whole thing. They're not under the impression that they're working for and with the city machine or the mafia or something. This is the U.S. government, this is the CIA, this is the establishment.

But let me put a slightly different spin on it: Remember Sy Sulzberger was mentioned as one person who had a clearance. He had a column, and he denied it, but several people from the CIA said that on one occasion he called up for information, they gave him the briefing paper and he simply put the briefing in under his byline. He literally reproduced the whole briefing paper.

Now how often is that done? Remember, a lot of these people were putting out mainly opinion columns, not reporting Joe Alsop and Stewart Alsop. How often did they call up their friend at the CIA who simply told them, here's what's going on. And they then go on to print, here's what's going on. They don't say, I was told by a high official. See, they say, this is the reality. This is what's really happening, here's the real news. Sometimes they would say, yes, I got this from some official, but other times they would just say, this is a result of my observations or this is they way I see it. How often was the way they saw it in their highly read column simply what Allen Dulles or Richard Helms told them and they believed it? It wasn't that they were just being servile, they're just presenting a crafted CIA line which has been given to them.

Here's the point I was really coming to: I was most struck in that by the idea of a secrecy clearance, as somebody who had had a dozen simultaneous clearances.

The relationship that that implies has a number of dimensions to it. One of them - it's just one, but it's an important one - is that you are led to believe (quite misleadingly actually) that if you violate that agreement, you will be prosecuted. You are violating a law. And even if you're not prosecuted, you will know you are violating a law if you break the terms of that agreement. They mention to you 18 USC 793 (d) and (e) and so forth - what I was charged with. And indeed, I was prosecuted.

Now the catch is, I was the first person ever prosecuted for it. No one had ever been prosecuted, but I didn't know that, and they don't know that, and most people don't know it to this day. Not one reporter in a hundred have I ever met - and I've talked to audiences of journalists - knows that I was the first person ever to be prosecuted.

However, every time you sign that agreement, you are confronted with these laws that say you are subject to prosecution, so they think they're violating a law if they put that out, that they will get prosecuted having agreed to this. A reporter who is just slipped something under the cover on one particular day or who was told something over lunch, a reporter who hasn't signed an agreement, I think, is unlikely to believe that he or she is in trouble if he puts it out. He's more likely to believe that the source will get in trouble.

A reporter who has signed that agreement is definitely led to believe that he or she is subject to prosecution if he breaks that agreement. That's the number one point.

Number two point is... Judith Miller said, I had a security clearance. Now I think she was telling the truth. They said, no, it was just a simple non-disclosure agreement or some misunderstanding, I think that's the cover story. She had a clearance. What would that mean?

It means that she's trusted by these people as one of the team. They're not giving it to her under threat, they're giving it to her because they trust her to carry this out. Wonderful self-esteem there and the feeling of being an insider, and your fellows don't have that. It means you will now get information that people who don't have that clearance will not get. You'll get it in part because you're trusted and because you have something to lose, they'll take it away. If you violate it, you won't get that stuff anymore. You infer from that that you will get information that others don't get because you'll be trusted not to print it unless they tell you it's all right.

My guess is very strongly that Judith Miller did have such a clearance and did have a background check and it meant that she was entitled to get information authoritatively that others were not entitled to get on the understanding that she has a lot to lose - namely a clearance - and not just the one source, but from a lot of sources. It gives her entrée. [...]

If she has a clearance, he could take her to a meeting, to a place, to anybody, and say, "This woman is okay, she's cleared."

I thought right away: Judith Miller, Judith Miller. She's one of Bernstein's people here. And remember, he says it was one of their most carefully guarded secrets that they had, that they kept the Church Committee from putting out. They gave them stuff on assassination instead; that was less scary.

In every case, Bernstein said, where a journalist had such an agreement, it was known to their boss - to their editor or publisher or both. So I infer from that that probably Bill Keller - possibly not - or Howell Raines, but certainly the publisher, Sulzberger, did know. Now let's go one step further. Bernstein quotes somebody at the CIA as saying, "Our greatest asset is the New York Times." All right. [...]

...I'm sorry, I would not be happy to have it proved that the New York Times, which is the first thing I read every morning is, after all, a government newspaper. And obviously there are limitations to that because there's no question that they do put out from time to time things that the government does not want out. I can say that I know that better than most.

But keep in mind that Nixon was not in fact unhappy to see the Pentagon Papers out, and he wanted to put more stuff out.

Q: And in order to be an effective instrument of the government, it has to sometimes challenge the government.

It should show a certain amount of independence from time to time, yes.

But the stuff that was coming out during the first Gulf War was exactly like what was coming out in the invasion of Iraq this time. If the coverage had been coming right out of a shop in the Pentagon, controlling every aspect of the television coverage of the first Gulf War, how different would it have been? I didn't see how it could have been different.

It's still going on.

Q: So how did they do it?

...The control of the war coverage was very, very effective. And these PR guys know what they're doing. They did it in Grenada. I believe they didn't allow any reporters in when the actual operation was going on. And in Panama, there was hardly any coverage and to this day there's never been any investigation of how many Panamanians had been killed in that attack on Noriega's headquarters.

Just from the outside, you look at that and you say: You know, they're acting as though it's a controlled press. So let me put into the pot just the hypothesis that to a greater extent than we are really aware, it is a controlled press. And it's not 100 percent and some of the exposes occasionally - not that many - even go beyond what is necessary to establish an appearance of independence and constitutes a real degree of independence. But I think it's just possible that when you look a flagship like the New York Times from which other papers take their cues as to what is news and what isn't, there may be a critical element of top-level people being actually on the team. It's clear that Judith Miller was on the team. I'm suggesting that that goes beyond a mere groupie-type enthusiasm for the policy. She was on the team, period. She was one of us. She's an insider, not an outsider, let's say.

The Bush family has intelligence ties going back several generations. George H. W. Bush was CIA Director. The name of CIA headquarters is the George Bush Center for Intelligence, for pete's sake. Think back to the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Do they pass the smell test? Or did the Bush forces manipulate them the way the CIA has long since learned to manipulate elections abroad?

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March 22, 2006

Feingold On Daily Show Tonight Media  Politics

Senator Russ Feingold is scheduled to appear on "The Daily Show" tonight. Should be good.

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March 20, 2006

Spanish-English Vocabulary Drill Media

No regular post tonight. Instead, here's something a little different. I've been studying Spanish for a while, and to help myself study, I wrote a little vocabulary drill program that runs on my PC.

A few days ago, it occurred to me that I could easily convert the program to run on the web so other people could use it, too. Besides, I wanted a reason to learn a little of the PHP programming language since it's hosted on so many web servers. So I set about converting the program to PHP, and the result is available here:

If you're interested in learning Spanish (or if you're a Spanish speaker learning English), go check it out. You create a "study set" of randomly selected words, then you can step through the set as many times as you need. When you've learned those words, create a new study set. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

At the moment the vocabulary consists of just 250 words, but I'll be adding more words all the time. I like the simplicity of it, but at some point I'll probabably add the ability to pick a specialized vocabulary (words related to shopping, say, or sports) and the ability to say you don't want to see a particular word anymore (because you're sure you know it).

Feedback is welcomed. Have fun, and I hope some of you find it useful.

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March 17, 2006

V Media

Went to see V for Vendetta tonight. Not bad, but not great, and certainly not the high-voltage cultural lightning flash I was hoping for. Not for me, anyway. That movie still waits to be made.

Part of the problem, I think, is that having one of the leads perform his role from behind a rigid plastic mask robs the action of a lot of its drama and humanity. Natalie Portman holds up her end, but it's like she's playing opposite a manikin. We want to see an actor's face.

It also needed to be darker, more menacing, more chaotic, more filled with danger and dread. It's not enough to tell us things are bad — you've got to make us feel it for ourselves. You've got to make us take it seriously. Compare anything in V with that scene in Syriana where George Clooney gets tortured, and you'll see what I mean. The stakes being what they are, this is no time for a political movie to play it safe.

Still, the movie does get in its share of political barbs, and it's got some memorable images. Plus, the music over the closing credits is a hoot.

Bottom line: worth seeing if you like this kind of movie, but not the electrifying experience suggested by the trailers. That's how I saw it anyway. If you go and see it, let's hear your reactions in the comments.

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March 15, 2006

Media Bias Media

Eric Boehlert:

[E]ven now the debate over Bush's slow motion demise is being framed very narrowly, as in, What do Republicans think of Bush's unpopularity? On Sunday, the New York Times published two articles addressing Bush's lack of support. Combined, the two articles quoted 16 sources, all 16 were Republicans. Not one Democrat or even one neutral political observer, such as a poli-sci prof or think tank guru, was quoted. On Monday, the Washington Post published a page 1 piece that gently asked the question, Why are senior White House strategists suddenly so ineffective? (Answer: They're tired.) The article quoted six people; all of them Republicans. And this week's Time magazine addresses Bush's obvious political woes. The article quotes five sources; all of them Republicans. So between the Times, the Post and Time articles, 27 sources were quoted and not one Democrat or independent was ever asked to voice their opinion about Bush's sagging performance.

P.S. Yes, that's the same Time magazine that just last month, busy pushing a Bush-is-back narrative, announced the president had "found his voice" and that relieved White House aides "were smiling again" after a turbulent 2005. Oops.

27-zip. Damned liberal media.

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March 10, 2006

Mel & Floyd On The Web Humor & Fun  Media

If you live here in Madison, you probably know about the "Mel & Floyd Show" on WORT radio. It's the funniest political commentary this side of The Daily Show.

If you're not from Madison, you don't know what you've been missing, but now WORT's streaming on the Internet, so you can listen in from anywhere in the world.

Fridays, 1 to 2 PM Central Time. Mark your calendars. Five stars.

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March 04, 2006

Koufax Awards Voting Media

Nominations for the 2005 Koufax Awards have been announced, and voting is open.

The Koufax Awards are named for Sandy Koufax, one of the greatest left-handed baseball pitchers of all time. They are intended to honor the best of the left-wing blogs, in a variety of categories.

PastPeak was nominated in two categories, Best Writing and Most Deserving of Wider Recognition. The page with links to all categories is here.

The way it works is you cast your votes in the comments section of the page for the category (scroll down to the bottom of the page). When the comments list for a page gets too long, they may open a new one.

Check out the lists of nominated blogs; it's a great way to expand your horizons. And if you're so inclined, you might vote for PastPeak in the categories mentioned above. Gumpa and I would be grateful.


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March 03, 2006

Jon Stewart On Larry King Media

Crooks and Liars has video of Jon Stewart's appearance Monday on Larry King Live. The smartest guy on tv interviewed by one of the dumbest. Still, lots of good stuff.

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March 01, 2006

Desperation Iraq  Media

From ThinkProgress:

Flailing in desperation.

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February 27, 2006

It's Coming... Media

  V for Vendetta — March 17. Go watch the trailers.

I've got to agree with John Robb: "This movie is going to be a social event."


James Wolcott: "[What] gives the movie its rebel power is the moral seriousness that drives the action, emotion, and allegory. That's what I didn't expect from the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix), this angry, summoning Tom Paine moral dispatch that puts our pundits, politicians, and cable news hosts to shame. V for Vendetta instills force into the very essence of four-letter words like hate, love, and (especially) fear, and releases that force like a fist. Off come the masks, and the faces are revealed."

People know something's been going very wrong, but they've needed a shared language and shared symbols to help them articulate their deep unease.

I thought Eminem's "Mosh" video would have a catalyzing effect. That didn't happen, partly because the video couldn't get air time. V for Vendetta, however, is a whole different animal. It will be a much more intense experience, first of all, and it will be seen by hundreds of millions of people over a very short period of time.

This could be it, the much-needed cultural lightning flash.

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February 20, 2006

Dominique Media

And now for something completely different. Go here. Run your cursor over her face.

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February 09, 2006

William Bennett's Hate Speech Media

William Bennett's always been a pompous, bigoted gasbag, but these comments of his in his new gig at CNN are appalling, even by his standards. Worse still, they are gasoline thrown on the fire of Islamic outrage. CNN's an international network. What are they thinking?

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February 03, 2006

What Happened To Journalism Media

Eric Alterman (via Atrios) relates a very interesting point about big-time journalism in the age of Google:

At a recent conference on the Clinton Administration at Hofstra University, ex-press secretary Jake Siewart made a point that had previously eluded me: It was during the early days of Clinton's presidency that the democratization of instant information made the insider press corps obsolete. To retain their importance and self-regard, these journalists had to invent a new function for themselves, and they did: interpreting, not reporting, the news. But instead of doing the hard work of researching the historical, economic, sociological and political contexts of a given story and then finding a way to explain these in lay terms, they preferred to rely on what came most easily to them: cocktail party gossip, green room small talk, semiofficial leaks and unconfirmed rumor, almost always offered up as if the source had no interest in pushing a point of view. [Emphasis added]

Most of the big-time journalists have decided their métier is to get the juicy insider quote, so it's small wonder they curry favor so assiduously. If access is the only thing that matters, you gotta do whatever it takes to preserve access. Like never pointing out the constant stream of lies issuing out of Washington.

It's as if they're all doing celebrity coverage for People magazine. If they stop getting invited to the big, fashionable parties, they're finished.

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January 12, 2006

Editorializing? Media

C-SPAN's website has carried the headline "Judicial Activism vs. Judicial Restraint" for the Alito hearings, throughout. What's up with that?

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January 10, 2006

A Million Little Lies Media

If you are one of the millions of fans of Oprah Book Club selection A Million Little Pieces, you might want to go read this. In fact, even if you've never heard of the book, The Smoking Gun's investigation makes a fascinating story.

Great reporting. From a blog, no less.

Update: [Jan 11, 1:31PM] Random House apparently is offering to refund the money of anyone who bought the book directly from them.

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January 09, 2006

Just Breathtaking Future  Media  Science/Technology

Google has a product called Google Earth that you can download for free.

Thanks to WorldChanging, I'm discovering an absolutely breathtaking feature of Google Earth that I cannot recommend to you highly enough. Google has layered on top of the African continent hundreds of links to aerial photographs, National Geographic stories, videos, and interactive map features. Go explore.

Click to enlarge

Start by downloading and installing Google Earth. When you have it running, navigate to Africa, and zoom in until you see the yellow rectangles (links to National Geographic photos and stories) and red airplanes (links to aerial photographs). You have to zoom in quite a bit to see them all — i.e., keep zooming after you start to see them, and you'll see more.

Don't miss the links to the various videos and multimedia features. For instance, each of the aerial photo links (the little red airplanes) has a link to "Sights and Sounds of Africa Megaflyover". Take that link, and check out the videos. Don't miss the "Aerial Footage" videos. Stunning.

All-in-all, an astonishingly rich and beautiful resource — and these are no doubt just the very first baby steps. What's going to be available to us five years from now? Ten years? Twenty?

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January 05, 2006

O'Reilly On Letterman Media

Night before last, I linked to a short excerpt from Bill O'Reilly's appearance on Letterman. Letterman's site actually has the whole interview, which is well worth watching. Go here and click the link for "Dave and Bill O'Reilly 1/3/06".

The first anecdote O'Reilly tells, about Ridgewood Elementary School in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, is a fraud that was exposed as a fraud weeks ago. O'Reilly knows this, but he trots the story out again anyway. What a blowhard. What a liar. Just makes my skin crawl.

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January 04, 2006

Liberal Media Media  Politics

A partial list of newspapers who editorialized that Bill Clinton should resign for lying about sex:

USA Today

The Mobile Register
Montgomery Advertiser

Tucson Citizen

San Jose Mercury News
The Orange County Register
The North (San Diego) County Times
The Record, Stockton

The Denver Post

The Day of New London
Norwich Bulletin

The Washington Times

The Orlando Sentinel
The Tampa Tribune

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Augusta Chronicle

Chicago Tribune

The Indianapolis Star
Chronicle-Tribune of Marion
South Bend Tribune
The Times of Northwest Indiana

The Des Moines Register

The Topeka Capital-Journal

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans
The News-Star, Monroe

The Grand Rapids Press
Detroit Free Press

Post-Bulletin of Rochester

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo

Jefferson City News-Tribune

Lincoln Journal Star

Reno Gazette-Journal

The Trentonian, Trenton

Albuquerque Journal
The Santa Fe New Mexican

Sunday Freeman of Kingston
Utica Observer-Dispatch

The Herald-Sun of Durham
Winston-Salem Journal

The Repository, Canton
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Cincinnati Post

The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City
Tulsa World

Statesman Journal, Salem

The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The State, Columbia

Argus Leader, Sioux Falls

San Antonio Express-News
El Paso Times

Standard-Examiner, Ogden
The Spectrum, St. George
The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Daily Press of Newport News

The Seattle Times

The Post-Crescent, Appleton
The Journal Times, Racine

Clinton's mistake: he should have lied the country into war. Lied about weapons of mass destruction. Lied about torture. Lied about illegal surveillance of American citizens. Lied about leaks to smear his opponents. Anything. Just not about sex.

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Bipartisan, My Ass Media  Politics

Much of the mainstream media's tying itself in knots trying to portray the Abramoff scandal as bipartisan. It's nonsense. They are caving in to what is doubtless crushing pressure from the Republicans, but Abramoff's operation was at the very core of the Republican political machine. Everybody in Washington knows it.

Go read Digby.

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Letterman: "60% Of What You Say Is Crap" Media

Dave Letterman takes on Bill O'Reilly. Video (via Atrios).

Letterman: "I'm very concerned about people like yourself who don't have nothing but endless sympathy for a woman like Cindy Sheehan. Honest to Christ. Honest to Christ."

Letterman: "I'm not smart enough to debate you point for point on this, but I have the feeling — I have the feeling — I have the feeling about 60% of what you say is crap."

Check it out.

(Oh, and O'Reilly — it's not "M16", you pompous ass. It's "MI6". MI, as in Military Intelligence.)

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December 29, 2005

Show Biz Media  Politics

Via Digby, some interesting thoughts on show biz and contemporary American politics. The people who create America's movies, comedy, music, and tv are overwhelmingly liberal, but somehow the Democrats fail to put all that talent to good use. Digby:

In the final days of the presidential campaign as John Kerry was being introduced by Bruce Springsteen on the stump with a moody, soulful solo rendition of "No Surrender" (which I loved) George W. Bush was landing in stadiums at sunset on the Marine one helicopter to fireworks and the theme to "Top Gun" screaming from the speakers. Which one do you suppose felt more like a rally?

The White House never misses an opportunity to turn every Bush appearance into a spectacle. They've got pros on their payroll. NYT:

Officials of past Democratic and Republican administrations marvel at how the White House does not seem to miss an opportunity to showcase Mr. Bush in dramatic and perfectly lighted settings. It is all by design: the White House has stocked its communications operation with people from network television who have expertise in lighting, camera angles and the importance of backdrops. [...]

The White House efforts have been ambitious — and costly. For the prime-time television address that Mr. Bush delivered to the nation on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House rented three barges of giant Musco lights, the kind used to illuminate sports stadiums and rock concerts, sent them across New York Harbor, tethered them in the water around the base of the Statue of Liberty and then blasted them upward to illuminate all 305 feet of America's symbol of freedom. It was the ultimate patriotic backdrop for Mr. Bush, who spoke from Ellis Island.

For a speech that Mr. Bush delivered last summer at Mount Rushmore, the White House positioned the best platform for television crews off to one side, not head on as other White Houses have done, so that the cameras caught Mr. Bush in profile, his face perfectly aligned with the four presidents carved in stone.[...]

"We pay particular attention to not only what the president says but what the American people see," [White House communications director Dan] Bartlett said. "Americans are leading busy lives, and sometimes they don't have the opportunity to read a story or listen to an entire broadcast. But if they can have an instant understanding of what the president is talking about by seeing 60 seconds of television, you accomplish your goals as communicators. So we take it seriously."

Liberals tend to view Republican night-rally stagecraft as distasteful, unethical, gauche — but it works. Digby quotes Nick Stoller, screewriter for "Fun With Dick and Jane":

Why didn't Michael Bay direct an awesome action adventure ad where John Kerry singlehandedly blows up the terrorist insurgency with a solemn nod of his granite-chiseled chin? Why weren't the writers of SNL and the Daily Show brought in to create hilarious, ruthless anti-Bush spots that would have been forwarded all around the internet? Why wasn't James Brooks hired to create a touching, pull-the-heartstrings Kerry-Edwards-cares-about-the-voter commercial? This schlock works — remember that 9/11 Bush ad where he's holding the crying girl? With the Hollywood talent the Democratic party has at its disposal, we could have blown that spot out of the water, made it look like a mediocre episode of Touched by an Angel next to our sinking of the Titanic. I don't care if you think "I am king of the world" is a cheesy line — it made people cry. Nothing Kerry said made people cry. Except perhaps accidentally, out of boredom or pain.

Don't get me wrong. I'm no fan of the Republican Lite faction of the Democratic Party. Nor do I want to see liberals adopt a style based on disinformation and Republican-style up-is-down, black-is-white propaganda. But there is such a thing as making an honest point in a way that moves people, that uses imagery or satire to cut through the media fog in fresh and unforgettable ways. Comedy, especially, seems like an untapped resource. Funny clips spread on the web like viral wildfire. No airtime buy required.

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December 28, 2005

Swift-Boating The War Iraq  Media  Politics

Even President Bush admits the White House's prewar characterization of the threat posed by Iraq was mistaken, but that doesn't stop Move America Forward from airing tv ads claiming that Saddam Hussein did indeed have WMD and "extensive ties" to al Qaeda. WSJ:

The television commercials are attention-grabbing: Newly found Iraqi documents show that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, including anthrax and mustard gas, and had "extensive ties" to al Qaeda. The discoveries are being covered up by those "willing to undermine support for the war on terrorism to selfishly advance their shameless political ambitions."

The hard-hitting spots are part of a recent public-relations barrage aimed at reversing a decline in public support for President Bush's handling of Iraq. But these advertisements aren't paid for by the Republican National Committee or other established White House allies. Instead, they are sponsored by Move America Forward, a media-savvy outside advocacy group that has become one of the loudest — and most controversial — voices in the Iraq debate.

While even Mr. Bush now publicly acknowledges the mistakes his administration made in judging the threat posed by Mr. Hussein, the organization is taking to the airwaves to insist that the White House was right all along.

Similar to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth — the advocacy group that helped derail John Kerry's presidential campaign — Move America Forward has magnified its reach by making small television and radio ad buys and then relying on cable- and local-television news outlets to give the commercials heavy coverage. Move America Forward has no discernible formal ties to the White House or the Republican National Committee, and the group says it operates independently from the Republican Party establishment. Still, the organization provides a clear benefit to the administration by spreading a pro-war message that goes beyond what administration officials can say publicly. [...]

Liberals question how the group has maintained its status as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, which requires strict nonpartisanship, given the anti-Democratic tone of its campaigns. The group's Web site, www.moveamericaforward.org1, for example, attacks the current chairman of the Democratic National Committee, referring to "Howard Dean types who only see a future of failure for this country."

"When you have people participating in partisan activities with nonprofit dollars, that's really something the IRS needs to look at," says Tom Matzzie, the Washington director of the liberal advocacy group, another frequent target for Move America Forward's rhetoric. "An organization with a shady tax status participating in partisan activities and saying things that aren't true is a rogue element in American politics." [...]

MoveOn is a "political action committee," meaning its donations aren't tax-deductible and must be disclosed. [Emphasis added]

If an equivalent tax-exempt group existed on the left, does anyone doubt for an instant that the IRS would be all over them?

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December 27, 2005

Organized Crime Economy  Media  Politics

From Jerome-a-Paris.

Once upon a time, a rising tide did lift all boats:

Then came the Reagan Revolution:

The after-tax picture is even worse:

How corrupt is American political/media culture? Ask yourself: how often do you see graphs like these in the mainstream.

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Corrupted Language Media  Palestine/Middle East

Robert Fisk in today's LA Times (excerpt):

I first realized the enormous pressures on American journalists in the Middle East when I went some years ago to say goodbye to a colleague from the Boston Globe. I expressed my sorrow that he was leaving a region where he had obviously enjoyed reporting. I could save my sorrows for someone else, he said. One of the joys of leaving was that he would no longer have to alter the truth to suit his paper's more vociferous readers.

"I used to call the Israeli Likud Party 'right wing,' " he said. "But recently, my editors have been telling me not to use the phrase. A lot of our readers objected." And so now, I asked? "We just don't call it 'right wing' anymore." [...]

This is only the tip of the semantic iceberg that has crashed into American journalism in the Middle East. Illegal Jewish settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land are clearly "colonies," and we used to call them that. I cannot trace the moment when we started using the word "settlements." But I can remember the moment around two years ago when the word "settlements" was replaced by "Jewish neighborhoods" — or even, in some cases, "outposts."

Similarly, "occupied" Palestinian land was softened in many American media reports into "disputed" Palestinian land — just after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, in 2001, instructed U.S. embassies in the Middle East to refer to the West Bank as "disputed" rather than "occupied" territory.

Then there is the "wall," the massive concrete obstruction whose purpose, according to the Israeli authorities, is to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from killing innocent Israelis. In this, it seems to have had some success. But it does not follow the line of Israel's 1967 border and cuts deeply into Arab land. And all too often these days, journalists call it a "fence" rather than a "wall." Or a "security barrier," which is what Israel prefers them to say. For some of its length, we are told, it is not a wall at all — so we cannot call it a "wall," even though the vast snake of concrete and steel that runs east of Jerusalem is higher than the old Berlin Wall.

The semantic effect of this journalistic obfuscation is clear. If Palestinian land is not occupied but merely part of a legal dispute that might be resolved in law courts or discussions over tea, then a Palestinian child who throws a stone at an Israeli soldier in this territory is clearly acting insanely. [Emphasis added]

Euphemism is the enemy of thought.

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December 22, 2005

Blog Readers: Young Or Old? Media

Are blog readers young, old, or somewhere in between? Go here, take the poll, see the results. You may be surprised.

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Darling Of The Right Media  Politics

Ann Coulter, yesterday:

I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo.


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December 21, 2005

2005 Koufax Awards Nominations Are Open Media

Nominations for the 2005 Koufax Awards are open. Anyone can nominate.

The Koufax Awards are named for Sandy Koufax, one of the greatest left-handed baseball pitchers of all time. They are intended to honor the best of the left-wing blogs, in a variety of categories.

The way it works is you make your nominations in the comments section of Koufax Awards nominations posts at Wampum. When the comments list for one nominations post gets too long, they open a new post. The original post, which describes the categories, is here. They've since opened additional ones, here and, most recently, here.

Reading other people's nominations is a great way to learn what blogs are out there. And, if you're so inclined, you might nominate Past Peak. Last year, we made it to the semi-finals for Best New Blog. Past Peak's not a new blog anymore, but there is a category for Most Deserving Wider Recognition, as well as various others. Getting nominated helps us increase readership. And it makes us feel good. :-)


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December 19, 2005

Big Fat Idiot Media

Rush Limbaugh (via MediaMatters):

Global warming relies on the theory that we are destroying ecosystems. There is no evidence that we could destroy ecosystems. [Emphasis added]

Takes your breath away.

MediaMatters has the audio.

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December 16, 2005

Cafferty 9/11, "War On Terror"  Media  Politics

This is good.

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December 14, 2005

They Do It On Purpose (Of Course) Media

From Charlie Reina, formerly a producer at Fox News Channel (PoynterOnline, via Atrios):

As with many conflicts, particularly the manufactured kind, dishonesty, greed and ignorance are the culprits behind Fox News Channel's so-called "War on Christmas." [...]

It's no surprise, of course, that this phony call to arms, this "Christmas (ergo, Christians) Under Attack" hysteria, emanates from the bowels of Fox News Channel. The network is, after all, ground zero in the culture wars that polarize so much of America these days. Make no mistake about it: Fox is on a mission. Its slogans say, "Fair and Balanced" and "We Report, You Decide." But in the six years that I worked there, what I heard most from Fox management were mission statements — about turning things around, taking news back from the liberals, and giving "middle America" a voice long denied it by the "east coast media elite." In other words, using its news report to bring about change — in the media and, ultimately, in the direction of American culture.

As FNC's man at the top, Roger Ailes, knows well from his years as a political operative, there is no more effective wartime strategy than to divide and conquer. That's why so much of his network's programming is confrontational. [...]

But what really separates Fox from the competition is its unabashed use of religion as a divisive weapon. Common sense — and common courtesy — have long dictated that personal religious beliefs be kept out of news reporting unless the story at hand involves religion. But on Fox, it's not uncommon for an anchor to raise the issue of a guest's religion, or lack thereof, apropos of nothing. The most glaring example I can recall is a 2002 interview with a guest who had been cited for his charitable acts. At the end of the discussion the anchor said (paraphrasing here), "So I understand you're an atheist." The guest acknowledged that this was so. "Well," said he anchor, "we're out of time now, but I’d be glad to debate you anytime on the existence of God," and, with that, ended the segment.

This past July, during FNC's hurricane coverage, another anchor asked a guest: "Do you think God was looking over the people of the Gulf Coast," by sparing them from a new storm on the heels of Hurricane Ivan? [...]

Fox anchors will tell you that no one in management dictates that they bring up religion. But my experience at FNC is that, once management makes its views known, the anchors have a clear blueprint of what's expected of them. In this case, the point man is network vice president John Moody. A scholar and biographer of Pope John Paul II, John is a devout Catholic who seldom holds back on matters of the church, or in framing his views in "good guy, bad guy" terms. For example, during the 2001 Senate hearings on John Ashcroft's appointment as Attorney General, Moody's daily memos to the staff repeatedly touted Ashcroft as "deeply religious" and the victim of Democrats' intolerance. [...]

Then there’s Fox management’s view on the separation of church and state, and on those who support it. One not-so-subtle hint came in March, 2004, after a Baghdad bombing gave reporters at a hotel in the Iraqi capital a scare. Moody's memo that day advised FNC staffers to "offer a prayer of thanks for their safety to whatever God you revere (and let the ACLU stick it where the sun don't shine)."

So, again, it's no wonder this "War on Christmas" (now in its second successful year) is a production of Fox News Channel — the very network that has made accusation, recrimination and confrontation the gold standards of cable "news," and whose personalities have fashioned a self-serving "war" out of whole cloth, thanks to a scattered handful of p/c dupes and a shameless management willing to use even Christmas for its own political ends. [Emphasis added]

Obvious, but it's nice to get confirmation from an insider.

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Communing With Satan Media

Here in Madison, Wisconsin, we have lots of reasons to love our city. Here's one more.

Bill O'Reilly, on his tv show yesterday, ranting about an editorial in the Richmond Times-Dispatch decrying O'Reilly's ridiculous "war on Christmas" campaign (MediaMatters):

Now, this is a conservative city, Richmond. I mean, this is not Madison, Wisconsin, where you expect those people to be communing with Satan...

Ah, the voice of reason.

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December 12, 2005

Pat Robertson: Criticism Is Treason Iraq  Media  Politics

In Pat Robertson's world, the Iraq war has already been won, and wartime criticism of the president is treason. Here's Robertson last week (via MediaMatters):

We've won the war already, and for the Democrats to say we can't win it — what kind of a statement is that? And furthermore, one of the fundamental principles we have in America is that the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces and attempts to undermine the commander in chief during time of war amounts to treason. I know we have an opportunity to express our points of view, but there is a time when we're engaged in a combat situation that carping criticism against the commander in chief just doesn't cut it. And I think that yes, we have freedom of speech — of course we do — but this has gone over the top and I think the Republicans are — well, they've taken advantage. [Emphasis added]

The war's already been won — but it's also ongoing, so criticism is treason. We've got freedom of speech — but you can't use it to criticize the president, cuz he's commander in chief. Which, of course, is a "fundamental principle" of our democracy.

Poor Pat.

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December 09, 2005

Pass The Popcorn Media

Off to see Syriana tonight. Should be interesting...

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December 08, 2005

Jon Stewart's Kwanzaa Gift To Bill O'Reilly Humor & Fun  Media  Politics

A follow-up on yesterday's Bill O'Reilly and the fake war against Christmas item: Jon Stewart did a funny bit on it last night. Go here, and click "Secular Central".

And Atrios makes a good point: as silly as all this is, it's annoying that the wingnuts are managing to politicize what most people think of as a nice, loving holiday season that brings people together. Wedge Issues R Us.

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December 07, 2005

Shame 9/11, "War On Terror"  Media  Rights, Law

Eric Boehlert on the acquittal yesterday of Florida professor Sami Al-Arian on terrorism charges:

Courtroom defeats for prosecutors don't come much more embarrassing than the one suffered Tuesday in the Florida terror trial of Sami Al-Arian, who was acquitted on key charges of abetting terrorists. Along with three other defendants, Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor, was charged with helping to lead a Palestinian terrorist group from his home near Tampa.

Feds, who'd been eying A-Arian for nearly a decade, finally got their chance to indict him following 9/11 when the Patriot Act allowed all sorts of evidence to be suddenly permissible in court. Al-Arian's case never had anything to do with bin Laden or Saddam, but Bush's Justice Dept., which indicted Al-Arian just one month before the invasion of Iraq, made sure to leave the impression that the crucial terror case would keep America safe.

Anyway, the case turned out to be colossal flop, with the feds presenting a confusing mish-mash of jumbled transcripts and a mountain of circumstantial evidence that, according to press accounts, bored the jury to tears. The prosecution took nearly five months to present its case, which included testimony from nearly 80 witnesses. Finally given a chance to respond, here's what Al-Arian's attorney told the judge:

"On behalf of Dr. Al-Arian, the defense rests."

Al-Arian didn't call a single witness on his behalf. That might have been because prosecutors, who had tapped Al-Arian's phone for years and collected 20,000 hours of conversations, failed to present a single phone call in which violent terrorist acts were plotted. As has become something of a post-9/11 custom, the terror indictments were a lot more convincing than the actual terror trial. (See the Lackawanna Six.) And has also become customary, the network news teams looked the other way.

When then-Attorney General John Ashcroft personally announced the Al-Arian indictment on Feb. 20, 2003, in a press conference carried live on CNN (Ashcroft tagged Al-Arian the North American leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad), the story garnered a wave of excited media attention. ABC's "World News Tonight" led that night's newscast with the Al Arian arrest. Both NBC and CBS also gave the story prominent play that evening. But last night, in the wake of Al-Arian's acquittal, it was a different story. Neither ABC, CBS nor NBC led with the terror case on their evening newscasts. None of them slotted it second or third either. In fact, according to TVEyes, the 24-hour monitor system, none of [the] networks reported the acquittal at all. Raise your hand if you think the nets would have covered the trial's conclusion if the jury had returned with a guilty verdict in what the government had hyped as a centerpiece to its War on Terror. [Emphasis added]

Sickening and infuriating. Shame on the networks. Shame.

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Christmas Spirit Media

Fox's Bill O'Reilly enters into the true spirit of Christmas:

I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. And we have succeeded. You know we've succeeded. They are on the run in corporations, in the media, everywhere. They are on the run, because I will put their face and their name on television, and I will talk about them on the radio if they do it. There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together. There is no reason on the earth that we can't do that. So we are going to do it. And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me. [Emphasis added]

Hilarious. What a pinhead.

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December 02, 2005

"Two Words: Cheney's Guilty." Media  Politics

Crooks and Liars has the video of Dave Letterman's quite good interview of Maureen Dowd, here. I haven't watched Letterman in years, but I remember him as always playing dumb when it comes to politics. Not this time, though. Worth watching, but here are a few high points.

On Judy Miller and WMD:

Dowd: Well, basically the problem with Judy [Miller] was the same problem as Bob Woodward. They just needed a little more adult supervision.

Letterman: So, so she was printing stories about the possibility of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And she was getting – her source was who, for those stories?

Dowd: Well, she was very close to Chalabi and the neocons in the administration. And then when she wrote her own account of it in the New York Times, she said that, um, she had gotten it totally wrong on weapons of mass destruction, but that she was only as good as her sources. So, then I wrote a column, I just said that’s not good enough because investigative reporting is not stenography, you can’t just put it in the paper and then let the administration use it to help make the phony case for war.

On Plamegate:

Dowd: "You don't have to pay attention to anything that's happening and you only need to remember two words"

Letterman: "Uh-huh."

Dowd: "Cheney's guilty."

On Bush:

Dowd: "He has Harriet Miers and Condi and Karen Hughes, and he's surrounded by sort of nanny governesses, like a little boy."

I'd transcribe more, but I gotta run. Watch it in full here.

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Laughing At Bombastic Bill Humor & Fun  Media

Courtesy of Atrios, a listener's reaction (audio - mp3) to Bill O'Reilly. Priceless.

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November 14, 2005

Lefties Won't Watch? Media

From TVNewser (via Atrios):

At "the annual media gathering wrangled by former Hearst Entertainment President Ray Joslin at Trinity College in New York, NBC Universal President Bob Wright and the person interviewing him — MSNBC host Tucker Carlson — veered into some interesting territory," Broadcasting & Cable says.

"Waxing nostalgic for the days when networks played current events 'down the middle,' Wright lamented the over-the-top tone that cable-news channels are increasingly embracing. And, of course, he laid responsibility for it all at the feet of Fox News Channel."

Carlson suggested the creation of a cable channel that caters to liberals. But "going after a lefty audience would be futile, Wright said. 'For some strange, probably genetic, reasons' — we're pretty sure that was a joke — 'they don't listen to a lot of radio and they don't watch a lot of television.'" [My emphasis]

That's the CEO of NBC. Dumbass. As Atrios points out, lefties don't watch cable news because it's wall-to-wall Republican spin.

You'd have to tie me down and prop my eyelids open, a la A Clockwork Orange, to get me to watch Fox News or any of its imitators, but I go out of my way to catch The Daily Show — I see it a couple of times a week, on average, and I don't even have cable.

Don't give me a loudmouthed, mirror-image of Fox; give me a smart, honest, literate, and funny liberal network, and I'll tune in.

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November 03, 2005

China And The Internet Media  Science/Technology

Ethan Zuckerman had an interesting post recently at WorldChanging on China and the Internet. Excerpt:

China's become truly huge on the internet in recent years - while only 8% of Chinese citizens are online, that's 103m people, making China the world's second largest Internet userbase. They're the largest mobile phone market, with 385m users. And they're creating content - there are 50 blog hosting services in China, and 5m blogs.

The Chinese government doesn't censor everything - they're trying to make sure that political leaders and political movements don't get built online the same way that pop stars do. Talk about an issue like Taishi and your site or service will get shut down. Talk about your sex life, and no one will make trouble for you.

...the Great Firewall of China - the Chinese firewall makes it impossible to search for certain terms on Google. On Chinese blogging sites - from Blogbus to MSN Spaces - certain terms (like "democracy" or "freedom of speech") will simply be blocked by the server. The server administrator protects you, the user, from getting into trouble with authorities by talking about forbidden topics. You're free to talk about what you're free to talk about, and protected from touching the third rail of politics. [...]

The Chinese are moving ahead of the US in a number of internet spaces - podcasting, blogging via mobile phones, video blogging. But these new technologies have censorship baked in. Censorship isn't slowing down the growth of these companies - they're growing in ways that assume that certain speech will be censored.

If China's the largest internet userbase in the future, what does this mean for the Internet? Are the tools we use going to prevent us from engaging in certain types of speech? Are other countries going to want to adopt a Chinese-style internet rather than a US style one? Are there things we can do to ensure we don't get censorship baked into the code and the business model? [Emphasis added]

Fascinating on many levels. China is already leading the world in mobile phone users, podcasting, video blogging. Amazing. They're leapfrogging themselves right into the future. The pace of worldwide change just keeps accelerating.

Zuckerman's final questions are important ones. Will China set a precedent that leads to widespread censorship on the Internet? The network effect of the Internet is an enormously important development in human history, connecting the people of the world, creating a new kind of group mind that harnesses the power of millions of brains and that opens millions of eyes. It is a positive boon to humanity. We would be fools to cripple it. We must not let the Few determine what the Many can think and say.

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November 01, 2005

How The News Works Now Humor & Fun  Media  Politics

Tom Tomorrow sums it up.

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October 27, 2005

Your Liberal Media Media

If there's anybody out there still who believes we've got a liberal media, I suggest you go read this.

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October 21, 2005

Glories Of A Free Press Media

From the Institute of Southern Studies (via Atrios): What does this editorial have in common with this, this, this, this, this, and this?


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September 16, 2005

Hugo Chavez On Democracy Now Media

On Monday, Amy Goodman's Democracy Now will feature a rare hour-long interview with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. It should be a remarkable hour. If you can't catch it on the air, it will be archived on Democracy Now's website for streaming. You won't want to miss it.

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September 13, 2005

Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot Media

Rush Limbaugh says a lot of dumb stuff, but this has to be one of the dumbest. In the midst of one of his usual tirades that humans don't cause global warming, he said this:

Nobody can prove it. Nobody can prove that man's causing [global warming]. To me, the proof that man is not causing this is that there's nothing we can do to stop it.

Media Matters:

By this logic, one could similarly assert that since a single person cannot stop a forest fire, a single person could not possibly cause a forest fire.


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September 02, 2005

Media Gets Wakeup Call? Disasters  Media

It's just possible that reporters who've been covering the ongoing disaster in New Orleans have, by this experience, been shaken out of their complacent slumbering acceptance of whatever bullshit is streaming out of Washington on any given day. For when was the last time you heard a news anchor say something like this? Via Atrios:

Cafferty: Wolf, the war in Iraq is part of the problem in New Orleans. The Boston Globe reporting today that National Guard units across the country have about half their usual equipment. Everything from helicopters, trucks, humvees, weapons available to them. All the rest of the stuff has been sent off to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are 78000 National Guard troops who are now deployed in those overseas war zones. Even the hardest hit states have 40% of their National Guard troops in Iraq right now. What happens if there's a terrorist attack tomorrow or a massive eearthquake in southern California? How would the nation respond? It's a frightening thought. The question is this — if we're to stay the course in Iraq should we bring the national guard troops home and institute a draft?

Wolf: ...

Cafferty: Do you suppose, Wolf, that the arrival of the relief convoys and the political photo ops on the Gulf Coast happening at the same time were a coincidence today?

Wolf: ...

Cafferty: It's embarrassing. [My emphasis]

Or when was the last time you saw an article like this one on a major news site? CNN compares the official characterization of events coming from Chertoff and Brown to the reports they were getting from people on the ground. Go read it.

For many of the reporters who covered Vietnam on the ground, the experience innoculated them against ever meekly accepting the government line. Maybe Katrina will have the same effect today for some of the reporters covering it. One can hope.

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September 01, 2005

Empathy From The Right Disasters  Media  Politics

Here's conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg, editor-in-chief of National Review Online:


I think it's time to face facts. That place is going to be a Mad Max/thunderdome Waterworld/Lord of the Flies horror show within the next few hours. My advice is to prepare yourself now. Hoard weapons, grow gills and learn to communicate with serpents. While you're working on that, find the biggest guy you can and when he's not expecting it beat him senseless. Gather young fighters around you and tell the womenfolk you will feed and protect any female who agrees to participate without question in your plans to repopulate the earth with a race of gilled-supermen. It's never too soon to be prepared.

Goldberg wrote that before the horror unfolding in New Orleans was fully evident, but still...

And then he added this:


But it would be pretty cool if Fox played to caricature and repeatedly referred to the hurricane as Katrina vanden Heuvel [editor of The Nation].

"The destruction from Katrina vanden Heuvel is expected to be massive."

"...the poor and disabled are particularly likely to suffer from the effects of Katrina vanden Heuvel ...."

"Coming up: how to explain Katrina vanden Heuvel to your children."


Right-wing humor. Juvenile twit.

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August 31, 2005

Looting And Not-Looting Disasters  Media

A tale of two captions, here.

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August 27, 2005

Say Cheese Activism  Media  Science/Technology

As personal computers, the Internet, cell phones, and wireless networks have taught us, technologies that facilitate the capture, processing, and sharing of information can have enormous, profound global impact, impact that emerges in often unexpected ways from the uncoordinated actions of millions or billions of individuals.

These kinds of effects are becoming ever more rapid and profound as the world becomes ever more networked. It may well be that the wired (or more appropriately, the wireless) world that is emerging is some unfathomable global entity that we can scarcely comprehend, just as the body is unfathomable to the cells that comprise it.

Jamais Cascio of WorldChanging has written a fascinating — and more than a little unsettling — vision of a phenomenon that is only now getting underway. He calls it the Participatory Panopticon. It's a long piece, but I've tried to edit it down. It's worth reading and pondering. Excerpts:

Soon — probably within the next decade, certainly within the next two — we'll be living in a world where what we see, what we hear, what we experience will be recorded wherever we go. There will be few statements or scenes that will go unnoticed, or unremembered. Our day to day lives will be archived and saved. What's more, these archives will be available over the net for recollection, analysis, even sharing.

And we will be doing it to ourselves.

This won't simply be a world of a single, governmental Big Brother watching over your shoulder, nor will it be a world of a handful of corporate siblings training their ever-vigilant security cameras and tags on you. Such monitoring may well exist, probably will, in fact, but it will be overwhelmed by the millions of cameras and recorders in the hands of millions of Little Brothers and Little Sisters. We will carry with us the tools of our own transparency, and many, perhaps most, will do so willingly, even happily. [...]

This day is coming not because of some distant breakthrough or revolution. The breakthroughs are already happening. The revolution has already taken place. [...]

You may not be aware of it, but the cameraphone in your pocket is the harbinger of a massive social transformation, one already underway.

This transformation could be at least as big as the ones triggered by television and by computers... [...]

Thousands of so-called "moblog" sites have sprung up, dedicated to cameraphone shots of whatever captures the photographer's eye at that moment. And increasingly, cameraphones can do more than just take still images. A growing number of cameraphones can record — and send — video clips. With so-called 3G networks, bandwidth is sufficient to send live webcam-style video from a mobile phone. [...]

[E]arlier this year, the medical journal Archives of Dermatology ran a paper by the University Hospital of Geneva comparing the ability of dermatologists to diagnose skin ulcers by examining the patient in person with their ability to do so via cameraphone images. In the study, the diagnoses were identical in nearly every case, supporting the idea that cameraphones can be another tool for telemedicine in remote areas.

A few universities and activist groups are experimenting with applications allowing cameraphones to read bar codes, functioning like mobile networked bar code scanners. Users can snap a photo of a bar code on a product and get back information from a variety of websites on whether the product was produced sustainably, whether the company making it behaved ethically, even whether there's a better price to be had at a different store.

But the panopticon aspect is really most visible in the world of politics and activism. In the US, in last November's national election, a group calling itself "video vote vigil" asked citizens to keep a watch for polling place abuses and problems, recording them if possible with digital cameras or camera phones. In the UK, the delightfully-named "Blair Watch Project" was an effort, coordinated by the newspaper The Guardian, to keep tabs on Prime Minister Tony Blair as he campaigns around the country. The project was prompted by the Labour party's decision to limit Blair's media exposure on the trail; instead he was covered by more cameras than ever.

Efforts such as these make it clear that every citizen with a cameraphone can be a reporter. Citizens can capture a politician's inadvertent gesture, quick glance or private frown, and make sure those images are seen around the world. The lack of traditional cameras snapping away can no longer be an opportunity for public figures to relax. All those running for office have to assume that their actions and words are being recorded, even if no cameras are evident, as long as citizens are present.

This notion of individual citizens keeping a technological eye on the people in charge is referred to as "sousveillance", a recent neologism meaning "watching from below" — in comparison to "surveillance," meaning "watching from above." Proponents of the notion see it as an equalizer, making it possible for individual citizens to keep tabs on those in charge. For the sousveillance movement, if the question is "who watches the watchmen?" the answer is "all of us." [...]

Things change when you can send your exposé over the Internet. Speed and breadth of access are the best ally for transparency, and the Internet has both in abundance. Once damning photos or video have been released onto the web, there's no bringing them back — efforts to do so are more likely to draw attention to them, in fact.

These days, sousveillance can be summed up with just one image:

[A]nyone, anywhere, with a digital camera and a network connection has enormous power, perhaps enough to alter the course of a war or to shake the policies of the most powerful nation on Earth. [...]

Digital devices and network connections can allow individuals to bypass chains of command and control. [...]

New York City police arrested nearly two thousand people during last year's Republican National Convention. Protestors were condemned by authorities for "rioting," "resisting arrest," and the like. The city provided video tapes to the press and to the courts taken by police officers that seemed to show protestors out of control. [...]

But it turned out that the police weren't the only ones armed with video cameras. Citizen video efforts show people swept up without cause and without resistance. It's become increasingly clear that police officers misrepresented the events at trial, and that prosecutors selectively edited the official video record to prove their cases. According to the New York Times, of the nearly 1,700 cases processed by early April, 91 percent ended with charges dropped or a verdict of not guilty. A startlingly large number of them have involved citizen video showing clearly that the police and prosecutors were lying. [...]

Video phones and higher-bandwidth networks will transform activism. The next time around, we'll see the transmission of dozens, hundreds, thousands of different views from marches and protests live over the web. [...]

It's easy to alter images from a single camera. Somewhat less simple, but still quite possible, is the alteration of images from a few cameras, owned by different photographers or media outlets.

But when you have images from dozens or hundreds or thousands of digital cameras and cameraphones, in the hands of citizen witnesses? At that point, I start siding with the pictures being real.

Now it's all well and good to think about the value of always-networked personal cameras as a tool for sousveillance, for "watching the watchmen," but really: how often do we attend political rallies or visit military prisons? Cameraphones as tools of political action, while certainly important, will not in and of themselves lead to the participatory panopticon.

Your spouse will.

It's inevitable. You'll want to recall a casual mention of his favorite movie, or the name and year of the wine she loved so much, or what he *really* said in that argument. You'll want to be able to share the amazing flock of birds you saw on the way home from work, or the enthralling street musician you passed while shopping. In the past, all you could rely upon was imperfect memory and whatever descriptive skills you possess. Now, and increasingly as the technology progresses, these tools will make it possible to retain and share those moments with perfect clarity. [...]

As we become more accustomed to using cameraphones to capture the fleeing and unexpected, the more they will become integrated into our social discourse and personal relationships.

But the problem with the fleeting and unexpected is that, well, it's fleeting and it's unexpected. If you don't have your cameraphone out and at the ready, it's hard to capture those moments in full. [...]

What' the answer?

Get rid of the mobile phone. [...]

It's likely that rather than carrying around your networked camera as a hand-held phone, you'll wear it, probably built into glasses. The phone would be built in, as well, perhaps evolved into a networked computer. Everything you say, whether to someone in front of you or over the phone, and everything you see, can be captured. The display can be shown on the inside of the glasses' lenses. [...]

In their respective labs, HP, Microsoft and Nokia are all working on variations of this idea. [...]

A bigger step comes from a company called DejaView.

DejaView is now selling a hat or glasses-mounted camera and microphone system connected to a small portable PC. It constantly buffers the last 30 seconds of whatever you're looking at, and can save the buffer to permanent storage at the press of a button. In the few seconds it takes you to realize you're looking at bigfoot or may have just passed an old friend from high school, the moment may have passed irrevocably. But as long as it hasn't been more than 30 seconds, the DejaView device can save it to a hard drive, holding onto it for good. [...]

These are the progenitors of what will amount to Tivos for your everyday life. You can think of them as personal memory assistants. [...]

Wearable personal memory assistants will be linked to wireless networks, and for good reasons: to let others see what you're seeing (so that they can help you); to access greater computing power for image-recognition (including, eventually, facial-recognition routines so that you never forget a face); and for off-site storage of what you're recording, giving you far greater capacity than what you could have on-camera. [...]

A company called Colossal Storage claims that they'll have 10 petabyte drives on the market before the decade is out. 10 petabytes is ten million gigabytes. You could store more than a year's worth of high quality digital video, plus high fidelity audio, plus assorted other data, in space like that.

Nobody has put them all together yet. How long do you think it will take?

Now if you're in the intellectual property business, you're probably squirming in your seat right now. If everyone (or near enough) wears some kind of video and audio capture device connected to the net, doesn't that mean that everyone will be making copies of the movies they see, songs they hear, articles they read?


Now the obvious immediate response is "well, stop it!" ...and we'll undoubtedly see, initially at least, regulations demanding that people shut off their memory assistants while in movie theaters and such...[but] the more that people feel like these tools are extensions of themselves, the less they’ll want to have them restricted. [...]

There are some deeply difficult user interface issues involved here. Recording everything is not the same as recalling something specific. It's a big question how you’ll be able to find the interesting stuff in your terabytes or petabytes of life archives. [...]

We're constantly checking with each other for useful insights. You stumble across a new restaurant, and want to know if any of your friends or any of their friends have been there before. You learn about a new politician, and want to know if anyone you know has heard her speak. You meet a new guy, and want to know if someone in your circle has dated him before...[W]as it *that* restaurant that had the bug in the soup? Was it *that* politician saying something about prayer in schools? Was it *that* guy my sister dated and dumped for cheating?

In a world of personal memory assistants and a participatory panopticon, those questions are answered.

Tools for social networks will be the killer app of the participatory panopticon. Imagine layering a friendster or epinions on top of this, where comments can be given instantly, observations compared automatically. Or imagine layering a "collaborative filtering" setup, like the comment filters on Slashdot, or the product suggestions on Amazon.

These tools will form the basis of a reputation network, a social networking system backed up by unimaginable amounts of recorded evidence and opinion. You look at the person across the subway car and the system recognizes her face, revealing to you that she just completed a business deal with a friend of yours. Or that she just met your cousin. Or that she's known to be a good kisser or a brilliant writer.

Clearly, the world of the participatory panopticon is not one of strong privacy and personal secrecy. Paris Hilton is not going to be happy here. It's going to be hard to escape past mistakes. It's going to be easy to find unflattering pictures or insulting observations. [...]

But the world of the participatory panopticon is not as interested in privacy, or even secrecy, as it is in lies. A police officer lying about hitting a protestor, a politician lying about human rights abuses, a potential new partner lying about past indiscretions — all of these are harder in a world where everything might be on the record. The participatory panopticon is a world where accusations can easily be documented, where corporations will become more transparent to stakeholders as a matter of course, where officials may even be required to wear a recorder while on duty, simply to avoid situations where they are discovered to have been lying. It's a world where we can all be witnesses with perfect recall. Ironically, it's a world where trust is easy, because lying is hard.

But ask yourself: what would it really be like to have perfect memory? Relationships — business, casual or personal — are very often built on the consensual misrememberings of slights. Memories fade. Emotional wounds heal. The insult that seemed so important one day is soon gone. But personal memory assistants will allow people to play back what you really said, time and again, allow people to obsess over a momentary sneer or distracted gaze. Reputation networks will allow people to share those recordings, showing their friends (and their friends' friends, and so on) just how much of a cad you really are.

In the world of the Participatory Panopticon, it's not just politicians concerned about inadvertent gestures, quick glances or private frowns. [...]

[We cannot] avoid it by simply deciding not to take this particular technological path. This is not a world we can decide simply to adopt or to reject. As I've shown, many of the pieces are already here or will soon be in place; more will come about as a side-effect of otherwise attractive innovations. It's unlikely that someone will set out to build the participatory panopticon, but it's very likely it will emerge nonetheless. It will be the troubling and fascinating result of the combination of a multitude of useful tools and compelling utilities.

Personal memory assistants, always on life recorders, reputation networks and so on — the pieces of the participatory panopticon — will thrust us into a world that is both painful and seductive. It will be a world of knowing that someone may always be recording your actions. It will be a world where official misbehavior will be ever more difficult to hide. It will be a world where your relationships are tested by relentless honesty. It will be a world where you will never worry about forgetting a name, or a number, or a face. It will be a world in which it is difficult or even impossible to hide. It will be a world where you'll never again lose a fleeting moment of unexpected beauty. [My emphasis]

If everybody's watching, and recording, and sharing what they've recorded, we all may have no choice but to finally learn that honesty truly is the best policy. Lying will become increasingly impossible to sustain. And we'll have to learn humility as well. Nobody's perfect — and now everybody's going to have proof. No point pretending.

In twelve-step recovery programs they talk about taking a fearless personal inventory, a clear-eyed look at the ways one has deceived others and oneself. In Cascio's world, our personal inventory will all be out there on the network. Denial's going to be tough.

What will be the impact on our collective psyche as truthfulness becomes a necessary virtue? The typical politician's tactic of making nothing but plain vanilla utterances may well come to be rejected as a form of disguised lying, as an all-to-obvious attempt to escape the pervasive scrutiny that the rest of us are all having to live with. People may just have to start coming clean. One can hope.

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August 20, 2005

Bob Costas Shows How It's Done Media

Sports broadcaster Bob Costas Thursday gave his fellow television journalists a little lesson in integrity. LA Times:

Veteran sports broadcaster Bob Costas declined to fill in as host on CNN's "Larry King Live" Thursday night because of the program's focus that night on the missing Alabama teenager and on Dennis Rader, the BTK serial killer.

Costas — who has been serving as an occasional substitute for King since June — bowed out of the Thursday show after he could not persuade producers to change the program's lineup, which included an interview with Beth Holloway Twitty, the mother of the high school senior who disappeared in Aruba in late May.

"I didn't think the subject matter of Thursday's show was the kind of broadcast that I should be doing," Costas said in a statement, adding that he "respectfully declined to participate." [...]

Costas' refusal to participate in a show about the Holloway case comes during a summer in which images of the teenager have become a staple of cable news programs, despite a lack of developments in the case. Fox News, in particular, has devoted a substantial amount of time to the story, dispatching "On the Record" host Greta Van Susteren to Aruba for the better part of two months.

Coverage of the Holloway case has yielded strong ratings, but some people have decried the time cable news has spent reporting the disappearance of yet another young white woman, arguing that the media do not put equal resources into Latinos' or blacks' disappearances.

On Thursday's "Larry King Live," substitute anchor Chris Pixley conducted a lengthy live interview with Twitty, who remains in Aruba looking for her daughter. The show came 81 days after Holloway disappeared. [My emphasis]

Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

As Digby points out, it's often sports journos who are the ones who decline to go along with network BS. Digby:

I've noted before that the sports writers are often the ones who call bullshit. I don't know why this is so. Perhaps it's because they aren't dependent on the political media establishment for their daily bread. Or maybe it's just a different occupational culture. Whatever it is, it's clear to me that the political reporting fraternity would do well to take a lesson from their sports bretheren. Just say no.

It's a measure of how callow the media establishment has become that Costas's action seems so noteworthy and refreshing. Still, kudos to Costas.

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August 16, 2005

The Future Of News, Today Media

This is an absolutely electrifying (and hugely entertaining and very funny) talk by Rob Curley, who runs the interactive, online, multimedia presence (websites is way too tepid a word for what they're doing) of the Lawrence Journal-World of Lawrence, KS.

You really need to go listen. It's a stunning (and I do mean stunning) glimpse of the true promise of the World Wide Web and all the other converging technologies that can connect people together. If you know somebody who works for a local newspaper, make them sit down and listen. What Rob Curley's team is doing is pure genius.

I cannot recommend it highly enough. Go listen. Go.

Update: [6:29 PM] Let me say a little more now that I've got a few minutes. Curley's talk is about an hour long, but a lot of the best stuff's in the second half. So if you just listen to the first few minutes and think you've got the gist, you really don't.

I think the talk will reward multiple listenings for people with an interest in how we can push the envelope with convergent communications technologies. Curley touches on a whole lot of things very quickly (so you've got to pay attention), and some of them are really quite unique. His talk's a lot like his work: it's got what he calls "overkill" — i.e., way more depth, richness, interactivity, and cross-linking of content than you're used to expecting. It's all playful, irreverent, exuberantly creative fun. If something's possible, then go for it.

To use one of his own expressions, Curley's a guy who's driving with his brights on. And it sounds like he's having an absolute blast doing it.

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August 13, 2005

News Flash: Vacaville's In California! Media

Cindy Sheehan is a PR nightmare for the right, so the usual suspects have been doing their best to smear her. Somerby has what may the ultimate example:

Our favorite case of inane Sheehan-sliming occurred on Thursday’s O'Reilly Factor. Guest host John Gibson was speaking with the New York Sun's Ira Stoll. How inane will a cable hack be? Try to believe that he said it:
GIBSON (8/11/05): I can't help but notice that Cindy Sheehan is from Vacaville, California, very close to U.C. Davis, very close to U.C. Berkeley, reasonably close to U.C. Santa Cruz, where I believe that a lot of those WTO protesters came from. What do the university anti-war protesters have to do with her?

Unbelievably dumb, even by the "Fair and Balanced" standards of Fox News.

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July 31, 2005

Questions Of Power Media  Politics

In August's Harper's, Lewis Lapham quotes Theodor Adorno:

Things have come to pass where lying sounds like truth, truth like lying....The confounding of truth and lies, making it almost impossible to maintain a distinction, and a labour of Sisyphus to hold on to the simplest piece of knowledge...[marks] the conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power. [My emphasis]

Adorno, writing in 1945, had in mind the propaganda machine of Nazi Germany, but his statement applies all the more forcefully to our age of infotainment media and privatized propaganda, in which the media ocean submerges all and leaves no dry land on which to stand. Lapham:

The infotainment to which we've become accustomed..., for the most part made with the machinery of the electronic media, replaces narrative with montage, substitutes for history the telling of fairy tales, grants authority to the actor, not the act. The country swarms with whistleblowers willing to provide particulars about any number of high government crimes and misdemeanors — whistles blowing every hour on the hour somewhere in the blogosphere, secrets revealed on every week's best-seller list — but who among the truth-tellers can compete for attention against the rumors of Brad Pitt's once and future marriages...

...What President Bush says or does matters as little as how well or poorly J. Lo sings; it is the weight of the publicity — face time in front of a camera, column inches in the magazines — that moves the tide of emotion and alters the geography of nations. In Washington hearing rooms and Hollywood restaurants, names take precedence over things (the who, not the what)...

...News broadcasts come and go as abruptly as the advertisements winking on and off in Tokyo and Times Square, the messages equivalent in their weightlessness, demanding nothing of the audience except the duty of ritual observance. Who knows or cares to know whether Rush Limbaugh's truths are truer than Toyota's?...

...[Joseph Goebbels] understood that arguments must be crude and emotional, instinctual rather than intellectual, endlessly repeated. The electronic media do the work on their own strategic initiative, and without the guidance and supervision once provided by the Gestapo...

Our collective media-drenced mind is like a society-wide drug trip — images come and go, only the present moment exists, the psychological distance between image and observer is erased. Logic, intellect, rational discernment fade from consciousness. It's just a trip.

Whenever anybody points to government conspiracies (the stealing of the 2004 presidential election, say), the usual rejoinder is: how could any large-scale conspiracy remain secret in the age of 24-hour cable news channels? The answer is simple: secrecy hardly matters anymore. All kinds of evidence can make its way into the public domain, but in a blink of the collective eye it disappears from view, crowded out by images with greater commercial appeal and staying power. Media exist to attract viewers, so the only political scandals with staying power are ones that attract viewers. So far, that seems to mean only ones that involve illicit sex (Bill Clinton, Gary Condit).

The conspirators don't have to worry about secrecy. They just have to wait us out. We'll click the tv remote and move on.

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July 30, 2005

New Media Media

According to August's Harper's Index, it is projected that this year's combined US ad revenue for Google and Yahoo! will equal the combined primetime ad revenue of NBC, CBS, and ABC.

Yahoo! was founded 11 years ago, Google just 7. The world-wide web itself is only about a dozen years old. It's easy to forget just how rapid its growth has been.

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July 29, 2005

A Super Straight Guy Humor & Fun  Media

If you're a fan of The Daily Show (and if you're not, you should be), I think you'll get a kick out of this interview with Stephen Colbert. Excerpt:

Q: When you were developing your 'super straight guy' look and sound, which actual media personalities did you model yourself after?

COLBERT: First of all, I am a super straight guy. I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, and I am perfectly comfortable in blue blazers, khaki pants, Brooks Brothers suits and regimental striped ties. It's just genetic. I love a cocktail party with completely vacuous conversation, because I grew up in it.

But in terms of who I channel, my natural inclination was Stone Phillips, who has the greatest neck in journalism. And he's got the most amazingly severe head tilt at the end of tragic statements, like "there were no...survivors." He just tilts his head a bit on that "survivors" as if to say "It's true. It's sad. There were none."

Q: Plus, his name has that sort of Republican porn star vibe to it.

COLBERT: Exactly, if it were Stone Fill-Up then it would really be a porn star name.

Read the rest here.

(Thanks, Maurice)

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Fuehrer Worship Media  Politics

This one's making the rounds, but in case you haven't seen it here's what Time's 2004 Blog of the Year had to say on the subject of Our Leader (via Kos):

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

They're not joking, and it's not funny. It's idiotic, it's ridiculous, but it's also, to me anyway, frightening. Nazi comparisons tend to be counter-productive, but really — what does this kind of rhetoric call to mind if not the swooning adulation accorded to Der Fuehrer?

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July 15, 2005

Gays Teaching Evolution Humor & Fun  Media

Matt Taibbi explains modern American news media, here.

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Reformers And Hardliners Media

Some world leaders are referred to as "moderates" or "reformers." Others are labeled "hardliners." Why? Neil Clark explains, in yesterday's Guardian:

Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is one. So are Belarus's Alexander Lukashenko and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. These men, we are repeatedly told by CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, are "hardliners". But what exactly is a hardliner — and why are some world leaders hardliners and others not?

In a dictionary you will find hardline defined as "definite and unyielding". But if so, why is hardliner used so selectively to describe world leaders?

As Mahmoud Ahmadinejad celebrated his landslide victory, another election was taking place in Bulgaria. For the past four years the prime minister, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, has presided over a privatisation programme that the Iron Lady [Margaret Thatcher] herself would have drooled over. His neo-liberal agenda has left half of Bulgaria's 8 million people surviving on less than two euros a day. Yet unlike Ahmadinejad, Lukashenko or Chavez, the Bulgarian premier has not been labelled a hardliner — for his "definite and unyielding" policies — but instead is referred to as a reformer and a moderniser.

It's a similar story across eastern and central Europe. The Hungarian prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, whose government is following the most aggressively neoliberal policies in the EU, recently announced plans to privatise healthcare. Hungary has no more money for hospitals — but did find £7.7m to buy air-to-air missiles from the US and £34.5m to "adapt" its armed forces to the demands of Nato and EU membership. To many, a policy of putting guns before health would be considered hardline. But not the western media, who laud Gyurcsany as a "centrist reformer".

Look further and it is clear; if you run your country for the benefit of international capital and orientate your foreign policy towards the US, you will be a "reformer", "moderate" or "moderniser" - regardless of how extreme your polices are. The rule applies even if you served in an SS unit (like the neoconservatives' favourite Islamist, the late Bosnian leader Alija Izetbegovic) or, like the shah of Iran, had one of the most feared secret police forces in the world.

If, on the other hand, you run your country for the benefit of your people and refuse to pay Danegeld to the most powerful empire the world has seen, you will be called a hardliner. Ahmadinejad is "hardline", not for the social and religious conservatism he shares with the non-"hardline" leaders of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but for his policy of empowering Iranian working class people and defending his country's right to develop nuclear power. Lukashenko is "hardline", not for his authoritarianism, but because he wishes to maintain the last planned, socially owned economy in Europe: an alternative economic agenda that has seen his country climb from 68th to 49th in the UN human development index. And Hugo Chavez is "hardline", not because he once led a failed military coup, but because he wishes to use his nation's vast oil wealth to benefit Venezuela and not US oil corporations.

It is for standing up for the interests of their own people that these three men are labelled "hardliners". For those genuinely concerned with social justice, derailing the US behemoth and creating a world in which people come before profits, the more "hardliners" — and the less "moderates" and "reformers" — that are elected to power, the better. [My emphasis]

The reformers are called "hardliners", and the hardliners are called "reformers". Life imitates Orwell.

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July 12, 2005

Selling Out Africa Activism  Corporations, Globalization  Media

The Live8 concerts were to music-based activism what embedded journalism is to war reporting: corporate/government PR disguised as the real thing. When anything is as warmly embraced by big media, big government, and big multinational corporate players as Live8 was, well, you can be sure it's toothless, non-threatening, thoroughly housebroken. Just another reality tv show, with the usual reality tv subtext that says that phony, dumbed-down, product-placement "reality" is better than reality itself.

George Monbiot, writing from the English perspective, says it best:

I began to realise how much trouble we were in when Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for International Development, announced that he would be joining the Make Poverty History march on Saturday. What would he be chanting?, I wondered. "Down with me and all I stand for"?

Benn is the man in charge of using British aid to persuade African countries to privatise their public services: wasn’t the march supposed to be a protest against policies like his? But its aims were either expressed or interpreted so loosely that anyone could join. This was its strength and its weakness. The Daily Mail ran pictures of Gordon Brown and Bob Geldof on its front page, with the headline "Let's Roll", showing that nothing either Live8 or Make Poverty History has done so far represents a threat to power. The G8 leaders and the business interests their summit promotes can absorb our demands for aid, debt, even slightly fairer terms of trade, and lose nothing. They can wear our colours, speak our language, claim to support our aims, and discover in our agitation not new constraints, but new opportunities for manufacturing consent. Justice, this consensus says, can be achieved without confronting power.

They invite our representatives to share their stage, we invite theirs to share ours. [...]

The G8 leaders have seized this opportunity with both hands. Multinational corporations, they argue, are not the cause of Africa's problems, but the solution. From now on, they will be responsible for the relief of poverty.

In the United States, they have already been given control of the primary instrument of US policy towards Africa, the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The act is a fascinating compound of professed philanthropy and raw self-interest. To become eligible for help, African countries must bring about "a market-based economy that protects private property rights”", "the elimination of barriers to United States trade and investment" and a conducive environment for US "foreign policy interests". In return they will be allowed "preferential treatment" for some of their products in US markets.

The important word is "some". Clothing factories in Africa will be allowed to sell their products to the US as long as they use "fabrics wholly formed and cut in the United States" or if they avoid direct competition with US products...Even so, African countries' preferential treatment will be terminated if it results in "a surge in imports".

It goes without saying that all this is classified as foreign aid. The act instructs the US Agency for International Development to develop "a receptive environment for trade and investment". What is more interesting is that its implementation has been outsourced to another agency, the Corporate Council on Africa.

The CCA is the lobby group representing the big US corporations with interests in Africa: Halliburton, Exxon Mobil, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Starbucks, Raytheon, Microsoft, Boeing, Cargill, Citigroup and others. For the CCA, what is good for General Motors is good for Africa: "until African countries are able to earn greater income," it says, "their ability to buy U.S. products will be limited." The US State Department has put it in charge of training African governments and businesses. [...]

Now something very similar is being rolled out in the United Kingdom. Today the Business Action for Africa summit will open in London with a message from Tony Blair. It is chaired by Sir Mark Moody Stuart, the head of Anglo American, and its speakers include executives from Shell, British American Tobacco, Standard Chartered Bank, De Beers and the Corporate Council on Africa. [...]

Few would deny that one of the things Africa needs is investment. But investment by many of our multinationals has not enriched its people but impoverished them. The history of corporate involvement in Africa is a history of forced labour, evictions, murder, wars, the under-costing of resources, tax evasion and collusion with dictators. Nothing in either the Investment Climate Facility or the Growth and Opportunity Act imposes mandatory constraints on corporations. While their power and profits in Africa will be enhanced with the help of our foreign aid budgets, they will be bound only by voluntary commitments: of the kind that have been in place since 1976 and have proved useless.

Just as Gordon Brown's "moral crusade" encourages us to forget the armed crusade he financed, so the state-sponsored rebranding of the companies working in Africa prompts us to forget what Shell has been doing in Nigeria, what Barclays and Anglo American and De Beers have done in South Africa, and what British American Tobacco has done just about everywhere. From now on, the G8 would like us to believe, these companies will be Africa's best friends. In the name of making poverty history, the G8 has given a new, multi-headed East India Company a mandate to govern the continent.

Without a critique of power, our campaign, so marvellously and so disastrously inclusive, will merely enhance this effort. Debt, unfair terms of trade and poverty are not causes of Africa's problems but symptoms. The cause is power: the ability of the G8 nations and their corporations to run other people's lives. Where, on the Live8 stages and at the rally in Edinburgh, was the campaign against the G8's control of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations? Where was the demand for binding global laws for multinational companies?

At the Make Poverty History march, the speakers insisted that we are dragging the G8 leaders kicking and screaming towards our demands. It seems to me that the G8 leaders are dragging us dancing and cheering towards theirs. [My emphasis]

Superstars embedded with the multinational corporate music business, performing on a world-wide media hookup, are not to be confused with the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane playing free concerts from a flatbed truck in Golden Gate Park. It's natural that people make that kind of connection (or its more contemporary equivalent). After all, the music once stood for something.

But we only have to stop and think. Western governments and multinational corporations hold all the cards; Africa holds none. There is zero chance that any deal with Africa will fail to reflect that power imbalance. Anyone who thinks otherwise knows no history. The notion that one day's worth of Live8 concerts exerted any sort of meaningful pressure on Western power centers, thereby altering the power equation, is a cruel joke. Sir Bob Geldorf, Sir Paul McCartney, Bono, Madonna, and the rest may even have believed they were doing some good. Who knows. There were probably embedded journalists in Iraq who thought they were doing real reporting.

But as Gil Scott-Heron sang all those years ago, the revolution will not be televised. And it certainly won't be a worldwide media spectacle bankrolled by multinational corporate sponsors, featuring a parade of multi-millionaire pop stars.

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July 11, 2005

Prior Self-Restraint Media  Politics  Rights, Law

Editor & Publisher reports that the Cleveland Plain Dealer is suppressing two investigative stories because they're afraid of joining Judith Miller in jail. Excerpt:

Plain Dealer Editor Doug Clifton says the Cleveland daily is not reporting two major investigative stories of "profound importance" because they are based on illegally leaked documents — and the paper fears the consequences faced now by jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

Lawyers for the Newhouse Newspapers-owned PD have concluded that the newspaper would almost certainly be found culpable if the leaks were investigated by authorities.

"They've said, this is a super, super high-risk endeavor, and you would, you know, you'd lose," Clifton said in an interview Friday afternoon.

"The reporters say, 'Well, we're willing to go to jail, and I'm willing to go to jail if it gets laid on me,'" Clifton added, "but the newspaper isn't willing to go to jail. That's what the lawyers have told us.

Clifton declined to characterize the two stories, saying only they were based on material that was illegally leaked. [...]

"As I write this, two stories of profound importance languish in our hands," Clifton wrote. "The public would be well served to know them, but both are based on documents leaked to us by people who would face deep trouble for having leaked them. Publishing the stories would almost certainly lead to a leak investigation and the ultimate choice: talk or go to jail. Because talking isn't an option and jail is too high a price to pay, these two stories will go untold for now. How many more are out there?" [...]

"Some people might argue that you're being chicken-shit," Clifton said. "Well, I, I can respect that," he said, his voice trailing off. [My emphasis]

If journalists, editors, and publishers cave without a fight, what good is the First Amendment?

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July 10, 2005

Paymasters Of Carnage Activism  Iraq  Media

This piece by John Pilger (via ICH) is an absolute must-read.

It is the necessary antidote to the G8 coverage, to Bono and the other rock-star embeds, and to much else besides. Go read it, and clear your head. Go!

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July 02, 2005

GOP Senators Blame Media For Recruiting Shortfalls Iraq  Media  Politics

It's the media's fault that nobody wants to enlist, say several Republican Senators. Reuters:

Several Senate Republicans denounced other lawmakers and the news media on Thursday for unfavorable depictions of the Iraq war and the Pentagon urged members of Congress to talk up military service to help ease a recruiting shortfall.

Families are discouraging young men and women from enlisting "because of all the negative media that's out there," Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Inhofe also said that other senators' criticism of the war contributed to the propaganda of U.S. enemies. He did not name the senators. [...]

The Army on Wednesday said it was 14 percent, or about 7,800 recruits, behind its year-to-date recruitment target even though it exceeded its monthly target in June. With extended deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, recruiting also is down for the National Guard and the Reserves.

"With the deluge of negative news that we get daily, it's just amazing to me that anybody would want to sign up," said Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican.

I agree. It's just amazing to me, too. And of course it's all the media's fault. As Jon Stewart said, they never tell us about the cars in Iraq that don't blow up.

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June 25, 2005

Ed Klein Gets Shredded On Air America Media  Politics

Check this out. It's the audio of Al Franken and Joe Conason's interview of Ed Klein, the author of the smear book on Hillary Clinton. He must have felt like he fell into a woodchipper. Too good to miss.

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June 23, 2005

Stephen King On "News" Media

Greg at The Talent Show quotes a piece by novelist Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly (of all places):

It's sickening that it takes a columnist in an entertainment magazine to point out that more than 2,000 newspeople covered the [Michael] Jackson trial — which is only a few hundred more than the number of American servicemen and women who have died in Iraq. On the same day that crowds gathered in Times Square (and around the world) to learn the fate of the Pale Peculiarity, another four suicide bombings took place in that tortured, bleeding country. And if you tell me that news doesn't belong in Entertainment Weekly, I respond by saying Michael Jackson under a black umbrella doesn't belong on the front page of the New York Times. [...]

The media first turned the trial into a freak-show by emphasizing Jackson's peculiarities rather than his humanity, and stoked the ratings with constant, trivializing coverage while other, far more important stories went under-reported or completely ignored in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Washington, D.C.

The press might respond by saying, "We gave the people what they wanted."

My response would be, "My job is to give them what they want. When he steps into a recording studio, it's Michael Jackson's job to give them what they want. Your job is to give the people what they need." [My emphasis]

As Greg points out, when you've got to turn to comedians (Jon Stewart and Al Franken) and novelists (Stephen King) for your news and analysis, something is seriously wrong.

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June 22, 2005

Rush's Idea Of Humor Media

Rush Limbaugh's selling "Club G'itmo" t-shirts that read as follows:

Har-dee-frickin-har. Meanwhile, you still can't get in to see President Bush if your t-shirt says something about peace.

[Via Digby]

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June 21, 2005

What They Cover Media

Arianna Huffington compiled some interesting stats on the number of news segments that mentioned particular stories in the period May1 - June 20:

Any wonder we're going to hell in a handbasket?

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June 20, 2005

Help Save NPR and PBS Media  Politics

House Republicans are threatening to cut funding for public broadcasting by half.

Help MoveOn amass 1 million signatures on a petition to save NPR and PBS. They're 85% of the way there; help put them over the top, here.

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June 18, 2005

On Stealing Music Culture  Media

Here's a deftly written, thought-provoking and nuanced meditation, in the form of an open letter to the Music Industry, on the ethics of stealing music by downloading. Music industry dinosaurs should read it and take it to heart — but they probably won't. Even if you don't buy or download music, you still may find it a rewarding read. Recommended.

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June 17, 2005

Media Tipping Point? Media  Politics

Bush's approval ratings are in free fall. See, for example, these graphs from today's NYT.

The Rude Pundit's got a theory: at some point, ratings-conscious media execs will wake up, realize which way the wind's blowing, stop kissing White House butt and start doing their jobs. It's that, or lose most of their audience.

One can hope.

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June 07, 2005

Key Point Buried In Kerry Story Media  Politics

You may have seen this morning's story that John Kerry's grades at Yale were "on par" with Bush's. As Media Matters points out, however, what should have been the key element of the story was buried. Excerpt:

The Boston Globe used its front page on June 7 to highlight an article — based on Sen. John Kerry's newly released military and education records — that emphasized Kerry's mediocre college grades. But the Globe buried a second article, which used the records to further discredit attacks on Kerry's military service that occurred during the 2004 presidential campaign, on an inside page. While attacks on Kerry's service had already been largely discredited, the revelation that his full military records provide no new information about his service definitively proved the baselessness of smears by the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (now Swift Vets and POWs for Truth). [...]

The report that Kerry's decision to sign Standard Form 180, and thereby fully release his military records, provided a "lack of any substantive new material about Kerry's military career," ran on Page A7. The demand that Kerry sign the form, even though many of these military records were posted on Kerry's campaign website, was a point of attack by right-wing pundits who besmirched his service during the 2004 campaign. [My emphasis]

Which is the more important story, a candidate's grades from 40 years ago, or the fact that smears against the candidate, which the media harped on for months and which had a significant impact on the election, have been shown to be lies?

The "liberal media" at work.

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May 24, 2005

Sponsors Call The Shots Media

It's obvious that corporate sponsors influence news and editorial content. The influence is mostly implicit — editors and journalists don't need to be told who's paying the bills. Sometimes, however, the influence is very explicit indeed. Like now. Ad Age [link via Atrios]:

Days after financial services giant Morgan Stanley informed print publications that its ads must be automatically pulled from any edition containing "objectionable editorial coverage," global energy giant BP has adopted a similar press strategy.

According to a copy of a memo on the letterhead of BP's media-buying agency, WPP Group's MindShare, the global marketer has adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward negative editorial coverage. The memo cites a new BP policy document entitled "2005 BP Corporate-RFP" that demands that ad-accepting publications inform BP in advance of any news text or visuals they plan to publish that directly mention the company, a competitor or the oil-and-energy industry. [...]

One former publisher and longtime magazine industry executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that "magazines are not in the financial position today to buck rules from advertisers" and predicted that such moves will continue.

The MindShare memo lays out five directives ad-accepting publishers must follow in order to comply with the policy. It also requests that publishers confirm their ability to meet BP's demands and to explain the procedures they have instituted in their newsrooms and ad sales departments to ensure such adherence.

Both broad and quite specific, the directives range from notifying the media agency prior to running any editorial that contains fuel, oil or energy news text or visuals to providing the agency the option to pull any advertising from the issue without penalty. If the ad cannot be pulled, then the agency "must receive notification immediately of the situation in order to alert BP and to manage the situation proactively," the memo said. It also states that if MindShare is not notified of the mentions prior to the issue's on-sale date, immediate advertising schedule suspension will "likely result."

What was that about a "free press"?

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April 08, 2005

Amy Goodman On Hardball Tonight Media

Democracy Now's Amy Goodman is scheduled to appear on MSNBC's Hardball tonight at 7 and 11 Eastern time. If you have cable and can stomach Chris Matthews, it should be worth a look.

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April 02, 2005

Emoting For The Camera Culture  Media

With Terri Schiavo, and now with the Pope, we see what's long since become a central ingredient of all such stories: crowds of people self-consciously emoting for the camera while the rest of the media-connected world watches them — and watches themselves watching them, and watches people like Larry King watching them, and so on.

The whole sentimental spectacle turns emotion and grief into self-conscious performance. Whatever the people whom we see may be feeling, we can safely bet that they are never, not for a moment, unaware that the camera's eye rests on them, and that they are actors in a self-referential global media pageant.

In an absolutely first-rate new book, Mediated, Thomas de Zengotita writes in passing about this phenomenon as it surfaced in the public spectacle of grieving upon the death of Princess Di:

[I watched the] mourners, assembled in their millions on the streets of London. Princess Diana's mourners, so many of them, so obviously exhibiting their grief, not even pretending that they weren't exhibiting it, understanding that this was their role, in both the sociological and theatrical sense, understanding that they were there for this purpose in service of the Global Show that their very presence was inciting, producing, and promoting in real time — a show about them "being in the moment" [like all good method actors] in what amounted to a worldwide improv. Celebrities all, celebrities at last. [...]

I detect traces of that element, more elusively embedded, whenever I watch the bereaved on TV, the relatives and victims of every sort of mishap and disaster — I suppose I've seen, how many thousands over the years? Tens? Hundreds? But I always wonder, as I watch them in the glow — some for a passing moment, others turning grief into a worthy cause, taking up residence, launching a second life — I always wonder: what is this doing to you? [...]

What it comes down to is this: Di's mourners were truly grieving and they were performing. Immersed in a world continuously represented from very angle, they understood Di's death as an opportunity to play a significant role in it, to represent themselves at levels of prominence usually reserved for the celebrated.

The effect of this is as insidious as it is deep. Everyone's on stage, everyone's a performer, always, consciously or not, looking out for the camera. As de Zengotita puts it:

We are all method actors now.

Which is part of what makes this photo from outside Terri Schiavo's hospice so funny and refreshing:

Everyone in the picture is acutely aware that he/she is on camera — and that theatrical convention demands that they pretend otherwise. It is only the guy holding the "We Are Idiots" sign who breaks the fourth wall. While everyone else is busy staying in character, he's just having a ball. Revolution for the hell of it. The "Ramones" t-shirt is the perfect icing on the cake.

Meanwhile, in between the public grief spectacles and the celebrity murder and molestation trials, everyone's watching "American Idol", "Apprentice", and "Survivor". Where once we had reality, we now have just one big reality show.

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March 31, 2005

AAR On HBO Media

Today's the one-year anniversary of the launch of Air America Radio, and HBO marked the occasion by premiering their documentary on AAR's rocky beginnings. Back home, I don't have cable — let alone HBO — but here in a hotel room in Seattle I was able to catch the show, and it's a hoot. If you have access to HBO, watch for it.

The whole AAR cast is there, but the guy I got the biggest kick out of was Marc Maron. As James Wolcott says, Maron comes across on-camera with an "ability to air out his anxieties until he seems to have squiggly lines radiating from his head like an R. Crumb character." I don't often hear Maron's show; that's going to change, now.

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March 27, 2005

Sunday Gumpagraph Media
© Kent Tenney 

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March 23, 2005

How To Lie With Statistics Media

From Media Matters, a chart CNN used to represent the difference between Democrats and Republicans on the Terri Schiavo case:

Pretty dramatic — until you read the scale on the left.

As Mark Twain said, "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics."

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March 22, 2005

"Nobel Nominee" On Scarborough Country Media

From Bob Somerby, an item that will blow your mind.

Last night, on his cable show Scarborough Country, Joe Scarborough introduced:

a neurologist William Hammesfahr — a man whom Scarborough twice described as a "nominee for the Nobel Prize." And Hammesfahr, the brilliant Nobel nominee, completely contradicted [published reports about Terri Schiavo's medical condition]. (Hammesfahr has provided expert testimony on behalf of Terri Schiavo's parents.) Terri Schiavo did not have a heart attack, he said. She never had an eating disorder. And she isn't in a persistent vegetative state. In fact, according to Hammesfahr, Terri Schiavo can "stand up or sit up and can sort of moan and make sounds that get [her] wishes known." Indeed, "she follows a lot of commands," the brilliant Nobel nominee said.

It gets worse.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, how did she get in this bad of a situation if she didn't have a heart attack?

HAMMESFAHR: Well, we don't really know. What we do know is that she was — she apparently told her family she was going to leave [her husband] Michael. And they asked that she not return to him that night. And the next morning, she is found face down on the floor unresponsive.

This guy's been watching way too much Court TV.

And what about his being a "nominee for the Nobel Prize"? Somerby:

Three years ago, David Sommer of the St. Petersburg Times reported that Hammesfahr "advertises himself as a nominee for a Nobel Prize based on a letter his congressman wrote to the Nobel committee." Yes, Hammesfahr was "nominated" for the Nobel Prize by his Republican congressman, Peter Bilirakis, back in 1999!

Republican former-Congressman Joe Scarborough thinks this guy is somebody he should put on his show and introduce as a "nominee for the Nobel Prize" so he can claim that Terry Schiavo can "stand up or sit up" and that her husband somehow put her in the condition's she's in today.

"Disgusting" doesn't even begin to cover it.

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March 21, 2005

Sun Hudson, Terri Schiavo Media  Politics  Rights, Law

Six days ago, a 6-month-old baby boy named Sun Hudson died when Texas Children's Hospital disconnected his life support, against the wishes of his mother, because they decided that further treatment was "futile" and Wanda Hudson, the boy's mother, had no medical insurance. The Houston Chronicle reported:

Sun's death marks the first time a hospital has been allowed by a U.S. judge to discontinue an infant's life-sustaining care against a parent's wishes, according to bioethical experts. [...]

Texas law allows hospitals can discontinue life sustaining care, even if patient family members disagree.

A far more important case, one would think, than the Terri Schiavo case. In the Hudson case, for the first time ever, a hospital bureacracy terminates the life of a child (who was not in a vegetative state), against his family's wishes, when the family can't pay their bills. If that's not an important case, what is?

As it happens, the Texas Futile Care Law that empowered the hospital to pull the plug was signed into law by then-Governor George W. Bush. A number of left-wing blogs have pointed to the law as proof of Bush's — and the Republicans' — hypocrisy. Austin lawyer Jerri Lynn Ward says, however:

[T]he legislation was passed to prevent hospitals from withdrawing life-prolonging treatments from patients and the fear [was] that the hospitals were creating and implementing such protocols because of money.

According to Ward, the use to which the hospital put the law in the Hudson case was unanticipated and unintended by the law's authors. Be that as it may, it seems clear that money motivated the hospital's decision: surely, if the mother had money, the hospital would have acceded to her wishes. Attorney Ward again:

I do know that, as an attorney representing health providers — including hospice — I have given presentations to providers about the legal aspects of treatment options under Texas Law for children with terminal diseases. One thing that I taught was that the Courts would always defer to the treatment decisions of the parents.

I was wrong. I will have to revise my powerpoint presentation because of the judge in this case — and this bothers me.

It is certain that this baby was funded by Medicaid. Had the parents — or an insurance company been paying the bills — I do not believe that the hospital would have gone to the courts to pull the respirator. It is probable, in my mind, that this respirator was pulled because of the issue of money. That should bother everyone.

So where's the Republican outrage in the Sun Hudson case? Where's the maudlin, wall-to-wall "Save Terri" type of media coverage? There's no interest in the Sun Hudson case because there's no political advantage to be gained there. And the Hudsons aren't the Republicans' — or the media's — kind of folks. They're poor, and they're Black.

Is it fair to ascribe cynical political motives to Senate Republicans in this case? Actually, yes. We don't have to guess. ABC News obtained a memo of talking points prepared for Senate Republicans regarding the Terri Schiavo case. It's on ABC's website. A few choice items from the memo:

So the Republicans see the Schiavo case as a way to defeat Bill Nelson in 2006 and a way to "excite" their "pro-life base". Evidently, though, pro-life is one thing and pro-poor-Black-life is another. Meanwhile, the disgusting media circus continues.

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March 20, 2005

Web Radio Media

The bad news is that I had to go into work today. The good news is that this morning one of my coworkers turned me on to Seattle's KEXP, online here.

A felicitous bit of fallout from the development of the Intenet is that local radio stations now can reach a worldwide audience, and they can archive material to let you listen when it suits you.

KEXP, for example, streams (commercial-free) what's currently on and archives all shows of the past two weeks. They've got some other great features as well, like a collection of oral history reminiscences from colleagues, friends, and fans of Bob Dylan, here. Great stuff.

Check out KEXP — then use the comments section to share your own favorite web radio stations.

[Thanks, Kevin]

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March 17, 2005

Newz Biz Media

Oliver at LiquidList captured this image from CNN's website this morning.

The top stories of the day.

What a list. I feel dumber just looking at it.

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March 16, 2005

White House Rejects GAO Opinion On Fake News Media  Politics

The GAO says that the Bush administration's canned "news" stories are illegal propaganda. The administration, however, is advising executive branch agencies to ignore the GAO. WaPo:

The Bush administration, rejecting an opinion from the Government Accountability Office, said last week that it is legal for federal agencies to feed TV stations prepackaged news stories that do not disclose the government's role in producing them.

That message, in memos sent Friday to federal agency heads and general counsels, contradicts a Feb. 17 memo from Comptroller General David M. Walker. Walker wrote that such stories — designed to resemble independently reported broadcast news stories so that TV stations can run them without editing — violate provisions in annual appropriations laws that ban covert propaganda.

But Joshua B. Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Steven G. Bradbury, principal deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, said in memos last week that the administration disagrees with the GAO's ruling. And, in any case, they wrote, the department's Office of Legal Counsel, not the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, provides binding legal interpretations for federal agencies to follow.

The legal counsel's office "does not agree with GAO that the covert propaganda prohibition applies simply because an agency's role in producing and disseminating information is undisclosed or 'covert,' regardless of whether the content of the message is 'propaganda,' " Bradbury wrote. "Our view is that the prohibition does not apply where there is no advocacy of a particular viewpoint, and therefore it does not apply to the legitimate provision of information concerning the programs administered by an agency." [My emphasis]

The obvious question, of course, is: if the videos are so innocent, so free of advocacy, if their purpose is not to deceive or persuade, why conceal their source and try to pawn them off as news?

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Stop Fake News Media  Politics

A variety of organizations are endorsing a petition that calls for an end to the kind of taxpayer-funded covert propaganda that at least 20 federal agencies have produced and distributed under the Bush administration. The goal is to get at least 250,000 signatures.

Go here to read and sign the petition.

Pass it on.

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March 13, 2005

Manufactured "News" Media  Politics

The New York Times has a lengthy article today on the Bush administration's practice of producing and distributing government-produced propaganda segments designed to look like ordinary news reports. The practice has been more widespread than previously reported. Excerpt:

"Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A.," a jubilant Iraqi-American told a camera crew in Kansas City for a segment about reaction to the fall of Baghdad. A second report told of "another success" in the Bush administration's "drive to strengthen aviation security"; the reporter called it "one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history." A third segment, broadcast in January, described the administration's determination to open markets for American farmers.

To a viewer, each report looked like any other 90-second segment on the local news. In fact, the federal government produced all three. The report from Kansas City was made by the State Department. The "reporter" covering airport safety was actually a public relations professional working under a false name for the Transportation Security Administration. The farming segment was done by the Agriculture Department's office of communications.

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration's efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source. [...]

The practice, which also occurred in the Clinton administration, is continuing despite President Bush's recent call for a clearer demarcation between journalism and government publicity efforts. "There needs to be a nice independent relationship between the White House and the press," Mr. Bush told reporters in January, explaining why his administration would no longer pay pundits to support his policies.

In interviews, though, press officers for several federal agencies said the president's prohibition did not apply to government-made television news segments, also known as video news releases. They described the segments as factual, politically neutral and useful to viewers. They insisted that there was no similarity to the case of Armstrong Williams, a conservative columnist who promoted the administration's chief education initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act, without disclosing $240,000 in payments from the Education Department.

What is more, these officials argued, it is the responsibility of television news directors to inform viewers that a segment about the government was in fact written by the government. "Talk to the television stations that ran it without attribution," said William A. Pierce, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services. "This is not our problem. We can't be held responsible for their actions."

Yet in three separate opinions in the past year, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress that studies the federal government and its expenditures, has held that government-made news segments may constitute improper "covert propaganda" even if their origin is made clear to the television stations. The point, the office said, is whether viewers know the origin. Last month, in its most recent finding, the G.A.O. said federal agencies may not produce prepackaged news reports "that conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those materials."

It is not certain, though, whether the office's pronouncements will have much practical effect. Although a few federal agencies have stopped making television news segments, others continue. And on Friday, the Justice Department and the Office of Management and Budget circulated a memorandum instructing all executive branch agencies to ignore the G.A.O. findings. The memorandum said the G.A.O. failed to distinguish between covert propaganda and "purely informational" news segments made by the government. Such informational segments are legal, the memorandum said, whether or not an agency's role in producing them is disclosed to viewers. [My emphasis]

Whenever the subject of blogs comes up, mainstream media flacks generally wring their hands, knit their brows, and ask in shocked horror, "How can you trust the blogs? Who knows who their sources are? Blah, blah, blah."

But good blogs always link to their sources, so you know exactly where the material's coming from. No "some people say" or "anonymous sources say". And no government-produced propaganda pawned off as real news. If a blog doesn't link to its sources, or if the sources it links to aren't trustworthy, then you know to give it a wide berth. If only the mainstream media were equally transparent.

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March 11, 2005

Friday Gumpagraph Media
© Kent Tenney 

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March 09, 2005

73 And Counting Iraq  Media  War and Peace

When does Eason Jordan get his job back?

Antonia Zerbisias in the Toronto Star:

You have to wonder what Eason Jordan thinks about last Friday's attack on the car that took Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena from her kidnapping ordeal to her close call at the Baghdad airport.

Jordan is the CNN news chief who in January made controversial remarks about U.S. troops targeting journalists, comments which led to his resigning "to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy over conflicting accounts of my recent remarks regarding the alarming number of journalists killed in Iraq."

Alarming indeed: at least 73 and counting. [...]

In the rush to hang Jordan, the right — and their willing news twinkies in the media — seem totally unperturbed that the only place reporters feel halfway safe in Iraq is either embedded in the belly of the U.S. military beast or on a Baghdad hotel roof, shielded by satellite dishes.

And who can blame the reporters in Iraq for feeling that way?

Consider that Sgrena's car, reportedly 700 metres from the airport, had already cleared other U.S. military checkpoints. Still, it was drilled by bullets.

Although exactly how many bullets remains a mystery since, at last report, when the Associated Press asked to see the car — in which Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari was killed and another official injured — the U.S. military said it didn't know where the thing was.

Which doesn't inspire confidence in the investigation into this murky affair that the U.S. has promised to conduct.

Recall the last couple of so-called investigations into the deaths of journalists by U.S. fire.

After the April 2003 attack on Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, a place where hundreds of journalists were known to be holed up, the U.S. Army refused to release the details of its investigation. Of course, its finding cleared the U.S. of killing two cameramen: Jose Couso of Spain's Telecinco and Ukraine's Taras Protsyuk, who was working for Reuters.

A few months later, Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana — a Palestinian who had survived beatings by West Bank settlers and the Israeli army — filmed his own death by U.S. tank. That happened just moments after he had checked in with the troops, providing his coordinates.

Again, a U.S. military investigation cleared the shooters, saying they had mistaken his video camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

And so it goes. [...]

What I find really disturbing is how few American journalists are protesting what appears to be the Pentagon's callous disregard for getting out the truth, either by making it safer for journalists to do their jobs or by its own full disclosure of the facts of these killings. [My emphasis]

Why would the US target Sgrena? GNN reports:

At the time of her [earlier] abduction, Giuliana [Sgrena] was heading to an area of Baghdad where witnesses from Fallujah are staying to interview Fallujah refugees about the US assault on their city last year. Says [a source close to Sgrena]:

"She had some information about the use of illegal weapons by US forces in Fallujah that was very sensitive. A very hot topic. There were rumors of some use of chemicals and a number of weapons that are not legal — like [napalm] and phosphorus." [My emphasis]

One of the strange realities of modern warfare is that everyone — combatants (ours and theirs) and citizens (ours and theirs) — are all plugged into media 24/7, watching the war, or a highly filtered version of it, in real time. The incentive for US forces to try to control the news by intimidating or killing independent journalists is enormous. It hardly seems likely, considering what's at stake, that the military would shrink from classifying certain journalists as the enemy and acting accordingly.

Maybe Sgrena's ambush was, as one of Zerbisias' readers called it, just another "Baghdad speeding ticket," but the US version of events doesn't add up. In any case, 73 is a very large number. According to Inter Press Service, more journalists were killed in 14 months in Iraq than were killed during the entire Vietnam War, a far bloodier war that lasted more than a decade. Eason Jordan was merely saying aloud what many journalists already believe to be true.

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March 03, 2005

Moron Of The Year Humor & Fun  Media

Go check out this post at Time Magazine's Blog of the Year. Commenting on the Academy Awards show:

One "Chris Rock," the host, whom I've never otherwise heard of, led off with an idiotic anti-Bush tirade. $70 trillion? Interesting statistic. What was noteworthy was not the host, who obviously knows nothing, but the crowd — every single person there laughed and applauded.

Dude, could you possibly be any more clueless? Any more pompous? Any more white?

Chris Rock, whom you've never heard of, but who — obviously — is way smarter than you, is, um, a comedian? As in, teller of jokes? And "$70 trillion" was, you know, comedy?

[Link via The Talent Show, who also has Chris Rock's monologue here.]

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March 02, 2005

E&P Looks At The Blogs' Role In The "Gannon" Story Media  Politics

Editor and Publisher's Greg Mitchell examines how the "Jeff Gannon" story was developed by the left-wing blogs.

Mitchell comes to the (somewhat obvious) conclusion that — especially when it comes to stories, like the "Gannon" story, that can be investigated using Internet-based resources and tools — blogs with large readerships can eat the lunch of mainstream media outlets, since the big blogs get input from many, many readers, effectively giving them a very sizable investigative staff with considerable expertise when a story catches fire. Like "open source" software development, it demonstrates the power of large numbers of talented and conscientious volunteers connected via the Internet.

Mitchell also says that the lefty blogs got the facts right, leaving him "impressed with blog research." Cool.

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February 23, 2005

Gannongate: It's Worse Than You Think Media  Politics

"Gannongate: It's Worse Than You Think," writes Eric Boehlert today in Salon (excerpt):

White House press secretary Scott McClellan originally told reporters that Guckert was properly allowed into press briefings because he worked for an outlet that "published regularly." But that's when the questions were about Talon. More recently McClellan offered up a new rationale. Asked by Editor and Publisher magazine how the decision was made to allow a GOPUSA correspondent in, McClellan said, "The staff assistant went to verify that the news organization existed." (Emphasis added.)

That, apparently, was the lone criterion the press office used when Guckert (aka Jeff Gannon) approached it in February 2003 seeking a pass for White House briefings. Not yet working for Republican-friendly Talon News, which came into existence in April 2003, Guckert, using an alias and with no journalism experience whatsoever, was writing on a voluntary basis for a Web site dedicated to promoting Republican issues. To determine whether Guckert would gain entrance to the press room, normally reserved for professional journalists working for legitimate, recognized and independent news organizations, the press office simply logged on to the Internet and confirmed that GOPUSA "existed," and then quickly approved Guckert's access. In a White House obsessed, at least publicly, with security and where journalists cannot even move between the White House and the nearby Old Executive Building without a personal escort, Guckert's lenient treatment was likely unprecedented.

Yet, if there's one other person who did manage to receive the same type of kid-glove treatment from the White House press office, it was Guckert's boss at GOPUSA and later at Talon News, Bobby Eberle. A Texas-based Republican activist and a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2000, Eberle founded Talon News after he became concerned that the name GOPUSA might appear to have a "built-in bias." With no journalism background, he too was able to secure a White House press pass, in early 2003, on the strength of representing GOPUSA, dedicated to "spreading the conservative message throughout America." [...]

[P]roviding some insight into how [Talon News] operates, Eberle told the New York Times last week that he rarely monitored Guckert's White House work. "Jeff did his thing. I did my thing," Eberle said. In other words, it appears that Guckert, who often cut and pasted White House press releases and posted them on Talon as "news," did not even have an editor. As Media Matters for America noted, Talon "apparently consists of little more than Eberle, Gannon, and a few volunteers." [...]

So the mystery remains: How did Guckert, with absolutely no journalism background and working for a phony news organization, manage to adopt the day-pass system as his own while sidestepping a thorough background check that might have detected his sordid past? That's the central question the White House refuses to address. And like its initial explanation that Guckert received his press pass the same way other journalists do, the notion first put out by White House officials that they knew little or nothing about GOPUSA/Talon News, its correspondent Guckert or its founder Eberle has also melted away. Instead, we now know, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer personally spoke with Eberle about GOPUSA, so concerned was Fleischer that it was not an independent organization. (Eberle convinced Fleischer that it was.) Additionally, Guckert attended the invitation-only White House press Christmas parties in 2003 and 2004, and last holiday season, in a personal posting on GOPUSA, Eberle thanked Karl Rove for his "assistance, guidance, and friendship." [My emphasis]

It's really not much of a mystery at all. This White House has a completely Orwellian relationship to the news and the truth: the news and the truth are whatever they can get away with saying they are. If they could get away with replacing every reporter in the room with a Jeff Gannon, they'd do it. Other administrations may have fantasized about turning the news into fake news, but these guys are actually trying to make it happen. That's the real story here.

The only mystery is how they can be so incredibly ham-handed — and just plain stupid — as to pick a hooker to be their guy. Maybe they were set up. Or maybe, as John DiIulio said when he quit the White House, it really is "the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis." Somehow, Rove has managed to convince everyone he's a genius, but maybe his "genius" is little more than just a total lack of scruples. And the media let him get away with it.

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February 20, 2005

Must-See TV: Bill Maher On "Jeff Gannon" Humor & Fun  Media  Politics

Go here and watch Bill Maher and his guests Lesley Stahl, Robin Williams, and Joe Biden discuss "Jeff Gannon".

Great stuff. Don't miss it.

[Thanks, Jeanne]

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February 19, 2005

Another View On "Jeff Gannon" Media  Politics

The Canadian author of Xymphora, a very interesting and useful blog that examines current affairs from a conspiracy theory perspective, a blog I don't always agree with but I do always read, today has this to say about the "Jeff Gannon" scandal (excerpt):

Gannon is just a hustler and figured the hustling in the White House press corps was more lucrative, if far more degrading, than what he did at night. The sad fact is that Gannon wasn't noticed for months because his questions were no different than those asked by the likes of hustler Wolf Blitzer (and everyone else except for Helen Thomas). It's quite true that if this had happened in the Clinton White House, CNN would be covering it 24/7, and would have commissioned special theme music for it. So we have more proof that there is hypocrisy in the Republican Party, and the networks are terribly biased. So what? More proof of these things won't change anyone's mind about anything. This scandal is just a reflection of frustration amongst those who live in a country with an immense number of real scandals — Gitmo, illegal wars, killing civilians, torturing people to death, class warfare, environmental degradation — not one of which seems to cause even the slightest ripple in the consciousness, or conscience, of the nation. [My emphasis]

Although there is a long history of sexual blackmail in Washington, there is not one piece of evidence that Gannon was connected to any of that, and hints of such things, or comments about the legality of what Gannon was doing in his other job, just smack of homophobia. If there is more to this than we have already seen — and the diggers should, of course, keep digging — I know one thing: Gannon is a dead man walking.

In defense of the people who have been working to further the "Gannon" story, websites like Media Matters were digging into Guckert/Gannon's background long before anyone knew about his career as a hooker. The issue was that "Gannon" was a fake reporter working for a fake news organization shilling for the White House, one more indication of how the White House is turning "news" into state propaganda even more than it already is.

I agree, though, that the attention to the "Gannon" story is in part a reflection of people's frustration that nothing else seems to stick to this White House. And yes, this White House has many far worse things to answer for. But, as Rude Pundit pointed out, Al Capone didn't go to jail for bootlegging, prostitution, extortion, or murder — he went to jail for tax evasion. Sometimes, you just have to take what you can get.

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February 17, 2005

"Gannon" Got Press Pass Before Talon News Even Existed Media  Politics

The White House's story has always been that Guckert/Gannon's press credentials were justified because he worked for Talon News. But, as Eric Boehlert writes in Salon today, "Gannon" actually started attending White House press briefings before Talon News even existed. Excerpt:

James Guckert's mysterious career as a White House correspondent for Talon News just took another strange twist. And once again, the newest revelation raises the central question: Who broke the rules on Guckert's behalf to give him access to the White House? Despite administration claims that Guckert simply followed established protocol in order to routinely slip inside the White House briefing room, it now appears clear that Guckert, who just months before his 2003 debut as a cub reporter was offering himself up online as a $200 an hour male escort, benefited from extraordinarily preferential treatment, likely granted by someone inside the White House press office.

Thanks to the continued digging by online sleuths, there's now documented evidence that Guckert attended White House briefings as early as February 2003. Guckert, using his alias "Jeff Gannon," once boasted online about asking then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer a question at the Feb. 28, 2003, briefing. The date is significant because in order to receive a White House press pass, Guckert would have needed to prove that he worked for a news organization that, in the words of White House press secretary Scott McClellan, "published regularly," in itself an extraordinarily low threshold. Critics have charged that while Talon News may publish regularly, it boasts a nearly all-volunteer news team that includes not a single person with actual journalism experience. (The team does, though, have quite a bit of experience working on Republican campaigns.) In other words, the outfit is not legitimate or independent, two criteria often used in Washington to receive press credentials.

But what's significant about the February 2003 date is that Talon did not even exist then. The organization was created in late March 2003, and began publishing online in early April 2003. [...] [Gannon] wasn't working for any other news outlet in February 2003 when he was spotted by C-Span cameras inside the White House briefing room. And that means Guckert was ushered into the White House press room in February 2003 for a briefing despite the fact he was not a journalist.

Who gave "Jeff Gannon" his press pass? Who waived his background check? Who granted him access to the White House under an alias? Who decided to use this fake reporter to ask fake questions in White House press briefings and a presidential press conference? Who gave him an internal CIA memo in the Valerie Plame affair?

These people make Bill Clinton's behavior seem positively quaint.

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Mainstreaming Guckert/Gannon Media  Politics

The "Jeff Gannon" story is getting some mainstream coverage. Here are some excerpts...

Maureen Dowd reminds us how unlikely it is that Guckert/Gannon got his press pass without an extraordinary intervention by the White House:

I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass — after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon.

Mr. McClellan shrugged this off to Editor & Publisher magazine, oddly noting, "People use aliases all the time in life, from journalists to actors."

I know the F.B.I. computers don't work, but this is ridiculous. After getting gobsmacked by the louche sagas of Mr. Guckert and Bernard Kerik, the White House vetters should consider adding someone with some blogging experience.

Frank Rich puts the Guckert/Gannon story in the larger perspective of the White House's propaganda operation:

By my count, "Jeff Gannon" is now at least the sixth "journalist" (four of whom have been unmasked so far this year) to have been a propagandist on the payroll of either the Bush administration or a barely arms-length ally like Talon News while simultaneously appearing in print or broadcast forums that purport to be real news. Of these six, two have been syndicated newspaper columnists paid by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the administration's "marriage" initiatives. The other four have played real newsmen on TV. Before Mr. Guckert and Armstrong Williams, the talking head paid $240,000 by the Department of Education, there were Karen Ryan and Alberto Garcia. Let us not forget these pioneers - the Woodward and Bernstein of fake news. They starred in bogus reports ("In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting," went the script) pretending to "sort through the details" of the administration's Medicare prescription-drug plan in 2004. Such "reports," some of which found their way into news packages distributed to local stations by CNN, appeared in more than 50 news broadcasts around the country and have now been deemed illegal "covert propaganda" by the Government Accountability Office.

The money that paid for both the Ryan-Garcia news packages and the Armstrong Williams contract was siphoned through the same huge public relations firm, Ketchum Communications, which itself filtered the funds through subcontractors. A new report by Congressional Democrats finds that Ketchum has received $97 million of the administration's total $250 million P.R. kitty, of which the Williams and Ryan-Garcia scams would account for only a fraction. We have yet to learn precisely where the rest of it ended up.

Even now, we know that the fake news generated by the six known shills is only a small piece of the administration's overall propaganda effort. President Bush wasn't entirely joking when he called the notoriously meek March 6, 2003, White House press conference on the eve of the Iraq invasion "scripted" while it was still going on. (And "Jeff Gannon" apparently wasn't even at that one). Everything is scripted.

The pre-fab "Ask President Bush" town hall-style meetings held during last year's campaign (typical question: "Mr. President, as a child, how can I help you get votes?") were carefully designed for television so that, as Kenneth R. Bazinet wrote last summer in New York's Daily News, "unsuspecting viewers" tuning in their local news might get the false impression they were "watching a completely open forum." A Pentagon Office of Strategic Influence, intended to provide propagandistic news items, some of them possibly false, to foreign news media was shut down in 2002 when it became an embarrassing political liability. But much more quietly, another Pentagon propaganda arm, the Pentagon Channel, has recently been added as a free channel for American viewers of the Dish Network. Can a Social Security Channel be far behind?

It is a brilliant strategy. When the Bush administration isn't using taxpayers' money to buy its own fake news, it does everything it can to shut out and pillory real reporters who might tell Americans what is happening in what is, at least in theory, their own government.

Sidney Blumenthal sums it up:

Thus a phony journalist, planted by a Republican organisation, used by the White House press secretary to interrupt questions from the press corps, protected from FBI vetting by the press office, disseminating smears about its critics and opponents, some of them gay-baiting, was unmasked not only as a hireling and fraud but as a gay prostitute, with enormous potential for blackmail.

The Bush White House is the most opaque — allowing the least access for reporters — in living memory. Every news organisation has been intimidated, and reporters who have done stories the administration finds discomfiting have received threats about their careers. The administration has its own quasi-official state TV network in Fox News; hundreds of rightwing radio shows, conservative newspapers and journals and internet sites coordinate with the Republican apparatus.

Inserting an agent directly into the White House press corps was a daring operation. Until his exposure, he proved useful for the White House. But the longer-term implication is the Republican effort to sideline an independent press and undermine its legitimacy. "Spin" seems quaint. "In this day and age," said press secretary McClellan, waxing philosophical about the Gannon affair, "when you have a changing media, it's not an easy issue to decide or try to pick and choose who is a journalist." It is not that the White House press secretary cannot distinguish who is or is not a journalist; it is that there are no journalists, just the gaming of the system for the concentration of power.

It's not about Guckert/Gannon being gay. It's about the White House's unprecedented propaganda efforts, its hypocrisy, its lying, and its belief that it is above the law.

The whole episode is so very nutso that one has to conclude the White House is careening along out of control. Whether out of arrogance or stupidity or sheer self-destructive recklessness, they've jumped the rails. If there's any justice, they'll crash and burn.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Must-See TV Humor & Fun  Media  Politics

Jon Stewart's Daily Show weighs in on blogging and the "Jeff Gannon" affair. Go here and click on the image with the caption "Blog Cabin Republican." Enjoy.

Posted by Jonathan at 03:35 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

February 16, 2005

What Liberal Media? Media  Politics

Joe Conason on the media's response (or lack thereof) to the "Jeff Gannon" affair:

Proof that "the liberal media" is but a figment of right-wing mythology has now arrived in the person of one James Guckert, formerly known as Jeff Gannon. Were the American media truly liberal — or merely unafraid to be called liberal — the saga of Mr. Guckert’s short, strange, quasi-journalistic career would be resounding across the airwaves.

The intrinsic media interest of the Guckert/Gannon story should be obvious to anyone who has followed his tale, which touches on hot topics from the homosexual underground and the investigation into the outing of C.I.A. agent Valerie Plame to the political power of the Internet. But our supposedly liberal media becomes quite squeamish when reporting anything that might humiliate the Bush White House and the Republican Party. [...]

How did this character obtain a coveted place in the White House? What did the White House press staff know about him? How does his story fit within the larger scandal of payola punditry, with federal funds subsidizing Republican propagandists in the press corps? Did someone in the Bush administration give him a classified document?

Such questions are evidently of little concern to our liberal media outlets, whose leading lights prefer to deliver prim lectures about the unwarranted invasion of Mr. Guckert’s private affairs and his victimization for his conservative views. In fact, everything known about him comes from material he posted on public Web sites, but that's beside the point.

Imagine the media explosion if a male escort had been discovered operating as a correspondent in the Clinton White House. Imagine that he was paid by an outfit owned by Arkansas Democrats and had been trained in journalism by James Carville. Imagine that this gentleman had been cultivated and called upon by Mike McCurry or Joe Lockhart — or by President Clinton himself. Imagine that this "journalist" had smeared a Republican Presidential candidate and had previously claimed access to classified documents in a national-security scandal.

Then imagine the constant screaming on radio, on television, on Capitol Hill, in the Washington press corps — and listen to the placid mumbling of the "liberal" media now.

If this were the Clinton White House, the media response would be nothing short of thermonuclear. It's weird, really, how people ignore the evidence of their own senses and instead bray on about the "liberal bias" of the media. But then why let a little thing like reality stand in the way of a good excuse to harbor resentment?

Posted by Jonathan at 04:34 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

February 15, 2005

Salon On Call-Boy "Gannon" Media  Politics

When AmericaBlog's John Aravosis appeared on Aaron Brown's show on CNN last Thursday, the other guest was Salon's Eric Boehlert. At one point, Boehlert stated, with just a trace of condescension, that while the bloggers were looking at Gannon's "personal life," that's not something they focus on at Salon.

That was then. Boehlert has just published a story at Salon covering John Aravosis' scoop about Gannon's career, apparently ongoing, as a gay hooker. Excerpt:

Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, made headlines last week when he resigned from Talon after days of intensive scrutiny from bloggers. Online critics first raised questions about Guckert's questionable journalistic methods and his lack of experience (he often cut and pasted White House press releases into his "news" stories), as well as Talon's lack of independence from Eberle's purely partisan GOPUSA Web site. Then questions arose about why the Talon reporter was given access to the White House press room after being turned down for Capitol Hill press credentials. The final straw for Guckert came when bloggers revealed associations that Guckert and his Delaware-based company had with a handful of gay-themed male escort services.

Guckert insisted his only involvement with the sex sites was as a software consultant and, he added: "Those sites were never hosted. There's — nothing ever went up on them," as he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Feb. 10. In an interview posted Feb. 11 with Editor & Publisher magazine, Guckert made the same claim: "They were done through a private company [Bedrock Corp.] I was involved with doing Web site development about five years ago. The sites were never hosted, and nothing was ever posted to the sites." On Monday, John Aravosis posted on his liberal site detailed evidence indicating that not only was Guckert personally involved with the Web sites, but he was also offering his escort services for $200 an hour, or $1,200 a weekend.

Aravosis received on-the-record confirmation, complete with five invoices paid by Delaware's Bedrock Corp., from the person Guckert hired to build the gay Web site, which features X-rated photos. The Web designer also forwarded to Aravosis dozens of unused photos that Guckert sent him when the site was being built. "Each photo looks remarkably like Jeff Gannon," Aravosis writes.

AmericaBlog also details scores of other gay escort sites featuring photos and personal profiles of Guckert, such as,, and Guckert's first site remained live until May 8, 2003, one month after he began covering the White House for Talon. According to Aravosis' research, Guckert's escort profile on was still active as of Monday. Aravosis says he contacted Guckert for comment for the story but received none. Guckert appeared on Michelangelo Signorile's talk show on Sirius satellite radio Monday afternoon, during which time he was asked specifically about his gay escort past. "I'm just not going to address it," Guckert said.

Addressing the question of why Guckert's personal life matters, Aravosis wrote, "This is the Conservative Republican Bush White House we're talking about. It's looking increasingly like they made a decision to allow a hooker to ask the President of the United States questions. They made a decision to give a man with an alias and no journalistic experience access to the West Wing of the White House on a 'daily basis.'" [My emphasis]

Somebody granted this guy access to the White House. Somebody cleared him to enter under an alias. Somebody waived his Secret Service/FBI background check (or the Secret Service and FBI have some explaining to do). Somebody decided to credential him as a journalist when he was clearly unqualified. Somebody leaked an internal CIA memo to him in the Valerie Plame affair. Somebody decided that Scott McClellan should call on him repeatedly in White House press briefings. Somebody decided the President of the United States should call on him in his press conference three weeks ago.


Posted by Jonathan at 12:12 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

February 14, 2005

AmericaBlog Nails Guckert/Gannon Media  Politics

The "Jeff Gannon" story is worse than it appeared. Much worse.

AmericaBlog has him nailed. Go there, take a look, and then ask yourself what would be happening right now if this were the Clinton White House we were talking about.


Update: [11:03 PM] Digby's answer:

[I]f this were 1998, we'd be knee deep in congressional investigations into the gay hooker ring in the White House. Every news crew in the DC area would be camped out on JimJeff's front lawn. A wild-eyed Victoria Toensing and panting Kelly Ann Fitzpatrick would be crawling up on the Hardball desk rending their silk teddies and speaking in tongues while Matthews' exploding head spun around on his shoulders.

But, it isn't 1998 and it will probably not even be mentioned. And I'm not a Republican so I don't think, as they would, that it's necessary to dig into every single White House staffer's sex life to find out who leaked a confidential memo to a gay hooker.

As a Democrat, however, if gay hookers are running around the White House I do find it somewhat frustrating that we have to put up with this shock and horror bullshit from the right wing about average Joe and Jane gay person wanting to get married and have a family. Please.

Posted by Jonathan at 08:25 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

February 12, 2005

Is Guckert/Gannon A Spook? Media  Politics

As reader Scott pointed out to me, the AOL member profile of J. D. Guckert (aka Jeff Gannon) has not been taken down, it was only temporarily unavailable because so many people were accessing it. Astounding that it's still there. Makes you wonder.

If you go there, you'll see the infamous beefcake photo. You'll also see a "My Guys" link which takes you to the homepage of fraternity TKE (Mu Alpha chapter) at West Chester University in PA. The alumni page, unsurprisingly, appears to have been scrubbed, but it used to list J. D. Guckert's email address as, matching the AOL Member Profile, thereby establishing that the profile is Guckert's [images via AmericaBlog]:

The TKE site also contained meeting minutes from May 1, 2004 that included the following:

The references to CIA and NSA seem to suggest either that Guckert hinted at some such affiliation or that it was something his fraternity brothers speculated or joked about. In any case, it's at least suggestive, given that Guckert/Gannon was the recipient of an internal CIA memo regarding CIA officer Valerie Plame at a time when the memo was not available to legitimate news organizations.

So here's something to ponder. Presidents who take on the CIA have been known to come to a bad end. Kennedy and Nixon — and, in less dramatic fashion, Carter — come to mind. Bush has moved to politicize the CIA and transfer covert ops authority to the Pentagon. Yes, he's the son of a former CIA Director, but presumably there are limits to what the CIA will tolerate.

And it's hard not to think the whole "Gannon" story has come to light just a little too easily. Is it conceivable that it was meant to be discovered, that it will turn out to be the thread that, when pulled, eventually causes the whole Bush presidency to unravel? Bush's Watergate burglary?

A conspiratorial interpretation, admittedly, and pure speculation, but Guckert/Gannon certainly called attention to himself, almost daring people to dig into his background. And his background turned out to be discoverable using little more than Google, LexisNexis, and whois. How very convenient.

And why in the world are his AOL Member Profile and photo still online if not to add fuel to the fire?

Posted by Jonathan at 05:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

The "Gannon"-Bush Two-Step Media  Politics

Mike Malloy played the audio for this Friday night on Air America. Blew my mind.

At his press conference on January 26, Bush was asked about revelations that his administration had surreptitiously paid "journalists" like Armstrong Williams to act as purveyors of administration propaganda, passing it off as legitimate journalism. Here's the exchange, from the White House's own transcript:

Q Mr. President, do you think it's a proper use of government funds to pay commentators to promote your policies?


Q Are you going to order that —

THE PRESIDENT: Therefore, I will not pay you to — (laughter)

Q Fair enough. Are you ordering that there be an end to that practice?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I am. I expect my Cabinet Secretaries to make sure that that practice doesn't go forward. There needs to be independence. And Mr. Armstrong Williams admitted he made a mistake. And we didn't know about this in the White House, and there needs to be a nice, independent relationship between the White House and the press, the administration and the press. So, no, we shouldn't be going for it.

Yes, sir.

Q Well, Mr. Williams made a mistake —


Q Mr. Williams made a mistake. Did the Department of Education make a mistake?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. They did.

Q What will happen to the people that made this decision?

THE PRESIDENT: We've got new leadership going to the Department of Education. But all our Cabinet Secretaries must realize that we will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet. I'm confident you'll be, over the course of the next four years, willing to give our different policies an objective look — won't you? Yes, I can see that. [My emphasis]

And who does Bush turn to for the very next question? Fake reporter and arch-shill "Jeff Gannon," who asks the shilling-est question of all time. The transcript continues:


["Jeff Gannon":] Thank you. Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock-solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work — you said you're going to reach out to these people — how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

Unbelievable. These people must hold the rest of us in such contempt to act the way they do. They can't get away with it forever — can they?

Posted by Jonathan at 01:06 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

February 11, 2005

Blogger Aravosis Takes Aaron Brown To School Media  Politics

John Aravosis, author of the blog AmericaBlog, was on Aaron Brown's show on CNN Thursday night to discuss the "Jeff Gannon" affair, and he just kicked butt. View it here (click "Video"). Brown tried to shrug it all off as a case of "so what," but Aravosis wouldn't let him.

One absolutely great point that Aravosis made: the Bush White House scripts every moment of every media event. They won't even let Bush appear in front of an audience that hasn't been hand-picked in advance. Now the White House claims that they didn't really know who "Jeff Gannon" was, that it's not their job to check people's credentials, blah blah blah. And yet somehow Scott McClellan kept calling on "Gannon" in press briefings, and two weeks ago Bush himself called on him in a Presidential press conference. There is absolutely no way that it's not all worked out in advance whom Bush is going to call on.

One of the fascinating things about this whole episode is the way "mere" bloggers like Aravosis are out-reporting the "legitimate" reporters. It ain't even close. John, my hat's off to you.

Don't miss it.

Posted by Jonathan at 12:19 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

February 10, 2005

Shorter "Jeff Gannon" Media  Politics

Kos neatly summarizes the "Jeff Gannon" story in a single sentence:

["Jeff Gannon"] was a treasonous fake reporter who helped expose an undercover CIA agent while getting White House press credentials with a fake name to lob softballs at Bush and McClellan, registered website names dealing with gay prostitution while writing stories advancing the Right's anti-gay agenda, and when he cowardly quit, purged all his stories from the sites in which they lived.

With White House connivance, one might add. This story matters.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:22 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Gannon's Softballs Media  Politics

Go here (you may have to scroll down) to view a compendium of the softball questions asked by "Jeff Gannon" at White House press briefings and a Presidential press conference.

Also, lower on that page, there's a clip of Dana Milbank discussing the "Gannon" controversy last night with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. My favorite part is when Milbank asks Olbermann to address him by his new pseudonym, Dirk Digler.

Posted by Jonathan at 03:11 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

White House Complicity Media  Politics

Regarding the "Jeff Gannon" story: as Bruce Bartlett tells Romanesko [via Atrios]:

Having worked in the White House, I can assure everyone that not only would it be impossible to get a White House pass using an alias, it is impossible even to get past the gate for an appointment using an alias. Thorough FBI background checks are required for the former and a picture ID is necessary for the latter. Therefore, if Gannon was using an alias, White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover. [My emphasis]

And Scott McClellan called Guckert/Gannon by his alias in press briefings.

As Atrios says, White House complicity is the heart of the matter.

Posted by Jonathan at 12:20 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

The Weird, Weird Saga Of "Jeff Gannon" Media  Politics

One of the more bizarre stories in recent memory is unfolding as we speak, largely through the efforts of several left-wing blogs and websites, including AMERICAblog, DailyKos, Media Matters, and Eschaton.

Here's the story as I understand it at the moment (it's developing rapidly), based on materials (including primary source documentation) at the sites just mentioned. My purpose here is to summarize the story for people who may be just joining it. To follow along as the story develops, go to AMERICAblog, DailyKos, and the rest.

  • Someone called "Jeff Gannon," who was supposedly a journalist, worked, until Tuesday, for a "news" website called Talon News.

  • Talon News is a fake news organization shilling for Republican causes. Its editor in chief, Bobby Eberle, a Texas GOP activist, is also President and CEO of GOPUSA, a Republican consulting group. Many Talon News articles appeared on as well, and both sites' web addresses are registered to Eberle's personal residence.

  • Fake reporter "Jeff Gannon" (a pseudonym), working for fake news organization Talon News, applied for regular White House press credentials and was refused. He applied using his real name, James Guckert.

  • Having failed to get credentials under the ordinary process, Guckert/Gannon instead was for two years issued a series a "day pass" credentials by the White House, under the name "Jeff Gannon," that enabled him to attend White House press briefings and Presidential press conferences alongside the real reporters.

  • At various of these press briefings and conferences, Guckert/Gannon asked questions that were so obvious in their intent to shill for the White House that people started looking into his background.

  • Someone also gave Guckert/Gannon access to internal CIA documents regarding Valerie Plame, the covert CIA officer who was outed by the White House as retaliation for embarrassing revelations by her husband, Joseph Wilson. Gannon had access to an internal CIA memo on the subject of Valerie Plame at a time when no other news outlet had access to the memo, according to the Washington Post. Guckert/Gannon was subpoenaed by the grand jury investigating the Plame episode.

  • "Jeff Gannon" has a website, That web address is owned by Bedrock Corp., which also owns the following web addresses:

    "Escorts" of course means "prostitutes" and "M4M" means "males for males". This Bedrock Corp. lists its address as 4001 Kennett Pike, Wilmington DE, which is a Mailbox, Inc. location.

  • There is another listing for Bedrock Corp. in Wilmington, also on Kennett Pike, at 5721. This address is a single family home, the home address of Jim Guckert ("Jeff Gannon"). These facts demonstrate that Guckert/Gannon is the owner of the web addresses,, and

  • J. D. Guckert's AOL member profile (since deleted, but available here) includes this rather suggestive photo.

  • Guckert/Gannon's sexual proclivities would be irrelevant if it weren't for the fact that "Gannon" penned numerous anti-gay, "family values" tracts. So, there's the hypocrisy factor, to put it mildly. Beyond that, if he has actually been connected with Internet pornography and/or prostitution, as the websites noted above would at least suggest, then what is he doing getting White House clearance and access to secret CIA memos? Who cleared him?

  • As of Tuesday, Guckert/Gannon resigned from Talon News. His site has been scrubbed, and Talon News and have deleted all of his articles from their archives. You can still see a list of his Talon News and GOPUSA articles on Google (here and here), but the articles themselves are now gone. Down the memory hole.
  • So, what's it all mean? The White House planted a fake reporter at press briefings and Presidential press conferences to ask planted questions. State propaganda worthy of Pravda. The White House also appears to have used this "reporter" in its outing of Valerie Plame. These are very serious charges.

    And then there's the whole weirdness of Guckert/Gannon's making a living writing homophobic tracts while owning and To get into the White House, you have to pass a background check. You'd think Guckert/Gannon's secret life would raise a few red flags, especially given that a handful of bloggers armed with Google were able to unravel his story in just a few days. Who at the White House intervened to get him credentials? What's the Secret Service got to say about all this? Somebody's already got a lot of explaining to do, and this story isn't over yet.

    Special Prosecutor, anyone?

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:17 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    February 05, 2005

    NYT Spiked Story On Bush Debate Cheating Media  Politics

    Just before the election, I wrote a post linking to a Salon story about Robert Nelson, "a senior research scientist for NASA and for Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and an international authority on image analysis." Nelson had used advanced image enhancement software to show conclusively that the White House (including Bush personally) lied when it claimed that the bulge under Bush's suit jacket in the first "debate" was just some kind of innocent wardrobe malfunction.

    Now FAIR is reporting that the New York Times had the story and killed it at the last moment. FAIR:

    [On the Thursday before the election], the paper was set to run a...piece exposing how George W. Bush had worn an electronic cueing device in his ear and probably cheated during the presidential debates. [...]

    [S]everal sources, including a journalist at the Times, have told Extra! that the paper put a good deal of effort into this important story about presidential competence and integrity; they claim that a story was written, edited and scheduled to run on several different days, before senior editors finally axed it at the last minute on Wednesday evening, October 27. A Times journalist, who said that Times staffers were "pretty upset" about the killing of the story, claims the senior editors felt Thursday was "too close" to the election to run such a piece. Emails from the Times to the NASA scientist corroborate these sources' accounts. [...]

    The Times was at first very interested, Nelson reports. There was, after all, clearly good reason to investigate the issue. The White House and Bush/ Cheney campaign had initially mocked the bulge story when it had run in Salon, first attributing it to "doctored" photos circulating on the Internet (New York Times, 10/9/04), and later claiming that the bulge, so noticeable in video images, was the result of a "badly tailored suit" (New York Times, 10/18/04). Bush himself contradicted this White House and campaign line when he told ABC’s Charles Gibson (Good Morning America, 10/26/04) that the bulge was the result of his wearing a "poorly tailored shirt" to the debate.

    Now Nelson’s photos—the result of his applying the same enhancement techniques to the debate pictures that he uses to clarify photo images from space probes—rendered all these official if mutually contradictory explanations obviously false. (A November 4, 2004 report in the Washington paper The Hill, citing an unidentified source in the Secret Service, claimed that the bulge was caused by a bulletproof vest worn by Bush during the debates, though this had been specifically denied by the White House and by Bush himself—New York Times, 10/9/04. In any event, no known vests have rear protuberances resembling the image discovered by Nelson.)

    Times science writer William Broad, as well as reporters Andrew Revkin and John Schwartz, got to work on the story, according to Nelson, and produced a story that he says they assured him was scheduled to run the week of October 25. "It got pushed back because of the [Al-Qaqaa] explosives story," he says, first to Wednesday, and then to Thursday, October 28. That would still have been five days ahead of Election Day.

    An indication of the seriousness with which the story was being pursued is provided by an email Schwartz sent to Nelson on October 26—one of a string of back-and-forth emails between Schwartz and Nelson. It read:

    Hey there, Dr. Nelson—this story is shaping up very nicely, but my_editors have asked me to hold off for one day while they push through a few other stories that are ahead of us in line. I might be calling you again for more information, but I hope that you’ll hold tight and not tell anyone else about this until we get a chance to get our story out there.

    Please call me with any concerns that you might have about this, and thanks again for letting us tell your story.

    But on October 28, the article was not in the paper. After learning from the reporters working on the story that their article had been killed the night before by senior editors, Nelson eventually sent his photographic evidence of presidential cheating to Salon magazine, which ran the photos as the magazine’s lead item on October 29. That same day, Nelson received the following email from the Times’ Schwartz:

    Congratulations on getting the story into Salon. It's already all over the Web in every blog I've seen this morning. I'm sorry to have been a source of disappointment and frustration to you, but I’m very happy to see your story getting out there. Best wishes, John

    The Times now claims that Nelson's allegation "had been tossed onto the 'nutpile,' and was never researched further." FAIR's sources and the emails between Dr. Nelson and the Times reporters certainly appear to prove that the Times is lying.

    How much difference would it have made in the election outcome if the Times had featured the story? No one can say. As it was, because the story appeared only on the Internet — at Salon and on many blogs, including Past Peak — it was easy for the White House and the mainstream media to brush it off as "conspiracy theory." If it had received the imprimatur of the newspaper of record, however, people would have been forced to take it seriously.

    In any case, how can it not be news when the President of the United States cheats in debates that play a significant role in deciding who becomes leader of the free world? And how can it not be news when the President of the United States feels he has to cheat, that he cannot manage to come up with his own answers to the questions of the day?

    As Digby says:

    You'd think that the story of a president who cannot appear in a 90 minute debate without the help of an electronic transmitter to feed him his answers would be worthy of reporting in a major newspaper if they had the goods.

    What is truly scary about this is that even despite the help, he sounded extremely stupid and unprepared. This is the man with his finger on the button. The NY Times had excellent evidence that he had cheated in the debates and they punted. What would it have taken for the press to feel it was important to reveal this to the public...?

    Whenever an episode of this kind comes to light, politicians and the media are able to quash it by ridiculing it as "conspiracy theory," which is the kiss of death in American public discourse. Even many people on the left will utter the phrase "conspiracy theory" with contempt, anxious to distance themselves from the wearers of tin foil hats. The fact is, though, that politics, especially in its clandestine aspects, is full of conspiracies of one kind or another. All sorts of plans are hatched behind closed doors. What could be more obvious?

    It seems completely bizarre, when you think about it, that people are so loath to admit of the possibility of conspiratorial behavior by politicians, given that so many people take it for granted that politics is a corrupt business.

    How very convenient for the conspirators.

    Posted by Jonathan at 06:31 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    February 03, 2005

    Koufax Awards Media

    Wampum has posted semi-finalists for the Koufax Awards.

    Past Peak is still in the running for Best New Blog.

    If you haven't already voted and you'd like to support Past Peak, please go here and post a comment (scroll down to the bottom of the page). It sure would be cool to make it to the finals.


    Posted by Jonathan at 11:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 30, 2005

    Today's Bush Joke Media

    Attorney General John Ashcroft bid farewell to the Justice Department with a goodbye address. The voluntary resignation came as a bit of a disappointment to the attorney general, who had hoped to be raptured out of office. — Jon Stewart

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:48 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 21, 2005

    O'Reilly On The ACLU Media

    Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly:

    Hitler would be a card-carrying ACLU member. So would Stalin. Castro probably is. And so would Mao Zedong.


    Posted by Jonathan at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 09, 2005

    Koufax Awards Media

    2004 Koufax Award nominations for "Best New Blog" have been posted. PastPeak's in the running — one of a very long list.

    If you're so inclined, you can vote by going here and posting a comment. No chance of PastPeak's winning anything, but votes may help bring new visitors to the site. Thanks!

    Posted by Jonathan at 07:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 01, 2005

    Romancing The Blow-Up Doll Media

    Via James Wolcott, Matt Taibibi's column on the grotesque Fuhrer-worship of Time's "Person of the Year" profile of Dubya. Taibibi:

    The "Person of the Year" issue has always been a symphonic tribute to the heroic possibilities of pompous sycophancy, but the pomposity of this year's issue bests by a factor of at least two or three the pomposity of any previous issue. From the Rushmorean cover portrait of Bush (which over the headline "An American Revolutionary" was such a brazen and transparent effort to recall George Washington that it was embarrassing) to the "Why We Fight" black-and-white portraiture of the aggrieved president sitting somberly at the bedside of the war-wounded, this issue is positively hysterical in its iconolatry. One even senses that this avalanche of overwrought power worship is inspired by the very fact of George Bush's being such an obviously unworthy receptacle for such attentions. From beginning to end, the magazine behaves like a man who knocks himself out making an extravagant six-course candlelit dinner for a blow-up doll, in an effort to convince himself he's really in love. [My emphasis]

    And a singularly unappealing blow-up doll, at that.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:14 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 29, 2004

    Clear Channel Refuses To Air These Ads Media  Politics

    Robert Millman has produced seven radio spots with a progressive viewpoint. Clear Channel refuses to air them. Here they are, from BuzzFlash (mp3):

    Christianity and War, Dissent, Vote Fraud, Deficits/Debt, Redistricting, Iraq War, Middle East Oil

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 27, 2004

    Time Canada's Newsmaker Of The Year Media

    In the US, Time named George Bush its "Person of the Year."

    In Canada, however, Time's "Canadian Newsmaker of the Year" is Maher Arar, a Canadian software engineer who was arrested in the US as a terrorist, secretly deported to Syria, and tortured. Arar sued the authorities and demanded a public inquiry. Time Canada:

    Arar got his wish. His perseverance — not to mention the absence of evidence against him — helped prod Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan in January 2004 to create a commission to investigate the matter. There is more at stake than just learning the truth. The commission may come up with a new plan for overseeing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which is accused of botching its end of the case. Arar has launched two gutsy lawsuits in 2004 targeting some of the most powerful people on the continent, including U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and R.C.M.P. Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli.

    Whatever the outcome, Arar has forced Canada to rethink how it balances human rights and security concerns. His struggle has revealed troubling details about how Canada's police and intelligence agencies share information with foreign governments. And his case is a disturbing reminder of America's outsize role in the world, particularly since 9/11, and has prompted fresh debate on the harsh powers of Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act. Before Arar's situation surfaced, Canadians largely felt that security excesses were a "distant, complicated" problem, says Alex Neve, head of Amnesty International Canada. "It wasn't until Maher came home that Canadians realized that this is also about us."

    For taking on the national-security agencies in two countries and for stepping courageously into the public realm despite the cost to himself and his family, Maher Arar is Time’s Canadian Newsmaker of the Year. [My emphasis]

    Can you imagine Time taking such a position here in the US?

    This story is a stunning reminder that the progandistic nature of US media is not the result of editorial delusion so much as of conscious editorial decisions to pander to power and to the prejudices of an American audience.

    Put another way, it proves they know better.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:33 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 19, 2004

    And Now For Something Completely Different Media

    A visually stunning exploration of complexity and fractals. Click on an image, and you can run an applet that generates a similar image while you watch.

    [Thanks, Kent]

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:25 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Person Of The Year Media

    Time picked Dubya as its Person of the Year (for the second time, tying Joseph Stalin):

    for sticking to his guns (literally and figuratively), for reshaping the rules of politics to fit his 10-gallon-hat leadership style...

    Time, as in time to cancel your subscription.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 16, 2004

    David Brock Tears O'Reilly A New One Media

    If you agree with me that Fox's Bill O'Reilly is an asshole supreme, you'll enjoy this. David Brock of Media Matters for America has written an open letter to O'Reilly that's just a hoot. It's worth reading the whole thing (Brock enumerates many of the off-the-wall things O'Reilly has said about Media Matters, with supporting documentation), but here's a choice excerpt:

    As you can see, Mr. O'Reilly, you have repeatedly and personally attacked me, Media Matters for America, and my fine staff, calling us "vile," "despicable," and "weasels," and comparing us to the Ku Klux Klan, Castro, Mao, and the Nazis. And you have refused my repeated requests to appear on your broadcast.

    You once offered your viewers your definition of the word "coward." On the January 5, 2004, O'Reilly Factor, you declared: "If you attack someone publicly, as these men did to me, you have an obligation to face the person you are smearing. If you don't, you are a coward."

    Well, Mr. O'Reilly, you have attacked me publicly on numerous occasions, and you refuse to face me. You, sir, are a coward — by your own definition of the term. You are "hiding under your desk" (to paraphrase your August 26, 2003, claim about a "coward" who declined to appear on your show) rather than allowing me on your program to discuss your insults. You are "gutless," to borrow the phrase you used on January 10, 2003, and February 8, 2001, to describe people who would not appear on your program. I attach additional examples of your pejorative descriptions of those who decline invitations to appear on your broadcast. [...]

    I remain willing and eager to appear on either your television or radio program to discuss your contention that my organization has taken your comments out of context.

    Should you continue to refuse this offer, it is only reasonable that the American people will conclude that you are not only — as you would put it — a "coward," but a hypocrite as well.


    Posted by Jonathan at 04:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 14, 2004

    Zell Miller Joins FNC Media

    The demented Zell Miller's joining Fox News Channel in January. Unsurprising, but weird nonetheless. Our public discourse just keeps getting coarser and dumber.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    FCC Action Alert Media

    In recent posts, we've seen that the FCC gets nearly all of its indecency complaints from a single organization, and these complaints have prompted daft actions like the investigation of the Olympics for indecency.

    Well, sauce for the goose. Atrios has an FCC Action Alert regarding a moment of indecency by Rush Limbaugh yesterday. Go, follow the instructions, let's see if we can put Limbaugh in the crosshairs for once.

    Update: [11:24 PM] I like the irony of Greg's suggestion at The Talent Show: File your complaint using the handy online complaint form provided by the Parents Television Council, the group that's been the source of 99.8% of the complaints to the FCC.

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:39 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    2004 Koufax Awards Media

    Nominations for the 2004 Koufax Awards are open. Anyone can nominate.

    The Koufax Awards are named for Sandy Koufax, one of the greatest left-handed baseball pitchers of all time. They are intended to honor the best of the left-wing blogs, in a variety of categories.

    Surf on over and check out the nominations as they come in, in the comments sections here and here and here (they'll open up more pages as those get full). It's a great way to discover the cream of the crop of left-wing blogs.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:17 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 13, 2004

    Mosh Gets New Ending Media  Politics

    The excellent animated video for Eminem's "Mosh," directed by Guerrilla News Network's Ian Inaba, now has a new ending. Watch it here.

    In the new ending, Eminem and his followers crash the State of the Union Address and confront Bush, the Supreme Court, and everyone else. A couple of things that caught my eye: Dennis Kucinich (only) applauding as Eminem's people enter the House and march toward the podium, Dick Cheney clutching his heart and collapsing from his chair. Check it out.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 12, 2004

    2004: The Year That Everything Began Media

    This is fascinating. Glimpse what may be the future of media.

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 11, 2004

    Olympics Too Racy For FCC Media  Politics

    The Anti-Sex Defamation League strikes again. WaPo [via Atrios]:

    In response to one or more indecency complaints, the Federal Communications Commission has asked NBC to send it tapes of its coverage of the Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies in Athens, the network confirmed late yesterday.

    Ironically, the night before, NBC's Summer Games coverage was named the family-friendliest special of 2004 during WB's broadcast of the sixth annual Family Television Awards. The awards are given by the Family Friendly Programming Forum, a group of 46 major national advertisers working to encourage networks to produce more family-friendly prime-time fare.

    This would be funny if it weren't so freakin' exasperating. Who are these people? The good news is they may have just crossed a line that makes them a laughing-stock from coast to coast.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 10, 2004

    Moyers Prepares To Retire Media  Politics

    Next week, Bill Moyers will retire from PBS. He told AP:

    I'm going out telling the story that I think is the biggest story of our time: how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee. We have an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don't have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people.

    Support independent media.

    Posted by Jonathan at 07:40 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 06, 2004

    FCC: Fundamentally Corrupt and/or Clueless Media  Politics

    This is a story that deserves to be widely disseminated.

    As you know, the neo-Puritan FCC's been acting like the Anti-Sex Defamation League of Orwell's 1984. It's to the point where stations are afraid to broadcast Saving Private Ryan. To hear the FCC tell it, though, their actions were driven by an outpouring of complaints from the public.

    Uh, not exactly. The FCC has been receiving a large and ever-increasing number of complaints, but not from the public: all but a handful of the complaints are from a single activist group, the so-called Parents Television Council. Media Week [via Atrios]:

    In an appearance before Congress in February, when the controversy over Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl moment was at its height, Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell laid some startling statistics on U.S. senators.

    The number of indecency complaints had soared dramatically to more than 240,000 in the previous year, Powell said. The figure was up from roughly 14,000 in 2002, and from fewer than 350 in each of the two previous years. There was, Powell said, "a dramatic rise in public concern and outrage about what is being broadcast into their homes."

    What Powell did not reveal — apparently because he was unaware — was the source of the complaints. According to a new FCC estimate obtained by Mediaweek, nearly all indecency complaints in 2003 — 99.8 percent — were filed by the Parents Television Council, an activist group.

    This year, the trend has continued, and perhaps intensified.

    Through early October, 99.9 percent of indecency complaints — aside from those concerning the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl halftime show broadcast on CBS — were brought by the PTC, according to the FCC analysis dated Oct. 1. [My emphasis]

    PTC is run by Brent Bozell III, whom Media Transparency describes as:

    a zealot of impeccable right-wing pedigree. He is the nephew of columnist William F. Buckley and the son of L. Brent Bozell, Jr., who assisted Barry Goldwater with the writing of Conscience of a Conservative....In 1991, he helped orchestrate a smear campaign directed at the opposition to Clarence Thomas's appointment to the Supreme Court; in 1992, he was the chief fund-raiser behind Pat Buchanan's unsuccessful bid for the Republican Presidential nomination.

    So this guy forms an organization whose mission in life is to crank out complaints to the FCC, and that's enough to usher in a new era of censorship of the media. Unreal.

    Now let's see who picks up on the story.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:59 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 03, 2004

    Stupid, Stupid Puritans Media  Politics

    It has come to this:

    US distributors of the film Merchant of Venice, which premiered in London this week, have asked the director to cut out a background fresco by a Venetian old master so it is fit for American television viewers. [...]

    When he examined the scenes, [the director] realised the [request] was referring to frescoes by Paolo Veronese, the acclaimed Venetian 16th-century artist, which, when examined closely, showed a naked cupid.

    "A billion dollars worth of Veronese great master's frescoes they want paint-boxed out because of this cupid's willy. It is absolutely absurd," he said.

    Boy, is it ever.

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:33 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Verizon Versus Free Wireless Internet, 2 Corporations, Globalization  Media

    As noted earlier, Verizon lobbied hard in Pennsylvania to get a law passed that says communities can implement wireless Internet networks for their citizens only if corporations like Verizon give them permission. Sadly, Gov. Rendell signed the bill and it's now law. WaPo:

    From San Francisco to St. Cloud, Fla., an estimated 200 communities are toying with community-owned networks, sparking a battle with cable and telephone companies over how public, or private, access to the Internet should be.

    The companies are lobbying furiously to block such plans, fearful that their businesses would be hurt. Their efforts most recently paid off Tuesday night in Pennsylvania, where a new law bans local governments from creating their own networks without first giving the primary local phone company the chance to provide service.

    Consumer advocates denounce the new Pennsylvania law. They say it amounts to governments now needing a permission slip from entrenched monopolies to put a vital economic and educational tool within everyone's reach. [...]

    Companies such as Verizon Communications Inc., which helped shape the Pennsylvania law, argue that telecommunications firms would have little incentive to build networks if they have to compete with government-subsidized service. [My emphasis]

    This has become standard operating procedure: lobbyists for corporations affected by a law participate, alongside politicians to whose campaigns they've contributed, in writing the law. Democracy in action.

    One question. If corporations are so much more efficient than governments, as conservatives never tire of claiming, then why can't corporations like Verizon simply beat governments in the marketplace? Why must their "competition" take the form of campaign contributions, lobbying, and legally protected monopolies?

    Gov. Rendell, sad to say, is a Democrat.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:25 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 01, 2004

    Missing The Point On Free Speech Media  Religion  Rights, Law

    The Center for American Progress reports that CBS and NBC are suppressing an ad they say is "unacceptable" and "too controversial":

    CBS and NBC are refusing to air an ad produced by the United Church of Christ (UCC) because it advocates religious inclusion. The ad shows bouncers turning away a variety of people at the door of a church — including ethnic minorities and two men who may be a homosexual couple. The announcer says, "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we. No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey you're welcome here."... In a letter to the UCC, CBS is refusing to air the advertisement because the commercial "touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations." Also, CBS found the ad "unacceptable" because "the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman." NBC similarly declared the ad "too controversial." The ad has been accepted and will air on a number of [other] networks..." [My emphasis]

    Watch the ad here. It's a positive, affirming message that most Americans would support.

    CBS denies UCC access to the public airwaves because UCC's viewpoint conflicts with that of the Executive Branch. NBC denies it because it's "too controversial." Isn't the whole point of Free Speech to protect controversial speech that challenges the government? (Not that the ad is all that controversial.) Does only the Executive Branch have free speech anymore?

    Yes, CBS and NBC are private corporations, but they are licensed to use the public airwaves, and they therefore have a responsibility to the public. Email CBS and NBC and tell them what you think.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:44 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    November 30, 2004

    Verizon Versus Free Wireless Internet Corporations, Globalization  Media

    A number of cities, including Milwaukee, Cleveland, St. Louis and Philadelphia, are planning to provide free or low-cost wireless Internet access to all. Verizon wants to stop them:

    In Pennsylvania, for example, the legislature passed a bill with a deeply buried provision — inserted after intensive lobbying by Verizon Communications — which would make it illegal for any city or other "political subdivision" in the state to provide low-cost Internet access to its citizens unless a corporation like Verizon gave them permission. [My emphasis]

    Governments need corporations' permission now before they can act?

    American Progress has an online email petition to urge Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell to veto the legislation. He has until midnight tonight to do so. Sign the petition here.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    October 30, 2004

    Eminem Tonight — Live Media

    Eminem's on Saturday Night Live tonight. Look for Mosh and for sparks to fly. Live. I gotta get to a TV.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:36 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    October 27, 2004

    Gun Shy Media  Politics

    Rumor has it that CBS has suppressed a Florida poll that shows Kerry up by 4%. That poll may have been a "re-do" after an earlier poll showed a 9% lead. Does anyone really believe CBS would have spiked a poll showing Bush up by 4%?

    Looks like all the "liberal bias" nonsense hurled at CBS following "Rathergate" has had its desired effect.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    WSJ Does Fair And Balanced Media  Politics

    Journalistic "balance" today consists in matching a negative comment about one side with a negative comment about the other and pretending they're equivalent, no matter how nonequivalent they are.

    Case in point [via DailyKos]:

    "Besides the massive mobilization efforts of the presidential campaigns to turn out their bases on Election Day, both camps are doing what they can to convince the other side's supporters that they shouldn't bother voting," the Wall Street Journal reports.

    The main reason for these efforts is that it's usually much easier to get fence sitters not to turn out than to switch over to your guy.

    Democrats "see suppression efforts in Republicans' well-advertised plans to vigorously check the registrations of those who show up to vote. In their eyes, such efforts are designed to convince voters that trying to cast a ballot will be too much of a hassle."

    Republicans "see suppression efforts in Democrats' attempts to sow doubts about Mr. Bush's character and his fealty to social conservatives. They believe Democrats will use the Internet to spread fresh rumors about Mr. Bush's youthful behavior among conservative Christians."

    So, Republicans are organizing to prevent people from voting by creating chaos and long lines at polling places. Democrats, on the other hand, are making negative comments about their opponent. Therefore, both are engaging in voter suppression.

    This is where I really wish I had an audio clip I could link to of Napoleon Dynamite saying "IDIOTS!"

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    October 26, 2004

    More On Mosh Media  Politics

    An update on the staggering new Eminem video "Mosh" that I commented on earlier. The music was produced by Dr. Dre, and the video was directed by Guerrilla News Network's Ian Inaba. Read about the making of the video here. See the video here or here.

    Click the link below for the lyrics, as best I can make them out, though as with all of Eminem's lyrics, they are meant to be heard, not read. Still, having lyrics to follow along with may help to make some passages clearer.

    [I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America And to the Republic for which it stands One nation under God Indivisible... It feels so good to be back..]

    Scrutinize every word, memorize every line
    I spit it once, refuel, reenergize, and rewind
    I give sight to the blind, mind sight through the mind
    I exercise my right to express when I feel it's time
    This is all in your mind, what you interpret it as
    I say to fight you take it as I'm gonna whip someone's ass
    If you don't understand don't even bother to ask
    A father who has grown up with a fatherless past
    Who has blown up now to rap phenomenon that has
    Or at least shows no difficulty multi taskin'
    And juggling both, perhaps mastered his craft slash
    Entrepreneur who has held on to a few more rap acts
    Who has had a few obstacles thrown his way through the last half
    Of his career typical manure moving past that
    Mister kiss his ass crack, he's a class act
    Rubber band man, yeah he just snaps back

    Come along, follow me as I lead through the darkness
    As I provide just enough spark, that we need to proceed
    Carry on, give me hope, give me strength,
    Come with me, and I won't steer you wrong
    Put your faith and your trust as I guide us through the fog
    To the light, at the end, of the tunnel, we gonna fight,
    We gonna charge, we gonna stomp, we gonna march through the swamp
    We gonna mosh through the marsh, take us right through the doors, come on

    To the people up top, on the side and the middle,
    Come together, let's all form and swamp just a little
    Just let it gradually build, from the front to the back
    All you can see is the sea of people, some white and some black
    Don't matter what color, all that matters is we gathered together
    To celebrate for the same cause, no matter the weather
    If it rains let it rain, yeah the wetter the better
    They ain't gonna stop us, they can't, we're stronger now more than ever,
    They tell us no we say yeah, they tell us stop we say go,
    Rebel with a rebel yell, raise hell we gonna let em know
    Stomp, push up, mush, fuck Bush, until they bring our troops home come on just

    Come along, follow me as I lead through the darkness
    As I provide just enough spark, that we need to proceed
    Carry on, give me hope, give me strength,
    Come with me, and I won't steer you wrong
    Put your faith and your trust as I guide us through the fog
    To the light, at the end, of the tunnel, we gonna fight,
    We gonna charge, we gonna stomp, we gonna march through the swamp
    We gonna mosh through the marsh, take us right through the doors, come on

    Imagine it pouring, it's raining down on us,
    Mosh pits outside the oval office
    Someone's trying to tell us something, maybe this is God just saying
    we're responsible for this monster, this coward, that we have empowered
    This is Bin Laden, look at his head nodding,
    How could we allow something like this, without pumping our fist
    Now this is our, final hour, power
    Let me be the voice, and your strength, and your choice
    Let me simplify the rhyme, just to amplify the noise
    Try to amplify and times it, and multiply it by six
    Teen million people are equal of this high pitch
    Maybe we can reach Al Quaida through my speech
    Let the President answer our high anarchy
    Strap him with AK-47, let him go
    Fight his own war, let him impress daddy that way
    No more blood for oil, we got our own battles to fight on our own soil
    No more psychological warfare to trick us to thinking that we ain't loyal
    If we don't serve our own country we're patronizing a hero
    Look in his eyes, it's all lies, the stars and stripes
    They've been swiped, washed out and wiped,
    And replaced with his own face, mosh now or die
    If I get sniped tonight you'll know why, because I told you to fight

    Come along, follow me as I lead through the darkness
    As I provide just enough spark, that we need to proceed
    Carry on, give me hope, give me strength,
    Come with me, and I won't steer you wrong
    Put your faith and your trust as I guide us through the fog
    To the light, at the end, of the tunnel, we gonna fight,
    We gonna charge, we gonna stomp, we gonna march through the swamp
    We gonna mosh through the marsh, take us right through the doors, come on

    [Eminem speaking angrily]
    And as we proceed, to mosh through this desert storm, in these closing statements, if they should argue, let us beg to differ, as we set aside our differences, and assemble our own army, to disarm this weapon of mass destruction that we call our president, for the present, and mosh for the future of our next generation, to speak and be heard, Mr. President, Mr. Senator

    True dat.

    Posted by Jonathan at 06:52 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Eminem Rocks My World Media  Politics

    Eminem has an electrifying new single/video, "Mosh," that breaks through to a whole new place. Dark, ominous, and dire, it's a political call to arms like nothing you've ever seen. It vividly captures the gathering, volcanic undercurrents of foreboding and rage that darken the land, and it's aimed directly at Bush.

    I find it absolutely stunning, a stark masterpiece for this political and cultural moment. I don't know what else you can call it.

    It's available on the Internet, so it could become a viral meme that mobilizes millions of young people between now and November 2nd.

    Cultural lightning. Pass it on.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:37 AM | Comments (3) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    October 20, 2004

    Burger King: No To Sinclair's Whoppers Media  Politics

    Burger King is withdrawing all advertising from Sinclair Broadcasting on Friday. As Jesse Taylor suggests, Friday might be a good day to give them our business. Rumor has it they've actually got a veggie burger...

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:37 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    October 16, 2004

    Jon Stewart Smackdown Media

    You really MUST see this. Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson invite The Daily Show's Jon Stewart onto CNN's Crossfire. (There's also a transcript available, but it's much better to see and hear it.)

    They're expecting Stewart to appear in his Daily Show persona and be all cute and ironic, but instead he does something I don't think we've ever seen before on television. He explains to them how what they and most of the rest of contemporary media do is hurting America, and he pleads with them to stop. There's a lot of nervous laughter, and they keep trying to get him to change the subject or to turn it into a joke, but he refuses to let them off the hook.

    Tucker Carlson is particularly discomfitted by the proceedings. At one point we have this little exchange:

    CARLSON: Wait. I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.

    STEWART: No. No. I'm not going to be your monkey.

    Stewart literally begs them to stop doing what they're doing, to stop pandering to the politicians and corporations, to stop being to honest debate what professional wrestling is to athletic competition. He tells them we need them to stop. Begala and Carlson both come off as sputtering fools, Carlson especially.

    Near the end, there's a fascinating exchange regarding the "spin alley" after the presidential "debates." At that point, it really sounds like Begala and Carlson have drunk the Kool-Aid and just don't get how completely dishonest the whole process is. A revealing and creepy moment.

    The whole interview is a teevee classic. Quite unprecedented.

    Bravo, Jon Stewart!

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:25 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    October 13, 2004

    L-O-S-E-R Media

    The Smoking Gun has documents detailing a sexual harrassment complaint filed by a female producer against Fox's Bill O'Reilly. Everybody knows O'Reilly's an asshole and a bully, but these documents (assuming the allegations are true) show he's also a complete horse's ass, a total loser, an absolute pig. If you don't want to read through it all, start here. Fair warning: it contains all the squalid details.

    [Via Atrios]

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:04 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    October 12, 2004

    Sinclair's Stake Corporations, Globalization  Media  Politics

    This USA Today report probably gets closer to the heart of what Sinclair Broadcasting hopes to gain by ordering its stations to show the anti-Kerry film in prime time:

    [M]any believe Sinclair's provocative decision shows how much the company has riding on the election.

    With its heavy concentration of Fox and WB affiliates, ranking in the middle of the pack in mostly midsize markets, Sinclair is barely profitable and laden with debt. It had a net profit of $14 million on revenue of $739 million in 2003.

    Sinclair hopes to change that by solidifying its hold on local markets by controlling, for example, two stations in more cities and sharing operating and news-gathering costs. But it needs the federal government to relax several media ownership restrictions.

    Sinclair wants officials to permit a company to own two or more stations in more communities than allowed now. It also wants the FCC to ease a restriction that bars a company from owning TV stations reaching more than 35% of all homes, and to lift the rule that keeps companies from owning newspapers and TV stations in most markets.

    Large corporations exist to maximize profit and market share. In the absence of regulation, it is inevitable that media ownership will be concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer giant corporations, who will bend media content to further their own interests, as Sinclair is doing. It is irrational to expect them to do otherwise. It's like expecting a shark to be a vegan.

    That is why it is essential for democracy that the concentration of media ownership be rolled back and some kind of fairness doctrine reinstated.

    In the meantime, it is important to fight back against Sinclair. If Sinclair proceeds as planned, a precedent will have been set and the flood gates may well open. Contact Sinclair's sponsors directly and tell them to withdraw their support.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:34 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    October 09, 2004

    Privatized Propaganda Media  Politics

    There's no need to set up a Ministry of Propaganda in the US. You just allow concentration of media ownership in the hands of a few conservatives, and they do the rest. Rupert Murdoch is the archetypal example, but he is hardly alone. LA Times (emphasis added):

    The conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose television outlets reach nearly a quarter of the nation's homes with TV, is ordering its stations to preempt regular [prime-time] programming just days before the Nov. 2 election to air a film that attacks Sen. John F. Kerry's activism against the Vietnam War, network and station executives familiar with the plan said Friday.

    Sinclair's programming plan, communicated to executives in recent days and coming in the thick of a close and intense presidential race, is highly unusual even in a political season that has been marked by media controversies.

    Sinclair has told its stations — many of them in political swing states such as Ohio and Florida — to air "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," sources said. The film, funded by Pennsylvania veterans and produced by a veteran and former [Rev. Moon-owned] Washington Times reporter, features former POWs accusing Kerry — a decorated Navy veteran turned war protester — of worsening their ordeal by prolonging the war. Sinclair will preempt regular prime-time programming from the networks to show the film, which may be classified as news programming, according to TV executives familiar with the plan. [...]

    Station and network sources said they have been told the Sinclair stations — which include affiliates of Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, as well as WB and UPN — will be preempting regular programming for one hour between Oct. 21 and Oct. 24, depending on the city. The airing of "Stolen Honor" will be followed by a panel discussion, which Kerry will be asked to join, thus potentially satisfying fairness regulations, the sources said. [...]

    Democrats have for some time accused Sinclair, a publicly traded company based in Maryland, of a having a right-wing agenda.

    The company made headlines in April when it ordered seven of its stations not to air Ted Koppel's "Nightline" roll call of military dead in Iraq, deeming it a political statement "disguised as news content." [Ironic, that]

    Expect no outrage from the supposedly liberal media. Atrios:

    It's bad enough that Sinclair is ordering its stations to run an anti-Kerry movie produced by a Moonie apologist, but what's really bad is the "liberal media" will be quiet about it. Imagine if, say, an owner of a bunch of NBC affiliates ordered them to run "Going Upriver" or "Farenheit 9/11" the night before the election. A media shitstorm of epic proportions would erupt. Aside from the screeching right wingers, Howard Kurtz would write endless columns about it. They'd trot out hundreds of employees who were outraged by the decision (under cloak of anonymity if necessary) to condemn the horrible liberal bias of their affiliate owner. There would be talk of nothing else on the cable nets all the time. [My emphasis]

    If we are to save our democracy, what more urgent issue is there than rolling back the concentration of media ownership?

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:13 AM | Comments (2) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    October 05, 2004

    Fahrenheit 9/11 Out On DVD Film  Media  Politics

    The Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD is out today. Amazon sales rank: #1.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:23 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    September 29, 2004

    The News Is What We Say It Is Corporations, Globalization  Media  Politics

    The world’s largest corporations are more powerful than most nations, and they know it. International in scope, they are no longer (if they ever were) loyal to any country. Their loyalty is to themselves alone. They protect their own interests, not ours, not the country's.

    When such corporations own major US news media, the results are predictably toxic to democracy. The corporate parent can make its influence felt without ever interfering directly in the newsroom, but a couple of recent stories illustrate direct interference of the most blatant sort. I am not talking about Rupert Murdoch and Fox News here, though that is surely the most egregious case. I am talking about "respectable" media: CBS and NBC.

    CBS — As the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday:

    [T]he chairman of CBS's parent company [Viacom] chose Hong Kong as a place to drop a little bomb. Sumner Redstone, who calls himself a "liberal Democrat," said he's supporting President Bush.

    The chairman of the entertainment giant Viacom said the reason was simple: Republican values are what U.S. companies need. ... Mr. Redstone declared: "I look at the election from what's good for Viacom. I vote for what's good for Viacom. I vote, today, Viacom. ...

    "[F]rom a Viacom standpoint, we believe the election of a Republican administration is better for our company." [My emphasis]

    The only relevant consideration is what's best for Viacom — the country be damned.

    The very next day, CBS announced that it would delay until after the election its broadcast of a "60 Minutes" segment that digs into the Bush administration's use of forged documents to make the case that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium from Niger. "We now believe it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election," CBS said. It wouldn't be good for Viacom, you see.

    NBC — Turning now to a just-published account of the 2000 presidential election. You remember that the networks called the election for Bush in the wee hours on election night. By so doing, they created the impression that Bush had won and that the ensuing controversy was therefore an attempt by sore loser Gore to steal what he had failed to win fair-and-square. It's probably not too much of an exaggeration to say the networks won Bush the election.

    If you saw Fahrenheit 9/11, you know that on election night George Bush’s cousin, John Ellis, was the man at Fox News who first made the call for Bush. The other networks quickly followed suit, which is where NBC comes in. NBC is owned by GE, whose CEO at the time was the much-lionized Jack Welch.

    From True Lies by the folks at Guerrilla News Network, an account that draws on information developed by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-FL):

    According to Waxman's sources, [GE CEO Jack] Welch had posted himself next to NBC's director of elections, Dr. Sheldon R. Gawiser, almost immediately after arriving in the studio early on election night. Gawiser was in charge of interpreting the data coming in from the since-disbanded Voter News Service (VNS), and Welch apparently wanted to be as close to the source as possible. Witnesses described Welch as "hovering" over Gawiser and refusing to leave.

    After a crash course on interpreting VNS raw vote counts from Gawiser, Welch started doing his own calculations. With Florida data coming in, he concluded that Bush had taken the state and began demanding that NBC’s staff make the call. ...

    At almost this same time, John Ellis over at Fox News called both the Florida and national election for his cousin, George W. Bush. According to the eyewitness sources,

    Immediately after this announcement, Mr. Welch was observed standing behind Mr. Gawiser with a hand on his shoulder, asking why NBC was not also calling the election for Mr. Bush.

    Shortly after this, Dr. Gawiser informed the control room that NBC would declare George W. Bush the winner. ...


    This was not the first time Welch is alleged to have used his corporate leverage to mold news coverage when it served his [corporation's] interests. During the 1987 stock market crash, Welch called then-NBC News chief Larry Grossman and told him to stop using negative language to describe the crash. As Grossman said, "We were describing it as Black Monday and the 'plunge'....he thought we were making it worse and undercutting the stock value of the company." (Less than one year after Black Monday, Larry Grossman was fired by Jack Welch.) [My emphasis]

    The most pervasive effects of corporate ownership on news content are far more subtle than the cases above. Corporate cultures effectively communicate what is considered appropriate and what is out of bounds. Career-minded journalists know which way the wind is blowing and self-censor accordingly.

    Still, these cases do illustrate unmistakably the fundamental fact: large corporations exist to maximize profit and market share. They have no conscience, no sense of civic duty. They are voracious machines that are absolutely single-minded in the pursuit of their goals. The people who head them act accordingly, or the corporation finds someone else who will.

    Niceties like civic duty and journalistic ethics don't stand a chance if they are left undefended, at the mercy of giant corporations. It is irrational to expect otherwise. It's like expecting a shark to be a vegan.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    September 27, 2004

    Fake News Beats "Real" News Media  Politics

    A study by Penn's Annenberg school has found that people who watch Jon Stewart's The Daily Show are better informed about politics than people who don't:

    Polling ... showed that on a six-item political knowledge test [adults] who did not watch any late-night comedy programs in the past week answered 2.62 items correctly, while viewers of Late Night with David Letterman on CBS answered 2.91, viewers of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno answered 2.95, and viewers of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart answered 3.59 items correctly.

    Validating what anybody who's seen the show already knows: The Daily Show's "fake news" cuts through the media crap like nothing else on television.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:45 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    September 26, 2004

    CBS News Announces The End Of CBS News Media  Politics

    CBS News has caved, contemptibly, inexcusably, unforgivably. Everyone who works there should quit. CBS News can then change its name, since the network has decided it's no longer in the news business.

    The NYT:

    CBS News said [Friday] that it had postponed a "60 Minutes" segment that questioned Bush administration rationales for going to war in Iraq.

    The announcement, in a statement by a spokeswoman, was issued four days after the network acknowledged that it could not prove the authenticity of documents it used to raise new questions about President Bush's Vietnam-era military service.

    The Iraq segment had been ready for broadcast on Sept. 8, CBS said, but was bumped at the last minute for the segment on Mr. Bush's National Guard service. [...]

    CBS said last night that the report on the war would not run before Nov. 2.

    "We now believe it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election," the spokeswoman, Kelli Edwards, said in a statement.

    Ms. Edwards said that the report had been scheduled for June but that it was postponed because of additional news on the subject.

    The CBS statement followed a report in the online edition of Newsweek that described the frustration of CBS News reporters and producers who said the network had concluded that it could not legitimately criticize the president because of the questions about the National Guard report.

    According to the Newsweek report, the "60 Minutes" segment was to have detailed how the administration relied on false documents when it said Iraq had tried to buy a lightly processed form of uranium, known as yellowcake, from Niger. The administration later acknowledged that the information was incorrect and that the documents were most likely fake.

    The Newsweek article said the segment was to have included the first on-camera interview with Elisabetta Burba, the Italian journalist who was given the fake documents and who provided them to a United States Embassy for verification. [My emphasis]

    CBS is running scared because of the Killian memos, but those memos were almost certainly a set-up designed to embarrass CBS and envelop the whole topic of Bush's National Guard service in a toxic fog. What CBS should be doing is firing back with both barrels. They should be doing stories about where the memos originated and who was behind the scam. Instead, they've decided they now work for Mr. Karl Rove.

    The CBS execs are either completely irresponsible cowards, or they've been in on the memo scam from the gitgo. They seem to be all too happy to grab an excuse to be White House shills for the remainder of the campaign.

    Disgusting. Edward R. Murrow spins in his grave.

    Tell CBS what you think of their cowardice:

    Send them email.   Use their web feedback form.

    Phone them: (212) 975-3247, (212) 975-3691, (202) 457-4385
    FAX them: (212) 975-1998

    [Thanks to AMERICAblog for the CBS email and phone numbers]

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    September 22, 2004

    Glorified Cable Access Media

    Ken Layne:

    For all of you out there keeping track of the teevee media's Left or Right bias, I will tell you again that the only true bias is in the accounting office. Do you know how much it would cost to send a team to Haiti? Or to report on Iraq every day, from all over the country? To report from Afghanistan? We're talking about teevee trucks, satellites, video & sound engineers, on-air talent, producers, etc. Plus all that airfare, and renting Land Cruisers, and hotels and food and insurance and minders and translators ....

    This is why your news programs spend 95% of the airtime interviewing swift boats, or bloggers, or campaign officials, or other journalists, or anybody or anything that will show up at the D.C. or NYC studio and sit there in the makeup chair and then go talk to the camera ... for free! This is dirt-cheap television. Why do you think they've got a hundred versions of "Crossfire"? [...] Because it's cheap. [...]

    It's glorified Cable Access, without the weird sex gurus and Native American flute dances and nutty end-times preachers. It's not news.

    I love that line: "It's glorified Cable Access."

    I might add one thing: the accounting office's influence is also felt in the way media content serves the interests of big corporate sponsors, the media's real customers.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:45 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    September 19, 2004

    State Terrorism Iraq  Media  Palestine/Middle East  War and Peace

    As Noam Chomsky has often pointed out, our mainstream political culture never sees state terrorism as terrorism, despite the fact that it claims many times more victims than terrorism by non-state actors.

    British journalist John Pilger has an excellent piece in the New Statesman that looks at state terrorism in today's world. Excerpts, with emphasis added:

    Let's look at a few examples of the way the world is presented and the way it really is. The occupation of Iraq is presented as "a mess": a blundering, incompetent American military up against Islamic fanatics. In truth, the occupation is a systematic, murderous assault on a civilian population by a corrupt American officer class, given licence by its superiors in Washington. In May, the US marines used battle tanks and helicopter gunships to attack the slums of Fallujah. They admitted killing 600 people, a figure far greater than the total number of civilians killed by the "insurgents" during the past year. The generals were candid; this futile slaughter was an act of revenge for the killing of three US mercenaries. Sixty years earlier, the SS Das Reich division killed 600 French civilians at Oradour-sur-Glane as revenge for the kidnapping of a German officer by the resistance. Is there a difference?

    These days, the Americans routinely fire missiles into Fallujah and other dense urban areas; they murder whole families. If the word terrorism has any modern application, it is this industrial state terrorism. [...]

    Only by recognising the terrorism of states is it possible to understand, and deal with, acts of terrorism by groups and individuals which, however horrific, are tiny by comparison. Moreover, their source is inevitably the official terrorism for which there is no media language. Thus, the state of Israel has been able to convince many outsiders that it is merely a victim of terrorism when, in fact, its own unrelenting, planned terrorism is the cause of the infamous retaliation by Palestinian suicide bombers. For all of Israel's perverse rage against the BBC — a successful form of intimidation — BBC reporters never report Israelis as terrorists: that term belongs exclusively to Palestinians imprisoned in their own land. It is not surprising, as a recent Glasgow University study concluded, that many television viewers in Britain believe that the Palestinians are the invaders and occupiers.

    This next bit is very important. If you're like me, you remember hearing that Palestinian suicide bombers recently shattered a "five month lull in the violence." Here's what you didn't hear:

    On 7 September, Palestinian suicide bombers killed 16 Israelis in the town of Beersheba. Every television news report allowed the Israeli government spokesman to use this tragedy to justify the building of an apartheid wall — when the wall is pivotal to the causes of Palestinian violence. Almost every news report marked the end of a five-month period of "relative peace and calm" and "a lull in the violence". During those five months of relative peace and calm, almost 400 Palestinians were killed, 71 of them in assassinations. During the lull in the violence, more than 73 Palestinian children were killed. A 13-year-old was murdered with a bullet through the heart, a five-year-old was shot in her face as she walked arm in arm with her two-year old-sister. The body of Mazen Majid, aged 14, was riddled with 18 Israeli bullets as he and his family fled their bulldozed home.

    None of this was reported in Britain as terrorism. Most of it was not reported at all. After all, this was a period of peace and calm, a lull in the violence. On 19 May, Israeli tanks and helicopters fired on peaceful demonstrators, killing eight of them. This atrocity had a certain significance; the demonstration was part of a growing non-violent Palestinian movement, which has seen peaceful protest gatherings, often with prayers, along the apartheid wall. The rise of this Gandhian movement is barely noted in the outside world.

    What is remarkable is that news reports in both the US and UK used the same phrases about a "five month lull in the violence." Best case, this indicates lazy journalists (on two continents?) all rehashing the same wire service story. Worst case, it indicates journalists applying talking points handed down by Israeli sources, either because the journalists want to advance Israel's agenda or simply because they trust the Israelis (non-terrorists) and don't trust the Palestinians (terrorists).

    Everyone knows Chechen "terrorists" recently downed two Russian airliners and seized a school full of parents, children, and teachers. Hardly anyone knows the context, however. Pilger:

    The truth about Chechnya is similarly suppressed. On 4 February 2000, Russian aircraft attacked the Chechen village of Katyr-Yurt. They used "vacuum bombs", which release petrol vapour and suck people's lungs out, and are banned under the Geneva Convention. The Russians bombed a convoy of survivors under a white flag. They murdered 363 men, women and children. It was one of countless, little-known acts of terrorism in Chechnya perpetrated by the Russian state, whose leader, Vladimir Putin, has the "complete solidarity" of Blair.

    As Orwell taught us, the corruption of language leads to the corruption of thought. We need to resist, every chance we get, the nearly universal usage of the word "terrorist" to refer only to the activities of non-state actors — and only those non-state actors who oppose US interests. The usage that is most corrupting is when people just say "the terrorists" — as in: "if the US does/does not do such-and-such, the terrorists win." That usage, which one hears constantly, lumps all "terrorists" together in a nameless, undifferentiated mass. From there, it's only a small step to the Orwellian conclusion that anyone — a protestor exercising First Amendment rights, for example — who is labelled a terrorist is automatically part of that undifferentiated mass and therefore guilty of the same crimes and justifiably subject to the same treatment.

    The point is not to excuse acts of violence against civilians by anyone. The point is to resist the colonization of our minds by the uncritical usage of labels that shape the political discourse before it's even begun.

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    September 15, 2004

    Liberal Bias? Media  Politics

    Digby's take on the CBS document furor and what it really says about "liberal bias" in the media. Recommended.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    September 07, 2004

    Project Censored 2005 Media

    Project Censored, the media research group from Sonoma State University that puts out an annual list of the most important news stories ignored by the mainstream media, has just put out its newest edition.

    Read the list here.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:05 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    August 11, 2004

    Be Dumb Or Play Dumb Iraq  Media  Politics

    Here's an excerpt from a post at Xymphora today:

    [There's a] systematic problem in American politics which allows thugs like the neocons to force a war through all the checks and balances which are supposed to protect the American political system.

    Once the American psyche is "in play" due to some real or artificial threat to the country, the peculiar American combination of moral self-righteousness and violence manifests itself in inevitable foreign entanglements if there is some interested party in power with ulterior motives for war. [...]

    Even a hint of sensible pacifism won't fly in today's talk-show world where any nuanced approach is easily ridiculed, and this despite the fact that it is clear that the vast majority of Americans dislike the American violence against the Iraqi people. In order to become President, if you are not gifted with the natural stupidity of Bush, you have to pretend to be stupid by claiming to have dumb and simplistic policy positions. [My emphasis]

    Well said.

    The whole shtick of Fox News and its imitators — which unfortunately encompasses more and more of the "mainstream" media with every passing day — is perfectly geared to feeding this native appetite for self-righteous belligerence and a sneering rejection of any serious learning or thinking. It's a powerful feedback loop that just brings out the worst in us. The braying and ridicule of the know-nothings drown all nuance and thought, which leaves people ever more susceptible to the braying and ridicule, and around it goes. Heat trumps light, prejudice trumps thought.

    Elsewhere in his post, Xymphora seems to suggest — though I'm not sure he believes it — that if it weren't for this prevailing climate Kerry might be more of a dove on Iraq. I have my doubts: where's the evidence? Kerry might not have gone to war in Iraq in the first place, but now that we're there all Kerry seems to offer is the promise of greater competence in prosecuting the war — which is not unimportant, granted, given that the Bush administration has screwed up pretty much everything that could be screwed up in Iraq. Bush has to go, that's a given, but Kerry's soldierly rhetoric at the Convention was not encouraging. I sure wish we had a candidate who actually wanted to make peace.

    Posted by Jonathan at 06:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    July 25, 2004

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Media  Politics

    Supposedly, Linda Ronstadt caused a near-riot at the Aladdin in Vegas by dedicating a song to Michael Moore. Supposedly, people stormed out in protest, throwing cocktails, tearing down Ronstadt posters, and Aladdin President Bill Timmins had Ronstadt ejected and barred for life. Supposedly.

    The story was big news all over the country and seemed to demonstrate that there's a "silent majority" out there that hates everything that Michael Moore and his liberal supporters stand for.

    Except it turns out that's not what really happened.

    Shannon Stephens, assistant editor of the Las Vegas Sun, attended the concert and wrote an account. According to Stephens, the real problem wasn't what Ronstadt said, it was that the show basically sucked. The Aladdin had promoted the concert as a night of Ronstadt's greatest hits. Instead, she sang mostly Nelson Riddle and Cole Porter tunes, and sang them badly. Stephens, a longtime fan, said:

    Ronstadt can no longer hold pitch. Which made her attempts at jazz classics a little tough to endure. ...[S]he assaulted us with a couple of painful attempts at doing Cole Porter...

    To make matters worse, Ronstadt told the audience "that when she and her crew saw the poster that claimed this was a greatest-hits show it was 'news to us.'"

    Ronstadt did dedicate her encore to Moore, something she's been doing at every stop in her current tour. She told the Tuscon Sun that the dedication has often provoked a mixture of cheers and boos. No big deal.

    Here's Stephens' account of how the Vegas crowd (by then, pretty disgruntled with the whole evening) responded:

    [W]hat sounded like 25 percent of the crowd erupted into loud boos, which were quickly overtaken by about half the audience cheering her and drowning out the naysayers. About 20 percent of the audience, some continuing to turn around and boo, filed out of the theater, many shaking their heads and muttering. [...]

    Her show ended with lots of applause and cheers. [My emphasis]

    Stephens also reported seeing none of the throwing of drinks and defacing of posters that Timmins claimed took place.

    The National Review published a letter from a reader who corroborated Stephens' account:

    My wife & I were at the Linda Ronstadt performance in question, at the Aladdin in Las Vegas, and quite frankly, Aladdin President Bill Timmins' account of what happened is complete crap. There was mixed booing and cheering at Ronstadt's pro-Michael Moore comment, and that was about the extent of the "bedlam" that supposedly broke out. I saw no posters being torn down or cocktails being thrown in the air...

    As for getting escorted off the premises, Ronstadt told the LA Times it never happened:

    They didn't throw me out. I didn't even know there was trouble. I didn't know they were mad... those places operate like little city-states. They are all powerful. And I had already said I never want to come back.

    Regarding Timmins barring Ronstadt from ever appearing again at the Aladdin, the Las Vegas Sun had this to say:

    How much weight that carries is debatable, since the bankrupt Aladdin is in the process of being sold to a group headed by Planet Hollywood International Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Earl.

    The soon-to-be new owners have already invited Ronstadt and Moore to appear together at the Aladdin when ownership changes hands, possibly as early as September.

    So, what's it all add up to? Spin. And the fact that the media are perfectly happy to let themselves be spun if they think a story will sell. Republican spinmeisters, who are worried about the growing impact of Fahrenheit 9/11, got nationwide coverage for a story that purported to show that the heartland loves Bush and hates Moore. The Aladdin got tons of free publicity and deflected complaints about their bogus promotion of the concert as a night of "greatest hits". Timmins, who's about to re-enter the job market, got to indulge in some self-promotion. The media got a story they could sell until the next one came along. What did we get? A phony mental image of a near-riot that never happened.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:58 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    July 20, 2004

    Lies of O'Reilly Media

    Yesterday, Democracy Now! broadcast an interview with Georgetown Law School professor David Cole that you can watch here.

    Cole tells the story of a revealing and amusing run-in with Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly. Here's my transcription:

    So it was an afternoon in June when I got a call from Fox, a Fox producer, who says, do you want to come on "The O'Reilly Factor" to talk about a story that day in the New York Times about the Guantanamo situation. And I generally have declined going on O'Reilly, it's not the kind of show that I'm a fan of, but I figured it's an important issue, I'll go on the show.

    I went on the show, and I was sitting in the Washington studio — it's being recorded in New York — and they're recording the intro that O'Reilly apparently always does to his show. It's kind of an introductory commentary. And in the course of this, O'Reilly says — he was talking about the Iraq-al Qaeda connection, 9/11, et cetera — and says, The Factor, "The O'Reilly Factor" established the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, and here's what governor Tom Kean, the head of the 9/11 Commission, said about it this weekend.

    And then he plays a clip in which Kean says something like we have found absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. However, we have found some contacts between — and at that point, O'Reilly interrupts, very angry, he says, "We can't use this! We gotta redo this whole thing!"

    So, they — so, there's silence for three minutes or so [remember Cole's in Washington, they're in New York], they come back on, they re-record the introduction totally verbatim, except when they get to the Kean part, instead of putting on the sound bite, O'Reilly just paraphrases and says, over the weekend, the head of the 9/11 Commission said that they had definitely found evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

    So, then we go into my segment, which is about this New York Times story, and O’Reilly's spin essentially is that the New York Times is lying to us, the New York Times is biased, and that bias is undermining people's resolve in the war on terrorism. And he keeps characterizing the New York Times story as saying that the people in Guantanamo are innocent, that there's no reason for them to be there. I keep saying, no, that's not what the New York Times story said. It said — it was reporting on a CIA report that had found that they had gotten very little intelligence from the people at Guantanamo, and that there were very few high level people at Guantanamo, mostly low-level people who didn't actually pose much of a danger.

    And we go back and forth, the usual, you know, very thoughtful exchange that you get on this kind of talk show, until I keep saying — you know, Bill, you are misleading your viewers by mischaracterizing what the New York Times is saying and you are criticizing the New York Times for mischaracterizing the facts. And he says, no, I'm not.

    At which point I say [to myself], well, I might as well go for it, and I say, you know it seems to me, Bill, like it's the pot calling the kettle black because not five minutes ago I sat here and watched you re-record the introduction to your show in order to take out the head of the 9/11 Commission saying that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

    At which point he just went ballistic, screamed at me, called me an S.O.B. at least three times. He said — [he] guaranteed that this part of the segment would not air, and said that I would never, ever be called back to the show. Which at the time I wasn't sure whether to take as a threat or a promise, but in any event, that's where he left it.

    And later that night, the show aired and there was Bill O'Reilly fuming about the bias and spin of the New York Times, but leaving out both governor Kean's statement and my statement to O'Reilly about his own spinning of the al Qaeda - Saddam Hussein connection. That's the story.

    Then Prof. Cole added this coda:

    Well, the most, sort of, smarmy thing about the whole event was that O'Reilly's opening commentary was all about how terrible spin is, and how terrible the New York Times' spin is, because it's dividing the country, undermining the war on terrorism, and his final line was, "The spin must stop. Our lives depend on it." And then, you know — but he had just spun the statement of Governor Kean to serve his own interests. [My emphasis]

    O'Reilly is such an insufferable gasbag.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Fair and Balanced — Not! Media

    In connection with the release of the film Outfoxed, MoveOn is sponsoring a petition saying that:

    The Federal Trade Commission and Congress must act to prevent Fox News from using the deceptive and misleading trademark "Fair and Balanced."

    Please sign, and ask your friends to sign as well. MoveOn is hoping to get hundreds of thousands of signatures by Wednesday (tomorrow).

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Outfoxed Media  Media  Politics

    Over the weekend, I saw the new film Outfoxed. It's a compelling critique of the Fox News Channel (FNC), and I heartily recommend it. Even if you already know that Fox is bull, your perceptions are likely to be sharpened and clarified by the film's analysis.

    FNC is run by Roger Ailes, the political media consultant Time magazine once called "the legendary dark prince of political advertising", whose tactics of attack-attack-attack propelled the successful campaigns of Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Bush the Elder. What comes through loud and clear in Outfoxed is that Ailes runs FNC exactly like a political campaign. It's a permanent right-wing political campaign posing as a news channel. It's exactly what you would get if the Republican National Committee owned a network.

    Just like in a political campaign, FNC personnel stay "on message". Each day's message is defined by a short memo from Ailes or FNC VP John Moody. Outfoxed includes a number of examples, showing first a memo and then a rapid-fire succession of quick cuts of Fox "journalists" all making the memo's points, often in exactly the same words. This is not how journalism is supposed to work.

    FNC is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who, according to the film, owns:

  • 9 satellite tv networks
  • 100 cable channels
  • 175 newspapers
  • 40 book imprints
  • 40 tv stations
  • 1 movie studio
    The film says as well that 4.7 billion people, 75% of all people on Earth, are within the coverage area of Murdoch's various media properties. Murdoch's media companies, and FNC in particular, relentlessly spread his right-wing message.

    The film's loaded with on-air examples. Some are comic (like the succession of quick cuts of Fox "journalists" insisting that John Kerry "looks French"), most are infuriating. Included are some famous moments, like Bill O'Reilly bullying Jeremy Glick or the election night call of the 2000 election for Bush that we saw in Fahrenheit 9/11. Interviews with former Fox employees paint a damning picture of Fox from the inside.

    There are a number of interviews with media critics as well. My favorite comments come from Bob McChesney, author of The Problem of the Media. McChesney says,

    The real revolutionary breakthrough at Fox has been [that] it’s eliminated journalism. I mean, that’s the thing to understand — what Fox News Channel’s done is that it’s stripped out any notion of journalism, as we’ve traditionally understood it, from its product. There is no journalism at the Fox News Channel. [My emphasis]

    One of the things that makes FNC so effective is that it presents a simulacrum of a real news channel. It lulls you into believing you're watching something other than an extended infomercial, and it hammers you with the slogan, "Fair and Balanced". And in our free society news is factual, right? As McChesney says,

    The first rule of being a great propaganda system, and why our system is vastly superior to anything in the old Soviet Union, is that people [don’t] think they’re being subject[ed] to propaganda. If people don’t think that, they aren’t looking for that, [so] they’re much easier to propagandize. And that’s the genius of our media system, as a system of ideology, of control, compared to an authoritarian system.

    As the film says, polls show that the more you watch Fox the more likely you are to be wrong about the facts of the news. For example, when asked "Does world opinion favor the US invasion of Iraq?", 35% of Fox viewers said yes, compared to only 5% of consumers of PBS/NPR. Results like this prove that Fox is successful propaganda (unless you want to assert that people who choose to watch Fox are just a lot dumber than other people). How does one defend "journalism" whose end result — indeed, whose intention — is to make people know less about the news?

    Finally, as Bob McChesney says:

    When you let a small number of companies have this much concentrated power, they will always abuse it. It’s simply unacceptable in a free society. And if you don’t change the system we can be having this conversation for the next 50 years, we’ll be talking about Rupert Murdoch the 3rd. [My emphasis]

    There's lots more in the film. You really want to see it for yourself. Expect to be outraged, energized, and enlightened.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Outfoxed Media  Media  Politics

    Over the weekend, I saw the new film Outfoxed. It's a compelling critique of the Fox News Channel (FNC), and I heartily recommend it. Even if you already know that Fox is bull, your perceptions are likely to be sharpened and clarified by the film's analysis.

    FNC is run by Roger Ailes, the political media consultant Time magazine once called "the legendary dark prince of political advertising", whose tactics of attack-attack-attack propelled the successful campaigns of Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Bush the Elder. What comes through loud and clear in Outfoxed is that Ailes runs FNC exactly like a political campaign. It's a permanent right-wing political campaign posing as a news channel. It's exactly what you would get if the Republican National Committee owned a network.

    Just like in a political campaign, FNC personnel stay "on message". Each day's message is defined by a short memo from Ailes or FNC VP John Moody. Outfoxed includes a number of examples, showing first a memo and then a rapid-fire succession of quick cuts of Fox "journalists" all making the memo's points, often in exactly the same words. This is not how journalism is supposed to work.

    FNC is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who, according to the film, owns:

  • 9 satellite tv networks
  • 100 cable channels
  • 175 newspapers
  • 40 book imprints
  • 40 tv stations
  • 1 movie studio
    The film says as well that 4.7 billion people, 75% of all people on Earth, are within the coverage area of Murdoch's various media properties. Murdoch's media companies, and FNC in particular, relentlessly spread his right-wing message.

    The film's loaded with on-air examples. Some are comic (like the succession of quick cuts of Fox "journalists" insisting that John Kerry "looks French"), most are infuriating. Included are some famous moments, like Bill O'Reilly bullying Jeremy Glick or the election night call of the 2000 election for Bush that we saw in Fahrenheit 9/11. Interviews with former Fox employees paint a damning picture of Fox from the inside.

    There are a number of interviews with media critics as well. My favorite comments come from Bob McChesney, author of The Problem of the Media. McChesney says,

    The real revolutionary breakthrough at Fox has been [that] it’s eliminated journalism. I mean, that’s the thing to understand — what Fox News Channel’s done is that it’s stripped out any notion of journalism, as we’ve traditionally understood it, from its product. There is no journalism at the Fox News Channel. [My emphasis]

    One of the things that makes FNC so effective is that it presents a simulacrum of a real news channel. It lulls you into believing you're watching something other than an extended infomercial, and it hammers you with the slogan, "Fair and Balanced". And in our free society news is factual, right? As McChesney says,

    The first rule of being a great propaganda system, and why our system is vastly superior to anything in the old Soviet Union, is that people [don’t] think they’re being subject[ed] to propaganda. If people don’t think that, they aren’t looking for that, [so] they’re much easier to propagandize. And that’s the genius of our media system, as a system of ideology, of control, compared to an authoritarian system.

    As the film says, polls show that the more you watch Fox the more likely you are to be wrong about the facts of the news. For example, when asked "Does world opinion favor the US invasion of Iraq?", 35% of Fox viewers said yes, compared to only 5% of consumers of PBS/NPR. Results like this prove that Fox is successful propaganda (unless you want to assert that people who choose to watch Fox are just a lot dumber than other people). How does one defend "journalism" whose end result — indeed, whose intention — is to make people know less about the news?

    Finally, as Bob McChesney says:

    When you let a small number of companies have this much concentrated power, they will always abuse it. It’s simply unacceptable in a free society. And if you don’t change the system we can be having this conversation for the next 50 years, we’ll be talking about Rupert Murdoch the 3rd. [My emphasis]

    There's lots more in the film. You really want to see it for yourself. Expect to be outraged, energized, and enlightened.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb