Softpanorama

May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
Contents Bulletin Scripting in shell and Perl Network troubleshooting History Humor

Softpanorama Media Skeptic Bulletin, 2005

Recommended Book

Guardians of Power

The First Media Lens book, released December 2005

GUARDIANS OF POWER

The Myth of the Liberal Media

by David Edwards and David Cromwell

Publication date: December 2005
Pages: 240pp Size: DEMY (215x135mm)

Paperback

ISBN: 0745324827 Paperback
Price: £14.99 / $24.95 / €22.50
Buy now

Synopsis

Can a corporate media system be expected to tell the truth about a world dominated by corporations? Can newspapers, including the 'liberal' "Guardian" and the "Independent," tell the truth about catastrophic climate change - about its roots in mass consumerism and corporate obstructionism - when they are themselves profit-oriented businesses dependent on advertisers for 75 per cent of their revenues? Can the BBC tell the truth about UK government crimes in Iraq when its senior managers are appointed by the government? Has anything fundamentally changed since BBC founder Lord Reith wrote of the establishment: "They know they can trust us not to be really impartial"? Why did the British and American mass media fail to challenge even the most obvious government lies on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the invasion in March 2003? Why did the media ignore the claims of UN weapons inspectors that Iraq had been 90-95 per cent "fundamentally disarmed" as early as 1998? This book answers these questions, and more.

John Pilger says...

“The creators and editors of Media Lens, David Edwards and David Cromwell, have had such influence in a short time that, by holding to account those who, it is said, write history’s draft, they may well have changed the course of modern historiography. They have certainly torn up the ‘ethical blank cheque’, which Richard Drayton referred to [in the Guardian], and have exposed as morally corrupt ‘the right to bomb, to maim, to imprison without trial...’. Without Media Lens during the attack on and occupation of Iraq, the full gravity of that debacle might have been consigned to oblivion, and to bad history.

“They have not bothered with soft targets, such as Rupert Murdoch’s Sun, but have concentrated on that sector of the media which prides itself on its ‘objectivity’, ‘impartiality’ and ‘balance’ (such as the BBC) and its liberalism and fairness (such as the Guardian). Not since Noam Chomsky’s and Edward Herman’s Manufacturing Consent have we had such an incisive and erudite guide through the media’s thicket of agendas and vested interests. Indeed, they have done the job of true journalists: they have set the record straight.

“For this reason, Guardians of Power ought to be required reading in every media college. It is the most important book about journalism I can remember.”

Noam Chomsky says...

"Regular critical analysis of the media, filling crucial gaps and correcting the distortions of ideological prisms, has never been more important. Media Lens has performed a major public service by carrying out this task with energy, insight, and care."

Edward Herman says...

"Media Lens is doing an outstanding job of pressing the mainstream media to at least follow their own stated principles and meet their public service obligations. It is fun as well as enlightening to watch their representatives, while sometimes giving straightforward answers to queries, often getting flustered, angry, evasive, and sometimes mis-stating the facts."

Table of Contents:

  Acknowledgements
  Foreword by John Pilger
1 The Mass Media – Neutral, Honest, Psychopathic
2 Iraq – The Sanctions of Mass Destruction
3 Iraq Disarmed – Burying the 1991-98 Weapons Inspections
4 Iraq – Gunning For War And Burying The Dead
5 Afghanistan – Let Them Eat Grass
6 Kosovo – Real Bombs, Fictional Genocide
7 East Timor – The Practical Limits Of Crusading Humanitarianism
8 Haiti – The Hidden Logic Of Exploitation
9 Idolatry Ink – Reagan,The ‘Cheerful Conservative’ And ‘Chubby Bubba’ Clinton
10 Climate Change – The Ultimate Media Betrayal
11 Disciplined Media – Professional Conformity To Power
12 Towards A Compassionate Media
13 Full Human Dissent
  Resources
  Index

Top Visited
Switchboard
Latest
Past week
Past month

NEWS CONTENTS

Old News ;-)

[May 13, 2005] Stop the Crime of the Century by David Michael Green

May 13, 2005 | CommonDreams.org

In Iraq, there is a crime of breathtaking proportions taking place. Breathtaking, but not necessarily surprising. We know from the historical record that governments will lie and deceive, and we've rarely seen one as immoral and venal as the Bush administration.

What has turned this crime into an astonishing demonstration of the depth of American democracy's decay is the complicity of the media establishment in hiding the original crime, and in thus doing so, ripping a gaping hole in the fabric of our political system.

Did you know that there now exists in the public domain a 'smoking gun' memo, which proves that everything the Bush administration said about the Iraq invasion was a lie? If you live in Britain you probably do, but if you live in the United States, chances are minuscule that you would be aware of this.

Think about that for a second. Apart from 9/11, has there been a more important story in the last decade than that the president lied to the American people about the reasons for invading Iraq, and then proceeded to plunge the country into an illegal war which has alienated the rest of the world, lit a fire under the war's victims and the Islamic world generally, turning them into enemy combatants, locked up virtually all American land forces in a war without end in sight, cost $300 billion and counting, taken over 1600 American lives on top of more than 15,000 gravely wounded, and killed perhaps 100,000 Iraqis?

Could there be a bigger story? "How Do Japanese Dump Trash?", perhaps, which ran on page one of today's (May 12) Times?

Of course not. But then how is it that this is not being reported in the American mainstream media? How is it that the two organs most responsible for coverage of political developments in this country - the New York Times and the Washington Post - have failed to splash this across their front pages in bold headlines, despite the fact that they clearly know of the story? How, especially, could these two papers sit on a story like this after both recently issued mea culpas for their respective failures to critically cover administration claims of bogus Iraqi threats during the period leading up to the war, thereby contributing to the war themselves?

From the Bush administration and the current generation of Republicans, I expect nothing but the most debased and vile politics. And, of course, ditto for Fox News and the rest of the overtly right-wing media. But I have been naive enough, until now, to believe that at least some of the American mainstream media has not climbed completely into bed with those destroyers of all that is decent about American democracy. Apparently I've been a fool.

Here is the story we are not being told.

Several days before their election last week (May 5), a patriot within the highest circle of British government leaked to the Times of London a memo, which proves the degree of deceit to which both the Americans and British publics have been subjected on the subject of the Iraq war. You were never supposed to see this document (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1593607,00.html). It is headlined in bold with this warning: "This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents."

The memo provides minutes from a meeting of Tony Blair's most exclusive war cabinet, held in July of 2002. In the meeting, two of Blair's top officials report on discussions they had just held in Washington with officials at the top levels of the Bush administration.

Before describing the contents of the memo, it is important to note that nobody in the British government has denied to even the slightest degree the authenticity of this document. A highly placed American source has verified, off the record, that it is completely accurate in its recounting of the events described. And Tony Blair's only comment has been that there is 'nothing new' contained in the memo. This could not be more false. The memo proves beyond doubt the following:

* The Bush administration had decided by July 2002, at the latest, to invade Iraq. The memo says that "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action..." Later in the memo it notes that "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action". This means the claims that the president did not have a war plan on his desk at that time are now proven lies. It means that the whole kabuki dance of going to Congress, going to the UN, sending over weapons inspectors, pulling them out before they could finish their work, requiring Iraq to report to the Security Council on its weapons of mass destruction, then immediately rejecting their report as incomplete and deceitful - all of this - was a completely counterfeit exercise conducted for public relations purposes only. It also means that when former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and former terrorism czar Richard Clarke reported that Bush had planned to attack Iraq from the beginning, they - rather than the administration which was personally savaging them as loonies - were telling the truth.

* The Bush and Blair administrations knew that the argument for war against Iraq was weak. As Foreign Secretary Jack Straw notes in the meeting, "But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran". This is proof that Iraq was never anything like the serious threat it was portrayed to be before the war, and that both administrations knew that it was no threat, but knowingly and completely oversold the necessity for the war with their massive phalanx of lies and distortions.

* Because the case was thin, the war would have to be "...justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD". This proves that former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz wasn't kidding when he let slip that the weapons of mass destruction argument was decided on by the administration for "bureaucratic reasons", meaning a rationale that all the leading actors within the administration could agree on as the most effective public relations device for marketing the war.

* Both the Bush and Blair administrations manipulated intelligence to get what they wanted in order to justify the war, and knew that they were doing precisely that. As the memo states, "...the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". This is the most remarkable statement of all, as it makes clear that the decision to invade had nothing to do with facts or any sort of real threat. Rather, it was simply a preference of the Bush administration (and probably just a personal one for Bush), which then became its policy, for which they then twisted and fabricated information and disinformation in order to sell the war to a rightly skeptical public.

* The war was illegal. Kofi Annan and the international community clearly believed that the war was a violation of international law. But we now also know that the British Attorney-General, who has to rule on this point (the question of the legality of launching a war is far less significant, unfortunately, in the American political tradition), "said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defense, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorization [which was never ultimately obtained from the Security Council]. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might change of course." Yes, of course. Then, again, if it didn't, one could always just lie about it.

* Knowing that the war was neither legal nor morally justifiable, the American and British governments therefore sought to find a way to make the war politically acceptable by baiting Saddam. As the memo notes, "We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force". And, "The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors". And, "If the political context were right, people would support regime change".

* Well before the war was 'justified', even in the bogus sense of Washington's and London's inspections and UN resolutions game, it had already begun. The memo states that the "US had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime".

* Finally, it is worth noting that, even putting legal and moral questions aside, the memo also substantiates the sheer strategic incompetence of the administration, a failure which has, of course, produced excessive loss of life. It states that "There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action".

Let's review the bidding here.

We now have definitive, verified and undenied evidence documenting a panoply of lies told to the American and world publics about the invasion of Iraq, a bloody war which was neither legally nor morally justified, despite overt attempts to make it so by those who wished to launch it.

On top of that crime, we can now also add that of America's fourth estate, which has completely abdicated its role and responsibility to present this crucial bombshell of information to the public.

It gets worse, however. Eighty-nine members of Congress have taken note of the items described above, as well as a separate secret briefing for Blair's meeting, in which it was agreed that "Britain and America had to 'create' conditions to justify a war", and have sent a letter to the president (http://www.house.gov/judiciary_democrats/letters/bushsecretmemoltr5505.pdf), demanding a response.

And, yet, still there is no coverage from our press. It appears that demanding that the government respect the will of the people is no longer enough in American democracy. We must now also carry the burden of demanding that the media do its job and cover developments which are unfavorable to the national kleptocracy of which these giant media corporations have become a part.

That noise you hear? It's the sound of America's Founders spinning in their graves. And well they should, for this scenario is precisely the massive concentration of power they most feared. All branches of the government are now in the hands of the same party (meaning, effectively, there virtually are no branches any longer).

The so-called opposition party facilitates Republican rule through the flattery of imitation, when it hasn't gone into hiding instead. The public is frightened and ill-informed. And now this. To this hall of shame list must be added a mainstream press which a week ago seemed only biased and intimidated, but now appears entirely complicit. We are now living precisely the nightmare of Washington, Jefferson, Madison and the rest. It must stop. We cannot have a prayer of an informed public curbing the worst excesses of American government if, in fact, that public is not informed. Sad as it is, if we ever hope to reclaim American democracy, it appears we must now fight for outrageous news to be aired, if we ever expect that news to outrage.

Notwithstanding our worst horrors and fears these last four years, American democracy is in deeper trouble than we knew. Now is the time for patriots to act.

We must begin by demanding coverage of this explosive evidence by the leading organs of American journalism. If the American people remain too jaded or frightened to demand the heads of those who deceived them so thoroughly, they're entitled to inherit the consequences of their own failures. However, they cannot make that choice until they know the facts.

Please therefore, for the sake of innocent Iraqis, for the sake of American soldiers, and for the sake of American democracy, do two things 'write now':

* First, send a message to the New York Times and the Washington Post, demanding that they cover this most significant of stories. Top brass at the New York Times can be emailed at the following addresses: Executive Editor Bill Keller at executive-editor@nytimes.com, and Managing Editor Jill Abramson at managing-editor@nytimes.com. For the Washington Post, try National Editor Michael Abramowitz at abramowitz@washpost.com, and Associate Editor Robert Kaiser at robertgkaiser@yahoo.com.

* Next, forward this article on to everybody you know, and ask them to write the Times and the Post as well, and then to forward this article in turn to everyone they know. With some luck, perhaps we can achieve a critical mass which can no longer be ignored by these papers, with the electronic media then to follow.

In any case, we are evidently going have to take this country back ourselves, without even the benefit of a competent media to report the news.

Fortunately, we possess the greatest weapon of all, the truth.

David Michael Green (pscdmg@hofstra.edu) is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.

Printer Friendly Version

What Judy forgot: Your right to know by Robert Scheer

THE MOST intriguing revelation of Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's news conference last week was his assertion that he would have presented his indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby a year ago if not for the intransigence of reporters who refused to testify before the grand jury. He said that without that delay, "we would have been here in October 2004 instead of October 2005."

Had that been the case, John Kerry probably would be president of the United States today.

Surely a sufficient number of swing voters in the very tight race would have been outraged to learn weeks before the 2004 election that, according to this indictment, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff — a key member of the White House team that made the fraudulent case for invading Iraq — "did knowingly and corruptly endeavor to influence, obstruct and impede the due administration of justice."

It is deeply disturbing that the public was left uninformed about such key information because of the posturing of news organizations that claimed to be upholding the free-press guarantee of the 1st Amendment. As Fitzgerald rightly pointed out, "I was not looking for a 1st Amendment showdown." Nor was one necessary, if reporters had fulfilled their obligation to inform the public, as well as the grand jury, as to what they knew of a possible crime by a government official.

How odd for the press to invoke the Constitution's prohibition against governmental abridgement of the rights of a free press in a situation in which a top White House official exploited reporters in an attempt to abridge an individual's right to free speech.

The spirit of a law is more important than the letter, but the reporters who fought to avoid testifying to the grand jury in the investigation that snared Libby upheld neither. They were acting as knowing accomplices to a top White House official's attempt to discredit a whistle-blower.

As the indictment makes clear, this was a case in which the reporters had direct knowledge relevant to the commission of a crime perpetrated by at least one top administration aide. "They're the eyewitness to the crime," Fitzgerald said.

In particular, the indictment makes a farce of the theatrics of New York Times reporter Judith Miller. She knew early on that Libby was using the media to punish former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV for exposing President Bush's false claim that Iraq sought nuclear material from the African nation of Niger. According to the indictment, at a June 23, 2003, meeting with Miller, "Libby was critical of the CIA and disparaged what he termed 'selective leaking' by the CIA concerning intelligence matters. In discussing the CIA's handling of Wilson's trip to Niger, Libby informed her that Wilson's wife might work at a bureau of the CIA."

That paragraph from the indictment is key to this entire sordid affair. Wilson at that time was beginning to talk to reporters about one of the more egregious distortions in the president's State of the Union speech justifying the Iraq invasion — the 16-word fabrication about Saddam Hussein's nuclear intentions.

Libby, who had been a source for Miller's erroneous hyping in the New York Times of Iraq's WMD threat, was now attempting to shift blame to the Central Intelligence Agency by impugning Wilson's motives for stepping forth as a critic of the war.


INSTEAD OF confronting Libby for trying to mislead reporters, Miller did nothing to expose his efforts to smear a former ambassador for raising such questions. At the very least, she should have written a story stating that a White House official was planting information to disparage a critic of its war policy. Miller couldn't do that because she had acceded to Libby's demand that his White House connection be concealed in any articles she wrote, by identifying him as a "former [Capitol] Hill staffer."

This case was never about protecting government sources who risk their careers by telling the truth, but rather about punishing those like Wilson who do. That Miller cared far more about protecting someone who abused his power as the vice president's chief of staff than about protecting the right of Wilson to speak truth to power says volumes about her priorities.

That the New York Times again editorialized last week in defense of its knee-jerk support of Miller, even after knowing she deceived her editors, is a startling indication that even some of our most respected media leaders still are missing the point.

The 1st Amendment protection is not a license for mischief on the part of journalists eager to do the government's bidding. To the contrary, it was conceived by the founders to prevent government from subverting the free press in an effort to misinform the public. Unfortunately, that is precisely what occurred here.

A crusade in support of a flawed crusader - Los Angeles Times

October 18, 2005 | latimes.com : Opinion

The New York Times used its resources to back reporter Judith Miller, tarnishing itself in a case that wasn't about the 1st Amendment.

MEDIA corporations are arguably the most important yet least examined centers of power in our society. The owners of the Fourth Estate have a unique ability to direct the searchlight of inquiry upon others while remaining powerfully positioned to deflect it from themselves.

That is the blunt message of the belated but devastating report in Sunday's New York Times on how the paper turned reporter Judith Miller's "case into a cause." In its zeal to present its own discredited reporter as a 1st Amendment hero, the "paper of record" badly neutered its news department's coverage of the Miller saga and deployed its editorial page as a battering ram in her defense, publishing 15 editorials supporting Miller's protection of her White House source.
"The Times … limited its own ability to cover aspects of one of the biggest scandals of the day," concluded the front-page article. "Even as the paper asked for the public's support, it was unable to answer its questions."

The paper, led by publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., waged a nonstop public crusade not just to protect Miller in the courts but to make her an outright heroine — obscuring the fact that she was not protecting the public's right to know but was abetting the Bush administration in its shameless and possibly criminal attempt to discredit a whistle-blower. That whistle-blower, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, had enraged the administration by exposing its use of faked WMD evidence as justification for invading Iraq.

For reasons that are still murky (and which are not made clearer by her own lengthy statement printed in the same edition), Miller argues that a waiver signed last year by Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was not good enough to allow her to testify and that simply asking Libby point-blank whether he had signed the waiver willingly would have been somehow unethical.

"She has the keys to release herself," the judge said when holding Miller in contempt of court for refusing to testify. "She has a waiver she chooses not to recognize."

To understand how the New York Times got to this embarrassing point, it must be acknowledged that even at highly regarded newspapers, editors serve at the whim of their publishers. What is clear from the Times' Sunday exposé is that publisher Sulzberger granted Miller uncritical backing despite the severe reservations felt by some of the paper's top editors.

Douglas Frantz, then the investigative editor at the New York Times and now managing editor of the L.A. Times, is quoted as saying Miller once called herself "Miss Run Amok," and when he asked her what that meant, she said, "I can do whatever I want."

Others at the New York Times, including top editors, had become highly suspicious of her sourcing on Iraq WMD stories. They even went so far as to publish an "Editor's Note" questioning the paper's own coverage of the run-up to the war — with particular emphasis on five of Miller's pieces. But those well-honed editorial sensibilities didn't matter much once the publisher weighed in.

Despite being abysmally ignorant of some of the case's details, the publisher granted Miller total license to define her stonewalling of the grand jury as a freedom-of-the-press battle.

"This car had her hand on the wheel because she was the one at risk," Sulzberger said, ignoring the risks to the paper's integrity. There were also other lives, careers and reputations in the balance, particular that of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, her covert contacts who had helped her track down WMD, and her ex-diplomat husband.

Yet Sulzberger's insistence that Miller was the true victim carried the day at the paper his family owns. As Miller put it in honest, if gloating, terms: "He galvanized the editors, the senior editorial staff. He metaphorically and literally put his arm around me."

Evidently galvanizing the editors led to their suspending the profound doubts that they felt concerning Miller's tactics and standards as a reporter. Perhaps most damaging in Sunday's article is the admission that an article on Libby and Plamegate was apparently squashed by top management to protect Miller.

"It was taken pretty clearly among us as a signal that we were cutting too close to the bone, that we were getting into an area that could complicate Judy's situation," said Richard Stevenson, one of the censored reporters.

As for Miller, she seems to still have no clue as to what it means to be an ethical journalist. "We have everything to be proud of and nothing to apologize for," she stated, apparently referring to herself and to the great newspaper she was allowed to corrupt.

AMBUSHING DISSENT - THE BBC'S JEREMY PAXMAN INTERVIEWS GEORGE GALLOWAY

May 10, 2005

"The 'societal purpose' of the media is to inculcate and defend the economic, social and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the state." (Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky - Manufacturing Consent)

Highly-paid presenters have privileged access to 'respectable' mainstream politicians which they are very keen to maintain. It is vital that such high-level sources not be seriously alienated or offended by pertinent, but potentially damaging, questions. Overlooking obvious truths about mass violence conducted by western governments, media professionals are expert at cultivating a veneer of dogged commitment to truth.

Even when being questioned sharply, leading politicians are treated respectfully with no insinuation that the interviewee is despicable or malevolent. No such considerations apply, however, when the media confront "rogues" or "mavericks" who represent a challenge to established power and the ideology underpinning its brutality. In these special cases, the doctrinal system requires that threatening figures be dealt with aggressively, typically with ridicule and contempt.

Thus, in the early hours of the morning after Britain's May 5 general election, viewers were treated to a remarkable exchange between the BBC's principal 'rottweiler', Jeremy Paxman, and George Galloway, the former Labour MP now with the anti-war Respect party. Galloway had just deposed the Blairite Labour MP, Oona King, in the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency of East London.

Galloway's victory was remarkable, overcoming a 10,000 majority in the face of the full might of New Labour's political machine. His success surely reflects the extraordinary level of anti-war feeling in the country, two years after two million people marched in February 2003 - the largest political protest in UK history.

The BBC exchange began thus:

Jeremy Paxman: "Mr Galloway, are you proud of having got rid of one of the very few black women in Parliament?"

George Galloway: "What a preposterous question. I know it's very late in the night, but wouldn't you be better starting by congratulating me for one of the most sensational election results in modern history?"

JP: "Are you proud of having got rid of one of the very few black women in Parliament?"

GG: "I'm not [pause]. Jeremy, move on to your next question."

JP: "You're not answering that one?"

GG: "No, because I don't believe that people get elected because of the colour of their skin. I believe people get elected because of their record and because of their policies. So move on to your next question." (Broadcast BBC Election Night Special, 6 May, 2005; video and transcript available at: www.informationclearinghouse.info/article8763.htm)

Paxman's feigned concern for diversity actually rests on the racist and sexist assumption that candidates should be given special consideration on account of their colour or gender.

Moments later, Paxman said: "I put it to you Mr Galloway that [former local government minister] Nick Raynsford had you to a T when he said you were a 'demagogue'."

As far as we are aware, Paxman has never "put it" to any leading government minister that he or she is a "demagogue", despite an abundance of evidence that media-amplified propaganda and demagoguery enabled the war on Iraq, as well as earlier attacks on Afghanistan and Serbia. We look forward to Paxman suggesting to Tony Blair in a future interview: "I put it to you Mr Blair that George Galloway had you to a T when he said you were a 'war criminal'."

Perhaps other BBC presenters and journalists will also take up the cause of due impartiality. BBC political editor Andrew Marr will then confront Blair at his next press conference: "Are you proud to have won this election on the back of outrageous lies, and an invasion-occupation in violation of the UN Charter, as suggested even by your own advisors?"

BBC Radio 4 Today's John Humphrys will no doubt ask Foreign Secretary Jack Straw: "Are you proud to have won this election at the cost of 100,000 dead people in Iraq and countless hundreds of thousands of injured, malnourished and diseased civilians?"

His colleague James Naughtie will repeatedly press Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown: "Are you proud to have won this election after funding a war that was belatedly declared illegal by Kofi Annan and that has led to a major increase in terrorism?"

Expensively Dressed Loudmouth - The Media Go To Work

Over on ITN, European correspondent Juliet Bremner described how Galloway had secured victory with the use of "virulent anti-war views" - an interesting concept. (ITN 22:30 News, May 6, 2005)

Prior to the election (12:30 News, May 3), ITN had ambushed Galloway in a 6-minute interview ostensibly intended to allow the public to pose questions on Respect party policies. News anchors Nick Owen and Katie Derham began by asking about the "I salute you" comment Galloway is alleged to have made to Saddam Hussein in 1994. Anticipating Galloway's rejection - he claims he was saluting the Iraqi people, not Saddam - ITN had a pre-prepared videotape on hand to show the clip in question.

Whereas establishment politicians are to be afforded appropriate courtesy and respect, the press find it almost impossible to mention Galloway's name without employing adjectives like "controversial" and "maverick". The consistent focus on personal foibles and alleged faults also contrasts starkly with coverage afforded to more 'serious' politicians.

Thus the Daily Mail noted "the expensively dressed political maverick's Respect Party snatched the seat which Labour has held since 1945 with a 26.2 per cent swing". ('Electrifying moments that lit up the small hours,' Daily Mail, May 7, 2005)

The Express reported how "the maverick left-winger clashed with Paxman". ('Winner George loses it again,' John Chapman and David Pilditch, Express, May 7, 2005)

The Sun noted in an article with the breath-takingly ironic title, 'Maverick "Stirred up racism":

"Loudmouth George Galloway was accused of stirring up racial tensions to scrape back into Parliament." (The Sun, May 7, 2005)

The Times observed: "The latest chapter in the turbulent parliamentary career of George Galloway, newly elected MP for Bethnal Green & Bow, began yesterday in the maverick style that is his trademark. He stayed in bed." ('Galloway sleeps on his victory after an incendiary campaign,' Sam Lister, Sean O'Neill and Giles Whittell, The Times, May 7, 2005)

The article concluded: "Asked what she thought of her new MP, one drinker in the Coborn Arms opposite Respect's headquarters said: 'I want to move house.'"

The Guardian noted: "The most extraordinary result was secured by the maverick former Labour MP George Galloway." ('London delivers bloody nose as Galloway wins bitter fight, Hugh Muir, The Guardian, May 6, 2005)

Elsewhere, the media reflexively describe Galloway as "flamboyant" and "controversial", descriptions which express proper ridicule and contempt for the "Rogue MP". (The Sun, 'Not a shred of remorse,' Trevor Kavanagh, July 2, 2004)

The smears are repeated around the world. The Jerusalem Post notes:

"'This defeat is for Iraq. All the people you have killed, all the lies you have told have come back to haunt you,' declared maverick lawmaker George Galloway following his tight election victory... But Galloway's electoral success has been met with alarm and disdain across Britain." ('Galloway win causes alarm,' Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post, May 8, 2005)

In fact, right across the spectrum, "rogue" thinkers, politicians and parties are relentlessly smeared and mocked by the elite media. The effect is as inevitable as it is intended - to persuade the public to revile and turn away from radical voices threatening established privilege and power.

SUGGESTED ACTION

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. When writing emails to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to Jeremy Paxman, Newsnight presenter:
Email: jeremy.paxman@bbc.co.uk

Write to James Stephenson, Election Night Special editor:
Email: james.stephenson@bbc.co.uk

Write to Helen Boaden, BBC news director:
Email: helenboaden.complaints@bbc.co.uk

Please send copies of all emails to us at:
Email: editor@medialens.org

You may also wish to consider lodging an official complaint (which guarantees an answer) about the Newswatch article at: www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

This is a free service. However, financial support is vital. Please consider donating to Media Lens

Surrealpolitik By Matthew Brzezinski

March 20, 2005 | washingtonpost.com

How a Chechen terror suspect wound up living on taxpayers' dollars near the National Zoo

The apartment felt like a safe house. The curtains were drawn. Someone else's family portraits hung on the walls, and a stranger's books lined the shelves. Other than a small framed photograph of the sons he had not seen in nearly three years, Ilyas Akhmadov hadn't bothered to unpack in the two weeks that he'd been there. His meager belongings stood near the door, ready for a hasty exit.

The 44-year-old fugitive Chechen rebel leader had made more than a few hurried departures on his way to becoming one of Russia's most wanted men, and he had been almost constantly on the move since fellow insurgents smuggled him out of war-torn Grozny in 1999. But on the day intermediaries arranged for us to first meet last fall, Akhmadov seemed anxious not to leave the temporary sanctuary offered by this borrowed two-bedroom apartment.

"Will you have another coffee?" he asked shyly in Russian. It was his fifth and my fourth, and the air had grown thick from countless cigarettes. As he spoke of Chechnya's two-century struggle for independence, smoke swirled around his spiky gray mustache, and, in the dark, caffeinated atmosphere, he looked momentarily like the sinister image of the jihadist mastermind he is accused of being. "I'm a little afraid to go outside," he finally confessed. "Someone might recognize me."

Staying out of the spotlight hasn't been easy for Akhmadov, who served briefly as foreign minister of Chechnya -- an internal Russian republic in the Caucasus Mountains that is slightly larger than Connecticut -- when the territory's 1 million mostly Muslim inhabitants tried to break away from Moscow during the 1990s. Since the Kremlin launched its most recent offensive against Chechen separatists last year, following the deadly September siege of an elementary school in Beslan, in southern Russia, Akhmadov has been the object of U.N. resolutions and antiterror rallies. Thousands of people took to the streets of Moscow last fall to protest the Beslan tragedy, which claimed more than 300 lives, and many of the demonstrators carried banners calling Akhmadov a child murderer. The Russian press portrayed him as a cold-blooded killer. And just a few days before my visit, CNN had broadcast his picture for the entire world to see. Sooner or later, Akhmadov worried, someone was bound to spot him on the street and make the connection. The wrong connection, he said.

Akhmadov's story might be just another shadowy tale from the global war on terror, if not for one important twist. The apartment he was holed up in was not in some remote former Soviet republic or extremist Islamic haven. It was smack in the middle of Washington, next to the National Zoo. He was here legally, as a newly minted political refugee -- and if he was hiding, it was more or less in plain sight. American taxpayers, in fact, were about to start paying his salary at a congressionally funded think tank.

How is this possible? Well, it doesn't hurt that Akhmadov enjoys the patronage of a group of very senior Washington luminaries. His backers include two former secretaries of state, Madeleine Albright and Alexander Haig; a former defense secretary, Frank Carlucci; a former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski; and some of the biggest names in elected politics, from Ted Kennedy on one side of the Senate aisle to John McCain on the other.

Akhmadov, according to his supporters, is hardly the bloodthirsty radical that Russia claims. "I found him someone whose life was dedicated to peace, not terrorism," Albright assured then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in a 2003 letter endorsing Akhmadov's request for political asylum. "I have met with Mr. Akhmadov on three occasions," Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) petitioned then-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in a similar recommendation. "I have found him to be a proponent of peace and human rights in Chechnya."

Moscow, not surprisingly, has a very different view. "He's a terrorist, there is no doubt about it," says Aleksander Lukashevich, a senior political counselor at the Russian Embassy in Washington. "We have proof . . . Our foreign minister has made Russia's position on extradition quite clear."

The Russians are not the only ones in Washington questioning Akhmadov's innocence. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), and the chairman of Judiciary's immigration, border security and claims subcommittee, John Hostettler (R-Ind.), have jointly requested that the attorney general's office review Akhmadov's asylum ruling. "If the United States had evidence that Mr. Akhmadov was involved in terrorist activities," they wrote in a letter last September to Ashcroft, "it is unclear why he was not barred from asylum as a terrorist and as a danger to the security of our nation."

Thus far, Akhmadov's backers have carried the day. But the sheer persistence of his supporters raises its own set of questions. Why would some of this country's eldest statesmen risk damaging their reputations, not to mention alienating a key international ally, on someone wanted in connection with terrorism?

And why, at a time of bitter party divisions, would liberals and conservatives find common cause defending an obscure Chechen refugee whose presence on U.S. soil has sparked demonstrations outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and infuriated the Kremlin?

"How would Americans feel if Russia offered sanctuary to Osama bin Laden?" demanded Pravda.ru, the nationalist online reincarnation of the propaganda organ of the Communist Party. The tensions, not surprisingly, have spilled over to the diplomatic front, where Russian officials have been barely able to contain their outrage. "Harboring terrorists, their henchmen and sponsors undermines the unity and mutual trust of parties to the antiterrorist front," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned Washington in an emotional speech before the U.N. General Assembly last fall. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin recently weighed in on the matter, accusing the United States of hypocrisy. "We cannot have double standards while fighting terrorism," he said during a December visit to India, "and it cannot be used as a geopolitical game."

Indeed, a game does appear to be afoot in Washington over an issue that goes well beyond the conflict in Chechnya. It is a bipartisan push from outside the administration to call attention to Russia's rollback of democracy under Putin. The effort has gained momentum, as evidenced by the growing chorus of voices calling on President Bush to honor his inaugural address pledge to confront repression and to take the Russian leader to task.

"Russia, under Putin, is either already a fascist state, or close to becoming one," says former CIA director James Woolsey. "And it's time we acknowledge that." Woolsey, along with the neoconservatives William Kristol and Francis Fukuyama, Democratic mainstay Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.), former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and 95 other U.S and European signatories recently published an open letter calling for a review of policies toward Russia. "Western leaders continue to embrace President Putin in the face of growing evidence" that Russia is spiraling toward dictatorship, the 100 wrote. The West, they further warned, "must recognize that our current strategy toward Russia is failing."

In this light, the effort by a coalition of old Cold Warriors to keep a frightened Chechen refugee out of Russia's reach takes on a whole new dimension, as a point on the sharp end of a wedge forming between Washington and Moscow that could widen in the near future.

TWO WEEKS HAD PASSED since the CNN broadcast introduced Akhmadov to American viewers, and he was visibly less anxious. He had not been waylaid by angry mobs and was venturing out again, suggesting we meet at an Irish pub on Connecticut Avenue. But his newfound confidence had limits. "I'm sorry, but would you mind if I sit there?" He pointed to a bench against the wall. "I don't like to leave myself exposed with my back to the door."

With his runner's build, jeans, short graying hair and pressed, plaid shirt of the sort sold in the L.L. Bean catalogue, Akhmadov blended into the afternoon crowd. Still, it's easy to see why he's looking over his shoulder. Russia has sent hit squads after exiled Chechen officials. Two weeks ago, former Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov was killed in a Russian special forces operation. Last summer two Russian agents in Qatar were convicted of assassinating a top Chechen rebel there. And, in October, a suspicious fire badly damaged the home of Akhmed Zakayev, another prominent exile, in London. British police said the blaze was almost certainly the work of arsonists. Though it's unlikely Moscow would try a stunt like that in Washington, Akhmadov is taking seriously Putin's vow last fall to hunt down and "neutralize" Chechen terrorists wherever they hide."It's very convenient for Putin to call us all terrorists," said Akhmadov, sipping a Samuel Adams ale. "That way he does not have to negotiate with us, and he can continue killing the Chechen people at will."

Akhmadov fidgeted with his frothy stein while our burgers arrived. He was surprisingly particular about his beer. It had to be Sam Adams, and it had to be draft, not bottled. "You don't need to write that," he fretted. "I don't know how it would go over back home."

By back home, of course, he meant Chechnya's capital, Grozny, though it's unlikely he can ever set foot there again. He was worried that some factions of the Chechen resistance might react badly to news that their unofficial representative in America consumes alcohol. Most Chechens are only nominally Muslim, thanks to 70 years of Soviet-enforced atheism and centuries of cultural isolation. But a more firebrand form of fundamentalism has taken root in some quarters of the underground, which has fallen under the sway of al Qaeda-type radicals from the Middle East who came to Chechnya in the 1990s to help fight the Russians and preach jihad. Unfortunately for Akhmadov, the head of Chechnya's deadliest jihadist movement is his former friend and field commander, Shamil Basayev, the man who in an Internet posting asserted responsibility for killing more than 300 people, most of them schoolchildren, in Beslan. A hero of Chechnya's war of independence, a former deputy prime minister and in many ways Akhmadov's mentor, Basayev has split from the mainstream resistance and started routinely targeting Russians.

"With Beslan," said Akhmadov, who was in the United States at the time and, like many Chechen leaders, condemns terrorism, "Basayev cast a death sentence on all of Chechnya and any hope of a negotiated settlement. He has dug our national grave, and foolishly played right into Putin's hands."

Basayev, who is in hiding somewhere in the Caucasus region, is unavailable to join the debate, but what Akhmadov says about him is a common refrain among those in Washington who follow developments in the Caucasus for a living. "The Russians are trying to treat Chechen separatism through the prism of 9/11 and terror rather than as a nationalist movement that has been defying Kremlin rule for 200 years," explains Glen Howard, president of the Jamestown Foundation, a think tank with roots in the Cold War that has long taken a critical view of Russia and is among Akhmadov's most ardent backers. "Unfortunately, the strategy has been very successful."

Akhmadov took a long, frustrated swig of his beer. He developed an affinity for the Massachusetts ale during his days in Boston, where the immigration courts spent months grilling him on his relationship with Basayev. That the two were once close, Akhmadov does not deny.

"I remember the first time I met him," he said. It was in 1992, a heady time. Akhmadov had gotten his master's degree in political science after serving five years in the Soviet strategic nuclear rocket forces, had done a stint teaching high school and was looking to get involved in the democratic movements sweeping the former Soviet bloc. One after another, the 15 republics of the U.S.S.R. had declared independence, and Chechnya had followed suit. But unlike Ukraine, the Baltic states or Kazakhstan, Chechnya was an internal republic of the new Russian Federation. Grozny had declared independence not from the Soviet Union but from Russia proper, a dangerous precedent that could pave the way for any of the federation's 88 other provinces to split. While the separatist movement was alarming in Moscow, there was too much chaos in the wake of the Soviet collapse to do anything about it at the time.

Basayev had been among the thousands of people on the barricades with Boris Yeltsin in 1991 defending the parliament building against hard-line Communist coup-plotters. At 27, he was a few years younger than Akhmadov, and seemed almost terminally shy at their first meeting, Akhmadov recalled. "He was addressing a group of soldiers. Big, tough guys. His voice was barely a whisper, and he never looked up from the ground when he spoke. But all these huge guys hung on his every word. I was amazed by his quiet authority, the obvious respect these fighters had for him."

The reason for that respect quickly became apparent when the first Chechen war started in late 1994. Yeltsin, who by then had called out the tanks to put down a parliamentary revolt the year before, was contemplating a run at a second term as president in the 1996 election. Trailing badly at the polls, with only single-digit support, he launched what his advisers assured him would be a brief and popular campaign to return Chechnya to the Russian fold. A short, victorious war, as his advisers described the offensive, would restore Yeltsin's standing with the voting public. Akhmadov was in Moscow when he heard state television read a telegram from a pro-Kremlin faction in Chechnya asking Yeltsin to reinstate constitutional order in the breakaway republic. He says he knew instantly a war had begun: "In 1979, state television had broadcast an almost identical message for help from Afghanistan. So it meant only one thing."

Akhmadov rushed home and signed up as a foot soldier in a unit Basayev was organizing to defend the outskirts of Grozny. "I found my old [Red Army] uniform and borrowed a revolver from a neighbor." The gun only had seven rounds of ammunition, but Akhmadov supplemented his meager arsenal with two hand grenades, borrowed from another neighbor. Ironically, his old Soviet army-issue fatigues almost cost him his life. On his way to link up with one of Basayev's ragtag battalions, Akhmadov suddenly found himself under intense machine-gun fire. "I hit the ground, and bullets went right between my arms and legs," he laughed. "I was furious. The guy firing at me was a Chechen. When he emptied his clip, I shouted, 'You idiot, I'm one of yours.' 'Me, idiot?' he yelled back. 'You're the one going around dressed like a Russian.'"

Basayev, meanwhile, was quickly proving himself an able commander. From the war's first skirmish, in which Russian tank battalions masqueraded as pro-Kremlin Chechen forces, Basayev displayed cunning and courage. "We were terrified," Akhmadov recalled. "But Basayev told us not to worry, that tanks only make good targets for RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades, a favorite weapon of insurgents]. Well, we routed the offensive, and captured 60 Russian tank officers."

From there, Basayev's reputation as a daring field commander only grew. "Everyone wanted to be in his battalion. He was a master tactician and had the lowest casualty rates. It was astonishing. He remembered the name of every single soldier under his command, and knew their strengths and weaknesses."

Basayev, Akhmadov recalled, never invoked religion as a rallying cry in the early days of the war. "We had foreigners, mostly Arab veterans of Afghanistan, who came to join the fight and preach jihad," Akhmadov remembered. "But Basayev treated them with contempt and kept his distance. He used to make jokes about the fundamentalists. He called them blockheads."

If Basayev had made an impression on Akhmadov, Akhmadov must have also favorably impressed his commander, because Basayev promoted him out of the ranks and appointed him his aide. Later, Basayev introduced him to Maskhadov, a rebel commander who would be elected Chechen president in 1997 after forcing Moscow to sign a humiliating cease-fire. Eventually Maskhadov would appoint Akhmadov his foreign minister.

"What about Budyonnovsk?" I asked. A pained expression formed on Akhmadov's narrow, intense features. "Yes," he acknowledged, after a few seconds' pause. "That's where Basayev first crossed the line."

Budyonnovsk was the site of a 1995 raid, ostensibly targeting a forward Russian helicopter base 100 miles north of the Chechen border. Basayev and a group of 150 heavily armed commandos, according to the Chechen version of the story, were repelled from the base and chased to a nearby hospital, where the commandos took more than 1,000 hostages in a weeklong standoff. Using the patients and staff as human shields, the Chechen version goes, Basayev was able to return safely to Chechnya, though more than 100 Russian hostages died when Russian forces tried unsuccessfully to storm the hospital.

Moscow has a different version of the events, asserting that the whole enterprise was intended as a terror tactic, that the hospital was always the intended target and that the Russian hostages were executed by the Chechen rebels, and not the victims of Russian friendly fire. Akhmadov says he had been hospitalized with a leg injury during the Budyonnovsk siege and was not privy to its planning or execution. But he remembers being troubled by the use of civilians. "This is the sort of thing the Russians did, intentionally target noncombatants." As soon as he had convalesced, he sought out Basayev. "I asked what the truth was," he recalls. "And he was very evasive." Basayev had not wanted to discuss the operational details, and Akhmadov said he had let the matter drop out of respect for the man who had defended Grozny on so many occasions. Akhmadov now concedes that he did not grasp the raid's full implications. "It was war -- we had stray dogs eating corpses in Grozny, and different rules seemed to apply. You, too, in America," he added, "are learning this in Iraq." With the benefit of hindsight, he said, "I think [Basayev] realized that even if he had failed to take out the attack helicopters, he had nonetheless scored a huge psychological victory. All of Russia watched while the Kremlin was powerless to stop him. I think the success of Budyonnovsk started him thinking like a terrorist."

But Basayev was still a hero to most Chechens, including Akhmadov. After the August 1996 Russian withdrawal, President Maskhadov named Basayev deputy prime minister. "Maskhadov needed to unify the country," said Akhmadov. Chechnya, at the time, was in complete chaos. Much like Afghanistan after the Soviet defeat, the tiny enclave quickly degenerated into a lawless chasm of feuding clans. There was no economy to speak of.

Bandits and kidnappers seemed to be running the place, and basic services such as water and electricity had been obliterated. "One of the biggest problems of war is what to do with the combatants afterward," said Akhmadov. "Basayev was too popular to be left out of the new government."

Because there were virtually no state institutions, it fell on the former commanders to care for their former soldiers. Basayev doled out money for medicine and food that he received from rich Chechens abroad. Apparently, his welfare net extended to playing matchmaker, Akhmadov recalled. "Basayev said we all needed to get married and have children to replace the dead." Akhmadov balked at the idea of starting a family in such unstable times. But Basayev was adamant, and Chechnya had a long tradition of arranged marriages. "He told me I had three weeks to find a wife, or he'd find one for me." An introduction was arranged, and Akhmadov wed Malika, a young dark-haired relative of one of Basayev's best fighters. Though they were from different clans -- Akhmadov is descended from mountain dwellers; Malika's people are from the plains -- the two hit it off. As a wedding gift, Basayev helped find the couple an apartment that had not been bombed out. For a while, Akhmadov continued to work for Basayev, answering his correspondence at the prime minister's office. "He would get letters from all over Russia: retirees begging him to interfere on their behalf so that they could get their pensions on time; soldiers wanting to join him; even some of his former hostages wrote," asking him to return to Budyonnovsk to set the town's corrupt mayor straight.

All the while, though, Akhmadov said, Basayev was continuing to change. "He was increasingly closed as a person, and distrustful. He used to have a good sense of humor. I remember once during the war, he tried to arrange a [soccer] match with a senior Rus-sian officer. 'If my men win,' he said, 'you give us sniper scopes and ammunition.' 'What do I get if we win?' asked the Russian. 'You get to go home alive,' answered Basayev."

But the bravado that had once marked Basayev as such a charismatic leader was no longer on display. He began to withdraw from the public, quit smoking and cut out coffee. "He started reading all these religious texts," Akhmadov said. Basayev's Islamic conversion was noted by others as well. A predecessor of Akhmadov's as foreign minister, Shamil Beno, also a close friend of Basayev's, told a Post reporter: "He started moving from freedom for Chechnya to freedom for the whole Arab world. He changed from a Chechen patriot into an Islamic globalist."

Soon, said Akhmadov, Basayev was spouting Islamic slogans, teaching himself to read Arabic and praying five times a day. He began to break with Maskhadov on fundamental issues, such as continuing negotiations with Moscow, and claimed he was now receiving guidance from a higher authority. "In council debates Basayev started quoting the Koran, becoming very dogmatic." He had taken a new name and honorific, Abdullah Shamil Abu Idris, amir of the Rijalis-Salichin diversionary regiment of the Chechen shahids, or martyrs.

It was a bit much for Akhmadov, and the two quietly parted ways. There was no blowout or dramatic scene; Akhmadov simply went to work at the nascent Chechen foreign ministry while Basayev resigned from the government. But if Basayev was distancing himself from the mainstream Chechen leadership (and vice versa), he was not entirely retreating from public view. In 1999, he and Amir Khattab, a Saudi holy warrior and veteran of al Qaeda's Afghan training camps, launched a high-profile incursion into neighboring Russian Dagestan to try to topple the secular authorities there. Moscow reacted with predictable fury at the botched attempt to spread an Islamic revolt in the greater Caucasus. Soon afterward, a rash of mysterious apartment bombings rocked Russia. Putin, a former KGB officer whom Yeltsin had made head of domestic intelligence and his anointed successor, quickly pinned the blame on Chechen extremists and began mobilizing for war.

The war drums were already beating when Akhmadov says he last saw Basayev, in late 1999. It was a chance encounter on the street, and Akhmadov, who was foreign minister by then, barely recognized his old comrade in arms. "He was a different person; he had a strange, glassy look in his eye. 'Well,' he told me. 'I guess you are going to have your work cut out for you.'"

Akhmadov, however, was in no mood for jokes and adopted a more confrontational tone with his former mentor. "I asked Basayev point-blank if he knew anything about the apartment bombings," Akhmadov recalled, "and he swore that he did not." But Russian tanks were already underway. This time, Putin vowed, there would be no quarter given, no humiliating retreat.

AS WE SAT AT THE IRISH PUB, Akhmadov's cell phone rang with maddening regularity. For someone who had been in Washington for only a short time, he certainly seemed popular -- or at least in demand. The phone, like the loaner apartment, the three suits he owned, his legal defense and the funds he has lived on for the past five years, was a gift from well-wishers, many of whom display an almost maternal zeal to shelter and protect him. Some of Akhmadov's backers initially may have adopted his cause for political reasons, but most seem to have grown quite fond of him in the process. "I'm not exaggerating when I say that one of the happiest days of my life was when I called Ilyas to tell him that he would be able to stay in America," says Zbigniew Brzezinski, who, for the record, is my uncle, and is not someone prone to excessive flights of emotion. (While I was unaware of my uncle's involvement with Akhmadov until after I began reporting this article, sharing a last name with him did raise hackles at the Russian Embassy as to my objectivity.)

What would happen, I asked Akhmadov between calls on his cell, if the United States ever relented to Russia's requests for extradition? "You'd read that I hanged myself in jail or had a heart attack," he answered, running a finger over his throat in a slashing motion. For a moment we sat silently, contemplating this unhappy scenario. Akhmadov's face brightened, though, as soon as his cell phone chirped. It was Malika, calling from Sweden. She lives there thanks to the personal intervention of Ruud Lubbers, who, as the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, arranged for her to get out of hiding in Azerbaijan, and later for Akhmadov's youngest son, Cherse, to undergo surgery for a skeletal deformity commonly known as clubfoot. "That's been the hardest part," said Akhmadov. "Being apart from my family." He has yet to meet 2-year-old Cherse, who like his two older brothers, Orz and Borz, now speaks Swedish. "I'm just a strange voice on the telephone to him," Akhmadov sighed. "Increasingly, that's the case for my other boys as well."

The long-distance relationship will likely continue. Despite efforts of influential supporters such as Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), it could take years for the red tape to clear on Malika's application to be reunited with Akhmadov. "His courageous statements have subjected him and his family to persecution and reprisals," Kennedy petitioned Ridge in 2003. "Denying refugee status leaves them all vulnerable to harm."

For now, Akhmadov cannot risk traveling to Sweden to see Malika and his sons, because he would almost certainly be arrested. (The United States has no extradition treaty with Russia as a consequence of the Cold War, but Sweden and other European nations do. So, Moscow could legally demand he be handed over.) Still, Akhmadov counts himself lucky that his kids are safely out of the Russians' reach. "Forty thousand children have died in Chechnya," he said. "The Russians have a policy to kill every male."

Russia vehemently denies this charge, and officials in Moscow say Chechen insurgents are every bit as ruthless as Russian forces are accused of being. Independent watchdog groups have found human rights abuses and atrocities by both sides -- including Chechen strikes against such Russian civilian targets as a packed Moscow theater, the Moscow subway and passenger airplanes. But the fact that the war has been fought amid a civilian population in Chechnya has guaranteed that the suffering has been distributed unequally. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that Russian forces often make little distinction between civilians and combatants when encountering men of fighting age. "A significant percentage of the male population between the ages of 15 and 65 has been liquidated," notes U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Odom, a former head of the National Security Agency, who has also written testimonials vouching for Akhmadov.

While no one knows precisely how many people have died in Chechnya as a result of the war over the past decade -- estimates range from the tens of thousands to several hundred thousand, depending on whom you ask -- there is a consensus that the conflict has became far more lethal under Putin's leadership. "At this point, it's basically a war of ethnic survival for the Chechen people," says S. Frederick Starr, chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University, a longtime observer of the region who is one of the foremost authorities on Chechnya in Washington. "They've probably lost a quarter of the population."

That much of this suffering has occurred with minimal comment from the Bush administration has inflamed passions in some corners of Washington. "This is a black mark on the administration's record of human rights," says Odom. "Our present policy gives Russia license to be even more brutal toward the Chechens."

The policy to which Odom refers stems from a strategic partnership the White House struck with the Kremlin in the months following 9/11. Under the agreement, Moscow would permit the United States to deploy military forces within its sphere of influence, in former dominions such as Uzbekistan -- which borders Afghanistan -- and Georgia, to stage counterterror operations. In exchange, say observers such as Starr and Holbrooke, Washington agreed to include Chechen extremists on its global terrorist blacklist, effectively allowing Russia to do whatever it pleased in the breakaway province.

Alexander Haig acknowledged the primacy of the strategic partnership while lobbying on Akhmadov's behalf. "I certainly understand the benefits of the new relationship with President Putin," he wrote to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in late 2002. "Nevertheless there could be no justification for permitting these benefits to overshadow our fundamental obligation to provide sanctuary to Mr. Akhmadov."

Powell's tactful response was telling. "Our position is clear: This tragic conflict can be ended only through a political solution that respects both the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation and the legitimate aspirations of the Chechen people." By stressing that Russian boundaries -- which still include Chechnya -- are inviolate, Powell seemed to be signaling that Grozny could secede only with Moscow's permission, and that the problem was an internal Russian affair and none of America's business.

While realpolitik arrangements similar to the one with Putin were concluded after 9/11 with various regional dictators, military strongmen and warlords deemed critical to the war on terror, the consequences of the White House seal of approval arguably have been most apparent in Russia. At home, Putin has imprisoned opponents, muzzled the media, promoted his former KGB colleagues -- the siloviki, or men of power -- to positions of influence, and expropriated property to reestablish the state's grip over key sectors of the economy. In neighboring Ukraine, he recently tried to foist a rigged presidential election on voters, and lashed out angrily at the West when the clumsy attempt failed. And in Chechnya, where the Kremlin has ensured that there are virtually no outside observers, Putin, by most accounts, has elevated the scale of violence as a growing number of insurgents are adopting terrorist tactics in retaliation.

But if the Chechen atrocity in Beslan was part of a strategy, it has backfired. Beslan has given a new legitimacy to Putin's harsh campaign against the separatists. Since the terror spree, Russia has scrapped the election of governors in its 89 provinces in favor of presidential appointments. A similarly unrepresentative overhaul of the parliament, also rationalized by the threat of terrorism, will henceforth give the Kremlin greater say over who sits in the Duma, Russia's lower house of representatives.

"It's a thinly disguised power grab," Starr charges.

For the Kremlin, however, perhaps the biggest boon of Beslan has been the opportunity to recast all Chechens as radicals and to claim the high moral ground in a conflict in which Russia has traditionally been the aggressor. "Russia's strategy has been to tar moderates and terrorists with the same brush," says Glen Howard of the Jamestown Foundation. "And this doesn't leave anyone left to negotiate with."

But then ever since the 19th century, as anyone who has read Tolstoy's and Pushkin's accounts of serving in the Caucasus can attest, the Kremlin has found it useful to have Chechnya as an internal enemy. It may be no accident that both invasions of Chechnya over the past decade have coincided with presidential election campaigns. The West said little when Yeltsin sent in the troops in late 1994. Five years later, Putin accented the run-up to his 2000 presidential bid by launching a second military campaign in Chechnya.

"The genesis of that war was very suspect," says Woolsey, echoing a view widely held in Washington and Moscow that the Kremlin itself may have been behind apartment-building bombings -- blamed on the Chechens -- that were used as a pretext to restart the fighting. These suspicions gained credence after it was disclosed that an individual caught planting explosives in a building basement by police in the southern Russian city of Ryazan turned out to be an agent of the renamed KGB. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), as the domestic branch of the KGB has been rechristened, strongly denied any wrongdoing and said it had been conducting "a test."

A survivor of one of the bomb blasts who also pointed the finger at the Kremlin, Alyona Morozova, was granted political asylum in the United States in January after her Russian lawyer, Mikhail Trepashkin, was sentenced to four years in prison last year for revealing state secrets. He had been conducting an independent investigation into the 1999 bombings that also suggested Russia's security services were responsible.

IT WAS IN 1999, during the start of that second, more brutal Russian offensive on Grozny, that Akhmadov began his circuitous five-year journey from obscure separatist functionary to cause celebre in Washington.

Then the newly appointed foreign minister, he was among those chosen to travel abroad to sway foreign opinion about what was happening in Chechnya. He had no idea he would be gone for so long -- possibly forever -- or that he would become such a thorn in U.S.-Russian relations. At the time, simply getting out of Grozny was a challenge. Because Chechnya was not recognized as a sovereign state, its representatives could not travel on diplomatic documents -- they had to use Russian passports -- and there was precious little money in the depleted Chechen treasury to fund extended diplomatic missions. There was also the small matter of the Russian army laying siege to Grozny, shooting at anything that moved.

Akhmadov says he was handed $500 in expense money and a laptop computer, and was bundled into the back of an ambulance, which set out under the cover of darkness at 2 in the morning toward the Georgian border. "We had to get to the border before daybreak," he recalls, "because that's when Russian fighter planes resumed patrols." Crammed in the ambulance with a dozen other refugees, mostly women and children, Akhmadov felt helpless: "There was just a narrow slit to watch the sky for aircraft. But the noise from the ambulance engine masked the sound of rockets." Recognizing the pitch and whine of incoming ordnance could often save one's life. With enough experience, which most Chechens quickly acquired, says Akhmadov, you could predict more or less where the shells would land based on the noise they made in flight. But in the ambulance, he felt deaf and blind and completely exposed. Nor did it help that the treacherous mountain roads on which they traveled offered little room for maneuvering, or error; the steep passes and ravines were littered with smoldering automobile carcasses. At one point, Akhmadov says, a bus filled with women and children in front of the ambulance took a direct hit. It was obvious, he says, that there were no survivors. Akhmadov and his fellow passengers simply drove on.

As sunrise broke, they had to cover the last few miles to the border on foot. The plan for him had been to travel incognito as a refugee and to blend in with the crowd. One obstacle, however, remained: A raging mountain river had to be crossed, and the bridge was blown out. "Someone had felled a tree as a makeshift foot bridge," he recalls. "It was very unsteady, and we had to get all the children across it." After a few harrowing trips, however, his party got across safely. The Georgian border was just ahead, where the underground had arranged for someone to meet Akhmadov so he could begin his mission.

"All I had with me was a pair of jeans and $100, since I left most of the money with my wife," Akhmadov recalls. From the moment he crossed into Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, Akhmadov would become almost completely dependent on the goodwill of a network of international benefactors. Initially, the Chechen underground spirited him to Baku, in Azerbaijan, where thousands of Chechens had already taken refuge. A rich Chechen businessman bought him the suits he would wear while appearing before various European parliaments. Another provided the plane tickets needed to get there. Eventually, Akhmadov was being invited by Beltway insiders such as Frederick Starr to make the rounds in Washington.

Starr was impressed by Akhmadov's ability to reason with and charm his adversaries. Later, when Starr moderated secret negotiations in Switzerland in 2001 between Akhmadov and a delegation of Russian parliamentarians, he was astonished at how quickly they found common ground. "I had been worried that they would be at each other's throats," Starr recalls. "But they got on like old friends."

The ease with which Akhmadov conversed with his Russian adversaries is also partly what has made him appealing to former Cold Warriors in Washington. He is not some slogan-spouting radical with prayer beads, but rather is a product of the Soviet system with whom officials from both sides of the old superpower struggle can readily identify. And he is an especially effective negotiator with the Russians. His Russian is flawless and accent-free. He has the same cultural references as anyone who grew up in the U.S.S.R.; he's read the same books, was raised watching the same TV programs and movies. In fact he served in the same Soviet military units as some of the Russian officers now fighting in Chechnya. "See this man?" he said one afternoon, showing me his old scrapbook photo album. The snapshot showed a young Akhmadov and several other soldiers hamming it up in front of a jeep. "He's now a lieutenant colonel in the FSB in charge of intelligence in eastern Grozny. And this guy," he pointed to another fresh-faced conscript, "lives in that part of Grozny and is in the resistance. They get together for drinks when there is a lull in the fighting."

This sort of camaraderie across the trenches, like Basayev's wagers on Russian-Chechen soccer games during the first war, has become rare as the second campaign's spiraling brutality has embittered combatants on both sides. Akhmadov notes that this is making it more and more difficult for Chechens and Russians to sit at the same negotiating table. "Most young Chechens today make it a point of pride to no longer speak Russian. The only Russians these kids have ever met have been brutal occupiers who killed a family member or burned their village. All this next generation of Chechens knows about Russians is that you have to kill them before they kill you."

Akhmadov says he believes that Chechnya's only hope is a negotiated settlement. During the secret Swiss negotiations in 2001, Akhmadov proposed a novel first step toward reconciliation: a meeting between the mothers of slain Russian soldiers and the mothers of dead Chechen resistance fighters, chaired by Putin's wife. "Everyone thought this was a great idea," Starr recalls. "But the Kremlin killed it."

Then, shortly after the negotiations broke down, Washington got word that Akhmadov's life was in danger. "A message was passed on to him by outside channels that he could no longer stay in Baku," says the Jamestown Foundation's Howard. "That he would probably be handed over to the Russians." Akhmadov, his U.S. supporters urged, should seek sanctuary in America. He had enough friends in high places in Washington to all but guarantee him a fair hearing with U.S. immigration judges. His 2002 application for political asylum should have been a slam dunk. But then Russian prosecutors and the Moscow branch of the multinational police organization Interpol notified the U.S. Embassy that Akhmadov was wanted for terrorism. "We have information that I. Akhmadov has ties with international terrorist organizations and is engaged in resolving matters of financing and material-technical support of gang units," the demarche read.

Specifically, Akhmadov was being charged with organizing terrorist training camps, and leading 2,000 armed insurgents, along with Basayev and Khattab, in the 1999 Dagestani incursion. Akhmadov testified at his immigration hearings that he had been in Moscow at the time meeting with Western officials. As evidence against him, Russian authorities produced affidavits from two Chechen prisoners of war who said they saw Akhmadov on Chechen television calling for the creation of a greater Islamic state in the Caucasus.

"Do you know how the Russians treat Chechen prisoners of war?" Akhmadov asks. "[The two prisoners] would have sworn that they saw me with Osama bin Laden himself if the Russians had told them to." The documentation supporting the charges sent to the Department of Homeland Security did not include a tape of the alleged television broadcast.

To those who know Akhmadov, the charges seem preposterous. "Having had him live under my roof for over a year, I can tell you it was absurd, laughable," says Nicholas Daniloff, an old Russia hand who met Akhmadov at a 2002 Harvard conference, soon after Akhmadov applied for political refugee status. Daniloff, a retired foreign correspondent, took Akhmadov into his Boston home when he realized he had no means of support, and later got him a summer job doing manual labor in Vermont. "I know a thing or two about getting caught in the middle of Great Power politics," Daniloff says. In 1986, as the Moscow correspondent for U.S News & World Report magazine, he was arrested by the KGB and charged as a CIA spy. "It was tit-for-tat. The FBI had just nabbed a Soviet agent in New York, and the KGB needed to find someone they could trade for him."

In response to Akhmadov's asylum application, Russia demanded his immediate extradition in 2003. Suddenly an immigration case that likely would have been resolved with one or two hearings in Boston was being kicked up to Washington, where it would languish for two years. Fortunately for Akhmadov, another benefactor, Max Kampelman, a former chief arms negotiator for Ronald Reagan and a counselor to the State Department, arranged for the white-shoe legal firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson to represent him free of charge. Douglas Baruch, a partner, landed the case. "The evidence against [Akhmadov] was obviously fabricated, in a very slipshod and amateurish manner," says Baruch. Leonard Shapiro, the immigration judge handling Akhmadov's hearing, apparently felt the same way, dismissing the charges for lack of evidence. (In an almost identical case in Britain, where Chechen envoy Akhmed Zakayev was accused by Russian authorities of 13 counts of murder and hostage-taking, a judge also dismissed the allegations. "I am satisfied," ruled British Judge Timothy Workman, "that it is more likely than not that the motivation of the government of the Russian Federation was and is to exclude Mr. Zakayev from continuing to take part in the peace process and to discredit him as a moderate.") "My concern," Baruch recalls, "was that the delay in the final decision was for political reasons, for the Bush administration not to offend the Russians."

In July 2004, however, after running up legal fees that (if he had had to pay them) would have set him back $250,000, Akhmadov recieved the final decision. He could stay in America.

IT WAS ONE PIECE of bad news for close U.S.-Russian ties in a cascading series of ill omens. The 100-signatory open letter calling for an end to the appeasement of Putin followed several months later, on September 28. In late December, Freedom House, a New York-based bipartisan foundation that monitors democracies across the globe, downgraded Russia to its Not Free classification:

"Russia's step backwards into the Not Free category is the culmination of a growing trend under President Putin," warned Freedom House's executive director, Jennifer Windsor, in the December report, "to . . . a dangerous and disturbing drift toward authoritarianism."

That same month Colin Powell criticized Moscow for meddling in Ukraine's elections, and the Los Angeles Times reported that the White House was rethinking its strategic partnership with the Kremlin and had begun "a broad review of its Russia policy that could lead to a more confrontational approach toward Moscow over its treatment of neighboring countries and its own citizens."

Though White House spokesman Scott McClellan immediately denied that any policy review was being contemplated, Condoleezza Rice, the new secretary of state, conceded last month that Russia's crackdowns on dissent "make it more difficult to pursue a full and deep relationship."Just how difficult was apparent in last month's Bush-Putin summit in Slovakia. At times testy and awkward, the talks had none of the easy bantering and camaraderie that has marked past encounters between the men. President Bush chided President Putin for backsliding on democracy, but so gingerly and briefly that the "tweak" reprimand, as it became known, fell far short of the dramatic gesture critics in Washington had been calling for. Putin, for his part, made it clear that the White House, with its Iraqi campaign and torture scandals, was in no position to lecture anyone on inalienable rights. Still, the agreements signed showed that the two countries will continue to do business together. Bush won Russia's cooperation on a series of new measures to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction that ranged from better tracking of sales of small surface-to-air missiles that can shoot down civilian airliners to keeping a tighter lid on fissionable nuclear materials. Once again, the critics in Washington groused, Putin had shrewdly played the terror trump card to win Russia an extension on its strategic-partnership status.

In the run-up to the summit, I met with Akhmadov a final time. It had been five months since our first furtive encounter, and the change in Akhmadov was remarkable. He was cheerful and brimming with confidence when I dropped by his eighth-floor office at the National Endowment for Democracy.

With his somber suit, dark tie and desk full of position papers, he looked the picture of the Washington policy wonk. With his days of dodging bullets and diplomatic fire from Moscow largely behind him, Akhmadov seemed to be settling in nicely to the quiet, scholarly routine provided by his Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship. He had his own apartment now and an ambitiously efficient assistant to do his research, and he was clearly enjoying giving speeches on Chechnya, hosting academic luncheons and publishing the odd opinion piece on the Chechen conflict.

"My situation is a little more stable," he said, as we rode the elevator down for a cigarette break. "I guess I'm getting used to the idea that I will be staying in America. I'm glad," he added, "that people here are beginning to see Putin for what he really is." Indeed, the cooling of relations between Washington and Moscow certainly has not hurt Akhmadov's cause or credibility, and he could not resist a small, satisfied smile as he spoke.

His cell phone, I couldn't help but notice, still rang with frustrating regularity. If anything, Akhmadov seemed to have become even more popular, and in demand. This time it was his brother on the line, calling from exile in Baku. "I still really miss my family," he said, after exchanging a few words with his brother in an odd mix of Chechen and Russian argot.

Akhmadov said he planned to devote the rest of his life to trying to find a peaceful resolution to the Chechen-Russian conflict. But, he conceded, he was not very hopeful. "The situation now is in the hands of radicals and hard-liners, and I fear for Chechnya's future."

Whatever the future holds for Ilyas Akhmadov, he has certainly come a long way from seven months ago, when he worked as a farmhand in Vermont. "The farmer had no idea who I was until the last day," Akhmadov smiled. "But he says I can come back next summer to bale hay if Washington doesn't work out."

Matthew Brzezinski's latest book is Fortress America: On the Front Lines of Homeland Security. He will be fielding questions and comments about this article Tuesday at 1 p.m. at washingtonpost.com/liveonline.

[May 19, 2005] Cowardice in journalism award for Newsweek; Goebbels award for Condi By Greg Palast

Download a .pdf file for printing.
Adobe Acrobat Reader required.
Click here to download a free copy.

May 19, 2005 | gregpalast.com

It's appalling that this story got out there," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on her way back from Iraq.

What's not appalling to Condi is that the US is holding prisoners at Guantanamo under conditions termed "torture" by the Red Cross. What's not appalling to Condi is that prisoners of the Afghan war are held in violation of international law after that conflict has supposedly ended. What is not appalling to Condi is that prisoner witnesses have reported several instances of the Koran's desecration.

What is appalling to her is that these things were reported. So to Condi goes to the Joseph Goebbels Ministry of Propaganda Iron Cross.

But I don't want to leave out our president. His aides report that George Bush is "angry" about the report—not the desecration of the Koran, but the reporting of it.

And so long as George is angry and Condi appalled, Newsweek knows what to do: swiftly grab its corporate ankles and ask the White House for mercy.

But there was no mercy. Donald Rumsfeld pointed the finger at Newsweek and said, "People lost their lives. People are dead." Maybe Rumsfeld was upset that Newsweek was taking away his job. After all, it's hard to beat Rummy when it comes to making people dead.

And just for the record: Newsweek, unlike Rumsfeld, did not kill anyone—nor did its report cause killings. Afghans protested when they heard the Koran desecration story (as Christians have protested crucifix desecrations). The Muslim demonstrators were gunned down by the Afghan military police—who operate under Rumsfeld's command.

Our secretary of defense, in his darkest Big Brother voice, added a warning for journalists and citizens alike, "People need to be very careful about what they say."

And Newsweek has now promised to be very, very good, and very, very careful not to offend Rumsfeld, appall Condi or anger George.

For their good behavior, I'm giving Newsweek and its owner, the Washington Post, this week's Yellow Streak Award for Craven Cowardice in Journalism.

As always, the competition is fierce, but Newsweek takes the honors by backing down on Mike Isikoff's expose of cruelity, racism and just plain bone-headed incompetence by the US military at the Guantanamo prison camp.

Isikoff cited a reliable source that among the neat little "interrogation" techniques used to break down Muslim prisoners was putting a copy of the Koran into a toilet.

In the old days, Isikoff's discovery would have led to congressional investigations of the perpetrators of such official offense. The Koran-flushers would have been flushed from the military, panels would have been impaneled and Isikoff would have collected his Pulitzer.

No more. Instead of nailing the wrong-doers, the Bush administration went after the guy who reported the crime, Isikoff.

Was there a problem with the story? Certainly. If you want to split hairs, the inside-government source of the Koran desecration story now says he can't confirm which military report it appeared in. But he saw it in one report and a witness has confirmed that the Koran was defiled.

Of course, there's an easy way to get at the truth. Release the reports now. Hand them over, Mr. Rumsfeld, and let's see for ourselves what's in them.

But Newsweek and the Post are too polite to ask Rumsfeld to make the investigative reports public. Rather, the corporate babysitter for Newsweek, editor Mark Whitaker, said, "Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges and so will we." In other words, we'll take the Bush administration's word that there is no evidence of Koran-dunking in the draft reports on Guantanamo.

It used to be that the Washington Post permitted journalism in its newsrooms. No more. But, frankly, that's an old story.

Every time I say investigative reporting is dead or barely breathing in the USA, some little smart-ass will challenge me, "What about Watergate? Huh?" Hey, buddy, the Watergate investigation was 32 years ago—that means it's been nearly a third of a century since the Washington Post has printed a big investigative scoop.

The Post today would never run the Watergate story: a hidden source versus official denial. Let's face it, Bob Woodward, now managing editor at the Post, has gone from "All the President's Men" to becoming the President's Man—"Bush at War." Ugh!

And now the Post Company is considering further restrictions on the use of confidential sources—no more "Deep Throats."

Despite its supposed new concern for hidden sources, let's note that Newsweek and the Post have no trouble providing, even in the midst of this story, cover for secret administration sources that are favorable to Bush. Editor Whitaker's retraction relies on "administration officials" whose names he kindly withholds.

In other words, unnamed sources are okay if they defend Bush, unacceptable if they expose the administration's mendacity or evil.

A lot of my readers don't like the Koran-story reporter Mike Isikoff because of his goofy fixation with Monica Lewinsky and Mr. Clinton's cigar. Have some sympathy for Isikoff: Mike's one darn good reporter, but as an inmate at the Post/Newsweek facilities, his ability to send out serious communications to the rest of the world are limited.

A few years ago, while I was tracking the influence of the power industry on Washington, Isikoff gave me some hard, hot stuff on Bill Clinton—not the cheap intern-under-the-desk gossip—but an FBI report for me to publish in The Guardian of Britain.

I asked Isikoff why he didn't put it in Newsweek or in the Post.

He said, when it comes to issues of substance, "No one gives a sh—," not the readers, and especially not the editors who assume that their US target audience is small-minded, ignorant and wants to stay that way.

That doesn't leave a lot of time, money or courage for real reporting. And woe to those who practice investigative journalism. As with CBS's retraction of Dan Rather's report on Bush's draft-dodging, Newsweek's diving to the mat on Guantanamo acts as a warning to all journalists who step out of line.

Newsweek has now publicly committed to having its reports vetted by Rumsfeld's Defense Department before publication. Why not just print Rumsfeld's press releases and eliminate the middleman, the reporter?

However, not all of us poor scribblers will adhere to this New News Order. In the meantime, however, for my future security and comfort, I'm having myself measured for a custom-made orange suit.

Greg Palast was awarded the 2005 George Orwell Prize for Courage in Journalism at the Sundance Film Festival for his investigative reports produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation. See those reports for BBC, Harper's, The Nation and others at www.GregPalast.com.

Times Online - Comment

THE WRONG sort of snow finally pushed Yuri Luzhkov, the Mayor of Moscow, over the edge. Enraged with Russia’s hopeless weather forecasters, he has vowed to fine them for any more inaccurate, misleading or unreliable predictions. As reported in yesterday’s Times, he admonished them in the following, memorable terms: “You are giving us bullshit.”

On the other side of the world, Harry G. Frankfurt, the moral philosopher and professor emeritus at Princeton University, would have smiled sagely at that remark. After decades of exploration in the thorniest thickets of philosophy, he has just published a slim treatise entitled On Bullshit (Princeton University Press), an earnest intellectual inquiry into this most pungent and slippery of philosophical concepts. His short theory of bullshit is a testament for our times.

We all think we can identify bullshit. We know when we are talking bullshit ourselves, and we have all been guilty of it at times, in the pub or the pulpit, though some of us produce more than others. Politics thrives on bullshit, while lawyers, advertisers, public relations consultants and talk show hosts produce the stuff in its purest form. Very occasionally, columnists have been known to lapse into it. Every language in the world has a word for it. But what is bullshit? The concept is universally recognised, yet as Professor Frankfurt writes, “the most basic and preliminary questions about bullshit remain, after all, not only unanswered but unasked.”

He begins, like all good philosophers, by defining what bullshit is not. Bullshit is dishonest, yet it is not necessarily mendacious. The bullshit artist may not tell you the truth (though he may do so inadvertently), but he is not deliberately lying. This is because bullshit cares nothing for truth or falsehood, accuracy or error, and that is its force and danger.

Both the liar and the honest man must have regard for truth, the former to subvert it and the latter to propagate it. Bullshit, by contrast, is fundamentally unconcerned with truth or falsehood, but only with appearance, effect and persuasion, however transitory. Yuri Luzhkov was not accusing the Moscow weather forecasters of lying, or yet of trying to predict the weather and honestly failing; he was accusing them of not caring about the true weather. The essence of bullshit is getting away with it, with persuading listeners or readers of a sincerity that is, by definition, phoney. The bullshit artist simply does not care about truth: “He pays no attention to it at all,” writes Professor Frankfurt. “By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies are.”

Yet we tolerate bullshit, even though we feign to disregard it. Lies make us morally enraged; mistakes, even honest ones, are unacceptable. The politician or businessman who lies to us, or fouls up, must go; but he can bullshit us with almost perfect impunity. We shrug, we may even grin ruefully, but in our craven hearts we know we are being fed a bluff, on-the-hoof hokum, and we do not care.

Perhaps our ancestors were just as susceptible to bullshit, purveying it and accepting it, as we are. Indeed, as the late Ronald Bell, the Tory MP, once observed, “the connection between humbug and politics is too long established to be challenged.” Yet bullshit has surely expanded as fast, if not faster, than the growth of communications generally. The internet is a natural septic tank for it. More than ever, public figures are required to opine on everything, even (and perhaps especially) when they have no idea what they are talking about. During the year when I was parliamentary sketchwriter, I cannot remember a single occasion on which an MP conceded ignorance on any subject whatsoever. Professor Frankfurt is clinical and devastating: “The production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic.”

In a sense, the quest to define bullshit is the oldest one in the philosopher’s book. Socrates himself explored the tension between rhetoric or sophistry, arguments intended to persuade regardless of whether they were true, and the deeper quest for understanding through philosophy. In this respect, it is worth noting that the term “bull”, with a similar meaning, is probably far older, etymologically, than the modern bullshit: the original word seems to have come from the Latin bullire, to boil, bubble or froth. At its source, then, the term has nothing to do with barnyard excrement, but rather the appropriate evocation of pure hot air.

Bullshit makes quite good intellectual fertiliser. Indeed, the American term “bull session” means an occasion to bat around outrageous ideas without concern for accuracy. But cumulatively, and unchecked, bullshit undermines what Professor Frankfurt calls “the possibility of knowing how things really are”. Improvised, instantly disposable pseudo-knowledge becomes more important than reality. In a culture where bullshit is endemic, political debate, intellectual argument and appeals for our money and our votes, are all judged on whether they are persuasive, rather than accurate, honest or realistic. Appearance becomes more important than objective fact; we hark to the purveyor of cogent humbug, and sceptically wonder whether anything is true.

If there is one aspect of Professor Frankfurt’s thesis that does not go far enough, it is in exploring the distinctively public nature of the subject. Bullshit is not a private matter, but a display, deployed to convey a specific, positive impression to others, regardless of accuracy. It is, in essence, spin.

When Tony Blair says he is a “pretty straight kind of guy”, he is implicitly asking his listeners to set aside notions of objective truth and believe in his sincerity. This has become the currency of our political culture. In a world of bullshit, truth seems unknowable, so we are asked to trust the persuasive authenticity of our leaders, who offer to be true, not to the facts, but to themselves. Yet human nature, moral philosophers agree, is impossible to know. In Professor Frankfurt’s concluding words: “Our natures are elusively insubstantial . . . and insofar as this is the case, sincerity itself is bullshit.”

With the election we face a fresh torrent of sincerity; but at least the Moscow mayor and the Princeton philosopher have teamed up to prove that it is possible to cut the crap, and seize the bull by the horns.

Join the Debate
Send your e-mails to debate@thetimes.co.uk

The Hypocrisy Taboo By Robert Parry

February 26, 2005 | Consortiumnews.com

If one accepts George W. Bush’s lecture to the Russians that democracy requires a free press unafraid to criticize national leaders, then what kind of political system exists in the United States where the news media seems so scared of Bush that it shies away from mentioning the president’s autocratic tendencies?

For the American press, there appears to be no bigger taboo than against questioning Bush’s sincerity when he presents himself as the grand promoter of democracy around the world.

Lost to history, apparently, is the moment in December 2000 when Bush joked that “if this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier – so long as I’m the dictator.” More substantively, that same month, Bush got five political allies on the U.S. Supreme Court to shut down vote counting in the key state of Florida and hand him the White House.

Bush seized that victory despite the fact that Al Gore got more votes nationally and apparently would have carried Florida – and thus the Electoral College – if all legal votes in the state were counted. [For details on the Election 2000 results, see Consortiumnews.com’s “So Bush Did Steal the White House.”]

Election 2004

In Election 2004, Bush’s supporters took a number of actions designed to suppress the votes of African-Americans and other groups likely to favor Democratic challenger John Kerry. For instance, Democratic precincts in the pivotal state of Ohio were shorted on voting machines, creating long lines and preventing many voters from casting ballots.

Even now, Ohio Republican officials continue to battle appeals by citizen groups to investigate Nov. 2’s election irregularities. A thorough investigation also could look at why so many ballots in Democratic precincts either didn’t record votes for president or awarded them to obscure third-party candidates. [For a surprisingly skeptical view of Bush’s Ohio victory, see Christopher Hitchens’s article, “Ohio’s Odd Numbers,” Vanity Fair, March 2005.]

Before the election, Bush could have ordered Republicans in Ohio and elsewhere to desist from any voter suppression, but he didn’t. Now, he could demand full cooperation with citizens trying to investigate what happened on Nov. 2.

But George W. Bush has never stood up for democratic principles when his personal power – or his legitimacy – could be put in doubt. The same could be said of his father. The Bushes seem to love democracy only when they are assured of winning. [See Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.]

Even at times between presidential elections, George W. Bush has shown no interest in playing fair with Democrats. Most notably, he doesn’t restrain his aggressive aides and ambitious supporters – such as Karl Rove and Grover Norquist – when they try to tilt the playing field permanently to the advantage of conservatives and Republicans. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Bush & the Rise of Managed Democracy.”]

Bush was silent, too, when House Majority Leader Tom DeLay took extraordinary actions in Texas to gerrymander congressional districts with the goal of assuring continued Republican control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

War Debate

This hostility toward meaningful democracy carries over to policy debates. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, instead of encouraging a full and vigorous debate, Bush mocked anti-war demonstrators as a “focus group” and signaled his backers that it was okay to intimidate Americans who questioned his case for war.

So conservative pundits saw no problem in painting former weapons inspector Scott Ritter as a traitor when he objected to Bush’s claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Bush backers organized a boycott of the Dixie Chicks because one of the group’s singers criticized the president. Some Bush backers symbolically drove trucks over the group’s CDs.

When actor Sean Penn lost work because of his Iraq War opposition, pro-Bush MSNBC commentator Joe Scarborough chortled, “Sean Penn is fired from an acting job and finds out that actions bring about consequences. Whoa, dude!”

As justification for depriving Penn of work, Scarborough cited a comment that Penn made while on a pre-war trip to Iraq. Penn said, “I cannot conceive of any reason why the American people and the world would not have shared with them the evidence that they [Bush administration officials] claim to have of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” [MSNBC transcript, May 18, 2003]

With Bush’s quiet backing, the president’s supporters also denigrated skeptical U.S. allies, such as France by pouring French wine into gutters, and U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix for failing to find WMD in Iraq in the weeks before the U.S. invasion. CNBC’s right-wing comic Dennis Miller likened Blix’s U.N. inspectors to the cartoon character Scooby Doo, racing fruitlessly around Iraq in vans.

At no time publicly did Bush urge his followers to show reasonable respect for Iraq War critics. It was all-hardball-all-the-time, a message not lost on news executives as they fell in line behind the administration’s WMD rationale for war.

MSNBC made an example of war critic Phil Donahue by booting him off the network as it competed with Fox News to see which cable news channel could wave the flag more enthusiastically. The Washington Post editorial page dropped all sense of professionalism when it referred to Iraq’s supposed possession of WMD stockpiles as fact, not allegation.

As it turned out, of course, the Iraq War critics were right. Bush’s claims about Iraq’s WMD turned out to be bogus, as even Bush’s arms inspectors David Kay and Charles Duelfer concluded in reports written after the invasion.

Notably, however, none of the pundits and journalists who got the Iraq War rationale wrong paid with their jobs. Indeed, some top journalists who fell for Bush’s false claims, such as Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, not only continue to thrive but still lambaste those who don’t show sufficient enthusiasm for Bush’s Iraq policies. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Washington’s Ricky Proehl Syndrome.”]

No Accountability

Virtually the entire Washington press corps seems to recognize that it's not allowed to suggest that Bush is a hypocrite when he wraps himself in the cloak of democracy.

That was true again during Bush’s Second Inaugural Address, which used the words “freedom” and “liberty” over and over again. The sincerity behind the speech drew little or no skepticism from the mainstream press despite Bush’s post-Sept. 11, 2001, assertion of nearly unlimited executive power.

In the so-called “war on terror,” Bush has asserted the right to detain U.S. citizens without trial once he labels them “enemy combatants.” Administration lawyers also have argued that Bush can waive legal restrictions on torture. Meanwhile, Muslims in the United States have complained about discriminatory prosecutions based on flimsy evidence and extraordinary secrecy.

Still, the Washington press corps never challenges Bush when he lectures other countries about democracy as he did in Russia on Thursday, Feb. 24. The only doubt – expressed gently by the White House press corps – was that perhaps Bush didn’t confront his friend Vladimir Putin very strenuously over Russia’s democratic shortcomings.

At a joint Bush-Putin press conference, Bush was taken at face value when he described the unalterable principles of democracy as the “rule of law and protection of minorities, a free press and a viable political opposition” – even though his record arguably shows that he doesn’t accept any of the four.

Bush also portrayed himself as a good example of a political leader who can’t get away with hiding his mistakes.

“I live in a transparent country,” Bush said. “I live in a country where decisions made by government are wide open and people are able to call people [like] me to account, which many out here do on a regular basis. … I'm perfectly comfortable in telling you, our country is one that safeguards human rights and human dignity.”

Got Jobs?

One Russian questioner challenged Bush on the issue of press freedom, apparently referring to pressure that Bush’s conservative supporters have brought to bear on U.S. news organizations to oust journalists who have criticized Bush.

“Why don’t you talk a lot about violation of rights of journalists in the United States, about the fact that some journalists have been fired?” the questioner asked.

Bush responded with a joke, which played to the U.S. journalists in the room.

“Do any of you all still have your jobs?” Bush joshed, adding: “People do get fired in American press. They don’t get fired by government, however. They get fired by their editors or they get fired by their producers or they get fired by the owners of a particular outlet or network. …

“Obviously there's got to be constraints. I mean, there's got to be truth. People've got to tell the truth. And if somebody violates the truth – and those who own a particular newspaper or those who are in charge of a particular electronic station need to hold people to account.”

What neither Bush nor Putin addressed, however, is the common reality of how their two systems work, using pressure from their political allies to influence the decision about whether a journalist is fired for making a mistake or gets a free pass.

So, on one hand, an accomplished journalist like former CBS producer Mary Mapes is shown the door for not adequately checking out a purported memo about Bush shirking his National Guard duty. On the other hand, a Bush ally like the Washington Post’s Hiatt keeps his prestigious job despite buying into Bush’s false Iraq WMD claims.

The key difference was that powerful voices in the conservative media demanded the head of Mapes, who months earlier had broken the Abu Ghraib sexual abuse scandal. There was no comparable pressure for punishing journalists, such as Hiatt, who had violated journalistic rules by treating a disputed claim – Iraq’s WMD – as a settled fact.

The double standard was even more glaring since the facts contained in the questionable Bush-Guard memo were true, while the assertions about Iraq’s WMD were not only false but have contributed to the deaths of nearly 1,500 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis. [For more on these media double standards, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Bush Rule of Journalism.”]

Still, Bush was clearly right at Thursday’s press conference when he declared that a free press “is an important part of any democracy” and that “the sign of a healthy and vibrant society is one where there’s an active press corps.”

But the opposite would seem to hold equally true: that the timidity of the U.S. press corps in holding Bush accountable is a sign that American democratic institutions are neither vibrant nor healthy.

Watch Your Metaphors, Please! By Frederick Sweet

Intervention Magazine War, Politics, Culture

An unscripted, off the cuff, unflattering remark about the President’s agenda or policies can cost a journalist his job.


On the February 11th PBS “News Hour,” host Jim Lehrer darkly cautioned syndicated journalist Mark Shields to “watch your metaphors, please,” after Shields made an allusion to the Kool Aid that the Rev. Jim Jones used to kill his followers at the Jones Town colony in Guyana, decades ago.

This is just another troubling example of journalists being told to watch their mouths when criticizing the President.

Lehrer's Stern Warning

The Lehrer-Shields dialogue went like this:

Lehrer was talking with conservative columnist Richard Lowry and Mark Shields of the Washington post about President George W. Bush's recent campaign to “sell” his Social Security plan to the public. Lehrer asked Lowry about the effectiveness of Bush’s “selling his crisis message on Social Security.” Lowry said that Republican support in the House of Representatives “firming up” and Bush would win if some Democrats would come on board.

Lehrer then asked Mark Shields what he thought.

JIM LEHRER: Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: It’s a great screenplay. It's a great screenplay. It really is. The president spending political capital. Rich is right. Jim, we can’t call them town hall meetings. They aren’t town hall meetings; they’re pep rallies, they’re pre-selected. You can't get in there unless you've signed on, unless you've drunk the Kool-Aid and said you’re totally with the president. So these are not town meetings.

JIM LEHRER: [sternly] Watch your metaphors, please!

MARK SHIELDS: [defensively] It really is. They’re pep rallies. And I think Rich is absolutely right. The president is behind the eight ball on this politically.

This was on PBS, the American citizens’ television station. I was witnessing the chillingly tragic consequence of the Bush Administration’s attempts at public mind control.

This dawned on me because I’d just returned to the 'States' after having spent three weeks working on a project in recently freed Eastern Europe. The irony of this is that pre-Cold War communist countries were repeatedly accused by American leaders of brain washing their people, of using state-sponsored propaganda, and a plethora of other approaches to public mind control. Now, the Bush Administration had successfully accomplished with subtlety what the Soviet Union had been unable to do with its heavy handed approach.

In Bush’s world, American journalists must be careful of what they think -- and especially say – when their comments are carried on the airwaves.

CNN’s News Chief Loses Job After Comments on Iraq War

Think I'm exaggerating? The very same day as Lehrer warned Shields on PBS about “watching his metaphors,” The New York Times reported, “CNN News Chief Quits Following Controversial Remarks.” This underscored what not saying nice things about the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq can lead to.

CNN’s Chief News Executive Eason Jordan quit Friday, February 11, 2005, amid a furor over remarks he had made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last month about journalists killed by the U.S. military in Iraq. During a panel discussion, Jordan had said that he believed several journalists who had been killed in Iraq by coalition forces that included American troops had been targeted. That did it. Soon Jordan was made to recant.

“I never meant to imply U.S. forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists, and I apologize to anyone who thought I said or believed otherwise,” he said in a memo to CNN staff members.

So apparently it is forbidden for American journalists to dare imply that Bush’s army in Iraq may have targeted journalists.

Jordan was speaking at what was initially a very mild panel discussion titled “Will Democracy Survive the Media?” The flap came after Jordan said that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience.

The discussion was moderated by David R. Gergen, Director for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. The panel included Richard Sambrook, the worldwide director of BBC radio, U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, Abdullah Abdullah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, and Eason Jordan. The audience was a mix of journalists, World Economic Forum attendees, and a US Senator from Connecticut, Chris Dodd.

Jordan, an advocate for protections for journalists overseas, was responding to a comment by Congressman Frank that the 63 journalists killed in Iraq were collateral damage. CNN previously reported that most of the journalists were killed by anti-U.S. forces but that the Pentagon has acknowledged killing some journalists accidentally.

However, one witness at the Davos meeting, a Florida businessman named Rony Abovitz, said he was shocked by Jordan's initial claim and asked him to prove it.

“I was quite surprised, especially by his passion for what he was saying,” Abovitz wrote in an entry detailing Jordan’s comments on a blog from the World Economic Forum. “I thought that this was a huge story, very damning to the U.S., if true.”

Abovitz said that others in the room, including Sen. Christopher Dodd, and Rep. Frank, joined in the debate, which became heated before being broken off. But Abovitz, who co-founded a medical technology company in Hollywood, Fla., said that he felt obliged to blog it after realizing that others weren’t going to report on it.

Abovitz, who has been deluged by requests for interviews, said both the right and the left have used this as a way of moving their agendas forward. But he said that wasn’t his intention.

“My real interest is in this concept of transparency, accountability and objective fairness in media," Abovitz wrote. "These were values discussed at the WEF, and right in front of my eyes they were being put to a serious test.”

“Due to the nature of the forum, I was able to directly challenge Eason, asking if he had any objective and clear evidence to backup these claims, because if what he said was true, it would make Abu Ghraib look like a walk in the park. David Gergen was also clearly disturbed and shocked by the allegation that the U.S. would target journalists, foreign or U.S. He had always seen the U.S. military as the providers of safety and rescue for all reporters.

“Eason seemed to backpedal quickly, but his initial statements were backed by other members of the audience (one in particular who represented a worldwide journalist group). The ensuing debate was (for lack of better words) a real ‘shit storm.’”

Intensifying the issue was the fact that the session was a public forum attended by a U.S. Congressman and a U.S. Senator that was presented in front of an international crowd, and was being broadcast,

However, Rebecca MacKinnon, describing herself as a recovering TV reporter-turned-blogger, posted the following comments in her article “Blogstorm Descending on CNN” at the Captain Ed Weblog (2/2/05). Writes Mackinnon:

"Right-wing blogs, including Little Green Footballs, have moved their sights from CBS to CNN. At the center of the blogstorm are comments made by my former boss Eason Jordan at Davos, in which he alleged that the U.S. military had been targeting journalists in Iraq."

Mackinnon continues,

“The official WEF summary does not mention Eason's remarks, and there is no transcript or webcast. But I was in the room and Rony's account is consistent with what I heard. I was also contributing to the Forumblog, but to be honest, Jordan happens to be my former boss who promoted me and defended me in some rather sticky situations after my reporting angered the Chinese government.

“As CNN's 'senior statesman' over the years, Eason has done some things I agreed with and other things I wondered about. But at least when it came to China, he was no apologist and defended my reports on human rights abuses and political dissent.”

CNN Backs Jordan, Sort Of, With Too Little, Too Late

On February 7, 2005, CNN finally responded to the allegations that Jordan had committed an irresponsible act of journalistic “misconduct” in Davos, Switzerland:

“Many blogs have taken Mr. Jordan’s remarks out of context. Eason Jordan does not believe the U.S. military is trying to kill journalists. Mr. Jordan simply pointed out the facts: While the majority of journalists killed in Iraq have been slain at the hands of insurgents, the Pentagon has also noted that the U.S. military on occasion has killed people who turned out to be journalists. The Pentagon has apologized for those actions. Mr. Jordan was responding to an assertion by Cong. [Barney] Frank that all 63 journalist victims had been the result of ‘collateral damage’.”

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin blogged her follow-up on this story after speaking with Rep. Barney Frank (who reiterated Jordan's fateful words at Davos) and with David Gergen, who had moderated the panel discussion.

According to Gergen (who has known Jordan for 20 years), Jordan had, in fact, said that journalists in Iraq had been targeted by military “on both sides.” Jordan then “realized as soon as the words had left his mouth that he had gone too far” and “walked himself back.”

Gergen told Malkin that he asked Jordan point blank whether [or not] he believed the policy of the U.S. military was to sanction the targeting of journalists. According to Gergen, Jordan answered no, but then proceeded to speculate about a few incidents involving journalists killed in the Middle East -- a discussion which Gergen decided to close down because “the military and the government weren't there to defend themselves.”

Thus, in Gergen’s account, Jordan did not appear to have “walked himself back” far enough for Gergen to think it appropriate for the discussion to have continued.

But in Bush’s New World Order, by February 7, 2005, seasoned journalist Jordan had already been driven from his newsroom -- permanently. So then the issue is not simply whether or not journalists are targeted in Iraq by American troops, which is still unresolved. Rather, today’s issue is that American journalists who open their mouths and don't follow some kind of ideological line are targeted at home. For a free and democratic society, that should be frightening.

Frederick Sweet is Professor of Reproductive Biology in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. You can email your comments toFred@interventionmag.com

Posted Friday, February 18, 2005

'Dean Scream' clip was media fraud By Edward Wasserman

02-23-2005 | Tallahassee Democrat


SPECIAL TO THE MIAMI HERALD

The news media got an unusual bashing during last year's bitter electoral campaigns. They got slapped around from all sides, and everybody argued about how the media tried either to undermine Bush or discredit Kerry or both.

Still, it's never clear why some media wrongs are made into a big deal while others slip by. Take the CBS "60 Minutes" report on Bush's military nonservice: The story itself was old, the dubious evidence was of dubious importance, and the broadcast had no discernible effect. It became a major scandal anyway.

On the other end of the scale is an instance of clear-cut media wrongdoing that involved unquestionably fraudulent evidence and had dramatic consequences. This one, however, has gone largely unremarked. It is the famous incident involving Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean that is known as The Dean Scream.

And with Dean's recent appointment as Democratic Party chairman it's being hauled out as constituting the ceiling on whatever political ambitions he might still have, proof that he's shaky, unstable, unfit to serve - Howard Dean's Chappaquiddick.

You've seen the clip. After Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl, it's the most famous news video of 2004. Dean is addressing campaign supporters after he lost the Iowa party caucuses in January. He's screaming for no apparent reason, practically shrieking, ticking off the states where he's vowing to continue the race. His face is red, his voice breaking. He looks deranged. It's a portrait of a man out of control. It's documentary evidence that Dean lacks the temperament for high office.

In fact the Dean Scream was a fraud, probably the clearest instance of media assassination in recent U.S. political history.

Last year, a young cable news producer attended one of our twice-yearly Ethics Institutes at Washington and Lee University, in which students and journalists gather to discuss newsroom wrongdoing. He brought two clips.

The first was the familiar pool footage of Dean in Iowa. The candidate filled the screen, no supporters were visible. Crowd noise was silenced by the microphone he held, which deadened ambient sounds. You saw only him and heard only his inexplicable screaming.

The second clip was the same speech taped by a supporter on the floor of the hall. The difference was stunning. The place was packed. The noise was deafening. Dean was on the podium, but you couldn't hear him. The roar from his supporters was drowning him out.

Dean was no longer scary, unhinged, volcanic, over the top. He was like the coach of a would-be championship NCAA football team at a pre-game rally, trying to be heard over a gym full of determined, wildly enthusiastic fans. I saw energy, not lunacy.

The difference was context. As psychiatrist R.D. Laing once wrote: We see a woman on her knees, eyes closed, muttering to someone who isn't there. Of course, she's praying. But if we deny her that context, we naturally conclude she's insane.

The Dean Scream footage that was repeatedly aired rests on a similar falsehood. It takes a man who in context was acting reasonably, and by stripping away that context transforms him into a lunatic.

But that clip was aired an estimated 700 times on various cable and broadcast channels in the week after the Iowa caucus. The people who showed that clip are far more technically sophisticated than I and had to understand how tight visual framing and noise-suppression hardware can distort reality.

True, some network news executives commented afterward that perhaps the footage was overplayed and offered the bureaucrat's favorite bromide, that hindsight is 20/20. But the media establishment has never acknowledged this as a burning matter of ethical harm.

That's because the Dean Scream incriminates the entire professional mission of television news, which is built around the primacy of the picture. TV producers don't profess to offer meaning and context; they get you the visuals, unless they're gory or obscene. The notion that great footage would be not shown just because it's profoundly misleading - that's a possibility few TV news executives would entertain.

That's why they're not eager to see the Dean Scream enter the canon of journalistic sin. And if that leaves Howard Dean's political future hobbled by a lie, so be it.

Edward Wasserman is Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University. He wrote this column for The Miami Herald. Contact him at edward-wasserman@hotmail.com.

The mole, the US media and a White House coup

February 20, 2005 | The Observer

The reporter who wasn't is part of a wider press scandal, writes Paul Harris in New York

For two years Jeff Gannon cut an unobtrusive figure at White House press conferences. The shaven-headed, craggily handsome man worked for an obscure news agency called Talon News, known for its conservative sympathies. He was often the subject of jokes by colleagues on weightier news organisations.

No one is laughing now, because Gannon was far from being a harmless distraction. He was writing under a false name and working for a Republican front organisation. Suddenly, his 'softball' questions to White House officials looked less like eccentricities and more like plotting by an administration which has frequently displayed a dark mastery of the arts of press control.

When it emerged that Gannon was also linked to gay prostitution websites and might be a gay prostitute himself, the scandal as to how he was allowed daily access to the White House grew even murkier. The American media is now being forced to confront the possibility that Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, was simply a Republican plant, used by officials, including President George W Bush, to ask easy questions in difficult press conferences. 'The idea of having a mole in the White House press corp is amazing, but that's what it looks like,' said Jack Lule, a journalism professor at Lehigh University.

But the Gannon affair, which has shocked much of America's political establishment, is just the latest scandal in the media establishment. Newspapers including the New York Times and USA Today have been hit by plagiarism and forgery scandals. Other papers and television stations have been consumed with a soul-searching inquest into how they were misled about non-existent Iraqi weapons programmes. Added to that is growing evidence of a White House campaign to bypass or control the media in its everyday presentation of government policy , which included paying one journalist hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote its policies.

Last week a federal watchdog warned the Bush administration that any video news releases must state that the government is the source. Twice in two years, government departments have been accused of distributing fake news packages, using actors as journalists.

On the internet, the mainstream media is derided and scorned. One question is dominating US newsrooms and television studios: ignored, scandalised and now corrupted, just what is America's mainstream media for anymore?

The extent of the Bush White House's command and control of the press corps is often revealed in the seemingly innocuous White House pool reports. These are dispatches dutifully filed by a correspondent assigned to travel with Bush and contain little but lists of endless meetings, meals eaten and clothes worn. But no detail is too small to be ignored by Bush's ever-watchful press handlers. One report, on 13 August 2004, contained a remark from Bush that it was a 'good question' as to who to support if Iraq's soccer team played the United States in the Olympics. Officials scurried to 'correct' it. 'To clear up any possible misconception ... the president would of course support the American soccer team in any hypothetical game with Iraq,' a new report said. 'The initial report should have done more to reflect the exchange was mainly in jest.'

Such micromanagement has been a hallmark of the Bush White House and its all-powerful policy guru, Karl Rove. Added to that has been what appears to be a concerted effort to subvert the mainstream media.

Administration officials were recently revealed to have paid three senior journalists to promote or design policies. More than $240,000 of taxpayers' cash was paid to black pundit Armstrong Williams to push the agenda of Bush's education department. Critics were blunt in their assessment of what Armstrong's contract with the government meant. 'It is propaganda,' said Melanie Sloan of watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.

At the same time, Bush has held fewer Washington press conferences than any of his modern predecessors, while courting local media, such as small city newspapers, which are perceived as easier to steamroll. During last year's election campaign Bush avoided interviews with leading newspapers, such as the Washington Post , but frequently invited reporters from smaller swing state publications to speak with him on Air Force One. Vice-president Dick Cheney took the strategy one step further and banned New York Times reporters from travelling with him.

The media has not helped its own case. First, New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was found to have plagiarised numerous stories. The incident cost Blair his job, forced the editor to resign and was the subject of fevered Manhattan dinner party chatter for months. Then USA Today 's top foreign reporter, Jack Kelley, was discovered to have fabricated stories from around the world and invented interviews and witnesses from Cuba to Jerusalem.

Right-wing media ratcheted up the long-standing conservative complaint that the media is dominated by liberal publications. Though many journalism experts deny that is the case, the image has settled in the American consciousness, forcing newspapers, magazines and television stations to go out of their way to prove they are not liberal. 'We have a conservative media and also a mainstream media, which is also now fairly conservative because it has been forced to deny being liberal,' said Lule.

The Gannon case is a prime illustration. If, during the Clinton administration, a fake reporter from a Democrat front organisation, using a false name, had been exposed as attending White House press conferences it would have been a national scandal. If he had then been shown to be a gay prostitute, the scandal could have threatened a Democrat presidency. With 'Gannon' and Bush there has been no such outcry. The mainstream media has approached the story warily, while right-wing organisations such as Fox News have largely ignored it.

That has created a vacuum in the US media. It is a space being filled by 'bloggers' from both left and right who write personal journals, or weblogs, on the internet. It is here that the real media battles are now being fought. The internet has become a sort of Fifth Estate as the Fourth Estate of the mainstream media has slid toward irrelevance. The groundwork was done mainly by the right. Internet gossip hound Matt Drudge, whose Drudge Report is a key source for every American political journalist, struck the first blow with his breaking of the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Since then a plethora of right wing blogs have sprung up. Unlike Britain, where political blogs are barely part of the debate, internet sites in America are seen as a vital political tool. Conservative bloggers have taken two big scalps recently. Last year bloggers questioned the veracity of a CBS news report on Bush's National Guard service. They dumped enough doubt on the story to cause four CBS reporters to lose their jobs, tarnish the reputation of legendary anchor Dan Rather and insure that the substance of the CBS story - whether Bush fulfilled his service - never emerged as an election issue.

Last week, CNN's chief news executive, Eason Jordan, resigned after an internet campaign prompted by his claim that American soldiers targeted journalists in Iraq. Though Jordan said that his remarks had been misinterpreted, the bloggers' revenge was so vehement he ended his 23-year CNN career. One anti-Jordan website, Easongate.com, crowed openly when he quit: 'To every reader, commentator, e-mailer and blogger that committed to this cause, thank you.'

The left has also had victories. It was not the mainstream media that exposed Gannon, but left-wing website Media Matters for America which enlisted other liberal bloggers to help. All the significant breaks in the story emerged online, forcing Gannon to resign, reveal his real name and go into hiding.

Some commentators see the emergence of blogging as a media force as a liberating phenomenon. Unlike the mainstream media, blogging is cheap, easy and open to anyone regardless of qualification or background or money. 'Blogging gives a voice to those who were previously silent,' said Ananda Mitra, a communications professor at Wake Forest University.

Others see it as part of the trend towards partisan journalism. Spearheaded by the nakedly right-wing Fox News, journalism in America has come to resemble a political shouting match rather than any form of debate of the issues. But with soaring viewership, Fox has emerged as one of the most powerful forces in the media landscape. Other networks, such as CNN and MSNBC, have sought to copy Fox's personality-led and opinion-based news.

The media is in the midst of a transformation which the Bush administration is keen to foster. They have discovered that a partisan and atomised media can be controlled, manipulated and used to an unprecedented degree.

It is a lesson that liberals are also learning. In answer to the talk radio of Rush Limbaugh - one of America's most popular and conservative commentators - liberal groups have set up Air America. Defying the critics, it has established itself as a left-wing radio network every bit as ruthless in skewering its opponents' points of view as its right-wing equivalents. In answer to right-wing television, former presidential candidate Al Gore is rumoured to be seeking backers to finance a liberal television network. Now both sides are equally ready and willing to use any means necessary to tear the other apart. The old-fashioned mainstream media is disappearing. 'Once that pattern is put in place, it is going to be hard to break,' said Lule.

How the media shot themselves in the foot

A series of scandals have not helped the American media's reputation and its struggle for independence.

New York Times

Reporter Jayson Blair was fired and the newspaper's editor forced to resign after Blair was found to have plagiarised numerous stories.

USA Today

Foreign reporter Jack Kelly was discovered to have invented stories, interviews and witnesses from around the world.

CBS

Four reporters lost their jobs and the reputation of legendary anchor Dan Rather was tarnished after doubts were cast on a news report of Bush's National Guard Service.

CNN

Chief news executive Eason Jordan resigned his 23-year career after he claimed that American soldiers had deliberately targeted journalists in Iraq.


Special report
United States of America

World news guide
North American media

Media
New York Times
Washington Post
CNN

Government
US government portal
White House
Senate
House of Representatives

The Tin Commandments: Covet not the ass next door by Alan Bisbort

February 3, 2005

On a visit to Atlanta earlier this week, I noticed a new affectation sweeping the fringes of red culture. On placards the size of real-estate transaction signs, the Ten Commandments are posted in front yards, augmenting the "God Bless America" ribbons on the rear-ends of homeowners' SUVs.

This was not deep in the Dark Ages of red culture. This was not Cobb County, where these signs are no doubt mandatory and where the school board has placed anti-evolution stickers on biology texts. This was Southern suburbia, where I grew up, two counties removed from Cobb. To my surprise, I didn't find myself flinching in horror at the "hidden agendas" of the Ned Flanderses and Church Ladies compelled to make such public pronouncements of self-righteousness. Rather, I refamiliarized myself with the actual words of the Ten Commandments. It was then that I decided to see if the "values"-laden Republicans who lord over us and shove the commandments down our throats, actually adhere to their own preachings.

Need I add the obvious answer? Of course they don't! The Republican "values" crowd would be lost without their hypocrisies. Indeed, hypocrisy is the glue that holds America together. James Hillman nailed it in his recent book, A Terrible Love of War : "Hypocrisy in America is not a sin but a necessity and a way of life. It makes possible armories of mass destruction side by side with the proliferation of churches, cults, and charities. Hypocrisy holds the nation together so that it can preach, and practice what it does not preach."

Check out the commandments for yourself, found in Exodus, Chapter 20, 1-18.

­ "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."

Moses (quoting God) told his people that they must stop worshipping false idols. I take this to mean that no other objects of worship besides God are allowed, including money, stocks, oil, real estate and Paris Hilton videos. Please deposit all such items in the receptacles at the back of the church on your way out the door. Praise the Lord.

­ "Thou shalt not make for yourself a carved (or graven) image" and worship it.

That put me in mind of my Republican neighbor, who's out polishing his Hummer every other day.

­ "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."

Does telling a U.S. Senator, "Go fuck yourself" on the floor of Congress qualify?

­ "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."

Hey, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Exxon, Target, Office Max, Circuit City and all other big Bush donors, if you don't close on Sundays you're living in sin.

­ "Honor thy father and mother."

When GWB was told that his father opposed the decision to go into Iraq, the son said, "I have a higher father that I follow ..." The old man's out of the loop as usual.

­ "Thou shalt not murder."

Where to begin? Iraqi civilians (100,000+), U.S. soldiers (1,400+) ... and counting.

­ "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

The roll call of lechers forms on the right: Newt Gingrich, Robert Livingston, Henry Hyde, Bill O'Reilly, Jack Ryan, Neil Bush, Daddy Bush, Phil Giordano, Strom Thurmond, Dick Morris, Schwarzenegger, Giuliani, Kerik ...

­ "Thou shalt not steal."

Where to begin? Cheney's Halliburton, with no-bid contracts and price gouging. Daddy Bush's Carlyle Group, which has a key to the U.S. Treasury. Enron, thief of thousands of Americans' retirement savings. The Bushprano Family (W, Jeb, Neil, Marvin), just follow the money ...

­ "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

Colin Powell, is that cornmeal in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? When Colin held that vial of kitty litter up at the U.N. and insisted it was proof of an Iraqi WMD program, he knew it was a lie. Ditto Condi Rice, and her 9/11 Commission testimony. Ditto, Dick Cheney every time he opens his mouth. Ditto, Swift Boat Veterans. Ditto, every utterance about Social Security.

­ "Thou shalt not covet they neighbor's house, wife, servant or hand-maid, ox or ass or anything else that is his."

And that includes his oil.

[Feb 06, 2005] All the News That's Fit to Buy

Feb 06, 2005 | Wired News

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon's chief investigator is looking into the military's practice of paying journalists to write articles and commentary for a website aimed at influencing public opinion in the Balkans, officials said Friday.

At the request of Larry Di Rita, chief spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Pentagon's inspector general, Joseph Schmitz, is reviewing that case and also looking more broadly at Pentagon activities that might involve inappropriate payments to journalists.

Di Rita said he had no reason to believe any inappropriate activities had taken place but wanted a comprehensive review to "help ensure our processes are sufficiently sensitive to this matter." He stressed that the web projects are done in close coordination with the State Department.

The Balkans website, called Southeast European Times, as well as a second aimed at audiences in north Africa, have no immediately obvious connection to the U.S. government but contain a linked disclaimer that says they are "sponsored by the U.S. European Command." That is the military organization based in Germany responsible for U.S. forces and military activities in Europe and parts of Africa.

The second site, called Magharebia and aimed at the Maghreb region that encompasses Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, is still in development and has not reached the stage of having paid correspondents, said Air Force Lt. Col. Derek Kaufman, a European Command spokesman.

Both sites carry news stories compiled from The Associated Press, Reuters and other news organizations. The Pentagon's role in these websites was first reported by CNN on Thursday.

The Balkans website also has articles and commentary by about 50 journalists who Kaufman said are paid by European Command through a private contractor, Anteon, an information technology company based in Fairfax, Virginia.

The websites are examples of what the military calls "information operations," or programs designed to influence public opinion by countering what the Pentagon considers to be misinformation or lies that circulate in the international news media. The Pentagon's use of the websites has raised questions about blurring the lines between legitimate news and what some would call government propaganda.

The Balkans site grew out of the U.S. air war against Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in 1999, Kaufman said. It sought to counter what U.S. officials considered a Serb propaganda machine that made effective use of the internet.

The site aimed at north Africa was started in October 2004 and is a new "weapon" in the global war on terror.

"This specifically is trying to reach a youthful audience that is potentially ripe for extremist messages and terrorist recruitment," Kaufman said. "It's very much an effort to provide a voice of moderation, but it's not disinformation. Every printed word is the truth."

Di Rita said in an interview Friday that he approves of the effort to present information to counter anti-American internet material, but he wants to make sure it is done properly and transparently. He said he first learned of the Southeast European Times site last week.

Kaufman said information warfare experts at European Command do not edit the stories written by contributing journalists for Southeast European Times, but they "review" the stories after they are processed by Anteon editors, and they sometimes change the headlines. He cited as an example a proposed headline that originally read, "Croatian Prime Minister Remembers Holocaust Victims," which European Command changed to "Croatian Prime Minister Remarks on Dangers of Extremism," which Kaufman said "more closely reinforced" the U.S. message.

About 50 paid correspondents contribute to Southeast European Times, including one American journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Kaufman said. Another European Command spokesman, Air Force Maj. Sarah Strachan, said many of the journalists work primarily for news organizations, although she said the details of those employers could not be provided for privacy reasons.

Kaufman said the journalists are paid according to the number of words in their articles that are approved for posting on the website, at a rate set by Anteon.

In a letter Thursday to the Pentagon inspector general, Di Rita asked for a comprehensive review in light of recent disclosures that other government agencies paid journalists to promote administration policies.

"I have no reason to believe there might be a problem," Di Rita wrote, but he said a review was called for in view of the Defense Department's size and its complex budgeting structure.

Without mentioning him by name, Di Rita alluded to the case of commentator Armstrong Williams, who was hired by the Education Department -- through a contract with a public relations firm -- to produce ads that featured former Education Secretary Rod Paige and promoted President Bush's No Child Left Behind law. Two other cases of columnists being paid to help promote administration policies have come to light in recent weeks, and Bush said Jan. 26 that the practice must stop.

"It would be most helpful to review activities going back six to eight years, as I assume many existing relationships have continued for that many years or longer," Di Rita wrote, noting the Southeast European Times operation. "It would be appropriate to review that activity and others like it."

It was not clear Friday whether other U.S. military commands have similar website operations. Navy Capt. Hal Pittman, the chief spokesman at Central Command, responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, said, "We're reviewing the utility of this kind of website."

[Jan 28, 2005] Image, Message and the Media

And so it is that while technically free of government influence, US media is nevertheless profoundly influenced by political and governmental factors. And the interrelationship of political, cultural and commercial consideration combine to make the US media more responsive to these pressures and as a result less free and less inquisitive.

In a media saturated democratic society like the US, the relationship between the media and those who govern it is both intimate and complex. Presidents are elected because they know how to present their message in the media and how to manipulate and control media.

In many ways, elections have become media contests. There is still the effort to energize and organize voters on Election Day. But a significant component of electoral politics has become the candidate’s efforts to establish a media-driven message. In some instances this involves tens of millions of dollars in evocative paid advertising. In others, it involves carefully constructed events, designed solely for their media impact.

In all cases, candidates seek to gain control of how their image and message is projected, while at the same time attempting to put themselves in the position of defining their opponent’s image and message.

In this era of all-pervasive media, examples of the above are plentiful. Jimmy Carter was no match for that master of the media, Ronald Reagan. George Bush devastated Michael Dukakis because he succeeded in defining him as a weak liberal.

Similarly, while riding high with his popularity as victor of the Gulf War, Democrats took advantage of Bush’s delay in beginning his re-election campaign and succeeded in defining him as a “failed president” who, while winning foreign wars, ignored domestic economic needs.

Clinton, like Reagan, was a master of the media. Time and again, he successfully used it define himself and his message to overpower and drown out competing messages.

In instances where Clinton could not overcome the preponderance of negative press instigated by the Republican-led House and Senate, harped on by ideologically motivated right-wing commentators and then echoed by more mainstream media, the White House would go around the national media and give local press, starved for “exclusives,” direct access to the president.

George W. Bush did much the same during his two campaigns for president. When plagued by reports of “not so youthful” indiscretions, or reporting on his failed policies, Bush gave himself to local media outlets casting himself as “a regular guy,” a man of character and resolve, fighting Washington politics and the “Washington media.”

Contemporary presidents have learned that the media has to be mastered not only to be elected, but to govern. Reagan, for example, escaped a humiliating withdrawal from Lebanon, following the devastating attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut with a quick victory in Grenada. Clinton, fairly or not, was accused of much the same with the surprise attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan.

George H.W. Bush’s conduct during the Gulf War is probably the most successful example of this point. For months after deploying a substantial force in the Arabian Gulf, the president and his spokespeople consistently maintained that the forces were there only to “defend and deter.”

Meanwhile, the administration worked slowly but steadily built public support for future action. In September of 1990, the US public was not prepared for an assault on Iraq or a substantial effort to liberate Kuwait. Different messages were tried and tested daily, the public’s reactions to these messages were examined and evaluated. There was an observable shift in public attitudes during the next four months. This media-driven public relations campaign worked. By the time the war actually began, the public was ready and Congress supportive.

Similarly, in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, the second Bush administration used the power of the presidency and the public’s insecurity resulting from 9/11 to move a pliant national media to build the campaign for war.

The media was, in all these instances, managed in the service of policy and governing, and did not play an independent role in examining administration campaign efforts. As I’ve noted earlier, too often, media merely “records and reports” what government officials say and does not search for the truth. In fact, only when major dissident voices were raised did the media cover “the other side” and then, in a “he said-she said” format. Thus it was, in the lead-up to the Iraq war, that only after “quotables” like former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft spoke out, or when former Vermont Governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean built a bottom-up campaign in opposition to the war, were serious questions about Iraq policy raised in the mainstream media.

These challenges have been further fed by new questions that are now being asked, now that stubborn Iraqi realities have defied the administration’s fantasy scenario about the war’s successes. The administration’s response to all of this has been vigorous and sustained. They have denigrated opponents, preyed on fear and relied on patriotic fervor, and managed an effective counter media campaign effort to win the day with public opinion — at least for now.

And so it is that while technically free of government influence, US media is nevertheless profoundly influenced by political and governmental factors. And the interrelationship of political, cultural and commercial consideration combine to make the US media more responsive to these pressures and as a result less free and less inquisitive.

American conservative/Walking Wounded Old soldiers don’t fade away by Fred Reed

The observant will have noticed that we hear little from the troops in Iraq and see almost nothing of the wounded. Why, one might wonder, does not CNN put an enlisted Marine before a camera and, for 15 minutes without editing, let him say what he thinks? Is he not an adult and a citizen? Is he not engaged in important events on our behalf?

Sound political reasons exist. Soldiers are a risk PR-wise, the wounded a liability. No one can tell what they might say, and conspicuous dismemberment is bad for recruiting. An enlisted man in front of a camera is dangerous. He could wreck the governmental spin apparatus in five minutes. It is better to keep soldiers discreetly out of sight.

So we do not see much of the casualties, ours or theirs. Yet they are there, somewhere, with missing legs, blind, becoming accustomed to groping at things in their new darkness, learning to use the wheelchairs that will be theirs for 50 years. Some face worse fates than others. Quadriplegics will be warehoused in VA hospitals where nurses will turn them at intervals, like hamburgers, to prevent bedsores. Friends and relatives will soon forget them. Suicide will be a frequent thought. The less damaged will get around.

For a brief moment perhaps the casualties will believe, then try desperately to keep believing, that they did something brave and worthy and terribly important for that abstraction, country. Some will expect thanks. But there will be no thanks, or few, and those quickly forgotten. It will be worse. People will ask how they lost the leg. In Iraq, they will say, hoping for sympathy, or respect, or understanding. The response, often unvoiced but unmistakable, will be, “What did you do that for?” The wounded will realize that they are not only crippled, but freaks.

The years will go by. Iraq will fade into the mist. Wars always do. A generation will rise for whom it will be just history. The dismembered veterans will find first that almost nobody appreciates what they did, then that few even remember it. If—when, many would say—the United States is driven out of Iraq, the soldiers will look back and realize that the whole affair was a fraud. Wars are just wars. They seem important at the time. At any rate, we are told that they are important.

Yet the wounds will remain. Arms do not grow back. For the paralyzed there will never be girlfriends, dancing, rolling in the grass with children. The blind will adapt as best they can. Those with merely a missing leg will count themselves lucky. They will hobble about, managing to lead semi-normal lives, and people will say, “How well he handles it.” An admirable freak. For others it will be less good. A colostomy bag is a sorry companion on a wedding night.

These men will come to hate. It will not be the Iraqis they hate. This we do not talk about.

It is hard to admit that one has been used. Some of the crippled will forever insist that the war was needed, that they were protecting their sisters from an Islamic invasion, or Vietnamese, or Chinese. Others will keep quiet and drink too much. Still others will read, grow older and wiser—and bitter. They will remember that their vice president, a man named Cheney, said that during his war, the one in Asia, he “had other priorities.” The veterans will remember this when everyone else has long since forgotten Cheney.

I once watched the first meeting between a young Marine from the South, blind, much of his face shot away, and his high-school sweetheart, who had come from Tennessee to Bethesda Naval Hospital to see him.

Hatred comes easily. There are wounds and there are wounds. A friend of mine spent two tours in Asia in that war now little remembered. He killed many people, not all of them soldiers. It is what happens in wars. The memory haunts him. Jack is a hard man from a tough neighborhood, quick with his fists, intelligent but uneducated—not a liberal flower vain over his sensitivity. He lives in Mexican bars few would enter and has no politics beyond an anger toward government. He was not a joyous killer. He remembers what he did, knows now that he was had. It gnaws at him. One is wise to stay away from him when he is drinking.

People say that this war isn’t like Vietnam. They are correct. Washington fights its war in Iraq with no better understanding of Iraq than it had of Vietnam, but with much better understanding of the United States. The Pentagon learned from Asia. This time around it has controlled the press well. Here is the great lesson of Southeast Asia: the press is dangerous, not because it is inaccurate, which it often is, but because it often isn’t. So we don’t much see the caskets —for reasons of privacy, you understand.

The war in Iraq is fought by volunteers, which means people that no one in power cares about. No one in the mysteriously named “elite” gives a damn about some kid from a town in Tennessee that has one gas station and a beer hall with a stuffed buck’s head. Such a kid is a redneck at best, pretty much from another planet, and certainly not someone you would let your daughter date. If conscription came back, and college students with rich parents learned to live in fear of The Envelope, riots would blossom as before. Now Yale can rest easy. Thank God for throwaway people.

The nearly perfect separation between the military and the rest of the country, or at least the influential in the country, is wonderful for the war effort. It prevents concern. How many people with a college degree even know a soldier? Yes, some, and I will get e-mail from them, but they are a minority. How many Americans have been on a military base? Or, to be truly absurd, how many men in combat arms went to, say, Harvard? Ah, but they have other priorities.

In 15 years in Washington, I knew many, many reporters and intellectuals and educated people. Almost none had worn boots. So it is. Those who count do not have to go, and do not know anyone who has gone, and don’t interest themselves. There is a price for this, though not one Washington cares about. Across America, in places where you might not expect it—in Legion halls and VFW posts, among those who carry membership cards from the Disabled American Veterans—there are men who hate. They don’t hate America. They hate those who sent them. Talk to the wounded from Iraq in five years

[Jan 20, 2005] A spin cycle out of control csmonitor.com

A spin cycle out of control

By Daniel Schorr

WASHINGTON – Washington these days feels a little like Moscow in Soviet times when the government routinely dispensed information to the public and the public routinely didn't believe it. The two main newspapers were the Communist Party organ, Pravda, (Truth) and the Soviet government organ, Izvestiya (News). People used to say, "There is no Izvestiya in Pravda and no Pravda in Izvestiya."

For three years our leaders told us that Iraq for sure had weapons of mass destruction ... well, pretty sure ... well, maybe. One war later, after scouring the countryside, the government admits that there weren't any such weapons. If President Bush were to go on TV one of these days and say that Iran has developed a nuclear bomb, requiring American action, who would believe him?

On a less momentous scale, who can believe TV news reports when they may turn out to be government-financed videos? Have you ever seen the report on the drug benefits of the Bush Medicare act that ran on 40 local TV stations, complete with the "out-cue": "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting"? The Department of Health and Human Services paid her to play the role of reporter. Or, did you see the report on the antidrug campaign produced by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, narrated by nonjournalist Mike Morris?

Or, more recently, the TV and newspaper comments of Armstrong Williams, praising the Bush No Child Left Behind education act, bought with $240,000 of Education Department money?

Education Secretary Rod Paige, shocked, says he is ordering an investigation of "perceptions and allegations of ethical lapses."

Appropriation bills often contain a prohibition on the use of taxpayer money for government propaganda. That has certainly been violated many times. Would it be too much to require that these pseudo-news reports at least reveal the source of their funding? If people knew it came from the government, they might not believe it.

How did we ever get to this point?

Journalism's vacation from the truth

One day after Tucker Carlson, the co-host of CNN's "Crossfire," made his farewell appearance and two days after the network's new president made the admirable announcement that he would soon kill the program altogether, a television news miracle occurred: even as it staggered through its last steps to the network guillotine, "Crossfire" came up with the worst show in its 23-year history.

.

This was a half-hour of television so egregious that it makes Jon Stewart's famous pre-election rant seem, if anything, too kind. This time "Crossfire" was not just "hurting America," as Stewart put it, by turning news into a nonsensical gong show. It was unwittingly, or perhaps wittingly, complicit in the cover-up of a scandal.

.

I do not mean to minimize the CBS News debacle and other recent journalistic outrages at The New York Times and elsewhere. But the Jan. 7 edition of CNN's signature show can stand as an exceptionally ripe paradigm of what is happening to the free flow of information in a country in which a timid news media, the fierce (and often covert) Bush administration propaganda machine, lax and sometimes corrupt journalistic practices, and a celebrity culture all combine to keep the public at many more than six degrees of separation from anything that might resemble the truth.

.

On this particular "Crossfire," the featured guest was Armstrong Williams, a conservative commentator, talk-show host and newspaper columnist (for papers like The Washington Times and The Detroit Free Press, among others, according to his Web site).

.

Thanks to investigative reporting by USA Today, he had just been unmasked as the frontman for a scheme in which $240,000 of taxpayers' money was quietly siphoned to him through the Department of Education and a private public relations firm so that he would "regularly comment" upon (translation: shill for) the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind policy in various media venues during an election year.

.

Given that "Crossfire" was initially conceived as a program for tough interrogation and debate, you'd think that the co-hosts still on duty after Carlson's departure might try to get some answers about this scandal, whose full contours, I suspect, we are only just beginning to discern.

.

But there is nothing if not honor among bloviators.

.

"On the left," as they say at "Crossfire," Paul Begala, a Democratic political consultant, offered condemnations of the Bush administration but had only soft questions and plaudits for Williams. Three times in scarcely as many minutes Begala congratulated his guest for being "a stand-up guy" simply for appearing in the show's purportedly hostile but entirely friendly confines. When Williams apologized for having crossed "some ethical lines," that was enough to earn Begala's benediction: "God bless you for that."

.

"On the right" was the columnist Robert Novak, who "in the interests of full disclosure" told the audience he is a "personal friend" of Williams, whom he "greatly" admires as "one of the foremost voices for conservatism in America." Needless to say, Novak did not have any tough questions, either, but we should pause a moment to analyze this "Crossfire" co-host's disingenuous use of the term "full disclosure."

.

Last year Novak had failed to fully disclose - until others in the press called him on it - that his son is the director of marketing for Regnery, the company that published "Unfit for Command," the Swift boat veterans' anti-Kerry screed that Novak flogged relentlessly on CNN and elsewhere throughout the campaign. Nor had he fully disclosed, as Mary Jacoby of Salon reported, that Regnery's owner also publishes his subscription newsletter ($297 a year).

.

Nor has Novak fully disclosed why he has so far eluded any censure in the federal investigation of his outing of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, while two other reporters, Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matt Cooper of Time, are facing possible prison terms in the same case. In this context, Novak's "full disclosure" of his friendship with Williams is so anomalous that it raised many more questions than it answers.

.

.

That he and Begala would be allowed to lob softballs at a man who may have been a cog in illegal government wrongdoing, on a show produced by television's self-proclaimed "most trusted" news network, is bad enough. That almost no one would notice, let alone protest, is a snapshot of our cultural moment, in which hidden agendas in the presentation of "news" metastasize daily into a Kafkaesque hall of mirrors that could drive even the most earnest American into abject cynicism. But the ugly bigger picture reaches well beyond "Crossfire" and CNN.

.

Williams has repeatedly said in his damage-control press appearances that he was being paid the $240,000 only to promote No Child Left Behind. He has also routinely said that he made the mistake of taking the payola because he was not part of the "media elite" and therefore didn't know "the rules and guidelines" of journalistic conflict-of-interest.

.

His own public record tells us another story entirely. While on the administration payroll he was not only a cheerleader for No Child Left Behind but also for President George W. Bush's Iraq policy and his performance in the presidential debates. And for a man who purports to have learned of media ethics only this month, Williams has spent an undue amount of time appearing as a media ethicist on both CNN and the cable news networks of NBC.

.

He took to CNN last October to give his own critique of the CBS News scandal, pointing out that the producer of the Bush-National Guard story, Mary Mapes, was guilty of a conflict of interest because she introduced her source, the anti-Bush partisan Bill Burkett, to a Kerry campaign operative, Joe Lockhart. In this Williams's judgment was correct, but grave as Mapes's infraction was, it isn't quite in the same league as receiving $240,000 from the United States Treasury to propagandize for the Bush campaign on camera.

.

Williams also appeared with Alan Murray on CNBC to trash Kitty Kelley's book on the Bush family, on CNN to accuse the media of being Michael Moore's "P.R. machine" and on Tina Brown's CNBC talk show to lambaste Stewart for doing a "puff interview" with John Kerry on "The Daily Show" (which Williams, unsurprisingly, seems to think is a real, not a fake, news program).

.

But perhaps the most fascinating Williams TV appearance took place in December 2003, the same month that he was first contracted by the government to receive his payoffs. At a time when no one in television news could get an interview with Dick Cheney, Williams, of all "journalists," was rewarded with an extended sit-down with the vice president for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a nationwide owner of local stations affiliated with all the major networks.

.

In that chat, Cheney criticized the press for its coverage of Halliburton and denounced "cheap shot journalism" in which "the press portray themselves as objective observers of the passing scene, when they obviously are not objective."

[Jan 28, 2005] Image, Message and the Media

And so it is that while technically free of government influence, US media is nevertheless profoundly influenced by political and governmental factors. And the interrelationship of political, cultural and commercial consideration combine to make the US media more responsive to these pressures and as a result less free and less inquisitive.

In a media saturated democratic society like the US, the relationship between the media and those who govern it is both intimate and complex. Presidents are elected because they know how to present their message in the media and how to manipulate and control media.

In many ways, elections have become media contests. There is still the effort to energize and organize voters on Election Day. But a significant component of electoral politics has become the candidate’s efforts to establish a media-driven message. In some instances this involves tens of millions of dollars in evocative paid advertising. In others, it involves carefully constructed events, designed solely for their media impact.

In all cases, candidates seek to gain control of how their image and message is projected, while at the same time attempting to put themselves in the position of defining their opponent’s image and message.

In this era of all-pervasive media, examples of the above are plentiful. Jimmy Carter was no match for that master of the media, Ronald Reagan. George Bush devastated Michael Dukakis because he succeeded in defining him as a weak liberal.

Similarly, while riding high with his popularity as victor of the Gulf War, Democrats took advantage of Bush’s delay in beginning his re-election campaign and succeeded in defining him as a “failed president” who, while winning foreign wars, ignored domestic economic needs.

Clinton, like Reagan, was a master of the media. Time and again, he successfully used it define himself and his message to overpower and drown out competing messages.

In instances where Clinton could not overcome the preponderance of negative press instigated by the Republican-led House and Senate, harped on by ideologically motivated right-wing commentators and then echoed by more mainstream media, the White House would go around the national media and give local press, starved for “exclusives,” direct access to the president.

George W. Bush did much the same during his two campaigns for president. When plagued by reports of “not so youthful” indiscretions, or reporting on his failed policies, Bush gave himself to local media outlets casting himself as “a regular guy,” a man of character and resolve, fighting Washington politics and the “Washington media.”

Contemporary presidents have learned that the media has to be mastered not only to be elected, but to govern. Reagan, for example, escaped a humiliating withdrawal from Lebanon, following the devastating attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut with a quick victory in Grenada. Clinton, fairly or not, was accused of much the same with the surprise attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan.

George H.W. Bush’s conduct during the Gulf War is probably the most successful example of this point. For months after deploying a substantial force in the Arabian Gulf, the president and his spokespeople consistently maintained that the forces were there only to “defend and deter.”

Meanwhile, the administration worked slowly but steadily built public support for future action. In September of 1990, the US public was not prepared for an assault on Iraq or a substantial effort to liberate Kuwait. Different messages were tried and tested daily, the public’s reactions to these messages were examined and evaluated. There was an observable shift in public attitudes during the next four months. This media-driven public relations campaign worked. By the time the war actually began, the public was ready and Congress supportive.

Similarly, in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, the second Bush administration used the power of the presidency and the public’s insecurity resulting from 9/11 to move a pliant national media to build the campaign for war.

The media was, in all these instances, managed in the service of policy and governing, and did not play an independent role in examining administration campaign efforts. As I’ve noted earlier, too often, media merely “records and reports” what government officials say and does not search for the truth. In fact, only when major dissident voices were raised did the media cover “the other side” and then, in a “he said-she said” format. Thus it was, in the lead-up to the Iraq war, that only after “quotables” like former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft spoke out, or when former Vermont Governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean built a bottom-up campaign in opposition to the war, were serious questions about Iraq policy raised in the mainstream media.

These challenges have been further fed by new questions that are now being asked, now that stubborn Iraqi realities have defied the administration’s fantasy scenario about the war’s successes. The administration’s response to all of this has been vigorous and sustained. They have denigrated opponents, preyed on fear and relied on patriotic fervor, and managed an effective counter media campaign effort to win the day with public opinion — at least for now.

And so it is that while technically free of government influence, US media is nevertheless profoundly influenced by political and governmental factors. And the interrelationship of political, cultural and commercial consideration combine to make the US media more responsive to these pressures and as a result less free and less inquisitive.

Old soldiers don’t fade away by Fred Reed

American conservative/Walking Wounded

The observant will have noticed that we hear little from the troops in Iraq and see almost nothing of the wounded. Why, one might wonder, does not CNN put an enlisted Marine before a camera and, for 15 minutes without editing, let him say what he thinks? Is he not an adult and a citizen? Is he not engaged in important events on our behalf?

Sound political reasons exist. Soldiers are a risk PR-wise, the wounded a liability. No one can tell what they might say, and conspicuous dismemberment is bad for recruiting. An enlisted man in front of a camera is dangerous. He could wreck the governmental spin apparatus in five minutes. It is better to keep soldiers discreetly out of sight.

So we do not see much of the casualties, ours or theirs. Yet they are there, somewhere, with missing legs, blind, becoming accustomed to groping at things in their new darkness, learning to use the wheelchairs that will be theirs for 50 years. Some face worse fates than others. Quadriplegics will be warehoused in VA hospitals where nurses will turn them at intervals, like hamburgers, to prevent bedsores. Friends and relatives will soon forget them. Suicide will be a frequent thought. The less damaged will get around.

For a brief moment perhaps the casualties will believe, then try desperately to keep believing, that they did something brave and worthy and terribly important for that abstraction, country. Some will expect thanks. But there will be no thanks, or few, and those quickly forgotten. It will be worse. People will ask how they lost the leg. In Iraq, they will say, hoping for sympathy, or respect, or understanding. The response, often unvoiced but unmistakable, will be, “What did you do that for?” The wounded will realize that they are not only crippled, but freaks.

The years will go by. Iraq will fade into the mist. Wars always do. A generation will rise for whom it will be just history. The dismembered veterans will find first that almost nobody appreciates what they did, then that few even remember it. If—when, many would say—the United States is driven out of Iraq, the soldiers will look back and realize that the whole affair was a fraud. Wars are just wars. They seem important at the time. At any rate, we are told that they are important.

Yet the wounds will remain. Arms do not grow back. For the paralyzed there will never be girlfriends, dancing, rolling in the grass with children. The blind will adapt as best they can. Those with merely a missing leg will count themselves lucky. They will hobble about, managing to lead semi-normal lives, and people will say, “How well he handles it.” An admirable freak. For others it will be less good. A colostomy bag is a sorry companion on a wedding night.

These men will come to hate. It will not be the Iraqis they hate. This we do not talk about.

It is hard to admit that one has been used. Some of the crippled will forever insist that the war was needed, that they were protecting their sisters from an Islamic invasion, or Vietnamese, or Chinese. Others will keep quiet and drink too much. Still others will read, grow older and wiser—and bitter. They will remember that their vice president, a man named Cheney, said that during his war, the one in Asia, he “had other priorities.” The veterans will remember this when everyone else has long since forgotten Cheney.

I once watched the first meeting between a young Marine from the South, blind, much of his face shot away, and his high-school sweetheart, who had come from Tennessee to Bethesda Naval Hospital to see him.

Hatred comes easily. There are wounds and there are wounds. A friend of mine spent two tours in Asia in that war now little remembered. He killed many people, not all of them soldiers. It is what happens in wars. The memory haunts him. Jack is a hard man from a tough neighborhood, quick with his fists, intelligent but uneducated—not a liberal flower vain over his sensitivity. He lives in Mexican bars few would enter and has no politics beyond an anger toward government. He was not a joyous killer. He remembers what he did, knows now that he was had. It gnaws at him. One is wise to stay away from him when he is drinking.

People say that this war isn’t like Vietnam. They are correct. Washington fights its war in Iraq with no better understanding of Iraq than it had of Vietnam, but with much better understanding of the United States. The Pentagon learned from Asia. This time around it has controlled the press well. Here is the great lesson of Southeast Asia: the press is dangerous, not because it is inaccurate, which it often is, but because it often isn’t. So we don’t much see the caskets —for reasons of privacy, you understand.

The war in Iraq is fought by volunteers, which means people that no one in power cares about. No one in the mysteriously named “elite” gives a damn about some kid from a town in Tennessee that has one gas station and a beer hall with a stuffed buck’s head. Such a kid is a redneck at best, pretty much from another planet, and certainly not someone you would let your daughter date. If conscription came back, and college students with rich parents learned to live in fear of The Envelope, riots would blossom as before. Now Yale can rest easy. Thank God for throwaway people.

The nearly perfect separation between the military and the rest of the country, or at least the influential in the country, is wonderful for the war effort. It prevents concern. How many people with a college degree even know a soldier? Yes, some, and I will get e-mail from them, but they are a minority. How many Americans have been on a military base? Or, to be truly absurd, how many men in combat arms went to, say, Harvard? Ah, but they have other priorities.

In 15 years in Washington, I knew many, many reporters and intellectuals and educated people. Almost none had worn boots. So it is. Those who count do not have to go, and do not know anyone who has gone, and don’t interest themselves. There is a price for this, though not one Washington cares about. Across America, in places where you might not expect it—in Legion halls and VFW posts, among those who carry membership cards from the Disabled American Veterans—there are men who hate. They don’t hate America. They hate those who sent them. Talk to the wounded from Iraq in five years

[Jan 20, 2005] A spin cycle out of control By Daniel Schorr

csmonitor.com

A spin cycle out of control

Washington these days feels a little like Moscow in Soviet times when the government routinely dispensed information to the public and the public routinely didn't believe it. The two main newspapers were the Communist Party organ, Pravda, (Truth) and the Soviet government organ, Izvestiya (News). People used to say, "There is no Izvestiya in Pravda and no Pravda in Izvestiya."

For three years our leaders told us that Iraq for sure had weapons of mass destruction ... well, pretty sure ... well, maybe. One war later, after scouring the countryside, the government admits that there weren't any such weapons. If President Bush were to go on TV one of these days and say that Iran has developed a nuclear bomb, requiring American action, who would believe him?

On a less momentous scale, who can believe TV news reports when they may turn out to be government-financed videos? Have you ever seen the report on the drug benefits of the Bush Medicare act that ran on 40 local TV stations, complete with the "out-cue": "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting"? The Department of Health and Human Services paid her to play the role of reporter. Or, did you see the report on the antidrug campaign produced by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, narrated by nonjournalist Mike Morris?

Or, more recently, the TV and newspaper comments of Armstrong Williams, praising the Bush No Child Left Behind education act, bought with $240,000 of Education Department money?

Education Secretary Rod Paige, shocked, says he is ordering an investigation of "perceptions and allegations of ethical lapses."

Appropriation bills often contain a prohibition on the use of taxpayer money for government propaganda. That has certainly been violated many times. Would it be too much to require that these pseudo-news reports at least reveal the source of their funding? If people knew it came from the government, they might not believe it.

How did we ever get to this point?

Journalism's vacation from the truth

One day after Tucker Carlson, the co-host of CNN's "Crossfire," made his farewell appearance and two days after the network's new president made the admirable announcement that he would soon kill the program altogether, a television news miracle occurred: even as it staggered through its last steps to the network guillotine, "Crossfire" came up with the worst show in its 23-year history.

This was a half-hour of television so egregious that it makes Jon Stewart's famous pre-election rant seem, if anything, too kind. This time "Crossfire" was not just "hurting America," as Stewart put it, by turning news into a nonsensical gong show. It was unwittingly, or perhaps wittingly, complicit in the cover-up of a scandal.

I do not mean to minimize the CBS News debacle and other recent journalistic outrages at The New York Times and elsewhere. But the Jan. 7 edition of CNN's signature show can stand as an exceptionally ripe paradigm of what is happening to the free flow of information in a country in which a timid news media, the fierce (and often covert) Bush administration propaganda machine, lax and sometimes corrupt journalistic practices, and a celebrity culture all combine to keep the public at many more than six degrees of separation from anything that might resemble the truth.

On this particular "Crossfire," the featured guest was Armstrong Williams, a conservative commentator, talk-show host and newspaper columnist (for papers like The Washington Times and The Detroit Free Press, among others, according to his Web site).

Thanks to investigative reporting by USA Today, he had just been unmasked as the frontman for a scheme in which $240,000 of taxpayers' money was quietly siphoned to him through the Department of Education and a private public relations firm so that he would "regularly comment" upon (translation: shill for) the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind policy in various media venues during an election year.

Given that "Crossfire" was initially conceived as a program for tough interrogation and debate, you'd think that the co-hosts still on duty after Carlson's departure might try to get some answers about this scandal, whose full contours, I suspect, we are only just beginning to discern.

But there is nothing if not honor among bloviators.

"On the left," as they say at "Crossfire," Paul Begala, a Democratic political consultant, offered condemnations of the Bush administration but had only soft questions and plaudits for Williams. Three times in scarcely as many minutes Begala congratulated his guest for being "a stand-up guy" simply for appearing in the show's purportedly hostile but entirely friendly confines. When Williams apologized for having crossed "some ethical lines," that was enough to earn Begala's benediction: "God bless you for that."

"On the right" was the columnist Robert Novak, who "in the interests of full disclosure" told the audience he is a "personal friend" of Williams, whom he "greatly" admires as "one of the foremost voices for conservatism in America." Needless to say, Novak did not have any tough questions, either, but we should pause a moment to analyze this "Crossfire" co-host's disingenuous use of the term "full disclosure."

Last year Novak had failed to fully disclose - until others in the press called him on it - that his son is the director of marketing for Regnery, the company that published "Unfit for Command," the Swift boat veterans' anti-Kerry screed that Novak flogged relentlessly on CNN and elsewhere throughout the campaign. Nor had he fully disclosed, as Mary Jacoby of Salon reported, that Regnery's owner also publishes his subscription newsletter ($297 a year).

Nor has Novak fully disclosed why he has so far eluded any censure in the federal investigation of his outing of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, while two other reporters, Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matt Cooper of Time, are facing possible prison terms in the same case. In this context, Novak's "full disclosure" of his friendship with Williams is so anomalous that it raised many more questions than it answers.

That he and Begala would be allowed to lob softballs at a man who may have been a cog in illegal government wrongdoing, on a show produced by television's self-proclaimed "most trusted" news network, is bad enough. That almost no one would notice, let alone protest, is a snapshot of our cultural moment, in which hidden agendas in the presentation of "news" metastasize daily into a Kafkaesque hall of mirrors that could drive even the most earnest American into abject cynicism. But the ugly bigger picture reaches well beyond "Crossfire" and CNN.

Williams has repeatedly said in his damage-control press appearances that he was being paid the $240,000 only to promote No Child Left Behind. He has also routinely said that he made the mistake of taking the payola because he was not part of the "media elite" and therefore didn't know "the rules and guidelines" of journalistic conflict-of-interest.

His own public record tells us another story entirely. While on the administration payroll he was not only a cheerleader for No Child Left Behind but also for President George W. Bush's Iraq policy and his performance in the presidential debates. And for a man who purports to have learned of media ethics only this month, Williams has spent an undue amount of time appearing as a media ethicist on both CNN and the cable news networks of NBC.

He took to CNN last October to give his own critique of the CBS News scandal, pointing out that the producer of the Bush-National Guard story, Mary Mapes, was guilty of a conflict of interest because she introduced her source, the anti-Bush partisan Bill Burkett, to a Kerry campaign operative, Joe Lockhart. In this Williams's judgment was correct, but grave as Mapes's infraction was, it isn't quite in the same league as receiving $240,000 from the United States Treasury to propagandize for the Bush campaign on camera.

Williams also appeared with Alan Murray on CNBC to trash Kitty Kelley's book on the Bush family, on CNN to accuse the media of being Michael Moore's "P.R. machine" and on Tina Brown's CNBC talk show to lambaste Stewart for doing a "puff interview" with John Kerry on "The Daily Show" (which Williams, unsurprisingly, seems to think is a real, not a fake, news program).

But perhaps the most fascinating Williams TV appearance took place in December 2003, the same month that he was first contracted by the government to receive his payoffs. At a time when no one in television news could get an interview with Dick Cheney, Williams, of all "journalists," was rewarded with an extended sit-down with the vice president for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a nationwide owner of local stations affiliated with all the major networks.

In that chat, Cheney criticized the press for its coverage of Halliburton and denounced "cheap shot journalism" in which "the press portray themselves as objective observers of the passing scene, when they obviously are not objective."



Etc

FAIR USE NOTICE This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit exclusivly for research and educational purposes.   If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. 

ABUSE: IPs or network segments from which we detect a stream of probes might be blocked for no less then 90 days. Multiple types of probes increase this period.  

Society

Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers :   Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy

Quotes

War and Peace : Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith :Talleyrand : Oscar Wilde : Otto Von Bismarck : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotesSomerset Maugham : Marcus Aurelius : Kurt Vonnegut : Eric Hoffer : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose BierceBernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes

Bulletin:

Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law

History:

Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Hater’s Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least


Copyright © 1996-2016 by Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov. www.softpanorama.org was created as a service to the UN Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) in the author free time. This document is an industrial compilation designed and created exclusively for educational use and is distributed under the Softpanorama Content License.

The site uses AdSense so you need to be aware of Google privacy policy. You you do not want to be tracked by Google please disable Javascript for this site. This site is perfectly usable without Javascript.

Original materials copyright belong to respective owners. Quotes are made for educational purposes only in compliance with the fair use doctrine.

FAIR USE NOTICE This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to advance understanding of computer science, IT technology, economic, scientific, and social issues. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided by section 107 of the US Copyright Law according to which such material can be distributed without profit exclusively for research and educational purposes.

This is a Spartan WHYFF (We Help You For Free) site written by people for whom English is not a native language. Grammar and spelling errors should be expected. The site contain some broken links as it develops like a living tree...

You can use PayPal to make a contribution, supporting development of this site and speed up access. In case softpanorama.org is down you can use the at softpanorama.info

Disclaimer:

The statements, views and opinions presented on this web page are those of the author (or referenced source) and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of the author present and former employers, SDNP or any other organization the author may be associated with. We do not warrant the correctness of the information provided or its fitness for any purpose.

Last modified: June, 04, 2016