the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

August 21, 2005

New York Times Comes Out Against Freedom Walk


While the Washington Post changed its mind about sponsoring the Pentagon’s “Freedom Walk” propaganda parade and so now has taken a neutral stand, the New York Times goes further, coming out in opposition with a scathing editorial that says the event shows that the Pentagon is badly out of step with public opinion on the war:

The Bush administration has announced plans for a Freedom Walk on Sept. 11, which will start at the Pentagon and end at the National Mall, and include a country music concert. The event is an ill-considered attempt to link the Iraq war to the terrorist attacks of 2001, and misguided in almost every conceivable way. It also badly misreads the public’s mood. The American people are becoming increasingly skeptical about the war. They want answers to hard questions, not pageantry.

It is perfectly appropriate for the Defense Department to organize a memorial for Americans who died on Sept. 11, since many were Pentagon employees. It is also fine to pay tribute to the sacrifices being made by the troops in Iraq. What is disturbing is the Bush administration’s insistence on combining the two in a politically loaded day of marching and entertainment.

Having failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the administration has been eager to repackage the war as a response to Sept. 11. The Freedom Walk appears to be devised to impress this false connection on the popular imagination.

The walk will end with a concert by the country musician Clint Black. Mr. Black is a gifted entertainer, but his song about the Iraq war, “I Raq and Roll” — which contains such lyrics as “our troops take out the garbage, for the good old U.S.A.” — sends a jingoistic message that is particularly out of place at a memorial service. […]

The Defense Department’s ham-handed mixture of mourning and celebration, and its misleading subtext, feels as if it was dreamed up by an overly slick image consultant. It is not the kind of program the administration should be sponsoring, unless it wants to give the impression that the Pentagon’s mood is less serious than the public’s.

August 17, 2005

Freedom Walk: Arlington Cemetery Out, Hatemonger WMAL In


As promised I’m keeping an eye on the Freedom Walk site. Today there were a couple of further changes.

First, on the “About” page the phrase “cross Arlington National Cemetery” has been dropped from the sentence “The America Supports You Freedom Walk is a two-mile walk that will begin near the Pentagon crash site, cross Arlington National Cemetery, proceed over the Memorial Bridge, pass several National memorials, and conclude adjacent to the National Mall and Reflecting Pool.” Not sure what that means.

Second, the Washington Post’s decision to drop its sponsorship (after heavy criticism) left a gap in the list of sponsors. Local right-wing news-talk radio station 630 WMAL has stepped up to do its duty.

WMAL makes no secret of its political leanings, as you can see by a visit to its website (don’t miss the citizen scoreboard). The station has been in the news lately because its talk show host Michael Graham (a veteran of the “Truth Tour”) made various anti-Muslim statements, including “The problem is Islam” and “We are at war with a terrorist organization named Islam.” Far from retracting or apologizing, when confronted Graham responded with further Muslim bashing and was supported by WMAL management, who described his words as simply “rattling the cage”. Eventually, under pressure, WMAL suspended him.

Graham’s substitute host, Mark Williams, promptly carried on the theme of attacking minorities by whipping up listeners into a frenzy against illegal immigrants and getting them to flood the mayor of Herndon with hate calls about a proposed gathering site for day laborers:

You need to help … Mayor O’Reilly understand he’s advocating breaking the law … and assisting criminal aliens who are in this country destroying this country, stealing jobs, running drugs, raping people. This is not an approved activity for the mayor of Herndon, Virginia.

Is getting WMAL involved really the best way to make the Freedom Walk look less partisan?

August 15, 2005

Should the Post Sponsor the Freedom Walk? More Voices Say No


I wrote over the weekend about Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher’s disagreeing with his newspaper’s decision to sponsor the Pentagon’s “America Supports You” Freedom Walk. Since then a few more people and organizations have expressed their opposition.


August 13, 2005

Chat Sours Post Columnist on Freedom Walk, but Management Still Claims It’s Nonpartisan


Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher had a Live Online chat Thursday, and the conversation turned to the Post’s sponsorship of the Pentagon’s “Freedom Walk” September 11 propaganda event (see AltHippo’s post). Fisher first responded like this:

Well, first of all, it’s the Washington Post as a corporate entity in this community that’s sponsoring the march, not the news operation. Second, I don’t see where this is a pro-administration rally. From the web site, it looks like a non-partisan expression of support for the troops and for the memory of those who died on 9/11.

I grant you that anytime our company sponsors events that are remotely controversial, it causes grief in the newsroom because it does indeed raise questions among readers about our neutrality and fairness. So if I were running things, I’d steer clear of any sponsorship of potentially divisive events. But in fairness, this seems to be more along the lines of a Veterans Day commemoration than a pro-war rally.


August 4, 2005

Pentagon Propaganda and Bad Headlines


Several times I’ve been on the verge of writing about this story, and now Jesse has nudged me over the edge by adding another wrinkle. On July 24, CNN reported evidence that the Pentagon is making up quotes for its news releases. Compare these passages from releases describing two separate attacks:

July 13 July 24
“The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the children and all of Iraq,” said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified. “They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists.” “The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the ISF and all of Iraq. They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists,” said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified.

The Pentagon claims the fake quotes resulted from “an administrative error”. On the Media ridiculed the story last weekend in its interview with Unidentified Iraqi.

The Washington Post, as far as I can tell, ignored the story until Tuesday’s edition, when it reported on a Pentagon memo about the quotes, and that’s where Jesse noticed it and called it to my attention as “a good example of bad news reporting”. More from Jesse:

Now, should this story have been called “Pentagon Rejects Use of Anonymous Quotes; Its News Releases Cited Nameless Iraqi”? — Or should it have been called “War Propaganda?; Pentagon Uses Same Iraq Quote 2 Different Weeks”. By essentially using the Pentagon’s press release as their story, the AP and the Washington Post are letting the Pentagon do preemptive damage control on a story few if any of us were aware of before (it’s also worth noting that the title of the article used in the Washington Post is probably not the original title used in the AP story, since papers routinely rename AP stories). Bottom line: the issue isn’t that the Pentagon used anonymous quotes — it’s that they fabricated anonymous quotes.

Jesse’s exactly right. I found that a slightly earlier version of the story on the Post’s site, but the headline, “Pentagon Says Anonymous Quote Use an Error”, also avoids mentioning the main point of the story. As Brad DeLong might say, why oh why can’t we have better newspapers?

July 27, 2005

Somerby Savages Marshall


Maybe Bob Somerby just finds it hard to dig up real errors by the left when he’s looking for balance. Maybe he’s jealous of Democratic bloggers and lashes out from time to time with criticisms based on ludicrously hyperliteral interpretations of sentences. Who knows? In any case, yesterday Somerby devoted most of his Daily Howler to a long rant about Josh Marshall and what he’s written in Talking Points Memo about Rep. Pat Roberts.

The statement from Marshall that sets him off is this: “On CNN today, Sen. Roberts (R) said Valerie Plame couldn’t be covert since she was working at CIA headquarters at the time her identity was exposed.” Somerby claims that is “baldly inaccurate” and “flat-out wrong”. He then quotes what Roberts actually said (emphasis is Somerby’s):

BLITZER: I ask the question because some are suggesting she really wasn’t under cover any more. She had been working at the CIA in nonproliferation. She really wasn’t a technical—

ROBERTS: There’s a five-year period, OK? And whether or not that five-year period had been reached or not is still questionable. And I must say, from a common sense standpoint, driving back and forth to work to the CIA headquarters, I don’t know if that really qualifies as being, you know, covert.

What is Roberts saying there? Is Marshall’s summary really unfair? Somerby says that Roberts is “plainly” only saying he doesn’t know. Try to believe that Somerby is actually so ignorant of how people use the English language to communicate.

I must say, I don’t know if Somerby really qualifies as being, you know, competent.

July 21, 2005

Supreme Court Disinformation


In covering the Roberts appointment, the press is mostly ignoring the fact that they spent a whole day telling us the nominee was Edith Clement because confidential sources in the White House were telling them she was. Finally Howard Kurtz is talking about the issue, but he avoids the point that Atrios and Kevin Drum make: What’s the purpose of protecting a source who’s lied to you? And how does that work, anyway? When the same source calls a journalist again, does the journalist just pretend not to notice that the information was bogus last time? Or does the administration have an infinite supply of disposable sources ready to call journalists?

The White House apparently views the media, and by extension the public they’re supposed to inform, as an enemy in a war. Therefore it feels justified in using disinformation against them, and us. That’s a dangerous situation for a democracy. And if the Bush administration is willing to lie to us about such a small thing, what else are they willing to lie about? That question has been asked many times before, of course, on topics from whether Dick Cheney had ever met John Edwards to whether aluminum tubes were weapons of mass destruction. The answer seems to be that they’re willing to lie about anything. Lying has zero cost, as far as they’re concerned, so as long as they think there’s any benefit at all, no matter how small, lying is their first instinct.

There are other shameful aspects of how Bush handled the announcement of Roberts. How does Judge Clement feel about being used as a decoy? It shows a serious lack of respect and consideration. Also, originally the announcement was supposed to be made in a week or two, but the schedule was suddenly rushed, presumably to knock the Rove-Plame story off the front pages. Once again, this administration puts politics above everything else.

July 15, 2005

Free Talk on Media Bias Monday


SALSA (The Social Action & Leadership School for Activists of the Institute for Policy Studies) is holding a free “interactive discussion” on media bias Monday night. Sounds like it could be interesting:

Act Globally, Learn LocallyMyths & Monsters of News Media
Mon, July 18, 2005 — 6:45-8:45pm

Independent, aggressive and critical media are essential to an informed democracy. But mainstream media are increasingly cozy with the economic and political powers they should be watch dogging. Come learn how increasing corporate concentration and the effects of a thirty-year war on journalism, waged by the far right elements in society, have taken a toll on independent reporting. We will talk about how the charge that news media are liberal — a right wing strategy with no foundation in evidence — has distorted the news. SALSA presents Steve Rendall, Senior Analyst at FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) in an interactive discussion examining media bias and the threat to independent journalism. Learn what can be done about this and what alternative media already exists.

July 6, 2005

Cooper, Miller, and Ethics


Mark Kleiman brings up something I’ve been thinking about:

Had it been known during the campaign that the presidents most important political advisor, the designer of this political strategy, had committed a felony and jeopardized the national security of the United States, this would have been a very significant issue in the campaign. It is, arguably, something the public really needed to know to make an intelligent decision about whom to vote for.

There is now NO real political consequence to the actions that administration officials engaged in (there is a legal consequence, perhaps, but no electoral consequence). So in that sense, these journalists not only flouted the law, they caused an election to occur without the full information the citizenry needed.

Anyone who questions the right’s assertion that the MSM is liberal is promptly treated to a derisive snort. (Here, I like the way Jon Stewart puts it: the facts themselves have a liberal bias.)

What we’re seeing here, however, is that the MSM is neither conservative or liberal. What drove the media, at least in this specific case, is careerism. Less speaking truth to power, than speaking security to career.

Cooper and Miller put their jobs over, as Kleiman puts it, “full information the citizenry needed.” They are currently defying the contempt order not to prevent the abuse of power by the high and mighty, but to ensure it.

I differ from Fitzgerald in sending them to jail. More fitting that they spend the next few months in community service. I would bet that 90 days spent cleaning up after the horses in Rock Creek Park would improve their writing skills immensely.

June 25, 2005

Public Broadcasting, Older Sister of the Internet


This weekend’s broadcast of On the Media had another segment on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The segment included parts of the speech Lyndon Johnson gave when he signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which created the CPB. It’s interesting to see what Johnson was thinking at the time:

In 1862, the Morrill Act set aside lands in every State — lands which belonged to the people — and it set them aside in order to build the land-grant colleges of the Nation.

So today we rededicate a part of the airwaves — which belong to all the people — and we dedicate them for the enlightenment of all the people.

I believe the time has come to stake another claim in the name of all the people, stake a claim based upon the combined resources of communications. I believe the time has come to enlist the computer and the satellite, as well as television and radio, and to enlist them in the cause of education.

If we are up to the obligations of the next century and if we are to be proud of the next century as we are of the past two centuries, we have got to quit talking so much about what has happened in the past two centuries and start talking about what is going to happen in the next century beginning in 1976.

So I think we must consider new ways to build a great network for knowledge — not just a broadcast system, but one that employs every means of sending and storing information that the individual can use.

Think of the lives that this would change:

  • the student in a small college could tap the resources of a great university. […]
  • The country doctor getting help from a distant laboratory or a teaching hospital;
  • a scholar in Atlanta might draw instantly on a library in New York;
  • a famous teacher could reach with ideas and inspirations into some far-off classroom, so that no child need be neglected.

Eventually, I think this electronic knowledge bank could be as valuable as the Federal Reserve Bank.

And such a system could involve other nations, too — it could involve them in a partnership to share knowledge and to thus enrich all mankind.

A wild and visionary idea? Not at all. Yesterday’s strangest dreams are today’s headlines and change is getting swifter every moment.

Who knew LBJ was a member of the digerati?


DCDL is a blog by Washington, DC-area members of Drinking Liberally. Opinions expressed are the writers’, not those of Drinking Liberally, which provides no funding or other support for this blog.

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