the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

August 30, 2005

New Freedom Walk Sponsors: AOL, McDonald’s, Washington Times


The list of sponsors for the Pentagon’s “America Supports You” Freedom Walk grew by two today, with the addition of AOL and McDonald’s.

Also, although it’s not mentioned on the walk’s website, the Washington Times has offered to provide free advertising for the event. It’s possible that the Pentagon is hesitant to accept such an offer from a newspaper owned by Sun Myung Moon, a billionaire Republican funder and self-proclaimed messiah who was crowned last year in a ceremony attended by members of Congress in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. But Republicans have never been shy about associating with the paper before, so my bet is they’ll be adding it to the sponsors in a later site update. We wouldn’t want Fred Phelps to be the only cult leader associated (though in his case as an opponent) with the Freedom Walk.

A Skunk at the Freedom Walk Party


Guess who’s going to be picketing the Pentagon’s “America Supports You” Freedom Walk? The Blue Voice informs us that Fred Phelps and his gang of cretins from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, will be coming our way September 11. They’re the folks who own godhatesfags.com (no link — you really don’t want to go there) and have been showing up at military funerals with signs saying things like “Thank God for IEDs!” Their “logic” is that God hates the United States because the country has become too accepting of homosexuality.

Regardless of what signs any peacenik demonstrators or freeper participants show up with, they’ll look good by comparison. But the danger is that any opposition may be painted as allied with Phelps.

August 25, 2005

Last Trace of “Celebration” Disappears From “Freedom Walk” Site


The Pentagon has been so eager to avoid the idea that the September 11 Freedom Walk is celebratory (as the original descriptions suggested) that it actually changed “celebrate our freedom” into “commemorate our freedom” on the “About” page, implying that our freedom has died. But the “celebrate our freedom” phrase continued to appear on the site’s front page, in this sentence:

This September 11th, the nation will gather in Washington, D.C. to remember the victims, honor our veterans, past and present, and celebrate our freedom with the America Supports You Freedom Walk, organized by the Department of Defense.

On Wednesday, however, someone must have done a search for “celebrate” and realized that the word had to go. Suddenly the sentence was changed:

This September 11th, the nation will gather in Washington, D.C. to remember the victims and honor our veterans, past and present, with the America Supports You Freedom Walk, organized by the Department of Defense.

This time they’ve eliminated the phrase entirely, meaning that “freedom” is gone from the “Freedom Walk” description along with “celebrate”.

But if the organizers really don’t want to give the impression that the Freedom Walk is a party, they might consider doing something about that whole Clint Black concert thing.

August 24, 2005

Operation Eternal Propaganda


This article from today’s Washington Post about using graves at Arlington Cemetary for the purpose of pro-war spin caught my attention:

Nearly all Arlington National Cemetery gravestones for troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan are inscribed with the operation names the Pentagon selected to promote public support for the conflicts. That was not the case with earlier wars.

Families of fallen soldiers and Marines are being told they have the option to have the government-furnished headstones engraved with “Operation Enduring Freedom” or “Operation Iraqi Freedom” at no extra charge, whether the service members are buried in Arlington or elsewhere.

The article goes on to mention that at least some families were not asked about the additions.

I’ve got a couple of questions. First of all, who came up with the name Operation Iraqi Freedom and when? Wasn’t this supposed to be Operation Keep Iraq from Nuking Us? Wasn’t that what Condi “Mushroom Cloud” Rice and Colin “Mobile Biowarfare Labs” Powell was telling us? My recollection was that only after the search for WMD turned up diddly did the Bush administration make the rhetorical adjustment to “spreading democracy.”

Second, does everyone in the Bush administration have a tin ear? Did no one question this decision? Did no one think something along the lines of: Using soldier’s graves to promote the war and ultimately the Bush administration is Kafkaesque to say the least, and more to the point sick.

Finally, does everyone at the Pentagon now serve the Republican propaganda machine? Is the next step to have Cheney/Rumsfeld 2008 printed on tombstones?

August 22, 2005

Pentagon Relaxes “Freedom Walk” Registration Requirements, But Something’s Still Fishy


Ever since the Pentagon announced the “America Supports You” Freedom Walk for September 11, people have been pointing out the incongruity of an event that celebrates freedom but requires participants to register with the Pentagon and provide personal information. A few days ago, the Pentagon stated that it would be “removing the boxes [on the form] that ask for personal data” and adding a privacy statement to the site. Today it took steps in that direction.

If you compare the current registration form with the Google cache (or the copy I saved yesterday), you’ll see that the red asterisks next to some form labels have disappeared. While the boxes are still there, the address and phone number are no longer required (and the JavaScript check for their presence has been disabled). All that’s required now are the participant’s full name, e-mail address, and shirt size (though T-shirts still aren’t mentioned on the site).

Also, at the bottom of the page (and other pages on the Freedom Walk site) there’s now a link to a privacy statement like those found on many websites. It’s pretty much a copy of the privacy statement used on many Defense Department websites, but there are a couple of interesting sentences missing. Here’s the third point from the Freedom Walk privacy statement:

3. Privacy Act Statement - If you choose to provide us with personal information — like filling out a Contact Us, Registration or Volunteer form with e-mail and/or postal addresses — we only use that information to respond to your message or request. We never create individual profiles or give it to any private organizations. While you must provide an e-mail address or postal address for a response other than those generated automatially in response to questions or comments that you may submit, we recommend that you NOT include any other personal information, especially Social Security numbers. The Social Security Administration offers additional guidance on sharing your Social Security number.

Now here’s the third point from the DefenseLINK privacy statement, with two sentences highlighted:

3. Privacy Act Statement - If you choose to provide us with personal information — like filling out a Contact Us form with e-mail and/or postal addresses — we only use that information to respond to your message or request. We will only share the information you give us with another government agency if your inquiry relates to that agency, or as otherwise required by law. We never create individual profiles or give it to any private organizations. DefenseLINK never collects information for commercial marketing. While you must provide an e-mail address or postal address for a response other than those generated automatially in response to questions or comments that you may submit, we recommend that you NOT include any other personal information, especially Social Security numbers. The Social Security Administration offers additional guidance on sharing your Social Security number.

Notice that those two sentences are missing in the version on the Freedom Walk site. It appears that someone copied the privacy statement but specifically removed those, which means that someone doesn’t want to give up the ability provide the information collected to other government agencies or to use it for commercial marketing to participants. Would-be registrants beware.

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 19, 2005

“Freedom Walk”, “Truth Tour” Have Much in Common


When I first read this SpinWatch article describing the “Truth Tour” of Iraq I was skeptical. If correct, this would tie together right-wing radio personalities, a PR firm supporting right-wing causes, and an office of the Pentagon.

This office, the Office of Media Outreach, if it existed, would be acting as a propaganda arm of the Pentagon, a notion that was rejected when Secretary Rumsfeld had attempted to create an Office of Strategic Influence.

A search of the internet yielded no such office under the .gov domain, and was not contained in any DoD org chart. Yet, I was able to get in touch with Lynnette Ebberts, who confirmed that the Office of Media Outreach exists, and she was the director. There was no .gov website or any other internet presence for OMO , she explained in email, because the office had been created just after the November elections.

Yet, America Supports You, the Pentagon group organizing the September 11 “Freedom Walk” has an elaborate presence on the web. Like the Office of Media Outreach, America Supports You was created immediately following the November elections. The two groups have more than shared timing: They share staff as well. Ms. Ebberts, for example, is both the director of the OMO and a point of contact for America Supports You.

Freedom Walk Wasn’t Free in Original Plan


The NewStandard reveals a new piece of information about the Pentagon’s Freedom Walk (emphasis added):

According to Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Greg Hicks, the Freedom Walk registration form was originally designed with the intention of charging participants a fee to defray event costs. The Department of Defense, which has an annual budget well in excess of $400 billion, has since decided to make Freedom Walk a free event.

So under the original plan, the Freedom Walk would have been even less free than it is now (when it just requires personal information rather than a monetary payment). Fortunately someone at the Pentagon thought better of that idea before launching the event. Interestingly, the only change to the “About the Walk” page — aside from a reference to the Pennsylvania crash — is a new question clarifying that it’s not a fundraiser:

Q6: Is this a fundraiser for the Pentagon Memorial Fund?
A6: The Freedom Walk is not a fundraiser but it will bring more visibility to the memorial. To learn how to support the Pentagon Memorial, visit http://memorial.pentagon.mil/

According to the NewStandard, the Pentagon will be making another change soon in response to criticism:

After repeated inquiries from The NewStandard about the purpose of collecting personal details, Hicks said DoD “will be removing the boxes [on the form] that ask for personal data.”

A NewStandard editor, Jessica Azulay, reflects in a blog entry on whether the reporting itself sparked the change:

Now this was a development we were not expecting and it complicated our reporting. All of a sudden, we suspected, our queries had changed the story. I’m not saying it’s impossible that they were planning on changing the registration form anyway, it would just be an interesting coincidence (and strange that it took them so long to tell us about a pre-conceived decision). So we had to put The NewStandard — and our questions — into the article to show how we may have affected the story.

As well as changing the registration form, the Pentagon says it will be adding a privacy policy. I’ll follow up to see whether those changes happen in the next day or two.

August 18, 2005

Freedom Concert


One of the things that’s been bugging me about the America Supports Orwell psyopfest is the conflation of the military with country music. Besides the Clint Black concert on September 11, DoD has also sponsored a country music series at the pentagon. See America Supports You “Salute” Concert Series Kicks-Off At the Pentagon Featuring Country Music Stars for more details.

I’m not the only one bothered by this. As the New York Daily News writes:

Whether or not a country music concert is appropriate for a day of mourning, I don’t know. The thing that rankles is that this concert will be beamed to our troops abroad, ostensibly as a morale booster. But ex-Marine Hoffman has his doubts.

“There were definitely some guys who still listened to country, but they were in the minority,” says Hoffman, who returned from Iraq last year. Most of the guys “are listening to rap or hard rock and metal.”

So why would Pentagon officials tap Black to perform? “They’re not playing to the troops,” says Hoffman. “They’re playing to who they view as their hard-core audience.”

In other words: red state voters right here in the U.S.

Why was Clint Black chosen for this event? Certainly not for his popularity in the DC music scene.

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?


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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