Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Once More into the Big Muddy

September 25, 2014

OBAMA_UN_001-x-large

Earlier this month, Andy Borowitz wrote an article with the title “Growing Pressure on Obama to Do Something Stupid”. This title is (partly) meant in jest, but it has proven to be prescient. Obama has finally done something that he has long resisted doing: he has bombed Syria. Why? Salim Lone, in The Guardian, writes: “Obama’s resistance to launching a war has for months made him the target of a sustained barrage of criticism, of a vehemence suffered by no other US president in the last 40 years.” Lone is probably referring to Jimmy Carter here. He was harshly criticized for not going to war with Iran over the hostage “crisis”. I would go back further, to Harry Truman, whom Republicans and much of the news media accused of “losing” China. These accusations may have contributed to Truman’s later reckless behavior during the Korean War, when he allowed Gen. MacArthur to exceed the UN mandate and invade North Korea – which led to a horrific war with China.

Over the past year or more, Obama has been under intense criticism from the media. They accuse him of being “soft” on Putin. (Do these people really want the president to start World War III?) As Lone points out:

    To get a sense of the pro-war shift in the US political landscape, recall how Bush’s infinitely more contentious 2003 war was preceded by a national debate. [Not much of a debate, actually.] Merely a media-amplified campaign for stepped-up military intervention has preceded Obama’s war. Even within his party, there has been little support, with senior figures like Hillary Clinton pouring scorn on his reticence.

Such discredited figures as Dick Cheney, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham – all of whom helped to create the current crisis in Iraq and Syria – are being exhibited on news shows as “experts” on what we should do now. We shouldn’t consider this surprising, considering that most of the people in the news media supported the invasion of Iraq.

Once again into the Big Muddy.

Fearmongering

January 20, 2014

tokyo-fukushima-power-look-1

The Scientific American has posted an article debunking the story that there was a spike in infant mortality rates in the Pacific Northwest immediately following the Fukushima nuclear accident. This was the first in a series of alarmist stories that have come out about that disaster, the latest of these being that the floor of the Pacific ocean is covered with dead animals. (This has also been debunked.) An interesting question here is why do people make up these stories. The Fukushima disaster is something we should all be concerned, and outraged, about, and the people responsible for it should be held accountable, but what is accomplished by making false claims about it? Do some anti-nuclear activists think that they can advance their cause by making false claims? They are deluded if they think so.

Some people actually seem to take a perverse pleasure in the idea that the sky is falling. Consider the popularity of the patently absurd “Mayan Prophecy” hoax. Perhaps this helps to explain the popularity of conspiracy theories, which portray us as helpless victims of a small, secret group of individuals.

The Satire Glut

December 26, 2013

pope_francis_1_048-1

A story has been circulating on social media lately that Pope Francis declared that “all religions are true.” The problem here is that the Pope never said that. According to Snopes.com this story comes from a satirical website called Diversity Chronicles. This is not the first time I’ve seen people on social media mistake a satirical article for a real story. There has been a proliferation of satirical websites in recent years, inspired, no doubt, by the success of The Onion. The problem here is not just that most of these sites aren’t that funny, but that they’re leading to false stories and rumors circulating on the Internet. And there’s already a lot of false information on the Internet as it is. Perhaps what we need is a moratorium on new satirical sites.

Russell Brand and Jeremy Paxman

October 27, 2013

uktv-bbc-newsnight-jeremy-paxman-1

I finally got around to watching that video of the Jeremy Paxman interview with Russel Brand that has caused so much comment on the Internet. Although I’m not a fan of Russell Brand (I find him annoying), I have to say that I found this interview refreshing. You would never hear anyone say these sorts of things on American TV. Here in the U.S., we seem to get an endless parade of washed-up rock singers, over-the-hill movie actors, and former Saturday Night Live cast members all stupidly babbling about how Obama is a “socialist”. Whatever his faults may be, Brand at least pays attention to what’s going on in the world.

Jeremy Paxman starts out by making the idiotic “if you don’t vote, you can’t talk about politics” argument, and then goes to the inane “you can change the world by voting” argument. These are things that I’ve heard American liberals say. These are just ways of evading discussion of how seriously screwed up our world is. Brand is at least willing to acknowledge this, even if his arguments are sometimes confused.

Paul Craig Roberts

September 7, 2013

r-PAUL-CRAIG-ROBERTS-large570

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Reagan Administration official who, during the past decade or so, has reinvented himself as a populist, an outspoken critic of the banksters whose interests he once faithfully served. Roberts is also a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.

The September 6-8 edition of CounterPunch has an article by Roberts entitled Will Congress Now Save Obama’s Face By Selling Out Democracy and the Syrian People?. In it, Roberts writes:

    The presstitute media and the House and Senate “leaders” who report to the military/security complex and to the Israel Lobby keep talking about Assad’s “own people,” but Assad’s own people support him. Polls of Syrians show that Assad has more support from the Syrian people than every head of every Western country has from their citizens. Cameron’s, Hollande’s, Merkel’s and Obama’s poll numbers are dismal compared to the Syrian peoples’ support for Assad.

I clicked on the link that Roberts provides with this paragraph. It took me to a website called World Tribune.com. The editor of the site, Robert Morton, is a former editor of the right-wing Washington Times. The site lists Breitbart.com, which smeared ACORN and Shirley Sherrod, as a “content partner”. It featured an article titled “NATO data: Assad winning the war for Syrians’ hearts and minds”. It says:

    The data, relayed to NATO over the last month, asserted that 70 percent of Syrians support the Assad regime. Another 20 percent were deemed neutral and the remaining 10 percent expressed support for the rebels.

    The sources said no formal polling was taken in Syria, racked by two years of civil war in which 90,000 people were reported killed. They said the data came from a range of activists and independent organizations that were working in Syria, particularly in relief efforts.

Clearly, this was no systematic poll, but simply a collection of opinions from various unidentified “activists and independent organizations”.

In the next paragraph, Roberts writes:

    Just as there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction,” but the facts did not stop the Bush regime from telling its lies that resulted in massive deaths and destruction of Iraqis, deaths and destruction that continue as I write, Assad has not used chemical weapons “against his own people.” All of the evidence points to a false flag event that Obama could seize upon to launch America’s 7th war in 12 years.

I googled the words “Gouta false flag event”, and all I found were articles based on an article on the Mint Press News site titled “EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack”. However, the article never uses the term “false flag event”. Instead, one of the authors interviewed some Syrians who claimed that what actually happened was that some rebel soldiers accidentally set off some chemical weapons. If the gassing was accidental, it was not a “false flag event”. The article ends with a disclaimer: “Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates.”

Roberts accuses the government and the media of making false claims about Syria, yet he makes false claims himself. This crank is not worth our time.

It’s Alive!

July 26, 2013

its_alive_4

I recently received an e-mail on Pinterest that said this:

    Trending on Pinterest…
    Is anything related to the newborn British royal baby. Pinners are continuing the baby-fever with party ideas fit for a prince, souvenirs and – our favorites – boards featuring historic baby pictures from years past.

CNN is still covering the birth of the royal baby. MSNBC has devoted enormous coverage to it. (I guess it saves them from having to discuss Snowden and the NSA.) It seems tactless to point out that the US fought a war to separate itself form the British monarchy.

Despite (or perhaps because of?) our theoretically egalitarian society, Americans tend to be suckers for aristocrats, both real and pretend. You may recall that Mark Twain made this point in Huckleberry Finn. When Erich Stroheim, the son of a Viennese hatmaker, arrived at Ellis Island, he gave his name as Count Erich Oswald Hans Carl Maria von Stroheim und Nordenwall, which was as shrewd a career move as any man ever made. He had a lucrative film career playing aristocrats (although in an often unflattering manner).

Americans mourned the death of Princess Diana, and they swooned over The King’s Speech, which told us that Britain was saved from the Nazis by Geroge VI and his speech therapist.

We might as well just surrender.

Israel Shamir, Again

July 21, 2013

images

On July 17, CounterPunch posted an article by Israel Shamir entitled Snowden in Moscow. In it, Shamir writes:

    Snowden was not seeking limelight, quite the opposite! He wished to stop the crimes being committed by No Such Agency in the name of American people, no more, no less. He hoped to become a new Deep Throat, whose identity would never be revealed. His first profound revelations were made by correspondence; he flew to Hong Kong as he was familiar with the place, spoke fluent Chinese, and planned to return home to Hawaii. It appears that the Guardian Newspaper pushed him into revealing his identity.

Shamir cites no sources for this. It should be clear that his claim implicates Glenn Greenwald, since Greenwald was the Guardian‘s contact with Snowden.

Shamir’s article has caused something of a row, as reported in an article in Popular Resistance. The article includes an exchange of e-mails between Kit Flynn, Greenwald, and Shamir, in which Greenwald flatly denies Shamir’s claim. (He also calls Shamir “an idiot”.) In one of the e-mails, Shamir makes the following revealing comment: “As probably you are aware, I am not a friend of the Guardian, a newspaper that smeared me in many possible ways.”

In its July 19-21 issue, CounterPunch posted Shamir’s reply to the Popular Resistance aricle, entitled Snowden in London: A Postscript. In it, Shamir writes:

    Naturally Greenwald (whom I never even mentioned) did not make decisions for Snowden, as far as I know. As for responsibility – yes, I do think that the Guardian was responsible for providing Snowden with a safe route. Remember, Hong Kong was a preferred (by Brits) jurisdiction to arrange for rendition, as Counterpunch reported.

    Journalism is a rough game, but it is still a human occupation. You can’t take a guy, goad him into spilling the beans, and drop him at the gate of police station. Even if he was ready to tell all he knew: still one is responsible for his safety.

    Apparently we have different ideas of responsibility. My idea: “one should protect the source; help the man to reach safety, and only then to release info.” Their idea: “publish and let the guy fry. It is his choice. We are just publishing.”

    I am being guided by compassion to the defector (for Snowden is a defector from the Power to the People side), PopRes and GG are guided by cold-nosed wish to get the stuff and dump the guy.

Isn’t this cute? Shamir starts out by denying that he ever accused Greenwald of pushing Snowden, and he then proceeds to imply that that is just what Greenwald did. (Note that Shamir doesn’t acknowledge that Greenwald has put himself at risk by reporting Snowden’s revelations.)

Shamir then gives us this high-minded sentiment:

    This is the bottom line, and we could reach it without so much of abuse and vehemence. We have different ideas of responsibility. Let us remain – each one – with these ideas. I have no wish to argue these points again.

Don’t you just hate this guy?

Ace in the Hole

June 30, 2013

AiH

Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) is an ethically challenged reporter who has been fired from several big city newspapers. He has wound up broke in Alberquerqe, New Mexico, where he persuades a local newspaper to hire him. Tatum is looking for that one big story that will get him hired by a major newspaper. While on an assignment, he stops to get gas at a diner/souvenir store, where he learns that the owner, Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict), has just been trapped in a rock fall while exploring the nearby ruins of an Indian cave dwelling. Sensing that this could be a big story, Tatum inserts himself into the situation, becoming the one who brings food and water to the unfortunate Leo. Tatum writes a melodramatic account of this incident for his paper. He then teams up with the corrupt local sheriff, Kretzer (Ray Teal), who believes he can use this to guarantee his re-election, as well as with Leo’s callous wife, Lorraine (Jan Sterling), who sees the publicity as a way to improve business. Tatum persuades Kretzer to pressure the rescuers into trying to reach Leo by drilling through the mountain, rather than going through the tunnel, which would take much less time. Tatum reasons that the longer the rescue takes, the more drama he can put into this news reports, thus making it into a bigger story. As the days go by, curiosity seekers begin showing up. Eventually a carnival arrives and sets up rides outside where Leo is trapped.

Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole was not well received by critics when it came out in 1951. They apparently thought that it was excessively cynical. The Hollywood Reporter, for example, called it “… nothing more than a brazen, uncalled-for slap in the face of two respected and frequently effective American institutions – democratic government and the free press.” In recent years, however, critics have taken a much kinder view of the film. I think one reason for that is that in the age of CNN and Fox News, it’s hard for people to take the noble view of the “free press” that the Hollywood Reporter‘s critic took.

Bosley Crowther, however, did make a valid point when he wrote: “There isn’t any denying that there are vicious newspaper men and that one might conceivably take advantage of a disaster for his own private gain. But to reckon that one could so tie up and maneuver a story of any size, while other reporters chew their fingers, is simply incredible.” It is highly improbable that a single reporter could completely control events the way Chuck Tatum does in this film. However, a group of reporters can control the way people perceive a story. Consider, for example, how some reporters have turned the recent revelations about the N.S.A. from a story about government spying to a story about Edward Snowden’s “narcissism”.

In Ace in the Hole, we see people enjoying carnival rides, while only a few hundred yards away, Leo is suffering, his legs trapped under rocks. This film is also about our society’s tendency to turn events into spectacles. The public’s reaction to the recent Boston Marathon bombings (“Boston Strong!”) was a good example of that, but the classic case in my opinion was the O.J. Simpson trial. Remember the “Ito Dancers”? Is Wilder’s film really much of an exaggeration of how people behave?

Ace in the Hole has Wilder’s usual biting dialogue, and the underrated Kirk Douglas gives a powerful performance as Tatum.

M.I.A Knew about N.S.A. Spying Three Years Before News Media Did

June 23, 2013

MIA-006

In 2010, the British pop singer, M.I.A., released a song called “The Message”, which contains the line: “Your headphones connected to your iPhone / Your iPhone’s connected to the Internet / The Internet’s connected to the Google / The Google’s connected to the Government.” Which is an accurate description of what’s been going on.

The Justice Department has just announced its plans to charge Edward Snowden with espionage. It seems that the government and its supporters in the news media are outraged that an N.S.A. employee dared to tell the American people what any intelligent person could have guessed.

What Were They Thinking?

June 12, 2013

Edward-Snowden-The-US-Is-Hacking-Everyone-Everywhere-2
Edward Snowden

To me, the most astonishing thing about the most recent scandal plaguing the government is that the Obama Administration actually believed that it could keep such an immense operation a secret. I remember that when I would argue with 9/11 conspiracy theorists, one of the points I would make was that the conspiracy they were describing would have involved so many participants that it would have been impossible to keep it a secret. (This argument is even more powerful when applied to the “moon landing was a hoax” conspiracy theory.) It now appears that those supposedly hard-nosed realists who control our national security apparatus are every bit as naïve as those 9/11 Truthers. A sobering revelation.

If Edward Snowden hadn’t spilled the beans about this, somebody else would have eventually done so. It was only a matter of time. This hasn’t prevented the punditocracy from vilifying Snowden, calling him, among other things, a “narcissist”, as if these people weren’t obvious narcissists themselves. It shows you how much the War on Terror has corrupted our society that many of our journalists don’t even pretend to care about civil liberties and government transparency any more.

One must also question the intelligence of the corporate executives who went along with this insane scheme. At least one person has pointed out that this scandal threatens the future of the whole U.S. Internet industry. I guess maybe these guys aren’t so smart after all.

It’s always good to see the one percent make fools out of themselves.