Has anyone read the premiere issue of Cosmos Magazine yet? Looks like they have some interesting articles, but since it's a bit pricey, I'm hoping some of you will post reviews so we'll all know whether it's worth the asking price.
If you haven't yet entered their contest for a 7-day vacation digging up dino-bones in Q-land, DON'T - 'cause I think Rico deserves to win!, and I don't want you lot messing up his odds. haha ;-)
As you probably know by now, I'm a Harry Potter addict, and have recently also become a fan of Brandon Ford's HP editorials on The Underground Lake page of mugglenet.com, where you can also find this poll I'm on about.
Recently, the owner of Mugglenet was chosen by JK Rowling to be one of two fansite owners invited to interview her at her home as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is released. So Mugglenet decided to ask the site's fans to submit the question they'd most like Jo to answer in this upcoming interview. Well that didn't last long -- because about 2000 questions were posted in the first 10 hours! They had to close the questions page due to the volumn of the response. They picked 10 of the 2000 posted questions for fans to vote on, and below are the poll results - so far.
One of the reasons I'm bringing this to your attention is a rather neat trick which they've incorporated -- the first part of each question shows up as a link to the rest of the question. If TDG were to also do this, I think our polls could take on an interesting new depth. (Even as I type, I can hear Greg sighing over having to ask David for the programming.) The other reason is -- Wow! Over 95,000 votes in the past few days!!! -- Are we Potter fans devoted, or what!
Which question should MuggleNet ask JKR on July 16? (Click to reveal the entire question)
It is said to be...
It is said to be immensely difficult to cast an Unforgiveable curse; according to Bellatrix it takes a lot of hate, and according to Moody a lot of power; so how was Peter Pettigrew able to perform the killing curse on Cedric Diggory? Is he really that powerful of a wizard?
Will Ginny’s former connection to the mind of Voldemort influence her power and abilities?
What on earth...
What on earth was Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth doing with those goats?
Hagrid has introduced himself as Keeper of the Keys at Hogwarts. Is this only an honorary title, or is there anything more to this?
Can you tell us...
Can you tell us more about how the wizarding government works?
If Lord Voldemort...
If Lord Voldemort encountered a Boggart what would he see?
Throughout the series...
Throughout the series it has been said that Dumbledore is the greatest wizard of the age and that he was a prodigy. During the O.W.L.s we hear one of Harry’s testers reminiscing about how he had never seen some of the things Dumbledore could do with a wand before. How did he gain all of his skill, power, and knowledge, even at such a young age?
For the 11 years...
For the 11 years that Harry lived with the Dursley’s, was the wizarding world entirely aware of his whereabouts, or did they just think their little hero vanished?
The importance of...
The importance of our choices has been stressed over and over again in the books. Why was Lily’s choice to sacrifice herself for her son more ’important’ in some sense than her husband’s choice to sacrifice himself for his son and wife? Apparently James knew he had no fighting chance, so choosing to fight in order to give time to his family to flee, was in fact choosing to die for them. But this didn’t seem to offer his wife any magical protection, therefore it seems like a less important sacrifice. Is it because he didn’t actually put his body in front of the person he wanted to save that made his death so... second class? Should that matter? The choice that he made was of equal level to the choice his wife made, I think; but not with the same effect? Why?
It’s stated in book 1...
It’s stated in book 1 that Dumbledore had ’defeated’ ’the dark wizard Grindelwald.’ Did Dumbledore defeat him in the sense of kill, or remove him from power, but so he may still be alive?
Back by popular demand...
- Bob Geldof wants a million protesters to march on G8 summit in Edinburgh.
- Brown backs G8 march.
- From Live 8 to G8: Only Results Matter.
- Audit of the Chinese factories making wristbands which say "MakePovertyHistory", for a campaign against world poverty, found to have illegal slave labour conditions. Charities, with mud on their faces, try to explain.
- Millions support it but what exactly is 'Making Poverty History'?
- The full text of Nelson Mandela's speech in London's Trafalgar Square for the campaign to end poverty in the developing world.
- Bolivia on the brink as gas protests block capital.
- 50,000 Bolivians protest in La Paz.
- Bolivia's National Police decide, by consensus, not to repress the people …and have been internally reprimanded by the government.
- Seeking a change in Africa.
- Launched by the U.N. 6 weeks ago, video game to teach children about global hunger surpasses expectations by reaching more than one million players in 40 countries.
- Retailers are using U.S. internet shoppers to fix prices.
- A life with the demons: more than just a review of Mao: The Unknown Story. Amazon US & UK.
- Curse of gold has fuelled slaughter and rape in Congo.
- Attempted blackmail regarding International Court prompts Kenya to tell U.S. where it can shove it's military aid money.
- Iraq Kill Rate Analysis -- looks like it's for all groups except civilians.
- Gold mine sparks battle in Peru.
- Hundreds of thousands march in Mexico City in support of mayor being attacked by political parties for allowing access road to hospital.
- Haiti faces explosive situation brought on by political factions, elements of the business elite, drug-traffickers and other criminal organisations who have a "clear interest in delaying the elections, and in destabilisation".
- The Uses of Haiti.
- In Brazil, 12,000 march to force President to keep promises on agrarian reform programme.
- Dozens of Officials Nabbed as Brazil Cracks Down on Illegal Logging.
- The New Voice of the Venezuelan People: An Interview with the Aporrea.org Collective.
- Bloggers take on European elites.
- Indians vow to continue protest against Coca-Cola plant which dries up water supply and emits toxic sludge. Pepsi facing similar protests.
- Island farmers whose land was ruined by tsunami's salt water refuse government's "joke compensation" of $5 or less per person. Charity champion received U.S. equivalent of 5 cents for damaged coconut farm.
- More than 10,000 have endured forced evictions, burned homes, beatings, and arrests in Zimbabwe under government's plan to "drive out the rubbish."
- Bin Ladens lair.
- Where's Osama? Bush Doesn't Care. Do We?
- Former CIA agent says boss told him to "Capture Bin Laden, kill him and bring his head back in a box on dry ice." For other al-Qaeda leaders, the CIA's counter-terrorism chief said, "I want their heads up on pikes."
- Party Games for Terrorists.
- War Made Easy: From Vietnam to Iraq.
- In Defense of San Antonio's Narco News Journalist, Bill Conroy.
- Bill Conroy takes a closer look at Narco-Capitalism on U.S.-Mexico border.
- CAFTA: Adios Made-in-the-USA?
- Activist-led rebellion making progress on defeating CAFTA.
- Deep Throat Comes Forward, But Self-Congratulating Washington Post Still Sucks.
- CNN's founder, Ted Turner, accuses the news channel of dumbing down by devoting too much airtime to what he termed "pervert of the day" at the expense of serious news.
- Fox News Admits Bias! London bureau chief blurts out the political slant.
- Part Medici, part venture capitalist, the John M. Olin Foundation has spent three decades financing the intellectual rise of the right. Now the foundation is closing its doors.
- War is hell: Try as it might, TV news can't change awful reality.
- Journalist explains decision to work for alternative news media.
- American Israeli spies? Bloggers discuss espionage scandal involving a pro-Israeli lobbying group.
- America's Religious Right - Saints or Subversives?
Part 1: The Lure of Christian Nationalism.
Part2: Hang Ten and Fight!
Part3: A Deadly Culture of Life.
Part 4: Pie in the Sky.
Part 5: The Ayatollah of Holy Rollers.
- Purgatory without end: Why is America still so prone to wars of religion?
- CIA pays anthropology students at universities $50,000 a year to gather info during fieldwork in foreign countries.
- What Bush is saying when he's talking. Maybe the one thing we all agree on is the need for an interpreter.
- The Darkness in America.
- Two Israeli soldiers claim they were ordered to carry out a series of revenge attacks on Palestinian policemen after the killing of six soldiers by militants.
- Israel troops admit 'eye for eye' killings.
- First the boat broke down. Then the smugglers taking the 88 South Americans to the United States fled on another boat, taking the navigational aids with them. Then the old, wooden boat started to sink, and the food and water ran dry. Now rescued, the would-be immigrants who paid $3000 each are being sent back where they came from. Talk about bad luck.
- British bank rebuked over secret Liberian diamond deal.
- Mob Rule: The west may believe it is building a safer world by opening up markets, imposing sanctions and intervening in conflicts. In reality it is creating a gangsters' paradise.
- Serbian army commander who led the bombing of Sarajevo and has been accused of helping one of Europe's most notorious war criminals escape capture received £300,000 in British aid money.
- Efforts to reduce suffering of lab animals are hampered by poor funding and a reluctance by scientists to share experimental data.
- Seismic testing, which involves detonating sound-wave explosions to locate oil and gas, to take place on national park property designated as wilderness with endangered species.
- U.N. Training Iraqis in Jordan to Measure Radiation from Depleted Uranium.
- Iraq's environmental problems among the world's worst.
- Excerpts from testimonies at Guantanamo.
- On the other hand: Al Qaeda training manual says that when captured or facing trial, "brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by State Security."
- Torture: The Case Against, and Prescription For. Bush may think the allegations are 'absurd' but the debate on the Right isn't whether torture is happening at Gitmo -- it's over whether they care.
- Independent journalist says 60,000 Iraqis have "Disappeared" into U.S. Camps.
- WFP says 3.5 million people - more than half the population - now hungry in Darfur.
- U.N. says Weapons Equipment Missing in Iraq.
- Hip-Hop voter registration campaigns did work. Talk about bringing you alternative media news...
- Saudi legislators in fierce controversy over ban on women drivers.
- Russia threatens retaliatory steps if any country deploys weapons in space.
- Supreme Court Ruling could unintentionally open an interesting can of worms for corporations.
Thanks to Cernig and Unidentified Contributor
Political Quote of the Day
"Poverty is still killing 50,000 Africans a day. If deaths on such a scale were happening in Europe, these presidents and prime ministers out on the lush Gleneagles golf course would have solved the problem between the first and second holes."
Excerpts from Guardian Unlimited article: Gitmo Detainees Say They Were Sold
"They fed them well. The Pakistani tribesmen slaughtered a sheep in honor of their guests, Arabs and Chinese Muslims famished from fleeing U.S. bombing in the Afghan mountains. But their hosts had ulterior motives: to sell them to the Americans, said the men who are now prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
"Bounties ranged from $3,000 to $25,000, the detainees testified during military tribunals, according to transcripts the U.S. government gave The Associated Press to comply with a Freedom of Information lawsuit.
"A former CIA intelligence officer who helped lead the search for Osama bin Laden told AP the accounts sounded legitimate because U.S. allies regularly got money to help catch Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. Gary Schroen said he took a suitcase of $3 million in cash into Afghanistan himself to help supply and win over warlords to fight for U.S. Special Forces.
"It wouldn't surprise me if we paid rewards," said Schroen, who retired after 32 years in the CIA soon after the fall of Kabul in late 2001." ...
"One detainee who said he was an Afghan refugee in Pakistan accused the country's intelligence service of trumping up evidence against him to get bounty money from the U.S.
"When I was in jail, they said I needed to pay them money and if I didn't pay them, they'd make up wrong accusations about me and sell me to the Americans and I'd definitely go to Cuba," he told the tribunal. "After that I was held for two months and 20 days in their detention, so they could make wrong accusations about me and my (censored), so they could sell us to you."
"Another prisoner said he was on his way to Germany in 2001 when he was captured and sold for "a briefcase full of money" then flown to Afghanistan before being sent to Guantanamo.
"It's obvious. They knew Americans were looking for Arabs, so they captured Arabs and sold them - just like someone catches a fish and sells it," he said. The detainee said he was seized by "mafia" operatives somewhere in Europe and sold to Americans because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time - an Arab in a foreign country. ...
"A detainee who said he was a Saudi businessman claimed, "The Pakistani police sold me for money to the Americans."
"This was part of a roundup of all foreigners and Arabs in that area," of Pakistan near the Afghan border, he said, telling the tribunal he went to Pakistan in November 2001 to help Afghan refugees." ...
"In March 2002, the AP reported that Afghan intelligence offered rewards for the capture of al-Qaida fighters - the day after a five-hour meeting with U.S. Special Forces. Intelligence officers refused to say if the two events were linked and if the United States was paying the offered reward of 150 million Afghanis, then equivalent to $4,000 a head.
"That day, leaflets and loudspeaker announcements promised "the big prize" to those who turned in al-Qaida fighters.
"Said one leaflet: "You can receive millions of dollars. ... This is enough to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life - pay for livestock and doctors and school books and housing for all your people.""
Meanwhile, wealthy Arabs, including Saudis, were buying back their fellow citizens who'd been "captured" in Pakistan, simply by paying more than the U.S. was offering per head. Which is why anyone who was high enough in the Taliban's heirarchy to have the phone number of a wealthy backer didn't end up in Gitmo.
Read the whole article for more about the U.S. Rewards for Justice program, which so far has paid $57 million for "information that leads to the capture of suspected terrorists [supposedly] identified [beforehand] by name."
Karl's New Manifesto
by David Brooks, May 29, 2005
I was in the library reading room when suddenly a strange specter of a man appeared above me. He was a ragged fellow with a bushy beard, dressed in the clothes of another century. He clutched news clippings on class in America, and atop the pile was a manifesto in his own hand. He was gone in an instant, but Karl's manifesto on modern America remained. This is what it said:
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle. Freeman and slave, lord and serf, capitalist and proletariat, in a word oppressor and oppressed, stand in opposition to each other and carry on a constant fight. In the information age, in which knowledge is power and money, the class struggle is fought between the educated elite and the undereducated masses.
The information age elite exercises artful dominion of the means of production, the education system. The median family income of a Harvard student is $150,000. According to the Educational Testing Service, only 3 percent of freshmen at the top 146 colleges come from the poorest quarter of the population. The educated class ostentatiously offers financial aid to poor students who attend these colleges and then rigs the admission criteria to ensure that only a small, co-optable portion of them can get in.
The educated class reaps the benefits of the modern economy - seizing for itself most of the income gains of the past decades - and then ruthlessly exploits its position to ensure the continued dominance of its class.
The educated class has torn away from the family its sentimental veil and reduced it to a mere factory for the production of little meritocrats. Members of the educated elites are more and more likely to marry each other, which the experts call assortative mating, but which is really a ceaseless effort to refortify class solidarity and magnify social isolation. Children are turned into workaholic knowledge workers - trained, tutored, tested and prepped to strengthen class dominance.
The educated elites are the first elites in all of history to work longer hours per year than the exploited masses, so voracious is their greed for second homes. They congregate in exclusive communities walled in by the invisible fence of real estate prices, then congratulate themselves for sending their children to public schools. They parade their enlightened racial attitudes by supporting immigration policies that guarantee inexpensive lawn care. They send their children off to Penn, Wisconsin and Berkeley, bastions of privilege for the children of the professional class, where they are given the social and other skills to extend class hegemony.
The information society is the only society in which false consciousness is at the top. For it is an iron rule of any university that the higher the tuition and more exclusive the admissions, the more loudly the denizens profess their solidarity with the oppressed. The more they objectively serve the right, the more they articulate the views of the left.
Periodically members of this oppressor class hold mock elections. The Yale-educated scion of the Bush family may face the Yale-educated scion of the Winthrop family. They divide into Republicans and Democrats and argue over everything except the source of their power: the intellectual stratification of society achieved through the means of education.
More than the Roman emperors, more than the industrial robber barons, the malefactors of the educated class seek not only to dominate the working class, but to decimate it. For 30 years they have presided over failing schools without fundamentally transforming them. They have imposed a public morality that affords maximum sexual opportunity for themselves and guarantees maximum domestic chaos for those lower down.
In 1960 there were not big structural differences between rich and poor families. In 1960, three-quarters of poor families were headed by married couples. Now only a third are. While the rates of single parenting have barely changed for the educated elite, family structures have disintegrated for the oppressed masses.
Poor children are less likely to live with both biological parents, hence, less likely to graduate from high school, get a job and be in a position to challenge the hegemony of the privileged class. Family inequality produces income inequality from generation to generation.
Undereducated workers of the world, unite! Let the ruling educated class tremble! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win!
don't agree with everything in Karl's manifesto, because I don't believe in incessant class struggle, but you have to admit, he makes some good points.
What a mess. Enjoy ;-)
- Downing Street Memo prompts coalition to call for a Resolution of Inquiry, the first step toward Impeachment.
- Pentagon admits five acts of 'mishandling' the Koran.
- U.S. terror laws 'creating a new generation of the disappeared'.
- Rumsfeld Likens al-Zarqawi to Hitler.
- Down and Out with Iraqi Police and Soldiers.
- Iraqi journalists working for Reuters and NBC tell of their torture by U.S. troops.
- Torture: Some Veterans Will Pay a Heavy Price for What We Have Done.
- FBI, Pakistani agencies tortured two U.S. citizens in Pakistan.
- Interview with an Iraqi engineer on the U.S. occupation.
- Interview with Iraq Veterans Against the War.
- An Interrogator Speaks Out.
- The CIA's Kidnapping Ring: When British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, went public about prisoners being drowned, suffocated, raped, and boiled to death, Blair removed him from his post.
- Craig Murray on U.S. support for torturer, Uzbek dictator Karimov.
- The new Saddam: Critics of the 'Tyrant of Tashkent' say U.S. ally makes Hussein look 'like a choir boy.'
- Is Bush a Sith Lord? (Warning: contains Star Wars movie spoilers.)
- Worldwide Tribunal On Iraq To Meet In Istanbul Over U.S. War Crimes In Iraq.
- I used to be a NeoCon.
- Recent presidential elections prompt massive review of voting laws in U.S.
- What's So Scary About a National I.D.?
- U.S. wants to be able to access Britons' I.D. card.
- Limbaugh vs. Moyers: debate has opened regarding the role of reporting in Bush's America. Limbaugh charges that Moyers is "insane".
- In lawsuit filed by 5 Democratic candidates defeated in 2002, judge rules 'Texans for a Republican Majority' illegally failed to disclose $600,000 in mostly corporate donations.
- Galloway to continue anti-war theme in speaking tour of U.S.
- An Alternative Annual Report on Halliburton.
- Rules and Cash Flew Out the Window: U.S. officials in Iraq scrambled to award over 1000 contracts in June of 2004 alone, just before the "transfer of sovereignty" to the Iraqi interim government. U.S. improperly used Iraqi funds to award at least $85m in contracts after its authority had lapsed.
- Halliburton's civilian contractors being denied insurance benefits.
- Driving Into Danger: A Trucker's Family Sues Haliburton for wrongful death.
- Afghans resent being left out of their own rebuilding.
- Saudi Arabia, Off The Hook: The 9/11 terrorists were mostly Saudi. Suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudi. And we're allies?
- KKK fliers found at site of burning crosses in Durham, NC.
- Bolivia's 'original ones' form the front line in epic battle between 'haves' and 'have-nots'.
- Coup rumors, peasant protests, put Bolivia on edge.
- Tear Gas in the Andes.
- Schapelle Corby sentenced to 20 years in Bali drug case.
- Mainstream Media vs. Upstream Media.
- Fear of a Christian theocracy isn't just liberal hysteria.
- Since right-wing theocrats are unpersuaded by reason or science, for progressives of every stripe -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, and adherents of other or no organized religion -- the strongest ally is Jesus of Nazareth.
- Social security woes are felt worldwide.
- How Rich is Too Rich for Democracy?
- Europe OKs doubling of foreign aid.
Darn, I forgot to find another quote for this alternative alternative news.
BILL MOYERS: Keynote Speech at the National Conference For Media Reform (which recently aired on C-Span)
The story I’ve come to share with you goes to the core of our belief that the quality of democracy and the quality of journalism are deeply entwined. I can tell this story because I’ve been living it. As Dr. Wilson said, it’s been in the news this week, including more attacks on a single journalist, yours truly, by the right wing media and their friends at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
As you know, CPB was established almost forty years ago to set broad policy for public broadcasting and to be a firewall between political influence and program content. What some on its board are now doing today, led by its chairman, Kenneth Tomlinson, is too important, too disturbing, and yes, too dangerous for a gathering like this not to address it. We’re seeing unfold a contemporary example of the age old ambition of power and ideology to squelch, to punish, the journalists who tell the stories that make princes and priests uncomfortable.
First, let me assure you that I take in stride attacks by the radical right wingers who have not given up demonizing me, although I retired over six months ago. They’ve been after me for years now, and I suspect they will be stomping on my grave to make sure I don’t come back from the dead. I should point out to them that one of our boys pulled it off some two thousand years ago, after the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and Caesar surrogates thought they had shut him up for good. I won’t be expecting that kind of miracle, but I should put my detractors on notice, they might just compel me out of the rocking chair and back into the anchor chair.
Who are they? I mean the people obsessed with control using the government to threaten and intimidate. I mean the people who are hollowing out middle class security even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the working class to make sure Ahmad Chalabi winds up controlling Iraq’s oil. I mean the people who turn faith-based initiatives into Karl Rove’s slush fund; who encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray, so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets. I mean the people who squelch free speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy. That’s who I mean. And if that’s editorializing, so be it. A free press is one where it’s okay to state the conclusion you’re led to by the evidence.
One reason I’m in hot water is because my colleagues and I at “NOW” didn’t play by the conventional rules of Beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into democrats and republicans, liberals and conservatives; and allow journalists to pretend they have done their job if, instead of reporting the truth behind the news, they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the news.
Jonathan Mermin writes about this in a recent essay in World Policy Journal. You’ll also want to read his book Debating War and Peace: Media Coverage of US Intervention in the Post-Vietnam Era. Mermin quotes David Ignatius of The Washington Post on why the deep interests of the American public are so poorly served by Beltway journalism. “The rules of the game,” says Ignatius, “make it hard for us to tee up on an issue without a news peg.” He offers a case in point: the debacle of America’s occupation of Iraq. “If Senator So-and-so hasn’t criticized postwar planning for Iraq,” says Ignatius, “it’s hard for a reporter to write a story about that.”
Mermin also quotes public television’s Jim Lehrer, whom I greatly respect, acknowledging that unless an official says something is so, it isn’t news. Why were journalists not discussing the occupation of Iraq? “Because,” says Jim Lehrer, “the word ‘occupation’ was never mentioned in the run up to the war. Washington talked about the war as a war of liberation, not a war of occupation. So as a consequence, those of us in journalism,” says Lehrer, “never even looked at the issue of occupation.”
“In other words,” says Jonathan Mermin, “if the government isn’t talking about it, we don’t report it.” He concludes, “Lehrer’s somewhat jarring declaration, one of many recent admissions by journalists that their reporting failed to prepare the public for the calamitous occupation that has followed the liberation of Iraq, reveals just how far the actual practice of American journalism has deviated from the First Amendment idea of a press that is independent of government.”
Take the example, also cited by Mermin, of Charles Hanley. Hanley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Associated Press whose 2003 story of the torture of Iraqis in American prisons, before a U.S. Army report and photographs documenting the abuse surfaced, was ignored by major American newspapers. Hanley attributes this lack of interest to the fact, quote, “it was not an officially-sanctioned story that begins with a handout from an official source. Furthermore, Iraqis recounting their own personal experience of Abu Ghraib simply did not have the credibility with Beltway journalists of American officials denying that such things happened.”
Judith Miller of The New York Times, among others, relied on that credibility -- relied on that credibility of official but unnamed sources when she served essentially as the government stenographer for claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. So the rules of the game permit Washington officials to set the agenda for journalism, leaving the press all too simply to recount what officials say instead of subjecting their words and deeds to critical scrutiny. Instead of acting as filters for readers and viewers, sifting the truth from the propaganda, reporters and anchors attentively transcribe both sides of the spin, invariably failing to provide context, background, or any sense of which claims hold up and which are misleading.
I decided long ago that this wasn’t healthy for democracy. I came to see that news is what people want to keep hidden, and everything else is publicity. In my documentaries, whether on the Watergate scandal thirty years ago, or the Iran-Contra conspiracy twenty years ago, or Bill Clinton’s fundraising scandals ten years ago, or five years ago the chemical industry’s long and despicable cover up of its cynical and unspeakable withholding of critical data about its toxic products, I realized that investigative journalism could not be a collaboration between the journalist and the subject. Objectivity was not satisfied by two opposing people offering competing opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference. I came to believe that objective journalism means describing the object being reported on, including the little fibs and fantasies, as well as the big lie of people in power.
In no way -- in no way --does this permit journalists to make accusations and allegations. It means, instead, making sure that your reporting and your conclusions can be nailed to the post with confirming evidence.
This is always hard to do, but it’s never been harder. Without a trace of irony, the powers that be have appropriated the Newspeak vernacular of George Orwell’s 1984. They give us a program vowing no child will be left behind, while cutting funds for educating disadvantaged children. They give us legislation cheerily calling for clear skies and healthy forests that give us neither, while turning over our public lands to the energy industry. In Orwell’s 1984 the character Syme, one of the writers of that totalitarian society’s dictionary, explains to the protagonist, Winston, “Don’t you see? Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050 at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we’re having right now. The whole climate of thought,” he said, “will be different. In fact, there will be no thought as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking, not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”
Hear me: an unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, ask questions, and be skeptical. And just as a democracy can die of too many lies, that kind of orthodoxy can kill us too.
I grew up in the South, where the truth about slavery, race, and segregation had been driven from the pulpits, driven from the classrooms, and driven from the news rooms. It took a bloody Civil War to bring the truth home. And then it took another hundred years for the truth to make us free. Then I served in the Johnson administration. Imbued with Cold War orthodoxy and confident that might makes right, we circled the wagons, listened only to each other, and pursued policies the evidence couldn’t carry. The results were devastating for Vietnamese and Americans.
I brought all of this to the task, when PBS asked me after 9/11 to start a new weekly broadcast. They wanted us to make it different from anything else on the air -- commercial or public broadcasting. They asked us to tell stories no one else was reporting, and to offer a venue to people who might not otherwise be heard. That wasn’t a hard sell. I had been deeply impressed by studies published in two leading peer-reviewed scholarly journals by a team of researchers led by Vassar College’s William Hoynes, who was here at this conference until this morning when he had to leave early. Their extensive research on the content of public television over a decade found that political discussions on our public affairs programs generally included a limited set of voices that offer a narrow range of perspectives on current issues and events. Instead of far-ranging discussions and debates, the kind that might engage viewers as citizens and not simply as audiences, this research found that public affairs programs on PBS stations were populated by the standard set of elite news sources, where the government officials and Washington journalists talking about political strategy, or corporate sources talking about stock prices or the economy from the investors’ viewpoint.
Public television unfortunately all too often was offering the same kind of discussions, and a similar brand of insider discourse, that is featured regularly on commercial television. They just weren’t so noisy.
Who didn’t appear was also revealing. In contrast to the conservative mantra that public television routinely featured the voices of anti-establishment critics, the studies found that alternative perspectives were rare on public television, and were effectively drowned out by the stream of government and corporate views that represented the vast majority of sources on our broadcasts. The so-called experts who got most of the face time came primarily from mainstream news organizations and Washington think tanks rather than diverse interests. Economic news, for example, was almost entirely refracted through the views of business people, investors, and business journalists. Voices outside the corporate Wall Street universe, nonprofessional workers, labor representatives, consumer advocates, and the general public were rarely heard.
In sum, these two studies concluded, the economic coverage was so narrow that the views and the activities of most citizens became irrelevant. All of this went against the Broadcasting Act of 1967 that created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I know. I was there. As a young policy assistant to President Johnson, I attended, in 1964, my first meeting to discuss the future of public broadcasting in the office of the Commissioner of Education. I know firsthand that the Public Broadcasting Act was meant to provide an alternative to commercial television and to reflect the diversity of the American people.
We knew that the success of NOW’s journalism was creating a backlash in Washington. The more compelling our journalism, the angrier became the radical right of the Republican Party. That’s because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth.
This is the point of my story. Ideologues don’t want you to go beyond the typical labels of left and right because people may start believing you. They embrace a world view that cannot be proven wrong because they will admit no evidence to the contrary. They want your reporting to validate their belief system and when it doesn’t, God forbid. Never mind that their own stars were getting a fair shake on “NOW,” Gigot, Viguerie, David Keen of the American Conservative Union, Steven Moore of the Club for Growth. Our reporting -- our reporting -- was giving the radical right fits because it wasn’t the party line. It wasn’t that we were getting it wrong, either. Only three times in three years did we err factually, and in each case we corrected those errors as soon as we confirmed their inaccuracy. I believe our broadcast was the best researched on public broadcasting.
And the problem was that we were telling stories that partisans in power didn’t want told, and we were getting it right, not right-wing. Let me tell you something -- and we can argue about this at some other time -- I’ve always thought the American eagle needed a left wing and a right wing. The right wing would see to it that economic interests had their legitimate concerns addressed. The left wing would see to it that ordinary people were included in the bargain. And both would keep the great bird on course. But with two right wings or two left wings, it’s no longer an eagle, and it’s going to crash.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that my occasional -- and I didn’t do them that often -- my occasional commentaries got to them as well. Although apparently he never watched the broadcast -- I guess he couldn’t take the diversity -- Senator Trent Lott came out squealing like a stuck pig when, after the mid-term elections in 2002, I described what was likely to happen now that all three branches of government were about to be controlled by one party dominated by the religious, corporate, and political right. Instead of congratulating the winners for their election victory as some network broadcasters did or celebrating their victory as Fox, The Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, Talk Radio and other partisan Republican journalists did, I provided a little independent analysis of what the victory meant. And I did it the old-fashioned way. I looked at the record, took the winners at their word, and drew the logical conclusions that they would use power as they had said for twenty-five years they would. And then, of course, I set it forth in my usual modest Texas way.
Events since then have confirmed the accuracy of what I said. I had our research team, and I worked very much with them, put together with mainstream news clippings to support every sentence in that particular post-election analysis. But then strange things began to happen. Friends in Washington called to say that they had heard of muttered threats that the PBS reauthorization would be held up unless Moyers is dealt with. The Chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson, was said to be quite agitated. I didn’t know it at the time, but within two months after taking over, three months after taking over, he wrote a letter to PBS complaining about the unbalanced “NOW.”
Apparently there was apoplexy in the right wing area, particularly when I closed the broadcast one Friday night by putting a flag in my lapel and said -- well, here’s exactly what I said. Here’s a copy of what I said: “I wore my flag tonight, first time. Until now I haven’t thought it necessary to display a little metallic icon of patriotism for everyone to see. It was enough to vote, pay my taxes, perform my civic duties, speak my mind and do my best to raise our kids to be good Americans. Sometimes I would offer a small prayer of gratitude that I had been born in a country whose institutions sustain me, whose armed forces protected me, and whose ideals inspired me. I offered my heart’s affection in return. It no more occurred to me to flaunt the flag on my chest than it did to pin my mother’s picture on my lapel to prove her son’s love. Mother knew where I stood. So does my country. I even tuck a valentine in my tax returns on April 15th. So what’s this doing here? I put it on to take it back. The flag’s been hijacked and turned into a logo, the trademark -- the trademark -- of a monopoly on patriotism.
"On most Sunday morning talk shows, official chests appear adorned with the flag as if it’s the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. During the State of the Union, did you notice Bush and Cheney wearing the flag? How come? No administration’s patriotism is ever in doubt -- only its policies. And the flag bestows no immunity from error. When I see flags sprouting on official labels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao’s Little Red Book of orthodoxy on every official’s desk, omnipresent and unread.
”But more galling than anything are all those moralistic ideologues in Washington sporting the flag in their lapel while writing books, and running web sites, and publishing magazines, attacking dissenters as un-American. They are people whose ardor for war grows disproportionately to their distance from the fighting. They’re in the same league as those swarms of corporate lobbyists wearing flags and prowling Capitol Hill for tax breaks, even as they call for spending more on war.
”So I put this on as a modest repose to men with flags in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of Washington think tanks. Or argue that sacrifice is good -- as long as they don’t have to make it. Or approve of bribing governments to join the ‘Coalition of the Willing.’ I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what bin Laden did to us. The flag belongs to the country, not to the government. And it reminds me that it’s not un-American to think that war, except in self defense, is a failure of moral imagination, political nerve, and diplomacy. Come to think of it, standing up to your government can mean standing up for your country.”
That did it. That did it. You should have heard Ann Coulter at the next conservative convention. I think that’s where she got the title for her book, her book about Democrats and treason. That did it. And our continued reporting on overpricing at Halliburton, chicanery on K Street, and the heavy, if divinely-guided hand, of Tom DeLay.
When Senator Lott protested that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has not seemed willing to deal with Bill Moyers, a new member of the board, a Republican fundraiser named Cheryl Halpern, who had been appointed by President Bush, agreed that CPB needed more power to do just that sort of thing. She left no doubt about the kind of penalty she would like to see imposed on the malefactors.
Now, hear me again: as rumors circulated about all this, I asked to meet with the entire CBS board -- I wanted to... [interrupted by applause] CPB Board. Thank you. [In response to applause.] I wanted to hear for myself what they were saying. I thought it would be helpful for someone like me, who had been present at the creation and part of the system for almost forty years, to talk about how CPB had been intended to be a heat shield to protect public broadcasters from exactly this kind of intimidation. After all, I’d been there at the time of Richard Nixon’s attempted coup.
In those days, public television had been really feisty and independent, and often targeted for attacks. A Woody Allen special that poked fun at Henry Kissinger in the Nixon administration had actually been cancelled. Jon Stewart wouldn’t have stood a chance if he had started his career on PBS. The White House had been so outraged over a documentary called “The Banks and the Poor” about discrimination, about rich financial institutions against the poor, that PBS was driven to adopt new guidelines. That didn’t satisfy Nixon. And when public television hired two NBC reporters, the radicals Robert McNeil and Sander Vanocur to co-anchor some new broadcast, it was, for Nixon, the last straw. According to White House memos at the time, he was determined, (quote), “to get the left wing commentators who are cutting us up off public television at once; indeed, yesterday, if possible.” Sound familiar?
Nixon vetoed the authorization for CPB with a message written in part by his sidekick and soul mate, Pat Buchanan, who castigated Vanocur, McNeil, “Washington Week in Review,” “Black Journal” and Bill Moyers as, (quote), “unbalanced against the administration.” It is familiar. I always knew Nixon would be back -- again and again. I just didn’t know that this time he would ask to be Chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Buchanan and Nixon succeeded in cutting CPB funding for all public affairs programming, except for “Black Journal.” They knocked out most of your funding for the National Public Affairs Center for Television, otherwise known as NPACT. And they voted to take away from the PBS staff the ultimate responsibility for the production of programming.
But in those days -- and this is what I wanted to share with Kenneth Tomlinson, who I have never met, and his colleagues on the CPB board -- in those days there were still Republicans in America who did not march in ideological lockstep, and who stood on principle against politicizing public television. The chairman of the public station in Dallas was an industrialist named Ralph Rogers, a Republican but no party hack, who saw the White House intimidation as an assault on freedom of the press, and led a nationwide effort to stop it. The chairman at the time of the CPB was a former Republican Congressman, Thomas Curtis, from here in St. Louis -- from here in Missouri -- who was also a principled man. He resigned, claiming White House interference.
Within a few months, the crisis was over. CPB maintained its independence, PBS grew in strength, and Richard Nixon would face impeachment, and resign for violating the public trust and not just public broadcasting. Paradoxically, the very -- talk about justice. In fact, I once asked a wise -- a friend of mine -- a wise old man in Washington, what he had learned from life, could he reduce it to one sentence? And he said, “Yes. There ain’t no justice in the world. Now, get on with it.”
But here was cosmic justice. The very Public Affairs Center for Television that Nixon had tried to kill, NPACT, put PBS on the map by re-broadcasting in prime time each day’s Watergate hearings, drawing huge ratings night after night, and establishing PBS as an ally of democracy. We should still be doing that sort of thing. C-SPAN, bless its heart, shouldn’t be the only channel that lets us see how democracy works.
That was thirty-three years ago, and I thought the current CPB board would like to hear and talk about the importance of standing up to political interference. I was wrong. They wouldn’t meet with me. I tried three times and failed three times, and it was all downhill after that.
I was naive, I guess. I simply never imagined that any CPB chairman, Democrat or Republican, would cross the line from resisting White House pressure to carrying out for the White House. But that’s what Kenneth Tomlinson has been doing. On Fox News this week, he denied he’s carrying out a White House mandate or that he’s ever had any conversation with any Bush administration official about PBS. But The New York Times reports that he enlisted Karl Rove to help kill a proposal that would have put on the CPB board, people with experience in local radio and television.
It was also reported that on the recommendation of administration officials, he hired a White House flack -- I know the genre -- named Mary Catherine Andrews, as a senior staff member at CPB. While she was still reporting to Karl Rove at the White House, she set up CPB’s new ombudsman office and had a hand in hiring the two people who will fill it, one of them who once worked for Tomlinson, the other a very respected journalist. But this is an anomaly. A political organization can’t have an ombudsman. CPB is not a journalistic or newsgathering organization. PBS can have one. WGBH can have one. WNET can have one. But for a political organization to have two ombudsmen or one ombudsman or a dozen? I would like to give Mr. Tomlinson the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t.
According to a book written about the Reader’s Digest when he was with -- when he was its Editor-in-Chief, he surrounded himself with other right wingers -- a pattern he’s now following for the staff at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I’ve already mentioned Miss Andrews. Well, for Acting President he hired Ken Ferree from the FCC who was Michael Powell’s enforcer when Powell was deciding how to go about allowing the big media companies to get even bigger. One of Ferree’s jobs, as Jeff Chester will say in his book coming out in the next several months, was to engage in tactics designed to dismiss any serious objection to more media monopolies. And according to Eric Alterman, Ferree was even more contemptuous than Michael Powell of public participation in the process of determining media ownership. It was Ferree who decided to issue a protective order designed to keep secret the market research on which the Republican majority on the commission based their vote to permit greater media consolidation.
Now, let me say, it is not likely that with a guy like that as the chief operating officer of the CPB, you’re going to find any public television producer say, “Hey, let’s do something on how big media is affecting democracy.” Because what this leads to is preventive capitulation.
As everyone knows, Mr. Tomlinson has put up a considerable sum of money, allegedly over five million dollars, your money, for the new weekly broadcast featuring Paul Gigot and the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. Now, Gigot is a smart journalist, a sharp editor, and a fine fellow. I had him on “NOW” several times, and I even proposed to PBS that he become a regular contributor on our show -- the conversation of democracy, remember? All stripes. But I confess to some puzzlement that The Wall Street Journal, which in the past editorialized to cut PBS off the public tap, is now being subsidized by American taxpayers when its parent company, Dow Jones, had revenues in the first quarter of this year, of four hundred million dollars. I thought public television was supposed to be an alternative to commercial media, not a funder of it.
But in this weird deal, you get a glimpse of the kind of programming Mr. Tomlinson apparently seems to prefer. Alone of the big major newspapers, The Wall Street Journal, has no op-ed page where different opinions can compete with its right wing editorials. The Journal’s PBS broadcast is just as homogenous: right wingers talking to each other. I think, Bob McChesney, you ought to demand equal time for Katrina vanden Heuvel and the editors of The Nation, or for Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! -- now there’s an idea for you! You want public broadcasting to be balanced against all these elite establishment voices that get heard? Get Amy on public television.
We didn’t know this a year ago. We just learned it from The New York Times two weeks ago, that last year Mr. Tomlinson had spend ten thousand dollars to hire a contractor who would watch my show and report on political bias. That’s right. He spent ten thousand dollars of your money to hire a guy to watch “NOW” to find out who my guests were and what my stories were. Ten thousand dollars. Gee, Ken, for two dollars and fifty cents a week, you could pick up a copy of TV Guide on the newsstand. A subscription is even cheaper, and I would have sent you a coupon that can save you up to sixty-two percent. Or, for that matter, Ken, all you had to do was watch the show. You could have made it easier with a double Jim Beam, your favorite. Or you could -- mine, too. We have some things in common. Or you could go online, where the listings are posted. Hell, Ken, you could have called me collect, and I would have told you who we were having on the show.
The public paid for that study, but Ken Tomlinson acts as if he owns it. Let’s see it. You can watch my bias. You can watch my mistakes. You can watch everything I do right there on the air. We have the funders listed, everything is there, it’s all listed. But he won’t do it. In a May 10th op-ed piece in Reverend Moon’s conservative Washington Times, Ken Tomlinson maintained he had not released the findings because public broadcasting is such a delicate institution he did not want to, (quote), “damage public broadcasting’s image with controversy.” Where I come from in Texas, we shovel that kind of stuff every day.
As we learned this week, that’s not the only news Mr. Tomlinson tried to keep to himself. As Dr. Wilson indicated, and as reported by Jeff Chester’s Center for Digital Democracy, which the Human Center for Media and Democracy also support, there were two public opinion surveys commissioned by CPB, but not released to the media, not even to PBS and NPR. According to a source who talked to Salon.com, the first results were too good and Tomlinson didn’t believe them.
This is the man, by the way, who was running the Voice of America back in 1984 when a fanatic named Charlie Wick was politicizing the United States Information Agency of which Voice of America was a part. It turned out there was a blacklist of people who had been removed from the list of prominent Americans sent abroad to lecture on behalf of America and the USIA. What’s more, it was discovered that evidence as to how those people were chosen to be on the blacklist, more than seven hundred documents, had been shredded. Among those on the blacklist of journalists, writers, scholars and politicians, were dangerous left wing subversives like Walter Cronkite, James Baldwin, Gary Hart, Ralph Nader, Ben Bradley, Coretta Scott King, and David Brinkley.
The person who took the fall for the blacklist was another right winger. He resigned. Shortly thereafter, so did Kenneth Tomlinson, who was one of six people in the agency with the authority to see the list of potential speakers and allowed to strike people’s names. Let me be clear: I don’t know, and there’s no record of, what position Kenneth Tomlinson took --whether he supported the blacklist or opposed it, or what he thinks of it now. I actually hoped Bill O’Reilly would have asked him about it when he appeared on “The O’Reilly Factor” this week. He didn’t. Instead, Tomlinson went on attacking me with O’Reilly egging him on, and went on denying he was carrying out a partisan mandate. The only time you could be sure he was telling the truth was at the end of the broadcast when he said to O’Reilly, “We love your show.” We? We love your show? He’s entitled to his opinion. He’s entitled to his politics. He’s entitled to contribute exclusively, as he does, to conservative candidates for public office. That’s all fine. Our political system encourages it and tolerates it. But he is not entitled to stand in judgment on other people’s bias.
On Friday I wrote Kenneth Tomlinson. I asked him to sit down with me for an hour on PBS and talk about all this. I said, “You can choose the moderator, although I don’t see that we need one, two civilized human beings sitting and talking about these important issues affecting the future of a medium we both profess to love.” I said, “You can choose the guidelines.” But there’s one thing in particular – and I’m about to close -- there’s one thing in particular I would like to ask him about. In that op-ed essay this week in The Washington Times, Ken Tomlinson talks of a phone call from an old friend complaining about Bill Moyers’s bias. The friend explained that the foundation he heads made a six figure contribution to his local public television station for digital conversion. But he declared, and I’m quoting Tomlinson, “There would be no more contributions until something was done about the network’s bias.” Apparently, that’s Kenneth Tomlinson’s method of governance. Money talks and buys the influence it wants.
But I’d like to ask him to listen to a different voice. This letter came to me last year, five pages of handwriting. It said, in essence, and I’m going to do some direct quoting:
“After the worst sneak attack in our history, there has not been a moment to reflect, a moment to let the horror resonate, to feel the pain and regroup as humans. No, since I lost my husband on 9/11, not only our family’s world but the whole world seems to have gotten even worse than that tragic day.
"On 9/11, my husband was not on duty. He was home with me having coffee. Our own family story on that day is long and complicated. My daughter and grandson, living only five blocks from the tower, had to be evacuated with marks, terror all around. My other daughter, near the Brooklyn Bridge, my son in high school. But my Charlie took off like a lightning bolt to be with his men from the special operations command. ‘Bring my gear to the plaza,’ he told his aid immediately after the first plane struck the north tower.
"In comparison to using semantic
technicalities, passing the responsibility, or not having all the facts, he took action based on the responsibility he felt for his job and his men, and for those towers he loved. In the Fire Department of New York chain of command, rules extend to every captain of every firehouse in the city. If anything happens in the firehouse at any time, even if the captain isn’t on duty and is on vacation, that captain is responsible for everything that goes on there twenty-four/seven."
"Why then,” she asks, “are the people in Washington responsible for nothing? Why do they pass the blame for what happened that day, for the failure of the system, for the torture at Abu Ghraib, for sending young soldiers into an immoral war, under-equipped, under-trained, and under-protected? Why is there no leadership?
"We need more programs like ‘NOW’ to wake us up,” she said. “More programs like ‘NOW’ and your series with Joseph Campbell, which my husband and I so enjoyed watching together. Such programs must continue amidst the sea of false images and name calling that divide America now. Such programs give us hope that the search will continue to get this imperfect human condition onto a higher plain.
"So thank you and all of those who work with you at Channel 13 (my flagship station) and PBS. Without public broadcasting, all we would call news would be very carefully controlled propaganda.”
Framed above my desk at my office is the check she made out to Channel 13, “NOW,” for five hundred dollars. When I get discouraged or need to remind myself that public media truly matter, I look at that check and think of the woman who wrote it and the husband who did his duty, and their belief in us. And I will take, over the big check that Ken Tomlinson could have gotten from a demanding right winger, I would take the widow’s mite any day.
The Empire Strikes Bush: Five pages at washingtonpost.com on the political significance of the new Star Wars movie.
Some of what George Lucas has said about the movie:
" 'When I wrote it, Iraq didn't exist,' Lucas said, laughing.
" 'We were just funding Saddam Hussein and giving him weapons of mass destruction. We didn't think of him as an enemy at that time. We were going after Iran and using him as our surrogate, just as we were doing in Vietnam . . . The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable.' "
Lucas said he has long been interested in the transition from democracy to dictatorship.
"In ancient Rome, 'why did the senate, after killing Caesar, turn around and give the government to his nephew?' Lucas said. 'Why did France, after they got rid of the king and that whole system, turn around and give it to Napoleon? It's the same thing with Germany and Hitler.'
" 'You sort of see these recurring themes where a democracy turns itself into a dictatorship, and it always seems to happen kind of in the same way, with the same kinds of issues, and threats from the outside, needing more control. A democratic body, a senate, not being able to function properly because everybody's squabbling, there's corruption.' "
One of the dozens of editorials that this Washington Post story links to said this is the most politically significant film since Fahrenheit 9/11.
The administration is also taking heat on another issue:
Blaming the Messenger: Newsweek's story about the Koran being flused.
Also see Cernig's take on this story: Goose Covers Newsweek.
New Statesman cover story:
The media coverage of this past election was a pastiche. Our right to know what our rulers are doing to people the world over is being lost in the new propaganda consensus.
In 1987, the sociologist Alex Carey, a second Orwell in his prophesies, wrote "Managing Public Opinion: the corporate offensive". He described how in the United States "great progress [had been] made towards the ideal of a propaganda-managed democracy", whose principal aim was to identify a rapacious business state "with every cherished human value". The power and meaning of true democracy, of the franchise itself, would be "transferred" to the propaganda of advertising, public relations and corporate-run news. This "model of ideological control", he predicted, would be adopted by other countries, such as Britain.
To many who work conscientiously in the media, this will sound alarmist; it is not like that in Britain, they will say. Ask them about censorship by omission or the promotion of business ideology and war propaganda as news, a promotion both subtle and crude, and their defensive response will be that no one ever instructed them to follow any line: no one ever said not to question the Prime Minister about the horror he had helped to inflict on Iraq: his epic criminality. "Blair always enjoys his interviews with Paxo," says Roger Mosey, the head of BBC Television News, without a hint of irony.
Blair should enjoy them; he is always spared the imperious bombast that is now a pastiche and kept mostly for official demons. "Watch George Galloway clash with Jeremy Paxman," says the BBC News homepage like a circus barker. Once under the big top of Newsnight, you get the usual set-up: a nonsensical question about whether or not Galloway was "proud of having got rid of one of the few black women in parliament", followed by mockery of the very idea that his opponent, an unabashed Blairite warmonger, should account for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people.
Seven years ago, when Denis Halliday, one of the United Nations' most respected humanitarian aid directors, resigned from his post in Iraq in protest at the Anglo-American-led embargo, calling it "an act of genocide", he was given the Paxo treatment. "Aren't you just an apologist for Saddam Hussein?" he was mock-asked. The following year, Unicef revealed that the embargo had killed half a million Iraqi children. As for East Timor, a triumph of the British arms trade and Robin Cook's "ethical" foreign policy, the presence of British Hawk jets was "not proved", declared Paxo, parroting a Foreign Office lie. (A few months later, Cook came clean.) Today, napalm is used in Iraq, but the armed forces minister is allowed to pretend that it isn't. Israel's weapons of mass destruction are "dangerous in the extreme", says the former head of the US Strategic Command, but that is a permanent taboo.
In the Guardian of 9 May, famous journalists and their executives were asked to reflect on the election campaign. Almost all agreed that it had been "boring" and "lacked passion" and "never really caught fire". Mosey complained that it had been "very hard to reach out to people who are disengaged". Again, irony was absent, as if the BBC's obsequiousness to the "consensus of propaganda", as Alex Carey called it, had nothing to do with people's disengagement or with the duty of journalists to engage the public, let alone tell them things they had a right to know.
It is this right-to-know that is being lost behind a wilful illu-sion. Since the cry "freedom of the press" was first heard roughly 500 years ago, when Wynkyn de Worde set up Caxton's old printing press in the yard of St Bride's Church, off Fleet Street, there has never been more information or media in the "mainstream", yet most of it is now repetitive and profoundly ideological, captive to the insidious system that Carey described.
Omission is how it works. Between 1 and 15 April, the Media Tenor Institute analysed the content of television evening news. Foreign politics, including Iraq, accounted for less than 2 per cent. Search the post-election comments of the most important people in journalism for anything about the greatest political scandal in memory - the unprovoked bloodbath in Iraq - and you will find nothing. The Goldsmith affair was an aberration, forced on to the election agenda not by a journalist but by an insider; and no connection was then made with the suffering and grief in Iraq.
Click link at the top for more.
In the rest of the world, the top secret memo that's giving Blair a headache, and that has resulted in 89 members of Congress demanding an explanation from Bush, is headline news. But not in the U.S. Now that two weeks have passed since The Times published the secret minutes of of Blair's meeting with his advisors, bloggers the world over have shamed the U.S. media into finally mentioning the subject - on op-ed pages, or buried deep in articles about Blair's re-election.
Krugman in the May 16th, NY Times finally says something: Staying What Course?
These are dark times for the U.S.