American media’s steady decline


It’s amazing how history sometimes repeats itself.  Keith Olbermann’s departure from MSNBC reminds me of the Phil Donahue firing which happened just before the last Iraq war, but without war drums beating so loudly.  Olbermann, love him or hate him, there was almost no middle ground judging by many of the comments I’ve read on the topic but I respected him for saying things that many given the same pulpit were afraid to say and that’s saying alot.

American media’s decline however BEGAN with the Phil Donahue firing and the media’s willingness to become a “stenographer” for the Administration in power.  Judy Miller et. co. were the waterboys/girls for an administration with imperialistic intent in mind and objective journalism went right out the window.  Of course, you could make the case for journalism’s demise occurring even before that, extending to the days of William Buckley’s association with the CIA and others, but we’re a shortsighted Nation that rarely thinks beyond the last debacle in our history, so let’s leave it at Iraq.

I’ve read where many people decried Olbermann’s personality, arrogance, etc. but those same people most likely tune in to Bill O’Reilly, Hannity, et.al who display an arrogance that makes Olbermann look like a pussycat in comparison, so was it his condescending personality or what he said that they detested?  Indeed, it appears America can no longer stand dissent even when it’s principled or factual. Juan Cole has a pretty good take on the Olbermann departure that you can read here.  I especially liked this line

It seems Olbermann is too extreme for US television. But Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, now they are mainstream. What universe could that proposition be true in? That of cranky old white billionaires. And television news is owned by them. Not by you.

which is why I’ve said repeatedly, citizenship journalism is much more worthy of your time and consideration than anything you might find on cable TV.  For example, do you think anyone now on television besides, perhaps Jon Stewart will say this

Hardly!  What America needs is as steady a droning voice for ‘the rule of law’, adherence to the principles of republican democracy as they are getting from the voices of hatred and racism that have taken over America airwaves.  Only then can one really “decide” because they will have had the ability to choose from this or that…something not available to the consumer at the moment.  I lament the departure of Olbermann…I liked him and linked to him several times here…but there are still many good citizen journalists whose voices have not been silenced who also deserve your time and attention.  Please read, listen to what they have to say.

An I told you so moment


If you do, you’ll be a lot smarter, or so says the latest study on FoxNews which claims you are very misinformed if you do depend on that medium for news or even informed opinion.  This isn’t news for many of us in the blogsphere….FoxNews has serious credibility problems and their own air talent are nothing short of refined racists with an open mic and the American airwaves to spill their venom and infect the body politic.

Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely), most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points), the economy is getting worse (26 points), most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points), the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points), their own income taxes have gone up (14 points), the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points), when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points) and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points). The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it–though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.

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The NYT’s advocacy for imperialism


The NYT is a regular target on the pages of Miscellany101 and it is an easy one.  Its reporters lie, make articles up, for which some are punished or disciplined and others not, or tow an administration’s line, if it serves the purpose of corporate and ethnic imperialism.

Allison Weir has outed the NYT’s story on the Gaza Flotilla inquiry that will supposedly be handled by the Israeli government.  The writer of the Times’ story is both an Israeli and one with suspected ties to the murderous IDF so you can only imagine the slant of that piece.  You can read Weir’s revelations about that story here. The Times has a habit of using Israelis to write pieces on Israel and they see nothing wrong with that.  I suggest therefore that they hire a Palestinian to write articles on Gaza and the Israeli blockade of that territory, but I’m sure that will never fly.

The second article more brazen than the first is the sophomoric grandstanding of the Times about the story of Afghanistan’s supposed wealth of natural resources.  We are pretty much on record for saying that the two wars fought by America in Iraq and Afghanistan are about regime change and control of the natural resources therein, so the Times’ announcement is not earth shattering as far as we are concerned, but the timing is what we find immensely dubious as do others as well.

The way in which the story was presented — with on-the-record quotations from the Commander in Chief of CENTCOM, no less — and the weird promotion of a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense to Undersecretary of Defense suggest a broad and deliberate information operation designed to influence public opinion on the course of the war. Indeed, as every reader of Jared Diamond’s popular works of geographic determinism knows well, a country rich in mineral resources will tend toward stability over time, assuming it has a strong, central, and stable government.

Risen’s story notes that the minerals discovery comes at a propitious time. He focuses on lithium, a critical component of electronics. One official tells him that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium” — a comparison to oil. (I can see it now: “We must wean ourselves off our dependence on foreign lithium!”)

What better way to remind people about the country’s potential bright future — and by people I mean the Chinese, the Russians, the Pakistanis, and the Americans — than by publicizing or re-publicizing valid (but already public) information about the region’s potential wealth?

The Obama administration and the military know that a page-one, throat-clearing New York Times story will get instant worldwide attention. The story is accurate, but the news is not that new; let’s think a bit harder about the context.

This “news” about the riches of Afghanistan precedes another Times story which talks about the problems the Afghan mission is facing and how it might be somewhat difficult to meet the Obama administration’s deadline of withdrawal from that war ravaged country (What better way to insure circulation levels than to beat the drums for more war?) as if to prepare their readership for the bad news by re-cycling a story about the riches at the US’ disposal if we only stay the course.  Why anyone bothers to read the Times is unfathomable; my suggestion is you don’t!

Does NYT’s Top Israel Reporter Have a Son in the IDF?


I thinks that’s a fair question, and it was raised by several in the media.  The NYT doesn’t think it’s worth addressing.  Here’s the story

The New York Times refuses to confirm or deny a report that its Jerusalem bureau chief, Ethan Bronner, has a child who is an enlisted member of the Israeli Defense Force–even though such a relationship would pose a serious conflict of interest.

The Electronic Intifada website (1/25/10), following a tip, asked Bronner whether it was true that he had a son in the IDF. EI got a reply from Times foreign editor Susan Chira:

Ethan Bronner referred your query to me, the foreign editor. Here is my comment: Mr. Bronner’s son is a young adult who makes his own decisions. At the Times, we have found Mr. Bronner’s coverage to be scrupulously fair and we are confident that will continue to be the case.

The decisions of Bronner’s son, however, are not the issue. What the Times needs to ask itself is whether it expects that its bureau chief has the normal human feelings about matters of life or death concerning one’s child.

Might he feel hostility, for example, when interviewing members of organizations who were trying to kill his son? When the IDF goes into battle, might he be rooting for the side for which his son is risking his life? Certainly such issues would be taken very seriously if a Times reporter had a child who belonged to a military force that was engaged in hostilities with the IDF; indeed, there’s little doubt that a reporter in that position would not be allowed to continue to cover the Mideast conflict.

Having a conflict of interest, it should be stressed, is not the same thing as producing slanted journalism; rather, it means that a journalist has outside motivations that are strongly at odds with his or her journalistic responsibilities. That a journalist has been “scrupulously fair” in the past does not excuse an ongoing conflict of interest; journalists should not be placed in a position where they have to ignore the well-being of their family in order to do their job, nor should readers be expected to trust that they can do so.

That said, Bronner’s reporting has been repeatedly criticized by FAIR for what would appear to be a bias toward the Israeli government. For example, Extra! (3/09) questioned an article that Bronner (1/13/09) wrote on Israel’s 2009 invasion of Gaza that claimed that unspecified “polls have shown nearly 90 percent support for the war thus far”; FAIR’s magazine noted that this was “a statistical unlikelihood in a country that is 20 percent Palestinian.” The same piece by Bronner claimed that “the largest demonstration against the war so far, with some 6,000 participants, was organized by an Arab political party”; an article by Agence France-Presse (1/3/09) had reported that “tens of thousands” of Israeli Arabs had protested against the war in the Israeli town of Sakhnin. (See also Extra!, 1-2/08, 7/09; FAIR Blog, 2/4/09).

As Electronic Intifada pointed out, the New York Times’ own policies acknowledge that the activities of family members may pose a conflict of interest: “A brother or a daughter in a high-profile job on Wall Street might produce the appearance of conflict for a business reporter or editor,” and such conflicts may require a journalist “to withdraw from certain coverage.” Given this policy, it is unacceptable for the Times’ foreign editor to take the position that the military status of Bronner’s children is of no concern. The question posed by EI must be asked again: Does the New York Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief have a son in the Israeli military, and if so, why doesn’t this pose a conflict of interest?