May 23, 2004

Cartoon Guide to Federal Spectrum Policy

I always hate posting links from other "meta-news blogs" -- but FCC regulations is a topic that tends to irk me, so this seems like just the kind of thing to share with the world: Cartoon Guide to Federal Spectrum Policy
Chocked full of simple, easy to follow explainations of how radio frequencies are regulated, and why it may not be the best way to do things. This was prepared by the "New America Foundation", an organization I'm not familiar with, but they seem to have quite a collection of articles under their belt, that I'm going to try and remember to check out later.

Posted by hossman at 02:20 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 08, 2004

Oprah, Stern, Kimmel, and the FCC

Aparently, I forgot to post a story back in March about the Oprah episode discussing a lot of explicit sexual acts that aired as a re-run on March 18th of this year; and that March 18th happened to be the same day that the FCC fined Howard Stern for a 2001 show discussing a lot of explicit sex acts; or that Jimmy Kimmel stired things up by pointing out the double standard; or that Stern's network censored him and bleeped the 'indecient' portions of the Oprah clip when he tried to play it on his show.

(See what happens when you don't post things when they're current -- you have to re-cap later.)

Anyway, I mention all of that, so that I can mention this: Apparently Kimmel and Stern got through to some people. The FCC has been flooded with emails complaining about Oprah, which are now available for public consumption thanks to the FOIA. Some of these letters seem a little over the top, but it certainly seems to be raising awareness about the hypocrisy of the FCC's rule(ing)s.

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January 21, 2004

A Jab at

So I was listening to an NPR interview with the founder of on the way home, hoping to hear a thoughtful counterpoint to's stance and getting a little annoyed at Terry Gross' bad interview style. I was pretty severely let down by the guest though and decided to take a look at RightMarch since I actually hadn't heard of it before. I was greeted with this image on the homepage:

... referring to the couple of Hitler-related entires to the "Bush in 30 Seconds" competition of course.

Now I'm the first one to dismiss anybody using an argument that involves Hitler, but the visual argument made by that image on RightMarch's homepage was exactly the kind of logically worthless "common sense" criticism that the founder was indulging in on the air. So in response, I give you (un-photoshopped):

Posted by ymatt at 06:48 PM | view/comment (16) | TrackBack (0)

January 15, 2004

Interview Hijacking 101

As linked to by Winston Smith of Philosoraptor, here's a fairly interesting article from the Columbia Journalism Review on the ways in which politicians and CEOs deliberately avoid responding to interviewers' questions: Answer the &$%#* Question!

Posted by jbc at 06:22 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 13, 2004

Fox Reality Show Creators Plumb New Depths

Never having actually watched a reality show, I'm probably not the person to be reporting on this development. But I still found it interesting when Bravo brought the following to my attention: Fox Woos Viewers with 'Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance'.

The series marks the latest creation from Fox reality TV guru Mike Darnell, the man behind last year's "Joe Millionaire," the more recent hit "The Simple Life" and the highly rated but controversial Fox special from the year 2000, "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?"

He said of all the reality programs he's done, "Fiance" proved the most intense and was "the closest we've ever come to not completing a television show."

"The family's reaction is more than we ever could have imagined that it would be," Darnell told Reuters. "It was very difficult for them, and that made it extraordinarily difficult for her. ... It's hysterical."

I dunno. There's something just horribly decadent/disgusting-sounding to me about this. It's like the networks are in some kind of a race to see who can be the first to reach the absolute nadir of human creative output. Today's Onion article becomes tomorrow's reality show (and the day-after-tomorrows' tired ratings bomb).

Truly, the End is Nigh.

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January 05, 2004

'Bush in 30 Seconds' Finalists Announced

So, the 15 finalists have been announced in's contest to create 30-second issue ads about Bush's presidency: I think my favorites are "Child's Pay," "Polygraph," and "What Are We Teaching Our Children?"

Posted by jbc at 12:55 PM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

December 09, 2003

Please Don't Come To Our New Years "Extravanganza"

This choice little ditty is just too classic to let slide: The Mayor of London wants the city to have
"an extravanganza to rival the spectacular fireworks displays that cities such as Sydney and Los Angeles have become noted for" -- but he doesn't want it to be very long, and he doesn't want any one to come see it.
The fireworks will cost £330,000 ($576,000 US) and will only last 2 minutes long -- a show put on purely to create a video-bite that can be broadcast world wide. Londoners are actively being told to "stay home" and watch it on TV, becuase having a lot of people there in person may "ruin the effect" for the TV cameras, and the world audience.
Yea-Ha London, you folks really know how to party!

Posted by hossman at 05:12 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

November 08, 2003

Scot Tempesta: Loudmouthed Idiot

This is a fun one. Scot Tempesta, who apparently hosts a right-wing AM radio talk show out of San Diego, sent some emails to Kynn Bartlett of Shock & Awe, looking for someone opposed to the death penalty to appear on a show. (Update: Per Kynn in the comments, Tempesta isn't a regular host, but some sort of producer-type-guy at the station.) Kynn posted about it here: KOGO seeking death penalty opponents, and included excerpts from the emails he exchanged with Tempesta.

Well, guess what? Three weeks go by, Tempesta is out ego surfing, and he comes across the posted item. And he's pissed! Heh. Kynn tells about it here: Scot Tempesta is angry.

Posted by jbc at 07:12 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 25, 2003

Ann Coulter vs. Al Franken

Bryan Keefer at Spinsanity has an excellent write-up of a recent column in which nutjob Ann Coulter attempted to deflect some of Al Franken's recent charges against her: Coulter's questionable corrections. Keefer points out how, in defending herself against charges that she employed shoddy research, mischaracterized things, and misled people, Coulter employed shoddy research, mischaracterized things, and misled people.

Hey, at least she's consistent.

Keefer's conclusion: "The trivial number of corrections to Slander, as well as Coulter's refusal to engage her critics on most of the substantive issues they have raised, suggest that she's more interested in advancing her political agenda than factual accuracy." Really? You think?

Update: In an unrelated piece of Coulter-bashing, I noticed the following on Steve Gilliard's permalink challenged weblog, under the heading "Pet Peeve" (in which he was going off pretty entertainingly on Bill O'Reilly):

Hell, even Ann Coulter attacks people who can attack back. Sure, she can call Molly Ivins a traitor and Evan Thomas, the son of Norman Thomas, even though his name is Evan Thomas, Jr. But they can respond in kind and ask about her adams apple and the fact that there was no child named Ann Coulter born in Connecticut in 1962-63.

Am I interpreting this correctly? Is there an Ann-Coulter-was-born-a-man meme that I've somehow missed? Because that would be thoroughly hilarious if it turned out to be true. Can you imagine what it would do to the minds of the social conservatives? Bill Bennett: compulsive gambler. Rush Limbaugh: drug addict. Ann Coulter: transsexual. Wow.

Another update: Oh, yeah. Where have I been? A couple from Boondocks lately: here and here. And you can just do a Google search on "Ann Coulter adam's apple" and knock yourself out. My favorite result is this one.

Posted by jbc at 07:10 AM | view/comment (10) | TrackBack (0)

October 23, 2003

Bill O'Reilly Lies

I love that scene in Sense and Sensibility (yeah, besides being a girly-man who loves opera, I can't get enough of Jane Austen adaptations) when Alan Rickman's Colonel Brandon is finally divulging his history, and he tells Emma Thompson's Elinor Dashwood, "No doubt -- no doubt -- you have already been told..." The emphasis on the second "no doubt," and the knowing look he gives Elinor, are great.

Anyway, no doubt you have already heard about the ongoing feud between Bill O'Reilly and Al Franken (among others) over O'Reilly's habit of lying and bullying, and then lying and bullying some more in an effort to silence those who are pointing out his lying and bullying.

Another in the seemingly endless series of examples of that was provided a few days ago, in a column O'Reilly wrote for the New York Daily News: I'm feeling the sting of media's lefty bias. It's a long rant about Franken (well, he doesn't mention Franken by name, but that's who he's talking about) and all the sympathetic coverage Franken's been getting from those left-wing media outlets. In his typical way, O'Reilly works himself up to a righteous fit by the end of the piece, which concludes thusly:

So, they're counterattacking. My name is no longer Bill O'Reilly. It's "gasbag," "bully," "liar" and "blowhard." Those descriptions are not confined to opinion pieces but are used in hard news stories as well. There's good news, though. Never again will some news organizations be able to claim fairness or nonpartisanship. They've been exposed for all to see. Excuse me for a moment - something just went whizzing by my head.

Hard news stories referred to him as a "gasbag"? Wow. Except that, of course, it isn't true. See the following debunking from Spinsanity's Brenden Nyhan: O'Reilly continues dissembling. Those terms were used in opinion pieces, or, in the case of straight news stories, were directly attributed to people like Franken.

(Update: Alerted by commenter John Q., I actually followed up on that "gasbag" reference in Newsweek, and it's true: the magazine did refer to him as such in introducing an interview with rapper Ludacris in a feature for the "Newsmakers" section -- Newsweek's equivalent of People magazine, sort of. Still not a hard news story, as O'Reilly claimed, but not an opinion piece, either. The Spinsanity piece makes this clear; I didn't. Oops.)

So I go back and look at what O'Reilly wrote in his piece, and glory be, he didn't really lie, at least if you're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and employ the kind of hypertechnically strict linguistic parsing that seems to be as necessary a tool for modern life as, say, lungs. What he said was that those descriptions were "used" in hard news stories. Well, saying, "Al Franken repeatedly characterized O'Reilly as a 'lying gasbag bullly' in his remarks" would be "using" those terms, wouldn't it?

Yes. No. Maybe.

Whatever. It doesn't matter. When someone says something that is hypertechnically true, from a certain point of view, but does so in a way that meets the reasonable-person standard for having been intentionally crafted to create a false impression, that's a lie. It just is.

Yeah, I know O'Reilly got beaten up by his dad as a kid, and had his big defining moment in life at 17, when he realized that he was now bigger and stronger than his dad, and didn't need to be physically afraid of him anymore. And yeah, I realize that the psychological damage from such a childhood could well contribute to someone's becoming a bully who sincerely believes, on some level, that he is being righteous and just in lashing out at critics and telling them to "shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Just shut up."

It's possible to feel sorry for Bill O'Reilly. It's even possible to believe that in the heat of the moment, when he's worked himself up to it, he really believes the stuff he says that isn't quite true, such that one could charitably describe him as merely being very, very confused, at least at those moments, rather than wilfully dishonest.

It's possible to describe him that way. But I'm not going to. I've got better things to do with my time. So I'm just going to use the simpler approach, and call him a liar. Because he is, you know. He really is.

Posted by jbc at 08:02 AM | view/comment (19) | TrackBack (0)

October 16, 2003

Kynn on Holding (Certain) Media to a Higher Standard

Here's a fun little analysis from Kynn of Shock & Awe: "I demand photographic evidence!" It goes into how a particular critic of his employed very different standards for evaluating news stories based on whether those stories agreed or disagreed with his own preconceptions.

Which isn't an earth-shaking revelation, I realize. But this is still a nice example of it. As a bonus, Kynn's analysis features a debunking of that "$60 million worth of Iraqi WMD were intercepted while being smuggled into Kuwait!" story you may have heared about a while back.

Posted by jbc at 05:34 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 14, 2003

Bill O'Reilly Beats Up on Terry Gross

Thanks to Yian for tipping me off to the really hilarious Fresh Air interview with Bill O'Reilly. If you like Bill O'Reilly, you'll really enjoy this interview. If you loathe Bill O'Reilly, you'll also really enjoy this interview, though in a completely different way. Go thou and listen likewise!

Posted by jbc at 11:16 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

October 09, 2003

Kling on Krugman

Arnold Kling takes Paul Krugman to task in this piece at Tech Central Station: An open letter to Paul Krugman. Kling distinguishes between two types of arguments: "Type C" arguments, which are about the consequences of a proposed policy, and "Type M" arguments, which are about the inferred motivations of the people advocating that policy. Kling makes the eminently reasonable point that Type C arguments are inherently preferable to Type M arguments. He even makes his case in the form of a Type C argument. Good job.

If there were a way to restrict both sides in the public debate in this country to using only Type C arguments, well, we'd have a much higher quality of debate. Unfortunately, there isn't, and we don't. And what Paul Krugman's willingness to engage in Type M amounts to is an acknowledgement that restricting yourself to Type C when the other side is relentlessly hammering away at you with Type M is a good way to lose an argument.

This is exactly what happened in this country over the last 30 years. (See? I'm talking about consequences. It's a Type C argument. Woo!) Right-wing politicians and media figures launched an all-out assault on liberal policies and those who advocated them, using Type M arguments as their weapon of choice. The response from the liberals consisted mainly of high-minded Type C stuff.

Well, guess what? We liberals lost the debate, and the current Bush presidency is one of the more horrifying results. So we're done with the self-imposed limitations. We'll go back to the Type-C-only arguments when the other side demonstates a willingness to do the same. Until then, forget it. It's a sucker's game.

Posted by jbc at 09:15 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

Peters: Media Are Actors, Not Just Observers

Ralph Peters, writing in the New York Post, says the media are a key player, perhaps the key player, in determining the success or failure of the US effort to rebuild Iraq: Not so innocent. Peters has a good point: terrorism would lose its effectiveness if there were no media to report on it. It's pretty much the same case Michael Moore makes in Bowling for Columbine (though I doubt Peters would appreciate the comparison): that the media's interest in tapping into fear as a way to gather more eyeballs to sell to advertisers outweighs whatever higher purpose they might otherwise serve, making a lie out of their claims to being objective eyes and ears laboring on behalf of the pubic good.

I'll grant Peters that the media has a vested interest in portraying the dramatic failure of the US effort in Iraq. But that's the same media dynamic that Bush and his people were only too willing to exploit in hyping the largely baseless charges of Hussein's imminent WMD threat during the run up to war. The media is what it is. (Are what they are?) It has an institutional bias to report the new, the dramatic, the frightening, while downplaying the old, the commonplace, the mundane. Sometimes it helps the side Peters is on; sometimes it hurts it. Deal with it.

The Bush people are apparently focusing on this as the next Big Message to hammer home: things are going great in Iraq, but the media just aren't telling you about it. Well, maybe. But I remain suspicious. Just as I'm suspicious when an HMO, confronted by market research that shows people view it as relentlessly profit-oriented and uncaring, chooses to mount an advertising campaign in which a white-coated actor who oozes bedside manner smiles down at a young patient, handing her a teddy bear while her grateful parents look on. As opposed to, you know, actually addressing the real problems in their patient care that led to the negative public perception in the first place.

Successfully spinning the media into portraying a failure as a success might well help Bush hold onto political power. But it won't actually help with any of the real issues we're facing. Wouldn't it be great to have a president who cared a little more (like, at all) about actually solving our problems, and a little less about manipulating the media in order to fool us into thinking he already had?

Posted by jbc at 09:00 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 28, 2003

Waldman: The Media Are Partly to Blame for Saddam-9/11 Myth

Writing in today's Washington Post, Paul Waldman has an excellent opinion piece pointing out that it is not just the rumormongers in and around the Bush administration, but also the media, who have helped create the conditions under which nearly 70% of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks: Why the media don't call it as they see it.

Posted by jbc at 07:52 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 18, 2003

The Nation on the WaPo's Editors

Here's a really interesting look at the way coverage of the Bush administration's lies and misstatements on Iraq in the Washington Post changed over the last six months. From The Nation's Ari Berman: The Postwar Post.

It isn't so much that the stories themselves changed; it's that the placement of those stories in the paper changed. At first they were being buried way back. It was only as time went on and the truth about administration deceptions became more obvious that the paper started running the material on the front page.

Note that this makes pretty much no difference to people like me, who tend to read their newspapers online, where any story you can link to is pretty much just as prominent as any other. But in the real world I guess it matters a lot.

Anyway, like I said, it's interesting. I especially liked this quotation from the end:

The newfound intensity of the press brings to mind, Pincus says, something Gene McCarthy told him years ago. "The press is a bunch of blackbirds," McCarthy mused. "All are on a wire and one will go to another wire and when that bird doesn't get electrocuted, all the birds will go to that other wire."

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September 12, 2003

Buzzflash Interviews Krugman

Buzzflash has a good interview: Paul Krugman, New York Times Columnist and Author of "The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century".

Posted by jbc at 06:36 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 10, 2003

ABC Annoys the Man

From Hiro comes word of this scary story: Border breach? It describes how ABC News, preparing an exposé on lax port security, shipped some depleted uranium from Jakarta to LA, easily avoiding detection by the people allegedly safeguarding us from smuggled dirty bombs. Which is a little scary, I guess.

But it's the second half of the article that is really scary. It describes how, faced with the fact that they'd been made to look bad by the journalists, the government turned around and started hassling them (showing up unannounced at participants' residences, misidentifying themselves as FBI agents, attempting to obtain taped footage of the incidents, threatening heavy legal sanctions, and so on).

No, I'm not bitching about life in a police state; it sounds like none of the stuff that authorities did to the ABC people was really all that awful. Except for what it says about the administration's overall approach to homeland security: What? Someone found chinks in our armor? Well then; we'll just use some of our post-9/11 police powers in an attempt to intimidate the messenger and cover up the problem.

This is, of course, consistent with the Bush administration's behavior in other areas. And it's wrong, wrong, wrong. Not in a moral sense (well, it's wrong that way, too), but in a practical sense. It's like the mid-level NASA managers trying to ignore the chatter about safety risks bubbling up from the engineers. Yes, acknowledging problems might make someone look bad, and correcting them might cost some time, effort, and money. Guess what? That's called "accountability," and if you don't have it, well, you've got even bigger problems than you realize.

This is so wrong. Gah.

Posted by jbc at 07:15 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 05, 2003

Welch on Weblogs

Weblogger Matt Welch has a good article in the Columbia Journalism Review on weblogs: Blogworld. I know there's been a lot of weblog hype lately, but this article is actually really good.

Posted by jbc at 07:23 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 01, 2003

Hume Does Death-Stats Voodoo

From Jesse at Wage Slave Journal (via Six Different Ways) comes word of this fuzzy math by O'Reilly's Brit Hume: Fair and balanced mathematics. Seems Hume tried to claim that the current death rate of US soldiers in Iraq is no big deal, since Californians average 6.6 murders per day, while soldiers in Iraq are only averaging 1.7 deaths per day. Yeah, but see, as Jesse points out, "There are about 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and more than 34.5 million people in California. So if we had as many troops in Iraq as there are people in California, and a comparable number were being killed, we would see 385 deaths per day, as opposed to the 6.6 murders in California."

That seems like a pretty transparent piece of spin, even for Fox, but maybe I'm assuming too much clue on the part of the "math is hard; let's go invading" set.

Posted by jbc at 01:01 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

O'Reilly on Shutting Up

Fun piece from Slate writer Jack Shafer: Bill O'Reilly wants you to shut up.

Posted by jbc at 10:46 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

August 31, 2003

The Kiss(es)

For those of you who aren't members of the MTV generation, you may not have heard about "The Kiss" (or more appropriately: "The Kisses") from Thursday nights MTV Video Music Awards. Being the 20th anniversary, Britney Spears & Christina Aguilera got together on stage to do a tribute rendition of Madona's legendary "Like A Virgin" stage performace from the very first VMA ceremony. They were then joined by the orriginal material girl, who launched into her latest single "Hollywood", taking breaks between versuses to plant big juicy open mouthed kisses on each of the two pop-princesses.

For those of you who like looking at hot chicks kissing, there are plenty of pictures all over the web, and even some video clips.

There are plenty of people pointing out how contrived the whole thing was, but what I find most ammusing is how much all the coverage has been about "Madona kissing Britney" -- with very little mention of the fact that she planted big wet ones on both of them. The clip I saw acctually cut away when Madona turned towards Christina .... which brings me to the second most ammusing part of all this, the way they cut to Justin Timberlake just for a reaction shot. (I have to admit, it was a hilarious reaction shot).

Posted by hossman at 01:09 AM | view/comment (18) | TrackBack (1)

July 29, 2003

He who dies last, still wins

I know that newpapers tend to prepare obituaries in advance, so that they're ready to print when someone old and famous (like Bob Hope) dies, but this is ridiculous. Vincent Canby died in 2000.

Posted by hossman at 11:20 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 28, 2003

Voices in the Wilderness or tools of a dictator?

Last month I had a short debate with a fellow reader of this site regarding the degree of suffering and economic damage brought upon the people of Iraq by the UN sanctions that have been in place for more than a decade. He felt that the sanctions were directly hamstringing the Iraqi Government from providing the level of service and infrastructure repairs needed to provide food and healthy water to its people, especially its children. I countered that the sanctions, though ineffective in pressuring Saddam to comply with UN requirements, had little to do with any significant food or health issues in Iraq. Such problems (at least the ones not purposely exaggerated) were more due to the unwillingness of Saddam to direct available money and materials to remedy a situation that he preferred to use for propaganda purposes.

We each provided links to bolster our opinions. Among his links was a reference to Voices in the Wilderness, an activist group which was deeply critical of the effects of the UN sanctions. However, this story has now appeared, in which a former member of that group now believes that his organization naively (or purposely) compromised their moral ideals by helping Saddam promote the false impression of a US-led victimization of the Iraqi people due to its single-minded effort to punish Saddam's regime.

I don't know if this former Voices member is giving the full unvarnished truth or not (i.e. whether he had a falling-out with the group for some reason and now has an ax to grind), but it gives an interesting view of how some people, in their dogged determination to call out the "repressive and criminal actions" of the US and its accomplices, can find themselves with an ironic bedmate.

Posted by Craig at 09:30 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 18, 2003

Noah: It Wasn't the Lie - It Was the Admission

Here's a thoughtful look at the yellowcake story from Slate's Timothy Noah: Why this Bush lie? Part 2. Noah points out that it wasn't the mere fact that Bush lied that sparked the current extended news cycle. It was the (very uncharacteristic) White House acknowledgement of error.

Now, if you've been trolling the righty weblogs lately (as Adam has and I have, at least a little; it's a guilty pleasure), you know that for many Bush supporters there was no lie. Everything Bush said was true. So the circling of the White House wagons and the reversion to form, with every question being answered with a deflection or a non-answer or a statement that "we've already addressed that", is working, at least for those who want to believe. But for a few minutes there we got to see the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain, working the levers furiously.

I really love it when that happens. And it goes beyond partisanship. I'm offended when politicians - of any ideological persuasion - tell lies, and it makes my day when they're suddenly standing up there in the TV lights with their pants around their ankles.

I believe in conspiracy theories generally, even though I know that the vast majority of them aren't true. Sure, any particular explanation for the currently inexplicable is probably bogus, but the underlying idea, that the conventional wisdom is wrong, wrong, wrong, feels spectacularly right to me.

So I love it when a politician gets caught in a blatant lie. Any resulting political fallout may or may not be something I'm happy about, but I'm always happy about the way thousands, even millions, of people just had their perceptual framework suddenly wink out of existence, leaving them staring into the bare, dazzling face of reality.

Yeah, things get back to normal sooner or later. But I remember.

Posted by jbc at 08:44 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 13, 2003

Doonesbury on Media Bias

Fun Doonesbury strip today, on a key difference between the liberal and conservative media.

Posted by jbc at 02:11 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 05, 2003

Shafer on Russert

Slate's Jack Shafer has a fun piece on how to avoid looking like a chump on Meet the Press: How to beat Tim Russert. I'm not sure it's ever going to be an issue for me personally, but it's still a fun article.

Posted by jbc at 09:15 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 03, 2003

Deflating Krugman

I've noticed for a while that Paul Krugman is a particularly favorite columnist on this web site. As you would expect, a person who takes a very strident tone against a presiding Administration will attract some critics of his views. But I've also noticed a good deal of attention is made to things that are beyond differences in ideologies. Many critics are calling Krugman out for some deliberate misrepresentations of information and just plain sloppy reporting. This story and this one are two such examples of this criticism.

Posted by Craig at 06:43 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 22, 2003

Saddam May Be Paying For These Sins As We Speak!

This isn't a particularly new story on the darkness that Saddam cast upon his people during his reign, but it certainly casts a damming light on the western media that chose to take the moral and ethical low road in not only failing to report the truth about the cause of hundreds of children's deaths in Traq, but also were participants in validating the lie.

I didn't want to link to this latest rumor of Saddam's "untimely" death, since it was only being reported in the Guardian. But now the international version of the NYT has added their two-cents worth, so I'll allow myself to start to hope its true.

Posted by Craig at 09:29 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

LAT on Jessica

Today's Los Angeles Times has a decent summing up of the current state of the Jessica-Lynch-and-the-media story: Lynch now networks' objective (cypherpunk98/cypherpunk login works). The article points out how interpreters of the story have tended to fill in the fuzzy parts based on their own ideology, and also touches on the Jessica/Shoshana thing. I especially like this part about NBC, which is scurrying to get an unauthorized made-for-TV movie about Jessica out this fall:

At NBC, executives are aware of the turmoil over the truth in the Lynch story and are philosophical. Much of the BBC report has been discredited, said Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment. "All made-for-TV movies based on fact have some fiction in them." In any case, the lure is unchanged. "She is a heroic figure," he said.

Yeah, that's what I'd call that: philosophical.

Posted by jbc at 09:07 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 20, 2003

MoJo on the WaPo on Jessica

So, I've gone from ignoring the sweet little waif to being the All-Jessica, All-the-Time weblog. For your Jessica-obsessed pleasure, Mother Jones' Daily MoJo has the latest on the Private Lynch meta-discussion: Pfc. Lynch: Cut! It's a wrap!

They come down closer to Craig's take on this than my own, siding with a recent Slate piece that criticized the Washington Post for having soft-pedaled their own role in hyping the bogus version of the story initially. Also has some interesting links to back-and-forth sniping between CBS and the New York Times over their respective maneuvering to get the exclusive post-amnesia Jessica interview, and discussion of the question of how journalistic ethics are to be maintained in an era when honest news reporting might well be at cross-purposes with the aims of the news organization's megamedia parent.

Update: And courtesy of Craig in the comments on the previous Jessica item, here's Nicholas Kristof's op-ed piece in the New York Times: Saving Private Jessica. Offers some really interesting tidbits about the ambulance trip just prior to the rescue: Kristof's sources say she was slated to be killed in an Iraqi propaganda ploy, but that her ambulance driver talked the military triggerman out of it with an appeal to God.

Wow. I think the Movie of the Week rights are getting more valuable, not less.

Posted by jbc at 02:22 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 19, 2003

Palast on the Media on McKinney

Here's a fun story from Alternet's Greg Palast: The screwing of Cynthia McKinney. Well, fun if you're not Cynthia McKinney, or someone who cares about the truth-value of what passes for journalism in this country.

Posted by jbc at 12:47 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 09, 2003

Right-Wing Pundits' Double Standard on Patriotism

Here's a nice smoking-gun piece from, courtesy of those excellent link-suggesters Glen & Pilar: Dissent, disloyalty & double standards. Basically shows how people like Hannity, Limbaugh, and Savage apply radically different standards for what constitutes "patriotic dissent" and what constitutes "treasonous backstabbing of our men and women in uniform," based on which party's president ordered the troops into harm's way.

Not like this is a shocking revelation or anything, but it's good to get the examples down in black and white for those few who might be both unaware of this kind of deception and capable of being influenced by having it exposed.

Posted by jbc at 04:24 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 08, 2003

Doesn't anybody sanity check headlines anymore anymore?

Here's a whimsical little headline I saw on NTK today. I'm no expert on the editorial practices of major news sites, so I don't know if it was pulled from MSNBC due to a brief moment of good judgement, or if that's just policy for AP stories that are a week old -- but god bless for pointing out plenty of other places that carry the same story.

Posted by hossman at 10:37 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 07, 2003

More Creativity With Wolfowitz

Just to add to the train wreck of journalistic integrity that has occurred as a result of Wolfowitz's comments recently, I've discovered that another media player has decided to one-up Guardian by simply ADDING quotes to what he said!! This interesting blogger reveals Pravda's take on Wolfowitz's comments. Also included is some additional explanation (or backpedaling/damage control) by Guardian on their error regarding this story.

Posted by Craig at 08:53 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 06, 2003

Lyin' and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Big news day for lying yesterday.

As pointed out by Craig in the comments on the Is Wolfowitz Serious? item, the Guardian has acknowledged that they misrepresented Wolfowitz's statement about Iraq "swimming" in a sea of oil: Corrections and clarifications. So Onan's immediate questioning of the spin being applied to the remarks, and Craig's swift assertion that the interpretation was bogus, are both vindicated.

I don't think there's any way to sugar-coat what they did at the paper. It wasn't an innocent mistake. It was a gleeful pouncing on a suggestive turn of phrase, in full knowledge that the spin being applied to it was misleading. It demonstrates that the Guardian's partisanship interferes with their ability to truly inform their readers. I have a long memory about those sorts of violations.

Meanwhile, quite the hubbub on this side of the Atlantic regarding the resignation of New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines and his top deputy, in large part over the Jayson Blair debacle. From CNN: Analysis of New York Times resignations.

Both these stories are interesting to me on a meta-level. Note how both the Guardian and the Times are actually acknowledging their own lies, and taking responsibility for having misled people. That doesn't excuse what they did. But it does mean there's some higher standard that they're aware of, and are willing to acknowledge that they haven't met.

Compare this, say, with what currently passes for political leadership in this country. Can you imagine Bush or Clinton simply coming out and admitting to the lies that virtually everyone knows they told, and actually taking an appropriate degree of responsibility for what they'd done?

Yeah, neither can I.

Posted by jbc at 06:43 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

June 03, 2003

Village Voice on the Aftermath of the Hotel Palestine Killings

You'll all recall the day when a US tank fired a shell into the Hotel Palestine in Baghdad, killing two European journalists. Now the relatives of one of them have asked a Spanish judge to extradite three members of the US armed forces to Spain, where they face war-crimes charges. The Village Voice has a nice piece on it: They shoot journos, don't they?

The Voice takes a predictably pro-journalist stance ("In a moral universe, there is no excuse for killing journalists under any circumstances," for example). But the really interesting part of the story comes toward the end, where it talks about AP reporter Chris Tomlinson, an embed who supposedly overheard a US officer freaking out on the radio after the shell was fired: "Who just shot the Palestinian [sic] Hotel? Did you just fucking shoot the Palestinian Hotel?" It's interesting, see, because it tends to support a different interpretation than the heavily-spun version of the event the military has been selling.

Bigtime thanks to readers Glen and/or Pilar for the link.

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May 28, 2003

Is Anyone Actually Shocked?

This detailed article from The Weekly Standard reports the firing of several al Jazeera employees, including the Director General, for reported ties to the ex-Iraqi Government. I assumed they were merely sympathetic to their Arab brethren's defense against the coalition forces, not actually in bed with them. Those who may have felt that they were the true "fair and balanced" network during the war coverage (especially in terms of cilivian body count) may want to rethink their opinion. (Don't get excited. I don't think Fox News is either.)

Posted by Craig at 08:21 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

May 22, 2003

CNN and the Jayson Blair Syndrome

CNN renewed its membership in the Club of Yellow Journalism by rigging a weapons demonstration. This incident following on the heels of the New York Times scandal reinforces the belief traditional journalism has been replaced by New Journalism, journalism that features the author's subjective responses to people and events and that often includes fictional elements meant to illuminate and dramatize those responses.

CNN claims comparing a cinderblock being shot by an illegal weapon to a cinderblock not being shot at all was due to confusion. If not for the alleged confusion, the viewers would have been enlightened by video of a legal weapon being fired into the ground. Proving that illegal guns kill cinderblocks and legal guns kill dirt.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office refused to explain what criminal acts necessitated the public execution of the cinderblock and the ground.

Posted by the_web_walker at 12:59 PM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

May 20, 2003

Not So Funny Cide

Thought I'd take a break from all the Bush and War postings momentarily for a story that briefly popped up regarding the winning jockey from the recent Kentucky Derby. Just a good reminder that in today's world, often the initial reports of a story that is breathlessly rushed out by the media is often lacking in accuracy. At the expense of innocent people.

As the Boston Globe points out, our age of instant information can likely be instant misinformation.

Posted by Craig at 07:54 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

May 13, 2003

Krugman: The Bended-Knee Media

Yet another in the long line of really insightful commentaries by the NYT's Paul Krugman: The China Syndrome. It's about the strange paradox whereby the BBC, a government-owned news outlet, has been providing demonstrably more objective coverage of recent events than the large bulk of the private-owned media in the US.

Posted by jbc at 12:31 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 11, 2003

NYT Comes Clean on Reporter's Fraud

A little human-interest piece for your Sunday: the New York Times has revealed that recently-resigned reporter Jayson Blair committed extensive fraud in stories he had written for the paper over the past several months. The Times spills rivers of ink about the story, including an article describing the deception; a detailed list of specific frauds, with corrections; and an editorial mea culpa.

Times-bashers, enjoy!

Posted by jbc at 08:04 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 08, 2003

Journalism, Activism or Lies?

Two stories that question the quality of contemporary reporting.
Jonathan Foreman in Bad Reporting in Baghdad and Marc Morano in Pro-Marxist Slant Pushed at ABC, Retired Correspondent Claims write about their personal experiences.

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May 01, 2003

12 SARS Patients Report Relapses

Hello. This is my 1st post, so if there are any errors, please forgive me.

Definitly a year in history that will be remembered for a long time: a President of the USA who promotes peace by causing war(?), recession (but finds millions and billions to fight a war), and now SARS (an illness which, with all our technology, is still a myserty to us). In my travels through the world wide web, I came across intresting infomation about SARS, and how people who seem to have defeated the illness are being "re-infected." Could this be the black plague of the 21st century? Only time will tell...

An article from New York Times: 12 SARS Patients Report Relapses. And here is an interesting article from Newsday: HIV/Aids Infected people resistent to SARS?

Here are a few more on other topics:

US Marine investigated for war crimes after newspaper interview

U.S. Tells Iraq Oil Ministers Not to Act Without Its O.K.

Coca-Cola promotes drink with 'swastika' robots

Lawyer: FBI agent's job in jeopardy because she blew the whistle

The Secrets of September 11: The White House is battling to keep a report on the terror attacks secret. Does the 2004 election have anything to do with it?
(I am just glad the terrorists are the only ones who hate our freedom.)

Only on the net you find an article like this one... I won't claim it as fact, but it still is an intresting article: Bush's "Christian" Blood Cult, Concerns Raised by the Vatican

Well I hope it's not too much infomation; if it is, please let me know and I will limit the amount of articles I post.

-- best way to lie, is by knowing the truth

How fortunate for leaders, that the masses do not think.

-- Adolph Hitler

Where the People fear the Government - you have tyranny; Where the Government fears the People - you have rights.

-- Thomas Jefferson

It must never be unpatriotic to support your country against your government. It must always be unpatriotic to support your government against your country.

-- Stephen T. Byingt

It is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

-- Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering

Posted by immy2g at 01:01 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

April 30, 2003

Uppity Women on the Media

Let us all give thanks for people like Janeane Garofalo and Ashleigh Banfield (an interview with the former, a speech by the latter). Or not. But I will, anyway. Lots of good stuff here on the nature of public debate in this country, and the way the war has been presented in the media.

Posted by jbc at 11:45 AM | view/comment (11) | TrackBack (0)

April 24, 2003

Dare To Be (Not) Stupid

Some interesing stories drifting past my tiny little mind today, many of them having to do with intelligence and our national news and entertainment media.

First, from today's craptastic-user-login-required LA Times Business section comes this story: Those flag-waving hits fly with DreamWorks (you can login with cypherpunk98/cypherpunk, at least at the moment). It seems that good liberals Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen have no problem celebrating the major green they're pulling in from chart-topping patriotic country songs like Darryl Worley's Have you forgotten? and Toby Keith's Angry American, both of which are functioning as unifying anthems for the crowd that believes our invasion of Iraq was a logical, appropriate response to the 9/11 attacks.

I'm not saying those songs shouldn't be recorded, or that people who tend not to think too deeply about international events shouldn't be free to hoist a few Budweisers and feel a surge of patriotic pride while singing along. The freedom to be stupid is, after all, one of the freedoms we hold dear in this country.

But in order for our country to function properly, there need to be some not-stupids participating in the national debate, too. People who realize that this invasion of Iraq was a huge gift to Osama bin Laden, since it a) distracted the US from pursuing him, b) toppled a secular, Socialist Arab dictator who was a hated, entrenched rival, c) paved the way for the rise of a fundamentalist state in Iraq that will be more sympathetic to him and more hostile to the US, d) united the Arab world in opposition to US imperialism, e) indoctrinated a whole new generation of young Arabs in the glory of martyrdom in opposition to the Great Satan, and f) weakened and isolated the US with virtually all its global allies in terms of pursuing the international law-enforcement effort that is the biggest threat to al Qaeda.

On some level what the folks at Dreamworks are doing is just good business, I know, but on another level they're helping to dilute the national IQ when they push music like this. I see it having an impact on the debate at every level, and that concerns me.

Another angle on this is the speech that NPR host Bob Edwards gave at the University of Kentucky recently: The press and freedom: some disturbing trends. Among lots of really great comments about the intelligence (or lack thereof) in the messages being delivered by our news media, he had this interesting observation about the flap surrounding Natalie Maines' remark about being embarrassed Bush was from Texas:

The backlash against the Chicks for making that remark is fine if it comes from ex-fans who say they won't buy any more records by the Dixie Chicks. The marketplace is a respectable forum for freedom of expression. The Chicks have a right to their opinions. Music fans have a right to tell the chicks to go to hell and to boycott their concerts and refuse to buy their records. Free speech is never really free -- it always costs something. But here's what's wrong with this picture. The backlash against the Chicks is spearheaded not by fans, but by Clear Channel Radio, owner of 1,250 radio stations. Clear Channel is based in Texas. Clear Channel loves George W. Bush. Clear Channel would like the administration of George W. Bush to remove all remaining restrictions on the ownership of media properties. That is exactly what the Bush administration is considering. The Federal Communications Commission, chaired by Mike Powell, the son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, is reviewing the last remaining rules restricting media ownership. Before he became FCC chairman, Mike Powell was a communications lawyer, making fabulous sums of money lobbying on behalf of the broadcast industry -- the industry he's now supposed to be regulating. When he is finished regulating the broadcasting industry, Mike Powell will return to -- the broadcasting industry. Now how tenacious is Mike Powell going to be in regulating the broadcasting industry while he is on this temporary hiatus from the broadcasting industry?

But back to Clear Channel, which daily tells Bush and Powell that it loves them. Is Clear Channel's move on those Dixie Chicks an expression of patriotism or a business decision? Should Clear Channel have the right to ban the Chicks from its 1,250 stations? I think what individuals do is fine -- burn the CDs if you want. What industry does is another matter. Clear Channel can say the Dixie Chicks are tools of Saddam if it wants to, but it should not be allowed to kill the livelihood of any recording artist based on politics.

Oh. Side issue: As previously mentioned, I submitted a letter to the editor of the local weekly paper, griping about people lying in support of the war. They published my letter today. Woo! (It's about halfway down, under the Coastal View-supplied headline, "Show me the evidence," which isn't the emphasis I would have chosen to put on it, but at least they didn't introduce any spelling errors or anything.) So, my own tiny contribution to the local debate is on the record now; I'll let you know if anyone mentions it to me when I'm at Vons or picking my kid up at preschool or whatever.

Finally, here's an excerpt from a nice column by Charley Reese: Poor Sean Hannity.

There is a definitely a whiff of anti-intellectualism -- so characteristic of fascist states -- in the air. Beware of bully boys who worship the military and scoff at museums and libraries. Beware of people whose limited brains see everyone as either an ally or an enemy. Beware of people who can't tell the difference between patriotism and military conquest. Beware of people so stupid and ignorant that they accept anything and everything the political and the media demagogues tell them.

Thomas Jefferson, who would have been outraged by the loss of the museum and the library, said, "Those who expect to be ignorant and free expect what never was and never will be." Amen cubed.

I'm no longer concerned about liberals or conservatives, leftists or rightists. I just pray to God for a non-ideologue with a three-digit IQ. If we don't elevate the level of intelligence and integrity of our government, we are going to end up floating on the cesspool of history.

Posted by jbc at 01:08 PM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

April 21, 2003

My Coastal View Letter

Here's the letter I'm planning to drop off at my local weekly paper, The Coastal View, tomorrow (actually, today, now):

Two recent letters in the Coastal View bothered me. One said that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The other said our troops have found evidence that proves Iraq has been developing weapons of mass destruction. These statements bother me because as far as I can tell, neither of them is true.

We owe the troops more than yellow ribbons. We owe them the careful, thoughtful performance of our duties as voters. That's the only way to make sure we elect leaders who won't go to war for the wrong reasons.

While this war debate has sometimes been unpleasant, we need to have it, and we need to base the discussion on facts, not propaganda. We owe it to the troops.

Posted by jbc at 12:56 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 19, 2003

Media Coverage and the War at Home

I'm thinking this morning about the way the war is being portrayed, and the way people's perceptions are shaped by their biases, and what this all means in terms of the next presidential election, which I'm more or less convinced is going to end up being a referendum on the war.

It's a concern. I believe that a majority of voters in this country, if they have access to a reasonably full, balanced account of what's been happening, will choose to take a step back from the cliff Bush is doggedly determined to march us over. But the chance of their getting that sort of account seems to be diminishing.

A nice article on this, published in American Reporter and pointed to by The Smirking Chimp, is Randolph T. Holhut's The war I saw.

According to the Los Angeles Times, nearly 70 percent of people the paper polled said they got most of their information from the all-news cable channels such as CNN, Fox and MSNBC. But the coverage these people got sounded suspiciously like NBC's coverage of the Olympics, where the United States is the only country that gets covered and the other nations are bit players in a red, white and blue melodrama.

The New York Times is already talking about a "Fox Effect" on television news - what reporter Jim Rutenberg called "a new sort of tv journalism that casts aside traditional notions of objectivity, holds contempt for dissent and eschews the skepticism of government at mainstream journalism's core."

Holhut himself listened to the BBC World Service via public radio. Another good alternative would be the sampling of an array of non-US news sources via the Internet, which is the approach that I, and probably most of you, used to keep informed about all this.

But what about that nearly 70% of US citizens that are getting their news from the cable news channels? It gets worse with the hard-core fans of right-wing talk radio; these people get a non-stop stream of fantasy entertainment, and a lot of them actually believe it, with scary consequences.

Like the consequences seen by John Fleming, as recounted by the Denver Post's Reggie Rivers (again, via The Smirking Chimp): Protests are fine; just not here. Fleming hung an upside-down US flag in his store's front window as a protest against the war; shortly thereafter he received a visit from the local chief of police, along with two other armed officers, who told him the display was illegal, and that he'd have to take it down. Which was, of course, thoroughly untrue, but the police chief still asserted it, and the display still came down.

Multiply that by many thousand times, and you get a picture of what's going on all across the country. Bringing it home, again, to the smallish farming-cum-surfing community I live in, I already mentioned the flap that resulted when the wife of a local right-wing gadfly went around tying yellow plastic ribbons on every tree and lamppost, and a young woman of a different persuasion followed behind on her rollerblades, cutting them all down. The larger context is that going back a number of months, a group of local activists have been gathering for an orderly peace vigil on a downtown corner every Friday evening; since the outset of war they've been opposed by an increasingly large, noisy, and occasionally violent group of pro-war counter-protesters who gather on the opposite corner.

A dialog about the conflict is taking place in the letters to the editor of the local weekly paper. Last week's paper carried a letter from one of the regular counter-protesters that asserted the following:

Anybody who keeps saying that we have no reason for fighting in Iraq keeps refusing to see the facts. It has been stated time and time again Saddam Hussein was connected with 9/11, supporting terrorist groups and supplying them. They came and attacked us, killed our men, women and children in an act of war. There is and can never be a reason for doing such a cowardly and terrible act of murder.

Yes, Saddam has brought this war on himself. Thank God we have a president right now who saw what needed to be done and being a leader did the right thing.

I was momentarily outraged at the linking of Saddam with 9/11, and was close to sending in a reply, but I didn't. I figured that such an obvious lie would doubtless draw many such responses.

Well, it didn't. Or if it did, the paper chose not to publish them. Instead, this week's paper contains a new letter, from a different local right-winger, with a new lie:

Sadly, the true agenda of the "anti war" crowd is anti-Bush. Even with the phenomenal success of our military, they refer to our government officials in ways that I will not even dignify by quoting. Even as we find the "smoking guns" that prove the existence of weapons of mass destruction, they refuse to acknowledge the legitimate actions of our president.
Sigh. For our system of democracy to actually work the way it's supposed to, the people casting their ballots need a clear understanding of what's going on. I should have written a letter pointing out the lie in the first letter, and I should write one now pointing out the lie in this one. Not out of any delusion that I'll actually influence either of these letter-writers to question their sources of "information," but because left uncorrected, those lies are like a cancer that will spread through the minds of more open-minded people.

Those of us with access to better sources of information have an obligation to share that information. And not just with the other well-informed folk we interact with online, but with people in our own geographic community who don't have access to those sources.

Whew. That was a rant and a half, eh?

Posted by jbc at 08:30 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 17, 2003

Tell the FCC where to stick it.

This is a post with two purposes. The first is to point out that the the FCC's Policies on limiting Media Ownership (ie: limits on the number of media outlets that a corporation can own in a single market) are currently up for review, and the FCC is seeking comments from the public. This is an issue that I've all-ways thought was a big deal (especially when I travel and hear the exact same play-lists nation wide on Yet-Another-Clear-Channel-Station), and I'd like to encourage everyone to check out some of the press and info resources on the subject and think about it. (PBS in particular has some good coverage)

The second purpose is to draw attention to the FCCs web site, particular their "Electronic Comment File System". To me, this is a good example of what governments should do more of -- It's a tool available to let people search, read, and post comments about issues that fall under the FCCs charter. Click around, you might find something you have an opinion on ... they're listening.

Posted by hossman at 12:16 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 16, 2003

Robbins at the National Press Club

Tim Robbins spoke to the National Press Club on Tuesday; here's a transcript of his remarks.

Too bad we don't have any actual government leaders who talk like this anymore.

Posted by jbc at 06:13 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wolff: I Was the Wise-Ass of the War

From The Guardian comes this really cool account by journalist Michael Wolff on how he became a temporary hero with his fellow reporters (and got into hot water with about 20 million dittoheads) for daring to question the value of those daily Centcom press briefings: I was only asking.

Posted by jbc at 09:18 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 13, 2003

The Wide-Angle Statue-Toppling Shot

I'd passed over this the first time I saw it, but I guess reader Will has a point; it deserves a mention on the site. So, without further ado: Information Clearing House's Tale of Two Photos.

Posted by jbc at 03:48 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 10, 2003

Watching Saddam Fall

From the New York Times' Alessandra Stanley, a description of the way yesterday's events in Baghdad were portrayed in various TV outlets: Amid the scenes of joy, a sight less welcome. I like her comment on Fox's reaction to the Marine draping a US flag over Saddam's head:

Even the Fox News Channel, the 24-hour cable news network that has been the most consistently ardent in celebrating the American show of force, seemed a bit nonplussed by the imagery. "You can understand these marines who have put their lives on the line, sweated with blood and guts for past three weeks wanting to show the Stars and Stripes in this moment of glory," David Asman said quietly as the flag went up. "It is understandable, but no doubt Al Jazeera and others will make hay with that."

Another version of the same story, from the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz: The shot seen round the world.

The problem, as Ted Koppel put it, was that he remembered seeing anti-Soviet crowds trying to bring down a statue of Lenin, and "it took them 17 hours."

Television wanted the pictures faster than that. And daylight would soon be gone.

As if sensing the impatience, some Marines brought in a tank to speed the statue's destruction. Then one of them clambered up the statue and threw an American flag over Saddam's head – producing precisely the wrong image, that of a foreign occupying force.

"You had troops with specific orders – no displays of any American flags," NBC's Jim Miklaszewski noted.

"This was not the picture the Pentagon wanted to see," said CNN's Barbara Starr.

Finally, from, proof that where you sit really does make all the difference sometimes. Despite that fact that commentators the world over were clucking their tongues at Marine Corporal Edward Chin's bonehead mistake in draping the flag over the statue's head, that didn't stop his family in Brooklyn from going batshit over his 15 seconds of fame: Family cheers as 'their Marine' leads statue's destruction.

"I [am] so, so proud, so very proud," said an emotional Nai Koon Chin, the Marine's mother. "He used to play like GI Joe as a little boy. He always dreamed he would be a Marine."

Posted by jbc at 08:20 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 08, 2003 Ceases Operations

No more Russian military spook briefings, apparently: Ramzaj discontinues operation. Bummer.

Posted by jbc at 11:51 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 07, 2003

War Updates from

As described in a piece by John Sutherland in The Guardian, the folks in the Russian GRU (the Russian military's espionage arm) are publishing un-spun analysis of just who's doing what in Iraq. The main place their reports are being published is, but as someone who doesn't know Russian I'm limited to the English translations available at the site for Venik's Aviation.

It's really fascinating stuff. And, as far as I can tell, it really does offer a much more objective picture of what's going on than you can get from either side's propaganda.

Posted by jbc at 09:58 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

April 01, 2003

Lies For Everyone

Were you prepared for that day of year again when the lies are a little more blatant than normal? No, we're not talking about election day; it's April 1st. From job offers in Iraq for African newspaper readers to new Internet standards requiring packets with "evil intent" to be labelled, pranksters have been keeping busy all over the world today.

Some hoaxes have been less well received, however. White powder in envelope handed to a teacher in New Zealand caused a school to be evacuated, and a web site proclaiming that all of Hong Kong would soon be quarantined prompted such a panic that the government had to denounce it.

With a selection of the top 100 hoaxes of all time, the Museum of Hoaxes offers an amusing look at the history of April Fools day.

Posted by aaron at 10:43 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

March 29, 2003

Thayer's Exit from Baghdad

Slate's Nate Thayer has a fascinating account of his drive from Baghdad to (I think) Jordan on Friday, after Iraqi authorities found a clandestine sat phone in his room and ordered him out of the country.

That would be one freaky drive.

Posted by jbc at 08:04 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fox Taunts Protesters

From words mean things, word of a story on a Rockefeller Center anti-war protest: 'Die-ins' target war and news media. The good part is this:

Fox News had its own response to the demonstrators. The news ticker rimming Fox's headquarters on Sixth Avenue wasn't carrying war updates as the protest began. Instead, it poked fun at the demonstrators, chiding them.

"War protester auditions here today ... thanks for coming!" read one message. "Who won your right to show up here today?" another questioned. "Protesters or soldiers?"

Said a third: "How do you keep a war protester in suspense? Ignore them."

Still another read: "Attention protesters: the Michael Moore Fan Club meets Thursday at a phone booth at Sixth Avenue and 50th Street" - a reference to the film maker who denounced the war while accepting an Oscar on Sunday night for his documentary "Bowling for Columbine."

Posted by jbc at 12:20 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 27, 2003

Fisk on the Abu Taleb Explosions

Here's Robert Fisk's on-the-scene report of the explosions that killed at least 15 civilians in a northern Baghdad market yesterday: It was an outrage, an obscenity. The Pentagon briefers made it clear yesterday that if the blasts were the result of US bombs or missiles, they were off-target. I think I buy that, as far as it goes. We've obviously been trying to avoid events like this (well, at least within the context of having launched an invasion that requires events like this). Other comments I've seen have focused on the possibility that the explosions were caused by Iraqi anti-aircraft missiles. But whatever.

CNN carefully edited the Iraqi TV footage to omit the most gruesome parts, while the rest of the world saw it in all its pulpy, bloody glory. And of course, it's not hard to draw a connection between the sanitized images the US public sees, and that public's willingness to go along with the lame justifications for the war, while the rest of the world was saying, hey, wait a minute. Do you understand what you're unleashing here?

Our much-praised free market compels our media outlets to refrain from upsetting us too much. Parents like me would be outraged if our 5-year-olds, whom we persist in leaving unmonitored in front of the TV, were seeing that footage in its original form, and we'd let CNN (and if need be, their sponsors) know in no uncertain terms that we wanted that shit off the air, pronto. And CNN would do it, or their viewers would quickly migrate to another channel that would.

I guess we'd be okay with this stuff being broadcast on some pay channel, like HBO, after 10:00 p.m., when our children are safe in their beds. Too bad those three kids who were burned alive in their overturned car yesterday didn't enjoy the same sort of protection from this war's effects.

Posted by jbc at 11:28 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 26, 2003

Fisk on the Propaganda War

From the New Zealand Herald comes this interesting piece by Robert Fisk: Allies not telling truth - things are going wrong. I'm not sure if that's Fisk's headline or the Herald's; the story is a little less breathless than the headline makes it sound. It's basically a rant on the way many who are covering the war are not being as critical as they could about the information they're being fed and the language they're using in their dispatches.

Posted by jbc at 10:52 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 24, 2003

Iraqi Footage of Captured US Soldiers Censored?

I can't help wondering about the rationale being offered for keeping the Al Jazeera footage of the captured U.S. soldiers off the air in this country. Apparently the effort to keep us from seeing these images goes further than that, too; at Yellow Times they are running the following notice: "The pictures of U.S. POWs and Iraqi civilian casualties has been censored by our hosting provider. Therefore, we cannot show these pictures. They also forced us to remove pictures of Iraqi casualties. Our site was shut down for an hour until we removed the pictures. You can see the pictures at our affiliate site here:"

Over at ArabNews, they have a page of stills from the Al Jazeera footage titled Pictures US Media will not show; elsewhere, they use a still from the video in a news story titled Day of Setbacks for US.

All of this raises several questions in my mind. Why are the images not being shown? I could see commercial news outlets shying away from doing so on the grounds that the images would be too disturbing for an American audience, and they wouldn't want to hurt their ratings (though you could argue that their duty as a news organization should trump such concerns, given the issues involved), but that wouldn't explain Yellow Times' Internet provider (VORTECHHOSTING.COM, orlando, fl) shutting their site down until the pictures had been removed. Maybe that could be justified as a standard response to posting others' copyrighted material in violation of an Acceptable Use Policy, but I'd still wonder about whether the ISP was acting on complaints it had received, or what. (Update: See the comments, below, for a copy of the email their tech support folks sent in response to my asking them about it.) You could argue that these images should not be shown out of respect for the POWs (and dead soliders') families, but you'd have to balance that against the interest of a democratic society in having an accurate picture of the costs of the war, such that informed decisions could be made about it.

Anyway, a lot of those questions are effectively moot, at least for the subset of the population getting its information from the net, given its dumb-in-the-middle design, which makes it pretty darn hard to keep people from seeing things you don't want them to see. But I can see where this could definitely raise some hackles on the part of those who view ready access to such information as being very much a bug, rather than a feature.

Some of these issues are summed up quite nicely by an editorial at Lies, Lies, and More Lies (catchy title, that), which points the finger at Donald Rumsfeld, claiming he has bullied CNN, Fox, and MSNBC into keeping the images off the air because they are "propaganda" in violation of the Geneva Convention. Deep, murky waters we're swimming in here. When those news outlets quote Iraqi government officials saying the infidels are being driven back by the heroic resistance, that's obviously propaganda, too, but Rumsfeld apparently doesn't feel like he needs to take personal steps to keep it off the air; he assumes that a reasonably intelligent audience will compare that information to the other information they have available, and conclude that the Iraqi officials are blowing smoke. But the footage of US POWs is different, because, well, it's true, and it's much more damaging to the Bush administration's effort to keep public support for the war as high as possible.

So I can certainly see why Rumsfeld would want to keep us from seeing it. But that doesn't mean he's right. And in the context of ready access to non-US information sources, he loses. At least for now, and at least for those of us whose media are new enough to actually work the way information sources are supposed to in an open, democratic society.

Posted by jbc at 01:23 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

March 21, 2003

Rosenberg on the Big CNN Lie

Scott Rosenberg at Salon reports that he could only take a half-hour or so of CNN today, and goes on to talk about the big lie that underlies all the whiz-bang coverage: CNN and the denial of death. Thank you. On the other hand, when I was eating lunch with Linda and William (and a bunch of other moms and kids) today, and the seating arrangements at the burger place meant that the kids ended up in the room with the TV on the wall tuned to images from the war, I found that lie comforting, since it meant my son and his buddies were able to stay focused on their 5-year-old interests, without needing to pay attention to the silly grown-up stuff on the TV. If that coverage had been more honest, I don't think that would have been the case.

Posted by jbc at 05:52 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Stories from

I noticed today that I had to mute the audio on CNN to avoid getting pissed at Wolf Blitzer's verbal hard-on in reporting on the outbreak of Shock and Awe. And that made me wonder if CNN's coverage has become more jingoistic than I remember it being during the first Gulf War, maybe as a result of things like Fox's competing "news" coverage, or if it's just me that's changed. I'm guessing it's a little of both, but it made me stop and think about the influence that Net-based news sources have on my outlook these days. I can read coverage of the war from as many perspectives as I want, which means I get to gravitate toward those that match my existing opinions, and can be less patient with those that contradict those opinions. Anyway, that's all meant as preface to the following links from, the web site for Saudi Arabia's oldest English-language newspaper, which I'm finding is a pretty good source when I need to counter some of the spin that much of my own country's media seems willing to pass on more or less verbatim: Hell rains down on Iraqis, The horror of it all as seen from the other side, Baghdad’s night of terror, and My dear Americans.

Posted by jbc at 05:29 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 13, 2003

KROQ DJ's pushing for France's vote

A buddy of mine at CBS Radio turned me onto this yesterday. It seems that KROQ DJ Ralph Garman called (halfway down the page) and got thru to the French president by impersonating Jerry Lewis. What's next, having Howard Stern call the Russian premier?

Posted by jaybird at 11:54 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 11, 2003

MemoryHole on the Media's Handling of Dubya's 'Scripted' Comment

Again from, Media Misquote and Excise Bush Comment About "Scripted" Press Conference. That's my mainstream media; smoothing out those rough edges so my tiny little brain doesn't explode.

Posted by jbc at 07:22 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Ted Rall on Media Self-Censorship

Thanks to Janus for reminding me to pay attention to Ted Rall. In particular, to his recent piece, What they don't tell us, on how the media likes to leave out those crucial factoids that completely change a story. Thanks to a_stupid_box, btw, for suggesting the category name change.

Posted by jbc at 07:15 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 05, 2003

CBS Used Fake Accent for Saddam Translation

As Vincent Vega would have said, "it's the little differences." In this case, the little differences between the truth, and what we expect the truth to be. And what better way to usher in a new category than by celebrating one of those little differences: the way CBS used an American voice actor to put a fake Arabic accent on the translation of Saddam's interview with Dan Rather.

Posted by jbc at 08:42 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)