Friday, November 10, 2006

Listen to them whine....

In recent days the US news media has been bemoaning the fact that Americans are less and less likely to listen to network news and even less likely to believe the news with which they are presented. No less a light than Sam Donaldson, formerly of ABC News, has said:

"Former ABC News reporter/anchor Sam Donaldson is ready to say the last rites for network news because it will soon lose its dominant position as Americans' primary source of news. "I think it's dead. Sorry," he said during a breakfast panel Tuesday at the National Association of Broadcasters' convention in Las Vegas. "The monster anchors are through."" Donaldson: Network News Dead

In addition to Donaldson, many other members of the 'media fraternity' have been squalling that "people aren't listening to us anymore!" However, when one honestly examines the developments in US mass media in the recent past, is it any question that the general public (gullible and naïve but not as stupid as the mass media believe) have ceased believing the tripe which passes for news? One considers the following:

  1. The dramatic way in which the "mainstream media" have degenerated into nothing more nor less than a splendid echo chamber and spin machine for those in power, regardless of whether right or left, Republican or Democrat.

  2. The practically unfailing acquiescence of the mainstream US media in the run up to ANY US military action to bolster any and all pseudo justifications for military action, no matter how strained, tortured and distorted.

  3. The constant repetition of 'factoids' (def.: "a wholly spurious "fact" invented to create or prolong public exposure" Wikipedia 'Factoid'), totally extracted from and lacking any semblance of context.

  4. The rise and mainstreaming of 'advocacy journalism' (without it being labeled as an opinion or POV piece). Opinion and advocacy pieces have always been with us. However, in a more honest time, these items were labeled as 'opinion' and one usually knew that the piece was from the perspective of one who 'has a dog in the fight'.

  5. The mass media's unquestioning acceptance of any cover story, no matter how prima facia questionable, generated by the State, its organs or minions.

  6. The 'inexplicable' editorial choices made by virtually ALL the media, whether mainstream, liberal, conservative or even radical as to what stories rate 24/7, round-the-clock coverage and, more importantly, what is NOT covered. The recent examples of the 'Runaway Bride' and 'American Idol' sagas displacing any mention of the leaked British intelligence memo, the continuing 'soft revolutions' in the 'Stans, etc. ad nauseam, are but the tip of the iceberg.

OK, having touched on general statements, let's 'go to the tape' to see how this has actually worked in several recent instances.

Gulf War I (1990-1991)

It is pointless to describe ALL the various lies, deceptions and half-truths that were involved in Bush I's script for the invasion of Iraq. Any who are interested in Gulf War I are ALREADY well informed as to the April Glaspie episode. Ditto the testimony of the 'mysterious' Nayirah before the disgustingly disingenuous Rep. Tom Lantos about the 'incubator babies scandal'. Then (1990-1991), Saddam Hussein desperately tried to open negotiations with the US but, just as his son a decade later, Bush I would have none of it. Unconditional surrender or nothing. The extreme, even senseless bloodletting and the virtually total destruction of Iraq's infrastructure (waterworks, electricity, roads, bridges, etc.) were planned in such a manner as to maximize civilian casualties (a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions). The establishment of the (non-UN sanctioned) no-fly zones over Iraq and the repeated UNJUSTIFIED bombings in these areas (1991-2003) as well as the UN mandated Iraq sanctions regime were designed to create the greatest distress to the civilian population.

Obliteration of Yugoslavia (Stage I)

During the Maastricht negotiations in1991, where the EC morphed into the EU, Germany held the negotiations hostage to push special consideration of its Nazi era allies (Slovenia and Croatia) in their civil war with Yugoslavia. In total and complete contravention to the Helsinki Final Act (essentially the founding document of the OSCE). The Bush(41) administration backed Germany's move and, on a whim, authorized the illegal dismantling of a sovereign state (BTW, for the factually impaired, at that time Stejpan Mesic (a Croatian) was President of Yugoslavia soooo the EXCUSE of 'Madman' Milosevic simply did not exist and could NOT have been a basis for such a rash action, contrary to ALL the mass media's spin, both contemporaneously and subsequently). However, interestingly enough, this essential, pivotal fact is hardly ever addressed by the mainstream media and yet this is the initial major misstep in terms of the situation in Yugoslavia which has led inexorably to each ensuing misstep.

"Humanitarian Intervention and Nation Building" take 1 (Somalia)

With the excuse of 'civil war and starvation', Bush41 dispatched troops sufficient to protect humanitarian food deliveries which were deemed necessary to prevent a humanitarian crisis. Clinton determined that it was necessary to choose a side and begin to intervene militarily to the benefit of their chosen and the detriment of the damned. The mainstream media of course backed the official story to the hilt. Aidid was to be dispatched and his clan (the largest and most powerful in Somalia) disarmed. Somalia was to be recast as a nation to our liking. Aidid was the bete noire of the tale (according to the Clinton Administration) and so it was in the mainstream media. Almost totally missing (or, contrawise, severely downplayed) were the stories of American troops arbitrarily shooting Somalis, the air attacks on gatherings of Aidid's clan, including the air attack on a peace conference between Aidid's and the other clans, decapitating many of the clans and spiking any possible peace, killing dozens and similar atrocities. For most Americans, Somalia was making but tiny ripples until Blackhawk Down.

Obliteration of Yugoslavia (Stage II) - Bosnia Phase

Even before the EU/US recognition of Slovenia and Croatia in 1991, forces in the U.S. (such as Bob Dole, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ustasha/Muslim alliance) were hard at work to rend Yugoslavia to pieces. However, with Croatia's (illegal) recognition, events moved into high gear. Early on in the coverage of the Bosnian phase of the Wars of Yugoslav Dissolution, the Western (primarily American) public was assailed with the pernicious charges of 'Serbian rape camps'. As could be expected, without bothering to verify the facts, U.S. 'feminists' began a campaign to urge U.S. involvement in the Bosnian situation. The stories were truly horrendous, however, there was hardly a kernel of truth to the allegations. From a contemporaneous article by Jacques Merlino (see: "Rapes: Number in Question"), Merlino states:

"As a special envoy, Jerome Bony was send to inquire in the field traveling to Tuzla, a town mentioned in all the reports. He tells about his astonishment in a France 2 program on February 4th: "When I was at 50 kilometers from Tuzla, I was told: "Go to the gymnasium of Tuzla, there are 4,000 raped women." At 20 kilometers, the number diminished to 400. At 10 kilometers, it was only 40. And in Tuzla, I met only 4 women who wanted to witness.""

This report from France 2 received NO coverage in any of the American MSM! On the contrary, to this day the charges of 'Serbian rape camps' is repeated and was again posited during the NATO gang rape of Yugoslavia.

Additionally, from virtually the beginning of the Wars of Yugoslav Dissolution, the Serbian side of the story was systematically frozen out of the media landscape. An absolute embargo was placed on Yugoslavian TV transmissions to the US (while Croatian and Bosnian feeds were boosted). Croatians, Bosnians (and later, 'Kosovars') were permitted access to U.S. PR firms while Yugoslavia was denied. A wonderful example of this is to be glimpsed in a French interview with James Harff, Director of Ruder Finn, Global Public Affairs. A short excerpt of that interview follows.

Harff: For 18 months, we have been working for the Republics of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as for the opposition in Kosovo. Throughout this period, we had many successes, giving us a formidable international image. We intend to make advantage of this and develop commercial agreements with these countries. Speed is vital, because items favourable to us must be settled in public opinion. THE FIRST STATEMENT COUNTS. The retractions have no effect.

Question: What are your methods of operation?

Harff: The essential tools in our work are a card file, a computer, and a fax. The card file contains a few hundred names of journalists, politicians, academicians, and representatives of humanitarian organizations. The computer goes through the card files according to correlated subjects, coming up with very effective targets.

The computer is tied into a fax. In this way, we can disseminate information in a few minutes to those we think will react (positively). Our job is to assure that the arguments for our side will be the first to be expressed.

Question: How often do you intervene?

Harff: Quantity is not important. You have to intervene at the right time with the right person... ...

Question: What achievement were you most proud of?

Harff: To have managed to put Jewish opinion on our side. This was a sensitive matter, as the dossier was dangerous looked from this angle. President Tudjman was very careless in his book "Wastelands of Historical Reality". Reading this writings, one could accuse him of anti-semitism.

In Bosnia, the situation was no better: President Izetbegovic strongly supported the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in his book "The Islamic Declaration". Besides, the Croatian and Bosnian past was marked by a real and cruel anti-semitism. Tens of thousands of Jews perished in Croatian camps. So there was every reason for intellectuals and Jewish organizations to be hostile towards the Croats and Bosnians. Our chal[l]enge was to reverse this attitude. And we succeded masterfully.

At the beginning of August 1992, the New York Newsday came out with the affair of (Serb) concentration camps. We jumped at the opportunity immediately. We outwitted three big Jewish organizations - B'Nai Brith Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Committee, and the American Jewish Congress. We suggested to them to publish an advertisement in the New York Times and to organize demonstrations outside the U.N.

This was a tremendous coup. When the Jewish organizations entered the game on the side of the (Muslim) Bosnians, we could promptly equate the Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind.

Nobody understood what was happening in Yugoslavia. The great majority of Americans were probably asking themselves in which African country Bosnia was situated. But, by a single move, we were able to present a simple story of good guys and bad guys, which would hereafter play itself.

We won by targeting Jewish audience. Almost immediately there was a clear change of language in the press, with the use of words with high emotional content, such as "ethnic cleansing", "concentration camps", etc. which evoked images of Nazi Germany and the gas chambers of Auschwitz. The emotional charge was so powerful that nobody could go against it.

Question: But when you did all of this, you had no proof that what you said was true. You only had the article in Newsday!

Harff: Our work is not to verify information. We are not equipped for that. Our work is to accelerate the circulation of information favorable to us, to aim at judiciously chosen targets. We did not confirm the existence of death camps in Bosnia, we just made it known that Newsday affirmed it.

Question: Are you aware that you took on a grave responsibility?

Harff: We are professionals. We had a job to do and we did it. WE ARE NOT PAID TO BE MORAL. (see: We are not paid to be moral.)

After years of covert support of its chosen belligerents (Croatia and Bosnian Muslims) and a series of staged atrocities and 'breadline massacres' in Sarajevo, Clinton and his warmongering Hag of State, Madelaine Albright, first strong-armed NATO into bombing Bosnian Serb positions which 'just happened' to coincide with a major (U.S. funded, supplied and trained by MPRI) Croatian offensive in Krajina. Croatia's 'Operation Storm' led to the largest ethnic cleansing in Europe since WWII and until NATO's bombing campaign in 1999. By this point in time, the mainstream media had already cast the Serbs as being evil incarnate (based on propaganda, biased and 'advocacy' journalism'). Even though 'Operation Storm' had caused the mass ethnic cleansing of people who had been living on the lands from which they had been cleansed for over 600 years, it was totally acceptable because the dispossessed were Serbs.

Obliteration of Yugoslavia (Stage III) - Kosovo Phase

As was the case with the Markale breadline 'massacre', the trigger for the US/UK/NATO 'humanitarian intervention' in Kosovo was based on a blatant lie. Just as unbiased sources debunked the Markale breadline 'massacre' as being a 'Serb' atrocity

"In an investigative report published in the October 2, 1995 edition of The Nation, David Binder penned a most fascinating and thorough summary of the inconsistencies associated with these two mortar attacks. While stating that the UN "sticks by the conclusions of its inquiry" and blames the Serbs - at least in the second incident - the author nevertheless persuasively enumerated the factors which indicated that the BSA was not responsible. [emphasis mine]

Binder also notes support for his arguments from some American and Canadian specialists as well as (Russian) Colonel Andrei Demurenko, the Chief of Staff of the Sector Sarajevo peacekeeping unit. (According to an article in The Sunday Times (London), British and French crater analysis teams supported these same conclusions but were overruled by the UN.) No need exists to rehash all of his convincing arguments here, but primarily, they include suspicions about the firing distance, "anomalies with the (mortar) fuse," fields of observation, and trajectory difficulties." (see: SELLING THE BOSNIAN MYTH TO AMERICA: BUYER BEWARE by Lieutenant Colonel John Sray)

The Racak "massacre" was the Markale "massacre" of Kosovo. The 'definitive' analysis of the Racak 'massacre' was delivered at the scene by William Walker, the American head of the KVM (Kosovo Verification Mission). Well, it can't be said that Walker wasn't familiar with massacres, after all it was on his watch as U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador that the infamous murders of 6 Jesuit priests , their housekeeper and her daughter by the (U.S. supplied and trained) El Salvadoran Army were committed. However, as has become evident in later years, Walker was in the business of covering up the El Salvadoran Army's authorship of the massacre. (see: "William Walker: Man with a Mission") Interestingly enough, since the murderous onslaught of NATO, it has come to light that even the U.S.'s own hand picked forensic pathologist, Dr. Helen Ranta, DISAGREED with the finding of massacre. It was only after the fact that Dr. Ranta disclosed the immense pressure brought to bear upon her to second (very equivocally) Walker's (layman) finding of 'massacre'.

This dismal litany could go on and on and on, ad infinitum, each and every allegation being completely demolished with FACT as opposed to propaganda and spin, but to what end? This is but a minor demonstration of the truly disconsolate state of media; MSM, 'liberal-left', Faux News, what have you. And, remarkably, in view of the established track record of such 'journalists' as Judith Miller, Thomas Friedman, Anthony Lewis, etc. ad nauseam, reporters and 'news' outlets are bemoaning their lack of credibility. As Aesop said in The Shepherd's Boy and the Wolf, "There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth."


timber said...

Your stuff reads like a chapter from a book instead of a simple blog entry, Cossack. Nice work.

However, I would like to respectfully challenge a couple of your points.

First, though I would concede that in entertainment programming you certainly find plenty that could be offensive to social conservatives, and therefore be labeled "liberal," I don't think there is a liberal slant to the news, nor has there been in the 14-15 years that I've been paying attention.

Even the media's pre-Monica affection for Clinton had more to do with his status as a celebrity than with his (in my opinion false) claim to being a liberal.

I suppose there may be some sense of "political correctness" that makes it into journalism, but it doesn't rise to the level of actual social criticism.

You also say that the media serves the state; a corporate capitalist state that derives much of its popular support from invocations of religious fundamentalism will find little thinking on the left that it wants to reach the general public's consciousness. In that sense alone, I don't see the mass media ever acting as an echo chamber for the left, even for its "stars" like Chomsky or Zinn.

And contrary to what I hear a lot of other folks on the left saying, I really DO think a lot of people in this country are genuinely stupid. They may be talented craftspeople, they may have "street smarts" or common sense, they may be successful in business, but even many educated people are deliberately and willfully ignorant, and the problem is much worse among those who don't even make it past high school.

How many people do you know who could discuss the NBA or "Lost" in depth, but whose eyes glaze over when you try to discuss a political issue with them?

Poll after poll show a truly discouraging lack of knowledge about the world, history, politics, or anything else, and the blame can't be laid solely at the feet of the media; people have access to libraries, magazines, the internet, bookstores, and all kinds of information that they CHOOSE to ignore because it's "boring," "depressing," doesn't put a dollar in their pocket, might challenge their religious dogma, isn't what the other people at work are talking about at lunch, etc.

And my own experience in trying to discuss issues with "liberals" who are getting their own education on "issues" from Jon Stewart or Bill Maher has been equally frustrating. If politics is all about giggling over scandals or how "dumb" some criminal politician is, then that is itself an obstacle to reform and real change, as surely as the opposition to that change presented by the right.

Cossack said...


Thanks for your thoughtful remarks. I must say I do agree.

However, I would like to address a couple of the points you raised.

I don't think I really addressed the media, either entertainment or news, as liberal. I believe that was the reason I always denoted it as 'liberal' media. The Reich wing wackos have ALWAYS referred to it as the 'liberal media' and I NEVER recall it as being so. Certainly, in the early days of TV you had such luminaries as Edward R. Murrow on TV. However, the media, as an entity, was ALWAYS in service to the corporate/government oligarchy. Aside from such RARE performances as Murrow's, the media was in full throated agreement with McCarthy and the Red Scare.

As to Clinton, I NEVER saw him as being a liberal (except as denoted by Phil Ochs in "Love me, I'm a Liberal"). Clinton was one of the founding fathers of the DLC and that has been a curse on the left from its inception. Rahm Emmanuel is a prime proponent of the DLC and its corporate friendly, conservative views.

Love Me, I'm a Liberal

You say:

"And contrary to what I hear a lot of other folks on the left saying, I really DO think a lot of people in this country are genuinely stupid. They may be talented craftspeople, they may have "street smarts" or common sense, they may be successful in business, but even many educated people are deliberately and willfully ignorant, and the problem is much worse among those who don't even make it past high school."

Timber, I can't help but to agree. I have long contended that the American public, particularly, is as anti-intellectual as they come. I agree, Americans are great at dealing with minutia of NO consequence, however, when it come to dealing with ISSUES (global warming, America's imperial pretensions, the loss of the Bill of Rights and Constitution) the majority of the population then lapses into E.G.O. (Eyes Glaze Over).

But, like I said, I have to agree with your observations and insights.


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