Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Pro-Bush Rosignol and "Trout" vs. Anderson at Pressthink

Rosignol,
If standards are lax, why aren't there more (any?) examples of errors that make the Bush administration look good to compare with the list of errors that make the Bush administration look bad? Why wouldn't honest mistakes have an even chance of going either way?

Any story about Iraq that doesn't demand George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, and Paul Wolfowitz be thrown behind bars for crimes against humanity is a sheaf of purposeful lies, not accidents. The fact that they are all still in office (or promoted) rather than impeached or fired is the evidence that one party government, dishonest or cowed reporting, and censorship of the news, not mistakes, has allowed them to continue to brazen out their serial lies and war crimes.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at May 23, 2005 02:26 PM | Permalink

Mark, do you realize how difficult it is for the majority of us to take you seriously when you advocate extremist positions like your "crimes against humanity" comment? What about Saddam? Was he humane toward his people? Where is your outrage when he tortured/killed his own people? You were silent. I know you're a good liberal, but why were you silent about how Arabs treat gays, women and Christian/Jews? Panties on the head of Muslims outrages you but what about beheadings and stonings of gays and women. Yeah, that's different. Only when US military offend (and are subsequently punished, which you never note) do you raise your ire. Why? Do you have any idea what happens in Sudan and Kuwait prisons, or frankly, even our own? CNN had a bureau in Baghdad when Saddam was in charge of Abu Ghraib. Eason Jordon placed his cojones in a lockbox for "access". CNN had it's chance to tell the world about atrocites Saddam committed, but chose to say that US military was targeting journalists. Do you have a clue as to why? Do you even care? Are you about human rights or are you just anti-military/Bush/war/whatever? It's easy to rail against an open society like ours (with FOAI), but what about those oppressed in closed societies? You don't give a damn, do you? Grab those low hanging fruit and deserve our contempt.

Posted by: kilgore trout at May 23, 2005 03:04 PM | Permalink

"Kilgore Trout,"
You know nothing about my views on Saddam and what I did or did not do about them in the 1980s. I suggest you stop trying to confuse your fantasies with my identity.

You are supporting an administration filled with veterans from the Reagan years that funded and facilitated the crimes that upset you so much WHILE THEY WERE HAPPENING and reconfirmed ties after Saddam's war crimes were verified. Rumsfeld personally shook his hand over it. Why do you support an administration filled with people who enabled Saddam to do what you claim to be so horrified by? I suggest a glance in the mirror.

Replacing one tyrant with another is not support for human rights. Do you imagine we must think Stalin liberated Eastern Europe because he overthrew Hitler's control of it?

By your logic, failure to support Stalin's control of Eastern Europe requires support for Hitler and amounts to appeasement of fascists. Is that what you imagine Bush was doing in his anti-Soviet speeches in E. Europe last week--appeasing fascists and expressing support for Hitler's continued reign? That is utter nonsense. The crimes of one do not validate the crimes of the other. You are demanding that they must when the US is involved.

Just because the US constitution talks about democracy doesn't mean that every action by every tin-horn cowboy elected to the US presidency promotes democracy by definition.

When you manage to understand that opposing Stalin's control of Eastern Europe does not require supporting Hitler's control of Eastern Europe, that opposing US crimes in the Iraq colony does not require supporting Saddam's crimes, you may have some claim to concern for the welfare of the Iraqi people.

The tyranny of your variety of chauvinism in US media coverage of the Iraq puppet regime (not shared by a single other set of national news media in the world) is a major pillar in the ongoing tragedy of a US occupation that has produced yet more crimes against the Iraqi people in the name of bringing them to an end (that include repeated indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas across the country).

The disappearance of the Downing Street Memo is only the latest in a sad four year saga of US media collaboration with US crimes against humanity in Iraq piled on top of Reagan and the US media's collaboration with Saddam's crimes against the people of Iraq. If you had the slightest interest in the fate of the Iraqi people, you'd see that opposing the latter requires opposing the former.

"My country right or wrong" is not an argument about the human rights of Iraqis. Stop pretending it is.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at May 23, 2005 06:42 PM | Permalink

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Response to Jay Rosen's Trust-Me Journalism and the Newsweek Retraction

Post #1


"We ought to fix responsibility for riots with rioters..."

Actually, the specific Scott McLellan and Lawrence di Rita charge was not that riots were caused, but that "lives were lost." "People died because these sons of bitches reported this story," as di Rita put it. So we also need to ask, "Why did these protestors in Afghanistan die?"

Because Afghan security forces shot to kill is the obvious answer. There are many "riots" around the world where 100% of the violence comes from the "security" forces. If it turns out that these "rioters" were shot by Afghan security forces under completely unjustified circumstances, what do we have to say to McLellan and di Rita's attempt to make Newsweek responsible for criminal acts on the part of American-trained Afghan "allies"?

Why are the Afghans shooting their own citizens? McLellan and di Rita appear to think it goes without saying. There is another agenda here that the Bush cartel is pushing on the domestic front and Jay's summary is failing to challenge: the position that protest is intrinsically illegitimate and that protestors who are shot are getting what they deserve. Of course, this is in tension with their simultaneous claim that it is Newsweek's fault, but it is also a necessary premise of the White House line on this story. This is the brand of democracy the Bush administration is exporting: protestors will naturally be shot on sight. Is it any wonder that in their minds non-complying media (media that report any whiff of the truth in any form) are traitors?

Post #2

Jay,
I would add to your thoughtful analysis the point that Newsweek's premise, that this is a question of government's own confirmation of previous allegations against it, again falls into the administration's game. The press is still trying to get the object of the investigation to confirm that they are guilty and they are being repeatedly burned by an adminstration that sends mixed signals and then hangs the media out to dry when it refuses to convict itself. GET ANOTHER STANDARD FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM! is the obvious answer. When was the last story from Greg Palast that the US governemnt confirmed? How supportive was the Nixon administration of the Washington Post investigation? When will the press GROW UP and stop letting the administration be the central player in investigations of its own wrongdoing?

The bottom line, which confirms your main point, is that the case has to be so airtight that the media outlet is able to rationally take on Scott McLellan and Lawrence di Rita for a number of weeks until their outrageous lies are exposed for what they really are. We need investigative journalism that is solid enough to support media calling lies lies and we need media owners with a passing interest in the relation between truth and their own credibility. The longer major media play footsie with the truth as the Bush administration demands, the more deeply their credibility plummets. It is their complicity with propaganda that leaves them defenseless when they are accused of treason for periodically telling the truth.

Seymour Hersh and Greg Palast are nearly the only journalists worthy of the name over the last five years, with Walter Pincus as honorable mention. When an administration lies on a daily basis, exposure of their lies is a consequence of their actions, not a consequence of partisanship. It is as if McLellan and di Rita were complaining that the media were exposing their own spousal abuse at every opportunity, even when it is not newsworthy. If they stopped beating their spouses, they wouldn't have this problem (This is a hypothetical example). If the Bush administration stopped lying routinely, they wouldn't have this "partisanship of reality" problem, either.

Post #3

Jay,
Can we expect a column on the spiking of the Downing Street memo story? It is pretty clear that while the aggressive White House offense on the Newsweek story violates their decertify the press strategy, it certainly sticks to the paramount Rovean strategy of name-calling and active distraction when items of REAL WORLD concern raise their heads.

No one disputes the veracity of the Downing Street memo that absolutely establishes the fundamental mendacity of the Bush catastrophe administration. Is that why we aren't talking about it? Because its good journalism and that's not interesting?

It's getting to the point where the mainstream US media is doing a parody of the Right's claims about it, they can only report bad journalism that challenges the administration. When good journalism challenges the administration, that's not newsworthy for some reason. What is the reasoning here? Are they afraid to be right and that they'll have to suffer the consequences of truth?

I have never seen Buzzflash's original, "Bush Lied, People Died" tagline disseminated in a major media story. Ever. Not once. But the right's rejoinder is all over the place this week.

That together with the refusal to run the Downing Street Memo on the front page of any American newspaper and buried inside the two papers that bothered to acknowledge its existence are a one sentence refutation of Hitchen's hacktacular accusation of anti-Bush bias in the press. It is empirically false.

There is an anti-lie, anti-failure bias in the press, timid as they are. Living with the consequences of your actions is called being an adult. This is a Peter Pan administration and the MSM is flying right after them into Never Never Land. Hugh Hewitt, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News are a tagteam Tinkerbell.

When the White House attacks the media you may safely assume that the faith-based shadow that allows Peter Pan to fly is coming undone.

What is new about our current media environment is the overwhelming dominance of Media players whose career is built on excommunicating anyone who even timidly suggests that Never Never Land is not on the planet Earth.

How can tyrants be victims at the same time? That is the pretzel logic that dominates our public life. Go figure...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Metaphysics of Bush Republicanism

Philosophy vs. Dogma
(Based on Susan Buck-Morss, Thinking Past Terror, pp.64-65.)

Philosophy and Human Rights

1. Because the US does not violate human rights, it is a civilized nation.

This is an epistemological description, and it allows for judgments of truth and falsity--truth understood in the modest sense of what is factually the case. It allows for critical theorists--or just plain citizens--to make a compelling argument in protest should a violation of human rights occur, i.e., that knowledge of such a violation robs the legitimacy of the nation to its claim to be civilized. Language here is not compromised. To put the argument in syllogistic form:

a) Civilized nations do not violate human rights.
b) The US does not (or does) violate human rights.
c) Therefore, the US is (or is not) a civilized nation.

But now look what happens with a seemingly small change in the language structure--the reversal of subject and predicate that involves a dialectical transformation of meaning, turning epistemology into ontology. Here is the second variant:

Dogma and Human Rights
2. Because the US is a civilized nation, it does not violate human rights.

The implication in this example is that whatever the US does as a nation by definition cannot be a violation of human rights--even if the same action done by an uncivilized nation would be a violation. Here the truth-claim has left the (epistemological) realm of judgment and moved to the (ontological) realm of identity. To be the United States is to be civilized. (the ontological claim); therefore US actiona--no matter what they are--cannot be called uncivilized.

Another example:
Because I am American (the ontological claim), I am ready to die for my country--whatever it does, right or wrong (suspension of judgment, hence of any need for epistemological justification). I die as a consequence of my identity, my very being.

Example:
Because my struggle is Jihad, a Holy struggle, however I struggle--whatever violence I employ--cannot be unholy.

Example:
Imperialism is clearly undemocratic, but Israel is a democracy; therefore Israeli occupation of Palestine for 35 years is not imperialist, but, rather, the defense of democracy.


In the ontologically defined terrain, to criticize US state actions is to be unpatriotic; to criticize Islamist violence is to be jahili (pagan); to criticize the Israeli state is to be anti-Semitic. Now this kind of argument, which is increasingly pervasive in political rhetoric today, in fact eliminates the very possibility of critical thinking, without which democratic debate becomes impossible.