Just Above Sunset
February 20, 2005 - Attacks, Lies, Offensive Opinion and all the rest...

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This may be only “inside baseball” stuff - for Rick the News Guy in Atlanta, and Bob Patterson (our World’s Laziest Journalist, former Associated Press photo guy and Los Angeles reporter for various newspapers), and Ric (of MetropoleParis and former journalist in Germany) – but it ties together all I was dealing with last week in Just Above Sunset, and more. 


Last week we covered the Eason Jordan business in Press Scandal Left and the Jeff Gannon business in Press Scandal Right - but didn’t cover Ward Churchill or Marine Corps General James “The Way Too Happy Warrior” Mattis – or Fox News’ Brit Hume committing premeditated, historical fraud.  Did any readers follow those?  In the first a University of Colorado professor compared some World Trade Center victims to a Nazi war criminals and will lose his job.  In the second a Marine general said it was fun to shoot guys in Iraq and Afghanistan because they have no manhood.  He keeps his job.  In the third Brit Hume of Fox News chopped up some quotes from FDR and said they showed FDR really, really wanted private accounts to replace Social Security – and FDR and Bush agreed. 


Last week was a sorry mess.  It wasn’t just the Eason Jordan thing and the fake news guy from Talon News – who, it turns out, is pretty much a gay male prostitute.  Geez.


The poor Main Stream Media!  (MSM)  How do they cover this all?


This below is an amazing bit of synthesis.


Bottom line?   The way you’re supposed to respond to free speech is with more free speech, not less.


Rationing free speech (Keith Olbermann)


The premise is pretty clear.


SECAUCUS - I never knew that freedom of speech came with an on/off switch.


Ward Churchill says some detestable things about 9/11 victims, so the Governor of Colorado wants to squeeze him out of the University there. Marine Corps Lieutenant General James Mattis tells an audience in San Diego “it’s fun to shoot some people,” particularly in Afghanistan, and his superior officers ask him to please not say stuff like that again. Eason Jordan makes a remarkable gaffe, implying that the U.S. military is hunting journalists. He backs off within moments of the remark, apologizes, and still gets forced to resign from CNN. Brit Hume and other political commentators twist Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words to make it look like he would’ve supported President Bush’s partial privatization of Social Security, and nobody corrects their journalistic blunders, let alone resigns.


Remarkable, all of it — perhaps the Jordan story most of all. While some bloggers are parading his head around on a pike as another example of victory over the MSM, they — and the MSM — seem to have entirely forgotten, and excluded from their coverage, the fact that Eason Jordan had sealed his own doom as long ago as April, 2003. It is one thing to acknowledge that your news organization may have buried stories that would’ve illuminated the atrocities of Saddam Hussein, in order to preserve your access (and perhaps the lives of your staff) in Baghdad — it is another to have voluntarily written those facts up as an Op-Ed for The New York Times.


Yep, the fellow was always on the edge, and as Olbermann points out -


That was about the time Jordan stopped actually running CNN’s international coverage, and began being basically a spokesman for it. Between the misguided idea to boast in The Times about what he called “The News We Kept To Ourselves,” and the stomach-churning, much-publicized news that he’d left his wife and family to take up with Daniel Pearl’s widow, Jordan had become a resignation waiting to happen. The irony of the right-wing bloggers’ delight over Jordan’s resignation from what they perceive as the left-wing CNN, is that by publicizing his faux pas in Davos, they did CNN executives’ dirty work for them. They enabled CNN to squeeze him out.


Just as well.


And Brit Hume and FDR?


Here’s the full relevant segment from Roosevelt’s message to Congress on Social Security and other similar programs from 1935: “In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps thirty years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.”


The syntax is a little ancient but the message is pretty straightforward. For 1935, people who would only take money out of Social Security and not put any in, should have their contributions covered half by the federal government and half by the states. Later on, those contributions should be replaced by the “self-supporting annuity plans” — which Roosevelt has already defined (“Second…”) as the actual Social Security system. Buried in the formality of his third point, FDR is talking about things we would later know as IRA’s and Keoghs and 401k’s.


But look at how Hume mixed and matched the original Roosevelt quotes on February 4th (and we’re quoting this verbatim from Fox’s website) “…it turns out that FDR himself planned to include private investment accounts in the Social Security program when he proposed it. In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, ‘Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age,’ adding that government funding, ‘ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.’”


Roosevelt said no such thing. The “voluntary contributory annuities” are the IRA’s and Keoghs and 401k’s. What “ought to ultimately be supplanted” was the special government contributions to Social Security on behalf of people born in the 1870’s and earlier, and the “self-supporting annuity plans” constitute Social Security itself.


It’s premeditated, historical fraud, but you will not see Hume nor Fox News backpedal from it (as Jordan did for his misdemeanor), nor apologize for it (as Jordan did), nor save their masters from its shame (as Jordan did — of course there is no shame at Fox).


Well, FDR’s grandson - James Roosevelt Jr., grandson of the 32nd president, former associate commissioner on Social Security – was interviewed by Olbermann on his MSNBC show on February 15 and told Olbermann “that really calls for a retraction, an apology, maybe even a resignation.”  That’s not going to happen.


Eason yes, not Hume.  Off the record speculation ends your career.  Lying doesn’t.  Well, CNN – the network the right used to call the Clinton News Network and which they still consider to be far-left and anti-American – was the target.  Folks forgive Fox – as they’re with us and not opening supporting Islamic terrorists like everyone else.


As for the Ward Churchill case Olbermann notes -


Free speech in this country seems to have been created almost specifically to protect people like Churchill. He’s a tenured professor at a public university. He made outrageous statements about what is the symbolically still-burning pyre of The World Trade Center.


… But universities and colleges — particularly public ones — are designed to collide popular, mainstream ideas, with contentious, contrarian ones …  Hell, I had a professor at Cornell whose version of American history started with his explanation that the constitution was the elite’s successful attempt to co-opt the rights of the citizens. Students stood up in the lecture hall and swore at him. Now that was a marketplace of ideas.


It’s galling to know that Churchill’s oversimplified, insensitive vision of the horrors of September 11th are being underwritten by tax dollars. But it would be more galling to know that there is a line somewhere past which a professor at a public university can’t go. Where would that line be drawn? Our hypothetical professor could say that people at the Pentagon had always thought of themselves as a military target, even if the “military” consisted of a bunch of terrorists, but he couldn’t say that in the minds of the terrorists, the U.S. might have provoked them by its actions in the Middle East? The first wouldn’t get you fired, but the second would?




You gotta live with this guy (just as you gotta live with Lieutenant General Mattis, also known as “The Way Too Happy Warrior”) and hope that students stand up and scream at him in class, or boycott him, or respond in the way you’re supposed to respond to free speech - with more free speech, not less.


Yep.  Thus we now have web logs (blogs).  We can say what we want.


But did the blogs bring down Jordan and Jeff Gannon?  There’s this. 

… From what little contact I have with folks in TV and newspapers, I don't get the impression that many of them has [sic] a clue about blogs.  By now they know the word, and they know blogs killed Dan Rather, but they still don't get it.  So a story has to be flogged into hysteria for it to get onto the mainstream radar, and because they aren't learning any journalistic lessons from blogs, they report the floggers' story.  The actual substance of the Eason Jordan and Jeff Gannon stories did not draw nearly the attention of the "blogs take more scalps" stories.


The potential for ugliness as a result of mainstream media's inability to process blogs also exists in a lack of experience in dealing with opinions in volume.  If a thousand people showed up on the Mall in D.C. to protest a cause, no one would bat an eye, they'd hardly be distinguishable from a tour group.  But a thousand angry e-mails is something else.  Have you ever seen a thousand angry e-mails?  Read ten in a row and you feel a dark cloud over you.  Read twenty five and you want to cry.  Scroll you mouse a few times and it looks like there's no end to those mails and you think the world has come to an end!  Until mainstream media learn how to process and contextualize large quantities of public input, they'll never find the substance of blogger complaints, they'll continue to report on floggers, and flogging with continue to be the only way to get a story into the mainstream press.  And that will get ugly.


Things will get ugly?


That fake White House reporter?  Comments here from Sidney Blumenthal last week in The Guardian (UK) on Militarystud.com, MaleCorps.com, WorkingBoys.net and MeetLocalMen.com, which featured dozens of photographs of "Gannon" in dramatic naked poses.  One of the sites was still active this week.   At least Helen Thomas never posted pictures of herself naked – and only press hounds know who she is.  Don’t even imagine it.


Key Quote –


The Bush White House is the most opaque - allowing the least access for reporters - in living memory.  Every news organization has been intimidated, and reporters who have done stories the administration finds discomfiting have received threats about their careers.  The administration has its own quasi-official state TV network in Fox News; hundreds of rightwing radio shows, conservative newspapers and journals and Internet sites coordinate with the Republican apparatus.  Inserting an agent directly into the White House press corps was a daring operation.  Until his exposure, he proved useful for the White House.  But the longer-term implication is the Republican effort to sideline an independent press and undermine its legitimacy.


Things are ugly indeed.  But this Jeff Gannon business?


His real name, it turned out, is James Dale Guckert. He has no journalistic background whatsoever. His application for a press credential to cover the Congress was rejected. But at the White House the press office arranged for him to be given a new pass every single day, a deliberate evasion of the regular credentialing that requires an FBI security check. It was soon revealed. "Gannon" owned and advertised his services as a gay escort on more than half a dozen websites with names like Militarystud.com, MaleCorps.com, WorkingBoys.net and MeetLocalMen.com, which featured dozens of photographs of "Gannon" in dramatic naked poses. One of the sites was still active this week.


Thus a phony journalist, planted by a Republican organisation, used by the White House press secretary to interrupt questions from the press corps, protected from FBI vetting by the press office, disseminating smears about its critics and opponents, some of them gay-baiting, was unmasked not only as a hireling and fraud but as a gay prostitute, with enormous potential for blackmail.


Oh well.  All bets are off.



Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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