October 16, 2004
Sinclair Broadcast Group: What Are They Doing in the Middle of Our Election?
"What Mark Hyman has been saying to the point of braying it is-- let's negotiate. John Kerry can keep Stolen Honor off the air by replacing it with himself. Sinclair has no other invitations out. So I say send Mike McCurry and Richard Holbrooke to Baltimore. They negotiate. Five minutes of film, 55 minutes of Kerry answering questions sounds about right to me..."
On the Sinclair Broadcast Group beat: Kerry campaign demands equal time, but not for Kerry! One of its attorneys, Mark Elias, sent a letter to David D. Smith, Sinclair CEO. “Please consider this a request that each Sinclair station that airs the documentary provide supporters of the Kerry-Edwards campaign with a similar amount of time on that station before the election at a time where an audience of similar size can be expected to be viewing the station,” Elias wrote.
So supporters should be given equal time, the Kerry camp now says. But Sinclair had already offered more than that to Kerry himself. The campaign ridiculed the invitation. For a while it looked like my scoop on October 9th—arguing that Kerry should accept Sinclair’s kind invitation to appear—would remain, as they say in some newsrooms, “forever exclusive.” That means nobody ever picked it up because you were way, way off.
Am I way, way off? I will tell you what others have to say on that. But first some additional facts about Sinclair, in follow up to my last post, Agnew with TV Stations, where I argued that Sinclair’s inexact plan to air Stolen Honor in the weeks before the election is an unprecedented move, which signals the arrival of a new combination in broadcasting: a political empire made of television stations.
I don’t think we understand well what Sinclair actually is. Nor do we know how to interpret the significance of its moves this week. As Frank Rich will be saying in this Sunday’s New York Times, “this company gets little press scrutiny because it is invisible in New York City, Washington and Los Angeles, where it has no stations.”
There’s been little press scrutiny of the actual offer before John Kerry, or the program Sinclair is prepared to show. Everyone’s assuming the same deal but as far as I can tell, there is no hard information there. It’s widely believed the 62 company stations will run the 40 minute documentary, and add 20-minutes of “panel” where guests discuss it. Rich writes: “Sinclair has ordered that it be run in prime time during a specific four nights in late October, when it is likely to be sandwiched in with network hits like ‘CSI,’ ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘Desperate Housewives.’” He sounds pretty definite.
But if you listen to the only source of information there is on Sinclair’s plans, Vice President for Corporate Relations Mark Hyman, Sinclair only wants the news out. The POWS have spoken about Kerry and their captors; what is the Senator’s response? Investigative reporters will tell you: You have to attend carefully to what a company like this one officially says.
Hyman’s most “official” statements came, I think, when he appeared on the PBS Newshour October 12 (with Terrence Smith) and said, “We haven’t made any formal plans as to what is going to be in the one-hour program that we envision.” No plans. He did say there was news that deserved to be aired. For example, the POW’s in Stolen Honor think Kerry prolonged their suffering and gave encouragement to their captors.
“All we know is that we’ve invited one guest, Sen. John Kerry. We’ve made no other offers to anyone else.” No offers. People complaining about Sinclair’s decision ought to realize there hasn’t been any decision, he said. “If John Kerry sat down with us for two hours, we may end up with a 60-minute program that has 57 minutes of John Kerry presenting his side of the issues,” Hyman told the Newshour. “That’s fine. That’s what this is all about. We’ve made an open invitation.”
How much clearer can it get? Sinclair has made no commitment to run the film. It wants Kerry to answer the POW’s. “We want to put his view on the air,” Hyman said. “Putting on a few clips of what the allegations are, that will satisfy the concerns.” (Come on: Have you seen any press accounts highlighting that quote? I have not.)
What Mark Hyman has been saying to the point of braying it is— nothing’s firm, let’s negotiate. John Kerry can keep the documentary off the air by replacing it with himself. (And why not? Then it’s like appearing on any other “show.”) Sinclair has no other invitations out. So I say send Mike McCurry and Richard Holbrooke to Baltimore. Let them negotiate. Five minutes of film, 55 minutes of Kerry responding to questions sounds about right to me.
The deal breakers: this has to be one-on-one with Sinclair— Kerry and Mark Hyman, no other guests. Must be live and unedited, like a debate. Must be made available for free to C-SPAN, the cable news networks, the broadcast networks, armed forces network and overseas. News event, right?
I think there is a high probability Sinclair would accept those terms or something close to them. This is a company with a hungry ego, and a sense of its own importance in national politics. The people who run it believe absolutely in their own rectitude and they are not likely to doubt their initial judgment, or their capacity to win out in high stakes political television. Landing Kerry makes them big shots, nationally. Here was my initial judgment:
PressThink Oct. 9: Kerry Should Accept
If he takes the deal it sets up an historic broadcast. A final confrontation with the Right. Isn’t that what the Right wants too? A chance, indeed, to clear the air about Vietnam, and a lot of other things. Will America watch? America will watch. And if he can’t win that broadcast, he does not deserve to win the prize.
That’s my view, to which I have given brief defense so far. (If you agree, blog it. Now’s the time, too.)
Well at least James Taranto at Opinion Journal, who writes Best of the Web, and who once slammed me good for a post I did on Bush’s Thanksgiving trip to Iraq, had a more encouraging reaction this time. I wonder why.
James Taranto, The Sinclair Challenge
Blogger Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, has an interesting take on the Sinclair Broadcasting kerfuffle. The broadcaster has invited Kerry to appear on its stations to respond to “Stolen Honor,” a documentary about Kerry’s Vietnam antiwar activities, which will air next week. Rosen argues that the Kerry camp is wrong to dismiss the offer.
You should know Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media critic, copyright maven, and a faculty member at NYU. I attended his wedding in Amherst, New York. He said he had to think it over for three days before deciding whether I was crazy—legitimize the Swift Boat people by having Kerry go on TV to answer them? Here is the conclusion he reached while guest blogging at Eric Alterman’s space at MSNBC Alteraction. He was opposing FCC and FEC action to stop Sinclair when he said:
Siva Vaidhyanathan at Altercation:
We need a serious, bold politically engaged set of political voices on our airwaves, regardless of orientation. We need real conservative media and real liberal media (and perhaps libertarian media and socialist media and Silly Party media). Right now we have boring, spineless media.
If local stations are going to push themselves into politics, more power to them (even if they do so on orders from corporate headquarters). I wish more local stations spent real money or pre-empted shows like “The Bachelor” in favor of political content, even propaganda. Let them deal with the fallout. Jay Rosen has a better idea. He says Kerry should accept Sinclair’s offer to respond. I agree with Jay.
Our broadcasters are timidly conservative. This is not acceptable on either count. Let’s encourage rich, loud, messy engagement with politics, even if it means allowing shallow, dishonest propaganda once in a while. We should just answer back with better information and more attractive answers. Sorry folks. This is what democracy is all about.
I also oppose FEC and FCC action against Sinclair. I favor political engagement. Notice Siva’s agenda: Let’s encourage rich, loud, messy engagement with politics. (And let’s win the election too, of course!) This is the year of messy engagement with politics— 2004, when the pros lost control of the game. That story isn’t over yet, people. Blogger and radical middle person Jeff Jarvis said: Jay, you’re wallowing in the mud. Oink, oink. (But see Jeff’s newest big lens take: “Keeping media and government apart.”)
Jeff Jarvis, The Dark Campaign
I don’t think we should keep pandering to the fringes, the nuts, the nasties, the mudmen. They are like bratty children off their meds: They do it for the attention. Give them attention and they’ll never behave. They deserve to be ignored and, in due course, they will go overboard and burn up like the latest trend in reality TV.
I think that Jay wishes for a Joseph-McCarthy-“Have-you-no-shame” moment. I wish for that, too. But I fear it will backfire. Attention to these guys is like more plutonium to a chain reaction.
You don’t go on television with these people, Jay. You ignore these people. Keep your sights on the mainstream, the middle is where the election is. So says Jeff. And of course he may be right. One of my readers (whom I quote a lot, Mark J. McPherson) thought my advice to Kerry was transparently nuts. I think he has a point.
Mark J. McPherson, comments
Kerry should accept an invitation to sit in on the post-mortem of his own character being assassinated? Why? Some sort of strategy thing? It’s so stupid it might just work! On the other hand, it might just be so stupid that its just plain stupid, stupid, stupid. Given the principals and the likely venue, it will be little better than a shouting match. I would guess the film itself will be so chock full of lies and misrepresentations that Kerry, or the rest of the informed, wouldn’t quite know where to begin…
The whole premise of accepting lends legitimacy to the smear. A lovely invitation to a panel discussion over the question of when or whether Kerry stopped beating his wife.
“Accepting lends legitimacy to the smear,” Mark said, putting into six words the main argument for rejecting Sinclair’s offer, and the most popular one I have heard. “Kerry will never follow Rosen’s advice,” said Taranto of Opinion Journal. “For him, Vietnam isn’t a serious matter, just a political opportunity.” Perhaps some Bush supporters agree with most Kerry supporters: Kerry would be crazy to do it.
But maybe some of them—Brooding Republicans, I call them, in my imagination—are hoping Kerry sticks with his refusal. They realize what a nervous night of television it would be for the GOP: The prime time showdown between Kerry and Sinclair over Vietnam and the anti-war movement.
There you are, a Brooding Republican, sitting down with the wife and the popcorn and the liquor to watch Kerry get creamed by his past, and commit the incredible strategic blunder of going toe-to-toe with fellow veterans in the final week of the campaign.
You’re looking forward to watching John Kerry squirm, dodge, dissemble and finally fall apart. You’re surrounded by excited, happy, politically-informed people, clinking glasses and eager to observe Senator Kerry’s ruin by televised fact.
But then it occurs to you—as you watch Kerry, smiling and handsome, enter the studio, shake hands and take his place at Sinclair’s table—that were he able to handle the pressure of a live interview about Vietnam and what he did, way back then, the John F. Kerry of tonight would almost certainly have the 2004 election in the palm of his hand. He could mishandle it, of course. But he could also grab it and win it right there in that suburban Baltimore studio.
Mister Republican is brooding and feeling anxious, I say, because they’re prediciting big ratings for this show. And then it dawns: We’ve given Kerry a fourth debate and a national audience a week before the election. But it’s not our guy he’s up against— not the President of the United States, George W. Bush.
No, it’s Mark Hyman of Sinclair Broadcast Group and Carlton Sherwood, freelance documentarian. Bush, the President, is a bystander tonight. After all, there aren’t any doubts about his military service that need to be addressed on national television before the vote, right?
Our Republican, a brooder by nature, and one serious man, with a lot riding on the election, is not happy about any of this, I would imagine.
Meanwhile, there is Kerry, alone in the arena, who gets to make the case for himself as a warrior for democracy and the man of the hour. Symbolically, he gets to face his attackers, but after that he can actually leave Vietnam, put it behind him by the broadcast’s end, and emerge a forward-looking candidate. The pressure would be enormous; but this is exactly why he goes there. For a test of leadership that anyone watching can understand.
And that’s when our Brooding Republican might turn to his wife or just ask it of himself as the first drink, getting low, swirls in his glass: Sinclair Broadcast Group. Who are they? And what are they doing in the middle of our election?
I don’t think my story will be a forever exclusive. People are starting to sense that Sinclair is not a normal company; it’s a political actor seeking a role in the endgame of this election. Not quite a king maker, maybe. (Not yet.) Sinclair thought it could finally expose a pretender to the throne who almost took the prize. That’s a deed of service to the throne. It’s also a sign to others: we’re here. Instantly you’re a force in the Republican Party.
But Sinclair, I believe, made a strategic blunder. Its offer allows Kerry to grab the national spotlight one more time before the vote, turning Bush into a bystander next to the drama of Kerry’s confrontation with his past. The opportunity is there for John to admit some mistakes, and reconcile himself to what he did not know at the time. There would be the chance to invent, under fire, the John Kerry who actually can be president.
(And another thing, which I added Saturday night: where is the proving ground for presidents as we elect them nowadays? It is on television. We all know that.)
So riddle me this, political reporters, bloggers and news hounds: If you are a bright young Kerry advisor, and it’s your job to think of everything; and you can think of a way that Sinclair shows none or very few minutes of the 40 minutes of Swift Boat-style propaganda that are in Stolen Honor (giving all that TV time to Kerry, your boss, instead) do you raise it at a meeting? Or do you say: the bosses would have thought of that, if it made any sense?
After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…
Their own people are now denouncing it. Consult David Folkenflik, Baltimore Sun (Oct. 18): “Sinclair employee decries planned program on Kerry. D.C. bureau chief calls it ‘biased political propaganda.’”
Bill Carter, New York Times, “Risks Seen for TV Chain Showing Film About Kerry” (Oct. 18): “If Mr. Bush is re-elected, Sinclair has created a circumstance where the deregulation it wants would be widely interpreted as what the Legg Mason report called ‘the Sinclair payback provision.’ If Mr. Kerry wins, he might try to lead the F.C.C. to consider regulations that could hurt Sinclair’s position.”
Josh Marshall is all over this story, as his readers expect. He has a Lehman Brothers Equity Research analyst report dated October 15th, 2004, which makes the following comments about Sinclair Broadcast Group, under the headline Mgmt Chooses Politics over Shareholders:
“In our opinion, Sinclair’s decision to pre-empt programming to air ‘Stolen Honor’ is potentially damaging — both financially and politically. In a best case scenario, we believe that this decision could result in lost ad revenues. In a worst case scenario, we believe the decision may lead to higher political risk. As mgmt has increased the co’s political risk, we are reducing our 12-month price target to $9 (from $10.)”
Anyone care to make the case for why Sinclair’s election gambit serves shareholders?
I don’t know why, but this strikes me as so apt; in any case, fascinating: Supermarket feels around for what “apolitical” means. Ray Routhier of the Portland Press Herald with the story:
One day after saying they were pulling their ads from Portland TV station WGME to avoid political controversy, officials at the Hannaford supermarket chain reversed their decision Friday for the same reason.
Hannaford on Thursday announced it was pulling its ads from WGME (Channel 13) because of the station’s planned airing of a documentary film critical of presidential candidate John Kerry.
Hannaford spokesperson Caren Epstein said Thursday the supermarket chain was “apolitical” and did not want to be associated with the growing controversy over the film.
On Friday, Epstein said the company was reversing its decision, again to try to remain out of the political storm.
New York Observer’s Robert Sam Anson on Stolen Honor:
Its subject: John Kerry’s 1971 anti-war activities, and their alleged impact on then-captive U.S. P.O.W.’s
Its stars: Former, very bitter, very vocal residents of the Hanoi Hilton.
Its tone: Think Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, made by the 16th assistant director.
Herewith a taste, in the words of some of the featured players, all former longtime P.O.W.’s :
“This man committed an act of treason. He lied, he besmirched our name and he did it for self-interest. And now he wants us to forget.”
“He’s been in Vietnam, now he swaps to the other side, and he’s saying the same thing we’re being tortured to say. That was a very difficult time.”
“I’m convinced Kerry and his fellows, the anti-war people, cause the war to be extended two more years, throwing medals over the wall, speaking against our country in time of war. He knows it would extend the war and complicate things and probably hurt a lot of prisoners.”
Journalist David Neiwert: “Sinclair doesn’t seem even fazed by threats to its economic well-being — certainly its shareholders have not been well served to date. It’s more than a little remniscent of Edison Schools — the people who, as I’ve pointed out previously, are now contemplating resurrecting child labor as part of their business model — another political operation (to promote school privatization) working under the guise of a business. Edison’s fiscal performance is even more dismal, and yet somehow it stays alive.”
Harley makes a point at Tacitus, where they’re discussing Sinclair and Kerry: First, bondra of New Augustinian writes about the “potential judo effect” of accepting the offer. “If Kerry had serious juevos, he’d take that access and do some reverse damage by kicking the Swifties’ butts in front of all those people in glorious Panavision (again, if he’s really got the factual goods).” Harley says, “I think you’re right. And it’s the kind of move you might try early in a campaign, but never late. Too much that cannot be controlled.”
I must write something about that: too much that cannot be controlled, for that is indeed why many people are against Kerry doing the deal.
Double Standard, Double Standard! Instapundit and company had that reaction to the Sinclair furor. “Free speech for me but not for thee,” as one Insta-reader wrote. Go here for a typical Glenn Reynolds post with lots of links.
Also see PressThink, Oct. 13th: Agnew with TV Stations: Sinclair Broadcasting Takes On John Kerry and The Liberal Media. “In a commercial empire it makes no sense to invite a storm like Stolen Honor. But imagine a firm built for that sort of storm. Is Sinclair Broadcasting a media company with a political interest, or a political interest that’s gotten hold of a media company and intends to use it? There are plenty of signs that a different animal is emerging.”
Posted by Jay Rosen at October 16, 2004 11:49 PM
Its offer allows Kerry to grab the national spotlight one more time before the vote, turning Bush into a bystander next to the drama of Kerry's confrontation with his past.
Some interesting points about this debate:
1. There is great potential to hear, clear the air, and heal somewhat still open and re-opened wounds - if we were having this discussion in the Spring or Summer when G.I. John "chest full of medals war hero" Kerry showed up for duty. Two weeks before the election probably has greater potential to exacerbate than mollify.
2. What are the expectations for Kerry's performance giving this opportunity in the limelight? What constitutes a win? Because we all know that now, and for the next two weeks, it's all about winning and sleaze, not introducing or tackling new and/or major themes. Is it a win if Kerry defuses Stolen Honor by painting it as sleaze? Is it to defend his moral stance of shining the light on the immorality of Vietnam? Is it to be conciliatory to the POWs and veterans who were, rightly or wrongly, affected by Kerry's VVAW activities? Are there other conditions? Is there a threshold? Is it accomplishing more than one? Can we really know a priori?
3. If this is the sleazy period in politics, it is also the gotha!tainmnet period in the media. Sinclair, via Hyman, says the format is undecided; but what we all envision is a 60 Minutes style of defend yourself! within 5 minutes on my terms, given my set of facts, based on my storyline, my narrative. Think Koppel's corner of combat or a rambling Rather rant. Perhaps Hyman is envisioning a "no spin zone", Hannity and Colmes, or putting Kerry in the Crossfire (could Kerry match Stewart?).
That's what Jay is arguing against. Kerry can negotiate his terms. This isn't news. It's not like anyone will defend Sinclair's right to set the terms as a player. Heck, Sinclair's already said there are no terms.
4. Set the conditions for the post-event spin. Kerry was courageous, forthright and empathic - even slightly conciliatory - without being weak or compromising.
Can he do it? Don't know. Will he do it? I doubt it. But imagine if he did and could. Could he then put on the "I feel your pain" mantle of Vietnam and wear the Super-U leotard as a uniter, a reincarnated JFK promising a new camelot cribbing - out of context - from the stump:
So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.
Here's what won't work: "it's just like ..."
As you might expect, I am delighted with Sinclair's decision for several reasons.
First, as one who has been in the trenches trying to get the word out about issue on John Kerry that the media has handled in the least possible damage to Kerry, and similar issues for the most possible damage to Bush, I'd say that giving the other side a chance makes a whole lot of sense. I I'm on the other side.
Jay, it is probably hard for you to identify with conservatives who see the vast power of the news and how it is frequently turned unfairly but effectively against us. You thought the Swift Boat tactic were a nuisance or slimeballs or something rather unpleasant and shouldn't have given voice to their own opinions and observations - obviously exposing flaws in the character of candidates is only allowed if the candidate is Republic (the best example being the Democrat and MSM favorite - Bush's National Guard service - which gives us far less information about what kind of president he would be than inquiry into Kerry's mehaviors. We've seen Bush, we hate him, love him or tolerate him, but we know him. Too many people don't know this Kerry guy - he's been invisible since 1971, and had very few accomplishment.
The Swifties were broadcasting real information that the MSM was ignoring. Lots is still ignored, by the way. The MSM has convinced itself that the charges were refuted. The refutations I have seen have been pathetic - nothing that would lead the MSM that similar charges against Bush would be defeated by. That Kerry got his first purple heart through dishonesty is horribly clear to me, for example. The fact that all of Kerry's former commanders and their commanders loath him and say he is unfit is one of the most powerful political events in modern history, if anyone knew about it, but the MSM never puts it that way, and usually makes sure to claim that these guys are all Republican operatives (many are not republicans at all, although I'd bet the ratio is moving towards the right just as it has so dramatically in the military this year - because of John Kerry).
As a veteran, and a Vietnam Veteran, I've looked at this stuff a lot. I have traveled to meet some of these people. They are something the cynical politicos and MSM seem to think doesn't exist - a grass roots founded political movement that is effective.
John O'Neil, for example, is a very intelligent man, a loyal American, and a very kind person (based on what I have experience in person with him). He didn't even make any money off his New York Times #1 best seller, because his share is being given away. He may have been used by Nixon in 1971, but that association hardly defines the man (unless you think like they did in the HUAC and McCarthy witch hunts).
But the Swifties were limited in what they were able to say, and I think made a strategic error by focusing on the in-country action first, which is harder to verify and easier to demogogue than Kerry's immediate post war behavior. I think they also didn't realize that they couldn't continue to get widespread newsplay for their whole campaign, so the logical narrative chronological ordering was not the most effective order.
They got money from some big republican donors. What a surprise - where else were they going to get it. A bunch of POWs have joined them for their new ads. Watch their new adds and tell me if these are a bunch of smear experts making up lies. I have immense respect for POWs, and that was enhanced by SERE school. Those guys went through hell. They were tortured for continuing, in prison, to defend their country through not giving propaganda (and when force to, often using techniques we were taught to signal things about their captivity). When I see a POW with a Congressional Medal of Honor as just one of many men in the latest Swifty commercial, I'm going to honor his opinion a lot more that people who were never in combat, never in Vietnam, and never knew Kerry.
Anyway, enough of the old stuff.
Sinclair wants to run a political documentary and everyone has their panties in a twist.
But PBS Bill Moyers does it all the time - left wing documentaries, of course. The MSM news outlets tell only part of the story and share the Anybody But Bush. I would suggest most commentators on this blog fit into the ABB category.
Who provides equal time to balance Bill Moyers? Nobody I know of. Fox isn't balance for all that left wing bias.
So get used to it. The people who disagree with the MSM are going to bypass it to get out their opinions without MSM censoring or distortion. They may not say it the way you like it, and heck, they might even lie like the Democrats have been doing about Bush all year. I hope the documentary is honest, because there are enough facts to do a very damning one without Michael Moore's despicable tactics.
And I don't care of Sinclare is a political organization. Information struggles to be free, and that may be how it happens.
Now, we could have the government step in. But for the FCC to do anything significant they would have to take the same action (judging political content) for all of the MSM outlets. Ready to have Dan Rather have his scripts previewed by an FCC censor?
Bothered about this? Hell, it's a very, very good thing. It may not be enough to counter all the lies, and more often half-truths from the national MSM, but any little bit helps.
Think about this assertion: If the candidate were anyone but Kerry, would we be having these kinds of debates? Kerry stirs up the strongest political feelings because of his Vietnam and Vietnam Era misbehavior. Veterans are energized like they never have been before, and not many are on Kerry's side.
The Kerry and Vietnam was Kerry's chosen theme for this campaign. I find it pathetic that MSM people are offended whenever non-MSM outlets broadcast or publish negative information about Kerry.
This isn't character assassination, it is the revealing of Kerry's true character. That may seem a subtle difference, but true character assassination is the use of misleading or incorrect information to tack undeserved information or emotional symbology to a person's character.
But what do you do with a guy who has a dangerously flawed character, or where there is a lot of evidence of that even if it isn't proven? Ignore it? That seems to be the MSM approach, while giving us endless informtion about Bush and the TNG for what reason? Why is that information even interestring (the guy's been commander in chief almost 4 years, but this is coming up now. Give me a break). But with Kerry, the water is muddier. There are serious allegations that have had poor investigations into them by the MSM. If true, they tell us things about his character that are very important.
And that's what many people want. They want to know who this guy really is, what makes him tick, what did happen in Vietnam and after. Sinclair may provide them some answers, or at least starting points. If all they watch is CBS or CNN for their news, this may cause them to ask around, check on the internet and otherwise try to find out if some of these disturbing things are true.
God knows, the MSM isn't interested in the questiom. based on it's performance this year. Just look at the MSM reaction to the first Swift Boat news conference - here was a group with a big story to tell, a story which became big news in the face of MSM objections - and very few bothered to report it. Well, maybe people will want more independent reporting, or documentaries, or docupropaganda.
Any movement that uses Michael Moore's stuff has no grand to stand on in this debate.
Ron Suskind has an important piece in the online New York Times on the development of Bush's faith-based presidency entitled, Without A Doubt.
Of course that also refers to his coded evangelical messages, but more centrally it designates how Bush believes in the power of confidence and faith. From that perspective complexity and facts look like noise threatening to undercut the personal and policy faith.
Bush's advisors explicitly heap scorn on the "reality-based community":
"In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''"
Those who disagree are playing into the "heads I win, tails you lose" program Jay described in his "You don't represent the people" post of several months ago":
"And for those who don't get it? That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. ''You think he's an idiot, don't you?'' I said, no, I didn't. ''No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!'' In this instance, the final ''you,'' of course, meant the entire reality-based community."
Re: sbw's misleading discussion of alleged misleading:
Kerry: "We’ve gone from record surpluses to record deficits." and "[Bush] tried tax giveaways for the wealthy and the budget went into deficit and the country lost jobs."
Taxes: sbw compares income tax statistics before and after Bush's tax policies went into effect. He completely erases two facts. 1) Bush's policies are always in effect tax shifts. Reductions in federal taxes are almost always matched or exceeded by local tax increases to perform the services cut by the federal government. 2) 71% of Americans pay more in payroll taxes than in income taxes. When you subtract most of the taxes that most Americans pay, sure enough, rich people pay almost all the taxes.
Deficit: sbw claims that Bush's tax cuts for the top one percent are a good investment because they increase demand. Paul Krugman has argued repeatedly and at length establishing that Bush's policies are nearly the most ineffective and wasteful policy tool imaginable for increasing demand. If that is their goal, they are an utter and wasteful failure.
Jobs: Astonishing gains in labor productivity are an important reason why many Americans don't have jobs. Given that these workers are so efficient, it makes you wonder why most of them are paid less than they were ten years ago. The fact that jobs come into the US from foreign countries is already figured into the unemployment rate. Bush has lost jobs over four years. That includes the jobs from abroad. Our labor statistics account for that. Red herring.
"Kerry: When the president had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, he took his focus off of them, outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, and Osama bin Laden escaped.
General Tommy Franks, in charge of the campaign in Afghanistan, points out that Kerry assumes Bin Laden was there, assumes that more troops would have made a difference, assumes those troops would have been able to move in mountains at 13,000 feet, and assumes that those troops would not have been caused problems with the natives. See American Soldier."
If we buy this argument, we should conclude that invading both Afghanistan and Iraq was a bad idea. US troops just aren't capable of getting the job done. They'll anger the natives. Are we capable of getting the job done or not? sbw says no. Then why did we invade either place? Why don't we know where Osama is?
Given that you've dedicated an entire post to defending a series of administration positions, it does raise the question why you bother to pretend that Kerry was ever in serious danger of receiving your vote.
But it does call into question your judgment as an editor. You're a Republican. You disagree with the Democratic candidate. Stop pretending it's objectivity that takes you there. Your facts have a Republican twist. Kerry came closer than you did.
It has been suggest that us vets are mad and so, apparently, deluded.
Kerry did many things wrong, in 'Nam and afterwards. You may not think it bad that someone cooperates with the enemy (who is actively killing our people) and then spreads their propaganda far and wide. You may not mind that as part of that effort, he slandered millions, and also hurt the US not only in the Vietnam war but overall.
His false statement about the level of atrocities committed by our troops was used this year against the US by none other than Vietnam (using his name). It has been used frequently against us, often to defuse our humanitarian efforts to stop atrocities elsewhere.
The pattern of Kerry's behavior has been so suspicious that it was natural for those of us who have been in the military and Vietnam knew that things were being covered up. Some have been revealed and quietly ignored (his attempt to cover up his status as a military officer while negotiating with the communist Vietnamese). Others have been demagogued - such as people concluding the Swift Boat veterans were wrong in some allegations because the military paperwork said otherwise.
When was the last time that the press reflexively trusted government documents over multiple eyewitness accounts on sworn affidavits? That has been the primary "refutation" I have seen on some of the issues. Another was that one pro-Kerry witness was a member of the press - at that point, of course, his word was taken for granted.
Kerry's first purple heart was fraudulent. Check into the facts on that, and very suspicious circumstances: award denied by both the doctor and Kerry's CO - in the later case vehemently; eyewitness account by a senior naval officer that no enemy was present at the action (required for a PH); no eyewitness to enemy fire - none;, no eyewitness who saw enemy, indicating that Kerry probably opened fire on civilians without adequately checking; the award issued AFTER the two subsequent ones (and 3 months late), by an officer in Saigon who had no direct knowledge at all of the event, other than perhaps Kerry-provided paperwork; Kerry's refusal to sign a 180 form, allowing the nation to see the 100 or more documents still unavailable to the public (such stonewalling rarely mentioned to the public).
Am I still uninformed? Who is applying critical as opposed to wishful thinking here? Who claims we have no evidence (sneakily putting in the word "personal") when in fact we have eyewitnesses, often many, to the relevant event, paperwork, and knowledge of how things really work in the military. Read John O'Neil's book.
He's obviously not a critical thinker - just first in his law school class and one of the most respected corporate litigators in Housston. Just a mad veteran. Uninformed. Right?
The Purple Bandaid is just a single incident, and that's lots of evidence against him in all sorts of areas. Where's the positive evidence that he deserved the honor? For that matter, can you explain why the Navy had a special review board before they granted him an honorable discharge, a very rare event?
The reason I focus on the purple heart is because it was the grant of that final purple heart that allowed Kerry to depart Vietnam, something almost never done by commanding officers (he was the captain of his boat and its crew).
If anybody on the right had as many suspicious incidents in their record, there would be howling mobs of reporters. Just look at the incredible expense and misinformation from the MSM about Bush's National Guard history, 4 years after he was elected with exactly the same history.
I won't go into others because I don't want to flood the blog with it.
So yeah, we're mad. The press is not doing it's job (unless it is defined to be defeating George Bush).
So from a vet's perspective, we have:
-a poseur and fabricator
-a man who has at least one unearned combat award unearned
-a man who abandoned his combat unit at the first opportunity who has used his "war hero" status ever since
-a man who worked directly with our enemy in ways that hurt the war effort, seriously damaged the reputation of Vietnam Veterans, told lies right and left including in a Senate hearing
-a man who has been against almost all of the spending needed to protect America.
We think these things say a lot about his character. Many vets feel, based on plenty of evidence, that we would be electing a Benedict Arnold.
Now maybe the elite press thinks we are a bunch of idiots. We're not - the group has an educational and intelligence spread much like any other. The officers are all college graduates at least. The idea that we sent the dumb to 'Nam has been discredit. I dropped out of college, did my duty, and went back. Maybe that makes me dumb to you.
So don't take our service and sacrifice and resentment of Kerry and dismiss us as "being mad." Don't imagine that Kerry is being scapegoated. Veterans are attacking him for things others did or that he didn't do. We are after him because our reading of the available information is that has proven to be a highly dishonorable and dangerous man, and we don't want such a person as commander in chief.
And don't play the strawman game. Few vets think Kerry is responsible for all the harm the left did to us. He was just one of the most successful. Like I say, we aren't stupid. But many of us, like most Americans, despise elitists.
Sinclair plays a documentary. It happens to be against your guy. So you scream and howl.
But when Moyers does it, your come up with odd excuses (government didn't pay for it - what does that have to do with it?).
How about the many other documentaries the MSM has carried over the years, that are almost always slanted, and sometimes go after specific individuals.
You talk about Moyers not being tied to the new. Sinclair is running a documentary, not the evening new.
I always find it both discouraging and ironic when the MSM encourages censorship, and believes that those not of the anointed profession don't know as much as the journalists.
I'm pissed off that Bush endangered the country and the world by stupidly invading Iraq. By your logic, if I get together with friends that agree and make a documentary about it that's news. I find it difficult to believe you'd hold the same position if my documentary went on the air the week before the election as news.
You're still in denial about war crimes in Vietnam. The level was precisely as Kerry said. Repeating the myth won't make it come true.
Kerry stated the truth.
Nick Turse, Tip of the Iceberg
"As a historian writing his dissertation on U.S. war crimes and atrocities during the Vietnam War, I have been immersed in just the sort of archival materials the Toledo Blade used in its pieces, but not simply for one incident but hundreds if not thousands of analogous events. I can safely, and sadly, say that the "Tiger Force" atrocities are merely the tip of the iceberg in regard to U.S.-perpetrated war crimes in Vietnam..."
"...the "Tiger Force" atrocities, the My Lai massacre, the Herbert allegations and the few other better-known war crimes were not isolated or tangentially-related incidents, but instead are only the most spectacular or best publicized of what was an on-going string of atrocities, large and small, that spanned the entire duration of the war..."
Commanding officers up and down the line repeatedly were made aware of war crimes and chose not to prosecute or serously punish the offenders:
"Similar to the "Tiger Force" atrocities chronicled by the Blade, documents indicate that no disciplinary actions were taken against any of the individuals implicated in the long-running series of atrocities, including 172d MI personnel Norman Bowers, Franciszek Pyclik and Eberhard Gasper who were all on active duty at the time that the allegations were investigated by Army officials. In fact, in 1972, Bowers' commanding general pronounced that "no disciplinary or administrative action" would be taken against the suspected war criminal and in a formerly classified memorandum to the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, prepared by Colonel Murray Williams on behalf of Brigadier General R.G. Gard in January 1973, it was noted that the "...determination by commanders to take no action against three personnel on active duty who were suspected of committing an offense" had not been publicly acknowledged. Their crimes and identities kept a secret, Bowers, Pyclik and Gasper apparently escaped any prosecution, let alone punishment, for their alleged actions."
"The headline of one Blade article proclaims, "Earlier Tiger Force probe could have averted My Lai carnage," referring to the fact that the 101st Airborne Division's "Tiger Force" troops operated in the same province (Quang Ngai), with the same mission (search and destroy) months before the Americal Division's men committed their war crimes. But atrocities were not a localized problem or one that only emerged in 1967. Instead, the pervasive disregard for the laws of war had begun prior to U.S. buildup in 1965 and had roots in earlier conflicts."
The Suskind piece directly addresses the point Jay made in his "You don't represent the people" piece. Bush, and SBVT, are in large part running on the neo-con/neo-Trotsyite theory that anyone who disagrees with them is an "elite, fancy-pants intellectual" out to betray their country. Media criticism of Bush is framed as always already partisan. To the degree you buy that line, (and I recognize that you don't entirely) criticism of Bush is illegitimate by definition. That story line says anyone who criticizes him is prima facie a member of the liberal elite conspiracy that is plotting to undermine Republicans everywhere.
There is a conspiracy theory at the heart of this party strategy. Suskind discusses the faith that gives the conspiracy theory life and that makes consultation on policy nearly impossible for George Bush. That theory has everything to do with Jay's posts in general and this thread in particular. (This strategy is obviously complicated by die-hard Republican mouthpieces who have recognized that Bush has badly butchered the Iraq adventure and have distanced themselves from it: Bill Kristol, George Will, and Robert Novak, for example.)
Why is it said that broadcasting "Stolen Honor" on Sinclair is news? Because everything but Fox is a liberal conspiracy. Sinclair is just a downpayment on Republican payback for the hideously liberal slant partisans find there.
YOU clearly wish to pretend that US policy in the middle east over the last fifty years simply has nothing to do "Why they hate us" so of course changing those policies naturally couldn't affect how they feel now either. So we'll just have to kill them.
You can continue to live in that fantasy world if you so choose. But it is a pseudo-environment that isn't very conducive to solving our problems with the people who actually live in the middle east and for whom the current strategy provides a more radicalizing, convenient and target rich environment, and most importantly of all, kills dozens of their family and friends in the neighborhoods where they live on a daily basis. The foreign fighters in Iraq have been estimated by CIA reports to be around 2% of the resistance.
"Bring it on," Bush implicitly says about criticism from the media. That is his strongest campaign strategy card after the disinformation about terror, the media prejudice card. They go together. If you discount the fact checkers, you don't have to face the contradictions. If you have an entire universe of Republican facts on Fox and the blogosphere, better yet. Skip the middleman.
It is the Bush spokesperson who gave the lecture about history leaving behind the "reality-principle". If you disagree with the administration you support about the way they understand reality and faith, take it up with them. Leave Jay and me out of it.
Sinclair is broadcasting a documentary. Why do people keep getting so concert about whether it is or is not news. It may be propaganda or it may be truthful advocacy. I don't know, but if I get a chance to see it, then I can form an opinion.
So what's the big deal? I really don't get it. Is this considered unfair that a media outlet would aid one side? If so, MSM people should look in a mirror. As has been *established* here and elsewhere, the MSM leans left and is proud of it, and most members are against Bush.
So that enormous force requires balance. Evem in this day when people are rightfully suspicious of the accuracy and intent of the media, Sinclair doesn't have a huge amount of power.
This is ultimately the bias metanarrative on one side and some metanarrative I don't understand on the other (why Sinclair's activities are wrong, evil or whatever).
It is also interesting to qestion why people are so concerned about the financial impact on Sinclair. The MSM biases are one reason they are losing share on their news shows and circulation on their bird cage flooring. Conservatives have comment on this. I guess both are fair - they implication (correct, probably) is that the political impact (feeling of power to some making decisions) is worth it. Either that or they just don't get it - something that appears likely in some of the MSM.
Furthermore, what's the difference between Sinclair running a documentary/propaganda and Michael Moore doing the same, highly distorted and exaggerated, enough to earn him ah important seat at the Democratic Convention. Has them MSM been attacking the timing and content of the propaganda piece Fahrenheit something or other. The main difference is that some believe that Moor has better Reifenstahl like talents than most. Not having watched his work (if it's free I'll watch it, but I'm not putting money into that guy's pocket any more than I would go to a Jane Fonda movie).
So, this year unusual events have taken place. New srategies are being tried. The right, denied adequate access to the "straight news" is using some cleverness by the Swift Boat vets, and maybe by Sinclair'c documentary. The left has been creative in using web sites to acquire 527 money while not really letting people know that a billionaire is (Soros) is making huge contributions.
The times change, the tactics change (for example, I have never heard as venemous rhetoric, sometimes outright character-smearing lies, from high levels of the Democratic party before. The ill-considered campaign finance laws are twisting things and folks haven't figured out all the wrinkles yet.
Consider the NRA. They have long been a big publishing company, but they are now a broadcaster. They were forced into it by the campaign finance laws. When you change the rules, you change incentives with sometimes unexpected consequences.
The title of this blog article implies that Sinclair has no place in our election? Why would that be? How about George Soros? How about other companies? NGOs? Churches? How about the money solicited by the democrats from Europeans?
What Sinclair is doing, in a small scale, is simply what the MSM does on a large, continuous but less intense scale: trying to alter opinion with their media power - propaganda or documentary or both.
If there is anyone in America who doesn't realize that they are subject to continuous propaganda, they should wake up. But the Russians knew that all their "news" was propaganda, and it still skewed their views in the desired direction (Big Lie theory, invented by Hitler - some say Goebbels).
As usual, I am not engaging BF.
As far as online arguments creating or not eliminating online antagonists, I think the point is that there are many reading these arguments. Not many minds are likely to be changed, but they are have access to perhaps some useful and not well known information from the to and fro.
The issue of the airwaves being a publicly owned resource underlies the government's ability to regulate it at all. However, the Supreme Court has also repeated drastically limitted the regulatory power of the government where it collides with the first amendment.
Hence, anyone who suggests FCC action regarding this broadcast is really asking for the government to censor political speech (which is of far more impotant than any other kind in the public arena), and moving a bit down a slope which may or may not be slippery.
The *fact* that this program counters far more propaganda already broadcast on the airways seems to not enter the mind of those who object. Television and radio are full of propaganda, including government supported radio. That propaganda (with the exception of talk radio) is tilted against Bush and conservative causes.
The end of the "equal time" law, which was a form of censorship, is what enabled political talk radio. I argue this has made the country a more information rich place, as most of these are conservatives and have a different judgement of what is important than the MSM, and present it differently. That it is coming from a particular viewpoint is well known to all who listen. That it sometimes disseminates wrong informat as true, as far as I can tell, is not a problem - it's rate of accuracy in political reporting seems to be about the same as that of the MSM. although in different area.
The MSM is gaining competition, from delivery means to content structure. This is just one little blip in that process. It is not surprising that members of the MSM or people who are politically opposed to Bush would whine about this.
There is news here: that this is going on and people are fussing about it. Depending on what is in the documentary, there may be additional news, in the sense that old information, publicized for the first time, may be a news event.
As one who is an ardent anti-Kerry person and a Vietnam Veteran, this issue means a lot to me. As a result, I am quite sensitive to what the MSM that I'm exposed to is saying. Furthermore, the idea that what happened then is irrelevant but what Bush did in the National Guard, that hoards of reporters were digging into it is utterly illogical - preposterous even. But I have read and heard that excuse many times. Some consistency would be appropriate..
Kerry was the unknown, not Bush. If there was more to find out about Bush, one wonders why it wasn't discovered in 1980 or his gubernatorial election? Why the major MSM interest this year and less interest last?
And without the Swift Boat group putting out advertisements, there would be a number of significant things about Kerry's history (and perhaps, charactger) that the public wouldn't here. In fact, I am surprised at how many people I meet who haven't even herd about this.
And yet, the Swiftees have been condemned by the MSM and by the Jay for their actions. Americans buy ads and put forth their deeply felt and believed issue about a major political candidate, and it is dismissed as "character assassination." May Sinclair will do it too. There is nothing wrong with that if the information is correct (or believed to be).
It's called "FREE SPEECH" - which is not reserved for the media, and in fact the First Amendment gives no special privileges to the press over any other citizen, whatever that is these days. Only McCain/Feingold were able to do that, to there permanent discredit.
Frankly the MSM fell down on the job, chasing George Bush's records while ignoring Kerry's for the same time period (except for the honors he claimed to have earned). Sinclair is part of the balance. That's how I see it, but then I'm a mere citizen.
Harry: Which "more candid members" of the press have been freely admitting they're working to get Kerry elected? I have not seen any such quotes; if you have them, do provide. They would interest me.
What has been said is Evan Thomas of Newsweek claiming the pro-Kerry "vote" among journalists (his peers) is worth 15 points to JFK. One of the curious things about this statement is that you could not find a single political professional in the game who would agree.
It's a surprising claim: that 15 percent of Kerry's 45 share is due to the "press effect," that is biased reporting-- a rooting expressed in the news. I have no idea why Thomas said it. It's certainly a fact that he did. To me, only a political sucker would believe it, but there are many who take the Thomas statement seriously. Or maybe they just pick it up, take a practice swing, and recognize: this is one great bat. Point me at the liberal media and its latest pitch.
Because I lampoon some of the more lurid excesses of the liberal media thesis doesn't mean I don't respect it. I pay a great deal of attention to that critique, the electoral specifics of which I do not share. I write about The Liberal Media charge--a discourse of accusation, as well as observation--probably as much as any liberal leaner does save for Eric Alterman, who went to war with it. I have studied the history, evolution and cunning of this view, perhaps not successfully but I have read a bit.
It interests me, and the failure of the press to come to terms with this critique, culminating in Bernard Golberg's best selling book, Bias, a cry still out there kicking up storms and supporters... all that interests me even more.
The difference between us may come down to this: I do see a (mostly) liberal press out there. I think as an actor upon the scene the press is mostly passive (the one acted upon) and ineffective.
It practices a "thin" liberalism but since it stands accused of promoting "strong" liberalism it reacts by claiming it practices "no" liberalism. And that is why I agree with no one in the bias debate, which is not a debate, as the saying goes, but three or four joint press conferences.
Finally, if you know how a journalist votes or what party she's in, I believe that tells you very little about her journalism. Many believe it tells you a lot, and some say it tells all.
While the points are repetitive, these posts are relative to a specific question - the Sinclair issue, and the media behavior related to that.
If you read every post, you'll see that it comes up a lot. Sorry if that bores you. Maybe I will go for 100.
Seriously, if we consider this a dialog between two people, the points could just be numbered - like joke #50. A given topic might fade to an immmediate lack of conversation as both side's positions become predictable.
But this is a blog coment section. Others are reading who may not have seen this, the point of view is relevant to the question.
I am not merely repeating the assertions - they are in a context.
What hurts Kerry is news; what hurts Bush is propaganda. Could you think of anything more predictable and repetitive, John? How many times have you made that observation at PressThink: is it over 50 yet? (It's got to be close.) Are you going for 100 before Nov. 2nd? Because some people on the Left state the reverse--what hurts Bush is news, what hurts Kerry is propaganda--makes you feel justified indulging yourself again and again?
Your over generalization is absurd. As far as justified - no, I am using some of those observations in arguments where they make sense, not because someone else can do the same thing.
The balance you show above is a fallacy means nothing to me, and shouldn't to anyone. I am trying to avoid getting into the cat fights that sometimes happen on here, which is why I don't respond to certain posters.
I don't feel like I need justification to make a complete argument. That the same points affect a wide variety of issues is a fact. If you wish me to not post, go ahead, or just ban me. I will try to avoid repetition, but when I know many people are from a different viewpoint on those issues, if they don't hear my context, which is not widely known, the comments don't make sense.
By the way, propaganda does not have to be misleading or wrong in any way. It can be a pejorative but is not necessesarily one. What hurts Bush is bad news about Bush, same with Kerry. I will say it again for emphasis: Bush is under attack by the MSM. We have hashed out the details. I consider unfair. When that is tied into a subject, it just might get mentioned.
The Sinclair issue fits in here because of the gross imbalance in news reporting towards hurting Bush, so that point (whether you agree with it or not) fits into the arguments. I find reaction to the Sinclair issue from the MSM and some here to be illogical, to use the politest term that fits.
Here are some excerpts from an article on the election I found interesting because it avoids the tedious and Manichean Republican vs. Democrat world view this comment section tends to fall into.
Also, it is simply closer to my personal view: Both major parties are dangerous, but the Democratic party less militantly dangerous.
As far as I can tell, the mainstream media are just as firmly opposed to my objectives as Sinclair Broadcasting. In fact, they tend to play Wolf Blitzer to Sinclair's Sean Hannity. Wolf recites the White House message verbatim. Sean Hannity likes to pretend it was his idea.
Neither Sinclair nor CNN has much interest in challenging capitalism or imperialism. The idea that Republican activists recently like to promote--that capitalist imperialist Democrats agree with me--is yet another aspect of the new O'Reilly style that makes them simultaneously look comic, tyrannical, desperate, and reality challenged.
Kerry falls into contradiction because he is an imperialist capitalist with a conscience. Bush Republicans don't think twice because they have persuaded themselves that imperialist capitalism is a humanitarian calling. Especially in the Middle East.
Election Day Fears
by Robert Jensen October 15, 2004
and Pat Youngblood
We have two great fears about Election Day 2004.
The first is that George W. Bush will be elected.
The second is that John Kerry will be elected.
Those fears are rooted in an understanding that the threats to global justice and world peace come not from a single person or party but from systems, and that no matter who is elected, those systems -- empire and capitalism -- remain in place...But which of these imperial capitalist candidates takes office in January 2005 is not irrelevant...
Bush and Kerry are both pro-war candidates, in the case of Iraq and in general... But one can also imagine the ideologically fanatical neo-conservatives who run foreign policy in the Bush administration taking risks with war and nuclear weapons that more moderate Republicans and Democrats would not.
On domestic policy, the differences seem more pronounced. No one can mistake Kerry or the contemporary Democratic Party as being pro-union, pro-environment, or pro-civil rights, but they are less overtly hostile to those issues than the reactionaries who run the Republican Party...
But a Kerry administration will not mean a shift in basic policy, at home or abroad. It likely will mean a slightly less psychotic commitment to a system that is unjust and unsustainable...
In a new article (new to me), Nick Turse uses recently unclassified Pentagon documents to establish the veracity of Kerry's Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony and the Winter Soldier Investigations. SBVT is refuted point by point based on documents in the National Archive. The premise of Sinclair's Stolen Honor--that Kerry and the WSI's testimony was false--is definitively refuted by the Pentagon's own documents. The veracity of their "news program" has been utterly demolished by government documents and they are proceeding anyway. They clearly do not seek to disseminate the truth. I'll leave it to you to characterize what they are trying to disseminate. Jounalistic ethics alone require severe censure of their determination to broadcast established falsehoods as news.
From the National Archives: New proof of Vietnam War atrocities
Swift Boat Swill
by Nicholas Turse
September 21st, 2004 11:40 AM
John Kerry is being pilloried for his shocking Senate testimony 34 years ago that many U.S. soldiers—not just a few "rogues"—were committing atrocities against the Vietnamese. U.S. military records that were classified for decades but are now available in the National Archives back Kerry up and put the lie to his critics. Contrary to what those critics, including the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, have implied, Kerry was speaking on behalf of many soldiers when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971...
The archives have hundreds of files of official U.S. military investigations of such atrocities committed by American soldiers. I've pored over those records—which were classified for decades—for my Columbia University dissertation and, now, this Voice article. The exact number of investigated allegations of atrocities is unknown...But there are plentiful records to back up Kerry's 1971 testimony point by point...
On its website, the SBVT tries to debunk the Winter Soldier Investigation by using the same rhetoric that apologists for the Vietnam War have long employed: They paint the vets who attended the Detroit meeting as a parade of fake veterans offering false testimony...
While numerous authors have repeatedly advanced such assertions, U.S. military documents tell a radically different story. According to the formerly classified army records, 46 soldiers who testified at the WSI made allegations that, in the eyes of U.S. Army investigators, "merited further inquiry." As of March 1972, the army's CID noted that of the 46 allegations, "only 43 complainants have been identified" by investigators. "Only" 43 of 46? That means at least 93 percent of the veterans surveyed were real, not fake. Moreover, according to official records, CID investigators attempted to contact 41 people who testified at the Detroit session...Of the 36 [contacted], 31 submitted to interviews—hardly the "few" asserted by SBVT...
But in fact—and despite later claims to the contrary by their pro-war critics—most of the Winter Soldier participants had publicly given accounts with...all the information needed to proceed with investigations. In practically all the specific Winter Soldier cases, such probes were never done.
An Open Letter to Mark Hyman from "The Counterpoint"
You’re correct in your latest commentary that the First Amendment ensures Americans the right to free speech. But with any right comes responsibility and accountability. The First Amendment does not ensure the right to speak without being criticized. In fact, the purpose of the First Amendment is to allow people to loudly and vocally disagree with speech they find abhorrent. The storm of criticism that descended on Sinclair Broadcasting is exactly what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when drafting the First Amendment.
You bemoan the complaints made by members of Congress about the decision of Sinclair Broadcasting to air the film “Stolen Honor.” But remember that these are the elected representatives of the people. They speak for their constituents. Do we not have the right as citizens to have our elected representatives speak on our behalf? Moreover, as you well know, these complaints came to nothing. The FCC, headed by a man who has shown a great deal of friendliness to Sinclair Broadcasting, did nothing in response to these complaints. You leave the impression in your editorial that these complaints limited the right of those who made the film to speak out. They didn’t. It was Sinclair Broadcasting who ultimately altered plans to air the entire film commercial-free. Sinclair was not forced to make this decision. It’s disingenuous to suggest others are culpable for a decision that you made.
Which leads to the following question: why did Sinclair change its plans regarding the airing of “Stolen Honor”? You lay the blame at the feet of Democrats in Congress, other media outlets, and the Kerry campaign. But the criticism came from many more sources than this. Even your own chief political reporter, Jon Lieberman, said that airing the film was a political, rather than journalistic, act. And what did Mr. Lieberman get for voicing his honest opinion? A pink slip. Apparently the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment stop at the door of Sinclair Broadcasting.
I know from personal experience that the groundswell of protest came from the grassroots. Of the dozens and dozens of people I know who signed petitions, wrote letters to advertisers, and picketed stations, none were told to do so by the Kerry campaign or anyone else. They spoke out because they believed what Sinclair was doing was wrong. That’s why advertisers pulled their spots. That’s why more than 100,000 names appeared on a petition protesting Sinclair’s actions. That’s why the value of Sinclair stock dropped like a stone. And that, ultimately, is why even Sinclair decided that their original plans to run the equivalent of a 60-minute campaign spot for Bush/Cheney ’04 were untenable.
Of course, that did not stop Sinclair from running a slightly altered version of the documentary. But why was it aired in the first place? What was newsworthy about this piece? You claim the charges in the film were new. But assertions that Kerry’s 1971 testimony had prolonged the war and led to mistreatment of prisoners had been bandied about (and refuted) for months. You claimed the men in the film were “credible.” But several of them have contradicted their own testimony in previous statements. You claimed that the group behind the film was unrelated to the discredited Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. But they had in fact become part of the very same group, going so far as to release a statement to the media detailing the merger. How can it surprise you that the viewing public would find Sinclair’s actions overtly political and highly objectionable? No one says these individuals shouldn’t be allowed to speak out in any forum that will have them. But we the viewers object to having our public airwaves disingenuously used for private political purposes. And although it seems (to paraphrase the title of your recent commentary) that Sinclair is telling America to “shut up,” we won’t.
And this is ultimately the problem with Sinclair’s actions and their subsequent attempts to place the blame on others. You seem to have no feeling of accountability to your own viewers. You treat them as targets, not clients, aiming your political rhetoric at them in an attempt to alter their thinking and actions in a way that benefits you. According to your own viewer poll, roughly two-thirds of your audience said Sinclair shouldn’t run the documentary. Are they all part of the liberal elite? You refuse to acknowledge Sinclair’s responsibility for the controversy by coyly referring in your commentaries to the “brouhaha” over Senator Kerry’s “snub” of veterans, or the “spotlight” on critics of free speech. But the spotlight is on Sinclair Broadcasting, and the “brouhaha” is about a huge media company’s decision to use its ownership of television stations as a means of political activism.
If you believe in the rightness of your cause, why not publicly acknowledge your role in this controversy? Stop hiding behind the faux “local” feel you attempt to give “The Point,” as well as the rest of your newscast. Tell your viewers that you are a vice president of Sinclair Broadcasting, that your company runs the station on which you’re appearing, and that your editorial is coming from Baltimore, not Cedar Rapids, Madison, or Asheville. Describe and defend your company’s decision in the first-person, rather than obfuscating by making your commentaries appear as coming from a disinterested third party. What have you got to hide?
Let’s end where we started: on a point of agreement: yes, the recent controversy over Sinclair’s airing of “Stolen Honor” should give us “shivers up our spine” concerning free speech. But what’s scary is not that people, including some elected representatives, voiced concerns about Sinclair’s actions. What’s scary is the situation that prompted these concerns. We should be frightened about the idea of a single company owning multiple television stations in markets across the country. We should be frightened that this has occurred because of the relaxing of long-standing regulations by an FCC controlled by the political party to which Sinclair has given huge political donations. We should be frightened that for reasons of personal profit, Sinclair has destroyed the “local” voice of its stations and replaced it with a single, monotonous drone. We should be frightened that Sinclair makes every attempt to mislead its viewers into thinking they’re getting a local product when they are not. We should be frightened that our local stations are owned by a company that fires its employees if they voice an opinion they honestly believe reflects the best interest of the viewers. We should be frightened that Sinclair editorializes to its heart’s content, but doesn’t allow for anyone to offer an alternative point of view. Most of all, we should be frightened when a powerful company such as Sinclair uses its unprecedented control of the nation’s airwaves to force the political opinions of the handful of individuals who control it on its viewers, and then doesn’t even have the decency to be honest about its actions.
But the light in the darkness is the fact that no matter how much Sinclair bullies or hides, the people can and will speak out on its abuses. Although you might like to believe the deluge of criticism you’ve received is some left-wing plot, the truth is much more frightening for you: we’re catching on to your game. And as much as you might try to avoid it, you will have to take responsibility for your actions. Through the First Amendment, the very thing you claim to be fighting for, you will be held accountable by we the people.