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Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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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   Print


Kerry vs. John O'Neill.

The final showdown.

Posted by: praktike at October 16, 2004 12:22 AM | Permalink

Kerry vs. O'Neill, in 2004?

I'd pay to see that.

Posted by: Patterico at October 16, 2004 12:42 AM | Permalink


Your hypothetical sounds reasonable enough as you outline it, giving Kerry a chance to answer these critics and turn it into the decisive, last-minute twist he needs to help him win the election.

But the devil is in the details. Would Sinclair agree to a format that would give Kerry a chance to actually do this? Would Kerry have a chance to see the Stolen Honor film (or clips or whatever of that material Sinclair would use), in order to prepare an effective response? Would Kerry have the opportunity (and time to do it) to prepare some sort of video montage that would have the same production value and emotional tug as the Stolen Honor material? Would Kerry be able to trust Sinclair to honor any rules of debate or presentation negotiated in advance, once they actually sat down and let the cameras roll?

I can see how the "news event" that you hypothesize could become a compelling cultural happening - the run-up to it more intense than in the case of any of the three debates, because of the nearness to election day and the possibility that Kerry might somehow drop the ball, or that some other unknown factor might intervene with surprising results. Sinclair treachery is not the least of the possible pitfalls - what if they brought out some incredibly sypathetic characters, former American POWs with a grudge perhaps, without warning, in a heart-wrenching "This is your life" moment against which Kerry could mount no effective defense?

I'm happy to see your thoughts on this issue filter out to a wider audience.

Doug Millison

P.S. If you see your NYU colleague Doug Rushkoff, tell him I said hello. If my name doesn't immediately ring a bell, mention Jody, and Blaster and Morph's Outpost magazines.

P.P.S. Sorry, I mistakenly posted this comment to one of your previous posts in this thread, but I intended for it to go here.

Posted by: Doug Millison at October 16, 2004 2:49 AM | Permalink

The Kerry campaign would have been well served by initially ignoring the proposed Sinclair broadcast. By making an issue of it, they have unintentionally raised viewer curiosity and interest. Now there are stations outside the Sinclair chain inquiring about the possibility of their gaining broadcast permission. Kerry can only make matters worse by appearing after the broadcast. His presence will only insure a vastly greater viewing audience. What rebuttal to highly decorated POWs would convince the majority of the viewers? None that comes to mind. Recall, their charge is not only the abuse and torture they suffered because of Kerry's Senate testimony, but also that it extended the war (and their detention) by two years.

I think Kerry's best option is to totally ignore Sinclair. This especially means calling off the lawyers and his spokesmen - don't pump up the viewership. After the broadcast Kerry's operatives can go to work in the media. The bigger loser in this will probably be the main stream media. They won't be able to resist their natural inclination to run to Kerry's defense, once again confirming conservatives' charges of bias. Consider that Sinclair is offering a rebuttal or countering opinions. This hasn't happened in any of the major network pieces yet. I doubt it would in this case either.

Posted by: MaDr at October 16, 2004 6:01 AM | Permalink

Michael Moore upped the stakes in this whole debate significantly last night on The Jay Leno Show. Leno asked him about the Sinclair controversy and Moore announced that he would let Sinclar show Fahrenheit 9-11 for free right after they show stolen honour. (Moore seemed quite serious about it)
Now Sinclair, of course, is a publicly traded company and has a fiduciary (i.e. legal) duty to maximize shareholder returns. Surely the broadcast premiere of a hot movie that could be guaranteed to sell a lot of ads would help maximize those returns. How could Sinclair say no?

Posted by: David Akin at October 16, 2004 8:49 AM | Permalink

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 ..."

Posted by: Tim at October 16, 2004 11:30 AM | Permalink

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?

Is there something you'd like to tell us that the press hasn't been digging at since February when Kerry, McAuliffen and Moore made Bush's National Guard attendance and Kerry's Vietnam war hero status the central issue of the campaign, Jay?

If not, could you remind us when the press decided that Kerry's other band of 280 brothers deserved a hearing and how waiting until August (oops, make this a rhetorical question) might make a difference?

Posted by: Tim at October 16, 2004 12:25 PM | Permalink

This is a great essay, Jay.

Posted by: Matt Stoller at October 16, 2004 1:01 PM | Permalink

I think this is revenge for the breathtaking audacity and mendacity of Fahrenheit 9/11. Now we have "Stolen Honor" and "Fahrenhype 9/11" as repayment. What goes around comes around.

Advice to both campaigns: get your hands on the propaganda pieces, find the lies and expose them in ads as quickly as possible. Mikhail Moore should get a major ripping. So should any Swifties whose stories don't stand up. Candidates: stay above it. Look "presidential", but don't go on the air on an equal time basis.

Advice to Kerry: your semester in Vietnam does not make you look good. The best you can do is a draw. Change the subject, if you can.

Posted by: wrecktafire at October 16, 2004 1:07 PM | Permalink

I think the paranoia on the left is running overtime attributing October Surprise to something a lot less significant. If I were leading the Bush campaign. I wouldn't want Sinclair doing this because it isn't a body blow to the Kerry campaign, it's an uncertain roll of the dice at a critical time of the election.

This is a mountain out of a molehill. I think you guys risk turning this into a blogger-driven media helicopter chase after a white Ford Bronco.

Meanwhile, a lot of reasonable issues are left unaddressed. I, for one, am so put off by Kerry's speeches I could spit. Either he doesn't see the truth about issues or he doesn't respect his audience enough to speak it. Either way he's driving away votes of people like me who might otherwise have voted for him. I come away believing that he either doesn't grasp issues or that he wants the presidency so bad he'd lie to get it.

Posted by: sbw at October 16, 2004 4:12 PM | Permalink


Do you think there are insufficient distractions from the important issues of the campaign? Is this what "civic journalism" leads to--arranged debates between huge egos about matters of no importance?

What your suggested face-off instantly brought to my mind was a pro-wrestling match. It must sound very exciting to have Kerry face off against the demonic Sinclair tag-team, perhaps there will even be a chair in the ring incident or some devious last minute backstab or something like that. We can even get Jesse Ventura to referee. There is Pressthink in your post that you are not fully examining.

Posted by: Brian at October 16, 2004 5:25 PM | Permalink

I'm persuaded by Jay's argument. And I can't see how this is a distraction from the issues. If Kerry responds honestly, it could be better than the debates -- a contrast of radically different ideas about citizenship, the significance of history in current affairs, the responsibility of soldiers, the meaning of dissent, the wisdom of police-action wars. Those aren't "issues"? I agree that there needs to be more specifics from both campaigns, but there also needs to be more depth, and this hypothetical program could help provide it.

Posted by: Jeff Sharlet at October 16, 2004 5:38 PM | Permalink


How about Trippi, Soros et al get a major network to air the new "Moving Upriver" Kerry biopic by this Butler guy in primetime. This is the Butler who made the "Pumping Iron" flick that put Schwarzennegger on the map.

Posted by: madison at October 16, 2004 5:40 PM | Permalink

A foreign newspaper's attempt to jigger the election might twist some knickers in a bunch:

World writes to undecided voters

"The Guardian's campaign to target undecided voters in a key swing state in the US presidential elections has attracted more than 10,000 responses, as well earning the ire of the conservative media.

"By 6pm yesterday, 11,658 people had contacted the newspaper from around the world, after it encouraged readers in Britain to write with their thoughts on the election to voters in Clark county, Ohio. In the 2000 election, George Bush lost the county by 1% - equivalent to 324 votes."

Posted by: sbw at October 16, 2004 5:47 PM | Permalink

Jarvis weighs in, heavily, and at length, but with lots of carbs for thought:

Oh, I know, you'll say it's because we all own the airwaves. Well, we all own the internet, too. And spectrum is no longer scarce. Only 11 percent of Americans get TV through rabbit ears. Today, there is no distinction between broadcast TV and cable or satellite TV. And very soon there will also be no distinction between all that and internet-delivered TV. It's all just spectrum. We need to fix how we license broadcast spectrum but still, it's all just spectrum.

Posted by: Tim at October 16, 2004 6:04 PM | Permalink

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.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at October 16, 2004 7:15 PM | Permalink

Sorry for the erros in the above. Too darned busy (still) to preview it. Darn, I need an editor so I can make these shine and still get my other work done.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at October 16, 2004 7:19 PM | Permalink

This thread need not digress any further than this, but someone asked how Kerry frames issues in a manner to mislead. These need not be dissected, but they indicate the type of concerns I believe the press could have ventilated rather than digressing into Sinclair Land:

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: Take a look at this Congressional Budget Office Report and this interpretation, "Without the Bush tax cut, the top 60% would have paid 99.9% of all individual income taxes. Now, after the tax cut, they pay 103%, meaning the bottom 40% have gone from paying about 0% to actually getting a bunch of money in net EITC."
Deficit: A year ago, National Public Radio quoted a representative from Standard and Poors, that fully half of the $470 billion deficit is directly related to the slowdown in the economy. A quarter of it is related to President George W. Bush's tax cut -- and not necessarily a bad thing, according to many economists, to stimulate demand to get the economy rolling again. -- Then the final quarter of the deficit is attributable to the increased costs of homeland defense, Afghanistan and Iraq. And that quarter -- at approximately one percent of GDP -- is a significantly smaller portion of the economy by far than was every expended in Vietnam or in World War II.
Jobs: A member of the Federal Reserve Board explains "discussions of the outsourcing of business services tend to ignore the large amount of "insourcing" of services to the United States from other countries, so do discussions of American firms moving jobs abroad ignore the fact that foreign firms also move jobs to the United States." and "the single most important factor explaining lagging job creation is the astonishing gains in labor productivity that have been achieved in the U.S. economy in the past few years."
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.

Hence I was concerned whether Kerry did not understand the issues or whether he was trying to scare up votes. You can see why both would be difficult for me to support and why I would have liked the press to probe further.

Posted by: sbw at October 16, 2004 7:58 PM | Permalink

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."

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 16, 2004 9:31 PM | Permalink

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.

sbw says:
"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.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 16, 2004 9:50 PM | Permalink

Ben Franklin, I'm not sure what you are trying to say. Can you phrase it in different words?

Posted by: sbw at October 16, 2004 9:51 PM | Permalink

I believe you sincerely want the press to clarify issues. I also have the impression that your mental image of the reality you wish they'd clarify is pretty close to the Republican party platform's implicit understanding of how reality works. I see a contradiction between the picture in your head, as Lippmann would say, and your Sgt. Friday calls for objectivity, clarity, and "just the facts."

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 16, 2004 9:56 PM | Permalink

Jack Frost

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.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at October 16, 2004 10:09 PM | Permalink

For someone who wants to vote for president based on what one of the candidate's did or didn't do as a 26-year-old, it's not a distraction. For everyone else, time wasted talking about Vietnam is time that could have been spent on somewhat more pressing matters. I understand that some people are in love with that topic, and really if Kerry wants to get bogged down in it it's no skin off my nose, but I doubt he wants to which is why he refused to participate in Sinclair's program. Jay envisions a great wrestling match in the would-be confrontation, but somehow I doubt it is what those undecided voters are yearning for to help make up their minds. It's got wonderful possibilities as a media sideshow, though, with opportunities galore for spin and counter-spin.

Posted by: Brian at October 16, 2004 10:23 PM | Permalink

John Moore,
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."

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 16, 2004 10:27 PM | Permalink

Ben Franklin drags a red herring across the thread with Ron Suskind, a subject entirely unrelated to Sinclair.

Suskind quotes Bruce Bartlett, "This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can’t be persuaded, that they’re extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he’s just like them. . . ."

Because Bartlett suggests a connection doesn't make the connection necessarily valid. There are no logical steps presented that allow Bartlett to jump to the conclusion that Bush is just like Al Qaeda or other enemies driven to 911 or beheadings. Accordingly, I guess some readers will just have to take Bartlett on "faith". ;-)

Meanwhile, most of us can reasonably conclude that, faced with people who resort to suicide bombings, turning airliners into WMD, and beheading of innocents, we can reasonably deduce that to stop such people you might have to kill them. That makes us prudent, not crazed, messianic, or Blinded by the Light.

Posted by: sbw at October 16, 2004 10:42 PM | Permalink


... Battling dueling premises at dawn doesn't work. Remember the Comedians Club joke where everyone knew all the jokes so, to save time, members simply assigned numbers to them. One speaker says, "23." "Ha, ha, ha!" The next speaker says, "42." Silence. One comedian says to another, "He never could tell a joke."

The last fifty feet of comments have been premises with the mind-numbing familiarity of all the numbered jokes. If "" weren't already taken, it would be a great domain name for those Convinced of their Correctness to work out amongst themselves a degree of satisfaction for their premises. Only premises verified to the nth degree would be authorized to return, and then, only by number.
I get it now.

Posted by: Tim at October 16, 2004 10:59 PM | Permalink

Tim: 42.

FWIW, "42" was the answer in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" that the Earth was built as a computer to calculate. Unfortunately, they forgot the question.

Posted by: sbw at October 16, 2004 11:08 PM | Permalink

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.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 16, 2004 11:30 PM | Permalink

Lehman Brothers' update on politics vs. economics at Sinclair Broadcasting Corporation, courtesy of Josh Marshall:

"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)"

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 16, 2004 11:36 PM | Permalink

Toledo Blade? Tip of the Iceberg? Are you indeed impervious to fact?

These articles establish systematic Pentagon cover-up and whitewash of war crimes in Vietnam for the duration and years afterward. Why exactly are you insulted and outraged by Kerry's statement of these facts?

The command structure's dereliction of duty on this front is simply apalling. Kerry's statement should have been coming from US Army headquarters. If an enemy says something horrible about you THAT IS TRUE, it's both propaganda AND fact. It's admittedly paradoxical, but it's not that hard to grasp unless you'd just prefer not to. The fact that an enemy agrees doesn't magically erase the unpleasant fact that they are telling the truth.

Beyond the politics of it, you and John Moore and Sinclair are promoting historical revisionism that makes the U.S. look like Nazi Austria, Nazi Germany, and unreconstructed Japan. Allies in the war against terror will undoubtedly come running after a display of principled certitude in defense of war crimes.

Bush seems to think this way:
"We cannot waver in our war against acknowledging [(insert policy mistake to be denied here) A) Mistakes I made in Iraq, B) the war crimes the US has committed in Vietnam and Iraq,] or the enemy will prevail. I just don't think a person who talks about such things in public is qualified to be commander in chief. If a future commander in chief publicly points to mistakes I made or war crimes committed by our country during my administration based on my presidential orders, who can take him seriously when he becomes commander in chief and begins to correct the mistakes I made?"

Just because Bush thinks that way doesn't mean we have to. And it certainly doesn't mean our media coverage has to.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 17, 2004 12:06 AM | Permalink

Ben, the thing I liked about Jon Stewart's Crossfire, is that he cut through the multi-syllabic crap that's binding up the Left and the Right. Metaphysical overgeneralizations like "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." are said with such authority as if the MUST be true, allowing the unfounded demonization, "that makes consultation on policy nearly impossible for George Bush".

Unfortunately, if you look in a mirror, such talk should sound jarringly familiar. If you don't see that, doesn't it lend credence to the observation? I should probably follow with your sentence, "You can continue to live in that fantasy world if you so choose."

Toss all your theorizing out the window. I will not be held hostage to (not to the 50 years you say, but) 8o-odd years of history since the League of Nations gave Britain the Iraqi hot potato. Instead, I'm obliged to try to learn from it and to make the best decisions for today and tomorrow. To do that I listen to all well-formulated input. What I tried to point out above -- and this is what relates to Jay's Sinclair thread -- is that the alternatives proposed by Mr. Kerry have been so hyperbolic (and dissembling) that they ought to have been ventilated by the press and were not. Instead the press is navel-gazing about Sinclair with only 17 days to go before the election.

Posted by: sbw at October 17, 2004 12:07 AM | Permalink

And all the mistatements you pointed to on Kerry's part were only mistatements if you believe that reality is defined by the Republican party platform. Your report is completely legitimate as a report back to the RNC about where Kerry differs from them.

But it's hardly a clarification of my world that helps me understand it better. It is rather an obfuscation of a series of relatively accurate statements by Kerry from a Republican perspective. No thank you.

It doesn't bother me that you're a Republican. It bothers me that you insist on pretending that the Republican platform is reality and you're just correcting the distortion. It's only distortion if you believe the Republican platform is not just the policy, but the reality itself. Your Republican chuckles with Tim make your "just the facts" act look comic.

If you expect anyone to take you seriously, you're going to have to come out of the "view from nowhere" closet.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 17, 2004 12:16 AM | Permalink

Ben: 54

Tim replies: 42, again.

Posted by: Tim at October 17, 2004 12:18 AM | Permalink

But that is exactly the problem. Whether you like it or not, you ARE held hostage by eighty years of history. BECAUSE THAT'S WHY THEY HATE US. That's not something you get to decide.

Wishing it away doesn't change anything except how deeply you lodge your head in the sand.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 17, 2004 12:18 AM | Permalink

Tim and Ben and anyone else to whom this applies. Please cut down on the this-for-that sparring and the lengthy posts that are not quite on topic. Exercise some restraint, please. Newcomers happen by and they conclude this is an insiders-only style discourse. I can't afford that, and it's not what you want to say, either. So try to avoid saying it. If this message reached you in error, then do excuse me. I'm a busy blogger. Thanks and please continue to enjoy PressThink.

Tim: stop addressing someone who cannot defend himself because his posts are deleted. Any way you look at it, it makes no sense. So stop. Do I like policing this space? Hate it. But I will.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 17, 2004 12:19 AM | Permalink


Posted by: Tim at October 17, 2004 12:21 AM | Permalink

I'm clearly getting frustrated by the insistent refusal to acknowledge documented points of fact that make most of the assertions at the heart of the Sinclair brouhaha unintelligible, wrongheaded, and vicious.

I know my posts can't shift the course of the machine driving in that direction. I'll try taking more deep breaths and lowering my expectations for rationality in the blogosphere.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 17, 2004 12:37 AM | Permalink


Tim: stop addressing someone who cannot defend himself because his posts are deleted. Any way you look at it, it makes no sense. So stop. Do I like policing this space? Hate it. But I will.

No clue what you mean here Jay. Please explain.

If this message reached you in error, then do excuse me. I'm a busy blogger. Thanks and please continue to enjoy PressThink.

When you have the time to review this thread and note that I did not participate in any tit-for-tats, posted excessive or excessively long comments, or particularly off-topic, I think you'll agree with me that your message was addressed to me in error.

Posted by: Tim at October 17, 2004 12:49 AM | Permalink

I mean to be responding to the points in your posts, but I confess I have developed a tendency to try to think them through in response to the input of other commenters. In future, I'll try to keep the focus more consistently on the media rather than the comments. A change in this regard will probably be good for my blood pressure as well as your blog. Thanks for the heads up.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 17, 2004 12:51 AM | Permalink

If there is one thing you must accept online, Ben, it's that running up against "the insistent refusal to acknowledge documented points of fact" is part of the landscape. You cannot move it any more than you could the Rocky Mountains.

Some people are driven by the dream of nailing these fact-refusers, and others by the dream of being one. Neither succeeds. Both infiltrate the same person. Participating in a comment thread should be driven by the dream of expressing yourself well. Others (and their facts) are necessary for that.

Why would you want to destroy them?

One more thing, not just to you, either. Posit Joe, antagonist. The dream of forcing Joe to acknowledge the known facts--even if it were to "work"--has the disadvantage of being a use of force. Let's say it did work. Now you still have an antagonist, Joe, and you've used force on him. You're better off?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 17, 2004 12:54 AM | Permalink

I would say I'm guilty only of applying the force of reason. The frustration is precisely that reason seemingly HAS no force in these situations.

If a fact is dropped in a forest full of people who aren't interested in the truth, is it true? Apparently not, for blogging purposes.

But neither is it a use of force. I would say it is rather an opportunity lost for dialogue that concerns the world we actually live in.

On the other hand, I have occasionally been guilty of moving to moral condemnation of those who carry on in blithe refusal to acknowledge the context of their actions. That would be bringing to bear moral force.

I don't see anything wrong with moral force per se, either. That doesn't mean it is always good table manners, but it is also called for at certain dinner tables.

It's clear you'd prefer that I avoided that at your table. I hear you. No doubt the strategy of moral force has been as unproductive as the force of reason when applied to the commenters in question. I tried to communicate. Dialogue did not occur. Time to let it go.

Too bad all signs point toward this dispute over the universe of facts continuing to organize the systematic refusal to communicate we call media criticism.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 17, 2004 1:58 AM | Permalink

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.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at October 17, 2004 2:17 AM | Permalink

Did anyone else see the re-broadcast of CNN's "The Mission of George W. Bush" last night? They apparently made it for the Republican convention and ran it again last night. It was essentially an hour long promo video for Bush.

It had almost as much news value as Stolen Honor. "Dear Diary, Why do I love George Bush? Let me count the ways..."

"What Liberal Media?" is all I can say.

As far as last night is concerned, Sinclair Broadcasting is simply amplifying CNN's message without all the confusion of commercial sponsors. What's all the fuss about, indeed!

Where DID that liberal bias go?

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 17, 2004 3:43 AM | Permalink


One possible reason for Kerry not to respond to Sinclair is because to do so would legitimize Sinclair's tactics. Do we really want the federally-licensed broadcast gatekeepers to be the ones who determine what is to be the political conversation of the week and what is not?

If Kerry takes up Sinclair's challenge now, what will happen next year or the year after when Sinclair decides to run another "news" documentary? Will politicians face an increasing obligation to kowtow to broadcast license gatekeepers?

If the Spectator, or the Washington Times, or the National Review were to dedicate an issue (or two) to this topic, is Kerry obligated to sit down with the editors of those publications? Why should Sinclair be any different? Heck, what the hell is "Sinclair" anyway?

Perhaps it might make sense for Kerry to respond to Sinclair, but only if his campaign also takes the time to explain their decision in light of broadcast license policy. I'm not arguing for censorship, of course. I'm just wondering why our broadcast regulatory structure has put Sinclair in charge.

I still remain convinced that it is our broadcast regulatory structure that has created this problem and only its reform will fix it.

Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 17, 2004 4:17 AM | Permalink

One of the arguments for the propriety of Sinclair's Propagandamercial broadcast is that globalization has reduced the broadcast networks to impotence, so 25% of the nation's broadcast audience is a flitting nanosecond in the context of the new cable/cybermedia market's attention span.

Of course, this line was soundly debunked in the debate over Michael Powell's deregulatory binge last year, starting first of all with the fact that the sources and gateways for programming content can still almost be counted on one hand even as the channels for their dissemination explode exponentially.
(See "Regulate the FCC", William Safire.

For non-Bush lovers who need a chuckle, check out a truly globalized, alternative point of view:

George Bush, The Worst Mexican President Ever
By El Fisgón

"Mexican political culture has very defined features and the President of the United States has absorbed them all."

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 17, 2004 4:22 AM | Permalink

Why Sinclair and Berlusconi Still Matter

Can the Web Beat Big Media?
by Farhad Manjoo Salon

"So, given the power of the technology, one may reasonably ask: What harm can come of Powell's plan to let the big guys get bigger if the rest of us, the little guys with laptops and Wi-Fi, can simply steer around the monopolies?

But when you set out to answer that question, it's hard to find anyone in the media world -- aside from interested parties -- who can furnish serious proof that new technologies are shaking the foundations beneath the entrenched media giants. If anything, the Web and cable and satellite have expanded the reach of media conglomerates. Ninety percent of the top 50 cable channels are owned by media giants. Every single one of the top 20 news Web sites is under the thumb of a media giant.

It's true that the Web has allowed unprecedented diversity in media...

But regardless of the platform, the most popular content remains in the keep of a small and shrinking bunch. Why is this so? The answer is obvious, say critics of deregulation: A firm that owns a great swath of the traditional media has phenomenal leverage on new platforms. A Web site may be great -- but it becomes even greater, and only really valuable, when you also own TV stations and newspapers, a situation that Powell's rules will exacerbate."

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 17, 2004 4:37 AM | Permalink

The truth is out there with the Vietnam vets. Stolen Honor is an honest documentary and there is no honorable reason to suppress it or attack those vets. Plain truth.

These men are acting to save this country from the Kerry they know. You should be standing with them.

Posted by: Brett at October 17, 2004 5:07 AM | Permalink

Ben: BECAUSE THAT'S WHY THEY HATE US. That's not something you get to decide.

As you point out, I may not get to decide, but as one instance of the press (this thread IS about the press), I get to decide how to respond to it. First, I look at which portion of the population "they" happen to be. Then I look at how "they" act. Then I defend against that small segment that chooses not to believe in a peacefully responsive society. With what I write, I remind readers why peaceful problem resolution should be instituted and defended.

I also respond to a United Nations that failed to live up to its responsibilities, perhaps because it was warped by bribery -- which points out yet another example why the press should drop the Sinclair navel-gazing and get back to work. Show me where the press helped Kerry clarify his trust of the U.N. in the face of the Oil-for-Food revelations.

If Kerry were successful in transmitting sounder policy answers, he'd be giving Bush a drubbing in the polls by now. Kerry's proposals have flaws that a more agile press would have guided him to address.

Recapping my opinion: Sinclair can broadcast whatever he wants. Viewers will factor in credibility the way the stock market adjusts to new information based on both the substance and the provider. Kerry should not appear on the show. He provides his own information to viewers just by appearing to be the victim of calumny. Meanwhile, the press ought to address how it covers things -- as Jon Stewart, bless his non-press, entertainment/opinion heart, pointedly advises portions of the press/media like CNN's "Crossfire" to "stop hurting America."

Posted by: sbw at October 17, 2004 10:46 AM | Permalink

Stewart is a hero for doing that.

Ernest: I think Kerry ought to go on the air because it would help his campaign, and, should he win, help his presidency. Sinclair, in my view, made a strategic error, and in politics you pounce when an opponent (even a "new" opponent) does that. I don't see how it sets a precedent for anything, since everyone agrees that Kerry is well within his rights to decline. Sinclair's action has no precedent, despite the flood of "it's just like..." thinking here and elsewhere.

I am against FEC or FCC action on free speech grounds others have expressed. I am against Democrats taking this thing to court. I am in favor of Kerry taking them on over live television; and it's amusing to me how little enthusiasm there is for this, not only among Kerry supporters, but also Kerry's critics, those who want him to go down.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 17, 2004 10:57 AM | Permalink

I think Kerry ought to go on the air because it would help his campaign, and, should he win, help his presidency.

And possibly the country.

Posted by: Tim at October 17, 2004 11:18 AM | Permalink


On whether or not appearing on Sinclair to answer the charges would help Kerry's campaign, I have no opinion. I have no problem with Kerry taking Sinclair's invitation or declining it, so far as Kerry's campaign is concerned.

I disagree that it won't set a precedent, however. If Kerry appears on Sinclair then it legitimizes Sinclair's actions to some extent. There may be no precedent for what Sinclair is doing today, but if Kerry appears then it does provide some legitimacy to what Sinclair is doing. So, the next time Sinclair decides to run a documentary to influence a campaign, there will be a precedent.

If Kerry appears, then it will also be harder for the next politician to ignore the agenda setting of Sinclair, or similar network. Do we really want these government-licensed gatekeepers setting the political agenda for campaigns?

Let Kerry appear if he chooses, but why shouldn't he also address whether he thinks our current media-regulation scheme is appropriate? If he says nothing, then we can assume Kerry thinks the rise of a politically-oriented Sinclair is perfectly appropriate. On the other hand, he has an opportunity to call for broadcast media-regulation reform.

This isn't about FEC or FCC content regulation, this is about eliminating it entirely. Open the spectrum!

Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 17, 2004 11:27 AM | Permalink


Do we really want these government-licensed gatekeepers setting the political agenda for campaigns?

What role does Sinclair play within the 4th estate?

Let Kerry appear if he chooses, but why shouldn't he also address whether he thinks our current media-regulation scheme is appropriate?

He should, he has, and he's got a track record. It's not a top election issue, tho':

Kerry: I'd Keep Cross-ownership Rules
Kerry Speaks on Indecency, Deregulation
John Kerry: Media Darling
REPORT TO CONGRESS, April 10, 1998

38. Senators Ashcroft, Ford, John F. Kerry, Abraham and Wyden emphasize that
"[n]othing in the 1996 Act or its legislative history suggests that Congress intended to alter
the current classification of Internet and other information services or to expand traditional
telephone regulation to new and advanced services." Like Senator McCain, they state:
"Rather than expand regulation to new service providers, a critical goal of the 1996 Act was
to diminish regulatory burdens as competition grew."
Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Last comment has good review of Kerry's legislative positions)

Posted by: Tim at October 17, 2004 12:16 PM | Permalink


As I explained in earlier comments, I favor having more strong voices in the media that represent a broad spectrum of political views. For me, KPFA "Free Speech" radio in Berkeley, "Democracy Now!" and now AirAmerica, plus a wide range of publications and blogs on the Web, provide welcome counterpoint to the mushy he-said-she-said "balance" of the mainstream media, as well as countering the extreme right views of Fox. As a younger man, I spent a certain amount of time driving through the South, listening to H.L. Hunt's "Freedom Talk" radio shows, early exposure to far right political views, many of which have migrated to the mainstream in the past 35 years - it's amazing to me to see how this has happened.

I'd love to see Kerry confront the Sinclair propaganda, IF Kerry could be assured of a forum in which he would actually have a chance of doing this, and not be caught in a situation that's promised to be one thing and turns into something else.

Given their behavior so far, do you think Sinclair could be trusted to give Kerry a fair playing field in which to answer their allegations? Is it a situation equivalent to that of the debates, where Kerry and Bush were able to negotiate ground rules with an organization that could enforce them? Even there, we saw the broadcast networks and cable channels choose to ignore one of the negotiated ground rules and show camera shots of the candidates reacting to each other.

Can Sinclair be trusted to negotiate in good faith and live up to the terms of an agreement? If not, Kerry would be better served to let surrogates answer Sinclair in whatever time might be offered to respond.

Great discussion here, except for the trolls who push anti-Kerry slime instead of keeping the focus on the press and journalistic practice.

Posted by: Doug Millison at October 17, 2004 1:01 PM | Permalink


The role Sinclair plays in the Fourth Estate is the same role that the government-licensed printing presses play in the newspaper business.

Wait, you say that the government doesn't license printing presses?

Then I guess there is no real precedent for the role Sinclair plays. In other words, Sinclair plays a government-created role, not a real one, in the Fourth Estate.

Thanks for the links on Kerry's position. How nice and inconsistent it is.

Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 17, 2004 1:06 PM | Permalink

Then I guess there is no real precedent for the role Sinclair plays. In other words, Sinclair plays a government-created role, not a real one, in the Fourth Estate.

I think there are two flaws in that statement.

First flaw is that Sinclair is among many licensed participants, including many that consensus would agree are members of a "4th Estate".

Second flaw is that the 4th Estate has historically and exists today within the competing interests of the free market and regulation. The discussion of the 4th Estate not being a lap dog of government or private owners colors the discussion of what voice the 4th Establishment uses. However, the 4th Estate was only described according to its influence:

Bush to Press: "You're Assuming That You Represent the Public. I Don't Accept That."

The idea of the press as the "fourth estate," which is the big idea Bush rejects, is usually traced to English historian Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881.) What Carlyle wrote puts a different light on Jeff Jarvis saying at Buzzmachine: send some bloggers to the White House press conference! I took him to mean that independent voices, writers representing no one but themselves and their public reputation, without rank or representation, should be in the mix with the press. Jeff meet Tom Carlyle, writing at a time when the press was newly arrived on the political stage:

Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or a witty saying; it is a literal fact, .... Printing, which comes necessarily out of Writing, I say often, is equivalent to Democracy: invent Writing, Democracy is inevitable. ..... Whoever can speak, speaking now to the whole nation, becomes a power, a branch of government, with inalienable weight in law-making, in all acts of authority. It matters not what rank he has, what revenues or garnitures: the requisite thing is that he have a tongue which others will listen to; this and nothing more is requisite.
Whoever can speak to the whole nation becomes a power. There is still a reporters gallery, and it is still speaking the language of a Fourth Estate. But perhaps its weakness is in speaking a language Americans recognize as theirs. Bush is challenging the press: you don't speak to the nation, or for it, or with it. (See Hagan on this point.)

He cannot sustain this challenge all the time--thus, the April 13 press conference, thus the embeds--but it is a serious argument. Intellectually, it's almost a de-certification move against the press corps. There's a constituency for this, and it picks up on long-term trends that have weakened the national press, including a disconnect between Big Journalism and many Americans, and the rise of alternative media systems.

Posted by: Tim at October 17, 2004 1:54 PM | Permalink


I argue that no publisher should be considered a member of the fourth estate so long as they are licensed by the government. They should play the role of publisher that the telephone companies do, that is, they should simply be a transport medium for the publishing of others.

I'm unhappy with the entire regulatory scheme, not simply Sinclair. All the broadcasters are privileged by their government-issued licenses. This does not rebound to their credit.

However, Sinclair's role is unprecedented to the extent that they haven't generally taken the role of publisher.

Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 17, 2004 2:03 PM | Permalink


They should play the role of publisher that the telephone companies do, that is, they should simply be a transport medium for the publishing of others.

Then there is a difference between the "publishing" of voltage differences, such as the phone company and ISPs, and the traditional paper press. Book publishers have long played the role that Sinclair has recently dabbled in. A conservative example might be Regnery. Is Regnery a member of the 4th Estate?

Posted by: Tim at October 17, 2004 2:11 PM | Permalink

Do PBS, NPR, Talk Radio, etc., also drop out of the 4th Estate?

Posted by: Tim at October 17, 2004 2:19 PM | Permalink

Well, when the government starts licensing printing presses, then we can debate whether Regnery is a member of the 4th Estate ... until that time, of course they are a member of the 4th Estate.

As for PBS, NPR, Talk Radio, etc., yep. If the government is licensing them to publish, yep.

Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 17, 2004 3:01 PM | Permalink

Thanks again, Ernest.

Posted by: Tim at October 17, 2004 3:09 PM | Permalink

Editor and Publisher has an interesting article on the Associated Press Managing Editors meeting:

"Stuart Wilk [the organization's president] said newspapers have become a cross between "Fear Factor," "Survivor" and "Extreme Makeover."

"Year after year, budgets are cut, openings go unfilled, and news hole gets smaller," said Wilk, vice president and associate editor of The Dallas Morning News. "Layoffs loom and, in some places, they abound. In the past two and a half years, 77,000 editorial and business-side jobs have been cut from news organizations."

It seems downsizing is gutting the news divisions, except for entertainment news. In other words, business strategy is at the heart of the failure of your news industry.

This is why state regulation IS relevant. Democracy is impossible without functional public discourse. Ratings do not functional public discourse make.

At the end of the article, the Louisville police chief has a suggestion for news quality control.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 17, 2004 3:23 PM | Permalink

Ben: This is why state regulation IS relevant.

I'll consider state regulation. Okay, I've considered it. Not a snowball's chance in hell.

And, please, everyone read the APME speech to which Tim links. It's excellent. I reminded Alan of the small town publisher's joke because AP's brand and future is in jeopardy if it doesn't appreciate the multi-channel nature of news from now on. It's why Sinclair will not succeed.

Posted by: sbw at October 17, 2004 4:06 PM | Permalink


Why I think Seth Finkelstein isn't a member of the 4th Estate, and licensed broadcasters are:

- Seth has no audience. (Please visit Seth)
- Licensed broadcasters have big audiences.

- Seth has no estate, no gallery, no seat in the press box (also why I thought the conventions accrediting bloggers was a big deal).
- Licensed broadcasters have unlimited access.

- Seth has no power.
- Licensed broadcasters have power.

- Seth thinks A-List bloggers have power.
- A-List bloggers are gatekeepers.
- A-List bloggers are not licensed by gov't.

Sinclair is flexing its 4th Estate power. It's important to understanding what Sinclair Broadcast Group is. It is unlikely, as a licensed gatekeeper, that they will become pro-Kerry if he wins. They are not acting as if they are beholden to the Power That Be in government.

Sumner Redstone announces he's voting for Bush, after CBS News/60 Minutes broadcasts an anti-Bush campaign without ever inviting Bush (Bartlett had to call CBS).

Sinclair announces they're going to broadcast an anti-Kerry campaign, and invites Kerry to participate, or at least name his terms.

But what Sinclair is, makes the threat by the Kerry campaign interesting, should they win. Would Sinclair act as a better watchdog of a Kerry administration among the 4th Estate establishment? Would they serve the public more then than some might think they are now?

Posted by: Tim at October 17, 2004 4:37 PM | Permalink


Why Seth Finkelstein is a member of the Fourth Estate and Sinclair is not:

1) Seth does have an audience. The audience is small but influential. He is read by many knowledgeable people in his area of expertise. He may not be the most influential member of the Fourth Estate, but that doesn't mean he is not a member.
2) Contrariwise, having a large audience does not make you a member of the Fourth Estate. There are many organizations and institutions with large audiences that are not members of the Fourth Estate.

1) You don't need credentials or a place in the press box to be a member of the Fourth Estate (thank goodness).
2) Contrariwise, having said credentials does not make you a member of the Fourth Estate. And, even if you are part of the Fourth Estate, such credentials often come with limitations that can inhibit good journalism.

1) Power != Fourth Estate

1) A-List bloggers have power, are filters (not gatekeepers), and aren't licensed by the government. They are members of the Fourth Estate ... what that has to do with Seth, I don't know.

1) Being beholden to the powers that be is not a requirement of the Fourth Estate. Just because Sinclair might oppose Kerry if he were elected doesn't make Sinclair a member of the Fourth Estate.

Being a member of the Fourth Estate is more about process than goals. Journalism is about increasing information flow and transparency. That doesn't appear to be the process that Sinclair supports. That isn't really the process that any government-licensed gatekeeper supports.

I'm not going to defend existing broadcasters because they are the result of the same failures of broadcast regulation I see in the Sinclair case.

Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 17, 2004 6:55 PM | Permalink

Ernest, thanks. I very much appreciate your contrary view.

Posted by: Tim at October 17, 2004 7:04 PM | Permalink

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.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at October 17, 2004 7:12 PM | Permalink

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?

We get it by now, John. (I got after the twentieth repetition.) The mainstream media ignored everything questionable about Kerry's service because it wants Kerry to win and will do anything to ensure it-- says Moore. There is nothing to investigate about Bush's service and there never was, but the mainstream media won't quit; it digs and digs, trying to find something that would justify its animus-- says Moore.

Can we just call this Moore's Law? Then you won't have to laboriously type it each time. Just say, "Moore's Law states..."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 17, 2004 8:01 PM | Permalink

Corporate behavior only become business news when somebody thinks it will affect the bottom line. The Lehman analyst apparently thinks Sinclair's foray into politics will hurt ad revenue. Fair enough, given the number of liberal interests howling for blood and Sinclair's generally debt-burdened state.

It'll be interesting to see whether the controversy *does* hurt Sinclair. I'm inclined to doubt there will be any long-term consequences. In fact, this may help the company. As we've seen with Fox News, there's a market for non-liberal programming that has historically been underserved. For every liberal enemy Sinclair makes, it'll probably make a conservative friend.

BTW, Anson's New York Observer screed was as empty of nourishment as it was predictable. He appears to have no awareness of the self-parodic quality of his complaints about "fairness," his attempt to paint Chris Matthews as a right-wing zealot, or his ritual invocation of Rev. Moon. The RNC would be well advised to print up a few choice scoops of this steaming pile, especially the veiled ridicule of the POWs, and distribute them to the public in the battleground states.

Posted by: Harry at October 17, 2004 9:01 PM | Permalink

Jay -- with the news media absolutely dominated by liberals, and the more candid members of that group freely admitting they're working to get Kerry elected, some things need to be repeated for emphasis.

A lot of people with whom you obviously disagree on politics very clearly perceive the "double standard" that you, for your part, never miss a chance to ridicule or minimize. Maybe you're the one missing something here.

Posted by: Harry at October 17, 2004 9:10 PM | Permalink

Add one more to the "steaming pile."

Posted by: Bob Clark at October 17, 2004 9:18 PM | Permalink

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.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 17, 2004 10:48 PM | Permalink

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.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at October 18, 2004 12:02 AM | Permalink

Jay -- I generally agree. The oft-repeated Evan Thomas declaration, which I was not thinking of, is absurd on its face: 15%? That number cannot be close. There's probably some press effect, but it's almost certainly small. The most obvious reason, I think, is the assortment of the consumer population into audiences for various news organs. Given that a news purveyor tends to produce a fairly consistent product over time, audiences no doubt consist mostly of people who find the qualities (including political flavor) of that product congenial. Most of the rest of the audience consists of people who find some part of the product indispensable, and hold their noses through the rest. (This last category describes my relationship with the NYT and WaPo perfectly.)

What bothers me most in the big national news operations is bias in the selection of what gets covered. The coverage of the Iraq war is a prime example. I realize that to a great extent news organizations have a bipartisan preference for the sensational. But what we hear from Iraq is an almost unrelieved stream of bad news, when the truth on the ground is apparently a mix of good and bad news. This breeds cynicism and claims of a "double standard." Yes, combat casualties should be reported, but so should the achievement of milestones in the improvement of infrastructure and civil society over there. How many schools opened? How many power plants put into operation? Taken together, these details provide a better basis for deciding whether the mission is being accomplished than casualty reports alone.

If a journalist provides an accurate summary of the facts of a story, then one can forgive, or at least ignore, a degree of interstitial editorializing by the writer. But if a story gets no coverage at all, then it's lost except by the intercession of luck or a really exhaustive reading habit. Since most people aren't lucky and don't have the time to read everything, decisions not to cover stories can leave consumers without the facts they need to draw durable conclusions about the events of the day.

I'll have to go back and rummage around to find the comments that I interpreted as bald statements of support for Kerry. One example was in the SF Chronicle, which is a local paper where I live. Unfortunately, I don't keep any sort of record of what I read for pleasure.

Posted by: Harry at October 18, 2004 12:24 AM | Permalink

"Would Kerry have a chance to see the Stolen Honor film (or clips or whatever of that material Sinclair would use), in order to prepare an effective response?"

You can see clips on their site right now. You can also buy the DVD. Kerry can view the whole thing any time he wants.

"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."

Also, here's a good comparison of how the MSM pounces on anti-Bush military service stories and avoids anti-Kerry military service stories.

Posted by: Yehudit at October 18, 2004 2:41 AM | Permalink

"time wasted talking about Vietnam is time that could have been spent on somewhat more pressing matters. . . . if Kerry wants to get bogged down in it it's no skin off my nose, but I doubt he wants to which is why he refused to participate in Sinclair's program."

Kerry made his paltry 4 months in Vietnam the centerpiece of his convention presentation and mentions it every time he gives a speech. He does this knowing that his record as an antiwar activist was very divisive, he said he himself was a war criminal, he met with the enemy during wartime while in uniform, yet he ignores any controversy and hopes it will go away.

He has never honestly and respectfully addressed the vets and their children who were slandered by him or who felt he aided the enemy. He just ignores them and hopes if his pet MSM ignore them too, they will go away.

If he based his campaign on his Senate record there would be no controversy. If he even acknowledged that his antiwar activity was controversial, he could defuse it. It is the dishonesty and overweening arrogance and blindness of John Kerry that causes the controversy, and at the same time exposes his character.

Posted by: Yehudit at October 18, 2004 3:05 AM | Permalink


Thanks for some of your points above. One minor correction, Kerry was not in uniform when he met with the enemy, but he was an officer in the Naval Reserve. His wewbsite attempted to hide that fact, showing originally military service from '66-'70 and '72-'78. When he was forced to put up some of his military records, which showed clearly that he was in the Naval Reserve '70-'72 also, it was amusing to watch the biographies on the site change one after another, and the boilerplate on news releases fail for a day to change. You will now find (unless it changed recently) that his biography shows military service only '66-'70.

One other point: while still on active duty, he flew an anti-war activist (Wallinski) to speaking engagements at various anti-war rallies. That was probably a crime under the UCMJ, although nothing compared to his self confessed war crimes and his activities with VVAW.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at October 18, 2004 4:00 AM | Permalink

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...

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 18, 2004 5:51 AM | Permalink

Intellectual standards? Yehudit obviously thinks they're a joke. He submits two links that are supposed to show more candid members of the press admitting that they're rooting for Kerry. (I had questioned whether there are such quotes.) What do his examples show?

One is about Paul Begala, former Clinton aide and Crossfire host, who begins every program with "from the Left, I'm...," working on a volunteer basis for the Kerry campaign. Is this what is meant by a pro-Kerry bias? The other bit of "proof" about the press openly admitting it is pulling for Kerry is an item about a book review in the New York Times being written by someone with ties to the Kerry campaign.

Yehudit: that is an insultingly pathetic attempt at documenting a claim-- which I don't think can be documented.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 18, 2004 9:06 AM | Permalink

Yes but isn't that the exact same things the other three submit as evidence? Links are only as good as the source. Of course a non-journalist wouldn't know that.

Posted by: Bob Clark at October 18, 2004 10:19 AM | Permalink

Check out these disinfopedia resources for Stolen Honor:

Stolen Honor article

Carlton Sherwood article

Posted by: Stolen Honor resources at October 18, 2004 10:42 AM | Permalink

[Off-topic? Maybe, but mentioned above.] Orin Kerr of Volokh Conspiracy asked if anyone had critiqued Ron Suskind's NY Times Magazine piece "Without a doubt" so I did -- "An article of faith".

Posted by: sbw at October 18, 2004 11:11 AM | Permalink

Just wanted to point out something from the FRONTLINE documentary that often gets quoted now in reference to Carlton Sherwood:

One week after talking to Regnery, FRONTLINE obtained a copy of a letter addressed to Sun Myung Moon.
Hmmmmm ... sound familiar?

In a credibility contest between FRONTLINE and Moon's organization, my vote goes with FRONTLINE. But I just wanted to point out that I notice when reporters cite copies of mysterious and timely documents. FRONTLINE doesn't even "do a Rather" about the document's authenticity or their "unimpeachable" confidential source.

So here's a bunch of reporters using questionable reporting to question the questionable reporting/documentary of Carlton Sherwood?

Helping or hurting?

Posted by: Tim at October 18, 2004 11:19 AM | Permalink

Their own people are now denouncing it. David Folkenflik, Baltimore Sun (Oct. 18): "Sinclair employee decries planned program on Kerry. D.C. bureau chief calls it 'biased political propaganda.'"

Must be one of those liberal journalists. But he's willing to risk his job to make the point. Counts for something.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 18, 2004 11:29 AM | Permalink

Non reg. req. version of Folkenflik's article: LINK (At least for now).

Posted by: Tim at October 18, 2004 11:47 AM | Permalink

Must be one of those liberal journalists. But he's willing to risk his job to make the point. Counts for something.

No, Jay. If he was "one of those liberal journalists", he would be at CBS News/60 Minutes or ABC's Nightline cheerfully going with their political agenda.

It takes a conservative to stand up for something as metaphysical as "doing the right thing" and truth.


Posted by: Tim at October 18, 2004 11:56 AM | Permalink

I'm curious why no other news media has tried to scoop Sinclair by interviewing the POWs or reporting on them.

Seems Medal of Honor recipients George E. "Bud" Day and Leo K. Thorsness would have garnered some news attention.

Is this another example of Oliphant's herd journalism pressthink telling the POWs, "you haven't come within a country mile of meeting first-grade journalistic standards for accuracy"?

I mean if Koppel's crew can travel to Vietnam to give equal weight to self-described Viet Cong and make discredited accusations, I would think our own Medal of Honor POWs could meet that standard and be heard in our press. No?

Posted by: Tim at October 18, 2004 12:25 PM | Permalink

"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."

Am I the only one who finds this statement hilarious coming from "Ben Franklin"?

Posted by: Harry at October 18, 2004 12:50 PM | Permalink

Jays says:

"Intellectual standards? Yehudit obviously thinks they're a joke. He submits two links..."

Jay, unless Yehudit is "a boy named Sue" I think she's a woman.

Posted by: Harry at October 18, 2004 12:54 PM | Permalink

If a member of the 4th Estate makes a documentary like Stolen Honor, but no one sees it, is it still a product of the 4th Estate?

Posted by: Tim at October 18, 2004 1:33 PM | Permalink

Jay Rosen: What has been said is Evan Thomas of Newsweek claiming the pro-Kerry "vote" among journalists (his peers) is worth 15 points to JFK. ... 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.


KURTZ: Well, it is a tight race. But do you believe that most reporters want John Kerry to win?
THOMAS: Yeah. Absolutely.
KURTZ: Do you think they're deliberately tilting their coverage to help John Kerry and John Edwards?
THOMAS: Not really.
KURTZ: Subconsciously tilting their coverage?
THOMAS: Maybe.
KURTZ: Maybe?
THOMAS: Maybe.
KURTZ: Including in "Newsweek?"
KURTZ: You've said on the program "Inside Washington" that because of the portrayal of Kerry and Edwards as young and dynamic and optimistic, that's worth maybe 15 points. That would suggest...
THOMAS: Stupid thing to say. It was completely wrong. But I do think that -- I do think that the mainstream press, I'm not talking about the blogs and Rush and all that, but the mainstream press favors Kerry. I don't think it's worth 15 points. That was just a stupid thing to say.
KURTZ: Is it worth 5 points?
THOMAS: Maybe, maybe.

Picture Dori from Finding Nemo: Just keep digging, just keep digging, ...

Posted by: Tim at October 18, 2004 5:59 PM | Permalink

Thanks, Tim. That is great digging.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 18, 2004 7:34 PM | Permalink

You're fired

Posted by: Jim Bridger at October 18, 2004 11:10 PM | Permalink

Thanks, Jim.

Came across this quote from Steven Den Beste: "I've learned something interesting: if you give away ice cream, eventually a lot of people will complain about the flavors, and others will complain that you aren't also giving away syrup and whipped cream and nuts."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 18, 2004 11:36 PM | Permalink

OT, but a nice satire .here
Warning, bias narrative as satire.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at October 19, 2004 2:10 AM | Permalink

Ex-Marine Sues Over Portrayal in Kerry Film NYT (reg. req.?)
Anti-Kerry Film Producer Accused of Libel AP via Yahoo
Kenneth J. Campbell, Ph.D. was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Upon graduating from high school in 1967, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served as an artillery forward observer with a rifle company in Vietnam from February 1968 to March 1969. After his discharge he joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Posted by: Tim at October 19, 2004 2:32 AM | Permalink

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.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 19, 2004 3:55 AM | Permalink

I've been watching excerpts from "Stolen Honor." Can someone explain to me how in hell demands to end the Vietnam war extended the war?!

Does this mean we fought the Cold War FOR Communism?

The Vietnamese were only fighting foreign occupiers for seventy years. No doubt they would have thrown in the towel without Kerry and Fonda. What narcissistic crap.

Nearly every word about the Winter Soldier Investigations and Kerry's testimony is a documented lie. Are journalistic ethics and evidence only for the evil Mainstream Media? Half the show simply says, "Misguided prisoner me had the following stupid and factually mistaken idea about John Kerry."

No denying that they truly believes these demonstrably false charges. Does the sincerity with which they believe their lies now make them news and somehow true to their distorted misunderstanding of history? Is this the new litmus test for journalism? If the lie is sincerely believed it can be reported as personal conviction?

We can make documentaries like this daily, simply by interviewing the audience at a Rush Limbaugh show. Crap in, crap out. This is real progress for American journalism.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 19, 2004 4:26 AM | Permalink

It's a set-up -- like a Mafia meeting in the movies where you're invited to have a "conversation" and wind up riddled with bullets.

If Sinclair were truly interested in the real underlying issue they'd be framing up an hour or two on "Why Vietnam Won't Go Away" and look at the charges and counter-charges involving both candidates' Vietnam-era service.

The more Kerry gets drawn into this issue, the bigger the risks. There is little upside for him. It puts him in reactive mode where he is at his worst.

Sinclair's real agenda may be to set itself up as Fox II. Openly conservative-leaning media outlets have been quite financially and it could be a savvy move to pitch themselves in that vein on local as well as national issues. Few knew who or what Sinclair is two weeks ago; now they are a household name.

Posted by: IndieRant at October 19, 2004 9:06 AM | Permalink

Link for Nick Turse, Swift Boat Swill:

I would imagine this research will figure prominently in the upcoming libel suit.

Like CBS, now that Sinclair's "news" event has been shown to be based on an utterly false premise, the standards of evidence for news broadcasting demand retraction or modification of the documentary they are already distributing online and an accounting for their demonstrated refusal of the facts. Either they meet journalistic standards or they lose the claim to be programming news. The documents show they are absolutely wrong about the facts.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 19, 2004 10:40 AM | Permalink

I want to clarify, the CBS story's premise about the veracity of the physical memos was false. The testimony of the secretary who typed the originals in fact supported their story that Bush was derelict in his duty and his commander was angry about it.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 19, 2004 11:10 AM | Permalink

Sprio Agnew is decieding what you broadcast.
You're doing Mr. Agnew's bidding brcause you
are facing charges of illegal activity as the
Govenor did when he resigned his post as Vice-president under under Richard M. Nixon qand you want asswistence to acquire more broadcast srations

Be responsible and broadcast Celtic Television or
additional programming to reach "adult" audiances

Posted by: Teresa at October 19, 2004 6:21 PM | Permalink

Dear Sir,

Don't cave in to the presure. I find it apaulling that when the Dem's are showing 911 or at their convention the Rep's gave them their say and never protested. But when Rep's have a convention or wish to show a Doc on their oppinion the Dem's all protest and cause problems. I thought this was the USA and free speech is in the Bill of Rights, or is that only Dem's have that RIGHT.

Posted by: James MacCarthy at October 20, 2004 7:35 AM | Permalink

I need to get to a press person! I have been doing research on John Kerry since April. I am also a Full Professor History/Government. My masters for History is in Military Science.

Since 1985 when Kerry requested his service records, he has sistmactly alterd key dates on a fake Commision,DD214, DD215 he filed in 2001. I have enough ammunition to blow Kerry out of the water. Head Anchor of Chanel 25 in Waco has filmed my records. I have 5 official letters from the DOD Inspector General that destroyes the Navy IG--DOD says that the star put in the center of his Silver Star is wrong, I have three pictures of him with the star on his Silver Star.
Anthore fact--how did all three Purple Hearts get signed on the same day, 12 Aug 1969? All my work is 100% documented. The American public needs to see the other side of Kerry. I have kept records on his changes. (254)698-6063

Professor Sisson/Colonel

Posted by: Col (R) James R.Sisson at October 20, 2004 8:02 PM | Permalink

I find the statment made by Siva Vaidanatan regarding Sinclair Broadcastings offer to John Kerry telling.
"Lets encourage RICH, loud, Messy engagement with politics" from local media.
If we depend on the ever dwindeling number of truly "local" TV stations for advancing our political dialog. We will simply be turning that dialog over to a very few RICH media owners. No matter that their purposes briefly match yours, consider that it may not always be so. Consider the legacy you'll be handing your children, And the weapon you'll be handing their enemies.

Posted by: Peter Bass at October 21, 2004 9:54 AM | Permalink

Listen you can argue fuse and fight about them showing it, but I as a voter would like to see this program with my own two eyes, and decide for myself. Or is this kerry's goverment standing up for me that I dont need to know something? My thought is this Michael Moore has been able to free (and I mean freely) use his 1st amendment right of freedom of speech to advertise his political opinion, why do we have to see the DNC infringe apon someone elses right to exprese there opinion. If you want to say that Michael Moores movie sheds light on Bush ok will let them shed light on Kerry. There are two sides to every story, and I would like to here both as a voter in order to cast my vote. But it seems that you have to be a no shaving, no bathing, smelly white fat man who uses sensational journalism to bend the political truths in this country to his view point. While most of the American public believes him (why I have no clue).

Posted by: jay moss at October 22, 2004 11:14 AM | Permalink

Sorry-It won't change our vote-Bush lied and went to war in Iraq for revenge for his DADDY and the control of the large oil fields. Bush/Chaney lied and thousands of innocent people have been killed including our brave solders. We won't watch it. It's BUSH's WAR---WAKE UP AMERICA.

Posted by: Bob & Jean Anderson at October 22, 2004 7:42 PM | Permalink

In response to your question, Jay, Sinclair Broadcasting is doing the same thing the New York Times and CBS are doing, trying to influence the election. With a few exceptions, the media today are partisan Democrats. They aren't even pretending to be balanced.

Now that the voters have alternate sources of opinion and interpretation, the free press is becoming free again. Yes, it's messy and opinionated, but it is the variety of opinions and analysis that serves the public interest. The concept of professionalism you endorse is a myth propagated in Journalism schools. Where was the professionalism in Dan Rather so intent on damaging Bush that he accepted obvious forgeries and put them on the air? Or in the New York Times breaking the Al QaQaa story and spinning it as the fault of the president, without any verification or consideration of the possibility that Saddam had moved those explosives?

Freedom is messy, but it's definitely better than control by a clique of pseudo-intellectuals who have appointed themselves the arbiters of all truth.

Posted by: AST at October 28, 2004 7:00 PM | Permalink

An Open Letter to Mark Hyman from "The Counterpoint"

Mr. Hyman,

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.


Ted Remington
“The Counterpoint”

Posted by: Ted Remington at October 30, 2004 1:11 AM | Permalink

From the Intro