November 17, 2004
Two Replies to David Shaw of the Los Angeles Times
"Both the American in me and the journalist in me hope Rosen is dead wrong." Shaw argues against having a liberal news network that would compete with Fox. He says my suggestions to that effect would be terrible for journalism and democracy. MSNBC and CNN agree: terrible! I reply to that, plus: Reason columnist Matt Welch on David Shaw.
On November 3rd, a few hours after John Kerry gave it up, I posted my reaction piece: Are We Headed for an Opposition Press? I used a question mark because that was how I felt. My attitude then was: Who can say there’s no argument for it?
Now we know who. This week David Shaw, longtime media critic of the Los Angeles Times, published a column in reaction to my post. So this is a post in reaction to his column, which ran online without a link to the essay he was talking about. That’s unkind, L.A. Times. (On the other hand, putting “one of the nation’s more thoughtful agents provocateurs” in the first paragraph was very kind, so thanks!)
Shaw, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, argues against MSNBC or CNN coming out as the more liberal network, and competing with Fox that way. He thinks my suggestions to that effect (they were really provocations) would be terrible for journalism and democracy. We also hear in his column from MSNBC and CNN, who are quick to agree: terrible idea, Rosen.
When I asked the folks at CNN what they thought of the idea, Jim Walton, president of the CNN News Group, shot back, “Under no circumstances would we do that. We’ve established that we’re a trusted network. We’ve done that by trying to provide balance … to be independent in our thinking.”
Notice how Walton thinks an avowedly liberal network could never be a trusted network. Nor could a liberal network be independent in its thinking. No, the only way to maintain trust and claim authority is professional even-handedness, “objectivity,” balance, the view from nowhere. And that is what CNN will contine to be about. Sound like a strategy for catching up to Fox and its momentum?
“At MSNBC, the top brass demurred when I asked for a comment,” Shaw reports. Huh. Kind of interesting. Could mean nothing, of course.
But Jeremy Gaines, the network’s vice president of communications, said the concept of MSNBC as a self-described liberal network “makes no sense. It is flawed, shallow reasoning and is totally without merit.”
Shaw’s own view of Opposition Press is strongly negative. It was based in part on the interview we did— a good interview, I felt. His questions were challenging because they were aimed at getting me to take a position: was I actually for one of the networks coming out as the liberal network?
Fair question. But I was less for it than I was interested in it. I don’t only speak as an advocate for things, I also like to notice them. For example, in raising the question: Opposition Press? the day after the election you notice how many people think it implausible, outrageous, non-sensical, (redundant)… in fact, “totally without merit.” Whereas hiring the telegenic runner-up from last year’s Apprentice—Donald Trump’s reality show—and giving him his own interview program on CNN, though he has zero experience… that’s a strategy with obvious merit, at least to someone at the network. As I told Shaw:
If Fox continues to surge, how do others compete — CNN, MSNBC or some new cable channel? Will the … 48% of Americans who voted [for John Kerry] in the last election be open to a different kind of news?
Show of hands: Who’s open to a different kind of news? To me that is the question journalists should be asking each other these days. A Blue State News Network, with some Red State programs and hosts—and some Purple shows too—could be great. Or it could be an embarrassment and a disaster. I don’t actually know. (Why, am I supposed to?)
Maybe there is a way to create a more openly liberal news operation that starts to make sense—professionally, financially, politically, culturally, but most of all, generationally—once you take a serious look at it. Fox News Channel was at one time an idea, until someone took a serious look at it. But do I recommend it? Shaw picks up the story:
Interestingly, when I pressed Rosen on this, he didn’t want to come right out and say he was certain it would be a good idea. Asked point-blank, he repeated that he thought it “likely” and “logical” and “practical” and perhaps even inevitable. But good — beneficial to journalism and society at large? His not very convincing response was, “It’s not my job to tell television networks how to do their jobs.”
“It’s not my job, either,” wrote Shaw. “But I’d like to offer my opinion anyway. DON‘T DO IT.”
Shaw puts into one concise statement the propositions that I have called, collectively, The Contraption. (See Not Up to It.) This refers to the standard routines in mainstream journalism and their rationales, to newsroom practices and the principles that bind all this together into a code of behavior. The contraption includes a “code” for talking about press matters, and David Shaw is fluent in it.
Some Americans, he admitted, “do want their news prepackaged and predigested — slanted, biased — so they don’t have to think about it.” In Shaw’s mind, if you don’t want The Contraption as your operating and ethical system, then you must want the alternative, which is Pravda, “slanted, biased” news that suppresses all those inconvenient truths that Shaw—a real journalist—is duty bound to tell.
“So Rosen’s probably right; the liberals among these intellectually lazy folks would probably welcome a genuinely liberal news network.” (Some market he’s left me— the lazy liberals!) “But both the American in me and the journalist in me hope Rosen is dead wrong.” Because the Contraption, according to David Shaw, is dead right; indeed it’s the source of all right in journalism. Its truth keeps marching on. Here is what I wrote on Day One of Bush’s second term.
Are We Headed for an Opposition Press?
I believe Big Journalism cannot respond as it would in previous years: with bland vows to cover the Adminstration fairly and a firm intention to make no changes whatsoever in its basic approach to politics and news. The situation is too unstable, the world is changing too rapidly, and political journalism has been pretending for too long that an old operating system will last forever. It won’t. It can’t. Particularly in the face of an innovative Bush team and its bold thesis about the fading powers of the press.
And to that observation David Shaw said:
Would a left-leaning cable network make things right?
In our increasingly polarized society, the last thing we need is a partisan press. Yes, I know that many conservatives think we already have a partisan press — a liberal press. And yes, I know that far more big-city journalists are liberal than conservative. I’m a liberal. But I’m a columnist, paid to express my opinions. When I was a reporter, I worked hard — and, I think, successfully — to keep my opinions from unfairly influencing what I wrote. When the facts led to a conclusion that was different from my opinion, I printed the facts, not my opinion. As a result, I sometimes wrote stories that gave aid and comfort to the “enemy.” I continue to think, as I’ve written before, that on most stories, most reporters and editors and news directors — people charged with keeping their opinions out of their work — are able to do that as well, to set aside their personal views and cover the news fairly and evenhandedly.
In other words, he answered with The Contraption. I’m sure you recognize it. It includes Shaw’s adamant view that “disclosing bias” would be a disaster for journalists. Plus: “When they complain about bias, they’re really complaining that the news isn’t biased in favor of their particular viewpoint, be it conservative or liberal.” Recognize that?
Bottom line for Shaw: “I’m opposed to Rosen’s suggestion about a liberal television network.” Fair enough. But it was really a provocation. Let me mention a few things I oppose by way of continuing the dialogue. Maybe down the road it will lead to another David Shaw column. I hope so.
I oppose those who, holding to a particular professional religion in journalism, continue to claim that it is the religion— the one way to practice a commitment to truth-in-reportage. It simply isn’t true that truthelling in journalism ends when you leave the neutral zone and abandon the view from nowhere. If that were the case, then Salon.com—which, Scott Rosenberg told me, “self-identifies as opposition press”—would not be capable of truthtelling.
Neither would the Weekly Standard, or TomPaine.com, or the National Catholic Reporter, or Reason magazine. But they are capable of truthtelling, so Shaw is leaving something out. What’s he’s leaving out is the possibility that other religions are spreading the good word about journalism— and maybe even better ones will emerge for the times in which we live.
I oppose, then, the simple-minded and far-fetched claim that The Contraption has only one truly thinkable alternative, which is bias— news-as-propaganda, Pravda-style, for people who don’t think. This is Shaw’s “suggestion” in the sense that he examines no alternatives but those two: believe in objectivity or abandon yourself to bias.
Some day a clever historian is going to explain how fear of being politicized (legitimate) convinced American journalists that the press could have—and should have—no politics at all. (Not legitimate.) It has been one devastating illusion.
Doug McGill is a former reporter for the New York Times, now a Stand Alone Journalist, which is Chris Nolan’s clever name for an independent news blogger. Clever, and also correct. McGill (of The McGill Report) became dissatisfied with The Contraption. But unlike many others who grumbled about it, he took a hard look at his career and asked: where did objectivity begin to go wrong? Those who never bought into the “mystique” of it find themselves with a clearer sense of purpose today, McGill said recently at PressThink.
“But we journalists, we are at sea because our Grand Old Professional Code is falling to pieces.” McGill does not oppose objectivity with a call for bias. He says to the craft: the code we have doesn’t speak to our problems. Thus he’s opposing objectivity to a shifted reality.
David Shaw: please read Doug McGill, The Fading Mystique of an Objective Press, but not because he has the answers. Rather, he was once a believer in your newsroom religion. Then he lost that faith. Now he opposes its simple-mindedness. He’s one of your generation, too; and I think you could profit by his example.
And I commend to you Tim Porter, a former newspaper editor reflecting on newsroom culture: “I practiced journalism, but I knew almost nothing about it— although I thought I did.” Maybe because I’m an educator, I find this a profound remark. Porter went from deflecting everything (The Contraption’s great strength) to reflecting on the most important things in journalism; that’s the human story inside the ideas at his weblog, First Draft. (Porter’s greatest hits.)
The Contraption can help prevent truthtelling, according to this from Liz Cox Barrett at Campaign Desk. (Now called CJR Daily, see below.) It’s about journalists as players who cannot admit that they’re players because The Contraption has no language for discussing it. “Whenever political reporters sit down to write a what-went-wrong piece, or to perform the autopsy of a failed campaign, they suddenly become invisible to themselves.” That’s it exactly. The Contraption has this odd feature: it can make the press invisible to itself. (My CJR essay from February ‘04, Players.)
And for the remainder of my reply, I turn the floor over to Matt Welch, journalist, blogger and struggling truthteller, a neighbor of Shaw’s in L.A., and a close reader of the Los Angeles Times. He’s a little more annoyed with the man. But then he’s a different generation. So take it away, Matt…
Because I Said So Journalism
by Matt Welch
Shaw’s response, typically for him, embodies five classic pathologies of the monopoly-newspaper media critic: Disdain for the audience, exaggerated self-regard, hostility toward competition, distrust of the audience, and a fundamentally conservative outlook toward change.
1) Disdain for the audience. “I think that some Americans, for all their protestations about ‘media bias,’ do want their news prepackaged and predigested—slanted, biased—so they don’t have to think about it.” America the sheeple!
2) Exaggerated self-regard. “When I was a reporter, I worked hard and, I think, successfully to keep my opinions from unfairly influencing what I wrote.” When Shaw was a reporter toiling the news pages, he constantly professed (and demonstrated) his opinionated preference for long-gestated multi-part series over spot coverage; infamously dismissed or ignored the work of the lower journalistic form known as Business Journals; expressed routine hostility toward the new-fangled Internet; and composed lengthy love-letters to himself.
3) Hostility toward competition. A partisan press is a competitive press. Put another way, every city in the country has a “straight” daily newspaper that attempts to pursue Shaw’s ideals. In order to compete, new papers have to differentiate themselves in some way, or get slaughtered. In the history of American newspapering there have been three reliable ways to differentiate from the dominate daily: Go more local, target a different economic niche, or cover a different part of the political spectrum. Alternative weeklies (another form Shaw famously looks down his nose upon) are largely a political creation, and they’ve contributed wonders to American journalism. Fox built itself from nowhere to a legitimate Fourth Network; then used politics to succeed in cable news (which still pales in comparison to network news broadcasts). We have a more diverse and competitive media landscape as a result. It’s striking, but typical, that Shaw and his ilk rebel against political diversity.
4) Distrust of the audience. Shaw writes: “But more important, I think any such accounting would automatically undermine the credibility of many, if not most stories. I’d rather have readers judge stories on their merits, on what the stories say, on the language used to convey the information, on what may be omitted, than on any political caveat that, as I’ve already said, I believe would almost invariably be as irrelevant as it would be distracting.”
Note especially the omniscient scare-phrase “automatically undermine.” This assumes, paternalistically, that the reader, given more information, will make worse choices. And would it indeed be “irrelevant” if we knew that, say, 95% of L.A. Times employees, including most its senior editors, voted for Kerry? We’ve seen from the Pew surveys that journalists describing themselves as “conservatives” have a far different interpretation of the same set of facts as journalists describing themselves as “liberals.” Politics and beliefs, like education and class, certainly affect coverage; a newspaper that was truly confident in its own work would embrace political and other types of disclosure, as an opportunity to demonstrate how they rise above certain biasing factors.
5) A fundamentally conservative outlook toward change. “In our increasingly polarized society, the last thing we need is a partisan press.” Shaw’s reasons? Because more transparency would somehow “undermine” credibility, because disclosure would take up too much space (a straw-man I will address below), and because, well, society is “increasingly polarized.” It barely even sounds like he’s convinced by these weak arguments; the more obvious undercurrent here is “because we haven’t been doing it that way for the last 40 years, darn it!” There are many reasons to champion the never-quite-attainable goal of objectivity and fairness, I think we’d all agree. Yet that approach—and the above-the-fray pathologies it engenders, to say nothing of the dominant passive political beliefs in newsrooms—clearly leaves a majority of potential news consumers unsatisfied. A partisan press can and should be a nice complement and competitor to the non-partisan press.
As to this from Shaw: “How—and where—are you going to disclose the ideology of the editor who conceived the story, the editor who assigned it, the editor who actually edited it, the editor who decided where (and if and when) it would appear in the paper? (And, in the case of television, the cameraman who filmed it.)”
The answer is - on the news organization’s website somewhere, where those interested can check, and those who aren’t don’t have to wade through it. If the Times had enough guts, it would have mini-biographies of every staff member, copy editors and interns and star columnists alike, complete with age, education, political party affiliation (if any), work experience (including extra-curricular stuff, like Shaw’s bio of Wilt Chamberlain), and links to every article written for the paper. If the Times is as professional and non-partisan as Shaw maintains, then this information could be used to demonstrate precisely that. At any rate, it would give the reader much more raw information about the messenger.
I know Shaw’s tendencies because I’ve been reading him closely for years and years. Other customers should be able to do likewise by clicking on a single link at the Times’ website. Newspaper employees have long been one of society’s main advocates for transparency, and rightly so. It’s long since past time that they allow the light to be shined just as brightly on themselves, while coming up with more convincing rejections of reform than “because I said so.”
After Matter: Notes, Reactions and Links
At Altercation, Eric Alterman of The Nation and When Presidents Lie has a lengthy and interesting reply to this post. He disagrees with Shaw:
Objectivity, moreover, is an ideology that, in its most pristine form, has no clear preference for fact over fiction. It is notoriously easy to manipulate by unscrupulous sources who place a higher value on their own personal advancement than on the value of the public knowledge. Because politicians tend to fall into this category, the rules of journalistic objectivity are regularly drafted into service on behalf of the most shameless kinds of demagoguery, lies, and outright thievery.
Andrew Cline at Rhetorica on a couple of sentences in my post: “But I was less for it than I was interested in it. I don’t only speak as an advocate for things, I also like to notice them.”
To notice something is a powerful intellectual and creative act. By noticing—and naming—we bring things into existence from something like non-existence. That’s the romance of it, anyway. Noticing plays an important intellectual and civic role: It gets people talking. Any good teacher is familiar with this role. We listen to students in class and try to notice things in their discourse. Once noticed, we comment. And if we have done a good job of noticing, then the conversation really gets rolling. Noticing is the grit around which crystals are born.
Amen, Andrew. And it’s fascinating how confused some people become when noticing is a writer’s primary “agenda.”
Just released online (Nov. 22): Press critic Michael Massing, who helped establish the holes in WMD reporting at the New York Times and Washington Post, has a new analysis in an upcoming New York Review of Books. Tomgram: Michael Massing on Iraq coverage and the election.
News Flash… Campaign Desk has been re-born as CJR Daily. Smart move. See the announcement from Steve Lovelady. These words are apt: “Many journalists to whom we talk, day in and day out, have the vague sense that calcified old forms and formats are failing them; the trick will be to find new frameworks up to the task at hand.” (And sometimes the trick is turning a vague sense of “calcified forms failing” into a more specific one.)
Earlier Shaw, A Polarized Society Leads to Polarized Journalism. (Oct. 24, 2004)
Linda Seebach, editorial writer for the Rocky Mountain News, e-mails with this observation:
One of the oddest things in Shaw’s comments is this:
“When I was a reporter, I worked hard - and, I think, successfully - to keep my opinions from unfairly influencing what I wrote. When the facts led to a conclusion that was different from my opinion, I printed the facts, not my opinion.”
I don’t know about him, but when I have observed that the facts lead to a conclusion that is different from my opinion, I CHANGE MY OPINION! Isn’t that why facts and opinions are different?
Another by-product of The Contraption is the whole bias discourse. See Matt Welch in Reason, Biased about Bias. How “the hunt for ideology becomes an ideology.”
Related: PressThink, Journalism Is Itself a Religion (Special Essay on Launch of The Revealer.)
Jeff Sharlet, editor of The Revealer: Killing Religion Journalism.
Not the official story, not the perfunctory justifications: The fabric of belief.
That’s what religion writing has to offer every other aspect of journalism: The focus on belief. That’s missing even from most religion writing. The “faith pages” languish while news stories revolving around real, actual belief, causing events in the world, occupy the front page.
An activity, but not a profession?… Glenn Reynolds writes at MSNBC: “Ed Driscoll thinks that the Internet is well on the way to becoming the most important source of news for most Americans. I think he’s right — but I also think that many, many more Americans are going to be involved in the reporting of news. Journalism isn’t a profession, but an activity. And it’s an activity that technology is putting within the reach of many more Americans. That’s bad news if you’re Dan Rather, but it’s good news for the rest of us.”
Blogger Patterico, a frequent critic of liberal bias at the LA Times, responds to this post:
I admit that it is not entirely clear to me what Jay is proposing. Is he saying that the existing networks should become more liberal, to compete with Fox’s conservatism? If so, I question the premise. There already exist several liberal news networks competing with Fox. Their coverage is just as far to the left as Fox’s is to the right. They just don’t admit their leftist bias. But then, neither does Fox admit its conservative bias.
Watching Scott McLellan brief the press at the White House, blogger Dano writes: what if they gave a press briefing and nobody came?
Rosen wrote something in one of his PressThink posts… about, if one wants a more effective political media, the representatives of the media should take a stand in response to how the White House shuts them out. Like refusing to even participate in these little travesties of transparency. I think the example he used was the press corps, en masse, pulling out of Iraq. I thought he was maybe exaggerating for effect, but now I see it a little bit differently. What little the White House is willing to dole out to the press is worse than nothing, and covering such content-free “briefings” as this one lends the administration a thin veneer of transparency.
I like that paradoxical image: a “veneer” of transparency. What I wrote was: “The Bush crowd has completely changed the game on journalists, knowing that journalists are unlikely to respond with action nearly as bold. For example, would the press ever pull out of Iraq as a signal to the Bush White House? Never, and this is why it is seen as weak.”
Advisory to Users: A number of people told me they print out PressThink and read it on paper. I added a special “print” feature. Just click on LINK or on this title in the RECENT ENTRIES column. The “print” button will appear in the upper right, near the headline. Check for it.
Posted by Jay Rosen at November 17, 2004 4:48 PM
My immediate reaction to reading the title, "Are We Headed for an Opposition Press?" was an Albertian, "Yes!" But I also shared some of Shaw's misgivings. You don't need to be a liberal to see the mendacity in the Bush Administration, and by framing the issue in terms of Bush/Fox/Sinclair on the Right, and CNN or MSNBC on the Left, you are setting up a polarized null system, which would wipe out much of the medium in which reliable information breeds. One of the lessons of 2004, whether it is learned or not, is that to succeed, a radicalized Administration need only wage the battle for media coverage to a draw to enable it to move its agenda forward. The Administration, with its penchant for message discipline and stagecraft, is only be too happy to fill a vacuum.
But a left-leaning network would serve to put Fox/Sinclair in sharper relief, and would also provide a handy illustration for the Great Undecideds, of what a liberal press really would mean, as opposed to the caricature promoted by Bush/Fox/Sinclair. What Bush/Fox/Sinclair colored as the liberal media, was really a right-of-center, soft, pliable, over-taxed, market-hectored news-mob, trailing weakly after the Administration's lead. This whipped puppy, rolling over in the submissive position, was recast by the Right as a faux opposition press. Opposition apparently meant not standing up and barking as loudly in agreement as Fox. Almost all of the play was on the right side of the board, which served to present a grossly lopsided picture of reality.
Whenever the Press doesn't parrot, it will be attacked and dismissed as liberal, so it makes sense for at least one network to actually deliver some liberality. A strong liberal outpost could also become a conduit for pre-stories, and a sounding board or sharpening wheel for opposition argument. The Right, with its always-on cast of televised True Believers, endlessly scrimmages and fine tunes its attacks in conservative media outlets. Often, major offensives start as small skirmishes on the fringes. If they are non-starters, the breathless audience won't mind, but if there is an opportunity for an outbreak into a news-cycle-eating "mainstream" story, the early appearance on or in some right-wing media outlet provides a kind of self-citing reference point, and "legitimacy" can begin to be accreted through a citing loop. So a strong liberal media presence would also provide a strong platform for counter-propaganda. This pragmatic political utility may cause some churning of the journalistic stomach acids, but we should by now recognize that part of the successful Fox business model was and is that it it made itself a useful tool of the Ruling Party, and not by mere coincidence or serendipity.
If some Network will claim that liberal ground, the center will open up and allow for a desperately needed general correction. Because the gyroscope is broke. US Grant had a fair amount of success against the over-rated Lee, by repeatedly banging away from Lee's right, for virtually the entire closing campaign of the Civil War. Grant kept swinging south and wheeling right into Lee's flank. This did not make Lee a Liberal.
Mark McPherson and Warren Celli: Excellent posts.
I would just like to raise a very pragmatic issue that underlines why the "liberal" media notion is so out of touch--for much of the twentieth century, anti-communist counter-revolution was the order of the day. Press "objectivity" was surely instituted in significant part because for long periods of time anti-capitalist speech was criminalized. Anti-capitalism was equated with anti-American, etc. The "objective" label, like academic "tenure," was a tiny scrap of protective clothing in the winter of counter-revolution.
Where are we today? On the one hand, the Cold War is over outside of Korea. The Chinese communist party is clearly a totalitarian aristocracy at this point.
On the other hand, Bushite Republicanism revels in casting opposition as treason--hence the propensity for their opponents to see proto-fascist tendencies in them. Hell, Ann Coulter proudly rehabilitates Joe McCarthy as a model for us all. In her case, perhaps proto-fascism is simply accuracy in labeling.
I was born in 1960. In my forty-four years of life in the US, the year 2002 came the closest to recovering McCarthyite lockdown of public opinion, of reframing criticism as treason (at least since COINTELPRO, which was a little before my time). From where I sit, we are seemingly just one domestic terrorist attack away from full-blown lockdown of public discourse.
Liberal paranoia stems from authoritarian intimidation and demagoaguery by the one party state and its media affiliates. It has an identifiable cause.
The Republican state has now taken up legal enforcement of the culture wars with the massive and punitive decency fines recently instituted.
Jay is no doubt right that the view from nowhere makes for bad journalism. I would add that the Trotskyite strategy of neo-conservatism has blown up what little political cover the "objective" tag may once have provided to escape the criminalization of free speech US counterrevolution has so often demanded.
Don't we also need to consider at the same time alternative strategies for protecting free speech in the face of increasing efforts to criminalize opposition as indecent or as incipient "terrorism"?
Financial and political intimidation are at the heart of the matter. How do they figure in this equation?
Jay and others have made the case that there is money to be made from the 48% of American news consumers who rarely see their views ADVOCATED in media coverage, i.e. Kerry voters (they may be passively reflected at times). That would ease the financial side of the equation.
How about the political aspect after another domestic terror attack occurs as it assuredly will? How is the demagoguery of the right effectively challenged and displaced in that circumstance? How might we restrain the proto-fascist tendencies of the one party state so that they remain at the "proto-" stage?
Mark McPherson's "whipped puppy" is a perfect icon for the "liberal" media. Ultimately media in large part frame the conditions that determine whether or not one party state intimidation will be effective. The whipped puppy needs to pull its tail out from between its legs and grow a spine.
The Republican thesis is that the whipped puppy is out of control and has to be put in check. Pardon my amusement at the thought that the political destiny of our nation is imperiled by this quivering, skittish, and mangy mutt's totalitarian control of popular opinion. Somebody, get a muzzle on that beast!
You are technically right that leftist speech was supposed to be legal according to the letter of the law. Sadly, someone forgot to tell the FBI.
A HISTORY TO LEARN FROM
WHAT WAS COINTELPRO?
"COINTELPRO" was the FBI's secret program to undermine the popular upsurge which swept the country during the 1960s. Though the name stands for "Counterintelligence Program," the targets were not enemy spies. The FBI set out to eliminate "radical" political opposition inside the US. When traditional modes of repression (exposure, blatant harassment, and prosecution for political crimes) failed to counter the growing insurgency, and even helped to fuel it, the Bureau took the law into its own hands and secretly used fraud and force to sabotage constitutionally- protected political activity. Its methods ranged far beyond surveillance, and amounted to a domestic version of the covert action for which the CIA has become infamous throughout the world.
HOW DO WE KNOW ABOUT IT?
COINTELPRO was discovered in March, 1971, when secret files were removed from an FBI office and released to news media. Freedom of Information requests, lawsuits, and former agents' public confessions deepened the exposure until a major scandal loomed. To control the damage and re-establish government legitimacy in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, Congress and the courts compelled the FBI to reveal part of what it had done and to promise it would not do it again. Much of what has been learned, and copies of some of the actual documents, can be found in the readings listed at the back of this pamphlet.
HOW DID IT WORK?
The FBI secretly instructed its field offices to propose schemes to "misdirect, discredit, disrupt and otherwise neutralize "specific individuals and groups. Close coordination with local police and prosecutors was encouraged. Final authority rested with top FBI officials in Washington, who demanded assurance that "there is no possibility of embarrassment to the Bureau." More than 2000 individual actions were officially approved. The documents reveal three types of methods:
# 1. Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main function was to discredit and disrupt. Various means to this end are analyzed below.
# 2. Other forms of deception: The FBI and police also waged psychological warfare from the outside--through bogus publications, forged correspondence, anonymous letters and telephone calls, and similar forms of deceit.
# 3. Harassment, intimidation and violence: Eviction, job loss, break-ins, vandalism, grand jury subpoenas, false arrests, frame- ups, and physical violence were threatened, instigated or directly employed, in an effort to frighten activists and disrupt their movements. Government agents either concealed their involvement or fabricated a legal pretext. In the case of the Black and Native American movements, these assaults--including outright political assassinations--were so extensive and vicious that they amounted to terrorism on the part of the government.
WHO WERE THE MAIN TARGETS?
The most intense operations were directed against the Black movement, particularly the Black Panther Party. This resulted from FBI and police racism, the Black community's lack of material resources for fighting back, and the tendency of the media--and whites in general--to ignore or tolerate attacks on Black groups. It also reflected government and corporate fear of the Black movement because of its militance, its broad domestic base and international support, and its historic role in galvanizing the entire Sixties' upsurge. Many other activists who organized against US intervention abroad or for racial, gender or class justice at home also came under covert attack. The targets were in no way limited to those who used physical force or took up arms. Martin Luther King, David Dellinger, Phillip Berrigan and other leading pacifists were high on the list, as were projects directly protected by the Bill of Rights, such as alternative newspapers.
The Black Panthers came under attack at a time when their work featured free food and health care and community control of schools and police, and when they carried guns only for deterrent and symbolic purposes. It was the terrorism of the FBI and police that eventually provoked the Panthers to retaliate with the armed actions that later were cited to justify their repression.
Ultimately the FBI disclosed six official counterintelligence programs: Communist Party-USA (1956-71); "Groups Seeking Independence for Puerto Rico" (1960-71); Socialist Workers Party (1961-71); "White Hate Groups" (1964-71); "Black Nationalist Hate Groups" (1967-71); and "New Left" (1968- 71).The latter operations hit anti-war, student, and feminist groups. The "Black Nationalist" caption actually encompassed Martin Luther King and most of the civil rights and Black Power movements. The "white hate" program functioned mainly as a cover for covert aid to the KKK and similar right-wing vigilantes, who were given funds and information, so long as they confined their attacks to COINTELPRO targets. FBI documents also reveal covert action against Native American, Chicano, Philippine, Arab- American, and other activists, apparently without formal Counterintelligence programs.
Actually, we need a Right biased News org, to show what real bias would look like.
While Fox may be a bit on the right, it's far closer to the Center than CNN, MSNBC, BBC, etc.
Maybe Sinclair will be able to do this -- but their caving in to Leftist censorship pressure on the Stolen Honor documentary shows that they aren't Right, yet. (as documented here on Jay's PressThink)
Funny how Leftists, when they successfully censor something they don't want shown, refuse to accept that they're practicing censorship.
Objectivity is good. But bias posing as objectivity is very bad.
Honest bias is not so bad.
Why aren't there more actual debates on TV? I mean, it seems Crossfire type shows are more about gotcha moments and overshouting, rather than looking at the good and bad consequenses of alternative policies.
Two people can look at the same facts and label it differently, and draw different likely scenarios. Was the second week of Iraq fighting a "quagmire" -- pretty hard to maintain that fiction.
Is the current insurgency a quagmire? Meaning the insurgents will keep fighting, and killing, until America goes home (and lets the insurgents establish a Killing Fields based terror government). I don't think it's a quagmire, yet -- and in fact claim nobody can know until, at the earliest, after the Jan elections, or upon their cancellation.
Any talk of "obvious mess" (ie quagmire by different words) is, therefore, premature.
What seems to be lacking around many facts is the context of meaning for these facts. If you already have some belief about what the facts mean, they are usually analyzed to support that belief. This is the bad bias which the Leftist press is doing now.
If "objectivity" is real, it can be measured. Journalists seem unwilling to discuss concrete measures of objectivity, and then measure themselves.
I don't want the "objective" news I thought I was getting when growing up watching Viet body bags at dinner time. I want a set of "published facts" that both Pro and Anti Administration agree on, and then I want to see both stories of what these facts mean. Optimistic and Pessimistic estimates of the future. But maybe most stories aren't worth the effort?
[Jay remains objectively biased in failing to call for Kerry to sign Form 180]
Show us a fact or a story you've read or a book or a link to something intelligent online, something besides this knee-jerk name calling. Who pays you to spend time online attacking journalists?
You might want to read some of my columns. My name below is a link to my Web site. You see I publish my thoughts where they can be judged. I don't waste my time attacking people of different persuasions in other people's comment sections on blogs.
The Yale historian C. Vann Woodard, who I met and interviewed in 1982, wrote that George Wallace's Alabama was a totalitarian state. I studied totalitarianism under college professors who got their graduate degrees studying under Kissinger and Brzezinski. In fact, I would put my education up against Condi Rice any day. And she's from my home town.
Speaking of Condi, here's an interesting story I just posted for Friday.
Bush Team Uses Orwellian Intel Theory: 'Perception Management'
Where do you get your information? From Fox News?
I think ad homonym attacks should be banned from any intelligent reader comments section. It does not lead to a productive discussion of the issues.
As for Ted Rall, he is a professional who has a right to speak. The Post has a right not to publish him, but dropping his column is a prime example of what I've been talking about since I started posting to Jay's site. Watch to see how the mainstream press continues its march on bended knee to the right in the face of the right-wing criticism and war and the mischaracterized "values votes."
Here's a cartoon page you might like. I contracted for these depictions of the press in response to one of the most important theoretical articles in an academic journal describing the models of the press as watchdog for the public, guard dog for the status quo, or lapdog to the rich and powerful.
I will leave it for readers to judge whether the press in America in the run up to war in Iraq and the coverage of this presidential falls into the later category.
Press Depictions in Editorial Cartoons
Warren Celli, supported by Ben and Carol: Who then will fund this more realistic (liberal) journalism espousing the viewpoints of the have nots?
Please look at this cartoon, B. C. by Johnny Hart.
Warren Celli: Certainly not the haves, as it would undermine their wealth and status; and of course not the have nots, as they simply can not afford it.
The first assumption is that publishers who want a credible publication do this. The second assumption is that the gambit would work. The third assumption is that simple distinctions as have/have not are the distinctions that need to be made. The fourth assumption is that have nots have no coverage. The fifth assumption is that they can't get it.
We attempted the question this assumption into the dustbin of history and, each time questions shot it down, it kept mutating. As the cartoon demonstrates, people are unwilling to face up to "the truth" -- which, going back to my reference earlier to David Denby's Great Books, isn't scientific truth, but a metaphysical truth which is more like a plausible, useful probability. [BTW Ben, I didn't demand ultimate "objectivity", I encouraged continuous improvement.]
To sum up: As a publisher, I don't tell may newsroom from which point of view (POV:"the haves") to write -- the staff would walk and the readers would walk. Commenters metamorphosed to suggest that the publisher didn't HAVE to suggest, but silently intimidate and the staff would fear losing their jobs. Further pursued, commenters intimated the publisher didn't even have to intimidate, because the staff would presume an atmosphere that demanded a lemming-like obedience to write from the POV. Denby, shredded this view using the example of academic job-seekers at a Columbia conference on Nietzsche.
Colin Miner sensibly suggested questions that have more traction: it would be nice to see less discussion of a "partisan" press and more discussion of a press that does its job.
The world is welcome to media with a point of view as a luxury no different from supermarket tabloids and gossip columnists. What the world cannot afford is graduating students who cannot think for themselves and who cannot recognize that luxury for what it is. Fortunately, the kidneystone teachers -- the rudderless, "Me" generation of teachers who taught simply to escape serving in Vietnam -- are retiring, leaving us with a better generation of teachers armed with better metaphors and better reasons for defending themselves against media claptrap.
I didn't say "ultimate objectivity", I said, if you are interested in the "pursuit of objectivity," you'll do better looking elsewhere.
That was not Nietzsche's pursuit.
Leo Strauss and his students and their students (including Wolfowitz) learned important lessons from Nietzsche along this line. The pursuit of objectivity was not one of those lessons.
Such as the idea that institutionalizing and funding a point of view can ultimately be every bit as important as whether it is correct or not. Without the funding, the latter is ultimately irrelevant because no one will know about it. Without the institutionalizing, it will never be put into practice. The pretense of objectivity no doubt matters. As a marketing tool, more often than not.
You clearly have deep, unbiased insight into the culture wars with cracks like "the rudderless 'Me' generation who taught simply to avoid serving in Vietnam." You stand with the Straussian Alan Bloom that the 60s are the root of all present day evil in education and hence society and imagine you are impartial! LOL LMAO
"Thanks for the memories," as Bob Hope would say.
I would say the "Me" generation was more accurately represented by Wall Street Brokers led by chicken hawk leaders who act AS IF they served in Vietnam because they are such cheerleaders for Vietnam and revisionism about what happened there, but whose privileged family wealth kept them in school for five deferments or until children were magically conceived days after other deferments expired (read Dick Cheney) and who waited until Vietnam was safely avoided before starting their careers as chicken hawk class warriors.
With attitudes like yours, do you really think your journalists need any more explicit guidance about where you "objectively" stand on the culture war or party loyalty? To put it kindly, you are absolutely dreaming if you think your employees don't know whose side you're on. All the evidence I've seen so far suggests the problem is YOUR education. And taking a pseudo-intellectual stand-up comic like Alan Bloom seriously.
To connect more directly with Jay's argument for taking a stand AND telling the truth, it isn't your claim that it is a pursuit of objectivity to promote Alan Bloom's version of the culture wars that makes you wrong. It is the fact that you and Alan Bloom are WRONG, that makes you wrong.
It's like two great machines racing across the horizon. I think the Bush machine, with its support from the powers of the executive, is a machine that's hard to beat. Having said that, I think the Kerry machine is certainly the most forceful, energetic and well-running machine the Democrats have ever created. (emphasis mine)
Interesting to read that again after Newsweek's post-election article: "Viewed close in, the Kerry campaign was even more unwieldy and clumsy than it appeared in plain view."
The "faith-based" versus "reality-based" is a false narrative. It seems to be a meme that sells well, so I expect it will become CW and internalized. Too bad.
Here's where Suskind could have, and should have, developed as his thesis: "Every president, [Roger Porter] says, wants his administration to stay on message. The difference here is that other presidents have allowed top officials, experts, men who run parts of the government to be involved in writing the song sheet. This president decided very early on that this was not going to happen. [But if] the president does not hear a wide array of alternatives, that can create significant dangers and bad outcomes."
This is where Suskind needed more facts. More facts about the debates and disagreements that took place. Supposedly, Bush encourages such adversarial discussions and then expects loyalty once a decision is made. It is not a course based on pre-conceived, or pre-ordained, decisions. If anything, the Bush administration is accused of not flitting fast enough from one discernible reality to the next in accordance with the 24/7 news cycle. Rather than following in the wake of reality, the Bush administration stubbornly works to thrash reality in an effort to persevere in creating a different one - based on what Suskind pessimistically, and dismissively, calls faith and Glynn calls, oddly, tenacity.
It will be interesting to see who the Democrats nominate base on thier "belief", their "faith" in that candidate's "electability" or other some such "reality-based" characteristic.
Misues of rhetoric by Suskind, sbw?
I think you don't want to grapple with the consequences of what he says, so you have persuaded yourself that his article can be dismissed. I haven't found any of the reasons you have given in other threads convincing at all, but maybe you have other reasons that do make more sense.
If I were in the White House, it's the one article from campaign 2004 I would be worried about, because if it's accurate, its truths will only enlarge themselves as time moves on.
In it, Suskind is primarily making a factual case, not a rhetorical manuever. He's saying: this is what people who supported the war have been telling me: the force exerted on policy by the reality principle has changed under Bush.
And though very few Republicans or Bush supporters seem to realize it, (including all who comment here) it's a case that other W.H. supporters, particularly in the military, are trying to bring to the attention of friends of Bush, by becoming sources for Suskind's article. This is Bush team to Bush team communication that takes place "through" the New York Times.
But the effects of that article have been limited because the sources were not on the record. What has to worry the W.H. people is whether that will change.
Just so you know where I am coming from, I believe that the famous paragraph about "you journalists in the the reality-based community," which lends itself effortlessly to parody and slack-jawed disbelief, is essentially on target. The Bush adviser who was speaking off-the-record was reflecting a view prevalent in the White House and consistent with other moves that White House has made.
But I also recognize that the situation is complicated because the Bush crowd is full of idealists, people with a vision of a changed world, who are political innovators. They want to shift the horizon. Naturally, they are not going to accept certain "realities" as givens, as "hard" facts because they want to change those facts; and they recognize, properly, that every entrenched interest in history thought it's way was the only way that's in accord with "reality." This is what I learned from Tim. Thanks for the insight.
And I further believe--not that I can prove it, that's the beauty of the whole thing--that it's just this complication that rationalizes and coats over the disturbing changes Suskind tried to document. It was a great try-- the one heroic act by the press in 2004. He did the best he could. Ultimately, however, I believe his article will fail, and reality-based advice will continue to be downgraded under Bush. The people who give it will be seen as threats, unless their counsel is harmless to the project, in which case they are pets.
But I am willing to submit my guesswork (that's all it is, really) to a test. If I am right about the Suskind article, then at some point in the next two years open warfare will break out, in the military and elsewhere, between those who, sharing the mission's goals, essentially stand as the reality-based community within the Bush coalition itself, the "journalists," if you will, within the war effort, within the Republican party, locked in conflict with others in the coalition, sharing the same goals, who find it far easier to bend and adjust their sense of the real to meet the mission as it curves upward from "idea" to new reality.
The pole of conflict, then, will not be between liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat or hawk and dove... but between "hard" views of reality--what the facts on the ground say-- and "soft" views, where there are more options available to policy makers than recognizing the real.
Needless to say, the same imperatives that make it necessary to discredit and attack the liberal media will be visited on the reality-based Republicans, if they dare to emerge. To me the wild card is the military, and the thinking soldiers and soldiering intellectuals connected to it. This conflict is heading straight at them like a train.
Of course if I am wrong--and you obviously think I am, Stephen--then there's nothing to worry about. So tell me again, sbw, what is the fatal flaw in Suskind's article that makes you so certain that it's wrong and we can forget about it? Because to be perfectly real about it, I am astonished that you can be so sure it's bunk.
Ben: I think it's the Right that has had to teach the Left that idealists can be very dangerous.
John Moore: Apparently you quarrel with Suskind's article. If you're right, and it's all bunk--a conclusion you arrived at deductively, I believe--there's nothing to worry about. We have here just a crazy confabulation by a professor, although I have to say I am touched by your concern for NYU students, who might have to endure my beating them over the head with crackpot theories (nay, liberal crackpot theories) that are really no better than fairy tells for explaining the world.
But I don't think you get it, yet. Bush and his believers won. Your side got its W. It's not about the press, or the Democratic party, or liberal intellectuals or anyone on the "other side" anymore. All that opposition is impotent, confused and irrelevant to the execution of the Bush agenda, at least for the next two years. There may be opposition coming, but it will not be from those sorry and defeated forces.
Sure, you gotta keep hammering "the liberals" because the Culture War plays well on the radio and keeps the direct mail funds coming, but no one--including you--sees liberals as a serious impediment to Bush.
(I just turned down an invitation to go on Paula Zahn with David Horowitz: the topic, "liberal bias" on university faculties. Like I said, the Culture War must go on. Looks like my institution is next.)
There are three sources of meaningful political opposition: 1.) agonies and conflicts within Bush himself, but he's no Hamlet so I wouldn't count on that; 2.) dissaffected forces in the Republican Party and pro-war coalition ; or 3.) reality bites back.
Suskind's article is about the possibility of eliminating that third opponent, and going faith-based. I think it's basically working, and that is why I focus on 2.) those within the Bush coaltion who may object.
I'm sorry you turned down the invitation. It would have been interesting.
There has been dissent within conservatives over Bush's actions. Some paleo-cons were against Iraq. No doubt they will continue to grumle.
I do expect liberal opposition to be significant. When Supreme Court nominees are named, I fully expect ranting and viciousness along the lines we saw with Bork and Thomas, and that can be effective. While conservatives more or less control the government, the left controls almost all other opinion forming parts of society, from public schools through the humanities departments of universities (the later is the heart of Horowitz's crusade).
The liberals have the biggest megaphone: the MSM.
As far as the "pro war" coalition, it is conditional. Iraq was thought to be a danger, and according to Daniel Kay, was in fact a danger, although in a different form from what was expected. Afghanistan was a no brainer - did anyone oppose that one?
The Bush view is not a pro-war view. It is a view that the most critical threat to us is terrorists with WMDs, especially a nuclear explosive WND.
That view comes from logical extrapolation of existing actions by terrorists (and their statements). The old model of terrorism was that they had political goals best met by a high publicity, low casualty event. Al Qaeda showed that to not be true when they tried to kill everyone in the WTC towers in 1993, a warning that was ignored until 9-11.
This forces a strategic shift from the pleasant time of the '90s where there were no huge foreign policy challenges, and we could even use our troops for Kosovo, not a critical US interest.
Because it is not practical to put an impermeable nuclear weapons screen around the US, the only hope of stopping this kind of terrorist attack is by pre-emption - of the terrorists, and of potential suppliers of the technology. War may not be required to achieve pre-emption, but it may be required. Obviously the neocon idea is democratization. Hopefully it will work.
As far as I know, that is where the thoughts of war come from in the Bush administration. Would we like to liberate Iran? Sure. Are we able to do so without a gigantic mess? Who knows... it would appear to be quite tricky.
As for Iraq, I am pretty confident that it will settle down and we won't have to stay there forever.
You mention Culture War. That is a real concern of mine and other folks. The Pentagon decision on the Boy Scouts was a loss in that, one that is not going down well. While you imply that Culture War is a fund raising trick, it's very real, and the number of people concerned about it is very large. It is a complex struggle, but it has been going on a long time and will even longer.
I would like to see more agreement on foreign policy. It seems like the Vietnam War has left us forever split. I still have trouble understanding why the leftists would have preferred that we left a vicious, fascist regime, which would have been proliferating WMDs, in Iraq.
There are terrible threats that still face us. Most people don't realize that our and Russian nuclear forces are on the same state of alert that they maintained at the peak of the cold war, and that in the '90s, Yeltsin had the football with only 3 minutes to decide whether to launch a nuclear war.
There are a number of countries proliferating nuclear weapons technology - especially China which has give out complete blueprints (literally) of nuclear devices. One of our victories since 9-11 was to break up the A Q Khan network, which was the conduit for this information. But the fact that China is proliferating should tell us that they are dangerous, and we cannot attack them because they already have nuclear deterrence.
Then there's the impact of Muslim immigration on Europe, and how it may drive them away from us.
This is the stuff I look at. The great big dangers, and the possible ways of ending those. The Bush administration is also looking at this, and trying to figure out how to deal with.
I guess I'm left of the liberal left since I wasn't impressed with the humanitarian aspects of "nation-building" under Clinton (or Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter).
My critique of US "idealism" would probably start with the Indian Wars. We have foreign colonization as liberation already with the Philippine-American War.
And similarly, much opposition to "idealistic" colonization seems to come from racist sources. The Democrats said we should forget about the Philippines because they could never become a full-fledged state of the union with similar political institutions. But Teddy Roosevelt and the Republicans were "idealists" so we had to fight a fourteen year guerilla war against the Filipinos for their "liberation." US forces called that an "insurgency" also. I highly recommend Mark Twain's "A Defence of General Funston" and "To a Person Sitting in Darkness" for a little clarity on this sort of Republican idealism.
Much of the pessmism on Iraq coming from realists in the Pentagon you just referenced is reportedly grounded in Samuel Huntington's racist theories of insuperable religious and civilizational difference between the West and Islam which figures importantly at the war colleges. It's depressing how little things change in 105 years.
Wars generally aren't in good taste. That is one of their foremost drawbacks. The fact is, the rest of the world can't handle it either. That's why 80-90% of the population of every other country on earth opposes our brutal, unilateral Iraq policy (a little lower in Britain, 59%). Surely this is yet another opening for a US media institution that wished to take a position and tell the truth at the same time. How long until that might happen, I wonder?
Britain doesn't have the same blackout we do, but I have the impression they don't see many pictures either.
Support for Iraq war falling in Britain
LONDON: Opposition to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Iraq policy has risen among British voters, with almost half — 48 percent — now believing that the war was unjustified, according to a poll published on Tuesday. Support for the conflict among Britons fell from 53 percent in January to 41 percent, said the ICM survey for the left-wing Guardian newspaper. After the bloodiest month of fighting in Iraq since last year’s invasion by the US-led coalition, more than two-thirds of Britons had little or no confidence in the United States’ handling of the deteriorating security situation. —AFP
For those who may want to review it: Here is Ron Suskind's article, Without a Doubt.
You still don't get it, John. Bush can handle opposition of the "we disagree with your policy" kind. That some isolationists may object to the mission in Iraq is meaningless; and not what I meant.
By opposition I meant opposition from within the coalition not to Bush policy but to Bush reality. Try to wrap your mind around that, John. So "opposition" in the sense I mean is when the White House says we have trained and certified as good to go 250,000 Iraqi policemen and soldiers... but an officer responsible for the training itself speaks up and says: it's 20,000 at most. (I made this example up.)
Where is reality, then? What is duty to country, then?
Again, maybe I am completely wrong, but I see many moments like that ahead for the people who support Bush, and who support the mission in Iraq. I am extremely surprised that, being ex-military, John, you aren't more concerned, or just curious about what will happen when these tensions burst open-- among "friends," as it were.
In any event, you don't get it yet because you're used to the easy game of discrediting the liberal this, and discrediting the liberal that... Wake up, John. It's your own people that are going to be next in that derby. Meanwhile, Horowitz and some incautious professor are going to be arguing on TV so we can have our culture war.
My advice: keep your eye on cracks in the coalition over this strange issue of reality recognition. I wonder what the faculty at a place like the Army War College thinks about the Suskind article. And I may try to find out. Stay tuned.
"An issue here: once a blogger/standalone journalist becomes co-opted by a printed publication, the blog tends to lose the "edge" and political acuity it once had. Why is that?"
Carol: an interesting question and one that is central to the discussion about whether or not funding affects one's viewpoints. Short answer; it is similar to a big company buying a smaller company to control/eliminate competition (differing viewpoint in the case of a blog). Dynamic: Once you sell out and 'buy the big house' you have to keep making those mortage payments to support the new lifestyle and prestige that goes along with it -- makes the seller a little more pliable and less on the "edge". A rung up on the big American ladder of crumbs is often followed by a proportional viewpoint change:-)
Look for a lot more of this in the near future -- see this Wired article;
Jay, like you I thought the military might be a wild card in the illusion vs. reality debates, but no longer see it happening. The illusion has gone on too long and we are now faced with a tremendous 'legacy of ignorance' problem. The name of the game is -- and has been -- divide and conquer. The just past election was what I call Duopoly Theatre and no different than wrestling. I marvel at how the fans were so docile and accepting of the Kerry rollover.
One has to actually go to a WWF wrestling match -- sit in the cheap seats and observe carefully the sincerity of the belief of the older women patrons -- to actually grasp the depth of the head f----d condition of the American psyche today. Then think; NASCAR, baby Jesus, football, Hannity, Limbaugh, Savage, etc. -- sheesh -- frightening! Summary: We are no longer capable of mounting a Vietnam era type "reality" protest in the streets (those that were/are intellectually and emotionally capable are still struggling from lowered IQs' from Miami, Seattle, etc.).
Nor will rational discourse with the disaffected Bush conservatives be able to stem the tide of this faith based illusion (your number 2 above), they have long ago missed their window of opportunity. Bush is right now consolidating his neocon, empire bent, group of gangsters, and the media just keeps on nodding and drooling.
The '"reality" -- and you are correct, the reality does not match the illusions they have created -- for America this time I am afraid will come from without. Notice the 'coalitions' being made in OPPOSITION to US policy, especially the unheard lovefest of Russia, China and India.
Yes its scary, I hope I am wrong.
Interesting thread, thanks!
Those of us Vietnam veterans trying to get out anti-Kerry messages ran front-on into the ABB media iron curtain. It is an objective fact that the MSM mishandled the first Swifty press conference, when you consider that the Swifties, whom nobody had hear of, went on to be a major factor. It is a fact that the MSM characterized the SBB as part of a Republican political machine.
Here is a challenge: explain why the following is not indicative of strong ABB bias in the MSM:
1) 1992 - War hero George HW Bush ran against drraft dodger Clinton.Very little press coverage of Clinton's dodging and less of Bush's war exploits.
2) 1996 - War hero Dole runs against same draft dodger. Litte interest.
3) 2000 - Vietnam Vet Gore vs. National Guard Bush. Some flapping about the TANG service.
4) 2004 - Vietnam Vet Kerry vs TANG pilot Bush. A howling mob of reporters goes after every detail of Bush's service, in the process allowing false negative stories about Bush to spread. And yet
no investigation of Kerry's past except Michael Kranish, the same "reality based' Globe reporter who published, and didn't correct the falsehood that Kerry got an Honorable Dischargge in 1970. Charges by 60 co-combatants of Kerry that he fraudulently obtained medals were ignored until it was no longer possible, and then they were pronounced false by changing standards favorable to Kerry. No demand that Kerry sign the form 180 that would have released the paperwork, and no reporting that he had refused to do so when other veterans ask.
That is one example of extreme MSM ABB bias.
It isn't imagination or the ravings of the far right. I won't give the the more eggregious examples, because Jay has seen them already.
Your use of Heil Hitler is gratuitous and insulting. Surely by now you know that appealing to Nazi themes is a long standing internet characteristic of losing arguments.
I came here to try to understand how this profession thought (or at least theorized) and how it could have a consistent liberal bias. I have learned a lot.
If I am far right, then so is half of the country, which makes your concept of far right decalibrated. I have been a conservative a long time. I remember when Limbaugh first appeared, and what a breath of fresh air he was. Before that, I was watching the MSM get the stories wrong on almost all of Reagan's foreign policies.
Jay, perhaps I don't get it - seriously . All this talk of reality is a bit weird, since I don't know of anyone but abstract theorists who are not dealing with reality as their inputs provide it.
I expect various little grumbles in the coalition. Hardly a surprise. But what is new here? What administration has not had those? What is different about the Bush administration other than its laudable shortage of leaks?
So far, the administration seems to be more connected to reality than the MSM, although it will be interesting now that the MSM doesn't have an election to try and force.
You ask: what is duty to country. That one is easy if unsatiisfying: it is following lawful orders of your superiors. That's how our civilian controlled military works.
Now if some whistelblowing needs to be done, so be it. Big systems like this grow large and small tumors - one of the things that keeps journalists in business.
A question I have is whether it is necessary for the MSM to be so hostile to the Bush Administration and its policies. Is it organizational genetics? Is it the MSM's natural bias against conservativves? It seem to go beyond any normal watchdog function.
I hope the case of the Marine who shot an unarmed combatant in Fallujah doesn't become a giant media show.
Jay, what is the reality, today, of Iraq elections in Jan. 2005?
There IS no reality, no "facts". But some event is very likely to occur in Jan., in Iraq -- and what actually occurs THEN, is partially based on what people BELIEVE, today, will occur THEN.
How well an election the Sunnis actually do have is partly based on the "reality" of today, 250 k or 20 k of good Iraqi forces. (An excellent example, I think, of what you mean.)
I think the "reality based" liberal folk are in big trouble. The facts of 5.4 or 5.5 unemployment are pretty good, as compared to other G-8 countries.
The fact of the Afghan election is very good.
The fact of Afghan poppy production increases shows how "productive" peace" can be, including the negative issues of an increase in drug production.
The fact that the Red Cross says that "both sides" are being terrible in Falluja, and therefore implies they are morally equivalent, is a bad fact. If democracy is to succeed, we need to have some standards, and the Leftist critique of Bush has unfair standards.
The Red Cross is supporting terrorists, in fact, despite claiming to want to "bring them to justice". Because justice enforcement is not free, is done by fallible humans, and any human system WILL have mistakes, like Abu Ghraib, or innocent Iraqis killed. Unreal Perfection is not an option; not really.
But a Bush pushed democratization of the Mid East could be successful, could become a reality. I hope so.
Is your purpose to help Bush's good goals? To warn him so as to reduce costs? Or to oppose him, and to support his enemies so that the costs are higher -- so high, in future fact, that he fails?
(His failure thus proving his critics right, and condemning the ME people to more dictatorship and oppression.) I'm really, really, annoyed at the lack of constructive criticism, at a "loyal opposition", by the Left.
Now we're getting somewhere:
But some event is very likely to occur in Jan., in Iraq -- and what actually occurs THEN, is partially based on what people BELIEVE, today, will occur THEN.
I agree with you completely, Tom. And I think this is one step along the road to where the Bush crowd has gone with its more flexible sense of the real. After all, it does suggest that believers in bringing off a successful election should attend to what people today believe about the chances for success. If enough believe it, it will happen... right?
If you simply say...250,000 Iraqi's are trained and ready to defend their country so that it can vote, one reason for the President saying it (when there are only 20,000 at best) would be precisely to create the belief that would later create the fact, and this is what Suskind means by a "faith-based presidency."
If that's the strategy, it is easy to rationalize not telling the President it's closer to 20,000. It's easier to find someone who can stretch and twist and pound and coax the definition of "ready" far enough to kinda, sorta get somewhere near the 250,000 number, making a case that can't withstand 60 seconds of research by a competent reporter or Congressional staff person, but easily sustains the White House in an argument on television or at a press briefing.
And what happens to skeptics, people on the team, in the military, who want the mission to succeed, who know the real numbers? I find it impossible to believe there aren't people in the military or its civilian circles who are extremely worried about this, for all the reasons that are in Suskind's article.
I'm telling you, for Bush supporters, it's no longer about the liberals anymore. After laughing all the way through Suskind's piece, you may discover there's a reality-based community inside the Bush coalition, and that it's being ignored and marginalized, or when necessary discredited. You may discover you're part of it.
Hang on to that Suskind url.
Check out "On Iraqifying the Quagmire," a superb new piece by Tom Engelhardt that goes straight to the reality-based disconnect between official rhetoric and the Iraq War:
He argues that the US press has utterly failed to think through what it means that the US has engaged in aerial bombing of Iraqi cities for over a year and continues to cover it on an ad hoc basis. He points out that Iraq is producing an urban version of 60s counterinsurgency tactics with similarly catastrophic results. In Falluja they've literally created a swamp in the course of "draining the swamp."
Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post quotes a "Special Forces veteran, who speaks Arabic" as summing up the situation this way: "Across Baghdad, Latifiyah, Mahmudiyah, Salman Pak, Baqubah, Balad, Taji, Baiji, Ramadi and just about everywhere else you can name, the people absolutely hate us. . . . The Iraqi people have not bought into what the Americans are selling, and no amount of military activity is going to change this fact."
Simon Jenkins writes this:
"No statement about Iraq is more absurd than that 'we must stay to finish the job.' What job? A dozen more Fallujahs? The thesis that leaving Iraq would plunge it into anarchy and warlordism defies the facts on the ground. Iraq south of Kurdistan is in a state of anarchy already, a land of suicide bombings, kidnapping, hijackings and gangland mayhem. There is no law or order, no public administration or police or proper banking. Its streets are Wild West. The occupying force is entombed in bases it can barely defend or supply. Occasional patrols are target practice for terrorists. Iraq is a desert in which the Americans and British rule nothing but their forts, like the French Foreign Legion in the Sahara."
But perhaps the simplest way to sum up where matters may rest in Iraq today I ran across in the final lines of a recent long New York Times piece by Edward Wong and James Glanz (Rebels Attack in Central Iraq and the North): "[T]he violence [in Mosul] had calmed since then, and children could be seen playing in some parks. At one playground, Amin Muhammad, 10, and his friends raced around with plastic guns. 'We divide ourselves into two teams,' he said, 'the mujahedeen versus the American forces.' And in their battles, he said, the mujahedeen always win."
John: The statement you offer is part of it, but only one part. There's no question, I think, that Bush is not often told the truth by his own people when the facts as known conflict with his beliefs or prior statements. There is no one in the cabinet who can or will say, "Mr. President, that's just not correct."
Plus: "No mistakes-- ever" is Administration policy, known in advance, not just for Bush but for everyone. That in itself is a giant reality distortion field.
But in the sense I'm talking about, reality is in far deeper trouble than subordinates not wanting to give the boss bad news, which happens everywhere.
You have to put yourself in the position of the person who has first-hand factual knowledge at odds with the Bush Administration's position or project. But you're supposed to be on the same team, reckoning with the same conditions. That is why I gave you a simple example. It's a hypothetical. I want to stress that. It exists only to get you thinking...
The White House says there are 250,000 Iraqi police and soldiers trained, tested and ready to make sure this country can survive a vote. You are there, in Iraq, working for the United States. You are training Iraqis as fast as you can and you know the number is 20,000 at most.
Therefore you think there must be a problem. And this is where our trip into the possible begins.
Someone doesn't have the correct information, you think. Now the people who agree with that ".., well, the President can say whatever he wants, but if the vote were held today he's off by 230,000 trained Iraqis..." these people have something in common, and this is why they are properly called a "community."
Thus: the reality-based community. It has nothing to do with journalism or liberalism. It's anyone who thinks Bush is off by 230,000 trained Iraqis and that's gonna cause problems.
In a different way of thinking, Bush is not wrong to say 250,000 when the "real" number is only 20,000. Look, if Iraqis have confidence in their state, we will have the 250 K and more, and they'll have confidence if we project confidence. Bush thinks there's at least 250,000 who will join us, and when he says "ready" he means that.
But we who interpret him, and dare to describe the President, have to understand one thing about this Bush, and this White House team. They make new facts while you're still talking about the old ones they ignored.
The CIA: one scene of battle between those with a reality base and those with a Bush base. Foreign Service is another. Press officers in the military: they may have some of best views of the battle. But it's also happening between the Bush Administration and science. Anywhere the reality-based community is likely to make a stand there are attacks and fireworks and pressure.
Making any sense yet? Just keep that guy in the field in mind. He knows the number is 20,000. For he represents where we're headed with this, our trip into the new and possible politics of George Bush.
Ron Suskind's article, Without a Doubt.
You know, I hardly know where to begin with your dimissive comments on Red State journalism.
(and for the record, I speak for myself, not my employer).
I'm the Managing Editor of the web site in question. We don't understand the web? I work for a company that runs 70+ web sites across the country, and my last job was doing financial news in S.F. I'd like to think I have accumulated a fair amount of journalistic expertise in the past 15 years or so that I've been a working journalist.
As for the layout, it's the same one you'll find on all 14 NBC O&O websites. While I'll agree it's not the best I've ever seen, the fact that we're in Birmingham has nothing to do with the web site. Ours looks just about the same as WNBC, WMAQ, etc.
As for the stories highlighted, I'm not sure how they qualify as some example of 'red-state' journalism. Yes, they're not "hard news." But I can show you ten other examples this week of local stories that were. Our station has two full-time investigative reporters, which is more than I can say for a lot of "blue state" TV stations.
They're sweeps pieces, and I'm sure you find similiar examples on your local station. You want to criticize that trend, fair enough. But commenting that it's "red state journalism" just shows a lack of understanding about why a particular story might air on a particular newscast.
From what I can tell, any discussion of religion is automatically "red state journalism," although that isn't stopping a number of other NBC stations from doing localized versions of this series (and yes, most of them are in "blue" state markets). I've read you other comments above, and I get it. You seem to distrust any discussion of religion and seem to think that everyone around you in the South is just one small step from being an intolerant, inbred hillbilly.
I'm as liberal as anyone here, and yes, living in Birmingham can sometimes be jarring. But it doesn't fill me with anger or hatred. Actually, I find it liberating to be somewhere I can have an impact.
Thanks for the explanation. I think I know where you are coming from.
Oddly, conservative mags (I read almost all) have not mentioned this issue, yet some of them could be expected to.
But, hey, that's the fog of Washington.
As it turns out, I had read the Suskind article a while back - but didn't know that was the one mentioned here.
As a matter of irrelevant perception, if one pages through the article, it appears to have a picture on each page of Bush using a urinal. I thought that was really an odd picture to choose.
Here's another unrelated topic: there are some very big issues (in terms of consequences) that I never hear about. Is this because it is not new?
The first (which actually has been mentioned lately) is the idea that the single greatest security threat to the US is a terrorist delivered nuclear weaapon. The entire war on terror has to be seen as primarily concerned with this (and secondarily, a contagious biological weapon).
The second, never heard, is that the US and Russia still have their strategic nuclear forces at hair trigger alert. In that sense, we really are no less at risk of global thermonuclear war than we were in, say, the Reagan years. Personally, I find this to be a serious long term danger, and an unnecessary posture. Is this the sort of thing that news just isn't interested in? Because it isn't new?
Anyway, just off the cuff thoughts.
In a different way of thinking, Bush is not wrong to say 250,000 when the "real" number is only 20,000. Look, if Iraqis have confidence in their state, we will have the 250 K and more, and they'll have confidence if we project confidence. Bush thinks there's at least 250,000 who will join us, and when he says "ready" he means that.
If "reality" is going to bite Bush, it means the election in Iraq fails. Or, it could have meant that the assault on Falluja fails (reality - "not enough troops") -- but it has already been a fairly huge success. (More American folks died on the highways in NYC than in Falluja over the same time period, no?)
What I find REEALLY interesting, Jay, is the idea that Bush will "in reality" fail in the future -- but in every objective test has succeeded. Toppled Saddam. Created an Iraqi legal framework for a temporary Iraqi Gov't, turned over control to Alawi's gov't, that was recognized as sovereign by the UN in June (before schedule, to surprize the killers). Ran successful Afghan elections.
Perhaps this is how "messiahs" create disciples -- by having actual results that defy the "reality based" predictions?
I don't believe Bush is any messiah -- but I DO see him leading Western Civilization back to Christian virtues, helping America to be good, and then great, too.
It's quite likely there are some 250 000 Iraqis, with names in a database, that are purportedly pro-Iraqi gov't. DB lists are fairly objective. It's also quite possible that only 20 000 are fully trained, but that judgment is highly subjective -- and likely to be biased based on one's perceptions of Bush.
How much training does it take to stand with a gun near a polling place while nobody else is supposed to have guns? Maybe the vast majority of the 250 000 have sufficient training.
How much training does it take to assault Falluja? Prolly less than 20 000 Iraqis have THAT level of training and equipment.
I believe Bush will be shown correct, again -- and Iraq will have enough IP. And please remember -- only Iraqis can win in Iraq, the US cannot win. The US job is to help the pro-democracy Iraqis win.
Similary, the purpose of being "reality based" is to accurately predict the future. The anti-Bush macro predictions have been pretty wrong, pretty consistently.
I'll know I'm wrong if Iraq elections fail. How will you know if you're wrong? (Jay?) A theory without falsifiability is NOT really "reality based".
The Znet link seems nearly worthless -- the opinions of Bush haters who want the US forces to leave immediately.
Instead of a ceasefire, they attack Fallujah. Are they sure that the aftermath will not be bloodier than Fallujah? The martial law is one of the nails in the coffin of this regime. The last pretext for democracy here is now buried. Their declaration of martial law is a declaration of political bankruptcy.
Znet folk wanted the pro-democracy forces to leave Falluja alone, let them keep making bombs and having their own, local "martial law".
*I* am fairly sure that the aftermath of Falluja will be less violence, but primarily after the elections. The Sunnis are losing power, and will lose it democratically, and it's understandable that they are upset. Too many Sunnis seem, not unlike the US Left, culturally unwilling to offer constructive criticism.
Jay, there's a sad issue you don't quite note. Assume two groups of 100 patients each, with similar difficult operations coming, with about a 50/50 chance of living. One group is told that they'll prolly survive, but it will be tough, and there is a real chance they'll die -- but that the doctors believe they'll die.
The second group is told that it's really a coin toss, they should be prepared to die and have their affairs in order.
After the operations, 60 live of the "prolly survive" group, but only 45 live from the "coin toss" group. The Power of Positive Thinking is a fairly objectively known fact--NOT stopping all deaths, but giving better results than non-positive thinking.
I think there are many situations like this. What is "reality based" information? When current beliefs shape the future outcome, in "reality", what should the current beliefs be like? In my example, if I or my wife are in such a situation, I want to be told the belief that is most likely to lead to better outcome.
This borders on, or crosses over into, justification for propaganda. But the alternative is to accept reality-doubts, and accept more deaths.
I find an interaction with my increasingly strong pro-Christian beliefs, because I think such beliefs most support a better future.
I note that few "reality folk" accept that their style of analysis, when applied after 1968 to the US in Vietnam, led to a US withdrawal, and a SE Asian genocide.
The World "liberal" press, since Tet in 1968, has pretty much supported genocide -- because fighting evil can not be done without killing innocents, which violates the Unreal Perfection standard.
Sudan, for instance, is unlikely to avoid continued genocide, as long as the anti-Bush "realists" have such media dominance.
"What I find REEALLY interesting, Jay, is the idea that Bush will "in reality" fail in the future -- but in every objective test has succeeded. Toppled Saddam. Created an Iraqi legal framework for a temporary Iraqi Gov't, turned over control to Alawi's gov't, that was recognized as sovereign by the UN in June (before schedule, to surprize the killers). Ran successful Afghan elections."
You haven't cited a single objective success here. In reality, every situation you refer to is a disaster. Bush managed to install an occupation government and a puppet regime that the citizens of Iraq almost universally consider to have brought an even worse quality of life. How bad do you have to screw up to look worse than one of the 20th C.'s most hated tyrants?
They wrote a legal framework for a government transition controlled by Americans. They continue to militarily occupy the country and Allawi makes speeches written for him by US Republicans. "Turned over control" my ass. Allawi has control in Iraq like Emperor Pu Yi had control in Manchukuo. LOL
Recognized as sovereign by the UN! Aren't you supposed to be disgusted with the UN's lack of moral principle? This is Exhibit A. That was throwing a bone to a belligerent US, not a recognition of anything in Iraq. Their recognition of the US puppet government means they're sovereign? Allawi was selected by the US because he would never tell the US to get out. That's how sovereign Iraq is. I'm sure the fourteen permanent US bases will also further enhance Iraqi sovereignty.
Ran successful elections that every opposition party boycotted the results of! With success like this, who needs failure?! Please find a reality based argument. Wishful thinking is neither strategy nor policy, it is simply catastrophe when instituted by force of arms.
Election success is defined by legitimacy and stability, not the voting process (Hey, we could use some of that here!). By that criterion, we are down to about a 3% chance of successful elections in Iraq. In other words, everything points toward Bush keeping his streak of "success" going.
Bush will have to actually have one real world success before it can start to challenge predictions of his failure. Earth to Bushworld, breaker...