Just a couple of the lessons to be learned from the two stories cited below: the loss of institutional credibility when journalists unquestioningly accept government statements as truth, and the speed with which half-truths, obfuscations and outright lies can spread throughout the mainstream media to become established “fact.”
First up, Timothy Noah reveals the logical fallacy of believing that the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed helped U.S. intelligence foil a plot to crash a plane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles:
The CIA and Thiessen had argued that torturing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, allowed the U.S. government to thwart the Library Tower attack, wherein al-Qaida planned to hijack a jetliner and fly it into the tallest building in Los Angeles (formally known these days as the U.S. Bank Tower). The trouble with this argument was that the chronology didn’t work. Sheikh Mohammed was captured in March 2003, and on more than one occasion (for instance, here, here, and here), the Bush administration stated that the Library Tower plot was broken up in 2002. How could torturing Sheikh Mohammed in 2003 have prevented an attack that had already been foiled a year earlier?
After my column appeared, the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America noted (here, here, and here) that the following people continued to repeat the Library Tower canard without acknowledging its logical inconsistency: Karl Rove, Dana Rohrabacher, Clifford May, and Fox News’ Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Neil Cavuto, Steve Doocy, Catherine Herridge, and Brian Kilmeade.
Salon’s Glenn Greenwald provides a similarly withering criticism of the establishment media’s handling of the benefits of U.S.-sponsored torture. He takes ABC News‘ Brian Ross to task for reporting in 2007 that the waterboard torture of Abu Zubaydah lasted about “30 to 35 seconds” before he spilled his guts to the CIA about numerous terrorist plots:
Posted in headlines, investigative journalism, Mainstream media, media criticism, News
Tagged ABC News, Abu Zubaydah, Brian Ross, Glenn Greenwald, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Library Tower, Marc Thiessen, Salon, Slate, Timothy Noah, torture, waterboarding
A few quotes to ponder as we head into the weekend:
“Oh, well. When the Feds surround my place for the big shootout, I hope my home gets described as a ‘compound’ just before it goes up in smoke. Cool.” –Mark Steyn, National Review Online, in response to a Department of Homeland Security report warning of dangerous right-wing extremist activity.
“Make no mistake, dear readers, we are living under tyranny. Especially to those who voted for Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress, you are living in denial if you believe otherwise. This is not hyperbole.” — The Sarasota Observer, in an article un-hyperbolically titled “Live Free or Die.”
“For now, though, one can’t help but note that these ‘conservatives’ seem so very angry about a federal government program designed to do nothing other than protect the glorious Homeland from Terrorists. And we know that this is the purpose of the DHS program because that’s what the Government said its purpose is. So what else is there to know? That’s the lesson we all learned over the last eight years: Bush said that all of his secret surveillance programs were only directed at Al Qaeda, so how can anyone say otherwise?” — Glenn Greenwald, Slate, in response to right-wing criticism of the Department of Homeland Security
One of my favorite media critics, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, has an excellent post today that reveals the core of the Jim Cramer/Jon Stewart dust-up as but one instance of a industry-wide problem:
It’s fine to praise Jon Stewart for the great interview he conducted and to mock and scoff at Jim Cramer and CNBC. That’s absolutely warranted. But just as was true for Judy Miller (and her still-celebrated cohort, Michael Gordon), Jim Cramer isn’t an aberration. What he did and the excuses he offered are ones that are embraced as gospel to this day by most of our establishment press corps, and to know that this is true, just look at what they do and say about their roles.
And what are those excuses? Here’s Greenwald quoting ABC anchor Charles Gibson, commenting on the pre-Iraq war coverage:
A few weeks back, Jay Rosen and Glenn Greenwald discussed the mainstream media’s coverage of Washington politics, and how they advance a particular narrative that is appropriated from the very politicians they cover.
Their thesis seems to inform Dave Winer’s complaint about Bob Schieffer’s interview with Rahm Emanuel on Face the Nation.
As usual, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald has an excellent look at the Obama’s administration’s attempts to follow the precedent of the Bush administration and block judicial challenges to the government’s spying activities:
Manifestly, the Obama DOJ has one goal and one goal only here: to prevent any judicial ruling as to whether the Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program was illegal. And they’re engaging in extraordinary efforts to ensure that occurs.
Salon’s Glenn Greenwald makes a rather unflattering example of The New York Times‘ David Brooks as the epitome of the Beltway journalist:
To David Brooks, lobbyists are nothing more than “experts” who provide important and helpful insight to legislators as they earnestly try to craft laws in the public interest. Not only are lobbyists a positive influence, but they’re actually indispensable. The fact that these so-called “experts” are paid by the wealthiest corporate factions to ensure that the laws Congress passes are designed to serve their narrow, insular interests — and that this is accomplished by pouring money into the coffers of the very people who write the laws so that they’re writing the laws that serve these interests — never makes it into Brooks’ understanding of this process.
Greenwald critiques the press, particularly the Washington D.C. press corps, for marginalizing viewpoints that would undermine the political establishment it covers. According to his theory, the media, as a part of that Beltway institution, has a vested interest in treating any challenges to the system as “unserious.”
This being Valentine’s Day, I’m sending out some journalistic love to Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald for his analysis that the Left’s unqualified allegiance to President Obama is politically counterproductive for them both:
During the 2008 election, Obama co-opted huge portions of the Left and its infrastructure so that their allegiance became devoted to him and not to any ideas. Many online political and “news” outlets — including some liberal political blogs — discovered that the most reliable way to massively increase traffic was to capitalize on the pro-Obama fervor by turning themselves into pro-Obama cheerleading squads. …
Posted in headlines
Tagged Barack Obama, Democrats, George Bush, Glenn Greenwald, liberals, MoveOn.org, President Bush, President Obama, Republicans, Salon.com, stimulus bill, Valentine's Day
Glenn Greenwald, a former constitutional lawyer who writes for Salon.com, has been giving The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder a rather harsh public lesson in journalism for the past few days.
First the context: Before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Obama administration asserted the same state secrets privilege as the Bush administration in the case of Mohamed et al v. Jeppesen Data Plan, Inc. Here’s the gist of the case, as reported by ABC News:
On Bill Moyers’ Journal last night, Jay Rosen of PressThink and Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com spoke for an intellectually stimulating half hour about media-related issues and the way the mainstream press controls the narrative of politics.
Rosen described journalists as “behaviorists” who “deep down, don’t believe that action [within the context of politics and the Washington, D.C. establishment] really works.” If I’m understanding him correctly, the media perpetuate their view by excluding fringe voices in order to maintain their mediated control over and understanding of the way politics functions. Rosen explained to Moyers why someone like Amy Goodman would never appear on Meet the Press:
Posted in Mainstream media, media criticism, newspapers, The Internet
Tagged Amy Goodman, Bill Moyers' Journal, Glenn Greenwald, Jay Rosen, media elites, Meet the Press, political coverage, PressThink, Salon.com, Washington press