Fat Steve's Blatherings

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Important Insights into Easongate

      Three stories have come up that may shed considerable light on the Eason Jordan story.

      What the stories say, in essence, is that Jordan was deliberately lying, and put his foot wrong.

      Rebecca MacKinnon points to stories in the Lunatic Asylum Nation and the Seattle Stupid As A Fence Post Post-Intelligencer showing that various chuckleheads do indeed believe that the U.S. military has been deliberately killing journalists. (Particularly stupid is the Post-Intelligencer, which notes the large number of journalists killed in Iraq, but never mentions that most have been slain by the terrorists; the P-I jerks also don't know the difference between censor and censure).

      MacKinnon has another story, this time a personal account from an Army Public Affairs guy.  The Army guy says he met Jordan in December, 2002, and Jordan gave his unit the impression that CNN, or at least Jordan personally, was gung-ho for the war:
When asked about the biased reporting of Arab media he said that all media reports from the Middle East should be looked on as being propaganda rather than reporting as we thought on[sic] it. He pointed to the fact that Al-Jazeera’s Iraq Bureau Chief was a former employee of the Iraqi Ministry of Information. He said that many of the Arab media reports were suspect or were known to have been staged. He said that these were facts that they were well aware of but couldn’t raise lest they seem to have a pro-American bias. He said that they tried to provide a balance to this reporting by showing the true positive reality of American interaction in the world and the US military in specific. I left thinking that somehow I had never realized that CNN and Fox were doing the same reporting but for the nuances. I was slapped back to reality during the war with CNN’s reporting.

      Ah, note that theme: 'We know the truth, but can't tell it.'

      Summing it all up is Doug McGill (hat tip:
Jay Rosen
).  McGill says that Jordan:
needed to be able to say things that made foreign leaders feel that, yes, Jordan really understood them. Or at least that they could work with him. There is no doubt that this made him say things in foreign capitals that, should these things ever be replayed for his colleagues back at the home office in Atlanta, would cause shock and alarm.

Because things that are accepted as inoffensive and obvious truisms in one part of the world, can be considered outrages in another. Such as the assertion that the U.S. military targets journalists from time to time in its operations. That's a truism in much of the Middle East. And it's an almost treasonous claim in today's U.S.

Every U.S. executive who has a foreign posting for a U.S. multinational knows what I am talking about. When you live overseas, you live in a society with a different set of laws, mores, and cultural understandings. And you have no choice but to go along with them. These understandings are often 180 degrees at odds with U.S. laws and understandings, which in turn requires both sides to maintain a polite facade of agreement that often masks total disparities and contradictions underneath.

There is still apparently no trascript[sic] of what Jordan said at the Davos forum, but people who were there who blogged the event, make it appear there's little doubt that at Davos, Jordan was facilely presenting to the Middle Eastern figures in the crowd what to them was a truism -- that U.S. forces target journalists from time to time. On Al Jazeera and other Middle East news sources, this is an entirely uncontroversial claim, because everyone accepts it as obvious.

My sense is that Jordan, when he made his remarks to the high-level crowd at Davos, was casually showing to his high-level foreign friends that he, too, accepted it as an uncontroversial fact that the U.S. military targeted journalists, including U.S. journalists. Whether he really believed it or not, I don't know; but it's the kind of thing that would immediately get him "buy in" with an otherwise potentially hostile crowd. And under normal circumstances for him -- halfway around the world, behind close doors -- there would be no potential downside.

      So there we have it.  CNN says whatever will be popular with the people it is dealing with, and the truth can go hang.  No wonder Jordan quit.  He doesn't want this can of worms opened up.

      So it looks like I may have been wrong?  I thought Jordan was crazy, but it looks like he was crazy as a slightly clumsy fox.



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