Fat Steve's Blatherings

Sunday, May 22, 2005

I Think Professor Reynolds is Wrong

      The Blogfather writes:
      MORE ON NEWSWEEK: The UPI's Pamela Hess says that Newsweek blew it, but that the Bush Administration needs better PR efforts.

      That's no doubt true, but I can understand their frustration in dealing with an extraordinarily hostile, and frequently untrustworthy, press.

      And the latest poll results, which suggest that many Americans trust the government more than they trust the press, suggest that the press needs to work on its image, as well.

      So I follow the link, and I read it.  I come to the conclusion that the press doesn't need to work on its image.  It needs to work on accuracy, honesty, objectivity, logic, responsibility, and patriotism.

      As I read I get angry, and so I write a letter to UPI, getting angrier as I type.  I might have rewritten it more politely, but I accidently hit the wrong button and sent it.

      In any case, here it is.  I always intended to post it.  Anyone who wishes to attempt to rewrite it in a more polite form, go ahead.  Anyone who wishes to reprint it, forward it, or print it out and jam it into a reporter where the sun don't shine, you can do that too.

      Update: Read this short post too.

----- Original Message -----
From: Stephen M. St. Onge
To: nationaldesk@upi.com
Sent: Sunday, May 22, 2005 12:31 AM
Subject: column on that Newsweek story by Pamela Hess

      I know you people are trying, but the self-righteous tone of your partial defense of Newsweek's error shows exactly what is wrong with the media.

      But Newsweek's error is not the only factor here. The Pentagon and White House regard "mainstream media" (read: "liberal media") as hostile to their interests.

      Yes, the White House most definitely does regard the mainstream media as liberal and hostile to them.  That is because the MSM is liberal, and is hostile to them.

      It may be, and an anecdotal case can be made to that end. But rather than trying to blunt that perceived hostility, they fan its flames.

      You liberals used to have a phrase for this: 'blaming the victim.'  It is no more the responsibility of the White House to suck up to those who hate the administration and look for chances to trash it than it was for a southern black in 1960 to persuade the local racists to beat them up a little less often.  IT IS YOUR JOB, AS MEMBERS OF THE PRESS, TO REPORT ACCURATELY, FAIRLY, IN A NON-BIASED FASHION.  EVEN CONCERNING THE PEOPLE YOU HATE AND DESPISE.  IF YOU CAN'T DO THAT, FIND ANOTHER LINE OF WORK.

      For instance, the Pentagon has begun leading the Early Bird -- its daily roundup of defense-related news stories -- with newspaper corrections, some as inane as a name misspelling. It led the Early Bird with a story about a longtime and tough Pentagon reporter who was fired not for inaccuracy but for violating his newspaper's sourcing rules. There seems to be a battle line drawn between 'them' and 'us.'

      Yes, and that is because it IS a case of "us" and "them."  Nowhere in Newsweek's lame explanations of its error have I seen anything like a statement reading: 'We pondered very hard about printing this story, because after all we are at war, and didn't want to give aid and comfort to the enemy.'  Such considerations seem to have totally passed by Newsweek.

      Perhaps you've forgotten Mike Wallace's infamous statement that if he had a chance to go on patrol with enemy soldiers who intended to ambush U.S. troops, he wouldn't attempt to warn the Americans, because as a member of the press he doesn't take sides?  Or the reporter in Kuwait in the run-up to the first Gulf War, apologizing for refering to Coalition troops as "our side," because by doing so he wasn't being "objective?" I remember both incidents well.

      You in the press make it clear you don't think about the country's welfare, and then express surprise that we who are loyal to this country don't like you?  That the Administration we elected to care for the common welfare, and the people in uniform that volunteered to die for the U.S. don't regard you as one of them?  Amazing.

      The White House and the Pentagon must develop a better relationship with reporters -- even those they deem hostile -- so they can knock these stories down before they get printed. Had there been more mutual respect between the two sides, Newsweek might have offered the Pentagon more time to dig up evidence to prove the original source wrong. Had the Pentagon more inclination to do so, it would have provided it more quickly. Instead, both sides are left cleaning up the mess after the damage has already been done.

      Oh, gee, if the Pentagon had done Newsweek's work for it, the magazine wouldn't be suffering this embarrassment.  And maybe if members of the press spent a couple of years in the Army, doing hard work for low pay in Iraq, with their lives constantly in danger, the Pentagon would be inclined to do so.  As it is, having taken an oh-so-independent stance to this war, it is the PRESS who are responsible getting their stories correct.

      The White House and Pentagon were quick to blame Newsweek for the Afghan riots over the weekend, despite Myers' on-the-record statements to the contrary. What Myers might have known is that most Afghans don't read, much less in English. Even fewer get subscriptions to Newsweek.

      Newsweek's erroneous report didn't help matters, but the riots were a result not of a popular uprising of disgust over what a U.S. weekly magazine reported but rather the masterful manipulation of a population eager and ready to believe the worst about the United States.

      Well gee whiz, the Muslim world was manipulated, "masterfully," by someone or other you don't name.  Just who did this manipulation, and why?  You don't say.

      And isn't it a stunning coincedence that you in the press found that out just this week, and never had any inkling of it before.  Because if you did, you of course, as good, liberal, humanitarians would have thought real hard about what the effect of your story would be, once those manipulators got ahold of it.

      And I am Marie of Romania.

      If you truly believe that the Muslim world is being deceived and lied to, then the question of who does it, and how, and why, is a very big story.  So why aren't you reporting it, on an ongoing basis?  Oh, yeah, because saying that out loud, regularly, wouldn't help you bash the Administration or save face when you blunder.

      I'm not sure what disgusts me more, your transparent hypocrisy, or the fact that you think the public is so stupid we don't notice your convenient double standard.

      For this fact, the Pentagon, the White House, the State Department, Congress and the U.S. citizenry may have to turn the mirror on itself.

      The Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the release of pictures depicting the humiliation and abuse of Iraqi prisoners a year ago gave permanent clip art to al-Qaida and others who want to exploit the existing fissures between the United States and the Muslim world.

      Oh, Abu Ghraib is to blame.  And the fact that the Army heard this was going on, investigated, and is now punishing people for abuse needn't be mentioned.  Or the fact that al-Qaeda declared war on the U.S. over a decade before Ms. England led someone around on a dog leash.

      As for the fact that Saddam's regime didn't humiliate people, but raped, maimed, tortured, and murdered, and that the U.S. military put a stop to that, and that our servicepeople risk their lives daily trying to ensure that Iraq doesn't relapse into such horror, well, that's something the press doesn't have any responsibility to report on.

      Neither is the ongoing genocide in Sudan, the continued existance of human slavery in the Muslim world, the fact that Muslims are treated worst by fellow Muslims, or that almost all the terrorists in the world are Muslim anything YOU have any reason to remark on regularly.

      And did you really not notice how blaming the riots on "manipulation" one paragraph, and on Abu Ghraib a few paragraphs later is self-contradictory?  Probably you didn't.  You have consistently taken the position here that the press is not to blame for the effects of its actions.

      The subsequent release of memos detailing U.S. policy deliberations with regard to the definition of torture, the abrogation of Geneva Convention protections for war prisoners and the expanded list of harsher-than-normal interrogation techniques approved by the Pentagon makes fertile ground for American enemies.

      Oh, wow, someone in the Administration wrote a memo considering what was and wasn't legally torture.  What a big story.  I bet, if I were allowed to look, I'd find memos at UPI concerning what is and isn't ethical reporting, where the law draws the line between reporting and libel, and other such questions of what to report and when.  Does that prove you are morally corrupt, and the USAmerican people shouldn't trust you?

      And I do wish you people who keep blathering about the Geneva Convention would read it, print copies, and point out exactly what provisions the U.S. is violating.  I would also like to see the story criticizing the Administration for failing to try and execute combatants not wearing uniforms.  But I won't hold my breath.

      I will ask you this though: if the Abu Ghraib abuses had never happened, if the memos that apparently disturb you so had never been written, and if the prisoners at Guantanamo had been treated the way you think they ought to have been, AND THEN NEWSWEEK HAD PUBLISHED THE SAME STORY ANYWAY, do you really think the "manipulated" Muslims would have reacted differently?  If so, on what evidence?

      The problem with these is not only in their public release, but the fact that they happened -- and largely behind closed doors. The lack of public debate suggests to U.S. detractors that the government was trying to get away with something it knew to be immoral or illegal.

      Lack of public debate?  What lack of debate?  The Army is trying to punish those responsible for Abu Ghraib, the memo was a part of a debate on what was and wasn't legal, the question of how the U.S. treats its prisoners has been raised many times in the press, and the Administration has responded.  It would appear you regard a "public debate" on these issues as a case of the Administration and military automatically agreeing they were in the wrong, and then attempting to decide just how awful they are.

      Oh, did you notice that you contradicted yourselves AGAIN by saying that hostility to the U.S. stems from actions reported in the USAmerican press, which you also said the people hostile to us don't read in the first place?

      That the White House and Pentagon leadership eagerly abandoned constitutional habeas corpus protections for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay lends a hollow note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's assurance Sunday that the United States nevertheless embraces the constitutional protection of religion there.

      Pardon me, but is the author of this article a lawyer?  Is she qualified to comment on what the Constitution requires in dealing with prisoners of war?  And what happened to the Geneva Convention mentioned a few paragraphs back?  Which is the controlling legal authority for treatment of POWs?

      More to the point, why do I pretend you care about what the law allows?

      In October 2003 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asked in a leaked memo these critical questions: 'Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us? Does the U.S. need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists? Is our current situation such that the harder we work the behinder we get?'

      By government admission the United States is fighting a 'war of ideas' to help moderates win influence in the Muslim world. The eagerness with which the rioters embraced a fallacious report, and to which normally friendly governments lent their voices, suggests it has a long way to go.

      Your use of the word "admission" (A confession, as of having committed a crime.) is interesting.  It suggests that you automatically think of the war effort as a continuing wrong, a crime that shouldn't be happening.

      And of course, in this "war of ideas," the press has no responsibility to help the U.S. win, does it?  Because if it did, you might have to ask yourselves whether or not you are performing responsibly. You'll die before doing that.

      The MSM is increasingly distrusted, but you can't admit that you must be failing in your jobs.  No, that's always someone else's fault.  When you're in the nursing home, half-senile and remembering how the MSM collapsed from lack of reader interest, you'll still be blaming everyone but yourselves.

      For some reason, I'm thinking right now about an exortation to hypocrites to remove the beams from their own eyes, before criticizing the motes in their neighbors.  I can't think of why though.  I'd ponder on why I'm thinking this, but for some reason, as I think back on your column, I feel the need to vomit.

Stephen M.
St. Onge




Post a Comment

<< Home