Seymour Hersh’s writings always remind me of how little I know about what is really going on.
I am better informed as a result of reading his work and watching this video, and you may be, as well.
Seymour Hersh’s writings always remind me of how little I know about what is really going on.
I am better informed as a result of reading his work and watching this video, and you may be, as well.
Sam Roberts, an obituary writer for the New York Times, was asked to imagine what Jesus’s obituary would have been like.
Jesus of Nazareth, a Galilean carpenter turned itinerant minister whose appeals to piety and whose repute as a healer had galvanized a growing contingent of believers, died on Friday after being crucified that morning just outside Jerusalem, only days after his followers had welcomed him triumphantly to the city as “the anointed one” and “the Son of David.” He was about 33.
For a man who had lived the first three decades of his life in virtual obscurity, he attracted a remarkable following in only a few years. His reputation reflected a persuasive coupling of message, personal magnetism, and avowed miracles. But it also resonated in the current moment of spiritual and economic discontent and popular resentment of authority and privilege, whether wielded by foreigners from Rome or by the Jewish priests in Jerusalem and their confederates.
After running afoul of the Jewish elite in Jerusalem for blasphemy and his arrest on Thursday, Jesus was sentenced to death by Governor Pontius Pilate. (The Jewish authorities lacked jurisdiction to impose capital punishment.) The charge, in effect, was treason, for claiming to be King of the Jews or “the anointed one” (Messiah in Hebrew and Aramaic; Christos in Greek). After he was declared dead on Friday night, he was buried nearby in a cave.
On Sunday, his disciples reported that the body was missing.
Click on What Would Jesus’s New York Times Obituary Look Like? to read the whole thing in Vanity Fair. Hat tip to kottke.org.
My friend and former editor Anne Tanner worries about the future of journalism, and of newspapers in particular, as I do. She e-mailed me a link to an article in Britain’s Prospect Magazine about the future of newspapers, from which I pull the excerpt below.
So far, the online news world has had a slightly shabby reputation. On the one hand there are endless feeds simply repeating or re-tweeting the same basic information; the spread of lazy list-based journalism; and the parasite websites, picking the dirty bits out of the teeth of the major news corporations. On the other hand there is the reactive underworld of almost incoherent anger, the moon-faced, flabby-fingered trolls who reduce all public argument to puerile sexual abuse.
Yet as more and more of us turn to our laptops, the news is getting better. When I am researching I like to “read sideways”—that is, find a story or a footnote, trace it down to its origin, and keep going from there. This sideways reading, made possible by hyperlinks, is the essence of the best of what is on the web.
On websites such as Buzzfeed, there is delight as well as disappointment. The disappointment is that although there are in-depth essays and some foreign coverage, it’s still a long way from the regular, reliable foreign news service that the average news junkie would expect from the average serious newspaper. The delight is about the ingenuity and creativity of its staff—if you haven’t seen Kelly Oakes’s “If newspaper headlines were scientifically accurate” you are missing something special.
It’s not only possible to become a really well-informed and engaged person by reading the news—it’s getting easier all the time. But relying on a single, under-funded, pressurized editorial team and a dampish wodge of flattened spruce arriving on your doormat every day is no longer the best way to go about it. You just have to be more proactive and spend a bit more time to get what you need
Source: Prospect Magazine
For decades, reporters who travel with Presidential candidates have been denied the right of ordinary spectators to move about freely at campaign events.
The Secret Service and the candidates’ own security people deny them the right to mingle with crowds. Instead they restrict them to observing campaign events from special roped-off or fenced-off areas.
Such restrictions apply only to members of the national press corps traveling with the President. The local press is usually free to sit in the audience and take notes.
This has no logical relation to protecting the candidates from threats, except to the degree a candidate regards free reporting is a threat. Any restrictions that were necessary to the personal safety of a candidate would logically apply to everyone, not just members of the national press corps.
What is the legal basis for this? Why don’t newspapers and broadcasters protest on Constitutional grounds?
The basis for it is that broadcast and print journalists depend on the candidates to provide them with transportation and the communications facilities they need to do their jobs. Without that help, they or their employers would have to buy their own airline tickets, find places to recharge their computers and cameras and set up their own communications for writings and pictures.
More importantly, the candidates control access. Reporters need to be able to talk to the candidates and the candidates’ staffs, and they won’t get this access unless the candidates see some benefit in giving it. If you’re a reporter, you don’t just need access. You need as much access as your main competitor.
So candidates have many means of punishing reporters they consider hostile or even out of line. Some keep the press on a tight rein, some on a loose rein, but the reins are always there.
Public opinion polls show Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders with roughly equivalent public support. Yet Trump dominates TV news coverage while Sanders is hardly even noticed.
Eric Boehlert of Media Matters quoted these results from a survey called the Tyndall Report.
The network newscasts are wildly overplaying Trump, who regularly attracts between 20-30 percent of primary voter support, while at the same time wildly underplaying Sanders, who regularly attracts between 20-30 percent of primary voter support. [snip]
Obviously, Trump is the GOP frontrunner and it’s reasonable that he would get more attention than Sanders, who’s running second for the Democrats. But 234 total network minutes for Trump compared to just 10 network minutes for Sanders, as the Tyndall Report found?
Andrew Tyndall provided the breakdown by network of Sanders’ 10 minutes of coverage, via email … :
- CBS Evening News: 6.4 minutes
- NBC Nightly News: 2.9 minutes
- ABC World News: 0.3 minutes
But how can that be? ABC News, for instance, clearly devoted more than 20 seconds to covering the Democratic debates, which featured news of Sanders, right?
As Tyndall explained to me, the number “counts stories filed about the Sanders campaign or from the Sanders campaign. Obviously he is mentioned in passing in other coverage of the Democratic field overall, specifically his performance in the debates.”
So in terms of stand-alone campaign stories this year, it’s been 234 minutes for Trump, compared to 10 minutes for Sanders. And at ABC World News Tonight, it’s been 81 minutes for Trump and less than one minute for Sanders.
The so-called Presidential debates are not debates. They are televised group press conferences.
The so-called US Presidential debates are not debates. Going back to the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960, they are televised group press conferences. The American voting public would be better served by actual debates.
An actual debate would be over just one question, selected in advance. Candidates would be given time to speak their minds, and then to rebut what the other candidates said.
The role of the moderator would be to enforce debate rules. Any questions would be asked by the candidates of each other.
The press conference format measures the ability of the candidates to think on their feet and to memorize and remember information. A debate format would measure the depth and breadth of their thinking, and give an idea of what they would do if elected.
Such a format might not be commercial enough for the major networks, but I am sure PBS and C-SPAN would be willing to host a real debate.
Russian propaganda under Vladimir Putin is innovative, and not in a good way, in finding ways to masquerade as independent journalism and spontaneous social media comment. Actual press freedom in Russia is being slowly shut down.
Game of trolls: the hip digi-kids helping Putin’s fight for on-line supremacy by Alec Luhn for The Guardian.
Russian Media Resist Kremlin Crackdown on Press Freedom by Benjamin Bidder and Matthias Schepp for Der Spiegel.
Russian Politicians Building an International Extreme Right Alliance by Anton Shekhovtsov for The Interpreter.
USA Today listed six things to watch for in tonight’s Republican presidential candidates’ debate.
All interesting questions. But what do any of them have to do with making an informed choice as a Republican voter?
Struggle and Progress: Eric Foner on the abolitionists, Reconstruction and winning “freedom” from the Right, a conversation with Jacobin magazine writers.
Historian Eric Foner pointed out that the abolition of slavery was truly a second American Revolution. It involved the confiscation without compensation of the most valuable form of property at the time—enslaved African people.
The Civil War is sometimes interpreted as a triumph of industrial capitalism over a backward agrarian economy. Foner said that, although this is true in a way, the pre-Civil War capitalists got along very well with the slaveowners.
The abolitionists included moderates, radicals, wealthy philanthropists, lawbreakers, politicians, former black slaves and racists who opposed slavery because it was harmful to white people. Although sometimes working at cross-purposes, Foner said their diverse approaches created a synergy that made the movement stronger. This has lessons for our own time.
The Last Refuge of the Incompetent by John Michael Greer for The Archdruid Report.
John Michael Greer wrote that a successful revolutionary movement will (1) discredit the existing order through relentless propaganda, (2) seek alliances with all those with grievances against the existing order, (3) create alternative institutions of its own and (4) offer a vision of hope, not despair.
In the USA, this program is being carried out not by what Greer called the “green Left,” but the “populist Right”.
A friend of mine never watched TV network news. Instead he watched Jon Stewart’s Daily Show on Comedy Central, because Stewart said things that the network commentators wouldn’t.
I give Stewart due credit, but I hardly ever watched his show. I don’t think I would have watched it much even if I still watched TV regularly.
There was something about his self-satisfied smirk that turned me off. I can’t abide knowing smiles.
Stewart’s accomplishment was pointing out the ridiculousness of so much of American politics and journalism. The problem with that is that treating everything as a joke is a way of maintaining the status quo. If you take things seriously, people think you fail to get the job.
Now Stewart might justly reply that he is a comedian, and to criticize a comedian for treating everything as a joke is like criticizing the Pope for treating everything as a matter of faith and morals. Stewart also might reply that it is not his fault that the mainstream news is so lacking in substance that people turn to comedians.
Stewart’s role was as a court jester, who is allowed to say things that others can’t precisely because people don’t take him seriously. His basic political position was the defense of moderation against extremism, which at the end of the day is also a defense of the status quo.
His basic harmlessness is shown by the fact that celebrities as disparate as Bruce Springsteen, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, John Kerry and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly all took part in his farewell program. He was a member of an elite club whose members have more in common with each other than any of them do with me or anybody I know.
The Daily Show in the Age of Irony by Johann Neem for The Hedgehog Review. (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)
Ted Rall , one of my favorite cartoonists, was fired last Monday from his job at the Los Angeles Times after somebody produced an audiotape indicating he had lied in a column his bad treatment by a Los Angeles police officer when arrested for jaywalking in 2001.
He said the tape consisted of about 20 minutes of talk and 6 minutes of unintelligible noise, so he asked an audio technician to try to restore the original tape. Lo and behold! – the tape indicated that Rall was telling the truth.
He was charged with the worst offense that a professional journalist can commit. To be caught lying in print or on the air will not only cost you your job, but make you unemployable. At least this was true during the 40 years I worked on newspapers, and I assume the same is true in the respectable non-Murdoch press and broadcasters.
The Los Angeles Times should either reinstate Rall or have the honesty to say they don’t want to use his cartoons for whatever political or other reason.
What about police? Don’t they have an equal obligation with journalists to tell the truth? Suppose it is proved that the tape was doctored. Shouldn’t falsifying evidence make a police officer unemployed and unemployable?
A note to readers by the Los Angeles Times.
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired From the LA Times — And How I Proved They Lied by Ted Rall on RallBlog.
Ted Rall LAPD Scandal: Rall Vindicated, LAPD Under Fire by Tom Ewing for A New Domain.
Subject to a 24-hour police siege, confined to a single windowless room, he continues to fight, and fight effectively, for truth and justice.
WikiLeaks continues to provide a means by which whistle-blowers can reveal how governments, corporations and other organizations conspire against the public. Most of what the American public knows about the toxic Trans Pacific Partnership, for example, has been made known by WikiLeaks.
John Pilger wrote an excellent article, updated on Counterpunch, about the how the U.S. government, abetted by the governments of the United Kingdom and Sweden, are bending international law and their own laws to deprive Assange of his freedom.
He is wanted for extradition to Sweden for questioning in a sexual misconduct case. He has not been charged with any crime, and the alleged victims in the case do not accuse him of any crime. He has offered to testify in London, or to go to Sweden to testify if he can be assured that he won’t be extradited to the United States.
A grand jury has been meeting in secret in Alexandria, Va., for five years trying to figure out ways to define Assange’s truth-telling as a crime. The details of the ongoing investigation of Assange have been defined themselves as a state secret. One of the crimes the grand jury is pondering is violation of the U.S. Espionage Act, which carries a maximum penalty of death or life imprisonment.
Assange might be in a U.S. prison today, or worse, if not for the courage of the Ecuadorian government, which despite all pressure and threats offered him refuge in its London embassy.
The U.S. government treats Assange as it might treat a terrorist. And in fact, to a government whose policies are based on secrecy and lies, truth-tellers and whistle-blowers are more terrifying than killers or suicide bombers.
I think a good litmus test for whether an individual believes in freedom and democracy is the person’s attitude toward Julian Assange. President Obama most certainly fails that test. I think Assange will be remembered when Obama is forgotten.
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice by John Pilger for Counterpunch.
As I think about it, I can understand why the governments of the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia preferred to permanently silence Osama bin Laden than to question him or put him on trial. I don’t like this, but I can understand it.
The most damning thing about Seymour Hersh’s article on the killing of Osama bin Laden was how President Obama panicked when a helicopter crashed, and broke the U.S. agreement with Pakistan on the agreed-upon cover story on the bin Laden killing.
I strongly disagree with Barack Obama’s policies and priorities, which I think are very different from what his supporters think they are, but I always thought of him as exceptionally cool and self-controlled. Apparently not. Of course revealing sensitive security information for political purposes isn’t new.
The video embedded above is most of an interview of Seymour Hersh by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Below is a link to the full interview, with a transcript.
Below is a link to an interview with Jeffrey Sterling, who either is a brave whistleblower who is going to prison because he revealed corruption and incompetence in the Central Intelligence Agency to investigative reporter James Risen, or a victim of injustice who was convicted on circumstantial evidence.
When George W. Bush was President, most liberals believed the exposes of investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. Now that Barack Obama is President, they are more skeptical.
As Espeth Reeve pointed out in The New Republic, liberals and Hersh are no longer on the same page.
The Killing of Osama bin Laden by Seymour M. Hersh in the London Review of Books.
The Loneliness of Sy Hersh by Elspeth Reeve for The New Republic.
We’re conditioned to believe that the candidate who has the early assent of a handful of executives on Wall Street and in Hollywood and Silicon Valley is the “serious” politician, while the one who is merely the favorite of large numbers of human beings is an irritating novelty act whose only possible goal could be to cut into the numbers of the real players.
via Rolling Stone.
Sports journalism treats games as if they’re matters of life and death. Political journalism treats matters of life and death as if they’re all part of a game.
via Lance Mannion.
This interview with alleged ISIS fighters was broadcast last Nov. 1, but it’s one more thing that’s new to me.
Its significance is the claim of RT News (formerly Russia Today) to have exclusively interviewed ISIS fighters in the field, a remarkable accomplishment if true.
But a number of things in the interview should have raised alarm bells before the broadcast.
The supposed ISIS fighters, located in a Lebanese village near the Syrian border, say they are a “sleeper cell” in Lebanon, who will be activated when the time comes.
Why would members of a “sleeper cell” alert the Lebanese government to their existence by giving interviews? It doesn’t make sense. Advertising a sleeper cell defeats the purpose of having a sleeper cell.
Then, too, the interviewees either disagree with ISIS practice or don’t understand it.
The so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria beheads journalists, but the interviewees follow the mainstream Islamic teaching that journalists are messengers and so should be spared. ISIS murders Christians, Shiite Muslims and people of other faiths, but the interviewees say it is impractical to establish a Caliphate in Lebanon because it is a nation of many religions.
I think the young men who claim to speak for ISIS are intentionally deceiving the reporter, or they are ISIS sympathizers who don’t fully understand the ISIS ideology.
Another reason, besides RT News’ sponsorship by the Russian government, to take RT News broadcasts with a grain of salt.
I think Fox News over the year has done more to stir up racial conflict than peaceful protesters ever have.
The crisis in Ukraine was set off on Feb. 20 by snipers killing peaceful anti-government demonstrators in Kiev’s Maidan Square on Feb. 20. Angry mobs surrounded the Ukrainian Parliament and forced President Yanukovych to flee the country, and he was replaced by an unelected provisional government.
Now an investigation by a German TV station, ARM Monitor, which was broadcast last week, indicates the sniper was working for the extreme Ukrainian nationalist Svoboda Party, which was part of the opposition and is now part of the new government. Police as well as protestors were killed, and the bullets came from the same guns. The snipers were operating from the roof of the Hotel Ukrayina, which was the headquarters of the protestors.
Now a member of the Svoboda Party is in charge of the investigation. Families of dead protestors are unable to get autopsy reporters or other vital information.
Michael Hudson, a distinguished professor of research economics at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, was interviewed about this on the relatively obscure Real News Network (which is listed on my Resources page). The ARM Monitor investigation is headline news in Germany and (naturally) in Russia, he noted; why is it ignored in the United States?
I’m not saying that President Yanukovych or President Vladimir Putin necessarily have good intentions, or that the Russian secret services are not capable of false flag operations of their own, or that Russian-speaking Ukrainians necessarily want to be part of Russia. I recognize that there are armed minorities in both east and west Ukraine who don’t necessarily speak for the people they claim to represent. I do not claim to understand the intricacies of Ukrainian politics.
All I’m saying is that the Ukrainian people, and the American people, are being pushed toward war over something that didn’t happen the way we were told it did.
Reading differing versions of the Ukraine conflict reminds me of George Orwell’s recollections of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. Orwell fought on the government side against rebels led by General Franco and was wounded in action. Soviet Russia supported the government side; Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy supported the rebels.
Here’s what Orwell had to say:
I have little direct evidence about the atrocities in the Spanish civil war. I know that some were committed by the Republicans, and far more (they are still continuing) by the Fascists.
But what impressed me then, and has impressed me ever since, is that atrocities are believed in or disbelieved in solely on grounds of political predilection. Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence.
Recently I drew up a table of atrocities during the period between 1918 and the present; there was never a year when atrocities were not occurring somewhere or other, and there was hardly a single case when the Left and the Right believed in the same stories simultaneously.
And stranger yet, at any moment the situation can suddenly reverse itself and yesterday’s proved-to-the-hilt atrocity story can become a ridiculous lie, merely because the political landscape has changed. [snip]
I remember saying once to Arthur Koestler, ‘History stopped in 1936’, at which he nodded in immediate understanding. We were both thinking of totalitarianism in general, but more particularly of the Spanish civil war.
Early in life I have noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened.
I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines’. [snip]
Out of the huge pyramid of lies which the Catholic and reactionary press all over the world built up, let me take just one point — the presence in Spain of a Russian army. Devout Franco partisans all believed in this; estimates of its strength went as high as half a million. Now, there was no Russian army in Spain. There may have been a handful of airmen and other technicians, a few hundred at the most, but an army there was not. Some thousands of foreigners who fought in Spain, not to mention millions of Spaniards, were witnesses of this. Well, their testimony made no impression at all upon the Franco propagandists, not one of whom had set foot in Government Spain.
Simultaneously these people refused utterly to admit the fact of German or Italian intervention at the same time as the Germany and Italian press were openly boasting about the exploits of their ‘legionaries’.
I have chosen to mention only one point, but in fact the whole of Fascist propaganda about the war was on this level.
This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. After all, the chances are that those lies, or at any rate similar lies, will pass into history. How will the history of the Spanish war be written? If Franco remains in power his nominees will write the history books, and (to stick to my chosen point) that Russian army which never existed will become historical fact, and schoolchildren will learn about it generations hence.
But suppose Fascism is finally defeated and some kind of democratic government restored in Spain in the fairly near future; even then, how is the history of the war to be written? What kind of records will Franco have left behind him? Suppose even that the records kept on the Government side are recoverable — even so, how is a true history of the war to be written? For, as I have pointed out already, the Government also dealt extensively in lies. [snip]
Yet, after all, some kind of history will be written, and after those who actually remember the war are dead, it will be universally accepted. So for all practical purposes the lie will have become truth. [snip]
This prospect frightens me much more than bombs — and after our experiences of the last few years that is not a frivolous statement.
Click on George Orwell: Looking back on the Spanish War for the full article, published in 1943, which also describes his experiences in the war and his thoughts on the nature of fascism. Orwell did NOT think the answer to lying propaganda was to assume that “the truth lies somewhere in between.”
I have been trying for a couple of weeks to educate myself about the political conflict in Ukraine, and I am not sure even of basic facts.
Consider these two articles, each of which I would believe contained the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, if I hadn’t read the other.
About the only thing I feel sure of is that the Russian Federation, United States and other governments are trying to turn the Ukrainian political factions into their proxies in their global competition for geopolitical and economic power.