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AP Re-Used Three-Year-Old Article on Torture Report

8:39 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The Associated Press is denying claims by two of its writers that cost-savings was a motivation.  Rather, says editor Richard Giardino, an error resulted in the accidental re-publication last week of an article on a Senate committee report on torture, an article that had originally been published in 2011.

In defense of the wire service, Giardino noted in a 2,000-word explanation, that “while the article may have been dated, it ran in dozens of newspapers without anyone noticing.” In fact, wrote Giardino, were it not for a couple of bloggers, the incident “might have passed unnoticed.”

I think he has a point.  Over the past eight years, there have been 73 separate moments in which major news stories have reported widely across the U.S. media that it has for the first time become clear that former President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, or their subordinates ordered the commission of torture.  That count does not include several interviews, and memoirs, in which Bush and Cheney have openly admitted to the crime, bragged about it, or professed the sentiment that they “would do it again.”

While torture has been a violation of international law and U.S. treaty obligations, and a felony under U.S. law, since before George W. Bush moved into the White House, indictments have not been forthcoming.  Instead, a series of investigations and reports, and censorship thereof, have generated stories around the possibility that individuals might have done what we’ve already seen them confess to on camera.

Questioned on CBS Evening News on Monday, Giardino became agitated. “Look,” he said, “if we just put out the sort of fact-based news that bloggers say they want, we’d be describing top authorities in this country as routine violators of the law.  We have to find a balance between straight-forward reporting and the understanding that we aren’t locking up presidents and CIA directors because the investigations are ongoing.  And when the investigations are ongoing for years and years and years, then breaking the same news more than once is actually more accurate than inventing new details that haven’t taken place.”

During the past eight years, thousands of U.S. news reports have discussed the possibility of criminalizing torture, without noting that it already is criminal.  Frank Cretino, associate editor of the Washington Post, defends this record, saying, “The fact that torture is already banned does not negate the act of banning it, particularly as most people do not know it is already banned.  Of course, we could so inform our readers, but that would be like noting that politicians take bribes, or indicating wherever relevant that our owner makes more money from the CIA than from our paper, or recognizing that torture is just one aspect of a collection of actions made criminal by the illegality of the wars they are part of, or pointing out to people that the date is April 1 at the beginning of a story.

Best Southern Corporate Editorial Ever

6:44 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

One cannot always count on words of wisdom from the editorials published by corporate newspaper chains in the Southern United States, or anywhere else.  This one is far from perfect, but remarkably great.  This was published by the Charlottesville Daily Progress on Tuesday and adapted by them from their corporate sister the Richmond Times Dispatch.  Possibly numerous other Media General (Warren Buffet) newspapers printed the same or similar:

“Would cuts in defense spending be a bad thing?

“By: the Richmond Times-Dispatch | The Daily Progress
“Published: August 07, 2012

“Gov. Bob McDonnell suggested President Obama hold Congress in session until it hammers out a deal to avert what is known as sequestration — whose effects on Virginia could be profound.”

Note that this editorial is about to challenge the claims of the state’s Transvaginal Governor who is also trying to get himself nominated for U.S. Veep on the Romney ticket.  Not only that, but a gang of U.S. Senators including the previous Republican presidential nominee John McCain recently stopped in Virginia on a tour of swing states hyping the danger to the U.S. economy of any cuts to the military budget.  This editorial does not name those senators but does handily reject their bogus claims.

“Sequestration is the term applied to automatic budget cuts that will take effect Jan. 2 unless Congress acts now to prevent them. They are the result of last year’s Budget Control Act. That law tasked a special committee with finding $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade. If it failed, automatic cuts — half of them in defense spending, half in domestic discretionary spending — would kick in. The committee failed.”

Of course “defense” is code for military, even while few would pretend that attacking Libya or Syria or continuing in Afghanistan or drone bombing Pakistan or Yemen, etc., is defensive.  The code is well understood and virtually unavoidable in a corporate newspaper.  You’ll recall that there was huge public pushback against the Super Congress, that the public told pollsters we favored taxing the rich and cutting the military.  The Super Congress failed to push through a deal to enlarge the military and continue tax cuts on the wealthy.  And rightly so.  But Congress is intent on accomplishing post-2012-election what the Super Congress couldn’t do.

“Without action soon, the first of $600 billion in defense spending cuts will start to bite. That could mean the loss of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of jobs here in the commonwealth — which is the No. 2 recipient of federal defense outlays. That is a frightening prospect indeed.”

Note, however, that dollars don’t translate simply and predictably into jobs.  When the military had less money several years ago, it also produced more jobs. Also, the $600 billion is “over 10 years,” and might as well be called $1200 billion “over 20 years” for all such monkeying with the numbers enlightens us.  It’s $60 billion “over one year,” but reduced from that in order to put more of the cutting later in the 10-year period. $50 billion or less, cut from $1.2 trillion or so in total military spending can only frighten people who are truly intent on being frightened.  Of course, fear is what allows military spending on this kind of scale to begin with.

“But it is not in itself a sufficient reason to oppose the cuts. National defense is not a jobs program. Many of the very arguments conservative Republicans have made with regard to government spending over the years — about inefficiency, about the displacement of private investment, about gargantuan bureaucracies doling out contracts to the politically connected — might apply just as well to the Pentagon as to any other government agency.”

This is a stunning bit of honest sanity.  Reflect on the earthshattering, “debate” crashing, impoliteness of introducing this bit of truth to the public.  Of course it’s also the understatement of the year.  Spending on the military produces fewer jobs than spending on education, energy, infrastructure, or even tax cuts for working people, because it is so incredibly wasteful.  How wasteful?  We don’t know, since it’s the only department that is never audited.  But we know that it routinely misplaces billions — with a b — of dollars, something no other department is allowed to do.  We also know that in much of the world spending money on killing in order to generate jobs would be viewed as sociopathic.

“What’s more, the alarms being rung about the hollowing out of the military sound considerably less grim when put in context. For example, ask yourself this: Was the U.S. military on the brink of collapse in 2007? Few people would answer yes. Yet if sequestration occurs, then military spending would revert to — you guessed it — 2007 levels. That doesn’t sound quite so horrible.”

Again, this is simple and obvious but staggeringly new.  It renders ludicrous countless “news” reports that have been published by these papers.

“Even after adjusting for inflation, Pentagon spending is now almost double what it was in 2000. And that leaves out the billions lavished on Homeland Security. And the further billions spent on ongoing military operations abroad, which add more than another hundred billion to the tab.”

This too is new and different, pointing out that the “Homeland Security” budget is added on top of the Pentagon’s.  But let’s not forget State, Energy, CIA, and all the other departments that include military spending, plus the expense of caring for the veterans our wars keep producing.  The total cost of the military is about $1.2 trillion per year, many times what any other nation spends, more than all other nations combined, and more than half of federal discretionary spending.

“True, federal defense outlays are smaller as a share of the federal budget than they have been in many years,”

Oops.  That’s not true, not when all military (“defense”) expenses are counted.

“and they are smaller as a percentage of gross domestic product than at any time since World War II. But this is not a very useful comparison. It implies that whenever Washington creates a hugely expensive new entitlement program, or whenever the economy booms, Pentagon spending should be jacked up just to keep the proportions steady.”

Wow.  This is amazingly decent and dismissive of an entire genre of public “discourse.”  The Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly stressed to Congress that military spending is low as a percentage of GDP.  Even though it’s high and has been rising each of the past 15 years as a dollar amount adjusted for inflation, as a percentage of the federal discretionary budget, and as a percentage of global military spending, the theory indeed seems to be that if we have more money we should buy more weapons because we can.  This requires a psychiatrist, not an economist.

“The real question is how much the U.S. needs to spend to maintain military dominance. To help answer it, consider a more useful comparison: For every dollar the world spends on military outlays, America accounts for 46 cents. China, a distant second, comes in at about 7 cents.”

Hmm.  Is that the real question?  Isn’t the real question how the United States can best keep its nation safe?  Isn’t it at the very least an open question whether striving to dominate the globe is making us safer or putting us at risk? The answer above to the wrong question is dramatically understated, and yet hugely important and worldview shattering for many potential readers.  I hope they read it.

“Gov. McDonnell is right to worry about the effect of defense spending cuts here in Virginia. Congress should pass legislation to stave off the sequestration meat ax. However, it needs to make judicious cuts to the defense budget. Overseas bases, redundant weapons systems, even force structures should all be on the table. The nation currently borrows 43 cents of every dollar it spends. And there is simply no way to fix that problem without including military cuts as part of the solution.”

Wouldn’t you know they’d reach the wrong conclusion after so much good rhetoric.  The sequestration meat ax would cut that $1.2 trillion budget by about $50 billion.  It should be cut by much more.  Cutting back to merely three times the size of China would allow us not only to pay off debt but to make college free, eliminate student loans, develop a massive green energy program, and update our infrastructure.  Those are the tradeoffs that should have been mentioned.  The mass murder of non-Americans that is generated by the war momentum that Eisenhower warned us war spending would create might also merit consideration.  Nonetheless, I doubt I shall ever see this good an editorial in my local paper again.

 

American Autumn: An Occudoc

6:26 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Dennis Trainor, Jr., has produced a full-length movie of the Occupy movement, and he’s done a hell of a great job.

The Occupy movement was created, as are all movements in the United States, in large part by the corporate media.  They didn’t understand it.  They didn’t want it.  They didn’t originate it or take part in it or develop its brilliants insights, effective techniques, or inspiring courage.  They transmitted what to them was an indecipherable code that reached their viewers and readers with the obvious clarity of a crack on the head.  They got huge assists from brutal cops and incompetent mayors.  But it was the corporate media that took something in one city and made it big and made it national.

Then, as always, the corporate media turned hostile and lost interest and went away.

The Occupy movement goes on.  It is growing and developing.  But even many within it talk about it as existing only when it’s on television.

What’s missing is purely the will to actually think as if a revolution can go untelevised and be a revolution.

That’s it.  Don’t blame something else.

We have the capacity to communicate .  And that capacity just expanded dramatically.  Because we now have a film of our own.

This is not amateur hour.  This is a movie as well made, in technical terms, as any Hollywood blockbuster with Pentagon funding.  But this is a movie with us in it.  I don’t mean our little group of activist friends.  I mean us, the people of this country, our stories, our hardships, our triumphs, our injustices, our tragedies, our humor.  This is radically different from what you’ll see at your local movie theater.

Read the rest of this entry →

The Media Is A Curable Disease

2:20 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Rupert Murdoch, who got his start in business marketing rats and manure, has chosen to deny Italy access to a television network that has presented critical coverage of both Murdoch and of leading Italian media baron and prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. The network, Current TV, is the project of a man identified in Italy primarily as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Al Gore.

Here’s Gore in Italy denouncing Murdoch’s move: (play this video and click 21:37 and 22:36 in the summary at right). Italian media may be dominated by a small cartel, but it includes diverse outlets, including this state network, that permit other points of view. Check out the coverage of this story in Il Fatto and Il Manifesto, and sign this petition.

Meanwhile, back in the land where every goddam airport and hotel lobby blares Fox News at you, our free and independent press has the drawback of all agreeing with itself about almost everything. There’s no anti-Fox News. There’s very little investigative, independent, anti-authoritarian reporting of any sort. Newspapers are dying out, and with them the profession of reporter. Or so warn Robert McChesney and John Nichols in “The Death and Life of American Journalism.” Horrendous as U.S. corporate media has been, and as fascistic as our government has become, the authors warn, if we allow reporting to die out we’ll be very sorry. So we must publicly fund journalism.

A new collection edited by McChesney and Victor Pickard called “Will The Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights” includes a good deal of debate over exactly how this might be done, and some of the ideas look like real solutions. Various contributors argue quite persuasively that we do not need to reproduce the newspaper news room. We need to fund reporting, editing, and fact-checking to be sure, but we can use the internet for what it’s best at: compiling, sifting, questioning, and verifying. Janine Jackson’s critique of the old media suggests what we need and what we do not need to recover. Yochai Benkler points out that Wikileaks has broken major stories Reuters was unable to, the blogosphere has produced the best coverage of popular protests in foreign capitals, and a reporter for an online nonprofit won a Pulitzer for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. The internet gives us all direct access to statements, press releases, documents, and interviews, with no media filter.

Yet it remains the case, as the contributors to “Will The Last Reporter” endlessly repeat, that most internet reporting and commentary regurgitates the reporting of the old and dying media. What to do? I mean, assuming we had any control over our government, which may be impossible until AFTER our communications crisis has somehow been solved, what should we do to solve the crisis? C. Edwin Baker has proposed that the government pay half the salary of every reporter. Dean Baker has proposed that every American be permitted to allocate $200 of public funds to the news medium of their choice, and every news medium receiving funds would be required to make its reporting available free online. Bruce Ackerman has proposed that internet users click a box whenever they believe an article has contributed to their political understanding; the more clicks an outlet receives, the more public money it receives.

These ideas seem on the right track. A public body would still have to determine what outlets or articles/audios/videos qualified. Libel, war propaganda, pornography and other illegal materials would have to be excluded. Internet access would have to be made available to all. And Ackerman’s idea is probably too susceptible to fraud. I think Baker may be onto the most encouraging angle, one that allows equal weight to those who spend all day online and those who don’t, and one fairly easily monitored. The trick would be to restrict qualified outlets to those that produce serious reporting and to restrict the use of public funds to serious reporting. Clearly, one way or another, we could deny Rupert Murdoch the power to decide what each nation gets to see. All we need is a functioning government.

If we had that, we could bust the trusts and cut the Murdochs down to size. Lacking that, we have to proceed with funding serious independent media on our own. If we would all do so just for one year instead of funding elections, we would shortly have a public sufficiently informed to end the impossible situation in which elections need to be funded. And then we could create public funding of journalism going forward.

Meanwhile, fund the blogs you read, boycott Fox News, and turn off all plutocratic programming with this handy device.

Newspaper Truthiness

5:23 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is the latest in a series of major newspapers around the country that have announced a partnership with a group called PolitiFact which will aid them in the innovative practice of letting readers know whether statements made by politicians are true or not. Here’s last Sunday’s front page announcement:

"Starting today, The Plain Dealer officially kicks off PolitiFact Ohio, a new way to examine the claims, ads and statements of players in the political world. Once distilled, the newspaper’s findings are posted on the fanciful Truth-O-Meter, whose ratings are True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True and False. There’s a special rating for claims that are downright ridiculous: Pants on Fire. You can see PolitiFact Ohio and all its Truth-O-Meter findings at http://www.politifact.com/ohio and two of the findings on Page A9 of today’s print editions. . . . Beneath the fun of the Truth-O-Meter is a serious undertaking. For every claim examined, PolitiFact Ohio will ask the person or campaign making it: How do you know that and what are your sources? The other side will be asked, too."

That there’s something novel about the idea of reporting on whether statements are true reveals a lot. Of course, ordinary people can’t get anything into letters to editors unless the letters page editor knows it to be beyond dispute. But elected officials are usually permitted to say whatever they like, as long as "balanced" and "objective" journalism includes a top political opponent’s concern that the first gentleman’s statement was a treasonous fabrication. This is far easier on reporters, and works especially well for what passes for reporters on television. But it’s harder on readers and viewers, who seem to be expected to conclude that the truth lies in the middle between two claims, or that the truth doesn’t really matter — what matters is the sport of watching two people disagree. So, I applaud the idea of inserting a bit of actual journalism into the he-said, he-said reporting.

But it is an insertion into a rotten and dying form of communication, not a fundamental rescue. Newspapers will not go out of business any less swiftly because of "the fanciful Truth-O-Meter." This is still reporting that’s driven by the statements of those in power; it simply adds fact-checking on a tiny number of those statements. This is not a move to report on the concerns of ordinary people or on investigative research that exposes and holds accountable those who abuse power. I’ve read a lot of articles by some of the Plain Dealer reporters involved in this new effort that I would characterize as "pants on fire" in their entirety — not particular bits of trivia, but the entire articles.

More decisive than the accuracy of individual facts in shaping how someone understands the world is the choice of topics, what types of information are included, and how the issues are framed. Issue debates in the Plain Dealer will still be arranged to exclude even the most popular approaches if neither of the two big political parties supports them. We’ll still learn about most legislation, if at all, only after it passes. We’ll still be told what the most corporate-friendly political candidates said at a campaign debate, and we’ll find no mention of other candidates even if they won the most applause. We could conceivably have a lie about weapons of mass destruction labeled a lie (though I wouldn’t hold your breath). But never ever will an article point out a deeper lie, such as the fact that a nation’s possession of weapons cannot legalize an attack on it.

Even though the legislative branch legislates, it will always be "Obama’s healthcare bill." Even though it would reach no more than 3 percent of us and be privately designed and run, there will be no other name allowed for "the public option." Accepted names for things and broad positions on policies will not be questionable. Instead, single sentences that have come out of the mouths of those in power will be reviewed.

And it won’t just be single-sentences, it will often be stupid single-sentences intended for infotainment value. When one political hack accuses another of living "like Louis XIV", the Ohio Truth Tribunal will "investigate" whether political hack #2′s house really has as many rooms as Versailles. (That’s a real example of a Truthometer reading they’ve already produced.)

The Truthometer allows for degrees of truth, which is helpful but doesn’t save the enterprise. Here’s an example of a statement from Congressman Dennis Kucinich that’s been truth checked: "The War in Afghanistan is officially the longest war Americans have ever been asked to endure." The Plain Dealer truthers judged this to be fully "True" and explained why. But the explanation includes this li(n)e: "The death toll in Afghanistan reached 1,000 at the end of May with the death of Cpl. Jacob C. Leicht, a Texas Marine serving his second overseas tour." Further sentences expand on the problem with this sentence, namely that the death toll for Americans is not equal to the death toll. In fact, most of the people who die in our wars are not Americans. Is the absence of the much larger number a falsehood? The Truthometer doesn’t say. And many Americans who die as a result of our wars are not included in the military’s official death count, because they die after returning home or from friendly fire or suicide, etc. How does the Truthometer inform us of this?

Here’s another example of a truth-checked statement: "Education Week rates Ohio schools in the top five in the nation." This was also judged fully "True." However, the explanation on the Truthometer explains that tops in the nation was still pretty weak according to Education Week. In addition, the explanation fails to draw its own conclusions of any sort as to the quality of Ohio schools, as opposed to reporting on what Education Week says about them. Nonetheless, the explanation blurs that distinction and suggests at times that the quality of Ohio’s schools is simply what is under discussion. This is laziness dressed up as an investigation.

I have my own Truthometer. It takes the form of subscription numbers and site visits. When people begin subscribing to newspapers in greater numbers, then I’ll check to see whether any truth has replaced all this truthiness.

Is Best Antiwar Voice on TV Glenn Beck?

6:41 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

By David Swanson

I mean that as a serious question. Now, I don’t think Glenn Beck has much between his ears. I don’t think he has a coherent principled view of anything, and I expect he would throw his own grandmother under a bus for a buck. His opposition to war is driven by the most disgusting priorities, lacks logic or coherence, and manages to co-exist with a certain strain of fascism for dummies. He thinks he can put the military in charge of Congress AND defund the military. Yet it may just be that his is the best antiwar voice on network or cable television. The bar is that low.

I mostly read books and have read Beck’s. I don’t have cable, and my television is stored in the garage. I watch the clips people send me online or blog about or post on FaceBook. I know there are good shows on smaller satellite and cable channels, including Democracy Now! which I watch online. But, as far as I know, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC have yet, in these weeks leading up to a congressional vote on another $33 billion to escalate war, to mention in any way the insanity of spending this kind of money.

I’m sure all of those channels do a better job of covering war atrocities than does Fox. (Again, that’s a bar not measurably off the ground.) And if Rep. Jim McGovern’s pointless bill asking the president to please plan to end the war someday gets any positive press, it probably won’t be from Beck (unless Rep. Walter Jones gets to him). But McGovern’s plan is to push his toothless and dateless can’t-we-please-just-say-it’s-not-permanent-daddy bill as an amendment to the $33 billion supplemental, thereby undoing or at least muddying what ought to be a fight against the funding — not a fight for the funding with meaningless strings attached. Thus far, who has said more in public about opposing war funding than Jim McGovern? That’s right, Glenn Beck.

He may have 85 shows in which he says the opposite. I wouldn’t know. But look what he says here. Beck begins by telling his mostly rightwing audience that it is an admirable thing to change your mind, that this indicates you have learned something. He says he’s "not Ron Paul but on the road to Ron Paul." This of course means that he is concerned about the financial cost and governmental power involved in militarism and imperialism. He doesn’t want the money to be used for anything beneficial. He doesn’t want to provide aid in place of bombs and troops. He doesn’t seek to strengthen international law. He doesn’t want war criminals or profiteers punished. But he’s on the road to wanting the most useful thing possible out of Washington right now: an end to wars, and even to U.S. military bases all over the world.

Beck says that there are two reasons for his changing his mind. One is the money. The other is that he wasn’t paying attention before 9-11 and now realizes that the United States wasn’t "minding its business" and was "in bed with dictators" – and that "that causes problems". Here we have looking backward (a procedure forbidden by President Obama) and a statement of the causes of 9-11 (an action forbidden by Fox News for years). Beck is admitting that the "war on terror" is a cause of terrorism. When you combine that with the financial concern, it puts him "on the road to" opposing it. He’s against "nation building" and "UN building," and completely oblivious to how the UN is weakened by our illegal invasions and occupations, or how it would be strengthened by shutting down our empire.

Beck has on two guests from the CATO Institute who want to shrink government, and want to shrink the military because it’s part of the government. The guests say things I doubt you’ll ever hear on GE’s MSNBC, including that military spending damages the economy. Of course, they claim that this is because the military is part of the government, ignoring the many forms of government spending that actually benefit the economy. But, remember that low bar. At least they said it.

Beck jumps in to explain why he’s only "on the road" to war opposition and not there yet. He says that he wants the United States to be the biggest and baddest nation there is. And yet, he says, he doesn’t want to "mess with the rest of the world", he wants to find our own oil reserves, etc. This is an interesting way to confess that the wars are for oil. And that’s a nice confession, don’t get me wrong. But the lunacy of imagining that US oil reserves compare in any way to those of the Middle East just makes our new antiwar spokesperson seem ill informed. (He’s onto the right foreign policy, but needs to combine it with diplomacy, restraint in wasteful lifestyles, and massive investment in green energy. Although he’s closer to a solution than we might think before realizing that the military is our biggest consumer of the fuel it fights the wars to control.)

All is far from lost, however, as one of the guests points out that the United States would be made more secure if it pulled back foreign troops. And Beck jumps in with something else you won’t hear too often on our public airwaves or the cable news channels: in Japan, he says, "they hate us, they’re always complaining about us." You mean our foreign empire of bases antagonizes people all over the world? Who knew? Not most U.S. television viewers.

Beck’s guests also point out that U.S. military spending absolutely dwarfs that of any possible enemies. They even note, in their best xenophobic manner, that some of our military spending is for other countries’ militaries. The countries (presumably Israel and Egypt and those we’re bribing to stay in the Afghan War "coalition", etc.) go unnamed. But then the conversation turns to the corruption of military contractors and Congress, during which Lockheed Martin is named as a typical offender. (You will see this kind of detailed concern about particular weapons costs on other channels when the White House talks about it, but rarely the overall picture. Rachel Maddow cheered for Obama lowering the military budget last year when he raised it.)

In the end, perhaps inevitably, Beck jumps off the deep end. Ignoring the fact that the military demands 99 percent of the money it wastes, and focusing on those rare instances in which Congress refuses to cut something the military doesn’t want, Beck says he wants the military to oversee Congress rather than vice versa. On the plus side, however, the military already does run Congress, and if its funding were cut, it would be a smaller force with diminished influence.

I’m not suggesting this seven minutes of thought-free rambling and ranting as model public discourse. I’m just pointing out that military and war spending is generally a taboo topic. When Rep. Barney Frank held a press conference last year about his plan to cut military spending, there was no press. If it takes a loony infotainment figure to forget the rule and state some simple but revolutionary truths, sandwiched between his usual bologna, well, what have we got (on television) that’s better? I’m just asking.

Lies, Damn Lies, and the Media

8:13 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

ACORN is shutting down because of a fraudulent video pimped by the corporate media. U.S. forces in Afghanistan have heroically laid seige to and conquered a fictional city, helping build the case for further escalation. A cable news channel has created a right-wing mass movement by pretending it already existed. Congressman Dennis Kucinich voted for a health insurance bill he believed would deprive more people of healthcare (and wealth and homes), because fraudulent reports had convinced his constituents of the opposite. The peace movement was defunded in November 2008, because of a fraudulent presidential election campaign. 71% of Americans believe Iran has nuclear weapons. 41% of Americans think the quality of the environment is improving. Has the power of the corporate media to overwhelm all before it begun to sink in yet?

ACORN’s funders didn’t have to run and hide because of a bunch of laughably bad lies, but they were afraid. The most common excuse of progressive congress members for anything they do is fear of the media. The peace movement didn’t have to shut down, but its funders had used war as a criticism of Republicans; opposing war for its own sake was secondary, and their televisions told them peace had arrived. Kucinich could have stuck to his No vote on healthcare, but he probably wouldn’t have lasted long in Congress. We don’t have to be suckered by comically manipulative war news, but all the big media outlets want war — and the Democratic-party outlets especially favor war now. Fox News could not have created the Teabaggers on its own, but MSNBC and the Democratic blogosphere spend a majority of their time focused on Teabaggers and Republicans because it unites their viewers/readers against something uglier than elected Democrats, never mind that in Washington the Democrats technically have all the power.

We need independent media. Is that not yet crystal clear? The strongest grassroots community organization in the country, ACORN, has been swatted away like a fly through the endless airing of fraudulent, badly edited, and irrelevant, but salacious video clips. Elected officials or electoral candidates succeed or fail at the whim of the media cartel. And the biggest lies of all are buried so deeply beneath the hot news stories that they’re almost impossible to see. Does or does not Iran possess nuclear weapons? That question hides the insidious assumption that if a nation possesses nuclear weapons, then our nation can and should launch an illegal war of aggression against it. Or at least our nation should have a debate over how best to take action against our "enemy," a debate that will represent us all because it will include two political parties.

This is the biggest lie of them all: the system works. Vote for this corporatist war party or that warmongering corporate party, and you will have played your role well. The system works. The president makes the laws. The Congress gets in the way. The two parties are significantly different from each other and represent our views. News stories that include the views of both parties are complete and admirable journalism. The journalism itself has no viewpoint at all. The role of a citizen is to support politicians and parties.

Imagine if Bush wanted to try alleged terrorists in court (as in fact he did). All the Republicanites would have cheered (as in fact they did). Imagine if Bush had pushed a health insurance bill written by the industry and had cut deals with the insurance and drug companies. Imagine if Republicans had called a private program for 3% of Americans a "public option". All the Democratites in the country would have denounced the whole thing as a scam. The problem with "balanced" reporting is that those who consume it pick one of the two partisan positions presented and follow it as if they’d thought of it themselves. This mindless obedience is going to destroy us all.

We need independent media, meaning sources of news that are independent of either political party. We could easily find the money to create it right now if we chose to make that a priority. We will do so or we, and this republic, and the world as we know it will perish . . . in horrible pain, with a grin on our face.

Kucinich and the Media

11:35 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

When I worked for Dennis Kucinich’s presidential campaign in 2003, he routinely won the most applause at debates but was minimized or entirely left out of the next day’s stories in the corporate media. This meant that peace, and fair trade, and single-payer healthcare were left out too. At one debate at the University of New Hampshire, Kucinich pushed back.

Ted Koppel of ABC opened the debate with questions about endorsements. The second round of questions was about standing in the polls. The third was about the campaigns’ bank accounts. One had to wonder when, if ever, the debate would touch on, you know, what the candidates intended to do if elected. Kucinich cut Koppel off, saying:

"I want the American people to see where media takes politics in this country. We start talking about endorsements, now we’re talking about polls and then talking about money. When you do that you don’t have to talk about what’s important to the American people."

The applause for this was so intense that the other candidates on the stage started joining in the media bashing. Kucinich had briefly changed the narrative from a horse race to a demand for decent political reporting.

That’s what he should have done on Wednesday when he flipped to support a disastrous health insurance bill. Rather than talking about the legitimacy of the presidency, Kucinich should have talked about the illegitimacy of the current narrative in the corporate media.

The major corporate news outlets, and all the smaller outlets that follow their lead, and all the partisan outlets that obey the White House, have created a false story that was clearly turning Kucinich’s own constituents against him. According to this story, of the dozens of Democrats and over a hundred Republicans not committed to voting for the insurance corporation bailout bill, only Kucinich’s vote mattered, so the blame would go to him if it failed, just as Ralph Nader alone was blamed for Al Gore losing the election that Gore won in Florida in 2000.

Kucinich was to be blamed for denying people healthcare by opposing a bill that makes the healthcare system worse. Now he’ll be credited with helping to provide people with healthcare, even though he’s done the opposite. I think he gave in to the power of a false narrative, and that he ought to have said so. When Kucinich fought with us for impeachment, and John Conyers refused to act, Conyers admitted that his greatest fear was of media hostility. When Kucinich pushes to end wars, other congress members tell us they cannot afford to challenge media nonsense about "supporting the troops." The corporate media now run our government, and need to be called out.

I don’t think Kucinich flipped because of money, either direct "contributions" or money through the Democratic Party. I think, on the contrary, he hurt himself financially by letting down his supporters across the country. I don’t think he caved into the power of party or presidency directly. I don’t think they threatened to back a challenger or strip his subcommittee chair or block his bills, although all of that might have followed. I think the corporate media has instilled in people the idea that presidents should make laws and that the current president is trying to make a law that can reasonably be called "healthcare reform" or at least "health insurance reform."

I don’t excuse Kucinich flipping his vote. I just want to find the right explanation for it. There may be many factors I’m unaware of. But I have no doubt that with real freedom of the press in this country it wouldn’t have happened. This sad incident is not an argument for ending the two-party system. That argument has been made overwhelmingly for many years. We must end that system. Nor is this an argument for campaign finance reform, although we won’t survive long without that either. Nor is this an argument to give up on Dennis Kucinich, since we would clearly have a dramatically better Congress if we had 10 others as good as him. Kucinich’s cave in is most clearly an argument for media reform and for progressive investment in truly independent media.