Thursday, July 13, 2006

Covering What Matters To Me

If you missed it, all is well and good in Iraq.
Or that's the latest Operation Happy Talk spin we're all supposed to get behind. The Associated Press leads the pack (I'm sure the Times will grab the baton tomorrow) in trumpeting the fact that a single province is now under Iraqi control. Any questions about the nature of this province could be put to rest by noting the dwindling coalition's fatality figures for that province (non-existant) but reality must never mar happy talk. As AFP notes: "Aside from Basra, most southern provinces are considered fairly stable and several are slated for security handovers in the next few months -- though coalition force officials admit that immediately following the handovers security may decline as insurgents test the system."
Which is why the AP trumpets the 'small' number of US troops who've lost their lives thus far this month (11) while burying the fact that Iraqi witnesses saw a US helicopter shot down today. ("Iraqi authorities said the helicopter was shot down near Youssifiyah, 12 miles southwest of Baghdad in an area where al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgents operate. The Iraqis spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to media.") Reuters notes the helicopter was on a "combat air patrol."
Things look peaceful?
Earlier today, the AP reported on a bombing of a village council headquarters in Baghdad (bicycle bomb, at least four council members left dead) and the shooting death of a police officer -- in the city under a month's "crackdown." Terry McCarthy (ABC -- America) reports on how fake identification sells for the US equivalent of ten and fifteen dollars and many Iraqis are puchasing them to reduce risk to their lives at checkpoints. McCarthy reports: "Now many Iraqis carry two IDs in their pockets and will produce one or the other, depending on who is asking for it." Packing your fake i.d.? Don't forget your gun. Mariam Karouny (Reuters) takes a look at the conditions that lead many of Baghdad's seven million to arm themselves as the chaos and violence continues around the country and in the capital.
That's reality and some correspondents (such as reportedly one with the New York Times) calling the Bully Boy and his 'plan' for Iraq "delusional" at a college appearance is meaningless when he continues to churn out the sort of nonsense at his paying job that prolongs the delusion.
Other bombs across the country. Reuters reports bombs in Mosul (roadside, five wounded) where a bomber took his own life and six others in a city council in Abi Saida while a car bomb killed four people and wounded at least nineteen; a car bomber took his own life and that of three others in Kirkuk (at least eight more wounded); and mortar rounds in Baghdad left two wounded. The AFP reports a bomb in Baghdad took the lives of five "municipal road sweepers."
The AP reports a kidnapping attempt on a wrestler and wrestling coach that left the coach, Mohammed Karim Abid Sahib, dead (the wrestler managed to escape).
Reuters notes three corpses discovered near Muqdadiya (three brothers who had been kidnapped the day before).
And in the United States, Joe Biden is raising doubts about Nouri al-Maliki's efforts as prime minister.
But surely, the most important point today is that a restive province with little violence will now be babysat by Iraqi forces (who may find it not so restive, as the AFP noted). And surely, mainstream correspondents will continue to churn out the spin that prolongs the illegal war while wanting points for being "brave" while speaking to college audiences.

That's from C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot." Yeah, I'm glad that the show's dropped. Ton of e-mails on that.

I'm going to address one and it's someone griping. I replied to almost all the others. I thought I'd reply to this one up here.

We'll call him "Peter." Peter thinks "so what if the show's gotten bad, it's all we've got." I've got me. I think that's a song from that musical Rebecca likes. :D But I've got me. I've got the community because I'm a member of it.

It's not my job to promote Democracy Now! When it was doing a better job, I was happy to. I'll promote anything (like the garage sale Tony's parents are having this weekend -- everyone who reads this and went to school with me and Tone, be there! -- but be there late! His pop's selling off his vinyl and Dad wants first crack. :D).

There wasn't a one day decision, I think C.I. does a great job of tracking how head shakes became nagging problems with that show. Peter thinks C.I. "destroyed the show" with that entry and I have to ask Peter, "Have you ever read C.I. and Ava's TV reviews? How about C.I.'s critiques of the New York Times?"

C.I. didn't destroy the program. C.I. was kinder than any of us.

Peter says in one paragraph that we've got a "playbook" and then the next he goes on about how I said there shouldn't be two days off for the Fourth and C.I. says "they should take time off." Well, there's not a playbook, there's no quarterback. But if you need the two opinions to match up, you can think in terms of guest anchors. Or, as Ruth said, the holiday special could have pulled together previous reporting on Iraq.

Rebecca's entry was funny as hell and Peter and I will just disagree with that (and I won't shed any tears over disagreeing with a Peter). But Peter says if C.I. really liked the show, "Nothing's stopping it from being noted at The Common Ills." Spoken like a visitor and not a member of the community.

C.I.'s just a member. I'm just a member. C.I. writes about hoping to ride it out last week (when the criticism had members demanding that it not be noted) but this week it went up another notch. The community doesn't exist to promote a show. The Common Ills isn't a "blog." C.I. speaks for the community on the issues they want addressed.

To continue ignoring the concerns of members wouldn't be speaking for the community. Ignoring the concerns would split the community. The community's more important than anything outside of it. Ehren Watada? Saw it first at The Common Ills. Jeremy Hinzman and others have fallen off the media landscape in this country. Them and Patrick Hart and others, hear about them from The Common Ills.

It is true that the site's gone from being an outspoken voice against the illegal war to largely focusing solely on it. That didn't happen overnight. C.I. cares about other issues, members care about other issues. But the feeling was that there wasn't enough coverage of Iraq. It was like we were at war but weren't supposed to think too much about it. When that feeling became a community feeling, a wide one, the site began moving more and more towards narrowing the focus on Iraq only. (Highlights by members can be on anything.)

That's the focus. A few weeks back, I said you can't be everything. I was good at baseball. I couldn't be a short stop and a catcher and a pitcher. You find your focus and you stick with it. On the right, there are tons of people sticking to the focus of Iraq. On the left, everybody's spread out pretty thin. (I don't consider the center to be the left and the center is defined, by me, as anyone who says "We can't leave!" The right is anyone who says we must stay.) People need to focus.

I'm not listening to the TV or radio tonight because I know they'll all be little dogs sniffing out the latest from Israel. That matters. I've read the paper today and some websites on it. But when you have X minutes or X space, you hunker down or you accept that you're doing a lousy job.

Remember Hurricane Katrina and all the complaints about how the corporate press just moved on one day? Well that's true in independent media as well. Our message today is social security, no, it's health care, no, it's minimum wage, no, it's Mexico, no, it's Gaza, no, it's Haiti, no, it's North Korea, no, it's Iran, oh, look, there's Iraq.

A magazine or a newspaper can do that better because they have people who are covering those areas. There only problem in chasing the tail of the dog is that they lose focus on other things. But for a show to think they can do that is sad. I won't name the show but there's a show that had Dahr Jamail on and Wally told me to listen so I did. I don't know how Dahr Jamail avoided strangling the host. This was last month and the host was talking about Falluja and knew nothing about it. He thought it was a 'success.' Dahr was nice about it but I would've said, "It's two years ago, you're bringing it up and you don't know what you're talking about."

That's a problem. There are interrelations and if you don't know the topic, you can't make those connections. That's true when you're talking about something other than Iraq. I heard, last month, another host do a great job of tying in a guest talking about Latin America to what was going on in Iraq right now.

If you're a show on radio or TV, you need to have a focus. You can't be all over the map because you probably do not know enough to be all over the map. Even if you know history, you probably don't know all the details of current happenings.

Oba-Bore has a video that we're all supposed to be shocked by. Two incidents, a ballot stuffing (six votes) and I forget the other thing. That's it? After all your talk of stolen election (and all the indymedia talk) we're left with that?

That's how you prove your case?

I don't have a problem with advocacy journalism. I think the world would be better with more of it. But there's a reporter that I will never trust again because he, a White American, was more concerned with his personal love for Oba-Bore than reporting. Did the two blow each other or something? Was he promised a position in a cabinet?

From the start, he's been hollering and hollering. Greg Palast doesn't holler. If he's raising issues about voter fraud and theft, he's not suffering a case of hero worship. He's not that crazy about Bill Clinton, Al Gore or John Kerry. He's not a "sore loser" as he writes (Armed Madhouse) the New York Times asked him. But this big whiner that's been on every show acts like a sore loser. He acts like it is a personal affront to him that Oba-Bore might not be president. It wasn't about the people of Mexico who he didn't talk about except to slam the Zapatistas.

Watching that on Democracy Now! last week was probably the last straw for me. I felt like I was being told to be outraged because a whiner was outraged. I felt like I was being pushed to do something. People need to know their limitations and their priorities.

If every other week there's a new list of ten things jumping ahead of Iraq, we're going to be there forever.

If Amy Goodman had interviewed some people from Mexico, some voters, giving voice to the people we wouldn't hear normally, I'd probably have cared a great deal. But I really don't care that an American journalist is acting like Oba-Dore's mistress and screaming to spare his head.
I also don't think America (or any country) needs to but in everywhere. I think this tendancy to scream, "America must act!" is part of the reason we have so much unrest in the world.

Let's say the right's not total creeps inside. Let's say they have some good motives and just don't get it. Okay? Well they're screaming for us to but in everywhere. They think we needed to but in with an illegal war in Iraq. They think we needed to but in on Chile and install Pinochet.

Right or left, the "we must save them!" impulse hurts the world. We act on our motives and our interests which may not be the same as the people that we're supposedly "helping."

Mexico had a crooked election. Should we hear about it? Sure. Should we hear a bunch of whining, moaning and all that nonsense? No.

If the Mexican people want to address it, they will. That's their right. While the US upends every notion of right and wrong in Iraq, I don't know that we're helping anyone, as US citizens, by saying, "Okay, let's all focus on Mexico this week!" Want to do people of the world a favor? End the Iraq war.

Look at what's going on with Israel. A lot of responsibility for that goes right back to the United States and efforts to be "helpful." Bully Boy wants to be "helpful" again. We blocked a resolution calling out Israel by the United Nations.

Maybe it's time to stop saying, "We must help" and asking ourselves why we think we have a right to lead action and outrage?

That's not "isolationsim." That is about respecting the right of the self-rule. If we'd done that in the last century, the United States wouldn't have propped up so many brutal dictators. Now, me in MASS, is supposed to be outraged and ready for action over an election in another country with two candidates that weren't all that different? I'm supposed to put Iraq on the backburner and start screaming for "justice" (as explained to me by the people who suddenly got interested in the election right before it took place)?

I don't think Mexico's election comes close to what's going on in the Middle East right now.

I don't know why that became the go-to issue for so many on the left. (I don't mean Palast, he covers elections. That's one of his things.)

I don't think the "war and peace report" has the role or task of becoming the "election report" and I don't see how a group of blowhards is giving voice to the voiceless.

It's not about "justice." It's about a flavor of the month. Somethings get favorable attention and something's get ignored or slammed. Talk to anyone in the community, but especially the Irish and the Irish-Americans, and you'll know how the mainstream media and the independent media ignored realities (Bill Clinton's visit for one) and only felt the need to talk about it at all over some bar brawl. Someone died in a bar brawl.

I'm supposed to be shocked. Like I'm supposed to be shocked that an election was crooked.

I don't mind op-eds, but I'm losing faith in advocacy journalism because I'm losing faith in so many advocates who probably say, "I'm trying to cover everything." But you're not trying that. On any given day, you've got fluff and puff while you ignore areas that matter to people. You pick and choose who you're going to support.

You stay on the fence with Israel (out of fear) and you want to note the illegal occupation of Iraq every now and then. But you want to slam Ireland which many see as occupied forever. With them, and probably true with Israel, your attitude is, "Enough! Just get along!"

There are reasons for the conflicts in Israel, there are reasons for the conflicts in Ireland. If you're about "justice," you don't act like those reasons don't exist just because you're bored or have some stupid election results to cover.

Before I started this site, I was pretty pissed off about the coverage of Ireland in this country. I was bothered by the fact that most stayed silent or aired the slams. (Democracy Now! aired the slams.) I wrote to various sites, various watchdogs, and I get a mealy mouthed e-mail about how they thought it was important and, if they had time, they'd cover it. They never had time.

It's a selective form of "justice" and it's a cowardly one. And all you have to do is get the tar brush and smear "terrorism" and everyone runs. We're seeing it right now with the silence on the armed aggression that's gone beyond Gaza. We saw it with Ireland.

So four gasbags acting like Oba-Bore is their boyfriend doesn't mean shit to me. And on the gasbags, did you notice there was no anti-Oba-Bore? I sure as hell did. Israel can't be covered on Democracy Now! without bringing on some pro-voice. But we can have a discussion (for basically the full program) on an election where everyone's in agreement?

It's a funny kind of "coverage." And there's also the issue of the non-coverage of CODEPINK's booing of Hillary. ("Peace Activists at Hillary Clinton's Speech Try to Take Back 'Take Back America'") McCain's booed and it's world shattering news, covered. But the show takes a pass on this and a lot of people wondered if a conference was more important to the show than peace? Gotta protect your friends or at least your own ass which must be why that nonsense in Vegas never got the criticism it deserved either. (CounterPunch didn't worry about taking on the 'clicque.')

Maria and Ava both think Mexico's elections got so much coverage from the left because you had a lot on the left surprised by the immigration rallies. So they thought, "Here's a home run! They'll love me for this!" It really is two different issues. One is an election in Mexico. One is a struggle for rights in this country. It's kind of patronizing to think, "Oh I'll cover this because I bet it's 'hot!' Those Mexicans will love this! And love me for it!"

Ongoing armed aggression on the part of the Israeli government during that gasbag chat. But we're focused on some crooked election?

There's no perspective. There's no focus.

And let me be real clear here, I think the Gaza coverage on Democracy Now! was cowardly. That's an area where C.I. and I disagree. I understand where C.I.'s coming from giving the show the benefit of the doubt. C.I.'s a little less taken in by hype. But I bought it into it. I bought the idea of giving voice to the powerless so when I saw everything but in Democracy Now!'s coverage, I was outraged.

C.I.'s attitude isn't dependent on the Amy Goodman hype. C.I. thinks she's a good journalist but doesn't think she's our bravest voice. I did. I bought into that and into the "I challenge the powerful" garbage that her book (which I still like) and her speeches promoted.

(By the way, just FYI cause a lot have asked, C.I. was the one who insisted we use "armed agression" in our news roundup last week. Rebecca was trying to think of a way to word that sentence and C.I. said the only term was "armed agression." I say that because I also disagree with C.I.'s judgement that, in Amy Goodman's shoes, that coverage would have gone the same. It wouldn't have. C.I.'s being kind.)

In fact, C.I. was very kind throughout that entry that bent Peter out of shape. There are mutiple examples that could have been used, things C.I. would point out to me when there was concern that I'd bought into the hype. (I did buy into the hype.)

The book (which I still like) says don't trade reporting for access. What was that Thomas Friedman nonsense about but "access"? He's on my show so I won't ask the questions that need to be asked -- that's how that interview played.

Peter asks what the big deal is that they didn't note Nancy Youssef. Well, I only know her because she was a guest on the show (more than once) so I'd guess they think she has something to say or they wouldn't have brought her on. So she breaks the news that the administration does have a body count of Iraqis killed. The show ignores it.

They could have just noted it in a headline and there's been enough headlines lately that weren't that pressing. Cedric talked about one nonsense one at his site. I was talking to Cedric about this because Ty had told me some stuff and I'm White so I'm not going to immediately pick up on everything. But Cedric does have an issue with the guests. Why is Margaret Kimberly never on? That's just one, Cedric has a long list. He also wonders why there's so little criticism of some of the sell outs like Obama? He told me, look for the Voting Rights issue to explode in terms of coverage during a slow week and an attitude of "Look how we covered that. We're so good."

He points to Thomas Friedman's interview and asks why he was on? His opinions on the war aren't already known? It's not like he was challenged on them. He wasn't challenged on his hate speech about Hugo Chavez, that just sailed past. There was a bickering about Israel which was mainly, "You don't understand" with Goodman shooting back, "I've had ___ on my show."

C.I.'s been talking about how we don't water down our beliefs to make them "sell." That was touched on when Fraudan died and it's been picked up many times since then. If people are ready for change, you don't give them change-lite. There's a column on that I saw today so it's obviously something others are thinking about too -- I'll link to it tomorrow.

But a time when so much is going on, why are we wasting our time? Democracy Now! is trying to be NPR. Maybe it will get its act together. I hope it does. But maybe if people had said enough when NPR began its long slide, NPR wouldn't be where it is today.

There wasn't a playbook. The issue came from the community. C.I. ran interference for the program all last week. If there was a playbook, how are we supposed to know the calls if we can't hear each other? (I didn't talk to C.I. until this evening. We went so long without talking that C.I. had to send me a message in an online post.)

I got me. Here I can not water down what I think or feel. I may have a few readers or many readers, but I'm not posing.

And that's another issue about the shout-out/link that the "Daily Digest" kept pushing. If you're independent media, you support it. There was no support of Yes! or Common Dreams in the "Daily Digest" when they had actual stories on Amy Goodman. But that nonsense (I howled with laughter when I read C.I. comparing it to a year book entry!) gets linked to. Why? That's a valid question. The answer may be someone on the show wrote it. The answer may be that "we have to build indymedia" really just means we have to ass kiss.

It doesn't matter how many on the left have been pissed off by that site. It doesn't really matter that questions swirl around what happened with Hackett's Ohio race. It doesn't matter that women have been repeatedly trashed in a sexist manner. It doesn't matter that a lot of African-Americans don't feel welcome there.

What matters is "traffic." It's a long journey from brave voice for East Timor to link-whore online. And that's all that was. The "year book entry" provided no information. It wasn't worth reading. It was kissing ass to get traffic and if Democracy Now! wants to kiss ass to any website, that's pretty sad. Someone sent me something from GNN called Democracy When? and I can see that the slide didn't just happen. But I've been clear about what my problems are.

Rebecca was hilarious, just the whole way she approached it. But that's her way. My approach is different, C.I.'s is different, Cedric's is different, Elaine's is different.

And sorry to Elaine because until I read her entry, I didn't get how insulted she was by the coverage of her profession (the really bad coverage) on Democracy Now!

Elaine was on the fence about which way to go, Rebecca's explained this to me before, and went the way she did because it was a time when sexism was rife in the other profession and that profession seemed to address every problem with medicine. You're unhappy, take a pill.

She made a decision and wrestled with it for months, Rebecca's said. To have her decision trashed with insults about how it is less of a profession and it has less ethics really did bother her. There was no correction to the false information aired. I know as a college student, if they slammed college students, I would've bailed. When we'd pick out the headlines after that, Elaine would say, "Oh, I was so busy today, read them to me first." I should have picked up on the fact that kept happening over and over.

That's a perfect example of Goodman not knowing her basics and covering a story that misinforms. And there was no correction. That's why you can't cover everything. You don't know everything. And when you're anchoring a show, you need to know what you're talking about. That's true of Ted Koppel and it's true of Amy Goodman.

I've got a cousin who goes to Shippensberg and he wanted me to note this:

Please note: Contrary to popular belief, the majority of new physicians do not take any oath upon receiving their diplomas or certifications.