Sunday, July 24, 2005

1 Book, 10 Minutes Amy & David Goodman's The Exception to the Rulers

We thought we were done. We had a paragraph to go on the editorial and then it was off to bed for all of us. (We hoped.) (C.I. posted an item on our last break at The Common Ills and we were hoping that would mean even C.I. could hit the sack.) But as we finished the editorial and got focused on posting the things already written, Mike asked if we were really not going to do the "Five Books, Five Minutes." Yes, we really weren't going to do that.

We'd slacked off on that during the week.

Mike was disappointed because for two weeks he'd wanted to discuss Amy & David Goodman's The Exception to The Rulers. "Great, write a review and we'll post it!" we cried (lazy, smart asses that we are.) But what Mike wanted was the give and take of a discussion. We all love Mike and he helps out here so the least we can do is help him out. With a ten minute discussion limit, we all agreed to discuss The Exception to the Rulers.

Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ty, Jess, Dona, Jim and Ava, C.I. of The Common Ills, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Kat of Kat's Korner and Mike of Mikey Likes It!

Here's an excerpt from the book, pages 254 - 255:

The Bush administration recruited some time-tested help for this effort. It retained John Rendon, head of the PR firm The Rendon Group. Rendon is a self-described "information warrior," who has worked on Iraq-related issues for clients including the Pentagon and CIA. Rendon was instrumental in setting up the Iraqi National Congress in 1992, securing the channeling of $12 million from the CIA to the group between 1992 and 1996. The Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence retained Rendon for the invasion of Iraq.
Rendon spoke at a July 2003 conference in London about the propaganda effort around the invasion. Colonel [Sam] Gardiner attended the talk and recounts that Rendon "said the embedded idea was great. It worked as they had found in the test. It was the war version of reality television, and for the most part, they did not lose control of the story."
Rendon did note one problem: "He said one of the mistakes they made was that they lost control of the context. The retired people in the networks had too much control of the context. That has to be fixed for the next war."
The themes of the invasion propaganda effort were twofold. The war on terror is a fight between good and evil (and it didn't hurt to invoke images of a Christian crusade against Islam). And Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attacks -- "what propaganda theorists would call the 'big lie,'" said Gardiner.
With these two concepts underlying all messages, Gardiner states that the strategic influence campaign around Iraq "distorted perceptions of the situation both before and during the conflict; caused misdirection of portions of the military operation; was irresponsible in parts; might have been illegal in some ways; cost big bucks; will be even more serious in the future."
The media had a starring role in this effort. Propaganda requires a gullible and complacent media in order to thrive. The U.S. corporate media played its part to the hilt."

Jim: Okay, Mike, get us started.

Mike: Well the book's written by two journalists, Amy Goodman and her brother David Goodman. I don't know much about David Goodman but Amy Goodman's the host of Democracy Now! which airs on TV, radio and the internet. It's a one hour news show that airs Monday through Fridays. It's something that we all count on, all of us here, to provide us with real news as opposed to stories about the latest missing blonde or the latest celebrity scandal.

Kat: News you can use. News that informs.

Mike: Exactly.

Dona: What stands out to me, and this is something C.I. and I have spoken about a lot probably starting in January or February, is the critique of The New York Times.

Jess: Which is really strong in terms of what the mea culpa covered and what it didn't and what stories still require corrections but have never gotten them. And we've addressed that at length in roundtables.

Dona: And just as important as that critique is to the present day, to citizens, I'd argue that the critique of the reporting on the atomic bom is just as important. The New York Times likes to cloak themselves in the "We are The New York Times." Yes, they are. And Jayson Blair didn't spring out of thin air. The paper has a history of pushing stories that the parties involved, reporters and editors, should have known better than to push. I'd argue it was a decision that they made to push them. It wasn't ignorance, it wasn't a mistake, it was a deliberate decision.

Betty: Which goes to the points that I felt they were raising in the book, Amy and her brother, about access and how you can trade independence for access and so many do.

Ty: It's not really important to any of us to know what joke some blowhard told at a dinner party in D.C. but to make sure they're at those dinner parties, they cozy up and do the fluff treatment and all the while act like they're in the business of reporting when in fact they are more often than not concealing. That's their business.

Betty: I'm so glad you said that! I was reading the stuff on "It's Only a Summer Scandal" at The Common Ills this past week and I love the song but what stood out to me was I don't believe that Gwen Ifill ever told viewers, before her "Condi gets accountable" NewsHour interview with Rice, that she and Rice often dine together and that Condi's bragged publicly about what a great cook Rice is. I'm not a huge fan of Diane Sawyer and haven't watched her in years but when she was co-hosting Prime Time Live, if someone came on from ABC or any of it's divisions, she'd note that. If she was interviewing Carly Simon or someone else that she knew outside of work, she'd note that. Public television needs accountability and at the very least, viewers of the NewsHour, and I'm remembering this as Condi's damage control for the news of the PDB finally coming out, should have been told at the start of the interview that Condi and Ifill were close friends. The public was owed that.

Ty: And if it had been disclosed, as it should have been, the question on most people's minds would have been why is Gwen Ifill doing this interview? This wasn't "Getting to Know Condi!"
This was about the public needing serious answers about a PDB prior to 9/11 that warned of coming attacks. There is no reason in the world that she should have been interviewed by a friend when the public needed and deserved answers. It's shameful that anyone would be allowed to do what she and Condi Rice did.

Kat: Agreed.

Mike: I was also amazed by the pack mentality and, for instance, Charlie Rose having his hissy fit because Amy Goodman quotes Dan Rather and Charlie's sweating about "I can't imagine Dan saying that, I'm not doubting you that he said it . . ." And then minutes later he is doing just that and Amy has to remind him, "I was just quoting Dan Rather." Or Lesley Stahl rescuing the guy --

C.I.: Richard Holbrooke.

Mike: Right so he doesn't have to answer questions from the press. Or Tom Brokaw omitting part of the title of the documentary film because it might offend the corporate sponsors.

C.I.: In fairness, it might have been a flub. He's made his share of his flubs such as his infamous comment when filling in on The Today Show about how coming to work so early that morning he was envisious or jealous, this is a paraphrase -- look it up if you care about it, of the homeless asleep on the street. Far more damning to me was his refusal to allow questions to be asked or to be concerned that a journalist was being roughed up at an awards banquet for journalists. At an awards banquet for journalists where the one being roughed up is winning an award! Or his pandering remarks to flatter Holbrooke during the ceremonies. He comes off like a first class kiss ass. And this is when Brokaw had some actual power so to see him kissing ass like that is embarrassing. And don't forget Holbrooke's own jokes.

Ava: Laughing, with the journalists in the room laughing along, that a Serb TV station had been bombed. I want to quote the Goodmans on that:

Laughter broke out in the room.
"It is an enormously important and I think positive development," Holbrooke added.
Here were hundreds of reporters supposedly upholding the highest principles of journalism, and they chuckled on cue -- at a war crime committed against journalists.
Now, what would have been different if Milosevic had stood up to announce, "We just bombed CBS!" and a bunch of Serb journalists had laughed? Radio Television Serbia, whatever its faluts as a mouthpiece for Milosevic, is not a military target. We went back to our office later that night to see the pictures of body parts being pulled out of the wrecked TV studios in Belgrade. It wasn't soldiers blown to pieces in the rubble. It was the people who apply makeup, the cameramen, and the journalists who were inside. People like 27-year-old technician Ksenija Bankovic, whose mother Borka we interviewed on Democracy Now! Borka asked how journalists could laugh at the killing of her daughter, whose only crime was going to work that night. In all, sixteen media workers were killed in the bombing.

Can we get a link for that Democracy Now! report?

C.I.: Dallas is already searching. You hear those stories and it's hard to say, "Well it's the jaded press corp." It's quite frankly disgusting. The pages are 286-287 that's Ava's referring to.

Jess: Which brings up the section I was wanting to quote and I'm not sure if we have enough time but it's page 152:

The media has the responsiblity to show the true face of war. It is bloody. It is brutal. Real people die. Women and children are killed. Families are wiped out; villages are razed.

Jim: Which is Falluja, let's be honest. Dexter Filkins turned it into a rah-rah video game. You never got the sense of the fact that a city was being destroyed, that people, males, were prevented from leaving the city. It was a turkey shoot and it was disgusting. But Filkins comes in with his rah-rah reporting and it's put it in the X-box and let's all play! Is it gallows humor? I don't know but it's not reporting.

C.I.: And Dona's indicating time's up but before that happens, let's let Mike talk about what stood out to him the most since he's the one who wanted this feature. Mike?

Mike: Well the parts everyone named are great and they're informative and anyone wanting to read a book that's going to tell it like it is needs to grab this book. I'm sure East Timor stood out for everybody. And that section was probably the one that spoke to me. Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn stayed on that story even when the media didn't care and didn't want to know and they pushed that story into the news, into the mainstream news, with their actions. It's the kind of thing that causes my mother to say Amy Goodman's a candle in darkness. And to me, that's what's so great about the book and so great about Democracy Now! because it's not "here's what everyone is talking about so we better get on message." It's about telling the story that might not get told. Or showing you the part of the story that you might not see. That's what this whole books about --

Dona: I'll play Amy Goodman, ten seconds.

Mike: and that's why people should be reading it. Make sure you look this book up. Look it up at a bookstore or a library --

Jim: Or the link which takes you to a Democracy Now! web page where you can order it directly, it's now out in paperback.

Mike: But like if you can physically hold it in your hands and just read two pages, I think you'll realize how important this story is.

C.I.: And the link Jim's talking about does provide an excerpt to the book. So you can follow Mike's advice and read a bit of it even if you're ordering it online.

Dona: (laughing) And that was not one book in ten minutes, more like twenty. Amy Goodman and David Goodman's Exception to The Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicans, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them.

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