Sunday, December 18, 2005

4 Books, Many Minutes

Jim: Welcome to our latest book discussion. We're switching it up a bit this week. We're only doing four books and we're providing excerpts at the top of each discussion. The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and me; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz; and Wally of The Daily Jot. Elaine?

Elaine: Page 165:

When Michael Kinsley in The New Republic discussed "the various alternatives" for health care reform facing Congress, he noted in parentheses that he was not talking about "the Canadian-style 'single payer' option, which has few backers." The single-payer option didn't have "few backers" among the U.S. public -- in one Wall Street Journal/ NBC poll, 69 percent of respondents supported the idea of Canadian-style, government-funded national health insurance. And it didn't have "few backers" in Congress; the McDermott single-payer bill had ninety-two cosponsors in the House, more than any other health care bill. Where the single-payer plan didn't have many backers was among Kinsley's colleagues in the media elite -- who seemed to go to great lengths to avoid discussing it.

Elaine (cont'): The excerpt is from The FAIR Reader: An EXTRA! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s, edited by Jim Naureckas and Janine Jackson.

Wally: FAIR is the media watchdog that also puts out the magazine Extra! and the radio program CounterSpin. Ruth's daughter-in-law saw the book and knew Ruth was a huge fan of CounterSpin so passed it on to her and Ruth then recommended that discuss the book.

Dona: The book explores the ways in which the media distorts reality with specific examples such as the one Elaine noted on The New Republic.

Ty: Tonight on , a guest brought up the health care plan and, should Hillary Clinton run for president in 2008, it would be beneficial that people familiarize themselves with the plan. The FAIR reader is a good place to start.

C.I.: Jumping in, another starting point is The President's Health Security Plan. In her foreword to the book, Clinton notes "And, as we move forward in this great national discussion, we must focus on these people, their health care, and their peace of mind -- not solely on theories or statistics." To which many critics would add, or soley on what benefits the insurance industry which was one of the criticisms of the plan that some today may not be aware of.

Mike: (Laughing) I didn't know we were doing research for the discussion.

C.I.: I just pulled the book off the shelf while Elaine was reading the excerpt.

Mike: Oh, okay. Well the plan in the nineties was way before my time. So I've heard of it after the fact and reading FAIR's book was surprising to me because the Clinton health care plan was not like Canada's but when someone wants to lecture on the health care plan today, that's usually what they say or offer the claim that Canada has faulty health care and we would be in the same boat if we'd adopted "their" system. So that was one of the big surprises for me, what the health care plan was as opposed to what most people thought it was.

Betty: And it was interesting to see how the insurance lobby promoted that plan and how the media shut out any discussion of a single-payer program. I'm a bit older than Mike but I honestly thought that was what was being advocated by Clinton as well. I think the right was very effective in spinning because in real time, I can remember discussions in high school where it was accepted, by students and promoted by two teachers, that this was the Canada type system instead of managed care that was like an HMO monster.

Cedric: Well part of the reason they were so effective was that the mainstream and the "left" New Republic were shutting down discussion from the start.

Mike: And the process of coming up with the plan, we discussed this in one of my classes this semester, shut out the leaders in the health care reform. Which included long term health care advocates from my area, Boston. But the press didn't want to treat what the people wanted seriously and the reader brings that point home very loudly.

Cedric: It's also interesting to read the analysis, from real time reporting, of the first Gulf War and of the Bush v. Dukakis election. It's as though no lesson was learned from that. The tactics that we are rightly objecting to with the Bully Boy were tactics his father used as well. Embedding reporters with the troops was only one example.

Betty: And I mean, gas bag Cokie Roberts, she and others were actively pressing for the first Gulf War to take out Saddam Hussein. And let's note too that just as she invented the "security moms" in 2004, in 1992 she was saying that women voters were going to be voting based on "the recent riots in Los Angeles." The insta-expert also had advice on the night of the election in 1994, advice for Bill Clinton: "Move to the right, which is the advice that somebody should have given him a long time ago."

Ty: Something I wish FAIR would do is compile a book on "None the matter" Cokie Roberts. They've covered some who are obviously right-wing and that's good and all but reading this book and knowing Ruth's comments on Cokie Roberts, I really think that it would be a service and that it would sell.

Jess: I know I'd buy it. My parents would buy it and give it as gifts. I really enjoyed this book. I know we all did but what stood out for me is the points that have been made which go to the fact that if you didn't live through that period, or weren't old enough I guess I should say, you don't grasp how skewed your view is. It's all well and good for Joe Conason and others to talk about the right-wing attacks on Bill Clinton or whatever, but the press seriously let the people down and that happened before Bill Clinton was elected or running. It goes beyond Bill Clinton and reading this book and thinking of the books attempting to set the record straight regarding the right-wing witch hunts on the Clintons, I really felt like, "Okay, this is what I'm ready for now."

Jim: You mean?

Jess: A broader examination that goes beyond an individual or a party and deals with the press itself. Both the mainstream and a rag like The New Republic that wants to claim it's of the left.
My parents are longterm subscribers of The Nation but they are very offended that New Republic writers are popping up. My mother says they're seriously questioning whether they will renew because she knows the comment Maria posted elsewhere about how Camille Paglia won praise in The Nation and she read that and wondered about it, read the issue. Now that she knows that the writer of that piece works for The New Republic, she's started looking at other bylines. The New Republic is not a left magazine and The Nation shouldn't be propping it up.

C.I.: Just to clarify, the review, by Lee Siegel, I believe, was not praising Paglia's new book. It was, however, in panning the new book, offering kind words for the infamous book that deserves no praise and received none from The Nation in real time. Considering that Susan Faludi is listed on the masthead, that Gloria Steinem appears in ads for the magazine and that Katha Pollitt, among many other feminists, has been attacked by Paglia, I found Seigel's evaluation of the infamous book revisionist and insulting. They've added Dave Zirin to their online edition and hopefully they'll be addressing the issue of reviewers but I agree with your mother, Jess, The New Republic does not belong in The Nation. The magazines are too different, their readership is too different -- for one thing, The Nation has a readership -- and when you invite those people over, you end up with reviews that are offensive.

Wally: You prefer The Progressive's art criticism, right?

C.I.: Yes, I've noted that at The Common Ills. Ruth Conniff and Matthew Rothschild regularly provide strong reviews, for instance. Generally speaking, if it's a legal book or a historical one being reviewed in The Nation, I'll read the review but otherwise I just glance at it. And I wouldn't have a problem with it, I'd just ignore it, everything can't speak to everyone, but when you're bringing in reviewers from The New Republic, there's a problem that needs to be addressed. There are more than enough writers who can review that could be asked to without providing assistance to an ideological opponent.

Jim: Agreed. We're also all agreed that the FAIR Reader is worth checking out. And we're on a similar topic as we move to a book Rebecca selected for this discussion.

Rebecca: From pages, 241 to 242, the magazine being discussed is The New Republic:

Murray Waas, who wrote the investigative domestic stories for the magazine in those years, believes the publication had forsaken its left-of-center past and become, bluntly put, "a propaganda organ for the U.S. government." Yet, its pro-contra articles carried extra weight because they could be cited by the conservative administration as evidence that even liberals now agreed with the White House policy.
"The real influence of The New Republic was that it was still considered a liberal voice," Waas told me in an interview. "For decades, it stood up to Joe McCarthy, the Vietnam War and Watergate. It had employed James Ridgeway and Walter Pincus. So it had a certain cachet when it said what it said about the Sandinistas for committing human-rights abuses or not being democratic. If the [conservative] National Review had published that kind of article, people would have said, 'This is incredible. Look at the source.' But The New Republic, with a long liberal tradition, had a credibility in saying things about the Sandinistas."
For some years, after the magazine was purchased by Martin Peretz in the mid-1970s, The New Republic had shifted rightward, adopting a strongly pro-Israel stance and endorsing the Reagan Doctrine's rough-and-tumble interventionism. "The readership, the public wasn't aware of this change," Waas said. "The magazine tried to put on the appearance of being liberal [on domestic matters, but] the things that really mattered the most to Peretz and his crowd, they controlled: Israel and Central America."
Though [Fred] Barnes's stock rose with his CW-defining articles [Conventional Wisdom] on Nicaragua, his pro-contra flacking antagonized the remaining liberals writing for The New Republic. "Barnes was just another reporter following along wide-eyes," recalled ex-New Republic editor Jefferson Morley. "He was like what the conservatives say [New York Times correspondent] Herbert Matthews was with Castro. He was just taking down what was said uncritically."

Rebecca (con't): That's from Robert Parry's Fooling America: How Washington Insiders Twist the Truth and Manufacture the Conventional Wisdom.

Jess: And this is the kind of book I was referring to before. This is taking on the actual system. I really enjoyed this book. Rebecca is always noting something that Robert Parry wrote whenever we get together for these editions. Reading this book, I really grasped why he was an important voice that spoke to her.

Cedric: The book takes a hard look at the process of the mainstream media and how Conventional Wisdom passes for insight and how insiders know they should never be too far ahead of the curve. At best, they should be a day ahead. That's how you suceed in being a pundit. No one's ever being punished for being wrong by spouting conventional wisdom. They are punished for speaking truths. I think both books complimented each other well.

Kat: And Parry's website is Constortium News. You can purchase his books there.

C.I.: You can purchase his most recent two books and for a third book, a link takes you to Amazon. I don't believe you can purchase this book there.

Dona: And Dallas is saying that Powell's Books can't be used for Robert Parry so we're using Amazon for the link. Our first choice is the author's own website. Our second choice is Powell's Books because they don't store information.

Kat: As noted on The Laura Flanders Show.

Dona: Right. I want to get back to Jess' point. Jess, you were talking about writers like Conason, who we enjoy reading, are covering one aspect of an important story and you found Parry's book and the FAIR one to be more what you're interested at this point. Could you elaborate?

Jess: Sure. I think, and thanks for pointing out that we like Conason's books because Ty and Jim and I are always going to the book case and pulling down Big Lies, for instance. But I get that point, or points, being made in the books. I'm less interested in Bill Clinton, which every other book weighed in on in the last few years, and more concerned with the press. I'm a journalism major so that may be why. But I'm interested in the workings that go beyond the obvious right wing echo chamber. We've got a book tonight that I think we'll address that somewhat when we get to so I'll leave it at that for now.

Kat: The point Cedric made is really the key theme to this book. You're not slammed for being wrong if you're parroting what every other pundit said. Then they flock together and do their squawk of "we were all wrong!" So they don't challenge, they don't question, they just parrot the conventional wisdom inside the beltway. That's why the chat & chews are so insulated and so worthless.

Ty: I really think this book is more effective than a lot that are coming out today in terms of reaching people because this book was published in 1992. People who might have trouble seeing what's currently happening with the press might be more comfortable with this more recent history.

Jim: Because?

Ty: Because there's enough distance. I was nodding and thinking, "I can refer to this point Parry's making in a paper" or something. It's surprising that there's so much timidity in challenging Bob Woodward or whomever today but this book has enough distance that it might make for an easier read for the squeamish. And the topic, trend, is still current and the players are still known.

C.I.: I'd agree and think that's a strong point. Rebecca gave me this years ago but I didn't read it until we picked it for this discussion.

Jim: Woah. Rebecca, are you surprised?

Rebecca: No. A) It was during the 1992 campaign and C.I. gave a ton of hours to the Democratic campaigns that year. B) And I'd been slow to start a book that C.I. had gifted me with. So it was noted at the time to let me know when I read the book I was gifted with and only then would this be read.

C.I.: And I told Rebecca on the phone that since we were discussing this I expected her to finally get around to reading the book I gave her the same year.

Rebecca: Which I'm doing now.

C.I.: Anyway, the book stayed on my shelves, through many moves, I didn't get rid of it. Rebecca gave it to me during the summer of 1992 and I wasn't doing personal reading then, my focus was on other things. And through 1994, that's where my focus stayed. At that point, it was two years and Rebecca still hadn't read the book I gave her prior so we were in a standoff. But Elaine had read it, and Rebecca of course. This was new to me and I can see the points that Ty's making. How Parry's argument shouldn't be as "controversial" as a book coming out today that comments on the Bully Boy might be. And the message is still pertinent but, due to the distance as Ty noted, it may be easier to accept.

Rebecca: I'll note that people interested in this book should also check out Robert Parry's Lost History and Secrecy & Privilege. I think he's an important writer. He's a reporter and that gives him a perspective that may be different from some of the press criticism you get. I said "different" not "better."

C.I.: I'd agree and stress Lost History just because it's focus is on the contras and how they were spun by the Reagan administration and by the press. But they're both great books and I read both when Rebecca gifted me with them. The book we're discussing, Fooling America, also charts the decline of Newsweek -- a decline I don't see as sharply as Parry -- and that will be of interest.

Jim: You disagreed with the quality declining?

C.I.: Yes and no. Parry wanted to do real reporting and had nothing but hassles at Newsweek. He knows what he's talking about and I'm not questioning that. But, let me think of the example. Okay, he's talking about how Periscope, in the magazine, went from breaking scoops to repeating rumors. News scoops to repeating gossip and uses the snide manner in which they wrote of Cary Grant's reported affair with Howard Hughes. I agree that was snide writing, but this is the magazine that reported the rumors on Jean Seberg as fact. I mean, we've talked about this here before, the rumors made it into the Los Angeles Times as blind items. They were not blind items in Newsweek. And the excuse that the writer didn't think it would be included in the print article and that the editor had a scooter accident on the way back to the office don't wash, not with me. They were sued for that and, of course, Seberg lost the baby, she miscarried. So from where I come from on Newsweek, they've always been a trashy little magazine and that's why you'll never find a great deal of highlights for it at The Common Ills. Where Parry's coming at it is looking at it as a newsmagaine and noting it's decline. He's right that it declined but our starting points on charting the magazine's sorry period are different. And just to clarify because I know some readers may have missed this topic when I brought it up some time ago. The rumors about Seberg start in the FBI. The FBI prepares them and plans to distribute them. Supposedly, Hoover, J. Edgar Hoover, killed that plan. However, the same rumors do appear in the press. They were attempts to discredit her with the America public and they pop up as a blind item by Joyce Harber, when her editor passed them on and vouched for the source, but in Newsweek the rumors are presented as fact, which they weren't, and Seberg's name is attached to them. For every Jane Fonda or Paul Newman who lived through Nixon's enemies list, there were others, like Seberg, who were destroyed. She was destroyed. Newsweek took part in that destruction. Willingly or as idiotic pawn the magazine took part in it, my opinion. So it's rag to me from way back. I'm going to go way off topic but I'm not planning to note a death, unless members raise it in e-mails, that just happened. It has to do with Nixon's enemies list, so I'll note it now. Jack Anderson passed. Anderson was a target of the Nixon administration. They were plots floated to kill him. In addition to being a target himself, he passed on, in Ocotber of 1973, the Justice Department's file on Jane Fonda, thousands of pages. The FBI, the Secret Service, the State Department and the CIA were monitoring her. Phones were tapped, mail intercepted, etc. A lot of people don't talk about it now, but she sued the government and the government stelled by making a pledge, one they certainly have broken in the last few years as evidenced by the Pentagon's spying on peace activists and much more. Constitutional rights were violated, the same way Bully Boy's doing today, and, as with Seberg, they attempted to plant false rumors on Fonda. Anderson's death was noted on a news break during The Laura Flanders Show and the news anchor noted that Jack Anderson can be seen as a link between the brave muckraking period and the Watergate period, I believe. I'd add that he was important to exposing Nixon and did so regularly. In terms of the present, we're right back where we were then.

Jim: Which is a point that you made Saturday morning in an entry. And I meant to pass on that we actually got e-mails the last time you brought up Jean Seberg, positive feedback. I'm guessing I didn't pass that on, but my point is that I don't find any of that off topic.

C.I.: Let me note again, this is a great book to read. If you have fence sitting friends, seek out the book and pass it on to them because Ty's correct that it's far enough away from today that people should be able to read it with shutting their critical thought processes down. I think his take on Newsweek is informed. I just happen to date their uselessness further back than he does. And that's due to personal reasons.

Jim: Staying with a theme of "R"s, Ruth and Rebecca, and with the theme of a rag called The New Republic, we now move to our next book. Ava?

Ava: From pages 104-105:

It is not a coincidence that the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Disinvestment Minister -- the men who signed the deal with Enron in India, the men who are selling the country's infrastructure to corporate multinationals, the men who want to privatize water, electricity, oil, coal, steel, health, education, and telecommunication -- are all members or admirers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right wing, ultra-nationalist Hindu guild which has openly admired Hitler and his methods.
The dismantling of democracy is proceeding with the speed and efficiency of a Structural Adjustment Program. While the project of corporate globalization rips through people's lives in Inida, massive privatization and labor "reforms" are pushing people off their land and out of their jobs. Hundreds of impoverished farmers are committing suicide by consuming pesticide.
Reports of starvation deaths are coming in from all over the country.
While the elite journeys to its imaginary destination somewhere near the top of the world, the dispossessed are spiraling downwards into crime and chaos. This climate of frustration and national disillusionment is the perfect breeding ground, history tell us, for fascism.

Ava (con't): That's from Arundhati Roy's War Talk which is a collection of her writings and speeches.

Jim: I know Wally wants to speak on this issue, but I'll go to Elaine first because we haven't heard much from her this discussion.

Elaine: I was enjoying listening. Like Ava pointed out, this is a book of writings. There are speeches and there are introductions. I think if you don't care for fiction or you're interested in an overview or introduction to activist and author Arundhati Roy, this is good place to start. You've got a very clear view of where she is coming from and what she supports and stands for.

Jim: Which is?

Elaine: Something too threatening to The New Republic, no surprise. She's concerned about the issues that go to the heart of democracy and go to the heart of the quality of life. Quality of life for the people other than the ones sitting at the top.

Jim: Wally?

Wally: The New Republican is a rag and I was writing about them and attempting to find the things Rebecca's written about them because she's been very vocal about them on her blog repeatedly.

Rebecca: Including noting that the only real value they had in the late eighties was the glossy photos of Antonio Sabato Jr. in his CK underwear on the back cover.

Wally: (Laughing) So I'm searching and can't pull it up at her site. I go to google and find something by Dave Zirin.

Mike: Who's a real deal writer. No fluff, no pretending to be something he's not. He tells it like it is. And credit to Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! because I'd never heard of him until she had him on to discuss his book.

Wally: This is from Dave Zirin's "Fighting the New Republic[ans]:"

The New Republic magazine - a pro-war Democratic Party rag - thought it would be provocative to muse about killing and torturing anti-war activists. New Republic writer T.A. Frank found it cheeky to sit in and mock an anti-war panel sponsored by the DC Anti-War Network, the DC ISO and others. He thought it would make his colleagues chuckle to wish for "John Ashcroft to come busting through the wall with a submachine gun to round everyone up for an immediate trip to Gitmo, with Charles Graner on hand for interrogation." The New Republic thought they would score points with their puffy beltway buddies by printing a call for someone to "take a bunker buster to [internationally known anti-war author] Arundhati Roy." The New Republic also thought they'd get away with it. They were wrong.
[. . .]
The New Republic is a magazine trying to stake out territory on the right wing of the Democratic Party. The New Republic believed it could earn street-cred among the DLC hacks upon whose buttocks their lips are permanently attached. The New Republic thought they could do this on the backs of our movement. They miscalculated, because unlike them, we have a spine.

Rebecca: It's the sort of thing that if the American Spectator did it, you'd just roll your eyes. But, this is after, after, they start airing their crappy ads on Air America claiming to be a liberal magazine. A bunker buster for Arundhati? I'm sorry, they don't do that and still get linked by feminists. And I honestly do not understand why they are linked to be left sites. I was talking about this to some friends this week and they all said this magazine was so damaging because it had sold, repeatedly, a repositioning. It promoted, it pushed it. "Even The New Republic" agrees has been a rallying cry for Republicans for decades. I'm a huge fan of Robert Parry's reporting. But I wonder how many on the left have paid attention to it because if we're going to fight the Republican-lite moves and attempted moves of the Democratic Party, we won't fight it by promoting that rag as left.

Mike: Exactly. They have passed themselves off as left and in the process real left voices have not been presented on TV. Parry talked about how they were all over the TV. When you link to them or treat them as if they are voices of the left, you're falling into the same trap that the mainstream media promotes, that these are voices of the left.

Wally: We'd read Arundhati Roy and intended to discuss another book of her's and ended up not having time that week. So I knew her writing and when I found Dave Zirin's piece, I was just shocked that the trash rag would get away with their attacks on her.

Rebecca: Which is what they do. They attacked the emerging news of the October Surprise, they and Newsweek, and they were wrong. They didn't correct their cover stories. But they were able to silence any debate by declaring that the mere discussion of the October Surprise was out of bounds. That's what they do, they try to set the parimeters of the debate and since they aren't left, they are listened to as opposed to real left voices. That's discussed in detail in Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege for those new to the topic.

Kat: I responded to this book. I thought Arundhati Roy cut through the nonsense and stated the issues clearly. I read this book during the attack on me from The New Republic supporter and promoter and the book just made me more determined to stand with those who speak to truth. I think she's a truth teller. I think some of the outrage is due to that, due to her focus on something other than what the opinion makers want to focus on and due to the fact that she's seen by small minds in this country as "the other" due to her gender and her country of origin. And to back up Rebecca's point, a feminist especially has no excuse for promoting The New Republic. Their long history is hideous enough but when they began attacking Roy, if they're a feminist, a true one, they're aware that this is one of those stand together moments.

Ava: Like Kat, I responded to this book. I enjoyed everyone we read and would recommend all but one. But this one really did speak to me. I know I'm seen as the other due to my ethnicity and due to my gender and I could grasp Arundhati Roy's points and not be threatened by them.
Elaine, you also picked this as a favorite, right?

Elaine: Yes. Because it's a brief book packed with information I think some people who might look at the other books and think, "I don't have time to read a book that's over 300 pages," they might be more inclined to pick up a briefer book.

C.I.: I'm going to jump in again because I think there's a connection between the three books that some readers might make, actually two connections. First, to take The New Republic, as the FAIR Reader and Robert Parry's Fooling America point out, The New Republic attempts to set the "safe agenda" and overrule voices that challenge. Reading War Talk will give you examples of why she'd be attacked by those playing the safety dance of conventional wisdom. She's ruled out in the same way that single-payer health care is and that the Sandinistas are.
But beyond that, two touch on an argument Parry's making, one of his larger points in Foolling America, which we didn't touch on. Conventional Wisdom was that we needed to bury the so-called Vietnam Syndrome. If we don't bury it, how can we rally the country behind more wars.
Parry charts those attempts very well and notes the Gulf War in particular, the first Gulf War.
The FAIR reader also goes to that point and it's a point, because burying it is necessary to imperalistic aims, that goes to heart of Roy's critique. All three books compliment one another very well. In an ideal world, you'd check out all three at your library and read them one after another.

Jim: They had time to read only one or access to only one, which should they choose?

C.I.: Well, if they have access to only one book then they should read it, regardless of which of the three it was.

Jim: (Laughing) Okay, badly worded question. Stick to the time issue.

C.I.: I'm not comfortable making that call. All three have huge strengths. It would depend upon what you wanted.

Dona: I'd say FAIR. If you'd read none of the three and were only going to read one, that's the one I'd recommend because, like Roy's, it's a briefer book and also because it's covering a number of issues. If one doesn't interest you, the layouts very clear, you can move to an issue that does and it's not required that you've read every chapter to understand one. Roy is understandable to us but if someone's new to the topics she's discussing it, this may not be a brief read. I enjoyed all three books but I'd say FAIR.

Jess: But I think I'd agree with C.I.'s point. You make a good case for FAIR and I really enjoyed that book and Arundhati Roy never fails to interest me. But for me, the choice would be Robert Parry's book because of the huge overview and scope. And you're recommendation is built upon something other than that, Dona, so I'd say it really does depend on what the reader's looking for.

Dona: Agreed. Let me add to my recommendation that if you're new to Roy or you have limited time, the FAIR reader.

Jim: Okay, we'll check back in on that at the end. And we took a break to debate the issue of a quote for our fourth and final book. We have no quote and I'll go into that in a moment. We're letting Betty set up the book however.

Betty: I enjoyed the book. During the break a number of issues were raised. There are issues with the book. That's not Mary Mapes is a liar! Mary Mapes is the author of Truth and Duty: The Press, The President and the Privilege of Power. It recounts her firing by CBS over the Bully Boy National Guard story.

Jim: Cedric, your comments?

Cedric: I didn't feel like it was all that. The points C.I. raised were the reasons that I read it and felt sorry for her but I honestly thought she was living in a dream world.

Jim: Explain why, because this occurred in a break, you felt she was living in a dream world.

Cedric: I don't think she's lied in her book. I don't doubt that the memos are real. I think she has a wonderful argument in favor of running with the story. I just think she's very naive. And that was the sense I had of the book while I was reading it. I couldn't put my finger on it until the quote debate came up.

Jim: Ty, explain the quote debate.

Ty: There were various sections in the book that were being cited as what should be the excerpt. Betty found a passage that was moving about Mapes' grandmother, I forget the other suggestions now. I know C.I. was adament that the quote come from the end chapters. You want to explain that C.I.?

C.I.: As I stated during the break, this book, referred to at CBS prior to publication as "the book," scared the hell out of them. It should have. Mapes writes a wonderful tale, and I'm not slamming her for that. I'm not calling her a liar. But, uhm, it's -- it's what Jim's will criticize me for when there's an entry that he feels I should have started off with a different lead. At The Common Ills, it's a conversation. That's all it is. It's a resource/review. It's not breaking news.
What Mapes does is chart her own journey. That's the way not to do this book.

Jim: Because?

C.I.: CBS wasn't scared that she'd speak of her grandmother. They weren't scared that she'd recount 9/11. All of this stuff should have been pulled from the book if the book was supposed to be looking at what happened. Now she may also be attempting to demonstrate that she's a person, a breathing, living person. But she can't do both in the book. She either takes a hard hitting look at what happened or she makes her own case.

Kat: Which was my criticism of she wants so bad to be approved.

C.I.: And she does which is why CBS breathed a sigh of relief with this book. I shared, during the break, that she needs to get on a lecture circuit. She probably wouldn't enjoy that because there are people who attack her and that would be a concern. But she's destroyed her own story. Not by lying, I want that to be clear. No one here thinks she's lying. But whether Mary Mapes is a nice person or not, I'm told she is, Mary Mapes was an investigative journalist. That's what scared the hell out of CBS. This book, when they finally read it, didn't scare them.
The end chapters are the most important outside of her addressing the issue of the panel itself.
This should have been a hard hitting book by an investigative journalist, if she wanted to make her case for her career and her abilities. Instead, it's the tale of someone who was pushed aside, trashed by her employer's employer and a hundred other things. Now Betty found a great passage, for example, that might lure a few people into reading the book. But she's already destroyed her chance for a wide audience by how she's approached this story.

Dona: Which is from a very personal angle. And I agree strongly with that. We all understand that she is wounded and this may have been the only type book she could write this early, while everything was still fresh. But it's a huge disappointment.

Cedric: "I woke up smiling on September 9, 2004" is the first sentence in the book. I'm less kind than everyone else on this book so I'll just state what I thought, "Who the hell cares?"

Ava: And while I don't know that Cedric's wording is cruel, I'd say it was blunt, it does go to what type of book is she writing? She's trying to make the case for herself when she should be, from the first sentence, making the case for her abilities as a reporter.

Jim: And Rebecca, you had a point you wanted to make.

Rebecca: Right. Why the hell did she participate? She knew the panel's make up. She was hopeful. The lesson here is, do not participate. Your sources will not be protected, you will not be protected. That lesson needs to be stated in the book. This didn't just to happen to her, as C.I. pointed out. This happened at CNN in the nineties. She seems unaware of a great deal that happened. But, from a p.r. standpoint which is my background, do not participate. Do not go along with your network. Do not be silent to the press while the investigation is going on. You are one person up against a corporation, you need to make your case repeatedly in the press. That's how you ensure that the panel judging you is fair. She notes that in the print medium, such as The New York Times, a panel was made up of journalists. That's not true of the corporations running broadcast news. People need to learn a lesson from this and from what happened earlier. The corporation will not protect you. You go public loudly and early. During the investigation. You do not agree to be silent. They weren't silent. They were leaking things all along. A point she alludes to but doesn't really underscore. They will protect the entity itself, that's their obligation. You need to protect yourself. I was appalled that after what she'd been through she wants to talk about the state of TV news in her conclusion as opposed to imparting a real lesson for journalists.

Jess: And during the break, when Rebecca raised that, I stated doing that could make you a loose cannon and end your job prospects. Rebecca shot back, rightly, that it would destroy you being seen as a company person and some might not want to hire you; however, after you've been publicly disgraced and labeled a bad reporter, a much larger pool of employers are never going to hire you.

Ava: Which brings it back to C.I.'s point. And Jim, you or someone is going to have to walk it through because you know the dance C.I. has to do, I don't mean that pejoratively, regarding this topic due to friends at CBS.

Jim: Okay, but then we're going to let Wally and Mike give the final words on all the books in this discussion since they won't be jumping in here. What's at the heart of Mapes' story?

C.I.: That a corporate parent needed a scapegoat. And that's a point that comes far too late in the book for anyone to give a damn. When she's raising the issue of the conversion to digital, the costs, a valid point, it shouldn't show up in the last third of the book.

Jim: CBS was concerned --

C.I.: And Viacom. We're talking corporate image.

Jim: Okay, that she would do a book along the lines of where the bodies are.

C.I.: Right and she didn't do that. She names one reporter for the Evening News who felt he knew everything about her story when he didn't. She is more probing of the panel. But it's written like someone who thinks CBS will welcome her back. Or maybe she's just too nice. But she's not working at CBS again short of a huge shake up or the memos being accepted, by the public, as real. One example. Julie Chen is the topic of soft press. People at CBS, especially the news department, are highly critical of Chen. Chen's married to Leslie Moonves. Now maybe Mapes was out of the circle on some perceptive criticism of Chen's abilities and work but that was a fear about this book. The most she offers is some slaps on the wrist. She gets off her Six Million Dollar Man joke about Moonves and that's really it. She speaks of the higher ups as higher ups and doesn't detail and address certain specific situations. That was CBS's fear, that they would be addressed. The whole tarmac episode is pointless. I don't mean because of the fact that Chen and Moonves were involved for years, while he was still married, but because she doesn't do anything with it. She sputters somer righteous indignation about Chen being a "news" person and hosting Big Brother but that's about it. The criticism goes much further and there's no way for me to believe that she's not aware of it.

Jim: And the book fails because?

C.I.: It fails because it's not selling. If you want your story heard enough to write a book, you need to write a book people will read. No one's concerned about the life story of Mary Mapes. I'm not trying to be rude here. They are concerned about what happened at CBS with regards to her reporting. You have to wade through too much. Someone sold her on the idea that the public had to know her. Again, she's supposed to be likeable and that comes through. But this wasn't a contest for Miss Congeality. This was an battle over the truth. And she doesn't present her case in a manner that gets to that. People at CBS who read it and spoke to me about it, didn't just breathe a sigh of relief, they were thrilled by the book. She took a serious issue and turned it into a personal story. They couldn't believe how naive she comes off. She's blaming the right wing bloggers as though they're the real issue. It takes forever in the book, almost the end of the book in fact, before she notes that these were independent voices. Bloggers didn't bring her down. What brought her down was the attack dogs of the Republican Party and Mapes can't or won't see that. But CBS is quite familiar with it. Bloggers didn't make anyone meet with Andrew Card in January of this year. A meeting she notes.

Elaine: And I can hear the frustration in C.I.'s voice so I'll leap in to give an example of where she seems hopefully off base. She offers, as apparent evidence that she's not someone of the left who just listens to the left, that she can enjoy the writing of P.J. Roarke and Maureen Dowd. Their writing styles aren't that different and Dowd's a critic of this administration but she's not the left voice so much as the contrarian voice. More importantly, and I can enjoy Dowd, she and Roarke both do things that should make an investigate journalist shake their heads in dismay.

Dona: Which is?

Elaine: If you're presenting yourself, and Mapes does, as someone who leaves politics aside when she's at the keyboard doing a story, I don't know that you cite people who aren't leaving issues aside in their writing as proof of your neutrality. I have no problem with anyone being partisan, but on my site, I'm not trying to write in a nonpartisan way. I grimaced when that popped up. There are investigative journalists, they should have been her examples. Instead she goes for op-ed writers.

Jim: Okay, and C.I. just say, "I'm not going to answer that" if it's something you feel like answering betrays something you were told.

C.I.: Or reveals. I don't think she realizes how revealing she was about people, at CBS and outside, who were supportive to her once the attacks started. She doesn't name them but her descriptions, there was no one that I didn't recognize. And Rebecca recognized two as well. If you're going to present someone as anonymous, you don't then provide the clue that's obvious.
For those who are still at CBS, they may feel especially burned. While she played softball with the bosses, they may feel especially burned. I don't think that was her intention.

Jim: The fear wasn't that she'd validate her original report, correct?

C.I.: Absolutely correct. They felt, those worried about the book, that she was so damaged on this topic, that if that were the focus, it was no problem. That it could, and she could, be easily dismissed based on the treatment she'd already received. I disagree with that. And the excerpts I was pushing for, from the back of the book, were the ones that went to the validity of her original report, that backed it up with further research since she's been fired. The worry was that she would provide a damning look at a culture inside CBS/Viacom. And she doesn't do that. She provides a sentence here or there. She also suffers from mistaken belief, genuine or not, that she was the first targeted. That is not true. CBS has been under attack for years. The bloggers were a new twist in the story but they're the same legion that Republicans have marshalled for years. Same type of attack dogs, just a different dog collar. She also wants to bring Bill Clinton into it. Why, I have no idea other than she wants to prove she's not partisan.
Her comments on Clinton, and I'm not a blind follower of Clinton's, reveal a serious lack of understanding from a news perspective. Jess mentioned Joe Conason earlier. Anyone who's read Conason or Robert Parry or any number of reporters on Clinton, is going to laugh at her attempts to appear nonpartisan.

Jim: Because?

Jess: She accepts the conventional wisdom. There were serious issues involved in the attacks on Clinton, and I'm not fan of Clinton -- Bill or Hillary, but to act as though a witch hunt didn't go on time after time is to be either unaware or lying. She had a chance to really say something and she failed. To say something about the news climate. I want to hear Betty because she enjoyed the book and some people will.

Betty: I just enjoyed that she told her story. I responded to that and found her anecdotes interesting. But what I responded to was the ones about her family or something funny. And I see the point that doing that, especially since the book's not storming the charts, isn't helping her at all.

C.I.: She's in the career toilet. She doesn't deserve to be there. But that's where she is. This book could have seriously addressed the national guard story and that could have helped her career. It could have seriously addressed the problems relating to what happened to her and set her up as a media critic. Instead, it's "This is the story of Mary Mapes." That's not reaching enough people to help her in any form. She needs to go to the lecture circuit and takes questions if she wants to make the points that need to be made. They aren't made in her book early enough to matter and, in some cases, they aren't made at all.

Jim: You said, "The issue is" during the break.

C.I.: The issue is that it's not that bloggers fired upon her. The issue is how CBS responded. That's what matters to journalism. I mean, here's an example of her should have been opening if she wanted to address the culture itself:

When a panel was created to evaluate a report I worked on, I cooperated thinking we would be operating from a pursuit of the truth. In short time, I learned that CBS had hired a private investigator to look into me. I learned that the man who presented himself as someone attempting to verify the story was actually invesigating to me. By the time the panel, composed of no working journalists, issued their report, I learned that despite claims of respecting journalistic traditions and promises to protect sources, sources would be revealed. That's what happened. Here's why.

C.I. (con't): Mapes is a better writer and can word that better than me off the top of my head and probably any other time. But that's at the heart of what happened. It's at the heart of embarrassment for CBS and outrage on the part of some at CBS over the way this was handled. These aren't issues that you raise after the 200 page mark. I'm guessing on the 2000, but it was well into the book. That's what embarrasses CBS/Viacom. That this "investigation," which wasn't an investigation, wasn't about reporting. Why it wasn't about reporting is the story that they didn't want told. That's a story she comes close to at times, but never really expands on.

Jim: Okay. Wally and Mike, tell us what books to read or avoid.

Wally: I'd avoid Mapes. I felt that way before the break. It's an interesting life but I wasn't interested in it. I'd grab any of the other three books and probably Parry first because I think you need the structure he presents if you're new to the topic.

Mike: My mother read Mapes and the book made her angry because she felt it went all over the place. Not the specific criticisms that C.I. and Rebecca have made. And I think Elaine as well. But she just felt it wandered all over and was a weak book. She bought it so I read her copy. She bought it when it came out and she was really interested in reading it. She eneded up really disappointed. So I'd say avoid Mapes because I didn't care for the book either. The other three are all worth it. I'd say start with Roy because she's eaiser to get into, or was for me. Then read Parry for the structure Wally talks about and then read FAIR. All great books.

Jim: And that does it for this week's book discussion.
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