Sunday, September 17, 2006

Editorial: Call Us Dixie Chicks -- We're not ready to make nice

Leave it to Lotta Links to yet again prove our point that the media, big and small, failed with their Iraq coverage all summer long.

Grabbed from Lotta Links:

Father of Lt. Ehren Watada launches speaking tour to support son's protest of war 9/17

Oh my God! He's going back on tour! Wait, this is Lotta Links which previously headlined a story as being about war resister Bob Watada. Bob Watada is the father. Ehren Watada is the Iraq war resister.

No, Bob Watada is not launching a tour right now. He may do so again, but the story Lotta Links links to says he is and, for proof, they link to an August San Francisco Chronicle story that appeared as Bob Watada was winding down his speaking tour.

The tour in question is over. It's passed. There's no new or news in the headline.

[C.I. provides the breakdown here.]

Now what is news is "Military tries to sneak in a new charge against Ehren Watada."

What's that you say? Glad you asked.

The Article 32 hearing took place in August. Friday, the US military announced that they were adding this charge: conduct unbecoming an officer. Por que? For a speech he gave in Seattle at the Veterans for Peace conference in August. What? You didn't hear about the conference? You didn't hear about the speech?

One more indication of how media, big and small, failed you on Iraq this summer. With few exceptions, they didn't cover the Article 32 hearing, with few exceptions, they didn't cover the speech.

Now the military's trying to tack on a charge after the fact, a charge that no Article 32 hearing took place on. Ehren Watada's civilian attorney, Eric Seitz, says, "If they go ahead and add this charge without reconvening an Article 32 and we get to trial, we're going to move to dismiss it because it wasn't presented at the Article 32, and my belief is a military judge is probably going to dismiss it."

Sounds more than logical so why is the military pulling this nonsense?

Could it be because other war resisters are coming forward? Ricky Clousing and Mark Wilkerson were already war resisters. As summer wound down, Ricky Clousing turned himself in and refused to recant his position against the war. (The military's responded by charging him with desertion.) Mark Wilkerson followed. (And, though some still couldn't find the story, Cindy Sheehan was at both their sides living up to her earned nickname of Peace Mom.) That's not all. Anita Anderson announced that her son, war resister Darrell Anderson, was returning from Canada. Courage to Resist reported that he's planned events for September 30th in Fort Erie.

Ehren Watada is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to serve. As other war resisters tell their stories, is the military getting nervous? Are they afraid Watada may be leading to America putting a face on war resistance?

Probably so.

If you think nothing happened in peace news this summer, it's not true. Plenty happened, from a trip to Jordan to the Troops Home Fast, to dozens of activites in between and Camp Democracy going on in DC. (C.I. notes that John Nichols has a story on Camp Democracy and you can check The Nation home page for that. It will be excerpted at The Common Ills this evening.)

But if you think nothing happened, it's because media, big and small, failed you. They weren't interested. They had other fish to . . . simmer.

Maybe you missed the CNN story online but the headline read "Darfur free falls as the world dithers and Sudan balks" and we're not remembering anything like that cautioning against invading Iraq. But then again, Bully Boy supports action in Darfur. (And then some.) Watch for all things media, big and small, to give you round the clock coverage because, if they proved nothing else this summer, it's that when the mainstream picks up and goes to a new location, they'll gas bag it on that one topic too. They can, apparently, only follow one topic. Look for Darfur, Darfur, Darfur round the clock this week.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, you've got what we'll call a "moat" being constructed. (C.I. dubbed it that first, we all agree -- it's a waterless moat -- Bully Boy did read this summer! From Ye Old Times Military Strategies!) You've got the military's own chief intelligence officer (Marine) saying that al Anbar is most likely lost (no, hearts and minds to be won). You've got corpses turning up so regularly and in such large numbers that the mainstream (if not small media) is seriously discussing it.

Oh, yeah, and did you hear about the US military keeping a count of Iraqis who died? Probably not if you depended on all things media, big and small, to inform you of that story that broke in June. Let's repeat: In June.

Now you get some people who should be red-faced and ashamed, trying to sneak it past their readers or listeners or watchers that "According to the military's count . . ." What? What? Dumb ass media says "What?" They didn't tell you that and they won't own up to the fact that they're now sort-of, kind-of covering something they should have covered in June so they haven't got their nerve up to tell you yet that, goodness, golly, the government refuses to release the count to the press or the people.

Now the military let the lie go on for over a year (the military began keeping a count in July of 2005 -- or that's the story they're sticking to right now -- they've always kept a count) and now that the cat's out of the bag, the press should be screaming for the count to be released. But that's not happening. They maybe waiting for another month or two to scream because they really don't want you to grasp how their self-boastful coverage flat-out failed you in each and every way (with very few exceptions) throughout this summer.

They failed you. So an editor of a magazine can write an overly long attack on people he doesn't think are worth the time of day, but he can't tell you about the DAMN BODY COUNT. He can slam away but he can't tell you about Ricky Clousing or Mark Wilkerson. He can slam like there's no tomorrow but you haven't heard a peep about the fast or about Camp Casey or about . . .

Hey, it's a long list and they need to own their failures and "failure" is the only word for it. The media failed, big and small, with few exceptions. (And we'll note big media tended to fail less than small media this summer.) It's embarrassing and some are now on promotional tours talking about how important small media is and how it is the only way to inform you and blah blah blah and "Buy my book or donate money to my magazine or do this for me or that for me because I am the living Jesus Christ of small media." You're not Jesus, you just have a Christ complex and, sorry to break it to you, your disorder is far out of your reach.

We're again having technical problems, so we're not doing links to the following. But in terms of small media, these sites, publications, broadcasts at least tried in some way this summer (and some did a really strong job) with their Iraq coverage: Truthout, CounterPunch, The Nation, KPFA's Flashpoints, KPFA's The Morning Show (we give it credit especially for being one of the few programs to cover Bob Watada's speaking tour -- which, again, is over now, it's not starting), and . . . We're searching, we're reaching.

The KPFA Evening News did cover it but that's a real news show and not a news magazine so it should be covered. But, yes, KPFA Evening News covered Iraq pretty much every broadcast.
On Flashpoints, Dennis Bernstein and Nora Barrows Friedman largely focus on the actions in the occupied territories. But their coverage of Iraq was greater than some of the ones who've lined their own nests with their supposed bravery on Iraq.

So we salute those (and anyone we've forgotten to include). We salute The New York Times for actually doing a story on Ehren Watada, for some strong reporting from Edward Wong and Richard Oppel Jr and, C.I. adds, from Damien Cave and Paul von Zielbauer.

We salute The Washington Post for their Iraq reporting which is usually greater in volume on any given day than The Times.

But we salute the war resisters. We salute Cindy Sheehan who kept going even when small media turned its back on her story. (Which, for the record, they did -- with few exceptions -- all summer long. And anyone who doubts that should ask themselves, in terms of programs, where you heard or saw Cindy Sheehan this summer?) We salute Ann Wright who spoke at the start of the summer about the importance of upping the ante -- and went on to demonstrate, day after day, that those weren't just empty words.

We salute Tom Hayden who didn't just settle for what's going on currently but looked towards the future. (We support Hayden's comments two Saturdays ago, but we're still feeling outrage, like Laura Flanders -- who also should be added to the list of people who distinguished themselves.) And speaking of Flanders, one woman doesn't need CNN rushing to cover Iraq 24-7 to mention it. Randi Rhodes rarely lets a day pass where she doesn't discuss the war that this administration started, the war that this country is officially involved in.

Hey, that round the clock Look What Israel's Done Now didn't cut into Iraq coverage. That's because small media had already dropped Iraq before the Israeli government decided to go nutso and out bully the Bully Boy. They can joke and they can kid, they can lie and they can spin, but reality is that Nancy A. Youssef broke the story on the body counts in June and they weren't covering Israel then.

Maybe small media just needed something to give them a sense of 'renewal'? No doubt, they'll find that in non-stop, wall-to-wall Darfur coverage because, hey, if big media's doing it then small media needs to drop everything and rush in to cover it as well.

Oh, imagine the bravery and grit involved when one decides to rush into a war zone . . . even if means leaving the war zone they're supposed to be covering. Folding Star called it right, Issue of the Month.

With few exceptions (and we've noted some) small media embarrassed themselves all summer long with regards to Iraq. Mike wrote, during this summer, at his site, that what he'd learned was that in the glomming on one story, small media was no different than big media.

Expect to see more of it. And if an editor doesn't realize how offensive his wordy, lengthy attack on a topic he supposedly doesn't think merits any attention was, he might want to look to what his magazine's been covering. Because The Nation (which we noted last week had done a better job than many) wasn't the only one without a big Iraq cover story. But then, we couldn't get White (Soccer) Mama dispensing that conventional wisdom as if she were still auditioning for the chat & chews if that space was used for Iraq.

Lotta Links, we kid it, we josh it. But the reality is, Lotta Links, even with mistakes, did try. They ignored the Nancy A. Youssef story and that was one of the sites Mike noted in his "War As an After Thought" column for Polly's Brew. Mike contacted them himself about the Nancy A. Youssef story. He did that after he learned from Eddie, Shirley and other community members that it wasn't, as C.I. thought, that independent media wasn't aware of the story, they were ignoring it by choice. Eddie contacted a war and peace report when Youssef's story broke. They didn't cover it. "War as an After Thought" noted, in a very long list, every small media site, program, magazine that was contacted about Youssef's story (and this was before the Israeli government went into wack-job overdrive). No one was interested.

It wasn't that they didn't know. It was that they didn't care.

Maybe Watchdog can take a look at that.

Provided, of course, that they can tear themselves away from the very pressing issue of Katie Couric's ratings.

[Courage to Resist and provide coverage of Ehren Watada.]
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