Sunday, October 08, 2006

Editorial: Going to where big media is and ignoring war resisters

Darrell Anderson is someone we've covered in the two previous editorials and,sadly, we need to cover him again. Sadly because there hasn't been a great deal of coverage. For those late to the party, come on in, there may be a few snacks left.

The illustration (to the left in some browsers) is how The New York Times elected to cover Darrell Anderson's story: a Reuters paragraph (the actual Reuters was much longer) mixed in with other "National Briefing"s on October 4th of last week. We've photo shopped it so that the item actually draws attention.

It's one of nine items. The Times never saw fit to run any report by their own staff about Anderson.

Can Darrell Anderson be summed up in a single paragraph? The New York Times certainly thought so.

If you are late to the party, two things: avoid the artichoke dip and allow us to catch you up. Darrell Anderson served in Iraq and was injured, April 2004, by a roadside bomb. He was awarded the Purple Heart. Stateside and facing a second deployment to Iraq, he elected to self-check out of the military. In January of 2005, he went to Canada.

Anderson was quite public with his feelings regarding the war: he'd witnessed abuses, he didn't want to kill any innocents, and he thought the war was illegal.

In Canada, he applied for asylum. Unlike during the Vietnam era, the Canadian government of today has refused to grant refugee status to those who chose not to serve in an illegal war. Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Patrick Hart, Corey Glass and Kyle Snyder are only some of the war resisters who are attempting to get the Canadian government to recognize their plight.

In Canada, Anderson worked odd jobs, suffered from Post Traumatic Syndrome and met and fell in love with Gail Greer. The two married in February 2006.

Had Anderson wanted to stay in Canada, he could have. Greer is a Canadian citizen and he was no longer a war resister seeking asylum, he was also that plus someone married to a Canadian. The latter half of the equation should have granted work permits and other benefits.

On the issue of seeking asylum, there was a mix up and his attorney missed a deadline on appealing the denial. But, though it may have taken months, his marriage guaranteed that the Canadian government would have to recognize him.

Over the summer, Anderson began floating the idea (publicly) of returning to the United States. During this period, Ehren Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to serve in Iraq (because he saw the war as illegal and immoral). August began and ended with two war resisters who had self-checked out turning themselves in: Ricky Clousing* (who has since been charged with desertion) and Mark Wilkerson (who has heard no update as yet). Both men publicly oppose the war. On September 2nd, Agustin Aguayo, after many attempts within the military and within civilian courts to be granted conscientious objector status. At the end of September (the 26th) Aguayo turned himself in. His wife and two daughters were not allowed to visit while he was held in custody and he was quickly shipped to Germany.

This was a backdrop of war resistance within the military. In early September, Anita Anderson (Darrell Anderson's mother) announced that he was planning to return and she was attempting to talk him out of it. Later Anderson would confirm his decision to return at the end of the month. Saturday, September 30th, Darrell Anderson crossed the Peace Bridge back into the United States. Last Tuesday, he turned himself in at Fort Knox.

Those are only some of the details that don't get covered when The New York Times reduces Anderson's story to one paragraph. "Well," you say, "that's The Times."

Yes, it is. But don't kid yourself that independent media did any better. The Nation? Not one story on Darrell Anderson in the last two months, not even a "Web Only Exclusvie" at their website. The Progressive, well if Ruth Conniff couldn't weigh in that school violence was bad, who could do soccer-momma outreach now that The Rosie O'Donnell Show is no more? (We like O'Donnell. We don't hate Conniff. The point is that the topic wasn't the most pressing last week. Not when you repeatedly ignore the peace movement, war resistance, etc. to write about DC and take a break only when it's time to hop in the mini-van.)

To be really honest, the only individual that deserves any praise at all for coverage on this topic last week is Aaron Glantz. Writing for One World, Glantz discussed Anderson's story and the PST that many troops suffer from and, writing for IPS, looking at Anderson, Aguayo and the war resistance movement. Some news broadcasts covered Anderson. Otherwise, not a great deal in independent media.

Now maybe you read, listened to or watched Amy Goodman's interview with him on Tuesday's Democracy Now!? If you heard it over the broadcast airwaves, that puts you one up on listeners of KPFA, KFCF and KPFB. Those listeners didn't hear it over the airwaves. Those three stations were in fund raising mode. So the hour program was reduced to approximately forty minutes.

"Oh," you say, "it was fundraising. Something had to give."

That's a valid excuse . . . provided the three only broadcast Democracy Now! once a day. But the reality is that they broadcast it twice daily. So with two chances to provide Darrell Anderson's interview (on the morning he turned himself in) to listeners, they went another way.

Which way? Playing the interview with ABC staff about ABC's groundbreaking report on Mark Foley. They didn't even bother to credit or note the website that first broke the exchange between Foley and a former Congressional page. It was a nice bit of back patting for ABC. Sex scandal or war resister? Who lost out?

Well the listeners lost out. Now it can be (and is) said, "If you want to hear the part of the broadcast that you missed, you can visit the website at . . ." (that's a paraphrase). Yes, you can do that. Provided you have web access and KPFA, KPFB and KFCF are supposed to, unlike NPR, reach out to all listeners -- which includes those without the internet. It also presumes that you have the time. The six of us who listen to KPFA over the airwaves (Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.) listened to the six a.m. broadcast and the nine a.m. broadcast. We've already given two hours to Democracy Now! that morning -- we're now expected to go online?

It's a matter of emphasis. And burying Anderson's segment at the end of the program isn't all that different from "National Briefing." We noticed that all summer long. Camp Democracy had a vet who got arrested while protesting he and another guest were supposed to address that and the Troops Home Fast in the last segment (less than ten minutes). Ehren Watada's lawyer? He also got that "choice" spot. It's a matter of emphasis.

The Foley story had been talked to death and it was extremely doubtful before the interview started that an ABC staffer was going to give up a "scoop" before ABC broadcast it. This week, we were all so glad that Amy Goodman was at least interviewing Anderson (many others didn't even bother to note him -- print and programs) and, had it aired on KPFA, we probably would have just noted it and moved on. But when it didn't get played on either broadcast, it did bring home, yet again, that it is indeed a matter of emphasis.

Which is more important? Covering what the mainstream is ignoring or providing a platform for the mainstream to come on and discuss the story they've broadcast each evening on World News Tonight? Where is the committment?

[C.I. wants it noted "right now," at risk of walking out on this editorial, that even if it's been only a little coverage, Amy Goodman has consistently made a point to interview each war resister she could and "you can't say that about many other outlets." That is true and we will note it. And the rest of us will, as kindly as possible suggest that although Goodman's led, she could lead quite a bit more.]

Where is the committment? We're obviously stepping away from Democracy Now! now. But that's fine because (a) it is true that no one's done more Goodman and (b) it's also true that no one's really tried. The Nation runs a story that quotes Carl Webb and nowhere in the story does it bother to tell you that Webb is a war resister. If you're looking for coverage of war resistance or the peace movement in The Nation, hope you catch that one or two issues a year (of the weekly magazine) that mentions it. (We're remembering one story by Christian Parenti in May and one on Ehren Watada in June -- we're not noting "web exclusives" because, again, it goes to a matter of emphasis. If you don't feel, for instance, that Tom Hayden's report on the trip of peace activists to Jordan to meet with Iraqi parliamentarians is important to publish in print, you're not going to win praise for putting it online.)

The Progressive? Well The Nation can point to two pieces in print. We can say that. Neither periodical noted World Can't Wait last week. And, as Elaine pointed out in "Should The Notion be finger-pointing?" -- The Nation has found time to "critique" youth involvement in the movement. Now it hasn't covered it. But a New York Times op-ed was more than enough for a good tongue lashing because, apparently, all op-eds in that paper are always 100% factual and correct. It's already spawned a spin-off piece by another person who didn't bother to do any research before slamming youth involvement in the peace movement (we covered that last week, see "Somebody tip Gramps' rocker already"). That's going to cut it for coverage of the peace movement? Sitting at your desks (apparently in a rocker) and scolding?

Wow. But back to The Progressive, we've seen a Brit who likes to speak of the US as "we" slam Naomi Klein and Robert Fisk's postions by distorting them. That was 'fun.' Matthew Rothschild likes to point out that he's not a member of the Democratic Party. Fair enough but the criticism of Ruth Conniff's Ralph Nader coverage in 2004 is something we were willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on back then. That's no longer true. In "The Regressive (Parody)" we credited a statement to her: " If there is a Green Party candidate who is running against an atrocious, conservative Democrat then by all means that's a great person to support." Two Conniff supporters felt we'd gone too far with that "creation."

"Connif may put too much weight behind DC Democrats but she'd never go that far," wrote one. The other was a bit lengthier and titled their e-mail "UNFAIR!" We hate to spoil the party but let's note something -- we didn't create that statement. Ruth Conniff made that statement on KPFA, in reply to a caller's comment (and after Kris Welch's explanation that the low regard that the caller held the Democratic Party in is not an uncommon sentiment to some listeners) on Living Room this summer. (It's the June 9th broadcast and you can go to the KPFA archives and listen for free if you need a laugh or need to fact check.)

If you've got "an atrocious, conservative Democrat then by all means" vote Green. From the woman who covers politics for The Progressive and did what many saw as a hatchet job piece on Ralph Nader in 2004. Well, we now know how she feels about third parties: When there's no other choice, vote third party! If you've got a great candidate from any third party but they're running against a so-so, middle of the road Democrat, it's apparently your duty to vote for the Democratic candidate. Thus spake the Beltway political correspondent.

We could also note that Rothschild wrote, at great length, when he wanted to "stir up a hornet's nest" about the 9-11 truth movement then he wrote about Iraq in recent times. He doesn't even believe in the 9-11 truth movement but, boy, did he have a lot to say. Again, it's a matter of emphasis. Something you think is truly unimportant and a waste of time prompts more words than anything you've written on the topic of Iraq of late. We think that says something.
And no, there was no coverage of Darrell Anderson this week. There was no coverage of Mark Wilkerson, Ricky Clousing, go down the list. Again, we think that says something.

If you think the war resistance movement is important, if you think the peace movement is important, you should cover it. If you think "youths" aren't active these days (you apparently missed the immigration rights rallies and who led on that), maybe you should speak to them or maybe you should publish them. Publishing a kiss-ass to adults about how "People my age are so apathetic" doesn't count -- even if you give it an award. Those b.s. pieces win awards every generation -- from the middle-aged judges. They weren't reflective of reality in any other time period and they aren't reflective of reality today. But it's an easy way to get honored -- you play the Queen Bee exception who really, really cares, unlike the rest of your uncouth peers who are so thoughtless and selfish and apathetic. Give the kiss-ass a gold star and send him or her on their way (presumably to a well deserved ass kicking from their peers).

We're bothered by the lack of coverage. We've noted it and we've noted it and nothing changes. We get e-mails from others who say they've attempted to register their own objections over what passes for coverage. "You are not alone" is usually the subtext of the e-mails. We know we aren't. You're looking at five who are recent transplants to California from New York, we know the activism that goes on in both places. Participating on this editorial are people from the south, the south east, the midwest, the east coast. We know what's out there. It just seems the people scolding the "youth" that are unaware.

We also know that the peace movement doesn't grow in silence. And the lack of coverage it hurting the movement. It's prolonging the war. It is past time that outlets took the war seriously. (Not treated it, as Mike so infamously and rightly put it, as "War as an after thought.") We think the e-mailers who write in saying they've registered their own objections are being greeted on the other end with, "Oh not us." We think a lot of people are fooling themselves. In this edition, we offer "Are You On CounterSpin's Guest List?" which is about FAIR's study of The NewsHour (PBS). In that study, they note (with apparently no sense of awareness or humor) that The NewsHour, from October 2005 through March 2006, presented no peace activist as a guest. We agree that's shameful. We also agree it's equally shameful that in the same time period, CounterSpin has presented no peace activist. (CounterSpin is the radio program produced by FAIR.)

The study prompted a lot of chuckles (and comments about stone throwers in glass houses) from friends in the mainstream media. Know what? We've made that point repeatedly. We've stated you can't criticize others when you're not covering it yourself. We do like FAIR but we hope the mocking and laughter that some are greeting the study with finally brings home the point that CounterSpin is not offering the sort of program FAIR recommends when they critique. (That's also true of the gender and race makeup of the guests.) Sorry if the truth hurts but it's not a new song we're singing. All summer long we noted, repeatedly, that independent media wasn't interested in Iraq. Camp Casey III got mainstream coverage (often mocking), it didn't get independent media coverage. This was the summer that independent media couldn't find Cindy Sheehan. That alone tells you how sorry summer 2006 was. Sheehan, for those who missed it, took part in the Troops Home Fast, went to Jordan as part of the peace delegation, attended the Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle (where Ricky Clousing would announce he was turning himself in, where Ehren Watada would make the speech that the military would rely heavily on in bringing charges), she was there at a Karl Rove event saying he was a war criminal. The Peace Mom was standing and being counted. So were Ann Wright, Diane Wilson, Medea Benjamin, Tom Hayden, Jodi Evans and many more. Where was independent media?

There were exceptions who actually bothered to cover some of the stories. (Independent media news broadcasts usually did a better job than anyone else and The KPFA Evening News did the best in our opinion.) As we heard guests drop by programs and trot out Judith Miller, all this time later, and credit/blame her for a New York Times story she never wrote (Chris Hedges wrote that story), it seemed like when there was time for Iraq, it was time to bask in past glories. That wasn't cutting it. The refusal to seriously examine the propaganda of Dexter Filkins (even after The Washington Post outed him as the go-to-guy for the US military when they wanted to plant a story) wasn't cutting it either. The joke during these sessions became, "Who is Dexy screwing to get such a pass?" (The punchline was, "No one. If he makes love anything like he 'reports,' no lover would cover for him.") The pistol packing, go-go boy in the Green Zone who was in Falluja but didn't see white phosphorus used and didn't see anything but a rah-rah video game going on before his eyes got a pass. The man who wanted to whine that Paul Bremer should have spoken out before his book because then it could have presumably been reported by him (Dexy) in The Times got a pass. Judith Miller becomes the scapegoat for every word written about the Iraq war -- even the ones she didn't write -- and the go-go boys of the Green Zone who never told the truth get a pass?

Considering that one of the few stories singled out by that paper in their kinda-culpa was written by Judith Miller and War Pornographer Michael Gordon, it's a real shame that Gordo (who is still at the paper and still schilling) isn't a name that most consumers of independent media know. They should know it. Miller's been sidelined. There's no further damage she can do via The Times. Gordon remains.

Turning to the topic of music, did any of the arts coverage in independent media note "Waiting on the World to Change"? What's that? John Mayer's single. It's about the war and it's in the top twenty. Kelefa Sanneh covered if for The New York Times. Is that what we've come to? We need to expect that sort of thing to be noted by The Times and overlooked by others. (C.I. says it ran on October 5, 2006 and believes the article's entitled "Two Views Of the War, Both Short On Swagger.")

If last week were a test, independent media, as a class, failed. Darrell Anderson was not a driving topic for independent media. And there wasn't even the excuse that the Israeli government had gone more wacko again. No, the story that was the wall-to-wall, the 24-7 was Mark Foley. And as this happens week after week, month after month, it becomes very clear that, for whatever reason, given the opportunity to address Iraq or any other story (especially a 'trend' or 'hot' story), independent media is going to go after the same thing the cable networks do. If you haven't bothered to cover Darrell Anderson in the last week, we're not sure why you're publishing or broadcasting. If his story doesn't matter, if the story he is a part of doesn't matter, seems to us like you're either auditioning for big media or trying to impress them. It doesn't seem to us that you're reporting on the stories that matter, the ones you know big media will ignore.

The good news for Darrell Anderson is that some were interested in his story. Along with Aaron Glantz, Reuters, the AP and Jim Warren (Lexington Herald-Leader) seriously covered it. (The AP ascribed an indirect quote to Anderson that later got repeated as a quote. Anderson did not say "I'm asking for leniancy." Other than that, we have few objections with the AP's coverage. That may, however, be in part due to the fact that few others were willing to cover it.) Anderson had the best chance of facing the least punishment because he was wounded veteran, because he was a decorated one, because he suffers from PST and because his marriage meant that he could have chosen to stay in Canada and, at some point, the Canadian government would have had to recognize him. Others won't be so lucky and if last week was some sort of a dress rehearsal or fire drill, we're all in trouble.

[*Ricky Clousing. At one point, Ricky Clousing had a website or there was one in support of him. Dallas, whom we've overworked for this edition reports that the link currently takes you to an error page. Our not providing a link for him should not be read as a lack of support for him. If anyone knows of a web site about his case, please e-mail and we'll note it next week and in the future. Courage to Resist covers all known American war resisters. The War Resisters Support Campaign provides information regarding American war resisters in Canada.]

[On passes, C.I. notes that a friend requested a pass for their adult-child. C.I.'s known both parents for years and knows that the adult-child is causing embarrassment. The adult-child does not usually comment on Iraq so there's no need for the adult-child to be mentioned at The Common Ills. C.I.'s agreement specifically did not involve this website although C.I. did tell the parent that if the feature might cross a line, C.I. would not participate in the writing of it. Although the adult-child has been commented on here before in the one and half years this site has been up, we don't have plans to comment on the adult-child again but we do reserve the right to should a comment be required.]
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