Sunday, October 31, 2010

TV: Media of the absurd

As two who've experienced not only multiple revivals of Albee's Tiny Alice but the canonization of the Twenty-First Century's two leading dim bulbs Bush and Barack, we thought we had a handle on the theatre of the absurd but, in fact, nothing prepares you.


That point became very clear in last week's coverage of the release of government documents. Friday October 22nd, WikiLeaks released 391,832 US military documents on the Iraq War. The documents -- US military field reports -- reveal torture and abuse and the ignoring of both. They reveal ongoing policies passed from the Bush administration onto the Obama one. They reveal that both administrations ignored and ignore international laws and conventions on torture. They reveal a much higher civilian death toll than was ever admitted to.

How would Panhandle Media handle this? The beggar media, for those who've forgotten, came to new levels of name-recognition (if not fame) and access to the pockets and, more importantly, pocket books of a huge number of Americans as a result of the illegal Iraq War. It was a cash cow, a rainmaker, for Panhandle Media. For the first time in it's 145 year history, The Nation magazine found itself raking in the dough and turning an actual profit, Pacifica Radio found itself flush with so much cash, local stations skimming off the top wasn't really a liability. Those with faces for radio, found a home on TV. It truly was a heady time during which many recast themselves as independent voices of the left when, in fact, they were nothing more than megaphones for the Democratic Party.

Bully Boy Bush's eight-year occupation of the White House was bad for the world but it put a shiny veneer and polish on a number of whores and that was never more clear than last week if you were waiting for WikiLeaks coverage from Panhandle Media.

The Nation magazine offered nothing on WikiLeaks last week. There was a video of Jeremy Schahill appearing on MSNBC talking about WikiLeaks -- that would be MSNBC's content that The Nation magazine reposted. They also reposted Laura Flanders GritTV 'commentary' that managed to buzzword WikiLeak without ever actually discussing it or explaining it. In fact, Laura's 'commentary' was like a trashy website listing porn terms in a desperate attempt to drive up traffic. Which, if you think about it, really does summarize The Nation today.

Yes, the same Laura who once declared it impossible to ignore WikiLeaks (look for her April 2010 column making that claim) ignored it. Despite having a half-hour TV show which airs Monday through Friday. She ignored it over and over. But that's what a whore does and that's all Laura Flanders has become, a cheap, tacky and, yes, ugly media whore.

She's far from alone. In These Times boasts no public access TV 'celebrity' but they couldn't be bothered writing one damn word last week about the documents WikiLeaks released. The Progressive?

Last week, the magazine published 15 online text pieces and not one was about WikiLeaks. That's appalling. In a ridiculous radio commentary last week, Matthew Rothschild opened with, "WikiLeaks has performed a service that our mainstream corporate media has failed to do."

Wow. They've failed! You know, Matt, it's too bad you don't run a magazine. If you did, you could get everyone to cover the WikiLeaks release . . . Oh, wait.

Matthew, you must have forgotten, you are the editor and the CEO of The Progressive magazine. You know what's "really ugly"? Your failure to publish even one article at the website. And you can trash US Senator John Ensign all you want (we have no need to defend Ensign) but if you don't want to look like a hypocrite, you shouldn't attack Ensign for not wanting  a hearing on the revelations when you and your magazine can't even write about it. 'Not at all." [For more on Rothschild, refer to Elaine's "The Whoring of America" from last week.]

All last week, Beggar Media had time for every subject except the WikiLeaks release. An actress phoned us Friday to say of KPFK, "It's offered more 'news' of Obama on The Daily Show than on WikiLeaks." No, she wasn't joking. To listen to KPFK programming last week was to have no idea that WikiLeaks released any documents. During the Bush reign, KPFK had a number of hosts insisting no one cared more about the Iraq War than they did. Today? All quiet on the Democratic Party front.

Take Margret Prescod who wastes everyone's time with KPFK's increasingly useless Sojourner Truth which, despite claiming an international view ("We live in a global world"), refused to cover the WikiLeaks in any of it's broadcast. It's not that she couldn't find Iraq in three hours she offered last week (Thursday's show aired Friday morning, before anyone e-mails insisting that she only did two shows last week), she did manage to mention the death sentence Tariq Aziz has received. Marget's tired act's always good for a laugh, where else can you hear a US state pronounced "Can-tucky"? Marget Prescod, poster child for the illiterate and uneducated. Keep it real . . . stupid, Mags, keep it real stupid. Not that she has any other choice, of course.

"We live in a global world, we are all interrelated," insists Mags on show after show . . . devoted to pimping the Democratic Party in US elections and attacking the Tea Party. As Dorothy Parker observed so many years ago, "You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think."

KPFK and KPFA originate out of California so let's move on over to KPFA. Monday, The Morning Show actually provided a little time (less than eleven minutes) to WikiLeaks. It's called the biggest release of government documents ever and The Morning Show, which offers 10 hours of commercial-free programming each week, couldn't even devote 11 minutes to it?

Time was far from the only problem with their 'coverage' -- as listeners quickly realized when Brian Edwards-Tiekert questioned guest and former CIA agent Ray McGovern. Ray's really never blown any big time secret so how this retired CIA agent became a movement hero on the left is puzzling. But he shows up whenever there's a breaking story and succeeds in misdirecting time and again.

On The Morning Show Monday, Ray McGovern declared, "If the media in this country gives it [WikiLeaks] the appropriate attention and draw the appropriate lessons from it, we should be out of those places within a year. If they don't, then it would be the same kinds of problem where the American people would be deprived of first-hand documentary information they need and are deprived of from the so-called Mainstream media."

Golly, Ray, another misdirection. Ray, in his opening remarks, was already lulling the audience into a fake state as he insisted that it would be Big Media and not Beggar Media that would determine the knowledge base of the country. Big Media ignored -- Wait, we'll come back to it.

We don't know what they teach at the CIA but apparently English isn't big on the list. Ray was in the midst of an endless jag ("I was watching Diane Sawyer and she is one of my favorites when it comes to talking heads"), mixing in terms like "fawning corporate media," when he starts paraphrasing Martha Raddatz's Friday report/commentary on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. Fine, no problem with paraphrasing. But if you say something's a quote, it needs to be a quote. That's a basic.

Ray McGovern: After all of this [Martha's report/commentary], Diane Sawyer says, 'Well this is really awful' -- this is a direct quote, quote Diane: "I know there's a lot of outrage about this and tell me anything new about prosecution" -- and I'm thinking, "Wow, Diane Sawyer and the cable channel, they're finally getting it: Prosecution. These are war crimes. "Anything new, Martha, about prosecuting WikiLeaks and Assange?"

A direct quote needs to be a direct quote.

Last week we covered Big Media's coverage of the WikiLeaks release ("TV: The WikiLeaks reports") and noted Diane's line that Ray's 'quoting':

Diane Saywer: I know there's a lot of outrage about this again tonight, Martha, but tell me anything more about prosecuting the WikiLeaks group?

That's a direct quote. Assange's name doesn't appear in it. A lot of Ray's 'quote' doesn't appear. And, for the record, ABC News? Isn't not cable. It's commercial broadcast. Why in the world Ray McGovern is watching ABC World News with Diane Sawyer and under the mistaken impression that he was watching cable news is beyond us but it doesn't speak well to the abilities of the CIA to accurately capture information. (On KPFK's The Monitor, Ray would repeat the same story with the same mistakes but reveal "I took notes on it" which again speaks to the problems with the intelligence level of the CIA and those it trains. He gets Diane's quote correct but his 'quote' of Martha's reply is bungled. On Flashpoints, he wouldn't know the channel and state, "I don't watch television very much" but insist, "I copied this down.")

Nor does his surprise at Diane's on-air attitude. We're talking about Richard Nixon's "girl," Tricky Dick. We're talking about the woman who demonized the Dixie Chicks in her attempt to publicly shame them. Who's side are you on, Ray?

Ray self-presents as an expert which is always puzzling to say the least. On KPFA, he was insisting that The New York Times only published the articles because papers outside the US were publishing stories. Here's where we drop back to Ray's claim about how Big Media's coverage will determine how much the people are informed.

Both of those claims are false. And it doesn't require detective work or a great analytical ability. It doesn't even require longterm memory. According to Ray, Big Media will inform (or not) and
The New York Times only published it because foreign papers were. How good's your memory? Our memory contains the Downing Street Memos, does yours?

For those who've forgotten, these minutes of a 2002 meeting between the British and the American officials plotting the Iraq War, became public in 2005. Became public? That was despite The New York Times and other US papers ignoring it. It was covered in the foreign press. Being covered by the foreign press, Ray McGovern, did not force The New York Times to cover it. Being covered by the Beggar Media did get the word out, did inform Americans of what Big Media was keeping from them. That's an important moment and important lesson. Strangely, it's one that escapes McGovern.

Everything that falls out Ray McGovern's mouth is questionable and, more and more, seems like an intentional distraction. Maybe his brain has just gone, but whatever the reason, he has nothing to offer the left.

If you doubted it, you only had to catch him Monday night as he carried the tired act over to The Monitor. The Monitor wasted over 30 minutes allegedly on WikiLeaks' revelations. Allegedly? Did you learn about anything in the documents? No, you didn't. You got the hosts and two guests yammering away endlessly but never talking about what was in the documents. One of the yammers was Ray McGovern who managed to -- yet again -- have Bradley Manning guilty of leaking.

Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has entered no pleas as of yet and has made no public statement. Ray McGovern is -- intentionally or not -- doing the government's work for it by convicting Bradley in the court of public opinion.

Ray was trashing Martha, Diane and NPR, all were "fawning corporate media." Ironically, NPR offered the only coverage worth praising last week. Ray and his cohorts offered nothing worthy of praise. Take KPFK's Uprising where host Sonali Kolhatkar couldn't even get the basic facts right. She repeatedly claimed that WikiLeaks did their release on Saturday, October 23rd. We knew that was a lie because the release was covered in the Friday October 22nd snapshot. We knew it was a lie because at the WikiLeaks Iraq War Log site, it declares: "At 5PM EST Friday 22nd October 2010 WikiLeaks released the largest classified military leak in history."

When someone can't even get the basics right in the intro, you know they've got no idea what they're talking about. Ray repeated his "fawning corporate media" talking point on this show as well but, of course, couldn't bring himself to call out Barack Obama for a clear violation of the law, for clear War Crimes. There just wasn't time, you see. There was time to yet again trot out his Diane Sawyer ("One of my favorite folks there on the TV.") story which really does indict Pacifica Radio for their limited guest scope -- the LA-based station, the Bay Area-based station and the Houston-based station all heard that same anecdote from Ray McGovern. He would even make time to trot out the anecdote yet again on KPFA's Flashpoints Radio. The larger of War Crimes -- established War Crimes? No time for that. No time at all. Time for Ray to brag on Secretary of Defense "my friend Bobby Gates." But no time for what really mattered. It was the pattern whenever someone in the Beggar Media actually offered a little, tiny sliver of coverage.

Last week, at The Common Ills, WikiLeaks was covered in every snapshot. Monday's snapshot was the largest one ever done. The last paragraph led to some complaints to the public e-mail account by visitors. This was the paragraph:

Today Amy Goodman hosted a discussion the WikiLeaks release on Democracy Now! (link has text, audio and video) and the New York Times' At War blog is taking questions about the WikiLeaks release for their reporters who are covering the issue (among those covering the release have been Sabrina Tavernise, James Glanz, Andrew W. Lehren, Michael R. Gordon, etc.).

The entire 112K snapshot addressed WikiLeaks. But Amy Goodman's cult stormed the public account insisting their goddess had been shortchanged. She had, they insisted, provided the best coverage on Monday and there wasn't even an excerpt!

There wasn't an excerpt for a reason. What she offered was pure crap. With the hope that she might improve later in the week, a link was offered. But she was never excerpted in the snapshot because her hour long garbage was pure garbage, pure crap that purposely misinformed.

Nir Rosen, Pratap Chatterjee and David Leigh joined her to talk about . . . Iraq and Bush. With the exception of noting that "the Obama administration has lashed out at WikiLeaks," the program couldn't include Barack in the discussion.

It was the same cowardice that Nicole Colson demonstrated in US Socialist Worker's sole report on WikiLeaks last week. One article on WikiLeaks. They published 23 articles last week. Only one addressed the biggest document release in history. Only one. And even it pulled the punches.

Before last week started, Angus Stickler's "Obama administration handed over detainees despite reports of torture" (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism) was already online, though you'd never know it by the way Beggar Media ignored it:

Human rights organisations have expressed outrage at the revelations. Professor Novak, the UN Rapporteur on Torture told the Bureau: "If the United States forces handed over detainees to Iraqi jurisdiction, despite the fact that they were at serious risk of being subjected to torture, that is a violation of Article 3C of the Convention Against Torture of which the US is a signatory."
He said there should be a full and thorough investigation to ascertain whether any of the detainees handed over to the Iraqi authorities by the US have been abused.
"The burden of proof is on the US to prove that they can categorically state that the detainees they are handing over are not at risk of torture.There should be an investigation to look into the fate of those individuals to see whether they have been abused."

This was picked up by human rights groups, by politicians outside the US, the details were covered by TV and radio programs and newspapers around the world. It was just the Beggar Media that couldn't inform you of it.

Friday, during the WBAI pledge drive, Amy Goodman was insisting -- while pitching Jeremy Schahill's Blackwater book ($11.53 at Amazon currently) for $75 -- that, "Jeremy, you were in Afghanistan at the time [WikiLeaks released the documents]. You did do some broadcasts from Afghanistan relating to the Iraq War Logs just because it was that important." But not important to write about, apparently, nor important enough for Amy to talk about breaking the law -- which the Obama administration did.

And that's why we didn't get much coverage at all last week from Beggar Media. To tell the full story, to tell the real story, you were required to talk about the Obama administration turning over prisoners to known torturers in violation of laws and conventions. Those are War Crimes. And Beggar Media -- as evidenced by their coverage -- was only concerned last week with getting people to the polls to vote Democratic. Admitting that the current US president had committed War Crimes?

That's too much for them because they aren't about news and they aren't about reality. They're about whoring and that pretty much tires them out and leaves little time for anything else.

Now last time we were informing you that the Saturday broadcast of NBC Nightly News covered this turnover of prisoners to torturers under Barack. So even Big Media was able to talk about it before last week started. And yet, not a word, not a peep from any in Beggar Media. Ray McGovern had endless time on Pacifica programs to pontificate but never managed to note that, did he? He had time to slam NPR.

Tuesday Diane Rehm devoted the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) to the revelations. Among her guests were Pentagon Papers whistle blower Daniel Ellsberg. He made sure this issue was addressed, he made sure that the crime of turning over prisoners to torturers was addressed. Daniel was in a hostile environment -- to put it mildly -- but he got that out there and on the table. By contrast, Ray McGovern was in a warm and welcoming environment on The Morning Show, Uprising, Flashpoints and The Monitor but never found time to discuss it.

The theatre of the absurd goes viral. Friday, October 21st found Barack on the campus of the University of Southern California, yet again speech-ifying. And he made the most ludicrous remarks that really do capture the age of absurd in which we now live. In a desperate bid to turn out the vote, he insisted, "I told you this was going to be hard. I told you power concedes nothing without a fight." The logical way to interpret that is Barack's warning the American people against him, telling them they have to fight him. But that's not what he meant. The president of the United States was whimpering and whining and wallowing in Victim Mentality. The most powerful person in the country -- possibly still the most powerful in the world, was pretending he was on the outside when, in fact, he is The Man, he is the system.

Absurd. And a real independent media would have glommed on that statement. But we don't have independence from Beggar Media. What we have is the likes of Ray McGovern distorting and distracting. It's becoming very obvious where the cover ups begin and it's always been true that they only end with you.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }