Sunday, March 20, 2011

Media: Iraq as an aside

As the Beatles' "Come Together" faded after the first program break, Kris Welch was back on The Saturday Morning Talkies (KPFA) pompously declaring, "Later on in that song, you get 'Boy, you're going to carry that weight' and that's what's too true about what's happening in Japan." And doesn't that just capture the level of 'journalism' and 'facts' our media's been serving up of late?


For those who aren't up on their Beatles (a category of people which apparently includes Kris Welch), "Come Together" doesn't include the refrain "Boy, you're going to carry that weight." That is from "Carry That Weight" and the two aren't even on the same album -- "Come Together" is on 1968's The Beatles (popularly known as "The White Album" due to the all-white cover) while "Carry That Weight" is part of the sixteen-minute medley on 1969's Abbey Road. It takes a lot of dumb for that mistake to happen with a song you have chosen to play. It takes even more stupidity to declare, as Joan Baez's version of the Malvina Reynolds folk classic winds down, "'What Have They Done To The Land,' Joan Baez, that's this weekend . . ." The land? "What Have They Done To The Rain" -- rain. That stupidity was on display Friday as Flashpoints wound down. A canned interview with Baez was played (second featured on the show last week) and Dennis Bernstein was the moron who could play the tune but couldn't get the title right. If public radio was sending any message last week, it was that facts don't matter and, apparently, neither did Iraq.

Let's stay with Dennis Bernstein who spent Friday's Flashpoints with canned interviews (including re-airing a segment from that day's Democracy Now! -- needed because KPFA only airs Democracy Now! in full twice a day?) and, in his last few minutes brought on A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Richard Becker to note the local action taking place in San Francisco. Becker was given a little less than two-and-a-half minutes to discuss the local action and we sort of picture dedicated KPFA listeners gasping in shock due to the fact that KPFA has had no time to mention the local action nor Iraq all week long. Please note, they had time to repeatedly play "The Arts & Entertainment Calendar" all week long.

Under criticism from many listeners -- and needing to desperately raise money -- KPFA looked nervously at all the e-mails and phone calls they'd received last week and all the comments left on their website -- especially stinging to KPFA management was an Iraqi male who decried Voices of the Middle East and North Africa as an imperialist program since it refused to even note Iraq in their hour long, Wednesday night broadcast.

Why should Iraq have been noted? Well it is the eighth anniversary of the start of the ongoing, illegal war. A war the media sold. A war that Pacifica and others in the beggar media known as "independent" raised a ton of money off of. But, last week, they couldn't be bothered.

Well they couldn't be bothered until the comments at the website and the e-mails and phone calls continued to snow ball and became too much. So, quickly, a 'special broadcast' was pulled together.

How quickly?

The first cart (advertisement on public radio) on the broadcast aired right after Flashpoints ended Friday. It was so quick it caught the middle-aged Davey D by surprise because he'd spent the hour before, on Hard Knocks Radio, promoting just one action, the "Super Moon" that would be visible in the night sky. (A full moon.) But there it was, the self-congratulatory cart, airing right after Flashpoints, "On Saturday, March 19th, the eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, tune into KPFA, 94.1, for live coverage from noon to two of the anti-war rally at . . ."

It was a case of putting the cart before the broadcast. Live coverage? That was as laughable as the claim by Dennis Bernstein (on Friday's Flashpoints) that, "if you're there I'm going to see you" and "I will be down there."

Dennis didn't go to the protests, he was in the KPFA studio. Ourselves, we were in Los Angeles. We'd been in DC and had considered attending DC's rally or, if it felt like they were going to have a good turnout, we would fly back here and go to LA's rally. We had a friend speaking who needed support and we also wanted to avoid San Francisco's rally due to allergies that cause us to wheeze and itch whenever we're too long around the spineless (we're referring to some organizers, not to the protesters in general). In other words, we weren't in the mood, in 2011, for a lot of speeches about Bush this and Bush that and silence on the Son of a Bush Barack Obama.

During the LA rally, we kept getting texts about the train wreck in progress back home. Meaning the broadcast of the protest, not the protest itself. How bad was the broadcast? We couldn't find it in the archives and called a KPFA friend who found it here. The texts didn't really capture how awful the thing was.

But let's start with the plus. There was one. Stephanie Tang, with World Can't Wait, was on briefly (a little less than three minutes) and spoke about the Iraq War, the lies that started it, connected it with other events, brought it to current events with a call to protest Stephen Hadley later that day and did more in her brief time than the broadcast did in two hours.

Though other guests were named in full, Tara Dorabji forgot Stephanie's last name "Tang." It was a very 'casual' broadcast, if you're trying hard to be kind.

If you're dealing in reality, you could laugh, as one friend must have, when he texted, "They don't call him prima dennis for nothing!"

No, they don't. Dennis Bernstein was in full blown prima donna mode. He ticked off an Egyptian-American by speaking as though the man couldn't understand English. (How many non-English speakers does Dennis believe attend US colleges?) When Dennis caught on that the man was copying Dennis' patronizing form of speaking and tossing it back to Dennis, the man was quickly sent packing and, OOPS! live broadcast!, we heard the voice in the KPFA tent (set up at the protest) yelling, "Dennis doesn't want him! Dennis wants . . ." What does Dennis want?

We don't know because they went back to the studio just as we were about to find out. In a bad attempt to wash that moment away, Tara quickly asked, "For yourself, Dennis, what are your biggest hopes?" Prima Dennis snarled back that he wanted the broadcast to work.

Considering that at that point the broadcast was nearly half over, we were surprised to learn that Dennis cared at all.

"You're listening to special coverage of . . . uh . . . many things," he declared at one point unable, even himself, to describe what was going out over the airwaves.

It started out weak but not awful. A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Richard Becker showed up and he had brought along his pom-poms to gush about how great it was for KPFA to cover the protests. To which Dennis replied, "Well this is the work we're supposed to be doing." Esta es verdad.

But it took over 30 minutes into the broadcast before Dennis wanted to toss to the tent KPFA set up at United Nations Plaza. The first activist was brought forward to discuss . . .

The Iraq War?

The protest?

How many people were present?



And no.

"I guess you've heard by now," explained Dennis, "that the French have started bombing in Libya . . ."

It would be forty-three minutes into the broadcast before Dennis found time to mention "of course, Iraq" -- in a long list that also included Israel, Libya, Afghanistan and "uh, Pakistan."

Tara might have been better had she been present at the protests. Stuck in the studio with Dennis, she fed on his worst habits, launching into odes to her own greatness or lengthy Platonic dialogues. On the latter, Tara decided she better mention Iraq. Specifically that the Iraq War was sold on WMD. You might be thinking, "Okay, good, now they're getting to Iraq."


"And where -- what is the country that has the most nuclear weapons?" Tara quickly asked. "And where is really the epicenter for research for nuclear weapons? Right here! In the United States. And right now on this eighth anniversary . . . planes flying over Libya, nuclear meltdown in Japan . . ."

Then it was time to go back to the protests and be told by Maya, "I"m here Dennis . . . and here with us to speak on the subject of Libya, the Libyan People's Support and the US Palestinian Community Network is . . ."

Whether you were at the protest, on the phone from outside the Bay Area or in the studio with Dennis and Tara, the main focus was always Libya. Repeatedly, Tara or Dennis would begin with something along the lines of, "First I want to get your thoughts on the latest on Libya."

At one point, while Tara was somewhere in the midst of an ode to self glory ('You know that day, I was organizing on the ground and I and I and I was there I was essentially in charge of running it'), Dennis suddenly remembered the rally and thought that it was time to go back because "it's about to turn into a march."

Back to the protest. Thirty or so minutes left in the broadcast, we would get Iraq . . . right? Wrong. Dennis wanted to instead talk to a screened (male -- almost all were men) protester about Wisconsin, starting off with, "The battle against the governor in your state," continuing with "Is there going to be a general strike in Wisconsin?" and never once getting to the topic of Iraq.

In the last half hour, the train wreck was one unintended laugh after another. "We're going to take it back to the Middle East," Dennis declared, "to where this all started . . . the First Intifada." Or how about Tara declaring, "We're providing special coverage today to mark the 8th anniversary of the war in Iraq. Right now, we're going to the situation in Japan."

Oh, the unintended laughs never ended as they flaunted how little self-awareness they had. A two-hour broadcast about Libya, Japan, Palestine and Wisconsin. Iraq got less than three minutes of coverage, and only via Stephanie Tang, in the entire thing.

Were we surprised?


As one of us wrote at The Common Ills last Tuesday:
The beggar media that depends on donations because they never learned how to earn for their craft? The Progressive can't be bothered. This is the week, by the way, that Matthew Rothschild decides the person he MUST interview is sports rambler Dave Zirin. The week of the eighth anniversary of the Iraq War and that's what he offers. At the (beggar) Nation magazine, we find Libya, nuclear, NFL, Vermont, food stamps, everything but Iraq. Remember Katrina vanden Heuvel's grand standing on the Iraq War? Maybe you remember the cover featuring her editorial asserting that the magazine would support no candidate who didn't work for an end to the Iraq War? How much you wanna guess she really, really hopes you've forgotten that cover? At Democracy Now? The Iraq War was nothing but a big p.r. for Amy Goodman. She pretended to give a damn, set herself up as the voice of the left against the Iraq War (she's still booked in some MSM outlets as that) and then she moved on -- as she forever does -- to other stories. Even though the Iraq War didn't end. She's grand standed on the illegal war how many times now? Don't worry, if pattern holds, she will do a tiny, brief story on Friday about the protests.
On Friday.

Because that is the UPFJ way since Democrats came into power. Prior to that, UPFJ wanted a central demonstration in DC. After Dems came into power, no more DC, it might embarrass the Democratic Party. So on Friday, Goody'll show up with a pathetic little insulting segment that will not inform or educate. People who might have gone to DC for the protest? It'll be too late for the majority of Americans. Friday is too late for most to plan to be in DC on Saturday.

And, indeed, on Friday's hour long broadcast of Democracy Now!, suddenly it was time to note the protests. For two minutes and five seconds.

Yes, that is pathetic. Let's put in the entire transcript of that exchange.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Daniel Ellsberg, I'd like to bring in Ralph Nader again. Both of you are participating in a protest on the eighth anniversary of the Iraq invasion. Ralph Nader, in the American consciousness, because of the lack of media coverage, most people have almost forgotten, certainly Iraq, if not Afghanistan, as well. It receives little attention. The importance of this protest?

RALPH NADER: It's important because the Veterans for Peace, which start with World War II veterans all the way to the present Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, are making a powerful statement for the rule of law, for advocating peace, for getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq. If you took a poll of the soldiers in Afghanistan, as a poll was taken in Iraq in January 2005, the majority would say, "Let's get out of here. It's a quagmire. All we're doing are creating new enemies, slaughtering innocents, spending huge amounts of money that can be spent back home to create jobs, and violating our constitutional processes." You know, let's be very forthright, though, Juan. George W. Bush and Cheney committed war crimes. They had surveillance of Americans illegally. They unconstitutionally pursued wars in Asia. They slaughtered innocents. And they were considered war criminals by many people, including Republican former judge Andrew Napolitano, author of four books on the Constitution, and Republican Bruce Fein. Now, Barack Obama is committing the same crimes -- in fact, worse ones in Afghanistan. And innocents are being slaughtered. We're creating more enemies. He's violating international law. He is not constitutionally authorized to do what he's doing. He's using state secrets. He's engaging in illegal surveillance. The CIA is running wild without any kind of circumscribed legal standards or disclosure.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We have just a few seconds.

RALPH NADER: And so, why don't we -- why don't we -- yes, why don't we say what's on the minds of many legal experts? That the Obama administration is committing war crimes. And if Bush should have been impeached, Obama should be impeached.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Ralph, we're going to have to cut it there, but we will continue the interview with both of you and post the rest of it on our website. Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower, Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and a former presidential candidate.

That was it. And some will say, "Yes, but it continued online!" But Democracy Now! is now carried on over 900 US radio stations and public access TV channels around the country and, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was pointing out to the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month, most people around the world continue to get their information from TV and radio.

Were we surprised? Again, not at all. That has been the pattern.

And maybe the answer was proposed by Elaine? Don't donate a dime in next month's two-day special fundraiser for Pacifica?

Only one of the five Pacifica-owned radio stations promoted the event in the lead up to it and did so without pressure: Los Angeles' KPFK. (We especially applaud Jim Lafferty's The Lawyer's Guild which airs and streams live each Thursday at 7:00 pm PST.) Why was that? As even Dennis Bernstein admitted on air yesterday, "Well this is the work we're supposed to be doing." So why weren't they doing it at WBAI, at KPFT, at WPFW or at, yes, KPFA?

While you ponder that, we'll conclude by quoting ourselves, "Don't worry, there's always time for the Bay Area Entertainment Calendar, just not time for peace news despite the fact that peace issues were the sole reason Pacifica Radio was created. KPFA and WBAI are about as far from their roots these days as a bottled blond."
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