Sunday, March 28, 2010

Radio: That not-so Fresh Air

It's not like Terry Gross has much to offer on a good day. This is, after all the woman who tries to turn every interview she can into sex talk and, failing that, falls back on talk about picking your nose or farting. The woman who sees herself as the Lou Reed of talk radio has been called many thing; however, "classy" has never made it onto the rap sheet. These days, she pretends to be a raging liberal and peacenik and that's hilarious to anyone who caught her ambush interview of Ehren Watada (and the 'follow up' with the legal 'expert' after) or to anyone who knows the tired liar. But something really disturbing has been taking place on NPR's Fresh Air as she attempts to recast herself yet again.


No, we're not referring to here over-reliance on male guests or her male posse of guest interviewers and commentators. [Both of which Ann documents in real time so well -- as well as offering a running commentary on the program.] We're talking about her one-sided programming which is riddled with evasions and inaccuracies and which, last Thursday, decided to engage in some major hate speech.

Her guest was noted weirdo Mark Potok who leaves behind a trail of rumors unlike anything in the world of journalism where the points of interest usually come on the page or on the air and not in the bullpen. Potok long ago gave up any pretense of being a journalist or, for that matter, anyone concerned with actual facts and, as such, now is part of the hate making machinery known as Southern Poverty Law Center. As Ken Silverstein (Harper's magazine) observed this month:

[. . .] I feel that the Law Center is essentially a fraud and that it has a habit of casually labeling organizations as "hate groups." (Which doesn't mean that some of the groups it criticizes aren't reprehensible.) In doing so, the SPLC shuts down debate, stifles free speech, and most of all, raises a pile of money, very little of which is used on behalf of poor people.

For hate speech to succeed, it has to go unquestioned and unexplored and it helps if those listening are willing to either suspend disbelief or if they don't know the actual facts. On the broadcast side, all things were in place thanks to Terry Gross' latest attempts to play more-liberal-than-thou (fortunately for her husband, it's only played on the mike).

We rolled our eyes as Potok brought up "Michelle Bachman, the congresswoman from Minnesota, comes out and starts to talk about how Obama in effect is secretly setting up political re-education camps, presumably to turn our children into small Marxist robots, you know, that goes essentially unchallenged." But as he continued on and on about that one topic, we got really offended. This talk, he tells you, comes "from the real fringes," he ties it into the Tea Party, to a right-wing website, to homophobia and racism, to Glenn Beck, to "anti-Semitic groups" and much more. In fact, on that last part, he suddenly is interested in what he calls "history" and wants to drop back to the nineties but the "00"s?

No one's supposed to ever go there. So you know we will. So belief or concern about government detention centers are a sign of racism and homophobia and right-wingery and blah, blah, blah?

Really? This lively thread at Democrats Underground in 2008 begs to differ. You'll note for some temple worshipers in the Cult of St. Barack, these camps will be used to herd them off when those 'evil' Clintons steal the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination for Hillary. The 2008 thread builds around (without really ever crediting) Rachel L. Swarns' "Halliburton Subsidiary Gets Contract to Add Temporary Immigration Detention Centers" February 4, 2006 New York Times report. A report that led to Ruth Conniff's "Halliburton's Immigrant Detention Centers" (The Progressive, April, 2006), Nat Perry's "Bush's Mysterious 'New Programs'" (Consotium News, February 21, 2006), Margaret Kimberley's "Halliburton Detention Centers" (ZNet, February 20, 2006), Maureen Farrell's "Detention Camp Jitters" (BuzzFlash), Sheila Musaji's "Why is Halliburton Building Internment Camps?" (American Muslim via IHC), Peter Dale Scott's "Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps," (Pacific News Service, February 8, 2006), then-president of the National Lawyers Guild Marjorie Cohn's "American Prison Camps Are On The Way" (Information Clearing House) Lewis Seiler and Dan Hamburg's "Rule by fear or rule by law?" (San Francisco Chronicle, February 4, 2008) . . . And we could go on and on. There are so many more but we've tried to present with a series of links that provide a spectrum of the left. And in doing so we established what Terry Gross should have: Concern over political concentration camps in the US has been a right and a left concern.

Instead of doing that, she used her bemused and sarcastic tone to insist that it's a right-wing notion (only) in which "the true patriots will be rounded up" and Liar Potok rushed in to agree that this is a hallmark "of the radical right." The National Lawyers Guild elected a radical right president? Look, we're not fond of Crazy Cohn these days. She disgraced herself -- and the office and the NLG -- with her bats**t ravings that Hillary was trying to kill or calling for the death of Barack Obama. But even no longer being willing to piss on her if she were on fire (nod to Mama Cass), we wouldn't call Marjorie a member "of the radical right."

We wouldn't call Marjorie a Democrat either (she is of the left). And we make that point because we're so damn sick of all the little liars of the media doing what Terry Gross did Thursday, "President Obama has been called a socialist, a communist. Democrats have been accused of staging a government takeover of our lives with health care reform, and I guess I'm wondering if you think that that kind of rhetoric connects it all with the extremist hate groups that you've been following. " You're called what your followers are. So when John McCain had a homophobic preacher problem (Hagee), he was painted as a homophobe. You will be seen as your supporters are. That's reality in politics. It's why so many Dems go out of their way to avoid the left, it's why Barbara Lee went out of her way, in the 80s, not to be photographed with lesbians -- including one who had just made a large donation and was under the impression that Barbie Lee would pose for a picture with her. So when Communists and Socialists like Leslie Cagan, Carl Davidson, Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan, Howard Zinn, Bill Fletcher, Eve Ensler and assorted others publicly endorse you (many of whom did so in the Democratic primaries -- Morgan and Steinem did not do so then), people watching are going to make assumptions. That's before you get into Carl's lunatic email sent around in 2007 insisting Barack was a Socialist, detailing all of Ann Dunham's supposed Socialist activity. (But omitting her very strange work and very interesting Ford Foundation funding -- in that region of the world, at that time, Ford Foundation funding usually meant what? A whore at a left magazine should be able to answer that question, if the CIA will let her. No, we're not talking about Katrina vanden Heuvel.) Right or wrong, in politics, people do make assumptions and if the Socialists and Communists are endorsing you, they're going to make assumptions. And the assumptions will only become stronger -- not due to a Newsweek cover but due to the fact that the bulk of Socialist and Communist publications in the US refuse to call Barack out thereby implying that he is one of them. (As we've long stated, Barack is a Corporatist War Hawk. We wish he were a Socialist.) And that's before you get into all the Socialists and Communists who have had high level posts in either the campaign or the administration.

Bill Clinton was also called a Socialist and a Communist by the right-wing. (But the Socialist and Communist press in the US did not praise Clinton. To the contrary, Socialist Worker, Workers World, et al, regularly challenged and slammed Clinton.) Potok and Gross ignore that because it doesn't allow them to pretend that bi-racial Barack is being treated unfairly because he's "Black." (We want to once again note how racist, in ten years, this insistence by the race baiters that Barack is "Black" will appear. But it's the last gasp they have so let them claw for breath a few years more and then we'll all cluck together over the vast amount of racism that poured off so many during Obama's presidency.) So you get Potok declaring, "You know, I think that Jimmy Carter said not long ago that behind all of this ruckus, behind all this anger and fear and frustration, stands race, and I think there's a lot of truth to that."

You know, if the simple-minded weren't allowed to scream "race" every ten seconds of the day, they apparently wouldn't have anything to offer at all. Jimmy Carter's actual quote (actual quotes are too much work for the SPLC) was disgusting and shameful and never should have been uttered by a former US president. It's why Carter's removed himself from the public eye. No one needed it. No one needs him. His failed presidency, however, had nothing to do with skin color and it's doubtful that Barack's failed presidency will either.

Terry Gross wanted to share, "The new Harris poll says that 45 percent of Republicans agree with the birthers and their belief that President Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore not eligible to be president. Thirty-eight percent say Obama's doing many of the things that Hitler did. Twenty-four percent say he may be the anti-Christ." Share, not inform.

She wants to deal with 'impressions' and that requires skipping things like methodology so let's talk about a few impressions. Did you ever think a man who would legally be described at the time of his birth as "illegitimate" would become president? Or that if he did, the press wouldn't find that an interesting event? Hey, Farrah Fawcett was one of our friends and we damn well remember that the attacks on her decision to have a child out of wedlock did not end even in the final years of her life. But the president of the United States being "illegitimate" isn't a press topic? Has never been one? A lot of what the right-wing is doing today, it has done before. For example, saying Barack wasn't born in the US is not vastly different from the right-wing rumors that Bill Clinton was really a Rockefeller. If you've never heard that rumor, click here for Google results. It's also true that some of his extended family in Kenya have made remarks to the press which have muddied the waters. We have always stated here that Barack was born in the US as based upon our own research that began in 2007 when we began encountering people who said, "You've got to talk to ___" and we'd be paired up with some friend of Ann Dunham's or some friend of Barack Obama Sr.'s.

The press has refused to document the historic aspect of a child born out of wedlock occupying the White House. For those who insist Barack's parents were married, Barack Sr. married in Kenya before traveling to the US for college. He returned to his wife after he finished his education. In the US, bigamy is not recognized and all children were considered illegitimate. That's reality. And when the press can't cover reality, you create an atmosphere that breeds distrust. So it goes from "Barack's illegitimate" to "he wasn't even born in the US!" These things do not happen in a vacuum. A rumor isn't necessarily true, but it usually takes hold due to perception.

As for the anti-Christ aspect, has any president ever not been compared or likened to that? Ronald Reagan supposedly had "the mark of the Beast." 666. Because. Ronald = 6 letters. Wilson = 6 letters. Reagan = 6 letters. Not a president but an occupant of the White House, George W. Bush had to lay low during the days immediately after the 2000 election due to the large boil that suddenly appeared on his face. The band-aid he wore over it led to many jokes but when he removed it briefly and was photographed, a number of evangelicals began referring to it as "the mark of the Beast" on their AM radio programs.

As for the poll itself, it is best refuted by James Taranto (Wall St. Journal) who explains it was an online poll and one that started with a question that would lead a number of people to think "This poll is nuts!" and close their browser. He also makes the point that Terry Gross 'missed,' "The central finding--that Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to offer assent to truculent statements about Obama--is not exactly stop-the-presses material." And we'll add to that the point that you always answer the worst about your opponent in those type of polls.

Potok insisted that what he dubbed hate groups (everyone in the country not kissing Barack's ass, apparently) are on the rise and increasing. And, golly, Terry never asked him if he had access to membership rolls or exactly how he made that judgment? We checked with the FBI and their conclusions weren't the same as SPLC but then, outside of a padded cell, few would ever have the same conclusions as SPLC.

Potok needs his martyr which is the only reason he goes into Barack's "safety." Here's reality about Barack's safety: The Secret Service is working very hard and Barack is not receiving more death threats than any other recent president. We say Potok needs a martyr and we've made that point about others but it was only his interview that we saw another dimension to it. He smugly insisted, "You know, we just had someone arrested and charged who wrote a particular poem that suggested the president should be killed."


We're arresting poets now? We're arresting people for literary 'crimes'? And if we are ("if" always being key whenever Potok's telling 'truths'), that's something to be happy about?

Here's reality about people like Potok. They can't have a rational conversation, they lack the critical ability to do so and they're unable to win an argument so instead they scream insults at people, try to tar and feather them, try to make them toxic and then declare themselves the winner. And to 'win,' they have to lie and distort and pretend things matter sometimes but don't at other times.

So he is outraged and shocked and upset that a brick was hurled through the office window of a Congress member. That's not a death threat, that's not a death attempt. It's an act of vandalism and if vandalism such as that is appalling to you, we refer you again to the press. The same press that can't tell you Barack is illegitimate is the one that wanted to act like a president being friends with Bill Ayers was normal. Bill Ayers blew up buildings and now SPLC wants to get outraged that a window was broken?

The corporate media built up Barack and did so because he would put a new face on the empire, he would rebrand it, restore confidence in a corrupt system and privatize everything in sight (your health care was only the first step, next up attempts to do the same with education, followed by the real prize: Social Security). And to sell him to the American people, it was necessary to insist that any detail about his life that was unusual or unique be either ignored or declared completely normal. Sorry, but once you've declared Bill Ayers' actions no big deal, you're going to have a real hard time working up outrage over a broken window.

And maybe people laughed at Potok's whining the way we laughed as he insisted 'new developments' were a foot such as targeting people for murder because of their beliefs or actions. New? Uh, tell it to anyone trying to guarantee reproductive rights. Welcome to the world the rest of us have been living in for decades now, where doctors are targeted and their home addresses given out. This didn't just begin this decade but history's never a strong suit for SLPC. Potok insists, "So that is a kind of in-your-face call for violence that we really hadn't seen much 10, 15 years ago." Those late to the party can refer to Gloria Steinem's Outrageous Acts & Everyday Rebellions from 1983 for these acts that Potok claims weren't really seen a decade or a decade and a half ago. If ignorance is bliss, Potok's ejaculating non-stop.

We'll note this section.

GROSS: Now, there is a demonstration scheduled for April 19th in Washington. It's a Second Amendment march. What is this march about?

Mr. POTOK: Well, just what it says. I mean it is a kind of hardline dont-mess-with-our-guns march. It's an odd thing in the sense that the Obama administration has really never threatened to pass gun control and it seems very clear that there's no interest at all in trying to do that. You know, but what's remarkable about the - so it's a bit remarkable in the first place that the demonstration is happening at all.

We're not a gun site here. If you want our opinion, the people have the right to bear arms. We don't want to be around it, but we're not looking to overturn the law. But as Potok goes on and on, he portrays these people as loons and we had to look up the march to discover who these people were?

We found Terri Stocke whose bio informs that, in addition to corporate work in the last decade plus, she's also a PTL board member. We found Nichole Ridner who is in banking, Liz Foley whose formerly worked with the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and others. There are men on the same page, it's women's history month and we're women, so we're highlighting some of the women on the page, for any who wonder. (And by even noting it's Women's History Month, we're far an ahead of gender traitor Terry Gross.) Are the women stark raving mad? They don't sound it. They don't look it in the photos. But here's Potok talking about them:

You know, I'm not suggesting that this is a militia event, but certainly those people will be there, I think in very large numbers. It seems to me the final thing to say about this is, of course, the organizers say we are doing this on April 19th because that is the day that the first shots were fired in Lexington in the Revolutionary War, which is true. At the same time, I think it's very worth remembering that that is also the day that Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, leaving 168 people dead. You know, so I think the organizers would angrily reject the idea that somehow they're celebrating what McVeigh did - the murder of those people - and I'm sure they're not. But the reality is, is that, you know, it serves as a reminder of where some of these kinds of angry, angry ideas can lead.

That's what SPLC and Potok do so very well -- they smear and they play Smear By Association. There's no reason to bring up Timothy McVeigh. Timothy McVeigh's actions were not to participate in a march or a rally. These are people in this country who feel that their right to bear arms is under assault and want to protest. We have the right, under the Constitution, to protest. That is a basic right and a basic function of democracy. But to Potok it's flat out crazy and he's got to compare it to bombing a federal building. Who's the real crazy here? The people taking part in a peaceful march or Potok?

Or how about Terry Gross? Again, we didn't know about the march. The march is April 19th in DC. To find out about it, we had to look it up. Why is that?

Because National Public Radio repeatedly allows Terry Gross to go off the reservation. Despite the fact that NPR is supposed to be balanced and not tilt to any side, Terry Gross is allowed to violate that repeatedly. It happened all during November and December where Gross made it clear that she loathes Republicans and thinks they're crazy and did so in one celebrity interview after another. Then she wanted to do some 'work' on the Tea Party which required her speaking to left wingers who did not support the Tea Party movement. Time and again, over and over, Terry's listeners get to hear one side and one side only.

And maybe that's okay with you because Terry's now playing for "our side." But the reality is, Terry's whoring the way she always does. You don't muscle your way onto a show which already has a host and take it over the way Terry did without being a real whore. And part of her refusal to allow women on the show (as guests or as her posse -- her all male critics cover TV, rock, film, et al and she has one woman who shows up once every two or three weeks to offer a book review) is the fact that she ousted the woman who made Fresh Air. (For a comical look at Terry, refer to the episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show where Linda Kelsey attempts to take over The Happy Homemaker from Betty White's Sue Ann Nivens. Sue Ann wins out but, in fiction, that can happen.) Terry dances for whomever tosses the coins her way. Which is how, when Ehren Watada could have really used some support, Terry attacked him in an interview and then, after the interview, provided the military 'expert' to tell you how wrong Ehren was. (Ehren wasn't wrong on legal grounds.)

Terry Gross does not inform you. In the midst of an interview with an actress, do you really need to hear Terry ask what it was like to take the actor's penis into her mouth? No, you don't. It's smut and that's all she offers. But her listeners think they've been informed. The same woman who couldn't offer the details that mattered, that caused Lt Ehren Watada to refuse to deploy to Iraq, is the woman who today presents one-sided attacks on Republicans. You can be thrilled about it if you like, but the fact of the matter is, she's not informing you of reality currently anymore than she has in the past.

If you're not grasping how much of a liar she is, note this ridiculous 'information' Potok spewed:

Well, the patriot groups basically disappeared during the Bush administration. You know, there were a few out there, over 100, but they were quite quiescent. They said very little, and what was not said was, you know, Bush is destroying the nation via the Patriot Act and so on. It's funny how much protest we hear now about things like the Patriot Act from the radical right. You know, that was said in certain quarters of the radical right. Certain thinkers, certain intellectuals on the extreme right, you know, certainly were critical of the loss of various kinds of civil freedoms, but by and large these groups kept their mouths shut during the Bush administration and did almost nothing.

You know what's really funny? How little protest we hear from the left over the Patriot Act. And Terry didn't raise that or any other uncomfortable issue. She just let it go out over the air and agreed with it when what it demands is noting (a) the Patriot Act's been renewed under Obama and (b) there's very little left opposition to it these days.

Potok wants to slam a segment of the right for staying silent about the Patriot Act in the past but we're not supposed to notice the huge silence on the left? Ourselves, we're wondering if Naomi Wolf's developed an addiction to sleeping pills because it was a rare week during Bush's reign that we couldn't catch her on Pacifica Radio or at Huffington Post telling us democracy had ended. And yet all these programs she protested continue and she doesn't utter a peep. Again, maybe she's developed a drug addiction which has sidelined her 'activism.'

We were reminded of that sort of hypocrisy -- of staying silent when you know something is wrong -- by a report on NPR's Morning Edition Friday. We heard then-dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, declare in 2004, "The extent to which this administration has let the Geneva Conventions be flouted, has let the Torture Convention be undermined, and then hasn't really gotten to the heart of why that happened, I think will be the epitaph for this administration's human rights policy in the years ahead." And then Ari Shapiro explained to us Kol's new stance now that he works for the State Dept, "The U.S. is in armed conflict with al-Qaida as well as the Taliban and associated forces in response to the horrific acts of 9/11 and may use force consistent with its right to self-defense under international law." That's his opinion today. In complete conflict with his on the record comments when Bush occupied the Oval Office.

Were we Terry Gross, we'd just nod our head and ask him if he's ever farted in public, picked his nose that day or had an actor's penis in his mouth? And we'd pretend that somehow informed our listeners. If Gross' actions haven't made the case for NPR imposing term limits on hosts, nothing ever will.

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