Sunday, February 20, 2011

Follow up on Nir Rosen


Dona: This edition, Ava and C.I. have written "The Damned Don't Apologize." Last week, CBS News revealed that Lara Logan was attacked and sexually assaulted in Egypt. This led to a number of attacks on Logan. We're the left and we focused on the left -- instead of being Joan Walsh and trying to cover for left attackers -- so this site's biggest concern were the attacks so-called lefty Nir Rosen launched on Lara Logan. That's the topic of Ava and C.I.'s piece. It is a lengthy piece, it's a brilliant piece, but it's a lengthy one. As always, Ava and C.I. are the worst judges of their own work and, among the reasons they dislike the piece, is because of what they feel had to be forced out due to the lack of space and time. So this is just a brief follow up, a brief conversation with Ava and C.I. about the piece they wrote. First off, Ava, there's one thing you point to as a huge disappointment.

Ava: Right. We wanted to really tie in last week's lawsuit with the treatment of Logan's assault and the silence on it from the left. Susan Burke is representing survivors of military sexual assault and they announced their law suit last week. They are suing at the very top, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Dona: And though some may not realize it, since 2001, those are the only two Secretaries of Defense the US has had.

C.I.: Correct. And the lawsuit argues that a culture exists in the structure itself and that those at the top repeatedly refused to address it. A strong discussion of the lawsuit took place last Thursday on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) -- and that can be streamed for free or, if you have streaming or hearing issues, Diane's also now providing a free transcript of her shows so you can listen to it or you can read it. Diane's guests were Susan Burke, the Service Women's Action Network's Anu Bahgwati, attorney Burke and military sexual assault survivors Mary Gallagher and Rebekah Havrilla. I think it's important to point out that when Susan Burke handled a case against Blackwater, left outlets couldn't shut up about it -- print, radio, blog, Free Speech TV. By contrast, last week, few had time for it. In the mainstream, you had Diane Rehm, you had CBS News, NBC's Today, The New York Times and a few others. And on print publications? It was more reporting on the press conference.

Ava: And this silence has really been something because you should also think about all the attention Amy Goodman and others on the left gave when the Center for Constitutional Rights sued Donald Rumsfeld a few years back. But when the issue is sexual assault, the left goes squishy.

C.I.: And the news factor, just the news factor, of a sitting Secretary of Defense and a former Secretary of Defense being sued in a sexual assault case? The silence is appalling.

Dona: You were in Congress last week for several hearings, one of which found Robert Gates testifying to the US House Armed Services Committee. C.I., you reported on the hearing in Wednesday's snapshot, Kat reported on the hearing with "Freedom hating Buck McKeon," Wally reported on it at Marcia's site with "Loretta Sanchez came prepared (Wally)" and, Ava, you reported on it at Trina's site with "Gates and the absurd hearing (Ava)." The hearing found Robert Gates expressing his belief that US forces needed to stay in Iraq past 2011. It also found at least three House members asking Gates about the lawsuit.

Ava: Correct. And C.I.'s the one who really covered that, noting US House Rep. Silvestre Reyes' questioning Gates about the lawsuit -- she's got the full in exchange in her snapshot -- and Niki Tsongas as well -- C.I.'s got Tsongas' full exchange in the snapshot as well. Michael Turner was the third House member who raised the issue.

Dona: And what was the response?

Ava: There was none. There was no direct response. That's why, Friday in "The fallen (Shawn Evans), the embarrasment (Bob Gates)," C.I. was talking about the Senate hearing we'd been at Thursday -- Senate Armed Services Committee -- and how Gates could present himself as an expert on the State Department, such an expert that he can advocate for another department before the Congress, advocate for and vouch for their budgetary 'needs,' but he's named in a lawsuit and asked about it by Congress all he can do is back peddle?

Dona: C.I., I'm looking at your report in the snapshot and Congress member Niki Tsongas is questioning Gates and noting that she's asking Gates why his department, the Department of Defense, did not include the "provisions which guarantee all victims the right to legal counsel and protect the confidentiality of conversations between victims and victim advocates" as the House had been led to believe would be in the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act? And his response is "I hadn't realized the Department had resisted it" and then stumbles around. He's the head of the Department.

C.I.: Right. Yeah. That's why he needs to stop advocating on behalf of the State Department and if he can't even keep track of what's going on in his own department, he needs to stop announcing he's about to retire and actually retire. And, to be clear, this happens over and over. He is the master of I-don't-know.

Dona: Okay. Someone reading this is going to say, "I see that this is important news." Hopefully, they'll grasp that we've discussed it when we're dead tired because it is important news. But they may wonder, "Why not just write a quick feature of some sort on this?"

Ava: We're exhausted. C.I. still has to do "And the war drags on . . ." at The Common Ills. And we've done it. We've written two pieces for this edition already. We don't have it in us for a third. We are wiped out. And on this topic, while others were silent, we addressed. We addressed the military sexual assault lawsuit over and over in every one of our talks on campuses last week starting Tuesday. And C.I. wrote about it at The Common Ills over and over. We have done it and done it and done it. And we'll be back out on the road this week doing it again. So the idea that we're got it in us to -- having already written a lengthy piece on sexual assault this edition -- do another is just not feasible. To write the piece we wrote for this edition we had to put up some barriers to protect ourselves because it's a very hard subject to cover over and over and over. And that's why I have no respect for those who refused to even tackle the subject once.

Dona: To that, I want to add that this was a very long writing edition and that we took a very long break of many hours due to the fact that I didn't feel well. Which meant that we said, "Fine, make Iraq the editorial and we'll squeeze everything into that" -- everything on Iraq. We had planned three Iraq stories now we're shoving everything into the editorial. "The Damned Don't Apologize," let me go lighter for a moment. That's the title Jim gave your article and he took it from a section where you mention The Damned Don't Cry, a Joan Crawford film.

Ava: Yeah. We had to go lighter. We just can't do this over and over. We're not sexual assault counselors. We don't pretend to be. But they will tell you the importance of taking a break and not letting the news and the statistics wear you down. And they're right. And by the time we sat down with each other last night or this morning to write that piece, we were raw nerves and we had to put up some distance in the article so we went with some humor. This is a subject that if you actually care about it, if you really give a damn, you're going to end up crying. We both cried in public -- I'll let Kat and Wally speak for themselves -- but C.I. and I both cried repeatedly each day in public last week. We'd be addressing the military sexual assault lawsuit and usually women, but sometimes a man, would share that they were sexually assaulted. It was a very rough week emotionally. And that's why I'm so enraged that, for example, Amy Goodman couldn't make time for this story, not even a headline, when it demanded a segment. We're busting our asses and we're not paid journalists or trying to be them. Goodman's a millionaire as a result of her extortion of Pacifica and she can't cover the story?

Dona: In what could have been the slot the story went into -- because Goodman rarely touches on any issues related to women -- she instead went to Planned Parenthood and, C.I., you called that out.

C.I.: There's news and there's begging. News is Planned Parenthood announcing a new program or service they're offering, new locations they're opening. Cecile Richards was brought on to beg for money and beg people to write Congress for her organization. Times are tough. I'm not saying Planned Parenthood should or shouldn't lose funding. I'm just saying don't waste my time calling this news. NPR is also looking at lost dollars. Many people are. It's just amazing that Amy and Cecile couldn't do a segment on women but could do a segment of "Don't touch my budget!" As someone who's donated a lot of money to Planned Parenthood in the past, I'm really not into their using their limited media time to beg for more money instead of using it to advance reproductive rights. And you're correct, Dona, there's a token and limited spot that Democracy Now will give to women's issues -- and it's even smaller when it comes to domestic women's issues -- so to see skin magazine contributor Amy Goodman give that segment to We-Need-Our-Money Planned Parenthood and not to the news story that is the lawsuit against military sexual assault was disgusting.

Dona: Back to "The Damned Don't Cry," you both cite many, many things left out. As we wind down, can you each give me one example?

Ava: Just one? Okay. We ditched the "We know Andersoon Cooper" disclosure. We were well into the piece, trying to come up with the conclusion, in fact, when we realized we didn't note that. We've included it before. We looked through it and couldn't find a place where it could easily be inserted without breaking the flow. Our take was (a) this isn't an article about Anderson, (b) we've disclosed it before and can get Jim to note it in his note and (c) C.I. just again disclosed it at The Common Ills repeatedly last week. Ideally, that disclosure would be in there.

Dona: Just to be clear, you don't know Lara Logan?

Ava: No.

Dona: Okay, C.I., same question, one thing.

C.I.: Laura Flanders did step up to the plate. I'd love for that to be in the article. There wasn't room and it would have twisted the piece into another area. She did a commentary for her TV show Grit TV. At a time when no one wanted to talk about the sexual assault, she did and she deserves credit for that.

Dona: I thought we were going to wrap up quickly but I can tell you'd like to expand on this and I agree it needs to be. Let me help, a woman wrote a piece for The Nation about the sexual assault. As you pointed out in a snapshot, it was the most read piece at the website for three days in a row yet no one else at The Nation bothered to follow up. When you have a piece that is that popular and you have all these blogs at The Nation and no one's following up, why is that? The obvious answer, the woman wrote it before Nir Rosen attacked Logan and, after he attcked her, The Nation drew the curtain and no one wrote of the topic.

C.I.: Exactly. So credit to Laura Flanders. Not to The Nation. All they did was repost it and of course they would, it's video footage and they really don't produce their own video footage too often despite trying to be a multi-medium platform.

Dona: Now you note two e-mails that were forwarded to you, Jim was upset that a third and a fourth didn't make the article. But a lot didn't make it. Some of it you were okay with. Ava, give me one example of that please.

Ava: A woman, at a media 'watchdog' site wrote a very insulting piece and we were going to call her out but we saw that, in the comments, sexual assault victims had already called her out for her grudge against Lara Logan. "Lara got a call from the president! Most sexual assault victims don't!" Just such petty little -- I don't even want to get into it.

Dona: Watchdogs were silent. CJR didn't call out Nir Rosen, Mother Jones didn't call him out, there were so many. And of course these outlets were happy to repeatedly praise him at other times. And then they want to wonder why people find them to be such hypocrites. So these were some of the topics that couldn't be squeezed into "The Damned Don't Apologize" and this is a rush transcript. Our e-mail address is
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