Sunday, November 03, 2013

Where The Whores Are (an examination of the blogosphere)

Lisa: Alirght, Nelson, what kind of journalism skills do you have

Nelson: I don't know.  Making nerds cry.

Lisa:  Perfect you're our TV critic.  Ralph, what about you?

Ralph:  I want to be a fire truck.

Lisa: How about a feature columnist?

Ralph:  Yea! I'm a feature columnist!

Ralph goes in circles


That's from The Simpsons' "Fraudcast News."

When it aired May 23, 2004, the episode written by Don Payne, struck a chord -- not just in the then-usual physical conversation spaces but online.

A year prior, the Iraq War had started.  The 'rollout' for the illegal war began much sooner.  You could argue it began immediately after September 11, 2001.  You could argue that because although no Iraqi was among the hijackers named by the US government, the White House. Richard Clarke (fomer National Security Council counterterrorism coordinator) has explained, "When the 9-11 attacks occurred, Bush Cabinet members immediately discussed how that tragedy could be used to justify an invasion. Bush himself asked me to try to pin the blame for 9-11 on Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney propagated a myth that a hijacker had met with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague, even though we knew at the time Cheney said it that the report was false and that the hijacker was in Virginia at the time of the alleged meeting."

And the administration couldn't sell an illegal war by themselves, they needed a willing press.

The New York Times has still not recovered fully from their role in the selling of the Iraq War.

Immediately, some will nod and say, "Judith Miller."  Just as The Times was not the only paper (or outlet) selling the illegal war, Miller wasn't even the first at her paper.

The top half of the front page of the November 8, 2001 issue of The New York Times (sample via featured an article entitled "A NATION CHALLENGED: THE SCHOOL; Defectors Cite Iraqi Training For Terrorism" -- a 'report' based on the testimony of a defector or defectors.

Everything in the report is basically a lie.  The author of the first front page NYT report to falsely link 9-11 and Iraq?

Chris Hedges.

The article says he spoke to two defectors.

The lead sentence is, in fact, "Two defectors from Iraqi intelligence said yesterday that they had worked for several years at a secret Iraqi government camp that had trained Islamic terrorists in rotations of five or six months since 1995."  But when Jack Fairweather (Mother Jones) exposed the lies in that 'report' in March of 2006, he only noted one defector.

Hedges didn't come forward on his own and he's never explained since whether there really were two people he spoke to or if he lied about that.

Fairweather noted:

The impact of the article and the concurrent Frontline show, “Gunning for Saddam,” was immediate: Op-eds ran in major papers, and the story was taken to a wider audience through cable-TV talk shows. When Condoleezza Rice, then George W. Bush’s national security adviser, was asked about the story at a press briefing, she said, “I think it surprises no one that Saddam Hussein is engaged in all kinds of activities that are destabilizing.” Vanity Fair and the London Observer elaborated on Ghurairy’s claims; another version of the story appeared in the Washington Post courtesy of defector Khodada. The White House included the story of Salman Pak in its “Decade of Deception and Defiance” background paper prepared for President Bush’s September 12, 2002, speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Along with the tale of Mohammed Atta meeting Iraqi intelligence agents in Prague—another INC-hyped story—Ghurairy’s account helped establish the connection between Saddam and the 9/11 hijackers, making Iraq, like Afghanistan, a legitimate target for Bush’s war on terror.

Again, that front page story?  Judith Miller had nothing to do with it.

Miller is guilty of many things.  She is most guilty of failure to practice journalism and gullibility.  She didn't, however, "lie."  She was so stupid she actually believed the claim of WMD in Iraq.  She was so stupid, she forced the US military to keep looking even when it was apparent there were none.  As Bill Vann (WSWS) noted in 2003:

According to [Howard] Kurtz: “In April, Miller wrote a letter objecting to an Army commander’s order to withdraw the unit...from the field. She said this would be a ‘waste’ of time and suggested that she would write about it unfavorably in the Times. After Miller took up the matter with a two-star general, the pullback order was dropped.”
Apparently, US military commanders had concluded that the hunt for non-existent WMD had become a “waste” of the army’s time, but Miller, who was embedded with the unit, was operating on her own agenda and managed to overrule them.
In her letter, quoted in the Post column, she wrote: “I intend to write about this decision in the NY Times to send a successful team back home just as progress on WMD is being made.” Military officers quoted by Kurtz reported that Miller regularly told army personnel that she would go directly to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or Undersecretary Douglas Feith about decisions with which she disagreed. “Essentially, she threatened them,” said one officer.

Chris Hedges, Judith Miller, Michael Gordon, the paper was overflowing with bad reporters in the run up to the illegal war.  Dexter Filkins and John Burns were the paper's main liars after the illegal war started.

"Baghdad Bob" (Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf), an Iraqi official who became infamous for his televised statements that everything was fine, existed to rally the spirit of the Iraqi people with propaganda.  Propaganda during war time is not surprising.  But Burns and Filkins didn't work for the US government.  They were supposed to be journalists.

By lying day after day, once the illegal war started, they were as damaging as the ones who lied the country into war.  Their lies continued the illegal war, their lies tricked many American people.  Dexy would come back to the US, for example, throughout his days covering Iraq, and he'd insist each time while making a speech and a personal appearance that things were so much worse than what made it into the paper.  But he gave these speeches to journalism students.  He never took it public.  He also let the US military vet his copy and, as Mollly Bingham revealed, he cancelled an interview with an insurgency leader when he got a 'mean look' from a US official over it.

This was the climate in the country.


There was Media Whores Online and not a lot of others.  MWO opposed the Iraq War.  A lot of people like to pretend they were opposing it online.  Pretenders include CIA-contractor Juan Cole.  He's far from alone.  Most of the big names today either supported the illegal war (Matthew Yglesias) or offered very weak reistance -- a line or two that they quickly buried with multiple posts on other topics each day.  Bob Somerby was against it and noted that from time to time at The Daily Howler but it was a meek kind of opposition and used mainly in terms of domestic issues.

Iraqis were dying and Bob Somerby couldn't shut up about what the press did to his friend Al Gore in 1999 and 2000.

In that climate, for many, the role was as someone leaving a comment on a newsite or one of the few weblogs.

In The Simpsons' episode, the topic was media consolidation.

Montgomery Burns 'dies' in an accident.  When it turns out he's alive and he returns, he learns that, outside of loyal Waylon, no one missed him.  He used his money to buy up everything, every media outlet, "TV, radio, even the sky writers."

But Lisa started The Red Dress Press to publish a poem and then it becomes a daily.  Realizing that she's the only media outlet in Springfield that Burns doesn't own, she feels the need to tell the truth about Burns.

She refuses his offer to buy her out, she survives his shutting off the electricity.

She predates the emerging Blogosphere.  If you ever doubt that, grasp that she does a print edition.  The Red Dress Press does not exist online.  No one in the episode mentions blogging.   When the electricity stops her printing press, Principle Skinner sets her up with a mimeograph machine which requires no electricity.  She, Homer, Bart and Milhouse deliver print copies to homes.

The world she was living in, the one we were all living in, was about to change.

In 2003, right before the Iraq War started, Blogger/Blogspot had approximately 200,000 bloggers (less that in blogs since some were group blogs).

C.I. was speaking out about Iraq and, in 2004, campaigning for John Kerry around the country.  After the presidential election, she and others working on the Kerry campaign had a meet-up, a what-went-right-what-went-wrong strategy session.  Among failures, she noted the lack of online presence.  "We're giving these speeches and giving these speeches which is great person-to-person.  But there's the chance to reach so many more people online."  She noted that not only was there a lack of presence online but that the Kerry campaign had infamously de-linked from the only left site with any kind of presence (Daily Kos).  There was skepticism about online and the feeling that the answer was more radio around the country (Air America Radio buying up stations was seen by many as the answer).

"You can talk until you blue in the face, if people don't get the point, more words aren't going to explain it to them," C.I. notes today.  She left the meeting, went to her home and got online to go through e-mails and one included a mention of an article in Clamor.  She grabbed the magazine and sat back down at her PC (remember those days?) where she read Daniel Tucker's article in the November/December 2004 issue which included:

Anyone can have a personal website, blog, or email address and broadcast their message to the world. 
 The relatively short history of the web is filled with examples of individuals and collectives using the Internet as a way of advancing issues of social justice, cultural expression, and freedom of information.

A few seconds after reading that, C.I. started The Common Ills on November 19, 2004.

On the east coast, five college students had been talking about starting a website.  Like many, they were leaving comments all over the web.  And they saw a lot of whoring go down in 2004.  Among the things they objected to most was the tiny left online had already formed a Circle Jerk and they'd invited in CJR bloggers so they could get press.  It was December 2004 and Ava was getting a jump on the break that would start shortly by packing up for the holiday and going through things that had piled up.  That's when she went through her magazines to see what to keep and what to toss.  She saw the article in Calmour, ripped it out, highlighted the above quote in yellow marker and passed it on to Dona who shared it with Jim who shared it with Ty and Jess.   The five noted we'd explore further when the spring semester kicked up in January and we were all together again.  And January 16, 2005, this site started.

That Clamour article -- and the magazine itself -- inspired a lot of people -- in this community and outside of it.

When Calmour went under that was a sad moment but the left blogosphere had taken off and it was seen by many (including some of us) as just another story about the death of print media.

In 2006, there were an estimated 36 million blogs worldwide.

That was the good news.  But there was Clamour going under at the end of 2006.  As early as February 2005, Rebeecca wondered here if we'd create our own Cokie Roberts?

"None that mattered."  Cokie had many enemies as a columnist, a reporter and analyst on NPR, a gas bag on ABC's This Week.  For many of us, "none that mattered" was the main beef with Cokie.  As anti-war voices were being shut out by the press, Cokie was asked, October 8, 2002 on NPR, about other voices, one that were opposed to a war on Iraq, weren't there any of those?  "None that mattered," she infamously said.

But we were, the left blogosphere, against the Iraq War.  It's one of the reasons Juan Cole would pretend he had been against the Iraq War.

But a month prior to Clamour going under, there were disturbances taking place.  The Nation, a supposed anti-war magazine, stayed as far from war resisters as possible.

This and other things led C.I. to observe November 4, 2006:

Cokie Roberts has been ritually crucified -- they cut off her head and a million Cokies sprung up to replace her -- some of which were supposedly going to 'change it all.' Before there was Cokie Roberts, there were millions in different eras. There always will be. 

And the point was kind of made in The Simpsons' episode.

Success brought no happiness for Lisa's paper.

Lisa:  You can't leave now!  We're the only thing stopping Mr. Burns!

Milhouse:  Sorry Lisa and by the way that story I filed from Baghdad was all made up, I was actually in Basra.

Lisa:  Everyone chickened out except Ralph. He got poached by The Chicago Tribune.


Like Ralph, some were about setting their own end up.

In retrospect, that's really clear now.

Take Sam Seder.  A failed radio personality who was brought on as Janeane Garofalo's co-host on The Majority Report.  In an All About Eve kind of way, Seder would end up the program's sole host (the move ran off listeners and the program would be axed).

Seder pretended to give a damn about the Iraq War but he was just a lying whore.

When Ani DiFranco came on the show in the fall of 2004, he wasn't interested in the Iraq War, he was interested in attacking her for voting for Ralph Nader in 2000 and for not saying she wouldn't vote for him in 2004.  He went to town on her.  But in January 2005, he sat down with War Hawk Simon Rosenberg and never raised the issue of the Iraq War.  Simon was supposed to be a Democrat on the rise and Seder wasn't going to rock the boat.  (Even Rachel Maddow, earlier that same week, had called out Rosenberg for homophobia.)

2006 was when the left blogosphere had its only real power.  They were against the Iraq War and it forced the Democratic Party to pretend to be.

Now there was always the small Out of Iraq Caucus in the House.  Nothing similar existed in the Senate.  In 2004, Howard Dean was the one, as candidate, making comments against the Iraq War and the need to end it.  John Kerry got the nomination without being against it.  At the DNC, the keynote speaker would be Barack Obama who was running for the US senate and he'd tell The New York Times he wasn't sure how he would have voted on the 2002 authorization if he had been in the Congress at that time.

By 2006?

Democrats had to run on ending the illegal war.  Had to and did.

And in a turnabout that took them by surprise, they won both houses of Congress.

They didn't think that was possible and repeatedly promised that if they got control of one house, they would use investigative power and more to end the Iraq War.

With both houses, the Democrats could have ended the Iraq War.

Their failure to do so was appalling.

It was also a life lesson.

It exposed the lies.

It exposed that, on the left, there were those of us against the Iraq War and there were those of us who were just whores for the Democratic Party.

Cindy Sheehan learned that quickly when, in 2007, she found herself banished from many sites for the 'crime' of holding Democrats in Congress accountable, for expecting them to keep their promises and end the war.  And when she decided to run for office, 'antiwar' Katha Pollitt went ballistic at The Nation.

'Feminist' Katha had never written about Cindy and Cindy's antiwar activism -- she only wrote about a 14-year-old Iraqi girl gang-raped and killed by US soldiers after months of being called out publicly.  She had no interest in the Iraq War.

But suddenly, she wanted you to know, Cindy was a personal hero and she wanted to offer a little advice: Don't run.

Katha was just another whore for the Democratic Party.  She's not even a Democrat.  She's one of those closet radicals who pretend to be Democrat.  And even those embarrassing closet cases will whore for the Democratic Party.

2007 came and went and no end to the Iraq War.  "Bush's War" was now owned by the Democrats, though they tried to pretend differently.  2008 came and went and no end to the war.  But Barack needed to lie and pretend he was anti-Iraq War.  And whores for Barack online would pretend as well.

Just as the Democrats used the Iraq War to scare up votes in November 2006, Barack used it to get the Democratic Party's nomination.

He was lying the whole time.  We've documented that at length.

But the blogosphere got what they deserved.  The bulk are lying whores and they embraced a lying whore.

Let's especially note the frauds from the Green Party.

They couldn't call Barack out.

Even today, On The Wilder Side can't call out Barack.

They can whore, but they can't call Barack out.

The Wilders won't like being called "whores."

Then don't act like one.

You might be a whore if you have a website today and have never noted the two things.

First,   Tim Arango (New York Times) reported in September of 2012:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.        

Second,  Tim Arango (New York Times) reported in September of this year that Nouri  was supporting Shi'ite militias that are killing Sunnis:

The group, which is backed by Iran and split off from the Sadrist movement several years ago and was responsible for many deadly attacks on the American military when it was here, has seen its political wing welcomed into the government by Mr. Maliki. And as the security forces have proved ineffective in stemming attacks by Sunni insurgent groups, the group’s armed unit, according to militiamen, is increasingly working in secret with the government.
“We don’t do anything until the government asks us,” said one of the group’s leaders, who gave his name as Abu Abdellah. “We have a direct connection with the leaders of the security forces.”
In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.

Don't pretend you gave a damn about Iraq ever, if you never noted those two stories.

The first one exposes Barack as the liar he is: Sending US troops back into Iraq.  The second one exposes the US government (Barack, the administration and the Congress) backing a modern day Agusto Pinochet.

One of the big surprises has been how the ground has shifted.  Bob Somerby?

Still prone to yacking about Al Gore and 1999 and 2000 but now willing to call out lies that come from our side.  To a degree.

Certainly to more of a degree than The Progressive, The Nation and assorted other sites which just repeat the lies.

Where is the blogosphere now?

At the end of The Simpsons,  Lisa's lost faith.  But Homer starts a paper, and Barney does, and Lenny does, and Patty and Selma start one . . .

They write their truths.

For Lenny,that's noting how great Carl is.

Which reminds us of Bob Somerby again in that he has a fit over people who don't write what he wants.  He calls them "the crazy."  They aren't "the crazy."  A White House that carries out a Drone War and the press that minimizes it?  Those are "the crazies."

People telling their own truths?

That's what the blogosphere was supposed to have been.

Maybe in 2013, it can return to its roots.

We'd certainly rather read a well constructed 'conspiracy' theory than the nonsense of people who post the administration's talking points each day.  The former has value, the latter just let's you know where the whores are.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }