No Altercation At MSNBC.com

Eric Alterman, author, columnist, blogger, and media reformer, has been fired by MSNBC after 10 years. The website gives no reason for the termination and Alterman himself is typically gracious and respectful of his colleagues. However, he doesn’t ignore what many of us skeptics are thinking anyway:

“Whether my termination is, in fact, a product of a political decision at GE/NBC, which according to reports I read and gossip I hear, has lately taken a much firmer hand in guiding the content of both MSNBC and MSNBC.com, I have no way of knowing […] though the natural speculation that arises is a damn good argument against the kind of media concentration that allows a company like GE to own NBC in the first place.”

Altercation will continue as an affiliate of Media Matters and Alterman still writes for The Nation and the Center for American Progress. But there is a sad irony in the author of What Liberal Media? getting axed by precisely the sort of mainstream news outlet that he so effectively exposes in his book.

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In Defense Of The Pre-9/11 Mindset

9/11 was undoubtedly an unwelcome milestone in American history. But the idea that everything changed on that day is shallow and puerile.

In September of 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney, in a sinister demonization of Democrats, warned that…

“if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again, and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and it will fall back into the pre-9/11 mindset, if you will, that in fact, these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we’re not really at war.”

The Pre-9/11 Mindset is much maligned as mindsets go. Disdain is heaped upon it as if it were a discarded hypothesis. There is now a stigma associated with a worldview that was perfectly acceptable 24 hours prior. And a cadre of power hungry fear merchants is restlessly hawking the notion that everything we thought we knew has withered into irrelevance. The Post-9/11ers propose that an imaginary line has been drawn that illuminates the moral and intellectual differences between those who stand on one side or the other. So what exactly does it mean to be 9/10ish?

I remember clearly what was on my mind. I was still upset that a pretend cowboy, whose intellectual marbles rattled around vacantly in his 2 gallon hat, had gotten away with stealing an election. I was recalling, with renewed appreciation, an era of domestic surplus and international cooperation. Or as The Onion headline put it when Bush was first elected, “Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over.”

9/11 was undoubtedly an unwelcome milestone in American history. But the idea that everything changed on that day is shallow and puerile. The history of human civilization reveals that we simply do not change that much from one century to the next. And the events that actually do precipitate change are rarely the ones we presume them to be. There was terrorism before 9/11. There were birthdays and funerals and parking tickets and snow cones and life’s everyday extraordinary spectrum of pleasure no matter how painful.

What changed was that a nation that was once perceived to be inviolable and courageous was now seen as vulnerable and afraid. Like a child lost in a crowd, America was searching for a guardian, but what we got was no angel. As President Bush took to the mound of rubble for his megaphone moment, he was not alone. He was accompanied by a media that sought to construct a hero where none stood. I must admit that it was an ambitious undertaking considering the weakness of the raw material. They took an inarticulate, persistently mediocre, dynastic runt, who on September tenth was considered by many to be Crawford’s lost idiot, and transformed him into a statesman overnight. The enormity of this achievement underscores the power of the media.

My Pre-9/11 Mindset was thrust into fear on that transitory day because I knew that the imbecile we were stuck with in the White House was incapable of reacting appropriately to the threat. I remember vainly trying to persuade previously reasonable people that if they thought Bush was a moron the day before, there was nothing in his breakfast that infused him with wisdom on that sad morning.

What transpired since has, regrettably, proven me right. We toppled the Taliban but let the 9/11 commander escape. Now the remnants of the Taliban are rising again and creating havoc in an unprepared and unstable Afghanistan. We were misled into an unrelated conflagration in Iraq via fear and deception. Now tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been liberated – liberated from the confines of their physical bodies. It’s too bad that these liberated corpses will be unable to march in the parades celebrating their liberation. A world that had nothing but sympathy for us after 9/11, is now repulsed by our arrogance. At home we are paying for our adventures by burdening the next few generations with a record debt. And we pay a much greater price in the cost of lost liberties, courtesy of a despotic cabal in Washington that has more trust in fear than it does in our Constitution.

The historical revisionists that cast the Pre-9/11 Mindset as a pejorative are blind to its inherent virtue. The Pre-9/11 Mindset honors civil liberties and human rights. It recognizes real threats and inspires the courage to face them. It demands responsibility and accountability from those who manage our public affairs. It condemns preemptive warfare and torture. The Pre-9/11 Mindset is not consumed with fear, division, and domination. It is rooted in reality with its branches facing the sunrise.

The Pre-9/11 Mindset is superior in every aspect to the Post-9/11 apocalyptic nightmare that has been thrust upon us. Its adoption is, in fact, our best hope for crawling out from under the shroud that drapes our national psyche. Vice President Cheney also said that…

“Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness.”

If that’s true, then the terrorists must have perceived the weakness of the Bush administration and considered it an invitation to launch their attack. How do you suppose they perceive us now? They’ve seen the passage of the Patriot Act that limits long-held freedoms. They’ve seen our government listening in on our phone calls and monitoring our financial transactions. They see us lining up at airport terminals shoeless and forced to surrender our shampoo and Evian water. They see us mourning the loss of our sons and daughters who are not even engaged in battle with the 9/11 perpetrators. They see us as fearful and submissive. Is this not emboldening the terrorists for whom this perception of weakness will be seen as yet another invitation to attack?

Yes, I have a Pre-9/11 Mindset and it is not a yearning for a simpler bygone era of harmony. You could hardly call the maiden year of this century simple or harmonious. I have a Pre-9/11 Mindset because I’ve had it all along; all through the Post-9/11 defeatism and scare-mongering; through the war posturing and false bravado; through the sordid attempts to divide Americans and vilify dissenters; through the bigotry and arrogance of those who believe that their way is the right way and the world will concur as soon as we’re done beating it into them. I have a Pre-9/11 Mindset because I have not let the Post-9/11 Mindset infect my spirit with its yearning for a bygone era that more closely resembles the Dark Ages than the Renaissance.

I have a Pre-9/11 Mindset because I have a mind, and I use it.

Pre-9/11 Mindset Post-9/11 Mindset
Enduring Peace Perpetual War
Prosperity Poverty and Debt
Civil Rights The Patriot Act
Human rights Torture
Accountability Corruption
Reality Fear

U.S. Paying Reporters For Stories (Again)

They will say and do whatever they want to achieve goals they know could not be secured legally.

The criminal and moral recidivism of this administration never ceases to amaze. After having been caught paying pundits like Armstrong Williams to plant puff pieces for the Department of Education, and paying advocacy groups to pimp administration policies in op-eds, and paying Iraqi papers to publish pre-packaged happy-talk, the Miami Herald now reports that…

“At least 10 South Florida journalists, including three from El Nuevo Herald, received regular payments from the U.S. government for programs on Radio Martí and TV Martí, two broadcasters aimed at undermining the communist government of Fidel Castro. The payments totaled thousands of dollars over several years.”

The offending agency this time is the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB). The Herald discloses that the papers, and some of the journalists, were connected to the Herald itself. To their credit, Jesús Díaz Jr., president of the Miami Herald Media Co., unambiguously denounces the activities:

“Even the appearance that your objectivity or integrity might have been impaired is something we can’t condone, not in our business. I personally don’t believe that integrity and objectivity can be assured if any of our reporters receive monetary compensation from any entity that he or she may cover or have covered, but particularly if it’s a government agency.”

The Herald fired two of the reporters propagandists, but as yet, I have seen no indication that anyone at the OCB, or any oversight office, has taken any action to address this assault on a free press. The fact that the government continues to engage in behavior that it has already been told is illegal, further demonstrates that they simply don’t care about the law. They will say and do whatever they want to achieve goals they know could not be secured legally. And they will do this until they are stopped.

This is an administration that has reigned over an era of misleadership and lies. And for the most part, they have had a compliant media to advance their nefarious agenda. Who will stop the reign? The media is the real problem, and if we don’t impose a comprehensive resolution we will only have more bought and paid for journalists in our future.

Update: It appears that even more reporters have been whoring for the feds.


Path To 9/11 Propaganda

The Disney-ABC croc-udrama, Path to 9/11, is starting to get the treatment it deserves in the blogosphere and even some of the cable news nets. But I wanted to tie this hit piece more securely to the description of what it really is. So I thought that I would initiate a Google bomb effort to associate the program’s title to the word propaganda. First, I checked the obvious – is there a Propaganda.com?

Guess what? The URL redirects to Open Letter to ABC, a clearinghouse of info and links related to the show and how to respond. It appears to be the work of Matt Stoller of MyDD. Thanks Matt, you’ve saved me a lot of work.

Update: Here is a link to some more info on the folks behind the scenes of Path to 9/11 – A motley crew of villians that include David Horowitz, Richard Mellon Scaife, and the Liberty Film Festival.

Also, the president will be making a speech on the evening of Monday, 9/11, for which ABC will likely have to interrupt their program. Does anybody else get the feeling that this is an intentional move to insert the President’s comments into the program so that it will almost appear as if he is a sponsor and/or is associating the White House with the movie?


Zombie Dove – The Beginning

They thought it was dead. They thought they had killed it. They thought it had passed with the years that cascaded by. Its memory was turned into a hackneyed hippie cliche that evoked ridicule and visions of granola-eating, berkenstock-wearing, pot-smoking slackers. But…

Peace is back! And it’s pissed! No warmonger is safe anymore.

Zombie Dove is here to kick the asses of the asses who advocate for war, intolerance, and greed.

In this battle for peace, Zombie Dove will be ruffling more than feathers. Click the link to see an introduction to this unlikely hero of cooperative coexistence. And watch for future episodes in the everlasting adventures of Zombie Dove.


Once A Corrupt Crony, Always…

The disgraced former head of the Corporation for Public Propaganda Broadcasting was caught again with his hand in the till.

The Washington Post reporting on the incorrigible Kenneth Tomlinson:

“A year-long State Department investigation has found that the chairman of the agency that oversees Voice of America and other government broadcasting operations [the Broadcast Board of Governors] improperly used his office, putting a friend on the payroll and running a “horse-racing operation” with government resources.”

In addition to being an embezzler, and a reprobate, he is also an incompetent manager. Last May, the Voice of America closed its Baghdad bureau because they could not retain journalists to staff it. Tomlinson and the agency he leads was unable to maintain a presence in a part of the world where that presence may be most needed.

Yet the Bush administration is not only defending him, but is re-nominating him as chair of the BBG. How many crimes does it take for this president to cut the cord on his cronies? It appears that there is actually an inverse relationship toward service and criminal behavior at BushCo. The more crime you commit, the more reward you receive.

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The $20 Million Dollar TV Guide

America must be sleeping better tonight knowing that their government is ever vigilant of threats from unflattering news reports. An administration obsessed with perceptions is soliciting bids for a contract to monitor media reports about the war in Iraq. This $20 million dollar initiative will:

“provide continuous monitoring and near-real-time reporting of Iraqi, pan-Arabic, international and U.S. media…including, but not limited to tone (positive, neutral, negative) and scope of media coverage.”

That the Pentagon considers this a project worthy of millions of taxpayer dollars should not surprise anyone. This is the same Pentagon that paid Iraqi newspapers to publish positive stories written by an American PR firm. So the Pentagon, not content with planting propaganda in the world’s press, now wants to see how good they’ve been at it. They justify the expense by claiming that:

“…the Bush administration was countering extremism with hope and democracy.”

I wish someone to could explain how monitoring the media for content analysis furthers those goals. While countering extremism is a laudable objective, hope and democracy is not advanced with lies and manipulation. If the Pentagon wants to know what the press is saying about them and the war, all they have to do is pick up a newspaper, turn on the TV, or tune in Voice of America. Oh wait – they closed the Baghdad bureau last year. I guess they weren’t getting enough happy stories.


Hannity’s Call To Arms

In a fit of patriopathic® zeal, the sort that might have inspired Booth or Oswald, Sean Hannity, on his radio show, lashes out against a fearsome destiny that summons the faithful to the battlefield.

“I want to talk to you Republicans out there, both candidates and voters. Here’s some unsolicited advice: Ignore the polls, ignore the media, ignore the pundits. It’s 70 days to go. The end is not here yet. We still can turn this thing around.”

The “Thing” he hopes to turn around is the potential consequence of unrestrained democracy – a Democratic majority in Congress. So he issues what amounts to a fatwa.

“This is the moment to say that there are things in life worth fighting and dying for and one of ’em is making sure Nancy Pelosi doesn’t become the speaker.”

If this isn’t a contract on the Democratic leader in the House, I don’t know what is. Even if this is not his meaning, it is grossly irresponsible for a broadcaster to make an appeal that could persuade loyal listeners to carry out a literal consummation of his ramblings. What would his response be if Ms. Pelosi announced that one of the things in life that is worth dying for is keeping Hannity off of radio and TV?

These are the kinds of desperate and fanatical statements that generally foreshadow an empire’s decline. They reek of intolerance, aggression and tyranny. They come from Pat Robertson, praying for Supreme Court justices to die. They come from from Ann Coulter, disappointed that Sen. Chaffee has not been assassinated. They come from Glenn Beck, fantasizing about choking Michael Moore to death. They come from Bill O’Reilly, inviting al Qaeda to blow up San Francisco. Now they come from Sean Hannity.

Obviously Hannity is not alone in his lust for blood or his aversion to democracy. The best we can hope for is that his listeners selectively heed his advice, paying particular attention to the admonition to ignore the media and the pundits, which, of course, prominently includes Fox News and Sean Hannity.


The Fox Meltdown Accelerates

Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes was on the warpath back in June because of his network’s poor performance. Says Ailes:

“Anyone who displays launch-type intensity will continue to have a job at Fox News. Those who don’t will not. And that includes talent.”

Seems like an empty threat in as much as there is no talent at Fox. Be that as it may, Ailes must be firing up the nukes right about now. The August ratings (PDF) are out and, of the top 3 cable news networks, Fox alone has lost viewers. And not just an incremental loss, they are cratering.

Primetime – Persons 2+:

  CNN FOX MSNBC
August ’06: 902 1511 371
August ’05: 748 2093 349
% change: +21% -28% +6%

Primetime – 25-54:

  CNN FOX MSNBC
August ’06: 294 432 157
August ’05: 236 541 145
% change: +25% -20 +8%

What’s worse is that in at least eight consecutive months of year-to-year comparisons, Fox has shown declines and, again, is the only network to have accomplished that feat. The standout contributors to this debacle in August are Greta Van Susteren (-31%), Hannity & Colmes (-21%), and our boy O’Reilly (-15%). For those of you keeping score, Olberman’s Countdown increased 55% over it’s year ago number. So far this year, Olberman’s comparisons have been positive every month while O’Reilly’s have been negative.

As I’ve pointed out in previous analyses, we need to view these figures in context. Fox is still the runaway leader in cable news, but trends are not insignificant. And as CNN’s special on bin Laden last week demonstrated, there is an audience for quality news programming. That’s got to be bad news for Fox.


The Los Angeles Times Hears Its Master’s Voice

In an editorial published Friday, August 25, the L. A. Times took a courageous stand in favor of propping up its parent corporation, The Tribune Company. By supporting the latest power-grab being proposed by the FCC, the Times/Tribune are really just supporting their own economic interests at the expense of the public.

In 2003, the FCC attempted to ram through a new set of ownership rules that would allow the already too big media empires to consolidate even more. They did this with little concern for the public’s interest or input. What transpired was an unprecedented uproar from citizens who persuaded their representatives to pass a bill repealing the FCC’s measure. Subsequently, a federal Court of Appeals struck down the rest of the regulation calling it “arbitrary and capricious.” So how does the Times characterize these events?

It starts by portraying the FCC as the embattled servant of goodness, seeking only to liberate the well-meaning media companies from, “unreasonable government restrictions on their activities.” But they are foiled by the sinister court system and the Senate, which was, “prodded by a motley alliance of anti-corporate zealots and conservative activists.” Unmentioned in this mythologizing is that the prodding actually came from a record 3 million complaints from the people to the FCC. The Senate responded, not to some motley alliance, but to their constituents. It’s called Democracy and someone should tell Tribune about it. The editorial goes on to make some shockingly untrue assessments of the modern media landscape:

“…what the FCC tried to do three years ago was too modest. In an age of cable and satellite TV – not to mention an age of YouTube.com – it’s no longer justifiable for the government to impose any limits on how many affiliates broadcast networks can own, given that CBS, NBC and ABC no longer control the distribution of their programming the way they did when American families gathered around their sets to watch “I Love Lucy.”

The Internet itself is at risk of becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the Media/Telecom Complex…

Too modest? That requires a massive dose of hubris to lay down. Something the Times neglected to mention was that in this age, the cable, satellite, and broadcast networks, to which they refer, are owned largely by the same handful of corporate megaliths. And since they brought up YouTube, it should be noted that the Internet phenom is currently the subject of persistent rumors that it is about to acquired by, you guessed it, a major media corporation. The Internet itself is at risk of becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the Media/Telecom Complex who oppose Net Neutrality and favor monopolistic convergence. Already, 9 of the top 11 Internet news sites are owned by Big Media.

It is true, though, that the broadcast networks no longer control the distribution of their programming the way they once did. They now have more control. With the repeal of the financial/syndication rules a few years ago, they can now fully own the programming that they broadcast. Now independent producers are getting shut out by the networks who would rather schedule programs that they own because they make more money that way – particularly in syndication.

And then there’s this Orwellian pearl…

“More cities might still have a competitive newspaper market if more broadcasters had been allowed to buy newspapers in the past.”

It’s impossible to fathom how they define competition. If more broadcasters (who are buying each other) were allowed to buy more newspapers (who are buying each other), you eventually end up with little or no competition at all. And that’s exactly the way they like it.

This editorial reveals a self-serving media empire that reflects the industry overall. In the past 25 years, the number of companies that controlled the majority of media output plunged from 50 to 5. If they have their way, they will continue to purge every voice of independence and diversity from the public arena.

Your voice is needed now to persuade Washington’s regulators and legislators that competition is not enhanced by consolidation. Use this form provided by Stop Big Media (a project of FreePress.net) to send your thoughts to the FCC. There is much more information available at that site. And let your representatives know how feel as well.