June 6, 2003
Giants Fall. Reading the Times on the Times is strange indeed, as it goes into ponderous detail about the departure of its top editors, the sobbing of people in the room when the announcement was made, the same room where a record number of Pulitzer Prizes were announced recently (it tells us twice), the irony of the Times being mobbed with reporters from other news organizations. (See New York Times.)
But Jayson Blair was not the worst of the Times' problems. There were more fundamental problems, and the worst of them will not get the attention that Blair's comedy of errors did. One of the more egregious examples was the case of Judith Miller, helping to fuel the WMD hysteria on the front page of the Times with propaganda fed to her by the Pentagon. Here's an excerpt about it from a report from the Columbia Journalism Review:
But the next day, more "evidence" suddenly appeared, on the front page of the Sunday New York Times. In a disgraceful piece of stenography, Michael Gordon and Judith Miller inflated an administration leak into something resembling imminent Armageddon: "More than a decade after Saddam Hussein agreed to give up weapons of mass destruction, Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb, Bush administration officials said today." The key to this A-bomb program was the attempted purchase of "specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium." Mysteriously, none of those tubes had reached Iraq, but "American officials" wouldn't say why, "citing the sensitivity of the intelligence." Gordon and Miller were mostly careful to attribute their information to anonymous "administration officials," but at one point they couldn't restrain themselves and crossed the line into commentary. After nodding to administration "critics" who favored containment of Hussein, they wrote this astonishing paragraph: "Still, Mr. Hussein's dogged insistence on pursuing his nuclear ambitions, along with what defectors described in interviews as Iraq's push to improve and expand Baghdad's chemical and biological arsenals, have brought Iraq and the United States to the brink of war." That Sunday, Card's new-product introduction moved into high gear when Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on NBC's Meet the Press to brandish Saddam's supposed nuclear threat. Prompted by a helpful Tim Russert, Cheney cited the aluminum tubes story in that morning's New York Times - a story leaked by Cheney's White House colleagues. Russert: "Aluminum tubes." Cheney: "Specifically aluminum tubes." This gave the "six months away" canard a certain ring of independent confirmation: "There's a story in The New York Times this morning," said Cheney. "And I want to attribute the Times."
Hawaii became the first state out of over 100 "safe zones" now to declare themselves in allegiance to the Constitution over the Patriot Act. See the Village Voice. Ashcroft, meanwhile, feeds Congress more doublespeak about protecting freedom by destroying it. See the New York Times. NBC is struggling valiantly to hold tightly to its "Saving Jessica Lynch" myth, regardless of the facts. See SF Gate. In more showbiz, the White House-sanctioned TV movie remakes the history of 911 with Bush as articulate, decisive, a leader on the order of Lincoln or Churchill. See the History News Network. Cracks in the Liberty Bell enumerated by Harley Sorenson in the SF Gate. A closeup examination of "Top Gun" George W.'s real military career is posted on Buzzflash. Revisiting Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, it seems more plausible than ever. See Seattle Pi. The evil Dick Cheney says US will "destroy" its enemies "completely and utterly". And as we have seen, that can mean domestic enemies as well as international ones. See iol.co Under heavy fire, an apparently deluded Blair says, "Iraq is now free and we should be proud of that." Free of what? See the Washington Post Bad Rap for the Dixie Chicks. Looks like the corporate media is not ready to let the Dixie Chicks off triumphing over its first round of attacks. It was widely reported that Natalie Maines wore a shirt with the letters FUTK on the front, which it was presumed was an insult about Toby Keith, a country singer who did some supposedly patriotic song about America kicking the asses of the rest of the world. Suddenly the Chicks were under fire again. (See CNN, CMT.
But FUTK is not about Toby Keith. It's Forgiveness, Understanding, Tolerance and Knowledge. They've been performing with those words projected on the stage behind him. And the message was released in a statement by the Chicks' publicist. Why then was it not reported? These "news" organs need to hear from their public.
Here's my message to CNN:
Obscenity is in the dirty mind of the beholder. "FUTK" stands for "Forgiveness Understanding Tolerance Knowledge". The Chicks released this information in a public statement, and anyone attending one of their recent concerts would have seen it projected on the stage behind them. This was not secret information. Your report should have had it. The omissions in your reporting about this Dixie Chick "incident" have the effect of slandering them and putting them in the line of fire of another barrage by Clear Channel and other pro-Bush forces. You should issue a correction and an apology and do it prominently.