SUBJECT: ON THE MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY : FROM
THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
The recent political
phenomenon of a victory for the NO VOTE in
In the last several days, since French popular rejection the European Constitution, we have received a flurry of mail from colleagues and students sending us comments on religion, on economics, and on politics. Below we have selected a few of these comments to share with our readers.
Item A. is a speech by Bill
Moyers addressed to the National Conference for Media Reform on
Item B. is an update on
"media cowardice" in the
Item C. is an article from Ralph Nader, who is leading a movement "for the Impeachment of President Bush".
Item D. is a brief reflection by
John Gerassi on the significance of "political repression" within the
Item E. is Amnesty International
Item F. is Nader on "democracy and American populism". (For a radical discussion of the American populist movement, see also the CEIMSA publication, Ces truands qui nous gouvernent.)
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
from Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers' speech to the National Conference for Media Reform
by Bill Moyers
The following is the prepared text
for Bill Moyers speech to the National Conference for Media Reform on May 15,
2005. The event in
I CAN T IMAGINE BETTER COMPANY ON
THIS BEAUTIFUL SUNDAY MORNING IN
There are so many different vocations and callings in this room so many different interests and aspirations of people who want to reform the media that only a presiding bishop like Bob McChesney with his great ecumenical heart could bring us together for a weekend like this.
What joins us all under Bob's embracing welcome is our commitment to public media. Pat Aufderheide got it right, I think, in the recent issue of In These Times when she wrote: This is a moment when public media outlets can make a powerful case for themselves. Public radio, public TV, cable access, public DBS channels, media arts centers, youth media projects, nonprofit Internet news services & low-power radio and webcasting are all part of a nearly invisible feature of today's media map: the public media sector. They exist not to make a profit, not to push an ideology, not to serve customers, but to create a public a group of people who can talk productively with those who don t share their views, and defend the interests of the people who have to live with the consequences of corporate and governmental power.
She gives examples of the
possibilities. Look at what happened, she said, when thousands of people who
watched Stanley Nelson's The Murder of Emmett Till on their public television
channels joined a postcard campaign that re-opened the murder case after more
than half a century. Look at NPR's courageous coverage of the
The public media, she argues, for all our flaws, are a very important resource in a noisy and polluted information environment.
You can also take wings reading Jason Miller's May 4 article on Z Net about the mainstream media. While it is true that much of the mainstream media is corrupted by the influence of government and corporate interests, Miller writes, there are still men and women in the mainstream who practice a high degree of journalistic integrity and who do challenge us with their stories and analysis.
But the real hope lies within the Internet with its 2 billion or more Web sites providing a wealth of information drawn from almost unlimited resources that span the globe. & If knowledge is power, one's capacity to increase that power increases exponentially through navigation of the Internet for news and information.
Surely this is one issue that unites us as we leave here today. The fight to preserve the Web from corporate gatekeepers joins media, reformers, producers and educators and it's a fight that has only just begun.
I want to tell you about another fight we re in today. The story I ve come to share with you goes to the core of our belief that the quality of democracy and the quality of journalism are deeply entwined. I can tell this story because I ve been living it. It's been in the news this week, including reports of more attacks on a single journalist yours truly by the right-wing media and their allies at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
As some of you know, CPB was established almost 40 years ago to set broad policy for public broadcasting and to be a firewall between political influence and program content. What some on this board are now doing today led by its chairman, Kenneth Tomlinson is too important, too disturbing and yes, even too dangerous for a gathering like this not to address.
We re-seeing unfold a contemporary example of the age-old ambition of power and ideology to squelch and punish journalists who tell the stories that make princes and priests uncomfortable.
Let me assure you that I take in stride attacks by the radical right-wingers who have not given up demonizing me although I retired over six months ago. They ve been after me for years now, and I suspect they will be stomping on my grave to make sure I don t come back from the dead.
I should remind them, however, that one of our boys pulled it off some 2,000 years ago after the Pharisees, Sadducees and Caesar's surrogates thought they had shut him up for good. Of course I won t be expecting that kind of miracle, but I should put my detractors on notice: They might just compel me out of the rocking chair and back into the anchor chair.
Who are they? I mean the people
obsessed with control, using the government to threaten and intimidate. I mean
the people who are hollowing out middle-class security even as they enlist the
sons and daughters of the working class in a war to make sure Ahmed Chalabi
winds up controlling
That's who I mean. And if that's editorializing, so be it. A free press is one where it's OK to state the conclusion you re led to by the evidence.
One reason I m in hot water is because my colleagues and I at NOW didn t play by the conventional rules of Beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and allow journalists to pretend they have done their job if, instead of reporting the truth behind the news, they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the news.
Jonathan Mermin writes about this in
a recent essay in World Policy Journal. (You ll also want to read his
book Debating War and Peace, Media Coverage of US Intervention in the Post
Mermin quotes David Ignatius of the Washington
Post on why the deep interests of the American public are so poorly served
by Beltway journalism. The rules of our game, says Ignatius, make it hard for
us to tee up an issue & without a news peg. He offers a case in point: the
Mermin also quotes public
television's Jim Lehrer acknowledging that unless an official says something is
so, it isn t news. Why were journalists not discussing the occupation of
In other words, says Jonathan
Mermin, if the government isn t talking about it, we don t report it. He
concludes: [Lehrer's] somewhat jarring declaration, one of many recent
admissions by journalists that their reporting failed to prepare the public for
the calamitous occupation that has followed the liberation of
Take the example (also cited by Mermin) of Charles J. Hanley. Hanley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Associated Press, whose fall 2003 story on the torture of Iraqis in American prisons before a U.S. Army report and photographs documenting the abuse surfaced was ignored by major American newspapers. Hanley attributes this lack of interest to the fact that it was not an officially sanctioned story that begins with a handout from an official source.
Furthermore, Iraqis recounting their
own personal experience of Abu Ghraib simply did not have the credibility with
Beltway journalists of American officials denying that such things happened.
Judith Miller of the New York Times, among others, relied on the
credibility of official but unnamed sources when she served essentially as the
government stenographer for claims that
These rules of the game permit
I decided long ago that this wasn t healthy for democracy. I came to see that news is what people want to keep hidden and everything else is publicity. In my documentaries whether on the Watergate scandals 30 years ago or the Iran-Contra conspiracy 20 years ago or Bill Clinton's fundraising scandals 10 years ago or, five years ago, the chemical industry's long and despicable cover-up of its cynical and unspeakable withholding of critical data about its toxic products from its workers, I realized that investigative journalism could not be a collaboration between the journalist and the subject. Objectivity is not satisfied by two opposing people offering competing opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference.
I came to believe that objective journalism means describing the object being reported on, including the little fibs and fantasies as well as the Big Lie of the people in power. In no way does this permit journalists to make accusations and allegations. It means, instead, making sure that your reporting and your conclusions can be nailed to the post with confirming evidence.
This is always hard to do, but it has never been harder than today. Without a trace of irony, the powers-that-be have appropriated the newspeak vernacular of George Orwell's 1984. They give us a program vowing No Child Left Behind, while cutting funds for educating disadvantaged kids. They give us legislation cheerily calling for Clear Skies and Healthy Forests that give us neither. And that's just for starters.
In Orwell's 1984, the character Syme, one of the writers of that totalitarian society's dictionary, explains to the protagonist Winston, Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.
An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only on partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, to ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy or worse.
I learned about this the hard way. I grew up in the South, where the truth about slavery, race, and segregation had been driven from the pulpits, driven from the classrooms and driven from the newsrooms. It took a bloody Civil War to bring the truth home, and then it took another hundred years for the truth to make us free.
Then I served in the Johnson administration. Imbued with Cold War orthodoxy and confident that might makes right, we circled the wagons, listened only to each other, and pursued policies the evidence couldn t carry. The results were devastating for Vietnamese and Americans.
I brought all of this to the task when PBS asked me after 9/11 to start a new weekly broadcast. They wanted us to make it different from anything else on the air commercial or public broadcasting. They asked us to tell stories no one else was reporting and to offer a venue to people who might not otherwise be heard.
That wasn t a hard sell. I had been
deeply impressed by studies published in leading peer-reviewed scholarly
journals by a team of researchers led by
Instead of far-ranging discussions and debates, the kind that might engage viewers as citizens, not simply as audiences, this research found that public affairs programs on PBS stations were populated by the standard set of elite news sources. Whether government officials and Washington journalists (talking about political strategy) or corporate sources (talking about stock prices or the economy from the investor's viewpoint), public television, unfortunately, all too often was offering the same kind of discussions, and a similar brand of insider discourse, that is featured regularly on commercial television.
Who didn t appear was also revealing. Hoynes and his team found that in contrast to the conservative mantra that public television routinely featured the voices of anti-establishment critics, alternative perspectives were rare on public television and were effectively drowned out by the stream of government and corporate views that represented the vast majority of sources on our broadcasts.
The so-called experts who got most
of the face time came primarily from mainstream news organizations and
All this went against the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 that created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I know. I was there. As a young policy assistant to President Johnson, I attended my first meeting to discuss the future of public broadcasting in 1964 in the office of the Commissioner of Education. I know firsthand that the Public Broadcasting Act was meant to provide an alternative to commercial television and to reflect the diversity of the American people.
This, too, was on my mind when we assembled the team for NOW. It was just after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. We agreed on two priorities. First, we wanted to do our part to keep the conversation of democracy going. That meant talking to a wide range of people across the spectrum left, right and center.
It meant poets, philosophers,
politicians, scientists, sages and scribblers. It meant Isabel AlIende, the
novelist, and Amity Shlaes, the columnist for the Financial Times. It meant the
former nun and best-selling author Karen Armstrong, and it meant the right-wing
evangelical columnist Cal Thomas. It meant Arundhati Roy from
It means liberals like Frank Wu, Ossie Davis and Gregory Nava, and conservatives like Frank Gaffney, Grover Norquist, and Richard Viguerie. It meant Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop Wilton Gregory of the Catholic Bishops conference in this country. It meant the conservative Christian activist and lobbyist, Ralph Reed, and the dissident Catholic Sister Joan Chittister. We threw the conversation of democracy open to all comers.
Most of those who came responded the same way that Ron Paul, the Republican and Libertarian congressman from Texas, did when he wrote me after his appearance, I have received hundreds of positive e-mails from your viewers. I appreciate the format of your program, which allows time for a full discussion of ideas. & I m tired of political shows featuring two guests shouting over each other and offering the same arguments. & NOW was truly refreshing.
Hold your applause because that's not the point of the story. We had a second priority. We intended to do strong, honest and accurate reporting, telling stories we knew people in high places wouldn t like.
I told our producers and
correspondents that in our field reporting our job was to get as close as
possible to the verifiable truth. This was all the more imperative in the
aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
Furthermore, increased spending during a national emergency can produce a spectacle of corruption behind a smokescreen of secrecy. I reminded our team of the words of the news photographer in Tom Stoppard's play who said, People do terrible things to each other, but it's worse when everyone is kept in the dark.
I also reminded them of how the correspondent and historian Richard Reeves answered a student who asked him to define real news. Real news, Reeves responded, is the news you and I need to keep our freedoms.
For these reasons and in that
spirit, we went about reporting on
And always because what people know depends on who owns the press we kept coming back to the media business itself, to how mega media corporations were pushing journalism further and further down the hierarchy of values, how giant radio cartels were silencing critics while shutting communities off from essential information, and how the mega media companies were lobbying the FCC for the right to grow ever more powerful.
The broadcast caught on. Our ratings grew every year. There was even a spell when we were the only public affairs broadcast on PBS whose audience was going up instead of down.
Our journalistic peers took notice. The Los Angeles Times said, NOW's team of reporters has regularly put the rest of the media to shame, pursuing stories few others bother to touch.
The Philadelphia Inquirer said our segments on the sciences, the arts, politics and the economy were provocative public television at its best.
The Austin American-Statesman called NOW, the perfect antidote to today's high pitched decibel level, a smart, calm, timely news program.
Frazier Moore of the Associated Press said we were hard-edged when appropriate but never Hardball. Don t expect combat. Civility reigns.
And the Baton Rouge Advocate said, NOW invites viewers to consider the deeper implication of the daily headlines, drawing on a wide range of viewpoints which transcend the typical labels of the political left or right.
Let me repeat that: NOW draws on a wide range of viewpoints which transcend the typical labels of the political left or right.
The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 had been prophetic. Open public television to the American people offer diverse interests, ideas and voices & be fearless in your belief in democracy and they will come.
Hold your applause that's not the point of the story.
The point of the story is something
only a handful of our team, including my wife and partner Judith Davidson
Moyers, and I knew at the time that the success of NOW's journalism was
creating a backlash in
The more compelling our journalism, the angrier the radical right of the Republican Party became. That's because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth.
This is the point of my story: Ideologues don t want you to go beyond the typical labels of left and right. They embrace a world view that can t be proven wrong because they will admit no evidence to the contrary. They want your reporting to validate their belief system and when it doesn t, God forbid.
Never mind that their own stars were getting a fair shake on NOW: Gigot, Viguerie, David Keene of the American Conservative Union, Stephen Moore, then with the Club for Growth, and others. No, our reporting was giving the radical right fits because it wasn t the party line. It wasn t that we were getting it wrong. Only three times in three years did we err factually, and in each case we corrected those errors as soon as we confirmed their inaccuracy. The problem was that we were telling stories that partisans in power didn t want told & we were getting it right, not right-wing.
I ve always thought the American eagle needed a left wing and a right wing. The right wing would see to it that economic interests had their legitimate concerns addressed. The left wing would see to it that ordinary people were included in the bargain. Both would keep the great bird on course. But with two right wings or two left wings, it's no longer an eagle and it's going to crash.
My occasional commentaries got to them as well. Although apparently he never watched the broadcast (I guess he couldn t take the diversity), Sen. Trent Lott came out squealing like a stuck pig when after the midterm elections in 2002 I described what was likely to happen now that all three branches of government were about to be controlled by one party dominated by the religious, corporate and political right.
Instead of congratulating the
winners for their election victory as some network broadcasters had done or
celebrating their victory as Fox, the Washington Times, The Weekly
Standard, talk radio and other partisan Republican journalists had done I
provided a little independent analysis of what the victory meant. And I did it
the old-fashioned way: I looked at the record, took the winners at their word,
and drew the logical conclusion that they would use power as they always said
they would. And I set forth this conclusion in my usual modest
Events since then have confirmed the accuracy of what I said, but, to repeat, being right is exactly what the right doesn t want journalists to be.
Strange things began to happen.
I wore my flag tonight. First time. Until now I haven t thought it necessary to display a little metallic icon of patriotism for everyone to see. It was enough to vote, pay my taxes, perform my civic duties, speak my mind, and do my best to raise our kids to be good Americans.
Sometimes I would offer a small prayer of gratitude that I had been born in a country whose institutions sustained me, whose armed forces protected me, and whose ideals inspired me; I offered my heart's affections in return. It no more occurred to me to flaunt the flag on my chest than it did to pin my mother's picture on my lapel to prove her son's love. Mother knew where I stood; so does my country. I even tuck a valentine in my tax returns on April 15.
So what's this doing here? Well, I
put it on to take it back. The flag's been hijacked and turned into a logo the
trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. On those Sunday morning talk shows,
official chests appear adorned with the flag as if it is the good housekeeping
seal of approval. During the State of the
But more galling than anything are
all those moralistic ideologues in
So I put this on as a modest riposte
to men with flags in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of
Washington think tanks, or argue that sacrifice is good as long as they don t
have to make it, or approve of bribing governments to join the coalition of the
willing (after they first stash the cash). I put it on to remind myself that
not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of
That did it. That and our continuing
reporting on overpricing at Haliburton, chicanery on
When Senator Lott protested that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has not seemed willing to deal with Bill Moyers, a new member of the board, a Republican fundraiser named Cheryl Halperin, who had been appointed by President Bush, agreed that CPB needed more power to do just that sort of thing. She left no doubt about the kind of penalty she would like to see imposed on malefactors like Moyers.
As rumors circulated about all this, I asked to meet with the CPB board to hear for myself what was being said. I thought it would be helpful for someone like me, who had been present at the creation and part of the system for almost 40 years, to talk about how CPB had been intended to be a heat shield to protect public broadcasters from exactly this kind of intimidation.
After all, I d been there at the time of Richard Nixon's attempted coup. In those days, public television had been really feisty and independent, and often targeted for attacks. A Woody Allen special that poked fun at Henry Kissinger in the Nixon administration had actually been cancelled. The White House had been so outraged over a documentary called the Banks and the Poor that PBS was driven to adopt new guidelines. That didn't satisfy Nixon, and when public television hired two NBC reporters Robert McNeil and Sander Vanoucur to co-anchor some new broadcasts, it was, for Nixon, the last straw. According to White House memos at the time, he was determined to get the left-wing commentators who are cutting us up off public television at once indeed, yesterday if possible.
Nixon vetoed the authorization for
CPB with a message written in part by his sidekick Pat Buchanan, who in a
private memo had castigated Vanocur,
It does sound familiar.
I always knew Nixon would be back. I just didn t know this time he would be the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Buchanan and Nixon'succeeded in cutting CPB funding for all public affairs programming except for Black Journal. They knocked out multiyear funding for the National Public Affairs Center for Television, otherwise known as NPACT. And they voted to take away from the PBS staff the ultimate responsibility for the production of programming.
But in those days and this is what I
wanted to share with Kenneth Tomlinson and his colleagues on the CPB board
there were still Republicans in America who did not march in ideological
lockstep and who stood on principle against politicizing public television. The
chairman of the public station in
The chairman of CPB was former Republican Congressman Thomas Curtis, who was also a principled man. He resigned, claiming White House interference. Within a few months, the crisis was over. CPB maintained its independence, PBS grew in strength, and Richard Nixon would soon face impeachment and resign for violating the public trust, not just public broadcasting.
Paradoxically, the very National Public Affairs Center for Television that Nixon had tried to kill NPACT put PBS on the map by rebroadcasting in primetime each day's Watergate hearings, drawing huge ratings night after night and establishing PBS as an ally of democracy. We should still be doing that sort of thing.
That was 33 years ago. I thought the current CPB board would like to hear and talk about the importance of standing up to political interference. I was wrong. They wouldn t meet with me. I tried three times. And it was all downhill after that.
I was na ve, I guess. I simply never imagined that any CPB chairman, Democrat or Republican, would cross the line from resisting White House pressure to carrying it out for the White House. But that's what Kenneth Tomlinson has done.
On Fox News this week he denied that he's carrying out a White House mandate or that he's ever had any conversations with any Bush administration official about PBS. But the New York Times reported that he enlisted Karl Rove to help kill a proposal that would have put on the CPB board people with experience in local radio and television. The Times also reported that on the recommendation of administration officials Tomlinson hired a White House flack (I know the genre) named Mary Catherine Andrews as a senior CPB staff member. While she was still reporting to Karl Rove at the White House, Andrews set up CPB's new ombudsman's office and had a hand in hiring the two people who will fill it, one of whom once worked for & you guessed it & Kenneth Tomlinson.
I would like to give Mr. Tomlinson the benefit of the doubt, but I can t. According to a book written about the Reader's Digest when he was its Editor-in-Chief, he surrounded himself with other right-wingers a pattern he's now following at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
There is Ms. Andrews from the White House. For acting president, he hired Ken Ferree from the FCC, who was Michael Powell's enforcer when Powell was deciding how to go about allowing the big media companies to get even bigger. According to a forthcoming book, one of Ferree's jobs was to engage in tactics designed to dismiss any serious objection to media monopolies. And, according to Eric Alterman, Ferree was even more contemptuous than Michael Powell of public participation in the process of determining media ownership. Alterman identifies Ferree as the FCC staffer who decided to issue a protective order designed to keep secret the market research on which the Republican majority on the commission based their vote to permit greater media consolidation.
It's not likely that with guys like this running the CPB some public television producer is going to say, Hey, let's do something on how big media is affecting democracy.
Call it preventive capitulation.
As everyone knows, Mr. Tomlinson also put up a considerable sum of money, reportedly over $5 million, for a new weekly broadcast featuring Paul Gigot and the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. Gigot is a smart journalist, a sharp editor, and a fine fellow. I had him on NOW several times and even proposed that he become a regular contributor. The conversation of democracy remember? All stripes.
But I confess to some puzzlement that the Wall Street Journal, which in the past editorialized to cut PBS off the public tap, is now being subsidized by American taxpayers although its parent company, Dow Jones, had revenues in just the first quarter of this year of $400 million. I thought public television was supposed to be an alternative to commercial media, not a funder of it.
But in this weird deal, you get a glimpse of the kind of programming Mr. Tomlinson apparently seems to prefer. Alone of the big major newspapers, the Wall Street Journal has no op-ed page where different opinions can compete with its right-wing editorials. The Journal's PBS broadcast is just as homogenous - right- wingers talking to each other. Why not $5 million to put the editors of The Nation on PBS? Or Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! You balance right-wing talk with left-wing talk.
There's more. Only two weeks ago did we learn that Mr. Tomlinson had spent $10,000 last year to hire a contractor who would watch my show and report on political bias. That's right. Kenneth Y. Tomlinson spent $10,000 of your money to hire a guy to watch NOW to find out who my guests were and what my stories were. Ten thousand dollars.
Gee, Ken, for $2.50 a week, you could pick up a copy of TV Guide on the newsstand. A subscription is even cheaper, and I would have sent you a coupon that can save you up to 62 percent.
For that matter, Ken, all you had to do was watch the show yourself. You could have made it easier with a double Jim Beam, your favorite. Or you could have gone online where the listings are posted. Hell, you could have called me collect and I would have told you.
Ten thousand dollars. That would have bought five tables at Thursday night's Conservative Salute for Tom DeLay. Better yet, that ten grand would pay for the books in an elementary school classroom or an upgrade of its computer lab.
But having sent that cash, what did he find? Only Mr. Tomlinson knows. He's apparently decided not to share the results with his staff, or his board or leak it to Robert Novak. The public paid for it but Ken Tomlinson acts as if he owns it.
In a May 10 op-ed piece, in Reverend
Moon's conservative Washington Times, Tomlinson maintained he had not
released the findings because public broadcasting is such a delicate
institution that he did not want to damage public broadcasting's image with
controversy. Where I come from in
As we learned only this week, that's not the only news Mr. Tomlinson tried to keep to himself. As reported by Jeff Chester's Center for Digital Democracy (of which I am a supporter), there were two public opinion surveys commissioned by CPB but not released to the media not even to PBS and NPR. According to a source who talked to Salon.com, The first results were too good and [Tomlinson] didn t believe them. After the Iraq War, the board commissioned another round of polling, and they thought they d get worse results.
But they didn t. The data revealed
that, in reality, public broadcasting has an 80 percent favorable rating and
that the majority of the
Tomlinson is the man, by the way,
who was running The Voice of America back in 1984 when a partisan named Charlie
Wick was politicizing the United States Information Agency of which Voice of
America was a part. It turned out there was a blacklist of people who had been
removed from the list of prominent Americans sent abroad to lecture on behalf
The person who took the fall for the blacklist was another right-winger. He resigned. Shortly thereafter, so did Kenneth Tomlinson, who had been one of the people in the agency with the authority to see the lists of potential speakers and allowed to strike people s names. Let me be clear about this: There is no record, apparently, of what Ken Tomlinson did. We don't know whether he supported or protested the blacklisting of so many American liberals. Or what he thinks of it now.
But I had hoped Bill O Reilly would have asked him about it when he appeared on The O Reilly Factor this week. He didn t. Instead, Tomlinson went on attacking me with O Reilly egging him on, and he went on denying he was carrying out a partisan mandate despite published reports to the contrary. The only time you could be sure he was telling the truth was at the end of the broadcast when he said to O Reilly, We love your show.
We love your show.
I wrote Kenneth Tomlinson on Friday and asked him to sit down with me for one hour on PBS and talk about all this. I suggested that he choose the moderator and the guidelines.
There is one other thing in particular I would like to ask him about. In his op-ed essay this week in Washington Times, Ken Tomlinson tells of a phone call from an old friend complaining about my bias. Wrote Mr. Tomlinson: The friend explained that the foundation he heads made a six-figure contribution to his local television station for digital conversion. But he declared there would be no more contributions until something was done about the network s bias.
Apparently that's Kenneth Tomlinson s method of governance. Money talks and buys the influence it wants.
I would like to ask him to listen to a different voice.
This letter came to me last year
from a woman in
She wanted me to know that on 9/11
her husband was not on duty. He was home with me having coffee. My daughter and
grandson, living only five blocks from the Towers, had to be evacuated with
masks terror all around. & My other daughter, near the
In the FDNY, she said, chain-of- command rules extend to every captain of every fire house in the city. If anything happens in the firehouse at any time even if the captain isn t on duty or on vacation that captain is responsible for everything that goes on there 24/7.
So she asked: Why is this administration responsible for nothing? All that they do is pass the blame. This is not leadership. & Watch everyone pass the blame again in this recent torture case [Abu Ghraib] of Iraqi prisons &
And then she wrote: We need more
programs like yours to wake
Enclosed with the letter was a check made out to Channel 13 NOW for $500. I keep a copy of that check above my desk to remind me of what journalism is about. Kenneth Tomlinson has his demanding donors. I ll take the widow s mite any day.
Someone has said recently that the great raucous mob that is democracy is rarely heard and that it s not just the fault of the current residents of the White House and the capital. There's too great a chasm between those of us in this business and those who depend on TV and radio as their window to the world. We treat them too much as an audience and not enough as citizens. They re invited to look through the window but too infrequently to come through the door and to participate, to make public broadcasting truly public.
To that end, five public interest groups including Common Cause and Consumers Union will be holding informational sessions around the country to take public broadcasting back to take it back from threats, from interference, from those who would tell us we can only think what they command us to think.
It s a worthy goal.
We re big kids; we can handle
controversy and diversity, whether it s political or religious points of view
or two loving lesbian moms and their kids, visited by a cartoon rabbit. We are
not too fragile or insecure to see
from Greg Palast
Cowardice in Journalism Award for Newsweek
by Greg Palast
appalling that this story got out there," Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice said on her way back from
appalling to Condi is that the
What is appalling to her is that these things were reported. So to Condi goes to the Joseph Goebbels Ministry of Propaganda Iron Cross.
But I don't want to leave out our President. His aides report that George Bush is "angry" about the report -- not the desecration of the Koran, but the reporting of it.
And so long as George is angry and Condi appalled, Newsweek knows what to do: swiftly grab its corporate ankles and ask the White House for mercy.
But there was no mercy. Donald Rumsfeld pointed the finger at Newsweek and said, "People lost their lives. People are dead." Maybe Rumsfeld was upset that Newsweek was taking away his job. After all, it's hard to beat Rummy when it comes to making people dead.
And just for the record: Newsweek, unlike Rumsfeld, did not kill anyone -- nor did its report cause killings. Afghans protested when they heard the Koran desecration story (as Christians have protested crucifix desecrations). The Muslim demonstrators were gunned down by the Afghan military police -- who operate under Rumsfeld's command.
Our Secretary of Defense, in his darkest Big Brother voice, added a warning for journalists and citizens alike, "People need to be very careful about what they say."
And Newsweek has now promised to be very, very good, and very, very careful not to offend Rumsfeld, appall Condi or anger George.
For their good behavior, I'm giving Newsweek and its owner, the Washington Post, this week's Yellow Streak Award for Craven Cowardice in Journalism.
the competition is fierce, but Newsweek takes the honors by backing down on
Mike Isikoff's exposé of cruelity, racism and just plain bone-headed
incompetence by the
Isikoff cited a reliable source that among the neat little "interrogation" techniques used to break down Muslim prisoners was putting a copy of the Koran into a toilet.
In the old days, Isikoff's discovery would have led to Congressional investigations of the perpetrators of such official offence. The Koran-flushers would have been flushed from the military, panels would have been impaneled and Isikoff would have collected his Pulitzer.
No more. Instead of nailing the wrong-doers, the Bush Administration went after the guy who reported the crime, Isikoff.
Was there a problem with the story? Certainly. If you want to split hairs, the inside-government source of the Koran desecration story now says he can't confirm which military report it appeared in. But he saw it in one report and a witness has confirmed that the Koran was defiled.
Of course, there's an easy way to get at the truth. RELEASE THE REPORTS NOW. Hand them over, Mr. Rumsfeld, and let's see for ourselves what's in them.
Newsweek and the Post are too polite to ask Rumsfeld to make the investigative
reports public. Rather, the corporate babysitter for Newsweek, editor Mark
Whitaker, said, "Top administration officials have promised to continue
looking into the charges and so will we." In other words, we'll take the
Bush Administration's word that there is no evidence of Koran-dunking in the
draft reports on
It used to be that the Washington Post permitted journalism in its newsrooms. No more. But, frankly, that's an old story.
Every time I say investigative reporting is dead or barely breathing in the USA, some little smartass will challenge me, "What about Watergate? Huh?" Hey, buddy, the Watergate investigation was 32 years ago -- that means it's been nearly a third of a century since the Washington Post has printed a big investigative scoop.
The Post today would never run the Watergate story: a hidden source versus official denial. Let's face it, Bob Woodward, now managing editor at the Post, has gone from "All the President's Men" to becoming the President's Man -- "Bush at War." Ugh!
And now the Post company is considering further restrictions on the use of confidential sources -- no more "Deep Throats."
Despite its supposed new concern for hidden sources, let's note that Newsweek and the Post have no trouble providing, even in the midst of this story, cover for secret Administration sources that are FAVORABLE to Bush. Editor Whitaker's retraction relies on "Administration officials" whose names he kindly withholds.
In other words, unnamed sources are OK if they defend Bush, unacceptable if they expose the Administration's mendacity or evil.
A lot of my readers don't like the Koran-story reporter Mike Isikoff because of his goofy fixation with Monica Lewinsky and Mr. Clinton's cigar. Have some sympathy for Isikoff: Mike's one darn good reporter, but as an inmate at the Post/Newsweek facilities, his ability to send out serious communications to the rest of the world are limited.
years ago, while I was tracking the influence of the power industry on
I asked Isikoff why he didn't put it in Newsweek or in the Post.
when it comes to issues of substance, "No one gives a sh--" -- not
the readers, and especially not the editors who assume that their
doesn't leave a lot of time, money or courage for real reporting. And woe to
those who practice real journalism. As with CBS's retraction of Dan Rather's
report on Bush's draft-dodging, Newsweek's diving to the mat on
Newsweek has now publicly committed to having its reports vetted by Rumsfeld's Defense Department before publication. Why not just print Rumsfeld's press releases and eliminate the middleman, the reporter?
However, not all of us poor scribblers will adhere to this New News Order. In the meantime, however, for my future security and comfort, I'm having myself measured for a custom-made orange suit.
Greg Palast was awarded the 2005 George Orwell Prize for Courage in Journalism at the Sundance Film Festival for his investigative reports produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation. See those reports for BBC, Harper's, The Nation and others at www.GregPalast.com
from Kevin Zeese
by Ralph Nader and Kevin Zeese
THE IMPEACHMENT of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, should be part of mainstream political discourse.
Minutes from a summer 2002 meeting
involving British Prime Minister Tony Blair reveal that the Bush administration
was 'fixing" the intelligence to justify invading
President Clinton was impeached for
perjury about his sexual relationships. Comparing
Eighty-nine members of Congress have
asked the president whether intelligence was manipulated to lead the
Indeed, there were no weapons of mass
The International Atomic Energy Agency
Iraq inspection team reported in 1998, 'there were no indications of
The CIA told the White House in
February 2001: 'We do not have any direct evidence that
Colin Powell said in February 2001 that Saddam Hussein 'has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction."
The CIA told the White House in two
Fall 2002 memos not to make claims of
Regarding unmanned bombers highlighted
by Bush, the Air Force's National Air and
When discussing WMD the CIA used words
like 'might" and 'could." The case was always circumstantial with
equivocations, unlike the president and vice president, e.g., Cheney said on
The State Department in 2003 said: 'The
activities we have detected do not . . . add up to a compelling case that
The National Intelligence Estimate
issued in October 2002 said 'We have no specific intelligence information that
Saddam's regime has directed attacks against
The UN, IAEA, the State and Energy
departments, the Air Force's National Air and
The president and vice president have artfully dodged the central question: 'Did the administration mislead us into war by manipulating and misstating intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to Al Qaeda, suppressing contrary intelligence, and deliberately exaggerating the danger a contained, weakened Iraq posed to the United States and its neighbors?"
If this is answered affirmatively Bush and Cheney have committed 'high crimes and misdemeanors." It is time for Congress to investigate the illegal Iraq war as we move toward the third year of the endless quagmire that many security experts believe jeopardizes US safety by recruiting and training more terrorists. A Resolution of Impeachment would be a first step. Based on the mountains of fabrications, deceptions, and lies, it is time to debate the 'I" word.
Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate. Kevin Zeese is director of DemocracyRising.US.
from John Gerassi :
30 May 2005
Dear friends and comrades: For the last few days I
have been transferring my videos to DVDs so they can be permanent. Mostly
documentaries I use in class. But some films I want to save. And I sometimes
end up watching them. Like today, Arthur London's The Confession (with
Montand and Signoret, written by Semprun and directed by Renais), a great film.
But it scared me. The way the Stalinists torture (without leaving marks) the
"Trotrskyists" is just like the Gestapo did at the beginning and we now know just like
the FBI, the CIA and the Immigration cops are doing to anyone they suspect of
being a believing Moslem (that's a correct statement, I did not say a
sympathizer of al qaeda because there is no al quaeda, which was invented by
CIA to mean any Moslem opposed to US domination). What is scary is that it
won't end there. After they have exhausted the Moslems, terrorized those left
alone into being stool pigeons rating on their friends and families, they'll
turn on Latinos, especially as the countries South of our border wake up to US
desires and begin to resist. Imagine the repression here after the current
mayor of Mexico, with whom I had a long talk when I attended the Defense of
Humanity conference, and whom, I am convinced, with take Mexico out of NAFTA
and stop US economic domination. After all the Mexican constitution says
categorically that no foreign company can own more than 49% of any firm
operating in Mexico whose product or service is vital to the people of Mexico.
He'll enforce that. And what will the
Whose memorial are we celebrating tomorrow (May 31)? Tito
from Amnesty International
Amnesty Defends 'Gulag,' Urges Guantánamo Access
Human rights group Amnesty defended its description of Guantánamo prison
as a "gulag" Thursday and urged the
A verbal feud between Amnesty International and Washington has escalated
since Amnesty last week compared the prison at the
President Bush dismissed as "absurd" the Amnesty report, which
also said the
"The administration's response has been that our report is absurd, that our allegations have no basis, and our answer is very simple: if that is so, open up these detention centers, allow us and others to visit them," Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Zubaida Khan told a news conference.
"Transparency is the best antidote to misinformation and incorrect facts," said Khan, who is here to meet with Japanese officials.
Many have been held without charge for more than three years.
Khan rejected a suggestion that Amnesty's use of the emotive term "gulag" had turned the debate into one over semantics, and distracted attention from the situation in the detention centers.
"What we wanted to do was to send a strong message that ... this sort of network of detention centers that has been created as part of this war on terrorism is actually undermining human rights in a dramatic way which can only evoke some of the worst features of human rights scandals of the past," she said.
"I don't think people have got off the hook yet."
Khan also said
Khan urged Japan to abolish the death penalty, improve the treatment of prisoners, revise a strict stance toward refugees - only 15 refugees were accepted last year - and do more to prevent and protect victims of human trafficking.
From: Ralph Nader <email@example.com>
Subject: Notes From My Manual Typewriter
Let us all - active citizens - take a moment and hang our heads in shame.
I m not talking about the Democrats and Republicans.
Or Bush and Cheney.
Or Kerry and Edwards.
Or even about Hillary and Newt.
I m talking about you and me.
One hundred and twenty years ago,
citizens of the
Blackberries grew wild on bushes.
And yet, a group of living, breathing human beings starting with poor farmers in west Texas in the late 1880s banded together to challenge the forces of darkness the giant banks and railroad companies.
It was what historian Lawrence Goodwyn called "The Populist Moment".
Thousands of farmers alliances built into a nationwide movement of more than 2 million people that shook the political and economic system to its core.
Instead of the Internet, the word was spread through a series of lecturers people speaking directly with people.
And according to Professor Goodwyn,
it was the last time we ve seen such a grassroots challenge to the economic and
political system in the
Despite all of our lovely web sites, and hand-held devices, and ringtones on our cellphones, and 400 channels on our DirecTV, and instant access messages, and . . .
Despite all of this, where are we?
Ah, Mr. Nader, but here you are communicating with me via the dreaded Internet.
To which I respond but where has it gotten us?
Do you see thousands of alliances building into a mass movement of two million people?
I don t.
Forty years ago, I used a manual Underwood typewriter to write "Unsafe at Any Speed" my book length critique of the automobile industry that led to the auto safety laws.
And I still use my manual Underwood.
I don t write on a computer.
It's my little reminder of the false promise of modern technology.
As long as the ribbons hold out, I ll continue to write my books and letters and ideas on my Underwood.
I m not oblivious to the wonders of this new era.
We re no longer dependent on mainstream media for our news and analysis.
I can order any of the hundreds of documentaries I ve been wanting to see and instantly watch them on a DVD player.
But just take a moment and ask yourself if our message is so compelling, and at the push of a button, we can deliver it to millions of citizens then why hasn t it helped us to galvanize Populist Moment II?
Where are the thousands of alliances and two million people to shake the irrevocably corrupt Democratic and Republican parties?
Where is the mass movement to
extricate us from the quicksand's of
Could it be that the technology itself has undermined our ability to organize?
That we have become slaves to our machines?
These are not new questions.
In fact, many of these questions were raised in a wonderful book published a few years ago "Minutes of the Lead Pencil Club".
In it, you will find inspirational essays by Wendell Berry (Why I m Not Going to Buy a Computer), Russell Baker (A Little Cyber Grouch), Mary Clagett Smith (Abolishment of Childhood), Amy Wu (Young Cyber Addicts), David Gelertner (The Myth of Computers in the Classroom), Stephen Manes (User-Friendliness: Book vs. Disk) and many, many more.
Perhaps a close reading of Professor Lawrence Goodwyn s "The Populist Moment" followed by the "Minutes of the Lead Pencil Club" will trigger some thoughts on how we can jump-start a new populist moment that will free us from the corporate supremacists.
As you are well aware, we have been
barnstorming the country, speaking against the war in
We ve been tearing aside the corporate curtain to expose the Democrats and Republicans in their corrupt little dance.
To all of you who ve left behind your computers and DVDs and satellite dishes and televisions to join us on the road for one-on-one conversations it has been a pleasure.
To those of you who have so generously helped us whittle away at our 2004 civil liberties debt incurred fighting off the corporate Democrats who drove to push us off the ballot in many states we say, thank you.
Together, these books make a wonderful gift for all ages.
For the young, who when asked might guess that "The Populist Moment" is some new reality television show on Fox.
And for those of us who need to be reminded that what goes around comes around, that the people will only take so much for so long, and that sooner or later, together, we will find the key to change.
Again thank you for your generous support and bright horizons.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research at CEIMSA-IN-EXILE