We seem to be in the midst of a mini-epidemic of people getting pilloried for saying things that are true.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been fingered by the wingers as an al Qaeda operative for accurately assessing the appeal of Al Jazeera. Clinton’s now-former spokesman PJ Crowley has been shown the door for rightfully decrying the government’s treatment of accused Wikileaker Bradley Manning. The soon-to-be-former National Public Radio executive Ron Schiller has been pronounced anathema for correctly characterizing the nation’s teabaggers. And New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller is under siege for aptly describing Fox News.
It’s not like this sort of thing hasn’t happened before. Cassandra was mocked and eventually chopped for Knowing All and talking about it. Jesus of Nazareth was nailed out to dry for unpalatable utterings in re church and state. Giordano Bruno was burnt black for apprehending the faith better than did his firestarters. And Galileo Galilei was threatened with same unless he left off his nonsense about the Earth revolving around the Sun.
Just goes to show that, now as then, people may say they want the truth, but, in many cases, many people really don’t. Truth, in this world, well, it just isn’t done.
Keller’s crime was responding to a question about Fox News at a New York Press Club Q&A session with the following:
“I think if you’re a regular viewer of Fox News, you’re among the most cynical people on planet Earth. I cannot think of a more cynical slogan than ‘Fair and Balanced.’”
Cue wailing and rending of garments. Even among purported “liberals.” For instance, writing for that untamed dunderhead Tina Brown’s website, The Daily Beast, highly paid goofball Howard Kurtz asked: “Since Keller runs the newsroom of what is arguably the nation’s most important newspaper, the question arises whether Roger Ailes’ outfit can get a fair shake from the Times.” To which Keller responded via email:
“First of all, the question of whether Times reporters can write fairly about Fox is answered by the fact they do it, over and over. Tim Arango, Dave Carr, and Brian Stelter have set the standard for fair, tough, incisive coverage of Fox, its business, and its on-air personalities.
“As far as I can tell, they are professionally indifferent to that fact that Fox maintains a stable of commentators who make a good living bashing the Times.”
Keller further told Kurtz:
“I’ve been recycling that comment about the ‘Fair and Balanced’ slogan for four or five years. I don’t think anyone at Fox believes they are producing even-handed, impartial coverage. They think their mission is to balance what they perceive as a left-wing mainstream media by providing news and comment with a conservative slant. That’s their right, but to say otherwise, to pretend to be something else, does strike me as cynical.”
Which proves that Kurtz is a howling imbecile. Because no one with a functioning cerebrum and even the least appreciation for truth denies that “the outlook fueling Fox’s conservative commentary bleeds into its news coverage.” The entire raison d’être for Fox is, as Keller correctly stated, to “provide news and comment with a conservative slant.” That’s what the place is about. And as is documented pretty much daily, at places like Media Matters, there is little substantive difference in the Newspeak emitted by an “out” opinionator like Sean Klannity, and by a purported “news” reader like Megyn Kelly, a woman right up the Fox street, as she is incapable even of spelling her first name correctly, but can sho’nuff recite with a straight face the required lies.
What is Against Truth—and in fact even Sanity—is people like Kurtz, who continue to conspire in the fiction that everything that is put on the air at Fox is not designed to appeal to, and advance the interests of, GOoPers, racists, wingers, teabaggers, transnational money-grabbers, and other assorted ur-humans who walk with their knuckles dragging on the ground.
The mouth of Fox chieftain Ailes itself ran totally wild late last year, when speaking to that same Howard Kurtz, uttering a string of preposterous insanities and inanities that somehow didn’t compel Kurtz to bring out the same ruler he used to rap Keller on the knuckles.
Among other things, Ailes chundered that Barack Obama “just has a different belief system than most Americans,” projected that Jon Stewart is “crazy,” hallucinated that Glenn Beck is ”so intelligent and basically sensitive,” and decreed that NPR executives “are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism.”
For indicting a passel of fellow Americans as a calamitous clot of world-destroying Jew-burners, Ailes was not drug by his heels from out of his office and into the public square, there to be hung by the neck until dead. He got himself a pass. And I have not seen Ailes’ unseemly “Nazi” outburst even referenced, as the mob has assembled to frog-march NPR executive Ron Schiller to the hangin’ tree.
Schiller’s offense? He was caught on camera, in a tawdry “sting” orchestrated by the baby-faced serial reprobate and willing GOoPer cat’s-paw James O’Keefe, uttering the following truths:
Schiller: “The current Republican party is not really the Republican Party. It’s been hijacked by this group that—”
Fake Muslim Dispatched By Fake Journalist O’Keefe: “The radical, racist, Islamophobic, Tea Party people?”
Schiller: “Exactly. And not just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic. Basically, they believe in white, middle America, gun-toting—I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people. I won’t break a confidence, but a person who was an ambassador—so, a very highly placed Republican—another person, who was one of the top donors to the Republican party, they both told me they voted for Obama, which they never believed they could ever do in their lives. That they could ever vote for a Democrat, ever. And they did, because they think the current Republican party is not really the Republican Party. It’s been hijacked by this group[.]“
Schiller also said, truthfully, that there is a “real anti-intellectual mood on part of a significant part of the Republican party,” and that “the current Republican party, particularly the Tea Party, is fanatically involved in people’s personal lives and very fundamental Christian—and I wouldn’t even call it Christian, it’s this weird evangelical kind of move.”
Now, all of this stuff is just true. That the Tea Party people are racists and xenophobes and crazed evangelicals, and that they are actively encouraged and embraced in their poisonous nonsense by the high panjandrums of GOoPerdom—including Ailes—has been exhaustively documented even on this very blog.
And everyone knows that it’s true. But apparently actually saying so is an offense deserving of the hangin’ tree. It’s like a variation on the “emperor has no clothes” thing. In this instance, it’s okay to notice that these people wear clothes, but nobody is supposed to breathe a word about the fact that over those clothes they’ve donned sheets.
Lefties, you see, claim that they believe in liberty, equality, and fraternity, and so it is just not possible for them to be racist. Bollocks. They fail to reflect that the GOoPers too purport to stand for the very same things. In truth, here in the age of Fear Of The Black President, we have learned that it is just as possible for one to be an overt or covert racist when pulling a lever marked “D,” as when yanking that labeled “R.”
Secretary of State Clinton was fitted by the wingers for a burqa when she appeared before a Senate subcommittee on March 2 and stated that the Arabic TV network Al Jazeera is increasingly popular throughout the world, and even in the United States, and that there is good reason for this:
“Al Jazeera has been the leader in that they are literally changing people’s minds and attitudes. And like it or hate it, it is really effective.
“In fact viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it’s real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners.”
Leading the charge, Rump Lynchmob informed his listeners that Clinton is herself an avid consumer of Al Jazeera—no doubt in common with the rest of the wild-eyed Muslims infesting the executive branch—because, you see, “in order to have this opinion of it, she is watching it.”
“Mrs. Clinton says al-Jazeera is real news!” Rump chortled. “Unlike the news in America! I’m not making it up! It’s all here—we’ll link to it!”
Link away, Lynchmob, ol’ buddy. Trouble is, it’s true. American television is indeed “a million commercials” punctuated by “arguments between talking heads” that are “not particularly informative to us.” That’s just the way it is. While Al Jazeera, when reporting out of the Arab world, is usually without peer.
Lynchmob notwithstanding, Clinton was also correct in stating that American television does a piss-poor job of presenting America to the world:
“We are in an information war and we cannot assume that this youth bulge that exists not just in the Middle East, but in so many parts of the world, really knows much about us. I mean, we think they know us, and reject us. I would argue they really don’t know very much about who we are.”
“Our private media, particularly cultural programming, often works at counter purposes to what we truly are as Americans and what our values are. I remember having an Afghan general tell me that the only thing he thought about Americans is that all the men wrestled and the women walked around in bikinis, because the only TV he ever saw was Baywatch and World Wide Wrestling.”
The part I didn’t like about Clinton’s remarks was her insistence that ‘Muricans are in some sort of “war”:
“We are engaged in an information war. You know, during the Cold War, we did a great job in getting America’s message out. After the Berlin Wall fell, we said, ‘OK, fine, enough of that. You know, we’ve done it. We’re done.’ And unfortunately, we are paying a big price for it.”
“So, we are in an information war, and we are losing that war. I’ll be very blunt in my assessment. Al Jazeera is winning. The Chinese have opened up a global English-language and multi-language television network. The Russians have opened up an English-language network. I’ve seen it in a few countries, and it’s quite instructive. We are cutting back. The BBC is cutting back.”
Why does everything have to be a “war”? We’ve had enough wars, thank you very much. As I’ve said before, the war thing is over. We don’t need any more warriors. What we need are healers. Just put the information out as clear and clean as you can, and forget about the “war” business. So what if Al Jazeera and the Chinese and the Russians are putting their word out there? They’re not the ones making us look like embarrassing simpletons by eternally shooting Baywatch into the ether.
Also, Secretary Clinton, you forgot the French. Their international network, France 24, available to some lucky Floridians, via Dish TV, and on the intertubes, is very good stuff. And broadcast in French, Arabic . . . and English.
And finally there is PJ Crowley, now-former Assistant Secretary Of State.
Now, according to Mike Allen of Politico, admittedly an extremely dubious source, probably only about one rung above the cesspool occupied by The Eggman, Crowley was not getting along with his boss, Secretary Clinton, and had previously planned to exit anyway. But his remarks to a small group of people at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a group that he knew included bloggers, pretty much sealed the deal:
Around twenty of us were sitting around the table listening to [Crowley's] views on social media, the impact of the Twittersphere, the Arab uprisings, and so on, in a vast space-age conference room overlooking the Charles River and the Boston skyline. And then, inevitably, one young man said he wanted to address “the elephant in the room.” What did Crowley think, he asked, about Wikileaks? About the United States, in his words, “torturing a prisoner in a military brig”?
According to an unofficial transcript of the seminar published by Ethan Zuckerman of Harvard’s Berkman Center, Crowley said: “I spent 26 years in the Air Force. What is happening to Manning is ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid, and I don’t know why the DoD is doing it. Nevertheless, Manning is in the right place.’’
A few minutes later, I had a chance to ask a question. “Are you on the record?” I would not be writing this if he’d said no. There was an uncomfortable pause. “Sure.” So there we are.
The government’s treatment of Manning, the soldier interned in a military brig awaiting trial on charges connected with his suspected forwarding of hundreds of thousands of classified State Department documents to Wikileaks, is indeed “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid.” What Crowley said is the truth. And now he’ll be looking for a new job.
Manning has become something of a cause celebre among white-people “leftists” who have, with this young white male, belatedly discovered the conditions in which prisoners are housed in this country. Among these is Blackface Jane, the bitter PUMA who has never liked the black man occupying the White House, and who twitted that Crowley’s departure was “Obama’s Saturday Night Massacre” . . . proving she knows no more about history than about successfully lobbying for progressive health-care legislation. Another is Queeg Greenwald, who in late January wielded his poison pen to squirt, from craven long-distance, febrile insults such as “cowardly,” “slimy,” “intellectually dishonest,” and “Obama apologist,” at a black blogger who had the effrontery to point out that black and brown people have been confined in this country in conditions as bad or worse than Manning’s, for centuries . . . and are so confined today.
Manning is held in solitary confinement, in a cell with a bed, a drinking fountain, and a toilet. He is not permitted to sleep from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., is checked by guards every five minutes, and is allowed out of the cell for but one hour per day. He is forbidden to exercise in his cell; instead, he is taken to an exercise “room,” and allowed there to walk. He is not allowed a pillow or sheets, but is instead provided with two blankets. Previously he was forced to strip down to his boxers when he slept, but recently he was stripped of all his clothing altogether when bedding down to sleep. Now, he sleeps at night in what is called a “suicide smock.”
Here is what prisoners in an Arizona federal correctional facility commonly encountered, back in 1990, and, presumably, today:
The dry cell here at Phoenix is in the isolation unit. A bright light burns twenty-four hours a day. There’s no apparent ventilation, no running water, and no blanket. The room appears to be heated continuously, with the temperature hovering around a hundred degrees. It’s a virtual torture chamber furnished only with a bowl to defecate in and a rubber mattress to sleep on. The guards outside never take their eyes off the suspect.
I myself worked on the case of a woman held in pre-trail detention, not 12 miles from where I sit, who was stripped of all of her clothing, day and night, when the guards suspected she might be suicidal. She was never provided with any “suicide smock.”
None of this is meant to excuse or diminish the conditions of Manning’s detention, which are unacceptable. What it does show is that when President Obama said this
With respect to Private Manning, you know, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are.
he was half-right. For they are surely not “appropriate,” but they do indeed comport with what has been allowed to become “our basic standards.”
To my mind Manning is a political prisoner, and the ongoing attempts at prosecuting Julian Assange, the face (and mouth) of Wikileaks, are likewise politically motivated. But then I am a person who is on record as having said this:
[A]ll the FISA fuss is really about gradations in badness. Because I don’t even believe in the FISA court. I work in regular ol’ criminal law, and there’s far too much secrecy even there. All of it is wrong, all of it serves to frustrate justice, always the powers of secrecy are abused. An entirely secret court? No. I don’t think so.
I don’t even believe in secret intelligence. A couple years ago, I said on this site that I believed that all intelligence collected by the nation’s ever-expanding array of intelligence agencies should be posted on the web, so that the American people—who after all are those for whom this intelligence is collected—may read it and judge it for themselves. I was promptly pronounced a loon. Maybe so, maybe so. But is a fact that if all the intelligence collected by BushCo about Iraq were to have been posted to the web, neither the Congress, nor the American people, would ever have sanctioned Operation Iraqi Fiefdom.
To me the key to Wikileaks is neither Manning nor Assange, but the material itself. Indeed, hopefully in the future we will have no further Mannings; Manning is only known to us as Manning because he unwisely confided online to someone who then went to the government and ratted him out. Silencio is the watchword for those who would leak classified information. As for Assange, it should matter not to the Wikileaks project whether he is or is not a sexual miscreant; presumably he has arranged things so that the organization can survive without him. Meanwhile, a similar site set up by a disgruntled ex-compadre of Assange’s is currently in negotiations with the New York Times‘ Keller to provide that publication with its own purloined papers.
What is important is the liberation of information. There is no putting that genie back into the bottle. What has been done, now that it has been done, will be done again . . . and again . . . and again. And, to my mind, that is a good thing. For the State Department cables, as well as the earlier Wikileaks Iraq and Afghanistan releases, are all United States government documents. That means they are the property of the American people. We pay for them, those who generated them acted in our name, and therefore we have a right to read them. Every last one of them.
The leaks will not stop with Manning and Assange, no matter what may happen to those men personally. Now that people know that such a thing is possible, such a thing will repeat, and the tubes will hum with the sort of truths that power-people once packed away as “private.”
In the early 1970s, Christopher Boyce, a low-level employee of TRW, which had a contract with the NSA, stumbled across information indicating that the Nixon/Kissinger reign of realpolitik was about destabilizing the government of Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. Appalled, all Boyce could think to do was to pass on what he had learned to agents of the Soviet Union. No longer. Now, such a person can arrange for such news to go out over all the tubes. To everyone.
At this juncture, I think the American people less appreciate the enormity of this advance in informational anarchism than do people of other nations. Although we won’t know for sure until the histories are written, it is said that the recent autocrat-rocking events that began in Tunisia, and have since spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, were occasioned at least in part by the unvarnished portraits presented by Wikileaks cables of those nations and their arrogant, complacent, ossified rulers. As we speak, the people of Indonesia are aroil over Wikileaks cables that portray the nation’s first lady as the second coming of Imelda Marcos, and the former vice-president as a ham-handed bribe-dispenser.
It’s a Wikileaks world now, people. And we can, if we choose, read all about it.