Journalist on Journalist

One of the more pathetic spectacles available in today’s media is the propensity of the tribe of broadcast journalists to interview each other about events, systems and areas of expertise of which they have only a limited grasp.  I suppose that tendency is thought of among them as a sign of confidence in their role as protectors of the public good, but the truth is that the bloviations of a lot of journalists are usually sadly demonstrative of ignorance of anything but their trade.  There are many exceptions, and I am proud to know a lot of those dedicated and knowledgeable souls.  They struggle against a heavy institutional burden.

Members of Congress, their staffs and the press are (with exceptions) often are so poorly grounded in the underlying matter of their stories that they are very easily manipulated and deceived by anyone who cares to do so.  The White House, the Department of Defense, the State Department, various lobbies, and just about anyone who has an assured manner and credentials can use the broadcast and print press to "project" whatever they want through the media.

When you add to that a use of the real power which the state has over the corporate media through the implicit and sometimes rather explicit threat of denial of access to people and stories and therefore a threat to the "bottom line" then it becomes child’s play to use them as ventriloquist’s dummies.  Unfortunately, the public media are not immune to similar "control" since they are dependent on public funding controlled by political appointees.

This combination of media people’s ignorance of "real life" and the ease with which they are manipulated gives a certain zany quality to the spectacle of a panel discussion in which they clearly think that they have some special insight into the march of history. 

Tonight, Time Russert moderated a panel made up of Russert, Andrea Mitchell, David Gregory and Pete Williams.  In the course of this discussion the group gravely asserted that Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger was obviously a "nepotistic" fraud because Wilson’s wife worked in the staff section at CIA responsible for sending him on the trip, and that, in essence, it was his wife who had sent him on the trip.

This is clearly a White House/RNC talking point.

It was said in the panel, without contest that this trip was a "boondoggle," implying, at least to me, that the Wilson family budget benefited from this trip through payments to Wilson for his services.  In fact, Wilson was not paid for the trip.  The CIA covered his expenses, but they did not pay him a fee.  This was "pro bono."  His wife "sent him" on the trip?  I do not wish to denigrate Mrs. Wilson’s career attainments, but the fact is that she lacked the authority to do that.  What seems to have happened is that when the issue of sending someone to Niger to investigate the uranium issue was under discussion she, at some point, pointed out that her husband, a retired career diplomat, had experience in both Iraq and Niger and might serve this purpose.  Someone followed up on that hint.  What a surprise!!

It was said in the panel that Wilson lied in his book and in his now famous New York Times oped piece.  I have read his book, talked to him, read his oped, and It does not seem to me that he lied.  I would accept the charge that his language was not always as precise as it might have been, but, in its essence it seems to me that his reporting was correct.  He said that the VP was responsible for his mission to Africa.  Since Cheney’s question to a CIA briefer was ultimately responsible for his trip, it is reasonable that Wilson might have thought that Cheney had asked that someone should go find out if there was anything to the "yellow cake" story.  This is lying?   Wilson also has written that he learned that there had been no serious attempt by Iraq to obtain in Niger the uranium ore needed to press forward their putative nuclear weapons program.  He was correct.  An Iraqi trade mission had, in 1999 approached (through intermediaries)the Nigerien government of the day to inquire if they would be interested in expanded "trade."  Wilson was told that the Niger government had perceived this as referring to uranium and in light of UN sanctions had said no.   The US ambassador in Niger told the SSCI the same story as did the report of a US Marine four star general sent to investigate the same thing.  Nevertheless, the panel confidently, and egregiously, asserted as the basis of discussion that Wilson was a liar.  This assertion was on the basis of the judgments of the Republican Party dominated Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI).

Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program before the first Gulf War.  It was within a couple of years of producing a first detonation when the dictator Saddam, caught up in the arrogance of power, so stupidly invaded Kuwait.  Nevertheless, the Iraqis had not had a nuclear weapons program since the UN inspection regime had destroyed it in the early ’90s by tearing it up "by the roots" all over the country.  Those who participated in that process either directly or by providing the inspectors with "directions" as to where to look, know that this is true.  When US forces reached central Iraq in ’03 they found that several tons of old yellow cake in sealed plastic barrels had been in storage for a decade.  The Iraqis had had no use for it because they had not had a nuclear program for that long. 

In a process reminiscent of the "schlocky" old German painting of a group of dogs sitting around playing cards, the panel of "NBC’s Dream Team" as Russert called them held forth on the iniquity of Ambassador Wilson and the excesses perpetrated on media/government relations by Patrick Fitzgerald, but more on this last "issue" tomorrow.

Pat Lang

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7 Responses to Journalist on Journalist

  1. J i O says:

    Welcome back, Pat. Thanks for bringing Richard Sale to your site.
    I just want to remind you that there’s been a group of journalists at Knight-Ridder who have been close to the reality mark since the get go.
    I’m surprised, kinda, by your amazement that the discredited dog-and-pony show is being trotted out again for another trip around the ring.
    Given the circumstances, and the awful self knowledge — which they won’t reveal — of the reality of events, what else are they to do?

  2. Michael Murry says:

    Speaking of media/government “relations,” I do not believe that any such thing should exist. The corporate media now service government the way Monica Lewinsky serviced President Bill Clinton. We ought to call Tim Russert and his fellow toadies “access groupies,” after I. F. Stone’s derisive view of these suck-up sycophant stenographers. They have no other purpose in life than to swallow government swill and then pat themselves on the back for not choking on it.
    Anyway, only a somnolent and stupefied public could fail to see through the unadulterated bullshit fed them by their own government/media propaganda apparatus. For my part, I just write poetry about the pure crap American media culture has become. I have even begun compiling what I call my Malignant Opus: an epic rip-off of Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” It starts out with a preliterate, aborigine culture — called the Bubis — that once existed (as of the late nineteenth century) on the island of Fernando Po, in the Bight of Biafra off the West African coast. Early ethnographers reported that the primitive native language could not function unless its speakers could actually see each other while conversing. This description seemed to me only too reminiscent of the anti-literate TV-gawking American public busy fleeing scientific modernity in a pell-mell rush back to the superstitious middle ages. So, I took the idea of the island Bubis and translated it into a treatise on the continental (or “bigger island”) Boobies of the United States of America. I have tentatively titled the poem: “Fernando Po, U.S.A.” I’ll just post a sample excerpt from one small section of the poem dealing with this whole Saddam Hussein thing. I call it:
    “Boobie Precursor Chemicals”
    We heard complaints galore about
    Saddam Hussein’s grim views
    We heard he planned to strike at us
    We heard it in our news
    The only thing we didn’t know
    Was what he planned to use
    He didn’t have a plane that flew
    He didn’t have a boat
    He had no army worth a damn
    He maybe had a goat
    But still we heard the lurid tales
    Of plans he had afloat
    We only heard these stories, though,
    From our own government
    Our Yellow Press, of course, signed on
    To agitate and vent
    No other nation in the world
    Knew what the hell we meant
    We saw through every thing he did
    He lived within a glass
    We had inspectors prowl about
    Like ants upon his ass
    And still the only thing he passed
    Our CIA was gas
    But still a lack of evidence
    Of weapons in the skies
    Dissuaded no one our team
    From telling packs of lies
    If we found nothing on the ground
    We’d find it in his eyes
    But still he tried to play around
    He wiggled and he squirmed
    Which we interpreted as proof
    That his dark plans had firmed
    We saw in this a sign that our
    Suspicions were confirmed
    Our satellites had photos of
    Some trucks upon the ground
    Which, one supposes, is the place
    Where trucks are often found
    But Colin Powell said this showed
    Some chemicals around
    And not just that, this spokesman claimed,
    But trucks implied still worse
    They meant Saddam could move some stuff
    And use it to rehearse
    A dastardly attack or two
    Upon the universe
    This may sound histrionic and
    It even might sound mad
    But such insane proposals have
    Some precedents as bad
    Like each time that the USA
    Finds what no one has had
    It happened not too long ago
    In Madame Albright’s room
    Where midnight séances revealed
    Some Prozac in Khartoum
    Which meant that our cruise missiles had
    To make the pills go “boom”
    This raised some eyebrows, so to speak,
    Since those securely placed
    Asked what in Africa deserved
    To have itself defaced
    Explosively by surplus weapons
    No one else would waste
    The answer came, as one would guess,
    In euphemistic slang:
    The old word “pharmaceutical”
    Now means a deadly fang;
    A Weapon of Destructive Mass
    Which we must make go “bang”
    But some had doubts, as skeptics would,
    About these threadbare claims
    They pointed to a history of
    Of underhanded aims
    And said that the attack just smelled
    Of dying Empire games
    No one had seen much proof about
    The rumored, deadly stash
    But that did not deter the ones
    Who claimed with bald panache
    That evidence of nothing proved
    The presence of the cache
    Then someone clever at such things
    Devised a paradigm:
    Some smaller words that sound the same
    Make larger ones that rhyme
    In much the same way as ten cents
    Add up to make a dime
    Thus Hydrogen and Oxygen
    Combined in ratio
    Produce a simple molecule:
    Two “H”s and one “O”
    Or, “water” to those others who
    Their chemistry don’t know
    Thus one could argue plausibly
    (In the subjunctive mood)
    That these “precursor chemicals”
    If placed into our food
    Could then combine to do us harm
    (Or else do us some good)
    As Tweedledee once put the case
    In daffy logic fuzz:
    It would be if it were so; and
    It might be if it was;
    But as it isn’t, then it ain’t.
    So this means that because . . .
    Or as old Bilbo Baggins at
    His birthday bash observed,
    While Hobbits partied hard and as
    Cake and ale were served:
    He half-liked less than half of them
    As well as they deserved.
    Or as the teacher said unto
    The student supplicant
    Who offered lame excuses and
    Got this mood-shifting rant:
    “You would have if you could have; but
    You didn’t, so you can’t!”
    Yes, any fool can argue that
    If-then leads to then-could
    And, yes, the dominoes could fall
    Like lifeless blocks of wood
    But that’s to beg the question of
    Just why or if they should
    Yes, one can make a larger thing
    From smaller things, that’s true
    And, yes, some hydrocarbons can
    Take life from lifeless stew
    (Just add some electricity
    To energize the brew)
    But arguing that someone might
    Have done a thing — or could —
    Compels no one to reach for the
    Conclusion that they would
    Until they do, they don’t and so
    Let’s get that understood
    But Boobies don’t like new at all
    They’d rather have the old
    No matter how the hand’s gone bad
    They’d rather stay than fold
    They bet the farm and lost
    So now they live out in the cold
    With noses pressed against the glass
    They look in from outside
    And could come in the open door
    But for their wounded pride
    Which makes them easy marks for those
    Who’d take them for a ride
    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2005

  3. Alibubba says:

    Joe Wilson is the present target of Republican counter attacks. My question is ‘Why does it even matter if Valerie Plame/Wilson was instrumental in Joe’s trip to Niger?’ Even if he were sent by Ted Kennedy or Kim Jung Il, what matters is what he found and what he reported.

  4. chocolate ink says:

    I found my way over here via Bootrib and am very glad to be able to read your informed diaries to give me a better understanding of what the CIA does and how this whole Treasongate has been so crimanally misreported by so called reporters in the media.
    Russet and his dream team have only proved once again how either purposely ignorant they are or simply willing sycophants for their corporate bosses to continue to lie to the public. After all this garbage they were spouting about Wilson has been proven untrue almost from the start.
    These so called reporters are going to become more and more irrelevant as the internet and investigative blogs become more/more accessible to everyone-everyone who wants to get real news.

  5. Greg says:

    Who’s the new Richard Sales on the site?

  6. Helen says:

    Pete Williams worked for Cheney.
    I was stuck by the misinformation (re Wilson) on the Saturday Tim Russert roundtable show, too. Mostly, from Pete Williams. Seemed to be a POV behind his comments. Then, I noticed an article on Huffingtonpost – Pete Williams worked for Dick Cheney: Suddenly made sense.
    Helen D.

  7. Greg says:

    That poetry is darn pretentious.

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