It’s a Mad Mad World

I haven’t been posting much lately.  I’m thinking.  The world is spinning inside my head.  I’m thinking Chris Hedges is right:

A culture that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion dies. And we are dying now. We will either wake from our state of induced childishness, one where trivia and gossip pass for news and information, one where our goal is not justice but an elusive and unattainable happiness, to confront the stark limitations before us, or we will continue our headlong retreat into fantasy.   [more]

I haven’t retreated into fantasy but I’m less and less sure of how to talk about illusions of reality.  I’m thinking.

And then there’s this.

Celebrating What Cronkite Did


From Glenn Greenwald:

Tellingly, his [Cronkite’s] most celebrated and significant moment — Greg Mitchell says “this broadcast would help save many thousands of lives, U.S. and Vietnamese, perhaps even a million” — was when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn’t trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false.  In other words, Cronkite’s best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do — directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed.  These days, our leading media outlets won’t even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.

Despite that, media stars will spend ample time flamboyantly commemorating Cronkite’s death as though he reflects well on what they do (though probably not nearly as much time as they spent dwelling on the death of Tim Russert, whose sycophantic servitude to Beltway power and “accommodating head waiter”-like, mindless stenography did indeed represent quite accurately what today’s media stars actually do).  In fact, within Cronkite’s most important moments one finds the essence of journalism that today’s modern media stars not only fail to exhibit, but explicitly disclaim as their responsibility.


In the hours and hours of preening, ponderous, self-serving media tributes to Walter Cronkite, here is a clip you won’t see, in which Cronkite — when asked what is his biggest regret — says (h/t sysprog):

What do I regret? Well, I regret that in our attempt to establish some standards, we didn’t make them stick.  We couldn’t find a way to pass them on to another generation.

It’s impossible even to imagine the likes of Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw and friends interrupting their pompously baritone, melodramatic, self-glorifying exploitation of Cronkite’s death to spend a second pondering what he meant by that.  [more]

There are no more Walter Cronkites in the mainstream media.  The mainstream media is dying and that just might be one of the reasons.

Let’s Not Look At Violence Against Women

Just noted by Antonia Z @twitter:  UK bans domestic violence ad by Keira Knightley – for showing woman abuse!  Antonia has a post at Broadsides in which she says, in part:

Real women are getting beaten up — and killed — by their partners all the time but the media don’t treat it as the epidemic of violence it is.

Fictional women get assaulted by their partners and the media make money off that.

But when a real woman plays a fictional woman getting beaten up to help real women who get beaten up all the time, well, kick that off the air because it might upset somebody.


See the rest of Antonia’s post here.  And here’s the Knightley ad:

Obscuring Violence Against Women

[UPDATED below]

A man kills his ex-wife in her workplace, killing two of her colleagues as well and injuring several others.  This is called male violence against women, though you would never, ever know it from the reports.  Who knows, these men may have been targetted for some reason beyond the fact that they were in a group with George Zinkhan’s ex-wife.  Or they may be dead simply because they were there.  What is beyond doubt is that Marie Bruce, the ex-wife of Mr. Zinkhan, was the main attraction.  This is “domestic violence”.  Why do journalists not call it what it is?  [rhetorical question]:

Authorities were on a nationwide manhunt for a University of Georgia professor in the shooting deaths of three people, including his ex-wife, Saturday at a community theater near campus.

Athens-Clarke County Police Capt. Clarence Holeman said authorities were searching for a suspect, 57-year-old George Zinkhan, who has been a marketing professor at the university in Athens since the 1990s, and lived about seven miles from campus.

Killed were Zinkhan’s ex-wife, Marie Bruce, 47, Tom Tanner, 40, and Ben Teague, 63, Holeman said. Both men were involved with Town & Gown Players Inc., a local theater group in Athens, about 70 miles east of Atlanta.

The shooting happened outside the Athens Community Theater during a midday gathering of the theater group. Holeman said the shooter left his two young children in the car when he opened fire on the group. A neighbor of Zinkhan’s in nearby Bogart said the professor later dropped off the children with him next door and left after saying there was an emergency. The children were with police.

The rest is here but you’ll find not a word about male violence, violence against women or domestic violence.

UPDATE:  See the esteemed Historiann, here for “another sickening example of the news media doing the work of our culture in erasing or obscuring the deadly combination of modal American masculinity and gun violence!” and here

Right-wing MSM

From Michael Massing at the Coumbia Journalism Review blog:

In the weeks following the election, the debate over the issue of media bias, and of whether the press was overly kind to Barack Obama, has continued to swirl. Much less attention has been paid to another, more troubling aspect of the coverage, and that’s the relentless and malevolent campaign that the right-wing media waged against the Democratic candidate. Few people who did not regularly tune in to the vast, churning combine of bellowing radio hosts, yapping bloggers, obnoxious Web sites, malicious columnists, and the slashingly partisan Fox News have any idea of just how vile and venomous were the attacks leveled at Obama. Day after day, week after week, these outlets worked determinedly to discredit and degrade Obama, accusing him of being a Muslim, a Marxist, a radical, a revolutionary, a socialist, a communist, a thug, a mobster, a racist, an agent of voter fraud, a black-power advocate, a madrasah graduate, an anti-Semite, an enemy of Israel, an associate of terrorists—even the Antichrist. Supplemented by a flood of viral e-mails, slanderous robocalls, and Internet-based smear campaigns, these media outlets worked to stoke firestorms of manufactured rage against Obama and the Democrats in what was perhaps the most concerted campaign of vilification ever directed at an American politician.

In light of Obama’s victory, one might be tempted to let it all pass. That would be a mistake. For the effects of that campaign remain with us. What’s more, the campaign itself is still going on.

Read the rest here

via wood s lot

Democratic Republic of Congo

Resources for keeping up on events in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

After a recent, tenuous cease-fire was broken, fighting between the Congolese army and a rebel minority has resumed with intensity. The violence has garnered a fair amount of attention from the mainstream media, but how long will that coverage last?

Probably not long considering that foreign affairs, especially those not directly related to the United States, make up only a fraction of what Americans read, see, and hear: 8 percent of network news, 13 percent of newspaper coverage, 4 percent of cable news. The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting pleads with its readers to stay interested in the issue, as continued attention will encourage editors to offer more extensive coverage.

But if and when the conflict fades from America’s consciousness, here are some sites from around the world with thoughtful reports on the situation and its implications:

Have a look at Utne Reader

I’ve watched the issue of the terrible violence in the DRC fall on and off the map for quite awhile and I find it just heartbreaking.  There is a holocaust going on there.  One day, a future generation will ask us what we did about it, just as we interrogate an earlier generation about what they did (didn’t do) about the Jewish holocaust.  I want to have an answer I’m not ashamd of.

Seymour Hersh … & Philippe Sands

Part of an interview by Rachel Cook with Seymour Hersh:

Four decades separate My Lai and Abu Ghraib. You have to ask: wasn’t it appalling for him to be investigating US army abuses of civilians all over again? Didn’t he think that lessons might have been learnt? Yes, and no. It made him feel ‘hopeless’, but on the other hand, war is always horrible. In 1970, after his My Lai story, he addressed an anti-war rally and, on the spur of the moment, asked a veteran to come up and tell the crowd what some soldiers would do on their way home after a day spent moving their wounded boys. With little prompting, the traumatised vet described how they would buzz farmers with their helicopter blades, sometimes decapitating them; they would then clean up the helicopter before they landed back at base. ‘That’s what war is like,’ he says. ‘But how do you write about that? How do you tell the American people that?’ Still, better to attempt to tell people than to stay feebly silent. What really gets Hersh going – he seems genuinely bewildered by it – is the complicit meekness, the virtual collapse, in fact, of the American press since 9/11. In particular, he disdains its failure to question the ‘evidence’ surrounding Saddam’s so-called weapons of mass destruction. ‘When I see the New York Times now, it’s so shocking to me. I joined the Times in 1972, and I came with the mark of Cain on me because I was clearly against the war. But my editor, Abe Rosenthal, he hired me because he liked stories. He used to come to the Washington bureau and almost literally pat me on the head and say: “How is my little Commie today? What do you have for me?” Somehow, now, reporters aren’t able to get stories in. It was stunning to me how many good, rational people – people I respect – supported going into war in Iraq. And it was stunning to me how many people thought you could go to war against an idea.’

Read the whole thing here

And from Philippe Sands:

As the US presidential election reaches a climax against the background of the financial crisis, another silent, dark, time bomb of an issue hangs over the two candidates: torture. For now, there seems to be a shared desire not to delve too deeply into the circumstances in which the Bush administration allowed the US military and the CIA to embrace abusive techniques of interrogation – including waterboarding, in the case of the CIA – which violate the Geneva conventions and the 1984 UN torture convention.

The torture issue’s cancerous consequences go deep, and will cause headaches for the next president. New evidence has emerged in Congressional inquiries that throw more light on the extent to which early knowledge and approval of the abuse went to the highest levels. What does a country do when compelling evidence shows its leaders have authorised international crimes?

The rest is here.

I’ve been on vacation so I’m very aware of how difficult and stressful it is to read this stuff and not lose hope.  Those of us who care to know what’s going on in our world walk a fine line between knowing and acting, and frank despair.  Think of how it feels, then, to be a person victimized by torture or war or any other catastrphic event, natural and man-made, and then to be erased and forgotten.  Well, think about it if it doesn’t throw you into despair.

I try daily and often, hourly, to understand how and why we have let the crimes committed by Bush/Cheney just slide.  I like Sands’ hope and belief that these “issues” will have to be dealt with.  I’d say, only if the American people want that and make their wishes known.  I hope they do.  These crimes will be repeated with impunity if the perpetrators are never held to account.

Elections and Women

In a passionate article, Dionne Brand noted the patriarchal, “family values” flavour of our Canadian Federal election.  The concerns of more than half of Canadian voters (or potential voters, given the low voter turnout) were virtually ignored.  As Equal Voice has noted, more than one third of sitting members of the House of Commons will have to be female before women’s issues will be dealt with seriously.

Seems the US is having the same problem.  It’s a matter of great note that Bob Schieffer didn’t use any of the questions submitted to him by the Women’s Media Center when women will play such a huge role in electing the next president.  “Gender” is a significant issue in modern elections, yet women have not yet acquired the power to make women’s issues visible in candidates’ debates:

Well, the final Presidential debate is now over. We heard so much about “Joe, the Plumber” this debate-and we know all about “Joe Six-Pack” but once again, we have heard almost nothing about “Josephine” in America. Not one question, other than Roe v. Wade, dealt specifically with women’s problems. Barack Obama did, on his own, talk about the courageous Lilly Ledbetter and the Supreme Court decision against her-and the effort to achieve fair pay-and fair play in our country.

The debates have not done well by America’s women-still looking for answers to their questions about what either future administration has to offer. Curious, as pollsters continue to say that the women’s vote will determine the Presidential outcome.

The WMC wants to thank you so much for your tremendous response to our “Show Me The Women” campaign. With your help, the WMC was able to push for women’s voices to be heard in the Presidential debates. Through your participation – both your direct advocacy with the Commission on Presidential Debates and your thoughtful questions for the candidates – we were able to have a dialogue with the final moderator, Bob Schieffer.


As you know, on August 14, 2008, the WMC launched “Show Me The Women,” an email campaign challenging the Commission on Presidential Debates in its selection of three men – Bob Schieffer of CBS, Tom Brokaw of NBC, and Jim Lehrer of PBS – to moderate the upcoming Presidential debates. The WMC urged the public to insist that each moderator have a partner reflecting the diversity of our country — which is more than half women.

You enthusiastically responded to “Show Me The Women,” and so did one of the moderators – Bob Schieffer of CBS. In preparation for last night’s debate, Schieffer invited the WMC to contribute questions of particular relevance to women for consideration for inclusion in the debate.

The deadline to submit questions was October 1, 2008. Thanks to our members, The Women’s Media Center collected hundreds of thoughtful questions and submitted ten of them to Schieffer. Most of these questions addressed issues important to women, like pay equity, sex trafficking, paid sick leave, childcare, reproductive rights, and other topics.

Although Schieffer did not utilize any of our questions, our actions have been at the forefront of a national movement to push for greater diversity and inclusion for the 2012 debates. The WMC has begun working with other diversity organizations such as UNITY: Journalists of Color and the National Council of Women’s Organizations to set up a meeting with the Commission on Presidential Debates so we can address changing the current debate format. Stay tuned for more on that.

Thank you so much for your participation in this successful initiative. The WMC values your willingness to take action. And, please, if you haven’t already, join the WMC’s 500 Campaign by making a monthly donation of $25 each month for a year. Every contribution makes a difference, and there is strength in numbers! By meeting our goal of 500 people in this campaign, we will raise $150,000 to create our own media, train and support groups and individuals, advocate with the media and educate the public, all in service of our mission to make women more visible and powerful in the media.

Sincerely Yours,
Carol Jenkins
Women’s Media Center

Truly, womens’ work is never done!  Keep on keepin’ on.

Pah! Palin

There’s not likely to be a “last post” on Sarah Palin until and if McCain/Palin aren’t elected.  Here’s the last bit of one I really like by Dr. Sarah Churchwell of the School of American Studies in the UK:

Sarah Palin is not anti-abortion, because she has said that she would permit abortion if a mother’s life would end because of a pregnancy. (Her life as she knows it and chooses to lead it ending doesn’t not seem to pose a problem to Palin. The mother would have to actually die for her to think the mother gets to choose–which some wouldn’t consider a choice at all.) Palin doesn’t allow that there are any other circumstances under which a woman might be granted the right not to have a baby if she becomes pregnant against her will.

So let’s clarify the terms. It seems that everyone in Palin’s camp are for freedom of choice, but are under the impression that this is different from being pro-choice, because they’ve been convinced that being pro-choice is just a nefarious euphemism for being pro-abortion. No wonder they hate us. I’d hate anyone who ran around with an I “Heart” Abortions button, too. Abortions are not good for anyone. They are painful, and difficult, and traumatic. But at least now they are clean, and safe. And sometimes they are the best option available.

Sarah Palin is not pro-choice, and she is not for freedom of choice, except evidently for her daughter. But as the MSM accepts her characterization of herself as “anti-abortion”, it follows that the rest of us are pro-abortion. And thus once again they are setting the terms of the conversation, through mystification and double-talk.

Sarah Palin is anti-choice, and pro-coercion. She is a Republican who is for government intervention in the private reproductive decisions of citizens, and in no other arena. Although there is one way in which she is consistent: she does think that no matter who screws you, from rapists to HMOs to corrupt corporations, you’re stuck with the consequences.

She is for taking the choice away from everyone else, while celebrating her daughter’s right to make the “right” choice-a choice that would be rather nugatory if her policies were implemented, and that owes everything to the hard-won battles of feminists on the front line of the reproduction wars.

What the anti-choice lobby doesn’t want anyone to remember is that the debate is not about abortions versus no abortions. It is about safe abortions versus unsafe abortions. Because one of the many inconvenient truths that evangelicals like Sarah Palin choose to ignore is a little theological quandary called “free will.” Women who don’t want to be pregnant will not just lay down and turn into unwilling baby machines because the Sarah Palins of the world object to abortion, and want to sanctify the life of the unborn fetus. Unless the mother considers an unwanted fetus more holy than she is, abortions will ensue. That’s as much an unwelcome fact as is pregnancy for women who don’t want to be pregnant.  

Abortion is not some  evil new post-feminist invention. Abortion is as old as pregnancy. It’s as old as creation-and older than creationism. If Sarah Palin is right that men and women walked the earth with the dinosaurs, I guarantee you that women–and men–were attempting to abort unwanted pregnancies with brontosauruses watching them. (Except it turns out they weren’t really brontosauruses, doesn’t it? Which is the same kind of games with words and history that the Republicans are playing–and winning.) And women will have been dying from abortions then, and they’ll be dying again if we forget what choice means.

Read the whole thing here

via wood s lot

The Libs Re-Brand

From MediaScout:

The Liberals are pushing their star players onto the election game field this week, hoping that with a little back-up, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion will be able to better woo voters and quiet the growing tide of discontent from within the Liberal party’s own ranks. In Halifax yesterday to announce plans for a new pharmacare system, Dion was flanked by Bob Rae, who loudly endorsed his party leader and took several comical shots at Stephen Harper. Many of the Big Seven today point out that the Liberals are stacking their offensive line with Liberal heavyweights Michael Ignatieff, Scott Brison and Bob Rae in the hopes that shifting the focus onto the Liberal Party brand rather than on their flailing leader will kick start their campaign. It is believed that this will also help to quell dissent among Liberal insiders who have been criticizing their party leader’s poor performance and handling of the campaign. Feeling emboldened by Rae, who acted as a feisty warm-up act to Dion, the Liberal leader yesterday spoke directly to the current economic problems ailing the country, and even joked about his awkward handling of the English language admitting that “Mr. Harper, he speaks better English than me. OK. But I say the truth better than him in English and French.”

Not surprisingly, it is the Star and the Globe that devote the most space in today’s paper to the campaign tactics of the Liberal party. The Star’s Chantal Hébert urges the Liberals to focus on the economy, and says they shouldn’t be pulling Bob Rae out of the closet, as his track record as premier of Ontario won’t help on the economic front. An editorial in the Globe points out that having Bob Rae as the warm-up to Dion before he spoke in Halifax yesterday had the negative side effect of underscoring “Dion’s lack of charisma and his comparative weakness as a public speaker.” The media’s political pundits have been criticizing the Liberal party at every turn in this election, tearing apart their Green Shift plan and the party’s uncharismatic leader. That has had the effect of making it difficult for usually centrist media outlets, like La Presse and the Globe, to stand behind their usual man. But as Rick Mercer jokingly pointed out on The National yesterday evening, it would take a lot to completely tarnish the Liberal party’s brand name — as he says, “The Liberal party is one of the most successful brands in the Western world. They’re like the political equivalent of Coca-Cola.”

Quite apart from the fact that it makes Dion look bad to have Bob Rae come out to try to save his ass – and because I couldn’t care less if Dion’s ass gets saved – it really does burn my ass to hear Bob Rae rip into jack Layton for helping to elect Stephen Harper last time ’round.  Bob Rae.  Ripping into the NDP.  His former party.  BLECH!