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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

What people in power do when people not in power are not around

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Just read the Author’s Note to Hack Attack, by Nick Davies. Here’s the beginning—you can continue reading via the “Look Inside” feature at the link. You have to scroll down past the dramatis personae and the TOC, but then you hit the Author’s Note, which begins:

Hack Attack: The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch

This is the strangest story I’ve ever written.

In the beginning, it was next to nothing. Two men were arrested – a private investigator and a journalist from the News of the World. Both of them ended up in prison, but it was no big deal. The crime they had committed was minor. Their jail sentences were short. The only eye-catching thing about it at the time was that their crime was quite quirky: they had discovered that they could access other people’s voicemail messages and had spent months eavesdropping on three staff at Buckingham Palace. Even so, it was a small story, dead and gone from the public eye within a few days.

And yet, I ended up spending more than six years of my working life trying to unravel the bundle of corruption which lay hidden in the background. Soon there was a small group of us working together, discovering that we had stumbled into a fight with the press and the police and the government, all of them linked to an organisation which had been created by one man.

Rupert Murdoch is one of the most powerful people in the world. You could argue that he is, in fact, the most powerful. News Corp is amongst the biggest companies on the planet. Like all his commercial rivals, Murdoch has the financial power to hire or fire multiple thousands of people and the political power to worry governments by threatening to withdraw his capital and transfer it to a more co-operative nation. But, unlike his rivals in business, his power has another dimension. Because he owns newspapers and news channels, he has the ability to worry governments even more, to make them fear that without his favour they will find themselves attacked and destabilised and discredited. Certainly, a man who is both global business baron and multinational kingmaker has a special kind of power.

So the simple crime story turned out to be a story about the secret world of the power elite and their discreet alliances. This is not about conspiracy (not generally) but about the spontaneous recognition of power by power, the everyday occurrence of a natural exchange of assistance between those who occupy positions in society from which they can look down upon and mightily affect the everyday worlds of ordinary men and women. In this case, as often, that mutual favouritism took place amidst the persistent reek of falsehood – not the fevered plotting of Watergate lies, but the casual arrogance of a group of people who take it for granted that they have every right to run the country and, in doing so, to manipulate information, to conceal embarrassing truth, to try to fool all of the people all of the time.

A lot of writers say that they can’t do their job – they can’t produce the book or the film or the newspaper article – unless they can reach a point of such clarity about their project that they can reduce it to a single sentence. Waiting for a bus one day while I was drafting this book, I finally got there. This is a story about power and truth.

To be more precise, it is about the abuse of power and about the secrets and lies that protect it. In a tyranny, the ruling elite can abuse its power all day long, and anybody who complains about it will get a visit from the secret police. In an established democracy, abuse of power cannot afford to be visible. It needs concealment like a vampire needs the dark. As soon as a corporation or a trade union or a government or any arm of the state is seen to be breaking the rules, it can be attacked, potentially embarrassed, conceivably stopped. The secrets and lies are not an optional extra, they are central to the strategy.

In this case, the concealment had an extra layer, because . . .

Continue reading in the Look Inside feature.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 August 2014 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Books, Government, Media

You’d think, in a movie about journalism, they would have copy editors

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Second sentence in the prologue to Shattered Glass, a biopic of Stephen Glass:

In May of 1998, its staff was comprised of 15 writer/editors.

An egregious mistake that surely a copy-editor would have caught. And it reveals the writer’s relationship to the English language, always good to know. How did it get through: we’re talking about writers, here. Should be, “its staff comprises 15 writer/editors,” something every schoolchild should know.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2014 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Media, Movies

What a good free press can do

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In the New Yorker Ken Auletta has an excellent review of journalist Nick Davies’s new book Hack Attack: The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch:

When he’s investigating a story, Nick Davies, of the Guardian, has been known to barrage his subjects with phone calls, wait outside their homes or offices, and accost their friends with hard-to-duck questions. Davies, who is sixty-one, works from home, because, he says, “I don’t need a school prefect to stand over me.” He was the indispensible reporter in the revelation of the abuse of power and illegal phone hacking perpetrated by News of the World and the Sun, the London newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. In the midst of the scandal, before the official inquiries and trial juries confirmed the story, I separately asked two senior News Corp. executives, “How accurate was Nick Davies’s reporting?” Given the trouble that their company was in, I was ready for them to try to persuade me that Davies was an irresponsible sensationalist. Instead, each declared, “About ninety-five per cent accurate.”

Now Davies has produced a four-hundred-page ticktock of the scandal, called “Hack Attack: The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch.” It’s not Davies’s style to rely on the he-said-she-said or on-one-hand, on-the-other-hand formulations. When he has compelling evidence, as he did against Scotland Yard, Davies is direct:

Something very worrying has been going on at Scotland Yard. We now know that in dealing with the phone-hacking affair at the News of the World, they cut short their original inquiry; suppressed evidence; misled the public and the press; concealed information and broke the law. Why?

Davies collects facts, one brick at a time. He tilts to the left, but he does not lose his balance. When it might be easy to assume that Scotland Yard officers were silent because they feared that the newspapers would expose their extramarital affairs, Davies writes that he found “absolutely no evidence” of this. For too many years, the story that Davies and the Guardian unearthed was ignored by much of the British press. Davies told of how reporters for News of the World routinely tapped phone messages, producing verbatim dialogue that could only have come from illegal intercepts, and yet Murdoch’s editors, whose job it is to monitor a reporter’s sources, professed their innocence.

“A monstering from Murdoch’s droogs is a terrible experience,” Davies writes, going on to describe how, after the former Labour minister Clare Short criticized the Suns daily Page 3 pictures of topless women (which jacked up newsstand sales), the editors launched a campaign to savage Short. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2014 at 11:21 am

Bad headline, especially for those who have mother issues

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2014 at 1:31 pm

Posted in NY Times

Emblematic encounter in Ferguson MO

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A perfect example, self-contained and well presented (because actually recorded in progress). This is the root of the problems.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 August 2014 at 11:33 am

Posted in Law Enforcement, Media

Paul Krugman was snookered—or snookered us

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Very interesting post by Pam Martens and Russ Martens at Wall Street on Parade:

Two weeks ago, Paul Krugman used some expensive media real estate to write a propaganda piece on the unsupportable proposition that the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed in 2010 is “a success story” and that its bank wind-down program known as Ordinary Liquidation Authority has put an end to “bailing out the bankers.”

Wall Street On Parade took Krugman to taskover this fanciful ode to accomplishments by the President the day after his piece ran in the New York Times’ opinion pages and suggested he do proper research on this subject before opining in the future. That was the morning of August 5.

By late in the afternoon of August 5, Krugman had a reality smack-down on his Dodd-Frank success fairy tale by two Federal regulators. Every major media outlet was running with the news that eleven of the biggest banks in the country, including the mega Wall Street banks, had just had their wind-down plans (known as living wills) rejected by the Federal Reserve and FDIC for not being credible or rational. The eleven banks are: Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Barclays, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, State Street and UBS.

Yesterday, Krugman’s Dodd-Frank fantasy lost further credibility when Senator Elizabeth Warren released a letter that she and eleven of her Congressional colleagues had sent to the Federal Reserve, warning that one of its Dodd-Frank proposed rules “invites the same sort of backdoor bailout we witnessed five years ago.”

To refresh any forgetful minds at the Fed over its unprecedented hubris in connecting a giant feeding tube to Wall Street during the last financial crisis, the Senators and Congressional Reps wrote:

During the financial crisis, the Board invoked its emergency lending authority for the first time in 75 years. The scope of the Board’s program was staggering. Between 2007 and 2009, the Board’s emergency lending facilities provided over $23 trillion in loans to large domestic and foreign financial institutions.

These loans were another bailout in all but name. Of the nearly $9 trillion the Board provided through its largest facility – the Primary Dealer Credit Facility – over two-thirds went to just three institutions: Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley. Those institutions and others had access to the Board’s credit facilities for an average of 22 months. And the interest rates the Board offered were typically very low – in many cases, under 1%.

Think about this for a moment. Citigroup was insolvent during the crisis – as Federal insiders have now acknowledged in books and media interviews. In an efficient market system, Citigroup would not have been able to borrow at all, much less at a rate for a AAA-borrower of less than 1 percent. The Federal Reserve is forbidden from making loans to insolvent institutions – but it did it anyway.

Contrast the Fed’s largess to serial miscreants like Citigroup against homeowners at the time whose credit was flawed but they had a job and were still paying their bills.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2014 at 5:27 pm

Ten things about Ferguson to keep in mind

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This seems important. Don Hazen, Terrell Starr, Steven Rosenfeld, and Tana Ganeva of AlterNet report at AlteNet:

Ten days after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death by officer Darren Wilson, police and protestors continue to face off in the city of Ferguson. Last night’s protests broke into chaos [3] as riot police descended on the streets of the city in an attempt to disperse protestors.

On Monday, Gov. Jay Nixon deployed the National Guard, allegedly without alerting [4] the White House. The first Humvees have left the National Guard base, according to reports from the scene highlighted in the Guardian.  [5]

As the tense situation on the ground quickly evolves, here are 10 things you should know:

1. National Guard trained in fighting protesters

The Missouri National Guard troops being sent into Ferguson are military police, which, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), have studied the Occupy protests and demonstrations that followed George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin murder trial. These soldiers are now trained to deal with “crowd control measures, understanding protester tactics, incident management, and operating inside an area contaminated with chemical and biological hazards,” FEMA said, in a chillingly bland report [6] on its website touting the anti-protester training that military police now receive.

“We serve as a force multiplier during a natural disaster or civil unrest,” a platoon leader and deputy sheriff who completed the training said. “We have experienced protest from the Occupy Movement and, most recently, from the Zimmerman trial. This training makes us all more proficient MP soldier[s] and helps us communicate more effectively with local law enforcement.”

The photos on FEMA’s site show the military police practicing with protesters who are sitting down in the street and shows MPs cutting through plastic pipes that some protesters have used to chain themselves to each other. One can only imagine how military police, whose main training is designed for overseas war zones, will fare in Ferguson, where the underlying issues are institutional racism and police brutality.

2. Autopsy report: Why so many bullets?

It’s not clear how many bullets were fired by Officer Darren Wilson, and whether he fired his gun while he was still in his car.

But according to a private autopsy report, Michael Brown was hit by six bullets. Four hit him on the right arm, and two hit him in the head. Some of the bullets created several entry points.  . .

Continue reading.

I for one am very glad that UN Observers will be on the ground in Ferguson to attempt to ensure that human rights are respected.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 August 2014 at 1:35 pm


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