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The New York Times’s (and Clinton Campaign’s) Abject Cowardice on Israel

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Glenn Greenwald writes in The Intercept:

In January, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a speech to the Security Council about, as he put it, violence “in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory,” noting that “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation” and that “it is human nature to react to occupation.” His use of the word “occupation” was not remotely controversial because multiple U.N. Security Resolutions, such as 446(adopted unanimously in 1979 with three abstentions), have long declared Israel the illegal “occupying power” in the West Bank and Gaza. Unsurprisingly, newspapers around the world — such as the Wall Street JournalThe Guardian, the BBC, the LA Times — routinely and flatly describe Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza in their news articles as what it is: an occupation.

In fact, essentially the entire world recognizes the reality of Israeli occupation with the exception of a tiny sliver of extremists in Israel and the U.S. That’s why Chris Christie had to grovel in apology to GOP billionaire and Israel-devoted fanatic Sheldon Adelson when the New Jersey governor neutrally described having seen the “occupied territories” during a trip he took to Israel. But other than among those zealots, the word is simply a fact, used without controversy under the mandates of international law, the institutions that apply it, and governments on every continent on the planet.

But not the New York Times. They are afraid to use the word. In NYT article today by Jason Horowitz and Maggie Haberman on the imminent conflict over Israel and Palestine between Sanders-appointed and Clinton-appointed members of the Democratic Party platform committee, this grotesque use of scare quotes appears:

A bitter divide over the Middle East could threaten Democratic Party unity as representatives of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont vowed to upend what they see as the party’s lopsided support of Israel.

Two of the senator’s appointees to the party’s platform drafting committee, Cornel West and James Zogby, on Wednesday denounced Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza and said they believed that rank-and-file Democrats no longer hewed to the party’s staunch support of the Israeli government. They said they would try to get their views incorporated into the platform, the party’s statement of core beliefs, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.

The refusal to use the word occupation without scare quotes is one of the most cowardly editorial decisions the New York Times has made since refusing to use the word “torture” because the Bush administration denied its validity (a decision they reversed only when President Obama in 2014 gave them permission to do so by using the word himself). This is journalistic malfeasance at its worst: refusing to describe the world truthfully out of fear of the negative reaction by influential factions (making today’s article even stranger is that a NYT article from February on settlers’ use of Airbnb referred to an “illegal settler outpost deep in the occupied West Bank”). And the NYT’s editorial decision raises this question, posed this morning by one man in the West Bank:

@ggreenwald @nsheizaf If I’m not living under occupation then I’m living under an Apartheid state. Which one is it?

— A Man In The Sun (@AManInTheSun) May 26, 2016

The cowardice of the NYT regarding Israel is matched only by the Clinton campaign’s. Clinton has repeatedly vowed to move the U.S. closer not only to Israel but also to its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Pandering to Israel — vowing blind support for its government — is a vile centerpiece of her campaign.

The changes to the Democratic Party platform proposed by Bernie Sanders’s appointees such as Cornel West, Keith Ellison, and James Zogby — which Israel-supporting Clinton appointees such as Neera Tanden and Wendy Sherman are certain to oppose — are incredibly mild, including echoing the international consensus in condemning the Israeli occupation. As the Israeli writer Noam Sheizaf put it this morning, the NYT’s use of scare quotes is “just as pathetic as the Democratic fear that their platform would actually say Palestinians deserve civil rights.”

This craven posture is particularly appalling as Israel just this week has . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 May 2016 at 10:50 am

Don’t Blame the Video: The problem of Jim Comey, FBI Director

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An editorial in today’s NY Times:

Videos of police officers battering or even killing unarmed black civilians have given the wider society a view of the world in which African-Americans have lived for a long time. President Obama has referred to this history on several occasions, noting that video from cellphones and body cameras have shown the country that black Americans were not imagining the problem of police brutality or “making this up.”

But the link between these videos and the racial history of United States seems to have eluded James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who appears to be fixated on the discredited idea that videos represent a problem in themselves — and that the police are less willing to do their jobs because of them.

Mr. Comey came under intense criticism when he raised this idea in a speech last fall. He repeated the idea at a news briefing in Washington last week, when he said that speaking to police officials around the country had led him to believe that a “viral video effect” had made officers wary of confronting suspects and “could well be at the heart” of an increase in crime in some places.

Law enforcement organizations are outraged. The National Fraternal Order of Police accused Mr. Comey of saying the police officers were afraid of doing their jobs. Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, a group of more than 165 police chiefs and prosecutors, denounced the “viral video” comment as “unfounded, and frankly, damaging to the efforts of law enforcement.”

Intentionally or not, Mr. Comey’s remark fed into the false notion that the country is entering a crime wave that is some how related to the public backlash against police brutality. That idea was debunked last month in a study by the Brennan Center for Justice of 2015 crime data from the 30 largest cities. The study found that crime had remained the same as in 2014 and that two-thirds of the cities had actually had drops in crime. Just three cities — Baltimore, Chicago and Washington, all troubled by high poverty rates — accounted for more than half the national increase in murders from 2014 to 2015. . .

Continue reading.

Jim Comey does not understand the most elementary aspects of cryptography, he doesn’t grasp that documenting police violence is not a problem, and in short does not seem qualified for his job.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2016 at 8:17 am

“My Father, Woody Allen, and the Danger of Questions Unasked”

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Woody Allen’s son, Ronan Farrow, has a good column in Hollywood Reporter. The blurb by the editor:

Despite Dylan Farrow’s damning allegations of sexual abuse, the director of Cannes’ opening film today remains beloved by stars, paid by Amazon and rarely interrogated by media as his son, Ronan Farrow, writes about the culture of acquiescence surrounding his father.

The article itself begins:

“They’re accusations. They’re not in the headlines. There’s no obligation to mention them.” These were the objections from a producer at my network. It was September 2014 and I was preparing to interview a respected journalist about his new biography of Bill Cosby. The book omitted allegations of rape and sexual abuse against the entertainer, and I intended to focus on that omission. That producer was one of several industry veterans to warn me against it. At the time, there was little more than a stalled lawsuit and several women with stories, all publicly discredited by Cosby’s PR team. There was no criminal conviction. It was old news. It wasn’tnews.

So we compromised: I would raise the allegations, but only in a single question late in the interview. And I called the author, reporter to reporter, to let him know what was coming. He seemed startled when I brought it up. I was the first to ask about it, he said. He paused for a long time, then asked if it was really necessary. On air, he said he’d looked into the allegations and they didn’t check out.

Today, the number of accusers has risen to 60. The author has apologized. And reporters covering Cosby have been forced to examine decades of omissions, of questions unasked, stories untold. I am one of those reporters — I’m ashamed of that interview.

Some reporters have drawn connections between the press’ grudging evolution on Cosby and a painful chapter in my own family’s history. It was shortly before the Cosby story exploded anew that my sister Dylan Farrow wrote about her own experiences — alleging that our father, Woody Allen, had “groomed” her with inappropriate touching as a young girl and sexually assaulted her when she was 7 years old.

Being in the media as my sister’s story made headlines, and Woody Allen’s PR engine revved into action, gave me a window into just how potent the pressure can be to take the easy way out. Every day, colleagues at news organizations forwarded me the emails blasted out by Allen’s powerful publicist, who had years earlier orchestrated a robust publicity campaign to validate my father’s sexual relationship with another one of my siblings. Those emails featured talking points ready-made to be converted into stories, complete with validators on offer — therapists, lawyers, friends, anyone willing to label a young woman confronting a powerful man as crazy, coached, vindictive. At first, they linked to blogs, then to high-profile outlets repeating the talking points — a self-perpetuating spin machine. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 May 2016 at 12:46 pm

Brazil’s Democracy to Suffer Grievous Blow Today as Unelectable, Corrupt Neoliberal is Installed—and how the US media covers it

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Big surprise: the coverage is incredibly (and heavy-handedly) slanted. Read this article in The Intercept, and in particular look at the graphics of how the US media slanted it. Really worth reading and thinking about: If the corporate media so slants this story, what other news is misreported? or or goes unreported? And why? just “don’t rock the boat”? or more a channeling of energy away from certain things: memes that would upset the balance?

Written by LeisureGuy

11 May 2016 at 12:54 pm

Manufacturing consent today: Ben Norton takes a look at Ben Rhodes’s comments

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Ben Norton writes in Salon:

There is something deeply ironic about the controversy that exploded this week around Ben Rhodes and his remarks in a New York Times magazine feature.

Rhodes, President Obama’s right-hand man on foreign policy, briefly discussed in a roughly 10,000-word article how the White House carefully crafted a polished PR campaign to sell the Iran deal to legislators and the public.

The media exploded. Countless news outlets and magazines (particularly on the rightwing of the political spectrum) turned the story into a scandal that revolved aroundthe Iran deal — while largely overlooking myriad other issues the article addressed.

Yet a closer read shows that there is a much more important, and chilling, revelation to be drawn from the Times story, and the Iran deal is only one small part of it.

David Samuels’ May 5 article, “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru,” is a kind of case study of the relationship between the U.S. government and media in the 21st century — a relationship that should be antagonistic, but is instead more and more cozy.

The piece offers a detailed look into a brave new world of journalism, one comprised of reporters who are ever-dwindling in number, and who are increasingly ignorant, rushed and susceptible to dexterous government spin campaigns — what some might call public relations, and what others might call propaganda.

The line between PR and propaganda has always been a thin one. When a government is involved, this is doubly true. What is most dangerous of all is when this line is thin between the government and the press.

There is often talk of the separation of church and state, but much less so of the separation of press and state. The New York Times’ Rhodes feature — and the media response that so ironically reflected the very problems it exposes — demonstrates just how precarious the situation is today.

“People construct their own sense of source and credibility”

As the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, Ben Rhodes’ job is to help the White House craft and nurture favorable media narratives, and then use them to sell policies to the public.

The Times referred to Rhodes as the “Boy Wonder of the Obama White House” and the virtual voice of America. He has been a co-writer of all of Obama’s major foreign-policy speeches.

In one of the article’s most disturbing anecdotes, Rhodes’ assistant Ned Price explained to the Times that the easiest way for the White House to shape the news is with its press briefings, and with the help of its “force multipliers” and “compadres” in the media.

He “tick[ed] off a few names of prominent Washington reporters and columnists who often tweet in sync with White House messaging,” the Times wrote.

“I’ll give them some color,” Price added, “and the next thing I know, lots of these guys are in the dot-com publishing space, and have huge Twitter followings, and they’ll be putting this message out on their own.”

These putative journalists are technically independent, but they work in tandem with the U.S. government. They don’t need to be on the state’s payroll; they are putting the messages “out on their own.”

Times reporter David Samuels followed up, noting how this 21st-century form of journalistic manipulation “is something different from old-fashioned spin, which tended to be an art best practiced in person.”

In the past, “In a world where experienced reporters competed for scoops and where carrying water for the White House was a cause for shame, no matter which party was in power, it was much harder to sustain a ‘narrative’ over any serious period of time.”

Today, Samuels continued, “the most effectively weaponized 140-character idea or quote will almost always carry the day, and it is very difficult for even good reporters to necessarily know where the spin is coming from or why.”

The Times calls this “the soft Orwellian vibe of an information space where old media structures and hierarchies have been erased by Silicon Valley billionaires who convinced the suckers that information was ‘free’ and everyone with access to Google was now a reporter.”

Yet the most shockingly Orwellian moment in the article is when Tanya Somanader, the director of digital response for the White House Office of Digital Strategy, openly insisted to the Times, “People construct their own sense of source and credibility now… They elect who they’re going to believe.”

This view, that source and credibility, and perhaps even facts themselves, are individual and arbitrary is the death knell for journalism.

Manufacturing consent

In their 1988 opus “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,” intellectual juggernaut Noam Chomsky and co-author Edward Herman detailed how U.S. news outlets frequently serve as a handmaiden of government, military and corporate interests.

Chomsky and Herman posited a “propaganda model” in which “the media serve, and propagandize on behalf of, the powerful societal interests that control and finance them. The representatives of these interests have important agendas and principles that they want to advance, and they are well positioned to shape and constrain media policy.”

The scholars explained how structural factors such as ownership, funding and advertisements exert enormous influence on media coverage. “The same underlying power sources that own the media and fund them as advertisers, that serve as primary definers of the news, and that produce flak and proper-thinking experts, also, play a key role in fixing basic principles and the dominant ideologies,” Chomsky and Herman wrote.

Perhaps the biggest influence on media narratives, “Manufacturing Consent” shows, is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 May 2016 at 10:11 am

Kevin Drum’s take on Ben Rhodes’s comment on US journalism today

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Kevin Drum has a balanced and calm take on Ben Rhodes comments on the state of US journalism, which I blogged about yesterday. Namely, that Rhodes is not contemptuous or dismissive—he’s simply giving a realistic depiction of how the press operates in the areas in which he works. Worth the click.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 May 2016 at 11:31 am

The failures of American journalism

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Three reports that together paint a bleak picture of American journalism:

The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru, by David Samuels in the NY Times (and see also Kevin Drum’s comment on that article, which points out just how incompetent the press has become).

“Paul Ryan” and the Trump Fail, a blog entry by Paul Krugman, on how the press’s incompetence includes domestic news as well as foreign policy.

Former U.S. Diplomats Decry the U.S.-Backed Saudi War in Yemen, by Alex Emmons and Zaid Jilani in The Intercept, on an important issue in the Mideast, one that most of the press simply ignores.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2016 at 10:46 am

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