Later On

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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

“Fact-checking” is a feeble, inadequate way to respond to racist, antisemitic incitement

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Dan Froomkin writes in Press Watch:

I’m not sure there has ever been a major-media “fact check” that more completely, ludicrously, and appallingly missed the point than the one the New York Times published on Thursday about the vile, scurrilous, racist, antisemitic Republican claims aimed at demonizing and linking a Black district attorney and a prominent Jewish funder.

Appearing under the headline “Explaining the Ties Between Alvin Bragg and George Soros,” the “fact check” by Linda Qiu addressed whether there were, in fact, any links between the Manhattan DA who may be on the verge of indicting Trump for fraud and campaign-finance violations,  and the left-wing philanthropist and noted target of antisemitic slander.

There are, strictly speaking, some things you could call links between the two men. But they are inconsequential.

Concluding that “These claims are exaggerated” is to entirely miss the actual meaning of the claims. It minimizes them. It whitewashes them. It virtually endorses them.

The journalistic issue should not be whether there is some factual basis in there somewhere, but that Trump and congressional Republicans are engaging in deceitful racist incitement.

The article’s acknowledgment that Soros is “a boogeyman on the right” and that attacks on him “often veer into antisemitic tropes” is a criminal understatement. Soros has become well known right-wing shorthand for Jewish cabal.

In a social media missive Friday that elite political reporters utterly failed to explain amounted to incitement and extortion, Trump also referred to Bragg as a “Soros backed animal.”

It’s beyond disgusting.

So here is how a journalist should respond: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2023 at 12:19 pm

Media coverage of Trump indictment should stick to the (highly incriminating) facts

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Dan Froomkin writes at Press Watch:

There appears to be ample evidence that Donald Trump violated a number of state laws when he told attorney Michael Cohen to pay hush money to a porn star days before the 2016 election, then wrote the expense off as “legal fees”.

We also know that Trump was “Individual-1,” the unindicted co-conspirator in the successful federal criminal prosecution of Cohen for violating campaign finance laws. Ample documentation proved that “Individual-1” directed Cohen to make the illegal payments.

Trump’s protestations of a “witch hunt” and his at times racist attacks on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg do not constitute a defense, and are immaterial to the central issue of Trump’s criminality.

So what is his defense? Trump’s attorneys don’t contest that he had Cohen pay off the porn star, Stormy Daniels, to keep her quiet. They don’t contest that Trump reimbursed Cohen by paying him for “legal services.”

His actual “defense” appears to be primarily that he would have paid off Daniels regardless of his political campaign, simply to avoid embarrassment, so it was all just a personal matter.

That’s a laughable defense.

So those are the facts of the case: the evidence of a crime and the defense.

But the facts of the case has not been the focus of the coverage by the elite corporate media. Its coverage is seemingly about everything else, most monotonously an endless litany of articles about imagined legal hurdles and the “political firestorm” surrounding the case.

It’s certainly true that Trump could get off due to a legal technicality. But the coverage of that one factor is disproportionate and only feeds into the false but dominant media narrative that this is a tough decision for the prosecutor that should be made with a view toward the political implications.

That is a toxic view that makes a mockery of the rule of law.

As Protect Democracy’s Aaron Baird recently wrote to me in an email, the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 March 2023 at 10:39 am

Where Are They Now?: The Pundits Who Got Iraq Wrong

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Pundits get paid for the words they write even when those words are worthless — or even worse than worthless: not just wrong, but wrong in a way that cost lives. Parker Molloy presents a rogues’ gallery of mendacious pundits who were so wrong about the US invasion of Iraq but never acknowledged any error and continue to exude words and opinions to this day. Molloy writes in The Present Age:

I was 16 years old when the U.S. invaded Iraq — old enough to have a general sense of what was happening in the world, but too young and ignorant to actually do anything about it. As then-recent graduates of my high school enlisted in the military or got involved in political activism on college campuses, I became more interested in what had already been a lifelong obsession of mine: the news media. 1

I distinctly recall being astounded by the certainty of both reporters and pundits. Things like whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or the capabilities to create them) were treated as foregone conclusions by many in the news, and opposition to the invasion was openly talked about as being “anti-American.”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading through 2002-2003 newspapers and blog posts, and I wanted to take a look back at some of the pro-war takes of the time. The lack of TV clips has to do with my lack of media monitoring tech that I’d have otherwise checked out.

Where are they now? Mostly still churning out ignorant takes that will affect the lives of millions of people.

One would think that cheering on the disaster that was the Iraq invasion would be a career-destroying mistake. As it turns out, the opposite seems to be true. Anyway, let’s look back at some of the terrible pro-war opinions (this is nowhere near a comprehensive list, but feel free to drop additional examples in the comments and I’ll try to go back to add them if I can — stick to media voices, please, as we all know that many politicians on both sides of the aisle were publicly in support of the invasion).

Matthew Yglesias, writer at Slow Boring and co-host of the Bad Takes podcast

Looking At The Situation…” by Matthew Yglesias, personal blog, March 31, 2002:

I think the administration has things exactly wrong in trying to solve the Israel situation as a precursor to moving on Iraq. The only way a negotiated settlement will be possible there is if Arafat feels that his position is weakening. The only way for that to happen is for the other Arab leaders to start becoming less supportive of him. The only way for that to happen is for our Arab “allies” to recognize that US-Saudi, US-Egyptian, US-Qatari, etc. relations are two way streets, not just an endless dialogue about what we need to do to prop up their regimes.

What better way to show that than to go do something they really, really don’t want us to do like, say, invade Iraq?

Plus, if we invade Iraq, we can create at least one reasonable regime in the area. If some “moderate” government get toppled (or just become outright hostile) as the worriers always worry, then we can just topple them again and set up some more supportive regimes.

Fareed Zakaria, CNN host and Washington Post columnist

Invade Iraq, But Bring Friends” by Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, August 4, 2002:

The threat Iraq poses is not overwhelming–yet. Saddam’s chemical and biological arsenal is difficult to use. He has rarely cooperated with terrorists in the past, and there is no evidence that he has any links with Al Qaeda. But he is a potential threat, particularly if he manages to acquire nuclear weapons, which is certainly his goal. Pollack makes a persuasive case that given leaky sanctions, at some point the world will have to deal with Saddam, nuclear-armed and dangerous. Why not now, when he is weak?

Still, a pre-emptive invasion of a country gives one pause. But there is another massive benefit to it. Done right, an invasion would be the single best path to reform the Arab world. The roots of Islamic terror reside in the dysfunctional politics of the region, where failure and repression have produced fundamentalism and violence. For reform to spread, the Arab world needs a success story. It needs one major country that embraces modernity, maintains its identity and inspires the region, just as Japan did for East Asia.

Iraq could be that country. Before it became a playpen for Saddam Hussein’s gruesome ambitions, it was one of the most secular, advanced, literate and civilized countries in the Middle East. Alone in the Arab world, it has both water and oil–a developed river-valley civilization and natural-resource wealth. Were Saddam’s totalitarian regime to be replaced by a state that respected human rights, enforced the rule of law and created a market economy, it could begin to transform that world.

Anne Applebaum, staff writer at The Atlantic

You Can’t Assume a Nut Will Act Rationally” by Anne Applebaum, Slate, October 1, 2002:

Although I dislike the modern tendency to compare every mad dictator to Hitler, in this narrow sense, the comparison to Saddam might be apt. Are you sure Saddam would not risk the destruction of his country, if he thought, for some reason, that he or his regime was in danger? Do you want to wait and find out? In my view, Saddam’s personality—which I would really like to see more carefully and more frequently dissected by people who know him and his regime—ought to be as much a part of the debate about whether to intervene as his putative nuclear arsenal. We really don’t know whether deterrence will work in the case of Iraq. Megalomaniacal tyrants do not always behave in the way rational people do, and to assume otherwise is folly.

Moving away from substance, back to public relations: If I have any real qualms about the potential war in Iraq, they are not so much about the central issue—should we fight or should we not (I think, with caveats, that we should be prepared to do so)—but about the peculiar way in which the administration has until now gone about making its case for the war. There have, it is true, been a few . . .

Continue reading. There are more.

And yet, at the time, it was perfectly clear to me and to many that the case for an invasion had NOT been made, and the Bush Administration’s “evidence” was suspiciously thin and unsupported (for example, the aluminum tubes that Bush claimed were for atomic enrichment were — at the time — evaluated simply to be for making rockets). I was reading Knight-Ridder, which poked holes in the Administration’s arguments, and James Fallows wrote a feature article for the Atlantic that argued (soundly) against the invasion. But there were too many cheering on the (stupid, costly, and evil) war that killed so many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (those the US was claiming to “save”). We were Russia; Iraq was Ukraine — as George W. Bush admitted in a slip of the tongue even as Joe Biden tries to erase the whole war from history (“no invasion of another country by 100,000 troops since WW II” except for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and the US invasion of Iraq).

Written by Leisureguy

20 March 2023 at 5:05 pm

Redpilled, QAnon, Anti-Vaccine: Conservative versions of ‘woke’

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Gil Duran and George Lakoff write at FrameLab:

In our previous post, “Time to Get Woke About Woke,” we analyzed the meaning of the term “woke” and how it has been co-opted by Republicans as a catch-all label for anything associated with liberal moral values. This post will delve into a more insidious tactic employed by Republicans, which involves denouncing perceived progressive radicalism while simultaneously promoting and glorifying their own version of radicalism.

While Republicans like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are busy decrying “woke” politics (and labeling all Democratic policies as woke), they are also busily embracing their own versions of woke. The Republican Party fully embraces radical politics — as long as those radical politics reflect its own moral beliefs.

Many Republican leaders have been fully engaged in the radical politics of election denial, vaccine denial and unprecedented efforts to strip away the rights and freedoms of women, people of color and LGBT people. While condemning “ideological conformity,” DeSantis has simultaneously made it easier to ban books, has limited the discussion of gender identity and sexuality in schools and has forbidden the teaching of an Advanced Placement course on African American studies.

Last year, DeSantis signed the Stop Woke Act, which “prohibits in-school discussions about racism, oppression, LBGTQ+ issues and economic inequity,” according to The Guardian. This is quite extreme. It’s also clearly an effort to enforce, rather than prevent, ideological conformity — specifically, ideological conformity to a strict conservative moral worldview.

Politicians like DeSantis accuse others of embracing radicalism while they openly embrace conservative radicalism. The Republican Party, after all, is the party responsible for the violent insurrection at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. This kind of radical politics is far more dangerous and destructive than any other force in the United States today. But Republicans, experts at distraction, prefer to focus the debate on issues like gender pronouns and drag shows.

Redpilled: Woke Republicans

There’s even a word that describes the Republican version of woke: Redpilled. The metaphor of redpilled comes from the movie The Matrix, where the character played by Keanu Reeves must choose between a red pill or a blue pill. The red pill will awaken him to the true nature of reality, in which nothing is as it seems. The blue pill will allow the character, Neo, to remain blissfully asleep and unaware. He takes the red pill.

Take the red pill” has become shorthand for the process of converting to a reactionary and conspiracy-tinged Republican view of the world. In 2020, Elon Musk, who has been going through a very public meltdown into reactionary politics, urged his Twitter followers to “take the red pill.” This earned a cringeworthy response from Ivanka Trump, who tweeted enthusiastically that she had already taken it. (This, in turn, earned a memorable response from Matrix co-creator Lilly Wachowski, a trans woman, who tweeted: “F— both of you.”)

The core of the Republican base celebrates and encourages conservative versions of wokeness/radicalism. The Fox channel and other extreme propaganda outlets churn out a constant stream of disreality to keep their audiences “awake” to a range of imaginary grievances and threats. Just look at the rise of QAnon, an outlandish and thoroughly debunked anti-government conspiracy theory believed by 25% of Republicans.

The Republican base has become an extreme radical movement, increasingly prone to violence and lacking in commitment to democracy. Republicans love radicalism — as long as it’s a version that serves their belief system.

Linguistic misdirection

It’s no accident that, at a time of rising Republican radicalism, Republicans are busy framing the Democratic Party as the true radical menace. Such misdirection serves an important strategic purpose.

First, it distracts from the true threat to democracy, which is the violent radicalism of the Republican Party.

Second, . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 March 2023 at 3:00 pm

“Complicit enablers”: 20 years later, the press corps has learned nothing

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Dan Froomkin writes at Press Watch:

In a nation that considers itself peaceful and civilized, the case for military action should be overwhelmingly stronger than the case against. It must face, and survive, aggressive questioning.

When political leaders are too timid to push back, that responsibility falls entirely to the media.

But in 2002 and 2003, covering the run-up to war in Iraq, our nation’s top reporters and editors blew it badly. Their credulous, stenographic spreading of the administration’s deeply deceptive arguments made them de facto accomplices to a war undertaken on false pretenses.

I’ve written about this failure countless times, but – believe it or not — the best thing I’ve ever read about it was actually written by Scott McClellan, the former Bush White House press secretary. In an era of almost universally self-congratulatory memoirs from government officials, McClellan’s 2008 book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” was full of confessions and accusations.

first wrote about it for, a since-shuttered website from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, where I served as deputy editor.

As press secretary, McClellan was a robotic and iconic source of deception himself. But then he came clean. This is what he wrote in his book:

In the fall of 2002, Bush and his White house were engaging in a carefully-orchestrated campaign to shape and manipulate sources of public approval to our advantage. We’d done much the same on other issues–tax cuts and education–to great success. But war with Iraq was different. Beyond the irreversible human costs and substantial financial price, the decision to go to war and the way we went about selling it would ultimately lead to increased polarization and intensified partisan warfare…

And through it all, the media would serve as complicit enablers. Their primary focus would be on covering the campaign to sell the war, rather than aggressively questioning the rationale for war or pursuing the truth behind it… the media would neglect their watchdog role, focusing less on truth and accuracy and more on whether the campaign was succeeding. Was the president winning or losing the argument? How were Democrats responding? What were the electoral implications? What did the polls say? And the truth–about the actual nature of the threat posed by Saddam, the right way to confront it, and the possible risks of military conflict–would get largely left behind…

If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should have never come as such a surprise. The public should have been made much more aware, before the fact, of the uncertainties, doubts, and caveats that underlay the intelligence about the regime of Saddam Hussein. The administration did little to convey those nuances to the people, the press should have picked up the slack but largely failed to do so because their focus was elsewhere–on covering the march to war, instead of the necessity of war.

In this case, the “liberal media” didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.

It took members of the elite media a remarkably long time after the invasion and the resulting chaos to realize just how credulous and wrong they had been. In a February 2004 piece in the New York Review of Books, media observer Michael Massing then asked the obvious follow-up question: Why?

In recent months, US news organizations have rushed to expose the Bush administration’s pre-war failings on Iraq. “Iraq’s Arsenal Was Only on Paper,” declared a recent headline in The Washington Post. “Pressure Rises for Probe of Prewar-Intelligence,” said The Wall Street Journal. “So, What Went Wrong?” asked Time. In The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh described how the Pentagon set up its own intelligence unit, the Office of Special Plans, to sift for data to support the administration’s claims about Iraq. And on “Truth, War and Consequences,” a Frontline documentary that aired last October, a procession of intelligence analysts testified to the administration’s use of what one of them called “faith-based intelligence.”

Watching and reading all this, one is tempted to ask, where were you all before the war? Why didn’t we learn more about these deceptions and concealments in the months when the administration was pressing its case for regime change—when, in short, it might have made a difference?…

The nearer the war drew, and the more determined the administration seemed to wage it, the less editors were willing to ask tough questions.

Bill Moyers devoted a show on PBS in 2007, entitled Buying the War, to the issue:

How mainstream journalists suspended skepticism and scrutiny remains an issue of significance that the media has not satisfactorily explored. How the administration marketed the war to the American people has been well covered, but critical questions remain: How and why did the press buy it, and what does it say about the role of journalists in helping the public sort out fact from propaganda?

The heroes of Moyers’s story are editor John Walcott and reporters Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, then of the Knight Ridder Washington bureau. Their relentlessly skeptical reporting was nearly unique in Washington – and almost entirely ignored.

In 2008, Walcott was the first person to receive the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence from the Nieman Foundation – an honor I’m proud to say I helped create.

We asked him and other astute observers – among them New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, author Tom Rosenstiel, and Massing – how to encourage the kind of courageous journalism practiced during that period by Knight Ridder.

They agreed that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 March 2023 at 2:50 pm

The Iraq Invasion 20 Years Later: It Was Indeed a Big Lie that Launched the Catastrophic War

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In Mother Jones David Corn describes how President George W. Bush, Vice-President Cheney, the Bush cabinet, and complaisant pundits lied the US into a war that too hundreds of thousands of lives and got away with it, facing no accountability at all. He writes:

Before there was Donald Trump’s Big Lie, there was George W. Bush’s Big Lie.

Twenty years ago this week, Bush and his sidekick Vice President Dick Cheney launched a war against Iraq. They greased the way to this tragic conflagration with the false claims that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that directly threatened the United States, and that he was in league with al Qaeda, the perpetrators of the horrific September 11 attack. Their invasion, which led to the deaths of over 4,000 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians—and the violence and instability in the region that resulted in ISIS—is now widely considered to have been a strategic blunder of immense proportions. Three months before he died in 2018, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), a leading advocate of the war and the post-invasion troop surge, published his final book, The Restless Wave, which included a self-damning verdict: “The principal reason for invading Iraq, that Saddam [Hussein] had WMD, was wrong. The war, with its cost in lives and treasure and security, can’t be judged as anything other than a mistake, a very serious one, and I have to accept my share of the blame for it.”

Other one-time cheerleaders for the Iraq war have voiced regret and, occasionally, shame. In a 2018 book, Max Boot, an analyst who was once deeply ensconced in the world of neocon foreign policy, wrote, “I can finally acknowledge the obvious: It was all a big mistake. Saddam Hussein was heinous, but Iraq was better off under his tyrannical rule than the chaos that followed. I regret advocating the invasion and feel guilty about all the lives lost.” Three years earlier, New York Times columnist David Brooks, who had been a loud (and naive) beater of the war drums in 2003, opined[T]he decision to go to war was a clear misjudgment.” Last week, in the Atlantic, David Frum, the pro-war speechwriter for Bush who coined the “Axis of Evil” phrase that justified targeting Iraq (and North Korea and Iran), noted the decision to invade was “plainly” unwise and that the war was a “misadventure.”

Let’s give one or two hurrahs for those who can declare they got it wrong. Yes, this conclusion is now obvious, given that no significant WMDs were found in Iraq after American bombs and troops were unleashed on the country and that the invasion, contrary to the assurances of the Bush-Cheney administration and its cocksure neoconservative allies, did not trigger a flowering of democracy in the Middle East.

Yet it’s one thing to acknowledge a misstep in policy judgment; it’s quite another to admit to abetting a fraud. Many of the Iraq War regretters insist they pursued the war in good faith predicated on solid assumptions and propelled by genuine concern for US security. What they don’t confess to is being part of an effort to purposefully bamboozle the American public and whip up support for the war with scare-’em tactics and disinformation. Frum, who has become a pal of mine during the Trump era, provides a good example. In his essay, he challenges the Bush-lied-and-people-died view, noting, “I don’t believe any leaders of the time intended to be dishonest. They were shocked and dazed by 9/11. They deluded themselves.”

This self-delusion argument—we believed what we said—is often packaged with the contention that the Bush-Cheney crowd rendered their decisions on the basis of flawed intelligence that stated Iraq had WMDs,  and, thus, these leaders did not intentionally misrepresent the threat.

But this is a phony narrative. The intelligence assessments that suggested Iraq possessed significant amounts of WMDs and was close to developing a nuclear weapon—produced under tremendous pressure from the Bush White House—were often disputed by experts within the intelligence community. (And later, but before the invasion, these findings were challenged by UN WMD inspectors who were scrutinizing Iraq.) Yet Bush, Cheney, and their top aides (Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, and others) embraced these problematic evaluations, as well as assorted and unproven (or disproven) reports, in order to justify the case for war and—here’s the key point—oversold these findings to the public. Meanwhile, they issued overwrought statements about the supposed threat from Iraq that either were unsupported by the faulty intelligence or utterly baseless. In short, Bush and Cheney did lie, and those that marched with them toward war were part of a campaign deliberately fueled with falsehoods. (At one point, Bush even discussed with British Prime Minister Tony Blair concocting a phony provocation that could be used to start the war.)

In our 2006 bookHubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq WarMichael Isikoff and I chronicled numerous instances when Bush and his lieutenants mischaracterized the WMD threat and the purported (but largely nonexistent) tie between Saddam and al Qaeda. Let’s start with  . . .

Continue reading. And read the whole shameful story.

Written by Leisureguy

20 March 2023 at 12:54 pm

Why the Press Failed on Iraq and How One Team of Reporters Got It Right

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John Walcott reports in Foreign Affairs:

Twenty years ago, the George W. Bush administration invaded Iraq to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and eliminate the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) officials said he had. Getting the American public to support a war against a country that had not attacked the United States required the administration to tell a convincing story of why the war was necessary. For that, it needed the press.

I was Knight Ridder’s Washington, D.C., bureau chief at the time, and among other duties handled our national security coverage. This gave me a front-row seat to Washington’s march to war and the media’s role in it. As the Bush administration began making its case for invading Iraq, too many Washington journalists, caught up in the patriotic fervor after 9/11, let the government’s story go unchallenged. At Knight Ridder’s Washington bureau, we started asking questions and publishing stories that challenged the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq had an active WMD program and ties to al Qaeda. One thing that set Knight Ridder’s coverage apart was our sourcing—forgoing senior officials in Washington for experts and scientists inside and outside the Beltway and more junior staffers and military officers much closer to the relevant intelligence.

Such an approach also would have helped U.S. policymakers. The failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq show what happens when top officials ignore their subordinates or assemble their own teams of analysts to confirm their biases—and when journalists become stenographers for them. Unfortunately, 20 years on, there is little evidence that the Washington press corps has learned this lesson. If anything, today’s bleak media environment has only made it harder to get the story right.


On the morning of September 11, 2001, as a pillar of smoke rose from the Pentagon across the Potomac, Knight Ridder’s Washington bureau set out, like our competitors, to confirm what we all suspected—that al Qaeda was behind the attacks. We were an experienced group of journalists, with years spent developing sources in the intelligence community and the military. I had reported and edited for NewsweekThe Wall Street Journal, and U.S. News and World Report.

Knight Ridder also had two superb national security reporters in Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, who later were reinforced by Joe Galloway, arguably the greatest war correspondent of the Vietnam era. Other news organizations also had formidable talent, along with larger staffs, bigger budgets, better reputations, and broader reach. Yet in the early days after 9/11, they didn’t seem to be noticing the red flags that the Knight Ridder team already had started seeing.

The first flag appeared just days after the attacks, when Strobel came back to the office and reported that Bush administration officials had been discussing not only the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his Taliban hosts in Afghanistan, but also Iraq. That made little sense. Saddam’s history of supporting terrorism was less compelling than that of the dictators Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya or Hafez al-Assad of Syria, not to mention Iran’s ayatollahs. Saddam had given Abu Nidal, one of the most notorious Palestinian terrorists, limited support—but had expelled him in 1983. Abu Nidal returned to Iraq in 2002, only to die under mysterious circumstances. Some U.S. intelligence officials thought Saddam ordered his death in an attempt to deprive the United States of one casus belli.

Although some senior administration officials began trying to link Saddam to al Qaeda, their more knowledgeable subordinates in the intelligence community and the State Department were questioning why bin Laden, a Salafi extremist, would link arms with Saddam, a secular ruler whose likely heirs were his two booze-swilling, skirt-chasing sons, Uday and Qusay.

In the days and weeks after the attacks, there were early warnings that something was amiss. They were easy to spot if you were looking for them, but few people in the upper levels of the Bush administration or at other major news organizations, riding the patriotic wave sweeping the country, were looking.

We were. On September 22, 11 days after the attacks, Strobel reported that some administration officials and outside experts were skeptical that Iraq had played any role in them. On October 11, he reported that nevertheless, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy U.S. secretary of defense, had dispatched a former CIA director, James Woolsey, to Wales to search for evidence that Saddam was linked to an earlier attack on the World Trade Center. A senior U.S. official told Strobel that Wolfowitz and others at the Pentagon were “seized” with the idea that Iraq was behind the attacks.

That same month, Washington reporters covering the story began receiving . . .

Continue reading.

Zero accountability for hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. Zero.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2023 at 7:43 pm

The Lords of Chaos

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Chris Hedges has a piece worth reading. It begins:

Two decades ago, I sabotaged my career at The New York Times. It was a conscious choice. I had spent seven years in the Middle East, four of them as the Middle East Bureau Chief. I was an Arabic speaker. I believed, like nearly all Arabists, including most of those in the State Department and the CIA, that a “preemptive” war against Iraq would be the most costly strategic blunder in American history. It would also constitute what the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg called the “supreme international crime.” While Arabists in official circles were muzzled, I was not. I was invited by them to speak at The State Department, The United States Military Academy at West Point and to senior Marine Corps officers scheduled to be deployed to Kuwait to prepare for the invasion.

Mine was not a popular view nor one a reporter, rather than an opinion columnist, was permitted to express publicly according to the rules laid down by the newspaper. But I had experience that gave me credibility and a platform. I had reported extensively from Iraq. I had covered numerous armed conflicts, including the first Gulf War and the Shi’ite uprising in southern Iraq where I was taken prisoner by The Iraqi Republican Guard. I easily dismantled the lunacy and lies used to promote the war, especially as I had reported on the destruction of Iraq’s chemical weapons stockpiles and facilities by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspection teams. I had detailed knowledge of how degraded the Iraqi military had become under U.S. sanctions. Besides, even if Iraq did possess “weapons of mass destruction” that would not have been a legal justification for war.

The death threats towards me exploded when my stance became public in numerous interviews and talks I gave across the country. They were either mailed in by anonymous writers or expressed by irate callers who would daily fill up the message bank on my phone with rage-filled tirades. Right-wing talk shows, including Fox News, pilloried me, especially after I was heckled and booed off a commencement stage at Rockford College for denouncing the war. The Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial attacking me. Bomb threats were called into venues where I was scheduled to speak. I became a pariah in the newsroom. Reporters and editors I had known for years would lower their heads as I passed, fearful of any career-killing contagion. I was issued a written reprimand by The New York Times to cease speaking publicly against the war. I refused. My tenure was over.

What is disturbing is not the cost to me personally. I was aware of the potential consequences. What is disturbing is that the architects of these debacles have never been held accountable and remain ensconced in power. They continue to promote permanent war, including the ongoing proxy war in Ukraine against Russia, as well as a future war against China.

The politicians who lied to us — George W. BushDick CheneyCondoleezza RiceHillary Clinton and Joe Biden to name but a few — extinguished millions of lives, including thousands of American lives, and left Iraq along with Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Libya and Yemen in chaos. They exaggerated or fabricated conclusions from intelligence reports to mislead the public. The big lie is taken from the playbook of totalitarian regimes.

The cheerleaders in the media for war — Thomas FriedmanDavid RemnickRichard CohenGeorge PackerWilliam KristolPeter BeinartBill KellerRobert KaplanAnne ApplebaumNicholas KristofJonathan ChaitFareed ZakariaDavid FrumJeffrey GoldbergDavid Brooks and Michael Ignatieff — were used to amplify the lies and discredit the handful of us, including Michael MooreRobert Scheer and Phil Donahue, who opposed the war. [James Fallows also wrote strongly against the invasion of Iraq. – LG] These courtiers were often motivated more by careerism than idealism. They did not lose their megaphones or lucrative speaking fees and book contracts once the lies were exposed, as if their crazed diatribes did not matter. They served the centers of power and were rewarded for it.

Many of these same pundits are pushing further escalation of the war in Ukraine, although most know as little about Ukraine or NATO’s provocative and unnecessary expansion to the borders of Russia as they did about Iraq.

“I told myself and others that Ukraine is the most important story of our time, that everything we should care about is on the line there,” George Packer writes in The Atlantic magazine. “I believed it then, and I believe it now, but . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2023 at 2:05 pm

The myth of “liberal” news: How the media does the work of fascists

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Chauncey Devega writes in Salon:

There is no such thing as the so-called liberal news media. In reality, there is a corporate news media that polices the limits of approved public discourse and privileges the voices and agenda of the powerful over those of everyday Americans. And in a time of ascendant neofascism, that is a great betrayal of the American people and the sacred responsibility that the Fourth Estate has in a democracy.

“The liberal media” (and its conjoined twin “liberal media bias”) is language that was invented by the American right-wing in the 1980s and 1990s as a way of training and bullying the American news media into serving its agenda – or at a minimum a much more friendly and uncritical space through which to distribute right-wing talking points, dogma, and misinformation.

The myth of the liberal news media is disproved by other evidence as well.

The media in the “news media” means business and profit – this is especially true of the few large corporations that dominate the market. Those corporations are inherently conservative. The so-called liberal news media also values access to the powerful – because they are members of the same social class – above all else.

Take, for instance, the recent example of an Axios reported fired this week after dismissing what he described as “propaganda” fed to him by the office of Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “This is propaganda, not a press release,” Ben Montgomery wrote in response to a DeSantis press release attacking diversity and inclusion efforts in the state. Hours later, the Pulitzer Prize finalist was questioned about the email and ultimately let go from his position as a local reporter for the national media outlet.

“This sort of thing has a chilling effect,” Montgomery told Talking Points Memos’ Hunter Walker. “I’m sad, honestly, for the profession.” He continued: “In a difficult news environment, you need that sort of support. So, at a minimum, don’t fire your reporters in a knee-jerk fashion.”

“We can’t be sheepish right now.”

Media critic and scholar Eric Boehlert summarized the myth of the liberal media in this way: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2023 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media, Politics

A refresher on how the press failed the people in the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq

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The US invasion of Iraq was, like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a war of choice, justified by falsehoods and pretense. And the US press — like the Russian press — for the most part cooperated. Dan Froomkin wrote at Nieman Watchdog in 2008:

The blistering critique of an overly credulous press corps by former White House press secretary Scott McClellan in his new book has reignited a debate over the performance of mainstream journalists during the run-up to war in Iraq. But it’s really not a debate at all.

Here’s what McClellan wrote, in excerpts from his new book:

In the fall of 2002, Bush and his White house were engaging in a carefully-orchestrated campaign to shape and manipulate sources of public approval to our advantage. We’d done much the same on other issues–tax cuts and education–to great success. But war with Iraq was different. Beyond the irreversible human costs and substantial financial price, the decision to go to war and the way we went about selling it would ultimately lead to increased polarization and intensified partisan warfare…

And through it all, the media would serve as complicit enablers. Their primary focus would be on covering the campaign to sell the war, rather than aggressively questioning the rationale for war or pursuing the truth behind it… the media would neglect their watchdog role, focusing less on truth and accuracy and more on whether the campaign was succeeding. Was the president winning or losing the argument? How were Democrats responding? What were the electoral implications? What did the polls say? And the truth–about the actual nature of the threat posed by Saddam, the right way to confront it, and the possible risks of military conflict–would get largely left behind…

If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should have never come as such a surprise. The public should have been made much more aware, before the fact, of the uncertainties, doubts, and caveats that underlay the intelligence about the regime of Saddam hussein. The administration did little to convey those nuances to the people, the press should have picked up the slack but largely failed to do so because their focus was elsewhere–on covering the march to war, instead of the necessity of war.

In this case, the “liberal media” didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.

That’s actually only one part of McClellan’s media critique. There’s more in these excerpts:

The permanent campaign … ensnares the media, who become complicit enablers of its polarizing effects. They emphasize conflict, controversy and negativity, focusing not on the real-world impact of policies and their larger, underlying truths but on the horse race aspects of politics – who’s winning, who’s losing, and why…

The press amplifies the talking points of one or both parties in its coverage, thereby spreading distortions, half-truths, and occasionally outright lies in an effort to seize the limelight and have something or someone to pick on. And by overemphasizing conflict and controversy and by reducing complex and important issues to convenient, black-and-white story lines and seven-second sound bites the media exacerbate the problem, thereby making it incredibly hard even for well-intentioned leaders to clarify and correct the misunderstandings and oversimplifications that dominate the political conversation. Finally, it becomes much more difficult for the general public to decipher the more important truths amid all the conflict, controversy and negativity. For some partisans, that is fine because they believe they can maneuver better in such a highly politicized environment to accomplish their objectives. But the destructive potential of such excessively partisan warfare would later crystallize my thinking.

This second part of McClellan’s critique is at least somewhat controversial. The first part, by now, certainly shouldn’t be. A flurry of self-examinations by the media have all reached pretty much the same conclusion McClellan did.

Yet because many of the cable-TV pundits talking about McClellan’s book were themselves members of the White House press corps during the time in question, some of them have been responding with unseemly defensiveness.

Consider this exchange on MSNBC’s Hardball on Wednesday evening, when host Chris Matthews asked his colleague David Gregory, who previously covered the White House for NBC, and Mike Allen, a Politico reporter who previously covered the White House for The Washington Post, to respond to McClellan’s critique:

Gregory: I think he is wrong.

He makes the same kind of argument  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2023 at 10:20 am

BBC assists the Right with censorship

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Conservative forces are being assisted by those in the media who cooperate by censoring anything that might offend conservatives. Here’s a specific instance reported in Daily Kos by Mark Sumner:

Even if you don’t know David Attenborough, you know David Attenborough. At 96, the British broadcaster, biologist, and author has been one of the biggest popularizers of science for more than six decades. Odds are if there’s a video of animals doing something interesting, the voice behind that moment is either Attenborough or someone mimicking his signature delivery.

The nine series making up Attenborough’s Life collection—which he wrote, produced, and presented—may be the greatest documentation of the diversity and sheer wonder of life on this planet that has ever been assembled. Each represents hundreds of person-years of labor and innovative techniques to capture moments almost no one would otherwise have the opportunity to witness. The work has garnered Attenborough multiple awards and made him one of the best known and most beloved figures working anywhere in broadcasting—not just in England but around the world. The programs he has created have been called the best of the BBC by figures across the political spectrum.

All this shows just how extraordinary it is that the BBC—Attenborough’s partner on many of his ventures—is refusing to air an episode of his latest presentation. That program, Wild Isles, focuses specifically on the wildlife of the British isles. It allows Attenborough to bring the technology and the team of wildlife photographers he has used around the world and apply their skills to the nation he has always called home.

Why would the BBC refuse to air their most iconic presenter helming what may be his last series, on a topic not just dear to his heart, but of intrinsic interest to a British audience? It’s because in this banned episode, Attenborough focuses on the destruction of nature, and the BBC fears that the Conservative government will find this offensive.

As The Guardian reports, the Wild Isles series consists of five episodes that begin airing this Sunday. Only in the last week the BBC has decided to ditch a full 20% of this series in order to prevent a “backlash” from Tories who might see mourning the destruction of the natural environment as somehow offensive.

They’re not even being coy about it.

Senior sources at the BBC told the Guardian that the decision was made to fend off potential critique from the political right. …

One source at the broadcaster, who asked not to be named, said “lobbying groups that are desperately hanging on to their dinosaurian ways” such as the farming and game industry would “kick off” if the show had too political a message.

Reportedly, the episode shows a balanced approach to agriculture. It features descriptions of how monoculture farms heavily dependent on chemical pesticides and fertilizers cause damage to the environment, resulting in huge environmental rifts. However, it also features farms that are using practices including the use of native plants for native pest control and that preserve both the farm and the surrounding natural habitat.

A similar approach was applied to gaming, which in this case isn’t video games or casinos. It’s largely staged hunting events that sacrifice land and natural diversity to maintain artificial crops of animals to be hunted for sport. The impact of these practices can be reduced, but too often hunters want open, parklike land for “traditional” hunts that are little more than ritualized slaughter of tamed animals.

But this balanced approach was not enough to satisfy the concerns of the BBC. They’re not even responding to an actual issue, they’re running away from a potential backlash that they admit is being generated by lobbyists. The whole decision smacks of an almost unfathomable level of cowardice.

“For the BBC to censor of one of the nation’s most informed and trusted voices on the nature and climate emergencies is nothing short of an unforgivable dereliction of its duty to public service broadcasting, “ said Caroline Lucas, a member of Parliament for the Green Party.

As in the United States, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2023 at 11:40 am

Dig, Don’t Dunk: Avoid the temptation of cheap intellectual thrills

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George Dillard has an interesting article on Medium:

The New Yorker recently published a piece on a problem that is close to my heart: the decline of the humanities in American higher education.

Nathan Heller’s article “The End of the English Major,” though by no means perfect (it will surprise absolutely nobody that a New Yorker author writing about college spent half of his time talking about Harvard and casually mentioned that he went there), is worth reading. The piece looks at a lot of the reasons why the humanities are “in crisis” and why STEM has conquered modern American education.

One little snippet of the story stuck with me:

Some scholars observe that, in classrooms today, the initial gesture of criticism can seem to carry more prestige than the long pursuit of understanding. One literature professor and critic at Harvard — not old or white or male — noticed that it had become more publicly rewarding for students to critique something as “problematic” than to grapple with what the problems might be; they seemed to have found that merely naming concerns had more value, in today’s cultural marketplace, than curiosity about what underlay them.

This immediately rang true. I’ve taught history for over two decades, and it seems that my students are quicker than ever to declare historical figures or works of literature “bad.” When students find someone or something offensive, racist, retrograde, or otherwise problematic, they tend to want to dismiss it entirely as having no value. As Heller notes, they’re not terribly curious about exploring the nuances of the problematic thing. They want to dunk on it and move on.

This isn’t really a problem with Kids Today, though. The world around them has taught them to dunk when they should dig. That’s not good.

Let me define my terms before I get too far into this.

  • The dunk is a ubiquitous phenomenon in our internet discourse. To dunk on someone means to interpret someone or something in the least generous way possible, respond to them in the most aggressive terms possible, and rack up those sweet, sweet likes. Dunking is easy, it’s fun, and it signals that the dunker is good because they’ve identified that the other guys are bad. As a little treat, the dunker gets a nice squirt of dopamine.
  • Digging deep is the opposite of dunking. To dig means to read the whole thing rather than seeing an out-of-context quote and making a bold pronouncement. It means to take a breath and try to understand people on their own terms before passing judgment on them. Digging is hard and often unsatisfying. Sometimes, you may find yourself more uncertain than you were before you started digging.

Sadly, the dunk has become a default of our discourse.

Young people who grow up dunking rather than digging are learning the wrong lessons. They’re learning that it’s best to approach the world with arrogant self-righteousness, that they should chase cheap thrills rather than more difficult pleasures, and that they should armor up rather than open up.

Dunking is an act of hubris; digging is an act of humility

It takes a lot of self-assuredness to dismiss people, movements, works of art, or even historical eras as worthless. Dunkers might confidently declare — often based on very little evidence — that a historical figure isn’t worth listening to because they held an ideological position that now seems retrograde. The dunk often means that a person’s worst views or actions represent their entire selves.

Would you like to be judged by your worst thoughts on your worst days? Would you want your value to be determined by the thing you said or wrote in your younger years that you’re most embarrassed about? Would you want your hypocrisies — and we all have them — to define you?

Plus, as Amanda Hess of the New York Times writes, dunking makes you vulnerable to being dunked upon yourself:

The most successful ownage finds hubristic targets, people who think they know more than they do. But ownage is itself a hubristic act — it turns knowledge into a tool for exploiting another person’s lack thereof. Owning someone sets you up to be owned yourself, sometimes in the same breath. The self-own — and a related concept, “You played yourself,” the refrain of the motivational Snapchat user DJ Khaled — is a double entendre. In the self-own, you let yourself down by being so nakedly yourself. You fail, in the end, by being you.

Digging into a subject rather than dismissing it is an acknowledgment that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2023 at 5:28 pm

Big media is covering up Trump’s terrifying incoherence in a time of emergency

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Dan Froomkin writes in Press Watch:

Here is some of what Donald Trump had to say Wednesday evening at a briefing intended to inform and reassure the American public about a public-health emergency:

This will end. This will end. You look at flu season. I said 26,000 people. I never heard of a number like that: 26,000 people, going up to 69,000 people, doctor, you told me before. 69,000 people die every year — from 20 to 69 — every year from the flu. Think of that. That’s incredible. So far, the results of all of this that everybody is reading about — and part of the thing is, you want to keep it the way it is, you don’t want to see panic, because there’s no reason to be panicked about it — but when I mentioned the flu, I asked the various doctors, “Is this just like flu?” Because people die from the flu. And this is very unusual. And it is a little bit different, but in some ways it’s easier and in some ways it’s a little bit tougher, but we have it so well under control, I mean, we really have done a very good job. [Watch video.]

Before and after knowledgeable public-health officials had made clear that a further spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. is inevitable:

I don’t think it’s inevitable. It probably will. It possibly will. It could be at a very small level or it could be at a larger level. Whatever happens, we’re totally prepared. We have the best people in the world. You see that from the study. We have the best prepared people, the best people in the world. Congress is willing to give us much more than we’re even asking for. That’s nice for a change. But we are totally ready, willing, and able to — it’s a term that we use, it’s “ready, willing, and able.” It’s going to be very well under control. Now, it may get bigger. It may get a little bigger. It may not get bigger at all. We’ll see what happens. But regardless of what happens, we’re totally prepared. [Watch video.]

On the stock market declines:

I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democrat candidates standing on that stage make fools out of themselves, and they say, “If we ever have a president like this” — and there’s always a possibility, it’s an election, you know, who knows what happens? I think we’re going to win, I think we’re going to win by a lot — but when they look at statements made by the people standing behind those podiums, I think that has a huge effect.

Reporter: You don’t you think it had to do with the coronavirus?

Well, I think it did, I think it did, but I think you can add quite a bit of selloff to what they’re seeing. Because they’re seeing the potential – you know, again, I think we’re going to win. I feel very confident of it. We’ve done everything – and much more — than I said we were going to do. You look at what we’ve done. What we’ve done is incredible, with the tax cuts and regulation cuts, and rebuilding our military, taking care of our vets and getting them choice and accountability. All of the things we’ve done. Protecting our Second Amendment. I mean, they view that, the Second Amendment, they’re going to destroy the Second Amendment. When people look at that, they say “this is not good.” So you add that in. I really believe that’s a factor. But, no, what we’re talking about is the virus. That’s what we’re talking about. I do believe that’s — I do believe in terms of CNBC and in terms of Fox Business, I do believe that’s a factor, yeah. And I think after I win the election, I think the stock market is going to boom like it’s never boomed before. Just like the last time I won the election. The day after the stock market went up like a rocket ship. [Watch video.]

On the Democrats, in between asking for their cooperation:

I think Speaker Pelosi is incompetent. She lost the Congress once. I think she’s going to lose it again. She lifted my poll numbers up 10 points I never thought that I would see that so quickly and so easily. I’m leading everybody. We’re doing great. I don’t want to do it that way. It’s almost unfair if you think about it. But I think she’s incompetent.

I think she is not thinking about the country and instead of making a statement like that where I have been beating her routinely at everything instead of making a statement like that she should be saying we have to work together because we have a big problem potential only and may be it’s going to be a very little problem. I hope that it’s going to be a very little problem but we have to work together. Instead she wants to do that same thing with crying Chuck Schumer. [Watch video.]

On his devastating budget cuts to the Centers for Disease Control: . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

6 March 2023 at 9:25 am

The Deep Archeology of Fox News

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Josh Marshall writes at TPM (with a very interesting clip of a young Tucker Carlson):

The evidence emerging from the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News has the quality of liberal fever dreams. What’s the worst you can possibly imagine about Fox? What’s the most cartoonish caricature, the worst it could possibly be? Well, in these emails and texts you basically have that. Only it’s real. It’s not anyone believing the worst and giving no benefit of the doubt. This is what Fox is.

In a moment like this it’s worth stepping way, way back, not just to the beginning of Fox News in 1996 but to the beginning of the broader countermovement it was a part of and even a relatively late entry to.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s there was something historians and critics of the time called the post-war liberal consensus. It was not liberal in ways we’d recognize today. Indeed, it wasn’t liberal in many ways actual liberals of the time recognized. But it did represent an important level of elite consensus about state intervention in the economy and openness to a more restrained version of the American state created by the reformist periods of the first half of the 20th century.

Though what was then sometimes called “the race question” was “complicated” and not something that could be resolved overnight, there was also in elite opinion a general assumption that the South’s system of legalized apartheid was a source of embarrassment and something from the past that the country had to outgrow, even if not any time soon. (Just as is the case today, what is actually more properly called cosmopolitanism was sometimes misportrayed as liberalism: a general belief in pluralism, values tied to cities and urban life.)

I mention all this because . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2023 at 9:21 pm

Posted in Business, GOP, Media, Politics

Long-neglected chronic conditions finally come into the spotlight

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New Scientist:

POST-VIRAL syndromes received little medical attention for decades, until the covid-19 pandemic triggered tens of millions of cases of long covid, leading to massive research efforts.

This week, we report on the growing evidence that long-term conditions like myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) are caused, wholly or in part, by viral infections (see “We’re starting to understand how viruses trigger chronic conditions”). Researchers have drawn links between ME/CFS and some herpes viruses, which infect us at a young age and stay in the body for the rest of our lives. There is also evidence that viruses play a role in fibromyalgia, a little-understood form of chronic pain.

Any improvement in our knowledge of these conditions is good news for those affected, of whom there are millions around the world.

How did such life-altering conditions come to be so neglected? It may be significant that they are more common in women than men, especially middle-aged women. One can’t help but suspect that there was some sexism, however inadvertent, in doctors’ tendencies to dismiss symptoms as psychosomatic. Even today, people with autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, which are also far more common in women, often wait months or years for a diagnosis.

One reason long covid garnered so much attention was that many of the first to get it were medical workers. It seems doctors who might have dismissed strangers with hard-to-explain symptoms were less likely to ignore their colleagues. There is a lesson here about the importance of trusting a patient – one many doctors, happily, are taking to heart.

The media must also take its share of the blame. When ME/CFS was defined in the 1980s, it was casually dismissed by many journalists as “yuppie flu” or hypochondria. This wasn’t just cruel, it was ill-informed: as early as 1994, New Scientist reported research indicating that viruses were the key to ME/CFS. Nearly three decades on, the message is finally getting through.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2023 at 6:25 pm

Bari Weiss Is Full of Shit

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Katherine Krueger writes in Discourse Blog:

Recently, Bari Weiss’ blog published an account from a “whistleblower” who used to work at a transgender healthcare clinic associated with Washington University’s children’s hospital. Unsurprisingly, the story depicted the clinic as a house of horrors.

Equally unsurprisingly, when some actual reporters examined the deeply alarmist, one-sided story Weiss was pushing, they found it to be total nonsense. It’s just the latest in a long pattern that proves one incontrovertible fact: Bari Weiss is completely full of shit, and you shouldn’t trust a thing she publishes.

The original first-person story, written by Jamie Reed, a former case manager whom Weiss pointed out is a “progressive” and “a queer woman married to a transman,” was published earlier this month by the Free Press, a site founded by the disgraced ex-New York Times opinion writer.

Reed portrayed the trans clinic as unrelentingly barbaric: “mentally ill” children misguidedly looking to transition rather than treat the root causes of their issues, a trans kid’s gender transition weaponized as part of a custody dispute between parents, children being prescribed hormone blockers and other medications willy-nilly and with little regard for side effects, both long and short term, and much more.

Reed wrote: “I left the clinic in November of last year because I could no longer participate in what was happening there. By the time I departed, I was certain that the way the American medical system is treating these patients is the opposite of the promise we make to ‘do no harm.’ Instead, we are permanently harming the vulnerable patients in our care.”

But a deeply reported story published on Monday by the St. Louis Post-Dispatchwhich involved interviews with some two dozen parents whose children sought treatment at the center—painted a starkly different picture, one that runs completely counter to Reed’s account.

Here are just a few highlights from the reporting (emphasis mine throughout):

Explosive allegations made public last month about a St. Louis clinic that treats transgender children have flung parents into a vortex of emotions: shock, confusion, anger, fear.

Kim Hutton, among those confused by the reports, views the treatment her son, now 19, received from Washington University’s Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital as vital to making him the outgoing college freshman he is today.

“The idea that nobody got information, that everybody was pushed toward treatment, is just not true. It’s devastating,” Hutton said. “I’m baffled by it.”

Patients recounted that the staff explained procedures using both medical and everyday vocabulary.

“The doctor reached out to me after hours to answer my questions and make sure I understood what my treatment plan was,” said a 16-year-old from the St. Louis area.

Rather than the “rapid medicalization” and “poor assessment of mental health concerns” that Reed cited in a complaint sent to Bailey in January, parents reported a well-defined, step-by-step approach that could be halted at any time.

Slow, methodical adjustments began . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 March 2023 at 5:24 pm

“Expert” opinions from uninformed generalists

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Alec Karakatsanis has a really excellent thread that is very much worth reading. It begins with this post; click the date to see the rest:

I see this as another example of the Dunning-Kruger effect: NY Times columnists who don’t know how little they know about some field, weighing in with assumed authority. Combine that with the fact that the NY Times is not a learning organization* and thus is incapable of course correction, and you have a big ship headed toward the rocks.

* When Margaret Sullivan was Public Editor of the NY Times, responsible for speaking to editors and journalists with the voice of readers who complained about errors and bad framing in the Times, the editors and journalists (and opinion columnists) would listen to the complaints and investigate. But their investigation began with, and was based on, the premise that they themselves could not possibly be in error. Thus their ingenuity was exercised in finding the source of the problem somewhere else — anywhere else, really. What they inevitably came up with was that the readers had read it wrong, or that the reader simply did not understand the issues, or — though never explicitly stated but sometimes implied — the readers were complaining in bad faith. The editors, journalists, and columnists, however, never even considered that they might be at fault.

Written by Leisureguy

3 March 2023 at 12:12 pm

Excellent thread about reporters who have a block against trans kids

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This thread by Isaac Bailey is very much worth reading in full. Click the date to see the whole thread.

Written by Leisureguy

3 March 2023 at 11:24 am

Why Bret Stephens is a poor source of information — in this case, medical information

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Thomas Pueyo writes in Uncharted Territories:

Recently, I stumbled upon some chatter against masks, and I thought it would be useful to dive into it for a couple of reasons:

  1. Should we update our beliefs?

  2. What can we learn about knowledge 1 from this debate?

This article encapsulates the debate:

But twitter threads are not a great way to be nuanced. This article is an in-depth and nuanced look at the studies, along with some criticism of my take, and my takeaways.

Jefferson et al. Main Results

This is the study that the articles reference (long version here).

This is a Cochrane systematic review. This is a strong point, as systematic reviews take in much more data, and the fact that it’s Cochrane reduces many of its potential biases. And it keeps results from 78 studies. Impressive!

Now let’s look at the studies themselves. The first thing I note is this: . . .

Continue reading.

It’s a very interesting article. For starters, of the 78 studies, only 6 seemed relevant (7 if you include one study that was not reported). And then further inspection reveals that in fact, only two studies were relevant.

Read the article for other ways Bret Stephens seeks to deceive. 

Written by Leisureguy

3 March 2023 at 2:02 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Media, Medical, NY Times, Politics, Science

Tagged with

The Useful Idiots Fueling the Right-Wing Transphobia Panic

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Ryan Cooper reports in The American Prospect:

Former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss recently founded a publication called The Free Press, and several weeks ago it published an account from a woman named Jamie Reed. Reed, who worked as a case manager at a Washington University gender clinic in St. Louis, made inflammatory accusations (with more in a sworn affidavit) that numerous children at the clinic were being carelessly shoved into irreversible gender treatment en masse.

Reed’s article went viral on social media, and was cited by numerous conservatives and transphobes as conclusive proof that too many kids are getting transition care. A couple of prominent liberals joined in as well. Matthew Yglesias cited it as credible on Twitter and Substack. “The picture she paints of the clinic’s treatment of children is ghastly. The affidavit she signed is even worse,” wrote Jonathan Chait at New York magazine. (It’s of a piece with an ongoing trend in liberal and centrist publications of writing anxious articles raising questions about youth transition care.)

There is just one problem. Reed’s account is a pile of garbage.

Even when it was first published, any sensible person should have seen some obvious red flags. Reed was not involved either in treatment or management, and her lawyer founded an openly transphobic organization. As Evan Urquhart pointed out at Assigned Media, she made several wildly mistaken claims about the side effects of some gender treatments. In her affidavit, Reed claimed that children came into the clinic identifying as “mushroom,” “rock,” or “helicopter,” only to be quickly given puberty blockers or hormones. This is not only facially preposterous, but in the last case suspiciously lines up with a common right-wing transphobic “joke.”

Sure enough, subsequent reporting has demolished Reed’s story. A woman named Danielle Meert whose child worked with Reed told a local NBC affiliate: “Saying that kids walk in and get hormones right away has not been our experience. It was about nine months until we had a puberty blocker implanted.” Another trans boy treated at the clinic contradicted her assertion that hormones were prescribed after just a couple of meetings with a therapist: “That’s not possible at all because a therapist has to see a patient for six months consistently, before they can even start writing the letter [of recommendation].” The Missouri Independent also interviewed numerous patients, who reported “any treatments were only undertaken after long consultations with doctors and mental health professionals.” Finally, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently interviewed numerous parents whose children had gone to the clinic, who “reported a well-defined, step-by-step approach that could be halted at any time.”

Reed’s intention, which she admitted on the record, was to shut down the gender clinic entirely. Indeed, the outrage prompted the Missouri attorney general to demand that the university shut down the clinic pending several state investigations, though it refused and is doing one itself.

As our recent Left Anchor podcast with Michael Hobbes and Urquhart goes into in detail, the United States is currently in the grip of a full-blown transphobic moral panic. Dubious, unrepresentative, or entirely made-up anecdotes are trumpeted across right-wing media, prompting conservative legislatures to place strict limits on transition care for minors, or ban it entirely—or in the case of a bill that recently passed the Oklahoma House, ban transition care entirely even for adults. They are attempting to shove trans people back into the closet, if not prevent them from existing.

Many centrist and liberal journalists are doing the same thing, only in a passive-aggressive fashion. The repeated front-page investigations in The New York Times over the past year are, just like Reed’s article, based almost entirely on anecdotes—some of them from openly transphobic organizations that are not identified as such—rather than actual studies, which have overwhelmingly found that transition is quite raredetransition relatively unlikely, the regret rate of gender affirmation surgery low, and treatment difficult and expensive to access.

There are always risks and trade-offs with any health treatment, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 March 2023 at 1:24 am

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