For those wondering how last weekend's independent media conference went, from Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, we'll note John Peebles' "Seymour Hersh, Other Prominent Media Personalities Offer Perspectives on Media Control at University of Illinois Conference:"
Democracy Now's Amy Goodman was one of several distinguished guests, including Seymour Hersh, Rep. Bernie Sanders, Phil Donahue, Naomi Klein and other prominent media professionals....
Hersh claimed the Iraq War was increasingly being conducted "off the books" by mercenaries, retired military personnel, and private contractors beyond the scope of accountability.... "Body bags aren’t going to stop him," Hersh said, referring to Bush....
According to...Congressman (Sanders), this media distortion is no accident; as fewer and fewer corporations control more and more media outlets, viewpoints are increasingly channeled and contrived to benefit narrow commercial interests at the expense of the public good....Klein defined the obsessive prominence of the Michael Jackson and Terri Schiavo cases in the media as "spasms of collective mourning."
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was the site of a conference entitled “Can Freedom of the Press Survive Media Consolidation?” on May 10th and 11th, 2005.
The Conference focused on the impact of media conglomeration and corporate control on the dissemination of news in the United States.
Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman was one of several distinguished guests, including Seymour Hersh, Rep. Bernie Sanders, Phil Donahue, Naomi Klein and other prominent media professionals.
The Illinois Initiative for Media Policy Research sponsored the conference in conjunction with various University of Illinois academic departments and the Center for Advanced Study/MillerComm series. University of Illinois Professor Robert McChesney, Executive Director of I.I.M.P.R., was instrumental in organizing the conference.
According to McChesney, the press' failure to provide unbiased information in the lead-up to the Iraqi War repeated similar tendencies from previous American wars. Early in the history of the American Republic, founders saw the dangerous consequences of unchecked military power, and sought to balance the threat with public accountability for decision-makers, in a strong press protected by the 1st Amendment.
McChesney also criticized large media corporations for claiming to act in the public’s name while using their powerful lobbying influence to limit media ownership and control.
Kicking off the conference was Seymour Hersh, famous for reporting the My Lai massacre from the Vietnam War, and more recently recognized for breaking the inmate abuse story at Abu Ghraib.
Hersh claimed the Iraq War was increasingly being conducted "off the books" by mercenaries, retired military personnel, and private contractors beyond the scope of accountability.
The Pulitzer-prize winning journalist revisited the Abu Ghraib story, noting how prosecution focused on the prosecuted guards as "bad seeds," while ignoring the possibility of any illicit behavior from higher-ups in the chain of command. Hersh alluded to photographs of inmates engaged in homosexual acts as an intentional violation of Arab cultural precepts, as a "way to the soul of the Arab man."
Hersh highlighted the inaction of the Bush Administration in a timeline which began with photographs of abuse at the prison taken in September, 2003, and culminated in a disk sent up the chain-of-command in January, 2004, which Defense Secretary Rumsfeld called "a catastrophic blow to winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis," should it be made public. Steering responsibility for Abu Ghraib toward Rumsfeld, Hersh claimed the Defense Secretary had been "de-programmed"--judging from a lack of any coherent response to the briefings he'd been through which must have addressed the events at Abu Ghraib.
The Arab world now sees the US as a "sexually perverse society" because of the photos, Hersh said.
The investigative journalist alluded to disturbing recent events in Iraq--including the reconstitution of Saddam's secret police formerly known as the Mukhabarat. As for the January elections in Iraq, Hersh said voting was conducted exclusively along religious and tribal lines, and threatened to cut Iraq into pieces, under militia rule. The US is apparently looking the other way as Kurds assert military control over strategic oil fields in Northern Iraq.
Information has been increasingly hard to come by through traditional sources, Hersh said. Information on targets hit and the quantities of bombs dropped in Iraq has become unavailable since the bombing campaign accelerated in the Fall of 2004, unlike Vietnam, where Hersh said data had been readily available.
Hersh referred to attempts by the US military to limit information on Iraqi casualties in Fallujah, preceding the US attack on the city in November, 2004, as referenced in the English paper The Guardian (1).
According to the accounts of Dr. Ali Fadhil, doctors in Fallujah had been tied up and their cell phones taken, as to prevent casualty data from escaping the US zone of control around the city.
Hersh alluded to many of the current problems in Iraq as the direct result of military action by the US which targeted key Iraqi ministries early in the Occupation. The "machinery of occupation" has undoubtedly contributed to the "insurgency", a term Hersh said had been spun to give the mistaken impression of a US victory, followed by some form of rebellion against a legitimate government--terminology which avoids any notion of resistance to illegitimate foreign occupation.
On the domestic front, Hersh said Bush is convinced that democracy can be brought to Iraq, despite clear indications from his advisers that his goals for the nation are not being achieved. "Body bags aren’t going to stop him," Hersh said, referring to Bush.
Also from the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, we'll note Philip Stinard's "Puerto Rican legislature paralyzed by losing gubernatorial candidate’s quest for power:"
Pedro Rosselló, defeated New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate for Puerto Rican Governor in the November 2004 elections, has brought Puerto Rican Senate business nearly to a standstill in his unrelenting quest for the presidency of that legislative body. The Puerto Rican people rejected Rosselló as governor in the 2004 election, Rosselló was not elected to the Puerto Rican Senate and Rosselló does not have the support of his fellow Senators to be Senate President. However, in Puerto Rican politics, these are just minor inconveniences.
Pedro Rosselló, defeated New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate for Puerto Rican Governor in the November 2004 elections, has brought Puerto Rican Senate business nearly to a standstill in his unrelenting quest for the presidency of that legislative body. After losing a hotly contested election to Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, the former Governor (1993-2001) and NPP President vowed to rule Puerto Rico from the Senate, and he was not content with being "just another Senator," he had to be Senate President. He only had two obstacles in his way: he was not a Senator, and the Senate had already elected a President, NPP Senator Kenneth McClintock.
No stranger to corruption during his previous stint as governor (cabinet members and political associates diverted public funds for AIDS treatment to NPP politicians, used public monies for partisan political activities, sold off public assets to cronies, etc.), Rosselló exercised all of the political pressure at his disposal, cajoling, threatening, and bribing the newly elected Senators from his party in the hopes that one would resign so that he could be appointed in their stead. The pressure paid off, and a Senator from Rosselló’s home district of Arecibo (alleged home district, since Rosselló had recently moved to Puerto Rico from Virginia to run for governor "at the request of the people of Puerto Rico") resigned hours after being sworn in. After Rosselló occupied the empty seat, he expected his party's Senators to lie down at his feet and declare him Senate President, but he had forgotten that he had personally approved McClintock’s presidency at a November 4 party caucus, following the election, but before a winner was declared in the gubernatorial race, and McClintock was not going to give up his position of privilege willingly.
Rosselló used his position as NPP President to convene an assembly of NPP delegates on May 15, and he set the following rules: the delegates were to select the Senate President from between Rosselló and McClintock, and any Senator who did not vote for the President chosen by the assembly would be disciplined, up to and including expulsion from the NPP. The results were a foregone conclusion. McClintock supporters boycotted the assembly, and fewer than 50% of the eligible delegates voted. Among the delegates who did vote, 96% supported Rosselló, and Rosselló declared a mandate for assuming the Senate Presidency. "The people have spoken, and I must obey."
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