Thursday, October 05, 2006

Community note

To the left is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Bully Boy George" where he draws Bully Boy with vintage Boy George hair singing:

I'm a man without conviction
I'm a man who doesn't know
My blood lust is an addition
You come and go
You come and go
Comma, comma, comma, comma, comma quagmire
They come and go
They come and go

If you missed the 'memo,' we're not supposed to use "quagmire." The memo came from someone who wrote a wonderful book, a lengthy one and reduced 'quagmire' to two pages (in quotes on both) and raised no concerns about it. Isaiah saw the memo and e-mailed apologizing for using it.

There's no reason to. It is a quagmire for the US. And 'qu' and 'c' work together. Some people need to try addressing real things.

Is it a quagmire for Iraq? No, it's a tragedy, it's an injustice and no one needed a 'lecture' on that. They could have used a 'memo' on Darrell Anderson but hey, when you can write about Abeer, maybe it's better to waste your time and everyone else with 'tonal' arguments. We didn't highlight the 'memo' and we never will. I read it and thought, "Gee, thanks for the lecture. If it matters so much to you, why didn't you put it in your most recent book?" Then I got Isaiah's e-mail.

Everyone processes as they go along. That someone had a realization post-book isn't a problem. That someone wants to issue the memo and tell everyone how to speak and what words to use is.

Supposedly "quagmire" doesn't acknowledge the Iraqi side and blah, blah, blah. Get real. Iraq is a sink hole and the illegal war turned it into that. The brain drain and flight further prove that. Instead of getting all worked up over the use of the term (which is accurate), try spending that time doing something productive. This has to be the most embarrassing moment for ___ since the e-mail to Pacifica a few years back to object to an offering during a pledge drive. Really, aren't there more pressing issues going on?

And if Iraq is a top concern, don't take the summer off and show up aftewards to lecture people. It was Robin Morgan and not ___ who weighed on Abeer. (Off Our Backs does in their current issue.) Another big story (or should be) from recent months is the the growing resistance in the military (we mean the war resisters not 'general revolt!'). That didn't get commented on either in "Now I Will Return To The Topic Of Iraq."

If all you have to offer is to split hairs over terminology, go back to your vacation from Iraq because you have nothing to offer the current debate. I e-mailed Isaiah back and told him his comic was hilarious and that I loved it. I knew we had to address this at some point. Then Lloyd e-mailed about an article in the Washington Post that he wanted highlighted. He added that he thought it would pair up well with Isaiah's comic but worried about the 'memo.' (That's how members have referred to that slop-ed. I call it "slop-ed" because it was the most useless piece of bottom feeding gas bag that if ___ spent more than three minutes on it, I would be both surprised and worried.)

I like ___ but no one is gospel. And when someone wants to make word arguments they usually lose me. (Although we're considering a feature -- one we've written and then rewrote and now are holding for more revelations -- at The Third Estate Sunday Review that addresses terms being used wrongly. In that instance, the terms are hurtful. They inflate reality. We may not offer it. We thought we could grab it early on and be ahead of the game for the next edition but revelations continue to change it.) After taking a summer off from Iraq to return to the topic with a tone argument is crap. Others didn't take the summer off. They didn't rush to the 'hot' topic or disappear. For someone who did to critique the use a word (one he didn't crtique in his book) at this late date seems like the well's running dry.

Websters defines "quagmire" as "a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position." (That's their second definition.) That is Iraq. It's Iraq for foreigners, it's Iraq for Iraqis (on the latter see "precarious" which more than describes a country that is either in civil war or on the brink of it -- regardless of whom is egging it on). We don't take talking points here, we don't listen to memos. I should have commented when it first went up but Rebecca will tell you I am loathe to critize ____. Not addressing the slop-ed sooner was a mistake on my part -- making a personal call when I should have made the call that was best for the community.

That Lloyd has to worry that I might not note Isaiah's comic (which I loved, for the record) because a 'memo' went out demonstrates I should have already addressed this. It's a slop-ed. It's sloppy, it's useless and if you haven't written about Abeer don't you dare lecture anyone on how their terms might not be taking in the realities for Iraqis.

I'm very serious about that. Abeer was not discussed, was not addressed and the bulk of our 'voices' were gas bagging all summer long about Israel's actions. They couldn't cover more than one topic and they let Iraq fall off the radar. Now, all this time later, they suddenly care about Iraq again and want to lecture people on what terms to use?

Nobody needs the memo, the lecture, the talking point. It's flat out wrong about what "quagmire" means and doesn't mean. The slop-ed served no purpose. We didn't highlight it here but when it was first noted in e-mails, I should have noted here that we should all ignore it. I replied to e-mails on the topic and thought that covered it, obviously that's not the case.

No one is gospel. (Including me, which is why in the previous entry, I clearly noted what was my personal opinion.) If someone's upset that 'quagmire' has become a popular terminology then maybe they shouldn't have dropped Iraq like a hot potato over the summer? If someone wants to write about Iraq after a long absence, maybe the place to start was with war resisters since they were news and Darrell Anderson was turning himself in on Tuesday?

Instead, we get a lecture about a word (that is linguistically correct). No one needs a lecture and it's as laughable as the bullying attempt (which is what it was) of e-mailing to Pacifica to tell them to pull a premium they were offering as during a pledge drive. (They continue to offer similar items and enough listeners enjoy them to pledge large amounts to recieve them. Pacifica is listener sponsored. You have an objection to something aired, critique it. Don't write them to get them to pull premiums -- that's so juvenile and it's so anti-free speech.)

Leaving parenthtical, anti-free speech is what the slop-ed was. People were using a term (quagmire) that was correctly used and the slop-ed lectured that it was hurtful and unfeeling to Iraqis. One could argue abandoning Iraq all summer long was much more hurtful and unfeeling to Iraq than a word choice.

For the record, there are two times I've strongly disagree with ____, the e-mail to Pacifica and now the slop-ed. No one is gospel and when someone wants to offer up lectures on a topic they've been silent on for months (and on a term they use themselves in their most recent book), they really would benefit all by finding another topic to write about. You had a whole book to address it and you didn't. As I remember it, the term appears as ['quagmire'] on two pages. If you're offended that it's being used now, you should have addressed it then.

More importantly, once a word is in popular usage, it's in there. It's laughable to try to change it. It's not fair that Glen King will forever be known as "Rodney King" but that's the way it works once a word or words get traction. And, as already stated, the word is linguistically correct.

Before we get to Lloyd's highlight, so much space has already passed that it will wait a bit more, let's note Rebecca's "if i were pbs, i'd ask, 'who are you to criticize?'" which seven members e-mailed to highlight. FAIR has rightly criticized PBS's NewsHour for many things including the failure to present a peace actvist (anti-war is their term) during a six month period.

The response has been a lot of laughter at FAIR. I like FAIR. But the laughter is earned, as Rebecca points out, and as calls have pointed out. Some in the press are laughing their butts off at this study of October 2005 to March 2006 while they note that FAIR's own weekly radio program CounterSpin (which FAIR can invite any guest they want onto) hasn't included a peace activist. They haven't had on Medea Benjamin, they haven't had on anyone.

Should they have? Yes, and that's a point we've made here and that others have made at other community sites for months. When independent media doesn't cover the peace movement, it can't finger point at big media for not covering it. FAIR argues that the peace movement does deserve coverage and I agree completely. But you can't argue that and not have people laugh at you if you don't cover the peace movement. CounterSpin has thirty minutes each week and it's had no interest in the peace movement. Unless they devote the program to one guest (such as intellectual Noam Chomsky who would not be classified as a "peace activist"), they present two guests each week. They examine what's being covered and what's not being covered by the media.

FAIR argues (not just in this study) that the peace movement isn't covered by mainstream media. They are correct. But their own show hasn't brought on peace activists in the same period to speak of how they aren't getting coverage in mainstream media.

It's like a pot luck dinner was thrown and FAIR showed up and critiqued all the dishes brought but FAIR showed up empty handed. No one's going to say, "You're right! That dish does have too much salt in it! And this one is over cooked! And that one . . " They're going to say, "Excuse me, you didn't even a bring a dish." And they're going to be right to say that.

That's why CounterSpin should have gotten its act together some time ago. And they're not the only ones. A number of speeches are being given right now about the importance of Iraq and they're falling on deaf ears because Iraq has not been covered by the ones making the speeches. The word being tossed around is hypocrisy.

Among the people who called yesterday was a friend at PBS and I asked, "Why don't you tell that to higher ups and get them to issue a statement?" (For the record, Rebecca and my mutal friend did honor his promise and not call me about it until today. But I had already heard from others at CBS and other outlets about how laughable it was that FAIR was critiquing the NewsHour for, among other things, not providing peace activists as guests.)

It's glass houses time. CounterSpin's been off on everything but Iraq for most of the summer. It's been as aside or we could go back over how the war was sold or it's first years of the invasion, we could even hear, on Counterspin, someone laughably labeled a "liberal" by a guest who was quite serious and it wasn't corrected. The person labeled isn't a liberal and has stated that over and over publicly.

On Monday's Democracy Now!, Bill Moyers mistakenly referred to an organization. It was the sort of mistake that can happen to anyone. Amy Goodman clarified it and everyone was able to move on. That doesn't happen on CounterSpin. Speaking off the top of your head, we will all make mistakes like that. It's the job of the person listening and interviewing to catch them and correct them the way Goodman did Monday. That's not a slam at Moyers. He was covering a historical period twenty years prior and I would have made a similar mistake just discussing this year. That is to say, you do what Goodman did. You don't just sit there and say "uh-huh" when someone is identified as a liberal who is not a liberal and publicly explains that over and over -- so that you get the point quickly, he's not a liberal and he doesn't want to be called a liberal.

But that happens all the time. Now there's a line that needs to be considered, sure. You're not trying to argue with someone whose opinion you're seeking. But you can handle it very quickly by just stating, "For the record, ___ doesn't consider himself a liberal." You can even chuckle after that statement if you feel it's too "edgy." (The guest in question probably would have immediately, no chuckle required, stated he had mispoken. Noting that ___ wasn't even a liberal actually would have strengthened the argument the guest was making. He was pulling from three main topics during that section of the interview and short handing on the spot. It was a mistake and one that can happen very easily. The interviewer not catching it is something more than a casual mistake.)

FAIR's study is a serious study. It should be greeted seriously. But the reaction to it among some of the press is just to laugh and ask who is FAIR to point fingers considering CounterSpin? (I believe I've noted this before, but their women-to-male ratios were already being laughed at since they only criticize some aspects of the media. If members are confused, think of your complaints about how you could listen to ___ and hear a female guest maybe once a week while getting fifteen male guests and forget about hearing from persons of color.)

That was the danger, and Rebecca's noted it much more than I have, involved with recent 'choices' by CounterSpin. Their refusal to question to the 'reporting' of Dexter Filkins (even after the Washington Post article), their refusal to book peace activists, their inability to find a female guest worthy of dispensing with the headlines-guest-guest format although they've been able to do so this summer alone with two White Male guests.

Alice Walker has spoken and written many times explaining that her novels are a way to create a more just world. She doesn't just do that with critiques. She presents voices that she believes should be heard. She presents a range that she believes needs to be heard. CounterSpin should operate from the same base but doesn't.

I can (and do) listen and I can laugh at the one-liners (as I assume many do) but I'm not in the press (by choice). If you're in the press and you check out the show regularly (and many do -- though most now listen to laugh at it), that's FAIR's program and you're going to take any criticism from FAIR about your work or your outlet's work and evaluate that against how FAIR chooses to operate a radio program that they have control of. Which is why, last night, I heard all about how few female guests CounterSpin has had and how few people of color have been guests and how no peace activists were presented by FAIR during that time period. (And someone in cable pointed out, "They better not try to weasel out of that by pointing to a media critic opposed to the war. They use 'anti-war activist' in their study.")

CounterSpin is a half-hour look at the press each week and maybe some think it should get a pass but the truth is the people FAIR is critiquing takes those critiques and sees how well CounterSpin lives up to the goals and aims of FAIR. As was pointed out by a friend at NPR, CounterSpin doesn't even book guests from the right. They shouldn't. They have no need to. That's not the point that was being made. The point was that while X number of spots may have to be reserved for NPR in the argument of "balance" for the right, CounterSpin doesn't operate under that. So they can offer whomever they want. (From the left.) And yet, even with that provision, they're not even meeting the aims that FAIR supports regarding gender and color diversity.

That's a serious critique. And CounterSpin is undercutting FAIR's effectiveness with the mainstream they're attempting to influence.

I'm biting my tongue on about three issues because we plan to address them at The Third Estate Sunday Review. So let's move on. Lloyd's highlight. From Peter Baker's "'Just a Comma' Becomes Part of Iraq Debate" (Washington Post):

The comma remark, though, offers an especially intriguing case study in how a few words can trigger many interpretations. Bush used it in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer aired on Sept. 24 in talking about Iraq. He noted the bloodshed shown on television but hailed the resiliency of the Iraqi people and cited the election last December in which 12 million came to the polls despite the violence.
"Admittedly, it seems like a decade ago," Bush went on. "I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is -- my point is, there's a strong will for democracy." The president used a similar line at a campaign event last week in Alabama and again on Tuesday in Stockton, Calif.
Critics of Bush began e-mailing and blogging about the remark within minutes of the CNN interview. The Carpetbagger Report blog called it stunning "even by Bush's already-low standards" and added: "Everything we're seeing is 'just a comma.' I'm sure that will bring comfort to the families of those who have sacrificed so much for Bush's mistakes."

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