Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ruth's Report

Ruth: I have two questions this weekend. The first is can someone please tell me who the modern day equivalent to Joan Baez is? The second is how do we get her to marry Ricky Clousing, Ehren Watada or Mark Wilkerson?

The reason I ask is because I can remember "back in the day." I lived through it. Outside of a few brave radio programs, I would not even say "brave radio stations," we did not have anything like the speed with which information travels today. But, in our alternative monthlies and weeklies, we could count on reading about war resisters. Again, thanks to a few brave radio programs, we could actually hear about them as things happened.

Today, information can move so much faster so why is it that so little of it is worthwhile?

I enjoyed Shawshank Redemption and The Player; however, I really did not need to hear about Tim Robbins' new "based on a real story" movie on Friday. Last Friday, the biggest news in the alternative media should have included Ricky Clousing's court-martial and sentencing that took place the day before.

But there was an interview with Tim Robbins, more in depth than the one with Matt Lauer a few years back that ended abruptly, and, later, the program was rounded out with the airing of a two-year-old interview with Desmond Tutu. I will assume someone thought that gave the episode of Democracy Now! a theme: South Africa. As Amy Goodman rushed to the airport, doing pledge pitches over the cell phone, it struck me as though the themes were "Hastily Put Together" and "Fluff." The program's broadcast, like the pitch that followed ("I'm entering a tunnel") struck me as rushed.

Ricky Clousing served in Iraq, came back to this country and decided he could not fight in a war he now saw as illegal. He left the military with a note quoting the late Dr. Martin Luther King. From June 2005 until August of this year, he was AWOL. He emerged at the Veterans for Peace Conference in Seattle to announce that he was turning himself in and that he was not going back to Iraq.

In what now feels like a Dateline special, Amy Goodman interviewed him. It was, we were told, an important story and one, we were told, that would continue to be followed. "Followed" ended up being four lines:

In an update on a story we've been following, Iraq war resister Sgt. Ricky Clousing has been sentenced to three months of confinement for going absent without leave. Sgt. Clousing went AWOL after returning from Iraq in April 2005.

Those four lines were the sixteenth of seventeen headlines. "Following"?

That was it the whole week. There was no coverage of it prior to Friday. There was no interview with his attorney, no roundtable on war resisters and what going public might mean for the anti-war movement, no advance notice of the fact that Sgt. Clousing would be speaking on Thursday before the court-martial or that there would be a rally for him after.

That same Friday, The New York Times ran Laurie Goodstein's "A Soldier Hoped to Do Good, but Was Changed by War" on Sgt. Clousing but "the war and peace report" was promoting a movie? For approximately forty minutes they were promoting a film that was not a documentary but entertainment?

C.I.'s said it and I will concur, "It's not good enough."

I knew I was going to note Ricky Clousing this weekend but I was not sure in what context. I had a shorter version of this column that I pulled Saturday evening when I started reading the e-mails from members and saw that they wanted this topic addressed. I checked with all my grandchildren and the response was either "Go for it" or that this is the best we can hope for.

This is the best we can hope for?

Ms. Goodman gets no pass from me. No pass when she has pitched all week asking listeners to donate because we need an independent media. We do need an independent media but we do not need it to know what will be playing at our local cinemas. We need a "war and peace report," but one that addresses today. In peace news, there was no bigger story on Friday than Sgt. Clousing. Obviously, The New York Times felt it was news because they actually ran a story on him, something they did not do with Darrell Anderson the week before.

It is not good enough and we should not be settling for it. Neither Mark Wilkerson nor his civilian attorney has been interviewed by Democracy Now! to this day. They did do a one-day segment where they aired his press conference.

When I went through the e-mails Saturday afternoon, I saw that a number were noting a guest for Monday's Democracy Now!. As the grandmother of several teenagers, I will take comfort in the fact that he will be away from the computer while being interviewed but I will puzzle over the need of the same left that decries Mark Foley to continue to prop up that man.

In my day, a "morals charge" meant you were no longer being quoted in the press, no longer being sought by the media as a respectable source. Apparently, the fact that Judith Miller did not care for the man and undermined his chances to be sought out by The New York Times is supposed to make him the friend of the left. I am reminded of a TV review Ava and C.I. did where they concluded with: "But we're back to the question of whether or not the enemy of my enemy is my friend? Possibly. But we don't accept, as a rule, that the enemy of our enemy is our friend. Sometimes, it's just another enemy."

The New York Daily News, the paper of Ms. Goodman's co-host Juan Gonzales, reported in January 2003, "He was arrested by Colonie Police in June 2001 on a misdemeanor charge after he allegedly had a sexual discussion on the Internet with an undercover investigator he thought was an underage girl, law enforcement sources disclosed on condition of anonymity." Was the story false?

There has been no correction added to it. Others reported it as well. Some reported there were two arrests for the same predatory behavior. If you are going to make Mark Foley's actions an issue, and Democracy Now! devoted a lengthy segment to recapping what ABC news had reported, then why is it that this is not an issue? Possibly Mark Foley will be given a deal where, if he avoids doing anything for six months, his record will be expunged and he can hide behind that if he is ever asked about?

I have no idea. I do know that I will not be buying the book of Monday's guest and I have no idea why the same programs that wanted to cover "Pagegate" is happy to invite on a man who was arrested, possibly twice, for what was reported as seeking out underage females online for sexual encounters? Elaine called it hypocrisy and I will agree with that. I will also ask what is going on with women that they will happily book that man on their programs? Do they remember being fourteen? If so, what are they thinking when they speak to him?

If I had a program, I would never interview him. His arrest, or arrests, and refusal to discuss them make him suspect in my book. I would worry that, if I paid for his travel and something happened on his trip, I would be responsible in some moral way. I would also worry, that by having him on my program and speaking to him as though he were a trusted voice, I would give the impression to any young girls in my audience that he had my stamp of approval and, if approached by him, they should go along.

But mainly I would worry about the charges of hypocrisy that would be leveled at me and wonder if, when Democrats may be making some headway in the polls as a result of "Pagegate," if the smartest thing for me to do was to present another apparent sexual predator as a respectable guest? I would also be concerned that if I wanted to discuss issues such as rape or abuse of woman, I would have given up that right to be taken seriously as a result of booking such a person as a guest.

But he can be, and will be, on Democracy Now! again and again. He was an "expert" on Iraq, now he's an "expert" on Iran. So he can make yet another appearance. The war resisters? They are limited to one appearance apparently.

Fourteen-years-old. Not sixteen or over sixteen. Not 'nearly' eighteen. Fourteen-years-old. I would use the term pedophile to describe any man attempting to have a sexual encounter with a fourteen-year-old. He stated on CNN, "I'm not asking for forgiveness." Well, I am not granting any. I would not be surprised by men granting some, the "old boys network" long existed to cover up 'misdeeds.' But feminists broke the taboos on discussing rape, incest, sexual abuse of women and children, and domestic abuse. In fact The Feminist Majority Foundation provides a resource page for those needing help with sexual abuse.

This was not something we talked about prior to the second wave of feminism. Problems like that were considered "bad luck." Feminism gave a name to those problems and provided a space where the victims could speak about what was done to them. So it is distressing to me, that today, any woman would book that man as a guest on her show.

As he is presented as 'respectable,' we lose out on other voices. Which brings me back to my original point: Do we need someone of Joan Baez's stature to garner serious attention to war resisters?

Was David Harris only covered by the press, including the mainstream, because he was married to Ms. Baez? I hope not but I have no idea why war resisters cannot receive the attention they have earned and deserve from independent media. I also have no idea why a man who was reportedly busted twice for seeking out underage females for sexual acts continues to be presented as a trusted and respectable voice. If alternative media had a John Dean, he might advise them that there is a cancer on their outlets.

Ironicallly enough, three headlines prior to news of Sgt. Clousing on Friday's Democracy Now! was an item about a man in a hospital after being lured online to meet up for sex. I seriously doubt that will come up in Monday's interview.