Friday, February 04, 2005

Danny Schechter: Media Dissector (and Ned Martel: Disinformation Guru/Prat)

We've linked to Danny Schechter's Media Dissector (thanks Billy for the making the case for the link -- you were right).

Media Dissector is something I visit often. We do "community member spotlights" (or whatever they're called) and the reason for that is primarily Ms. Magazine. At a time when so many publications were doing these paragraph or two excerts from letters to the publication, Ms. ran full letters and (as I've noted before) the letters in Ms. could frequently be articles.
Ms. has smart readers who are aware. And it built a sense of community if you were a Ms. reader.

But, as Billie (not Billy) pointed out, Danny does a section in each daily blog where he notes e-mails from readers. That probably also impacted the decision to highlight your voices.

What I responded to in Danny's blog was that he wasn't afraid to take on anyone who got it wrong. He truly dissects the media. But it's not just in a campaign sense or a domestic view.
He's interested in the international community and I really responded to that in his entries.

In the dark days of being new to online resources, I had Media Wh*res Online (now gone) , Bartcop and Media Dissector. Between Bartcop and MWO, I learned of BuzzFlash. These were important voices to me. MWO or Bartcop (or a combo) led me to The Daily Howler which became another important voice.

I don't claim to be a computer "expert" or an online guru. I was lucky enough to be tipped off and that's what I hope we'll do here. That we'll share resources. Cedric might know a site that you or I don't. Sally might suggest something that some of us didn't know was out there. And we need to share with one another because there's not "one voice."

You saw the lists of books and the list of movies. (Remember, Eli's suggested we pick our favorite song -- that's one song -- and that will hopefully be going up Sunday.) With the movies, over a hundred community members weighed in and wanted to be quoted. Look at that list and look at the various films on it. What meant the world to one person, might not to someone else.
But maybe you saw a film on the list you'd never heard of or had heard of but never seen and you watched it and thought, 'That was pretty good, I really liked it."

That's what we do here, we share, we pool resources. And you might not care for BuzzFlash (I can't remember anyone complaining about BuzzFlash which is why I chose it for this example), but someone else might. And to repeat again, we never ever want to be in a position of feeling that we are alone, that we're the only ones who feel that way. (We've discussed this at length and recently quoted Noam Chomsky on this issue.) We don't need to feel we're in the wilderness all alone.

So with that in mind, I would urge you to check out Danny's blog. It's one of my favorites (friends can attest it's one I often e-mail out). He's an important voice and firmly believes in justice -- that's media justice, that's social justice.

And when I saw that review in the New York Times today, I wanted to leave work, come home and tear the Times a new one. (Thanks to Kara and Roy for the heads up because the arts section is so consistently disappointing that I often don't even bother to read it lately. I wouldn't have seen the "review" without your heads up.)

Let's talk about the "review."

Ned Martel's "Turning a Critical Lens on Television News" truly disgusted me. Not because he didn't like the movie. I loved WMD. But maybe it didn't speak to Martel. That's fine. He's entitled to say so. But he's not allowed to get it so wrong in the "paper of record."

It seems that the media gadfly Danny Schechter took one look at "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Roger and Me" and thought to himself, "I can do that."

Does it seem that way to you, Martel? WMD apparently is new to you. It's not new to me. I may have seen it prior to Moore's film. (That time period is a blur of activity.) It's "new" to you because it finally opened in New York City. But you reveal a huge ignorance if you truly think Schecter saw Farenheit 9/11 and quickly assembled a film -- and ignorance of both the history of WMD itself and an ignorance of the "pipeline" aspect of film making.

(Of course Martel uses "seems.")

Martel's b*tchy writing is a little surprising popping up in the Times (his use of the term "self-anointed" is the sort of 'b*tchy' writing that one expects from John Simon).

We've dealt with Martel's gross ignorance of Schechter's work (decades) highlighting the problems in South Africa (at a time when the Reagan administration wouldn't even impose sanctions). Had Schechter spotted Nelson Mandela, chances are they too would have greeted one another warmly. But Martel's ignorant of Schechter's work and he embarrasses himself with a cheap shot that not only reveals his ignorance, but also makes you question whether he caught the entire film.

I want to focus on the final paragraph because it goes to a huge problem with the New York Times:

Mr. Schechter's final conspiracy theories are thinly supported, as he accuses the networks of softening coverage to advance the deregulatory goals of corporate parents. He asserts that powerful media leaders identify with powerful government leaders. Then as evidence, the film quotes the CBS anchor Dan Rather offering "the benefit of any doubt" to the White House and the Pentagon, just after Sept. 11, 2001, although that was obviously not the entire history of Mr. Rather's relationship with the Bushes.

"Conspiracy theories" is a favorite catch phrase for the gatekeeper of record. And it's probably not a good time for Martel to be coming off like a gatekeeper.

We could talk about the Times' lack of coverage of Metro Boston or we could talk about Starbucks & the Times. But let's focus on another issue.

Have you checked out the latest edition of Extra!?

"The Emperor's New Hump: The New York Times killed a story that could have changed the election—because it could have changed the election" by Dave Lindorff is a story worth reading.

Not only did the Times kill the story but they went out of the way to gloss over it after the fact.
Yes, people, that means it was time to send in the Elite Fluff Patrol squadron leader: Elisabeth Bumiller. Read the article. Find out that reporters researched the issue, wanted to run the story, but it got killed. More importantly, after it was killed, EFP squad leader rushes in with her usual fluff.

The Times may very well have felt it was "too close" to an election to run a damaging story. I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case (they don't break news). But it's not just that they killed off the story, it's that fluffed up the truth via Bumiller (among others). After they knew the truth, they were still fine with printing untruths.

What sort of term did they toss around for those commenting (elsewhere, of course, not in the paper of record) "bulge gate"? "Political conspiracists." They just love that term at the Times whenever something makes them uncomfortable. They really glom on it. (They're not the only ones. Another post tonight will deal with that.)

Let's highlight the Elite Fluff Patrol squadron leader (as noted in Extra!):

The only subsequent reference to the bulge was a light post-election piece by Times Washington reporter Elizabeth Bumiller (11/8/04), who cited the anonymously sourced Hill story saying the bulge was body armor (an odd decision by the Times, which officially frowns on unidentified sources even for its own pieces). She reported that the White House tailor was miffed at having earlier been blamed for the bulge by the White House.

But she didn't report what the paper's own reporters (John Schwartz and Andrew Revkin) believed, did she?

Martel's rush to toss stones only makes WMD more impressive. The Times generally only rushes over to slam the gate when they're quaking in their timid booties.

Let's quote from Martel's paragraph above one more time:

He asserts that powerful media leaders identify with powerful government leaders. Then as evidence, the film quotes the CBS anchor Dan Rather offering "the benefit of any doubt" to the White House and the Pentagon, just after Sept. 11, 2001, although that was obviously not the entire history of Mr. Rather's relationship with the Bushes.

Schechter, according to Martel, "asserts the powerful media leaders identify with powerful government leaders. Then as, evidence, the film quotes the CBS anchor Dan Rather . . ."


Does it now?

Martel apparently slept through the first part of the movie (Danny's reporting on South Africa is mentioned early on) but Dan Rather's quote? Does it really come after such a suggestion?

Shall we go to the final script of WMD? (Yes, we shall.)

Danny v.o.: Much of the coverage fueld demands for retaliation [9-11 coverage]. There was often more debate in the streets than on TV. Many networks said they didn't want to get ahead of public opinion, or be baited as soft on terrorism.

[This voice over goes on over a protest at Ground Zero.]

Activist: The same hatred that killed so many people.
Woman: They don't love me and I don't love them, okay.
Activist: Love thy neighbor?
Woman: They don't love me and I don't love them.
Activist: Well I love them.

Danny v.o.: This confrontation at Ground Zero in New York shows what happened when a peace activist called for global understanding:

Older woman: What about us? Do you care about every human being here?
Young man: It's September 11, you're at Ground Zero.
Young woman: If they do something to us, we're not going to nothing back? We're not going to do nothin' back?
Activist: They didn't do anything. Iraq did not do sh*t to America.
Activist: So you're saying it's okay to kill innocent people.
Another man: Listen. If it's for a better good. Let's do it.
Third man's friend: Yeah I volunteered. You know why?
Third man's friend: "To keep your ass free." To keep your hippie ass free, he puts on the line.

Peter Arnett: Don't forget the American media is based in NYC. Every reporter in NYC saw the World Trade Towers collapse -- they took it personally. There was a sense of revenge and fear, and that was reflected in the coverage of Afghanistan War and the War on Terrorism.

Dan Rather: We may be wrong in some of the things we pass along . . .

Danny v.o.: CBS's Dan Rather September 22, 2001: "I am willing to give the president and the military the benefit of any doubt."

Peter Arnett: As we moved into Iraq, a more pre-emptive strike, the media maintained this sort of romance, you might say, with government.

Eric Alterman: But the fact that they allowed the Bush administration to manipulate the truth so grossly and so nakedly in the run up to the war made the war possible.

A romance, suggested by Arnett, is not "identify"ing.

My thesaurus doesn't suggest an equivalence. (For Martel's benefit, "thesaurus" isn't a sex toy.)
Maybe it's a slip, a confession, on Martel's part? Maybe Martel's one sided romance feels more noble to him when he calls it "identifying?"

Regardless, he doesn't know what he's talking about.

He's slamming for the sake of slamming.

And his self-importance may be so great that he may assume that since it just opened in NYC, he can get away with it. It's not a movie (or a play) until it debuts in NYC, apparently.

But Maria saw the film and e-mailed this:

He's not reviewing the film I saw. I don't know what he saw. But it was not Weapons of Mass Deception because he has lied about the narrative. Why does he have to lie? Why does the paper have to print this? A student showed me this review and she was so upset. She said, "He's just lying." You mentioned how the spin on the poll about students not trusting the media was that it was the result of Rush Limbaugh and others. That is spin, you are right, the reason they don't trust the media is because they do these petty, mean spirited, lie based reviews. What the media fails to grasp is how fast information travels now and that people no longer fail to notice when they're being lied to or managed. This isn't a review, this is an attack.

That's exactly what it is. And I would urge everyone to see this film because when a reviewer for the Times is so bothered by a film that he has to lie about it in print, that's a sign of how powerful the film is.

By the way, Dan Rather's quote? It's from September 22, 2001. Here he is (from the BBC) on June 6, 2002 on why the media doesn't ask the tough questions:

It's an obscene comparison but there was a time in South Africa when people would put flaming tyres around people's necks if they dissented. In some ways, the fear is that you will be neck-laced here, you will have a flaming tyre of lack of patriotism put around your neck. It's that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions and to continue to bore-in on the tough questions so often. Again, I'm humbled to say I do not except myself from this criticism.

Read that quote again because Charlie Rose got his panties in a wad when Amy Goodman quoted it on The Charlie Rose Show. He told Goodman "It's wrong to impugn their integrity." To which Goodman responded, "I was just quoting Dan Rather." [Exception to the Rulers, pp. 163-167.]

So read it to make sure you're more informed than Charlie Rose (who didn't "doubt" the quote, didn't "question" Goodman's "source"). And read it again to make sure you are apparently more informed than Martel who feels that something's left out by Danny quoting Rather ("the entire history").

Martel's a prat and his work can be found online at Rotten Tomatoes. Somehow, that's rather appropriate.
Disclosure, I've met Danny Schechter.
Community members know I'm dyslexic so they won't be surprised that he's referred to as "Danny" so often. (When I type Schechter, I have to stop and study to make sure I got it right.)
The script for WMD can be found at ColdType online. Along with many other articles and books and thanks to Maria for passing that on in an e-mail today.
The Daily Howler and BuzzFlash are permalinks. WARNING LANGUAGE FLAG coming up -- Bartcop isn't (yet). There may be language issues or photo issues if you're viewing it in a work place environment. You've been warned about the language, but otherwise check it out to see if it's something that speaks to you.
Lastly, there's no great writing in this post so focus on the points and rewrite in your heads. My stomach truly is hurting and I'm kind of hoping when I hit "publish post" that it will release all the turmoil I feel over Martel's ill informed review.
[Note: This post has been corrected for some -- though not all -- grammer and spelling errors. As always, thanks go to Shirley for catching them.]