Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ruth's Report

Ruth: This morning, I saw C.I.'s heads up to Ivan Brobeck. A part of me wanted to believe that this would be the day independent media got its act together, the day they covered Iraq and Iraq related topics as if they mattered. After all, on top of every other angle, Mr. Brobeck was returning on election day and had released an open letter to the Bully Boy. As the day passed and Mr. Brobeck did not get mentioned, I realized that not only had nothing to changed but it probably would not. On KPFA's The Morning Show, in the news breaks, there was repeated steering to Democracy Now! for other stories. I guess the interview that Nora Barrows Friedman had done with Mr. Brobeck on Flashpoints the night before was of no interest? Ms. Barrows Friedman had the only radio interview with Mr. Brobeck that he was going to do before turning himself in. To this old woman, that sounds like "exclusive" and certainly something worth promoting since KPFA produces Flashpoints. A mention, or, as the 'kids' call it today, a "shout out," would not only have highlighted news, it would have allowed a KPFA show to be promoted to morning listeners who might have missed the broadcast the night before.

As the day continued, I continued to hold out hope that Mr. Brobeck's story was receiving text coverage. Elijah, my grandson, talks, walks and gets into everything these days. There is no time to get online when I am watching him because, along with his increased activity, he seems to require catnaps and long gone are the days when he would tire himself out and then crash for a half-hour or more. My granddaughter Tracey came over shortly after she got out of school. She has study hall in her second to last period so she is online during that time. My first question to her was about who had noted it?

Tracey visits magazine websites, blogs, and other sites. Wrinkling her nose, she asked me if I wanted her to start with the good or the bad? I was weak, I chose the good. So Tracey gave me a list of things she had learned about Ivan Brobeck and then gave me the bad news: all of that was from today's snapshot.

That was bad news, even sad news; however, it was not surprising. Search in vain for news of the fact that U.S. war resister Joshua Key's application for refugee status was turned down by the Canadian immigration board. That is becoming the sad reality of the 'coverage' today. There is Courage to Resist and there is The Common Ills. After that, there is usually not much.

This was the topic of my Friday morning group, the main topic. The majority of those attending are my age or older, yes, there are people older than me. Those able to remember a lively independent press during Vietnam are appalled by what passes for independent coverage today. In our area, the 'alternative' weekly is not worth picking up unless you are headed to the movies and have forgotten a show time. Instead of providing alternative coverage, it provides some form of regional, lifestyle coverage on a good week. The younger members asked for examples and we were able to offer these wide ranging, flowing pieces prompting Sheldon, who is my age, to ask what was the point of "new journalism" if the replacement to it has been "deathless prose"?

The free press, which The Third Estate Sunday Review noted in "The never ending book discussion," was alive then. It no longer is and possibly that is why the leading magazines of the left seem even more disappointing? There is nothing challenging them and there is no alternative to them.

Which led Roma, the youngest in our group, a young mother, to declare that "No Alternative" summed up the country today. She spoke with great passion about how there was no alternative offered to illegal war as the White House began selling it, how there is no alternative to the whims of the small minority that currently rules the country with their one-party control, and how there is no alternative to the "We Can Win" and the "We Would Have Won If Only . . ." coverage that supposedly addresses the illegal war.

We all agreed with that and wondered why the illegal status of the war, like war resister and peace activists, were not seen as topics worthy of coverage?

Remember earlier protests, Naomi offered that the grape boycotts had been sucessful and wondered at what point we needed to call a boycott on the press "in all of its forms"? The problem with that suggestion was that most of us had already done that. When we are rendered invisible in the coverage, we do not seek it out. I have allowed so many subscriptions to lapse and, I fear, The Nation will soon be on that list as well.

Right now, I have continued my late husband's subscription and been able to justify that because my children and grandchildren would read it. Now they flip through and fewer and fewer even bother to flip through. Today, Tracey expressed dismay over the fact that there was nothing on Mr. Brobeck at the magazine's site, that there has been nothing on Mr. Key or Mr. Snyder.

When my last report went up, I did wonder what the reaction would be? Members who e-mailed were in support of my opinions for which I was grateful. The surprise to me was that friends called me to express their agreement as well. Last Friday, our group was joined by six new faces and we will have four more this week. The ten are friends of mine whose feelings can be summed up as follows: "I'm old, I'm tired, I've done my part. But if others are not going to do their part, count me in."

I was speaking with Trina about this and she says that the biggest surprise to her about the discussion group her son Mike and his friends started, a group so successful that it has now split off into five groups, was how often the issue of "Where Is Independent Media?" came up. Mike, of course, wrote the wonderful "War As An After Thought" for Polly's Brew to describe the self-imposed vacation the media took from Iraq this summer. The column was a write up of a speech he had given to the study group before they began splitting up. Trina said they were all crowded into her large living room with additional people in the doorways and hall and there was this excitement that turned to whoops of joy when Mike was delivering his speech. That does not surprise me because Mike is a very good public speaker and because this issue has been the elephant in the room.

I see that more and more as I hear conversations about 2003 and Judith Miller all this time later. The conversations do not address the embed program which was as harmful or specific reporters who certainly did as much damage as Ms. Miller such as Dexter Filkins. What it honestly reminds me of is when my husband took me to a concert by a sixties group in the mid-seventies. We were parents by then. It was very rare that we had "couple time." It was a group we enjoyed but not one we loved. But the group had enough songs we knew and enjoyed to get us excited.

What we saw was something like a Sha-Na-Na revival. It was pure nostalgia and we left within thirty minutes of the concert starting. We were both huge music fans, and my husband was in a band himself during college, though he dropped out when he started med school. But it was a rehash, they were just walking through what had once gotten cheers and the polite applause resulted from recognition, not from passion.

I feel that is a good summary of anyone who wants to offer Iraq criticism today that ends with what Ms. Miller did. It was a proven crowd pleaser once, so they trot it out. But we have heard the stories and we are aware of so much more that has occurred since then. Instead of exploring that, the rare Iraq coverage we get is "Oldies."

ivan brobeck
nora barrows friedman

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