We seem to be on the cusp of achieving a truly independent media -- independent from facts, independent from reality, and now, finally, entirely independent from the views of the overwhelming majority of the American people.
Media Matters for America has provided us with an instructive example in a clip from the August 22 edition of Hardball, featuring guest host Norah O’ Donnell, who is also MSNBC’s chief White House correspondent. O’Donnell was interviewing Coleen Rowley, former FBI agent and one of Time magazine’s persons of the year for 2002. Rowley blew the whistle on the FBI’s failure to follow field agent leads prior to 9/11. She’s running for Congress in Minnesota and visited Cindy Sheehan at Camp Casey in Crawford, TX.
O’Donnell came out swinging: “It was reported that Republican leaders in your state were just thrilled that you had decided to align yourself with anti-war extremists.” Let’s stop the tape right there. According to a poll released on August 17, George W. Bush’s approval ratings fell more in Minnesota than in any other state -- a full ten points. That drop presumably had something to do with the “anti-war extremist” in question, namely Cindy Sheehan.
Unlike the majority of career Democrats who go on these shows, Rowley immediately corrected O’Donnell’s unprofessional characterization. “But, Coleen,” O’Donnell snapped back, “they do oppose the war in Iraq, do they not?”
At this point, I can’t even call people like O’Donnell mainstream. They have become state media. There is no way they can deflect Cindy Sheehan’s call for the truth, which only highlights their professional collusion in administration lies, so their only hope is to flip it. Preying on the persecution complexes of the thirty odd percent of the public that still support this proto-fascist regime, the SM are indoctrinating embattled true believers in the theory and practice of extremism.
Of course Fox News takes the lead. Here’s a clip from the Bill O’Reilly show, with the provocative title, “Are you an extremist?” designed for those faithful Fox viewers out there who might, conceivably, be searching their consciences, especially after hearing the Reverend Pat Robertson call for political assassination.
So here goes. You’re an extremist if . . . you think Michael Moore reports accurately. Sorry . . . but you are an extremist if you support the Third Reich. And, yes, Pat Robertson’s comment was in the extreme zone, but those who think that it didn’t matter that Clinton lied in a deposition during the Lewinsky scandal are extreme too. Finally, and most importantly, you’re an extremist if you approve of everything President Bush does; but you’re also an extremist if you oppose everything he does. Fair and balanced.
Notice that O’Reilly substitutes Michael Moore for Cindy Sheehan but reaches the same conclusion as Norah O’Donnell: being against the war in Iraq is an extreme position. Most important of all, O’Reilly never goes near the real core of extremism: lawless violence.
Independent journalist Amy Goodman, host of the invaluable Democracy Now!, properly identifies Pat Robertson in her news reports as a “a rightwing Christian extremist.” Last week, she interviewed Chris Hedges, a former New York Times reporter and author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, who is currently writing a book on the religious right. She asked, “What about the relationship between Pat Robertson and President Bush, and also the way Pat Robertson is treated by the press? When he goes on different programs to comment on different issues, he is very much treated as a kind of elder statesman . . .”
Hedges’ response is that we all ought to be listening to what these madmen are saying:
I think what we are seeing is essentially an attempt at appeasement, an attempt to include these radical figures within the mainstream in the hope that they will be domesticated. [I]t’s a disastrous mistake, because these people are very clear and quite upfront. You know, everyone should listen to their broadcasts. They’re very open about what they want to do to this country and what they want to create. And there is no place in their vision of America for people like you and me.
Like Sean Hannity’s. Click here to view a little segment of his show that Crooks and Liars titles simply “Kill ‘Em All.” Fox expert Wayne Simmons, who is billed as a former CIA agent, talks about Hugo Chavez being a terrorist while we watch video of Chavez cutting ribbons with Fidel Castro. They don’t mention the fact that Chavez was offering cheap gas to poor communities in the US. Simmons says he wouldn’t lose any sleep if “a stray bullet from a hunter in Kentucky finds its way between this guy’s [Chavez’s] eyes.”
But for my money Rush Limbaugh is the rabble-rouser extraordinaire. He exemplifies the Mayberry Machiavelli. And he is weary. He is just so, so, so tired of Cindy Sheehan and her loss; after all, “we all lose things.” It’s classic, Limbaugh says, the way the mainstream media have flipped this whole thing around and tried to make it about George Bush, instead of that nut job Cindy. That’s why W is out there setting the record straight, although Bush’s claim that Sheehan wants to weaken us and doesn’t care about defeating terrorism was a little weak for Rush. He “would have loved a little bit more forcefulness. I would have loved something a bit more direct . . . ” When Limbaugh concluded that it is finally time to start openly questioning the patriotism of “the people on the left,” I found myself wondering if that was a cue, like “time to cut the tall trees.”
These posers speak for and to a segment of society with poor impulse control and no tolerance for ambiguity, people who manage their overwhelming feelings of anxiety and inadequacy with adrenaline and anger, men and women who’ve become addicted to never, ever being wrong -- and if you’re never, ever wrong, you’re justified in taking any actions you deem necessary, especially when you’re just protecting yourself.
In fact, some might call these broadcasts incitement to commit terrorist acts. Certainly the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States, Bernardo Alvarez, sees it that way. He demanded that George Bush guarantee Hugo Chavez’s safety should Chavez appear at the United Nations in the near future and notes, “It’s huge hypocrisy to maintain this discourse against terrorism and at the same time, in the heart of that country, there are entirely terrorist statements like these.”
But we better wake up to the fact that Chavez isn’t the only one being targeted. Chris Hedges on Robertson’s goals:
But what we are seeing is not a kook. What we are seeing is somebody who has this messianic belief that violence and destruction is being carried out against non-believers, against those who do not endorse his radical ideology, and that he is a kind of player, along with God, in the destructive force. . . .
I think we have to understand that this ideology is going to come into play in our own country. And the notion that somehow this kind of call for violence is going to be limited simply to those outside our borders is naïve. What we are talking about is a movement, a very, very increasingly powerful movement that endorses violence as a way to create what they term the Christian society or the Christian nation. And that endorsement of violence, while they’re certainly very clever and careful, is one that is not going to be limited to non-Americans.
And let’s never forget that they’re the ones with the guns.
Patricia Goldsmith is a member of Long Island Media Watch, a grassroots free media and democracy watchdog group. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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