Monday, September 19, 2005

Hooray for Pallywood!

My gosh -- has it been nearly two weeks? Sorry for the lack of posts.

I'm sure you will all forgive me, however, after I direct you to your own private screening of "Pallywood," a new documentary showing how Palestinians stage casualties for the benefit of a gullible (at best) Western media. Not surprisingly, 60 Minutes and the French co-star in the role of "useful idiots." A not-dead Palestinian has a great cameo as "dead Palestinian." The 20-minute documentary is freely available for download at a great site, The Second Draft. More info here, here, and here (h/t: Belmont Club).

Now, here's the interesting twist: CBS has just started a new "blog" (I use the scare-quotes because: a) it's likely to be just a post-Rather corporate CYA maneuver; b) they only allow readers to make comments of 500 characters (!) or less. The test of their sincerity and openness may come in the next few days, when they sponsor a Q&A with "60 Minutes" Producer Rome Hartman. So far, I am the only reader to have submitted a question publicly online, and I submitted a longer (>500 characters!) version in an email (slightly redacted below):
Dear Mr. Hartman,

How often do you rely on foreign stringers or videographers with a fighting interest in a conflict? Please respond to the "Pallywood" documentary ( which demonstrates how 60 Minutes was duped by staged Palestinian "casualties." Similar charges have been raised about Iraqi photogs who seem to "coincidentally" find themselves at the location of terrorist attacks.

As I wrote in response to the Public Eye's
piece on the detention of CBS Iraqi stringer Ameer Younis Hussein, there are serious ethical issues involved in working with foreign stringers. In fact, I think there is a serious risk that the MSM could find itself unwittingly abetting terrorism. There are two key ingredients to successful terrorism: 1) the explosion itself, which is propaganda-of-the-deed, and 2) someone able to capture this propaganda on film and willing to broadcast it to the world, to instill fear and despair. As documented by the Belmont Club, there have been far too many instances of unnamed Iraqi "stringers" potentially being enemy operatives. CBS and other American MSM have not taken this risk at all seriously.

Thank you again for your new forum.



Let's see if, and how, they respond.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

NY Times Disses Eerily Prescient Blogger

Greetings Luskinites and TimesWatchers!

No time for a long entry tonight, but I thought you would enjoy this correction (scroll all the way down). In the context of a largely positive article about blogger Brendan Loy, who issued a series of increasingly urgent warnings about Katrina days before the storm hit the coast, the Times managed to (inadvertently, I assume?) diss his fiancee:

An article in Business Day about Brendon Loy, the Notre Dame student who was one of the earliest to sound the alarm about the potential threat to New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina, misstated the name of Mr. Loy's dog. It is Robbie, not Becky (which is his fiancée's name).

While that is merely amusing, I was not quite as happy about the lede:
One of the earliest and perhaps clearest alarms about Hurricane Katrina's potential threat to New Orleans was sounded not by the Weather Channel or a government agency but by a self-described weather nerd sitting on a couch in Indiana with a laptop computer and a remote control.
Now, what other major institution failed to sound the alarm, but is somehow not mentioned here? Hmmmm.....

Sunday, September 04, 2005

NY Times: Eerily Non-prescient

In the post-Katrina blame game, much has been made of the eerily prescient articles in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Scientific American, predicting with deadly accuracy the disaster awaiting New Orleans. No less an authority than the New York Times' famed meteorologist Maureen Dowd, with her trademark blend of mature insight, clever wordplay, and sober analysis, offers this nugget of now-conventional wisdom:
Who on earth could have known that New Orleans's sinking levees were at risk from a strong hurricane? Anybody who bothered to read the endless warnings over the years about the Big Easy's uneasy fishbowl.
An unsigned NYT editorial dispenses with Dowd's qualification that people needed to actually read the "endless" warnings, stating that "everyone knew [the disaster] was coming." [emph added]

Everyone, that is, except New York Times readers the day before Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. Because the Times did not run a single article on Katrina on Sunday the 28th! Readers of the paper of record only learned of the storm's potential with their Monday morning coffee, as Katrina was making landfall.

Remember (as NY Times editors won't)-- George Bush was already actively preparing the federal response, and urging the governor and heel-dragging mayor to order an evacuation on Saturday the 27th, as detailed in the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
President Bush declared a state of emergency in Louisiana, authorizing federal emergency management officials to release federal aid and coordinate disaster relief efforts...New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin followed at 5 p.m., issuing a voluntary evacuation. Nagin said late Saturday that he's having his legal staff look into whether he can order a mandatory evacuation of the city, a step he's been hesitant to do because of potential liability on the part of the city for closing hotels and other businesses.
These dramatic developments, along with the rapid intensification of Katrina, went completely unreported in the hundreds of pages in the Sunday New York Times (though bloggers such as Brendan Loy and Instapundit were on top of the story on Saturday).

The paper was not devoid of references to hurricanes that Sunday, however. A Lexis-Nexis search turns up three (in retrospect, bizarre) hits with the keyword "hurricane":

  1. An eerily non-prescient review of a book entitled "FALSE ALARM: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear," By Marc Siegel.
  2. An eerily non-prescient warning of a major hurricane that might devastate -- Long Island!
  3. A women's fashion feature, titled "IS THERE A DIVA IN THE HOUSE?"

I guess we were supposed to read between the lines.

(for more NY Times hypocrisy, see this Powerline piece, via NRO's Media Blog, by way of Don Luskin, courtesy of EU Rota)

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina Blogburst

Resources and info here, here and here.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Strike Three!

Back to blogging in this space tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out these threads I have been participating in...



The Belmont Club

and, of course, PressThink.

Also, check out this great trifecta from the Weekly Standard website.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Two Violations in One Night

One more and my blogger's license will be suspended! As I mentioned in my post immediately below, I wrote two essays over on Jay Rosen's open thread that I am reprinting here. The second is in response to Jay's comment that he is not actually a member of the press, even though he is often called to account for perceived media bias. To which I wrote:

Jay --
I, for one, don't hold you accountable for the content of the media. However, I would like to hold your feet to the fire on the consequences of your ideas.

In the last two days (actually nights), I have spent a fair amount of time perusing your archives. And I think it is clear from my comments that I find your approach to the press "religion" quite insightful. But I find that some of your essays stop just short of drawing a full conclusion.

For example, your discussion of the contasting coverage of Abu Ghraib (wall-to-wall pictures) vs the Nick Berg video (self-censored) very skillfully demonstrates the logical inconsistency at play. But you then express a hope/expectation that the media might show the Berg video after a brief delay for "absorption," and then launch into a lengthy attack on the bias-hunters.
You conclude with a diagnosis with which I fully agree (quoted below), but I would like to hear your thoughts on possible prescriptions for the patient, Dr. Rosen:

Way, way underneath these debates I find a disturbing fact. Even the smartest people in the major news media—and this is especially so in television news—have not really determined for themselves or explained to us exactly what their role should be in the worldwide fight against
terrorism...Terrorism can be many things, but it is always an attempt at communication; and a free press in an open society “completes” the act.
I would argue that this problem goes far beyond the airing of a single gruesome video, into just about every decision that the political and international press must make everyday, including the conduct of White House press conferences. In this context I would like to ask you to respond to my comments about Vietnam and Tet, to which you refer in passing in the Nick Berg essay.

More broadly, do you have any thoughts on the following observation?: Many core precepts of the press religion that you have identified are actually intellectual residua of the last two centuries of Leftist thought. Thus, is it possible that the bias-hunters, while perhaps focusing too much on the ephemera of specific "gotcha" moments, are actually pointing towards a deeper phenomenon?

Violating the Blogger Prime Directive

Never put your best stuff in other blogs' comments!

I have just written two essays in response to comments by Steve Lovelady and Jay Rosen over in the ongoing PressThink debate. I will reprint the first comment below -- it is in response to Steve's point that
the real's a function of corporations seeking a more favorable opinion of their stock price on Wall Street
My reply:

It is true that most people in most professions, including journalism, worry about what their bosses and the bean counters in the back office will think about their work vis-a-vis the bottom line. But that only goes so far in this dialogue because:
  1. It is not a given that the corporate masters will necessary want to "prove [their] macho chops," especially if they have the majority of their eyeballs coming from overseas. When CNN runs a viciously anti-Israel piece, are they proving their "macho chops" to their intended audience? How does Al Jazeera fit into this debate -- what is its PressThink, and should they be granted the same professional and social status as American press outfits?
  2. Moreover, sometimes the top of the corporate culture is run by elites who do not well understand the American public: Indira Nooyi may know a lot about which artificial sweeteners taste better but she does not exactly have her finger on the pulse of American public attitudes; more directly, I'm not sure that Pinch Sulzberger is strictly interested in maximizing the bottom line if it leads him too far away from his social goals. From accounts I have read, the NYT has tried to eat its cake and have it by attempting to find more like-minded readers in other cities rather than diversify their content.
  3. Even the best corporate bean counters cannot instantaneously alter the accreted rituals of a professional religion which limits creativity and diversity of thought. This is why much of the freshest reporting and commentary today is coming from sources who are not indoctrinated in this religion. And the audiences have responded, while many oldthinkers can only scratch their head; it is literally unthinkable.
  4. One approach, comforting only in the short run, is to blame the audience for being so dumb and/or primitive as to not understand the teachings of the priestly class. Patronizing the audience is the one intellectual space where both the “clerics” and the bean counters (who form an often-misguided corporate elite) can see eye-to-eye, although each may seek a different means of redress.
In sum, I don’t doubt that there are considerable financial pressures that affect moment-to-moment decisions every day. But that hardly explains the story of how Americans have lost their trust in conventional media, or how Fox News has built its audience starting with cheap sets and second-rate talent.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Thanks, Jay

I greatly appreciate that Jay Rosen has opened up a new thread (see here) in place of the old one I discussed Monday. Jay also took time out to respond to an e-mail I sent him, and he explained that his lack of participation in the prior thread was largely related to practical difficulties of getting to an internet connection while on his family vacation. I suppose that sometimes bloggers are actually human after all.

While I still do not fully understand what was going on his mind while he was reading that thread, I thought of the following analogy: Perhaps he felt he had invited people over for drinks, and instead they came in, raided his refrigerator, ate all of his food, and then complained when he tried to kick them out of the house at midnight ("Hey -- you invited us over here!"). I don't know to what extent blog etiquette handles the issue of staying on-topic (mind you, I didn't perceive the comments as being very far off-topic, though Jay might have).

In any event, please see my comment in the new thread here. I am not cross-posting it here, as it is somewhat tied in with other comments over there, but I will post more about the topic in this space tomorrow.