Saturday, June 23, 2007


Notice anything different about Iraq war coverage lately? It seems that we're fighting and killing a lot of "al Qaeda" troops. Prior to a week or so ago, we were fighting Sunnis or Shias or just "insurgents." But all of a sudden all those factions have become "al Qaeda."

Except they haven't.

Al Qaeda represents a small fraction of the people fighting in Iraq. Very small. Most of the combatants are, as they have been, Shia and Sunni insurgent factions. That hasn't changed. What has changed is that the Bush administration is now referring to all enemy combatants as al Qaeda fighters, even when they're not.

This should not, I suppose, be surprising. The Bush administration has been lying to us for so long it would be difficult to take them seriously if they ever started to speak the truth. What is disturbing is how easily the lackeys in the press have accepted this new propanda, as witnessed by this headline from Reuters: "U.S. and Iraq Forces Kill 90 al Qaeda in Offensive." And this one from the New York Times: "G.I.’s in Iraq Open Big Offensive Against Al Qaeda." And this one from the Associated Press: "U.S. Targets Entrenched al-Qaeda Fighters."

None of this is true; the people we're fighting are not "al Queda fighters," they're the same Sunnis and Shias we've been fighting all along, as pointed out in exquisite detail by Salon's Glen Greenwald in this blog post. It's just that our government and military leaders are now calling them al Qaeda. But calling them al Qaeda doesn't make them al Qaeda; they're still Iraqi insurgents.

Why this particular lie? By defining our opposition as al Qaeda, the government links our fight in Iraq to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, thus justifying the war as "fighting the terrorists there so we don't have to fight them here." It's all bullshit, and transparent bullshit at that, but it takes on a certain weight when the mainstream media repeats the bullshit without question.

The press has an obligation to report the truth, not to repeat government propaganda. If there is a single reason why our country is in the situation it's currently in, it's not Bush and Cheney and their quest for ultimate power, it's the failure of the press to do its duty. While there are exceptions (thank you, Seymour Hersh), the media today has abandoned the truth and thus forfeited its responsibility to help maintain an open, informed, and free republic. When the press fails us, our democracy fails.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Fred Thompson is running for president. If you listen to the supposedly left-leaning mainstream media, you hear that Thompson is a good ol' boy, a down-home conservative from Tennessee who drives a pickup truck and embodies traditional (southern) American values.

What the press doesn't tell you is that this image is totally manufactured. Thompson is a high-priced attorney who's made millions as a Washington lobbyist. And when he's not busy buying off our legislators, he's out in Hollywood working as a high-paid actor.

All that down-home, pickup-driving, traditional conservative nonsense? It's just acting. The good ol' boy from Tennessee is just another role Thompson is playing; the Thompson we see (or want to see) is an amalgamation of his various movie and television roles. The reality is much different from the image.

That's fine; politicians have always tried to create optimal images for themselves. What's disconcerting is how the media buys into the image. Listen to any of the cable TV pundits, and they spout the pre-manufactured line: Thompson is a strong authority figure, he's a Washington outsider, he's a down-home good ol' boy. In reality, Thompson is the consummate Washington insider, but that's not what the media reports. They buy into the fabricated image, and perpetuate it.

I supposed it's not surprising; the media has long opted to simplify the complex, and present the story that they think will attract more viewers (or sell more newspapers). Just look at how the media helped to sell George W. Bush during the 2000 election (and beyond), as the good ol' boy from Texas instead of the privileged frat boy from Harvard. I suppose Bush as guy-next-door Texan is a more appealing story than Bush as spoiled rich kid, but it's not the real story.

Same thing with Thompson. It'd be nice to have a real, honest-to-goodness populist from Tennessee running for president. That's not what Thompson is, but it's what he pretends to be, and the press buys into it and perpetuates the myth. They're feeding us what we want to hear, as opposed to what we need to hear.

The press should do more than regurgitate campaign press releases. They should dig beneath the p.r. and unearth the facts, and then tell us what's really going on. That's the disappointing thing about this Orwellian world in which we live; it's not that the politicians are lying to us, it's that the press is falling down on the job. We expect our politicians to lies; we need the media to separate the truth from the fabrications.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.