Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Networks & the National Security State

Edited by Alex Constantine

Cable News Lies Website:

CNN tells reporters: No propaganda, except American
By Patrick Martin
6 November 2001

In an extraordinary directive to its staff, Cable News Network has instructed reporters and anchormen to tailor their coverage of the US war against Afghanistan to downplay the toll of death and destruction caused by American bombing, for fear that such coverage will undermine popular support for the US military effort.

A memo from CNN Chairman Walter Isaacson to international correspondents for the network declares: “As we get good reports from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, we must redouble our efforts to make sure we do not seem to be simply reporting from their vantage or perspective. We must talk about how the Taliban are using civilian shields and how the Taliban have harbored the terrorists responsible for killing close to 5,000 innocent people.”

“I want to make sure we’re not used as a propaganda platform,” Isaacson declared in an interview with the Washington Post, adding that it “seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan.”

“We’re entering a period in which there’s a lot more reporting and video from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan,” he said. “You want to make sure people understand that when they see civilian suffering there, it’s in the context of a terrorist attack that caused enormous suffering in the United States.”

In a second memo leaked to the Post, CNN’s head of standards and practices, Rick Davis, expressed concern about reports on the bombing of Afghanistan filed by on-the-spot reporters. Davis noted that it “may be hard for the correspondent in these dangerous areas to make the points clearly” about the reasons for the US bombing. In other words, the CNN official feared that overseas correspondents might be intimidated by local opposition to the US military intervention and allow such sentiments to influence their reports.

To ensure that every CNN report always includes a justification of the war, Davis prescribed specific language for anchors to read after each account of civilian casualties and other bomb damage. He suggested three alternative formulations:

* “We must keep in mind, after seeing reports like this from Taliban-controlled areas, that these US military actions are in response to a terrorist attack that killed close to 5,000 innocent people in the US.”

* “We must keep in mind, after seeing reports like this, that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan continues to harbor terrorists who have praised the September 11 attacks that killed close to 5,000 innocent people in the US.”

* “The Pentagon has repeatedly stressed that it is trying to minimize civilian casualties in Afghanistan, even as the Taliban regime continues to harbor terrorists who are connected to the September 11 attacks that claimed thousands of innocent lives in the US.”

Davis concluded with an ultimatum to journalists concerned that they may sound like parrots for the White House: “Even though it may start sounding rote, it is important that we make this point each time.”
The Origin of Roger Ailes

Ailes is the president of Fox News, but before that, the producer of the television version of The Rush Limbaugh Show and a Republican Party strategist. In the early 1990s, Ailes adopted a populist mantra of "Us versus Them" in his various programming initiatives (with Limbaugh, but also as president of a cable network that preceded MSNBC).

Ailes role in the media industry includes:

in 1991 persuading "a syndicator to bring Rush Limbaugh from radio to television and became executive producer of the late-night show"

In 1993 was appointed President of NBC's cable channel CNBC

introduced NBC cable channel, America's Talking in 1994

in January 1996 was appointed as chief executive officer of Fox News and the FOX News Channel and, according to his biographical note, "also serves as a senior advisor to Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of the News Corporation Limited."

Jolly Roger's grand plan
Oct. 16, 2005

The news czar is revamping Rupe's station group, and your local newscast will never be the same


Two months after Lachlan Murdoch's abrupt resignation as News Corp. deputy chief operations officer, cable news impresario Roger Ailes is wasting no time bringing the conglom's network of 35 TV stations into the Fox News fold. ... Ailes added CBS exec Dennis Swanson to a group of Fox News Channel hands to run the group, including CEO Jack Abernethy and senior veep of news operations Sharri Berg in what amounts to a grafting of the Fox cable news operation onto its network of 35 local stations.

Now, with the stations and 20th Television under his wing, suddenly Ailes becomes one of the most powerful execs in television with the ability to see his vision writ large across the broadcast landscape. At the stations, some staff expressed concern that Ailes' army would politicize the news operations.

Few would deny that Ailes knows how to create compelling TV and identify charismatic news talent. What local news director wouldn't want dozens more Shepard Smiths to bloom in Orlando, Chicago or Kansas City?

News Corp. owns both a Fox and a UPN affiliate in the top three media markets --New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- and other duopolies in six more of the top 20 markets, including Dallas, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. News Corp. owns stations in 26 markets in all, reaching 45% of the country. ....
Murdoch’s MySpace expands data collection/ad targeting, including on whether users say they smoke, drink, religious beliefs, etc.

August 27th, 2007

The powerful commercial forces shaping new media platforms like MySpace–so they can better reap big dollars from powerful brand advertisers– should raise user alarm bells. MySpace is going to [our italics] “leverage the data input by each MySpace user into their profile from a group of predefined menu choices (related to questions such as […]

Backspin for War: The Convenience of Denial
Asset A03245 Posted By anthony

The man who ran CNN’s news operation during the invasion of Iraq is now doing damage control in response to a new documentary’s evidence that he kowtowed to the Pentagon on behalf of the cable network. His current denial says a lot about how “liberal media” outlets remain deeply embedded in the mindsets of pro-military conformity.

Days ago, the former CNN executive publicly defended himself against a portion of the War Made Easy film (based on my book of the same name) that has drawn much comment from viewers since the documentary’s release earlier this summer. As Inter Press Service reported, the movie shows “a news clip of Eason Jordan, a CNN News chief executive who, in an interview with CNN, boasts of the network’s cadre of professional ‘military experts.’ In fact, CNN’s retired military generals turned war analysts were so good, Eason said, that they had all been vetted and approved by the U.S. government.” ...

he film provides a wide range of evidence that “all of the cable networks were actively complicit in promoting the war” — the result of chronic biases rather than “journalistic laziness.” And CNN, like the rest of the cable news operations, comes in for plenty of tough scrutiny in the documentary. As the magazine Variety noted in a review of “War Made Easy” a few days ago, “Fox News is predictably bashed here, but supposedly neutral CNN gets it even harder.”

CNN is among the news outlets at the core of the myth of “the liberal media” — perpetuated, in part, by the fact that people are often overly impressed by the significance of rhetorical attacks on some media organizations by more conservative outlets. (Before his resignation from CNN in 2005, Eason Jordan was himself subjected to denunciations from the right — for allegedly skewing news coverage to curry favor with the Baghdad government during Saddam’s rule and, after the invasion, for reportedly stating that U.S. troops had targeted some journalists in Iraq.) But antipathy from right-wing pundits is hardly an indication of journalistic independence. ...
The Pentagon Channel

April 14, 2006
The Propaganda Channel and the Net Neutrality Debate

If you haven’t seen the “Pentagon Channel” produced by the Department of Defense, you’re missing a classic—and outrageous–propaganda effort aimed for U.S. audiences. This 24/7 “video news” network, as it calls itself, outshines even Fox News in its fealty to the official U.S. government line about Iraq. But since one of the channel’s star “talents” is Don Rumsfeld himself, it’s not surprising. What is shocking is that the U.S. is producing a channel for domestic use that is clearly propaganda—and should be taken off the many U.S. cable systems and satellite services that carry it.

With a program line-up that includes the daily “Freedom Journal Iraq” and “Around the Services” (from the Pentagon “NewsCenter-daily…military news from top Defense officials”) to “Inside Afghanistan,” and the “Stallion Report” ( “a bi-weekly news program from Mosul, Iraq”), the Pentagon Channel airs the official view. We are all fighting for “freedom.” We are winning the “hearts and minds” of the Iraq people, says one reporter for “Freedom Journal Iraq.” Scenes of “hunting bad guys,” and “missions of good will” are shown (including pictures of renovated schools displaying posters of Disney characters).

Major cable, satellite and telephone companies have given the U.S. government channel free carriage, including Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, Cox, and Echostar. The channel reaches about 12 million cable and satellite viewers; it’s also distributed in the U.S. and around the world on military bases. The channel is working to expand its distribution, including going after space reserved for public access channels (which were created to promote free speech—not governmental PR). This week the channel launched itself as a video and audio podcast via the Internet. Secretary of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld declared that he was “…pleased that we are using video casting and other increasingly important technologies to reach our global audience…”

The Voice of America is prohibited from airing its service in the U.S. The Pentagon Channel should also be similarly banned. We hope the Pentagon Channel will be scrutinized by more media critics and policymakers. Having a taxpayer-backed channel that promotes itself as “news” when it’s really about pushing an Administration’s political agenda should clearly be unacceptable policy.

But—now for the connection with network neutrality. In a world where the big cable and phone companies can dominate the U.S. broadband and TV market—expect more favorable treatment for such official government PR efforts. Whether it’s giving the Department of Defense a helping hand with its propaganda channel or turning over to the NSA and other agencies our personal communications—the big cable/telco broadband monopoly will strive to please officials. That’s where the quid pro quo deal making—let’s us control the network and we will treat you `right,’ is likely to occur. You can be sure that when Ed Whitacre of AT&T charges a Google for using what it considers its “pipes,” it will give the official view–such as the Pentagon Channel–a free, high-speed broadband ride.

"Carlucci" bleeped from HBO version of Lumumba
Ex-CIA official threatened lawsuit
By Joanne Laurier
15 March 2002

Home Box Office (HBO), the US cable television network, is currently broadcasting a censored version of Lumumba, the award-winning film about Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of independent Congo, assassinated by imperialist agents in January 1961.

Haitian-born director Raoul Peck’s work fictionally reconstructs Lumumba’s coming to power in 1960 and the intrigues which led to his brutal murder. The film shown on HBO is a version of the French-language original dubbed into English, which bleeps out the name of Frank Carlucci, a future deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and secretary of defense, in the dialogue and masks his name in the credits. At the time of Lumumba’s death, Carlucci was the second secretary at the US embassy in the Congo and, covertly, a CIA agent.

This attempt to keep Carlucci’s role in the Congo from television audiences follows the release of US government documents revealing that President Dwight Eisenhower ordered the CIA to murder Lumumba. Minutes of an August 1960 National Security Council meeting confirm that Eisenhower told CIA chief Allen Dulles to “eliminate” the Congolese leader. The official note taker, Robert H. Johnson, testified to this before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1975, but no documentary evidence had been previously available to back up his claim.

Carlucci’s lawyers threatened Peck and distribution company Zeitgeist Films with legal action if the name of the former US official was not bleeped out of a scene that shows American Ambassador Clare Timberlake and Carlucci, along with Belgian and Congolese officials, plotting Lumumba’s assassination. Carlucci insisted that only the altered version of the film, with his name missing, could be used for mass market venues, such as television, video and DVD, allowing the original track to remain intact for theater showings. Zeitgeist officials said they were too small and weak financially to fight a case in court.

Carlucci is an immensely wealthy individual, with connections at the highest levels of the US government. Deputy chief of the CIA under Jimmy Carter and secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, Carlucci is now chairman of the Carlyle Group, a private equity investment group with billions of dollars of assets in the defense industry. The company employs prominent ex-officeholders, such as former president George Bush, former British prime minister John Major and former president of the Philippines Fidel Ramos. Carlucci has the closest financial, political and personal ties to the Bush family. Other figures involved in Carlyle Group operations include former secretary of state James Baker, who headed up George W. Bush’s effort to block vote recounts in Florida in 2000 and hijack the presidential election. Carlucci has a long-term political relationship with his former classmate and wrestling buddy from Princeton, the present secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

At a January 24 screening of the film in New York held at the Council on Foreign Relations (CRF), publisher of Foreign Affairs magazine, Peck confirmed that the film had been changed in response to Carlucci’s legal threats. Despite considerable media presence at the event, during which Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, for one, raised a question about Carlucci’s name being removed, virtually nothing has appeared in the mainstream media about the issue.

The WSWS spoke with freelance journalist Lucy Komisar, who attended the screening and wrote an article about Carlucci’s action for the Pacific News Service. She commented: “This is censorship. This is a story that he [Carlucci] does not want to talk about. Although he was not in charge [of the CIA’s Congo activities in 1960], he was involved in what was going on. It is a part of his history. The honorable thing to do would have been to acknowledge that the Americans helped in doing away with a man who could have helped that region—that they supported Mobutu, who for decades led a brutal dictatorship which caused enormous suffering. I think the incident shows the extremes to which people like Carlucci will go to cover up actions they know were wrong—even to censoring a movie.”

The panel at the CFR screening included Brian Urquhart, chief assistant to Ralph Bunche, who headed up the United Nations (UN) mission in Congo during the Lumumba crisis. According to Urquhart’s own account of the affair recently published in the New York Review of Books, he was in touch with Lumumba on nearly a daily basis until the latter broke off relations with Bunche. Urquhart’s article, as his statements at the film screening, depicted the UN as an independent, neutral force that was, albeit reluctantly, helping Lumumba.

Contrary to Urquhart’s version of events, Peck’s film depicts the UN as an instrument of the US and Belgium and an accessory to the campaign of subversion mounted by the imperialist powers against Lumumba and the newly indepdendent Congolese government. Lumumba invited in the UN “peacekeepers,” but broke contact with them when their role became clear. UN officials and troops, in turn, refused to take any action to prevent his murder.

Carlucci’s attack on the film dates back at least to last summer. At a July 25 screening of Lumumba in Washington, DC, he was a panelist along with Howard Wolpe, the former congressman and chairman of the House subcommittee on Africa. Carlucci called the subsequently censored scene in the movie “a cheap shot.” He did make a mild—and thoroughly cynical—criticism of the US role. “Did [the United States] handle him [Lumumba] right?” Carlucci asked. “It’s clear we were too strident,” he replied.

In an interview with Komisar, Carlucci claimed that the US had “no role whatsoever” in plotting Lumumba’s death. He referred to Madeleine Kalb’s book, The Congo Cables, and asserted, “You’ll find no references to me.” As Komisar notes, “Carlucci has a bad memory.” Not only does Kalb’s book refer to Carlucci, it describes “the efforts by the US Embassy and the CIA to topple Lumumba.” The book, she writes, “contains documents by [US ambassador] Timberlake and CIA chief Lawrence Devlin talking about their desire and efforts to stop Lumumba, and even Devlin’s unhappiness [about] one leader’s refusal to commit murder. The State Department’s official ‘Analytical Chronology of the Congo Crisis’ talks about a plan ‘to bring about the overthrow of Lumumba and install a pro-western government...Operations under this plan were gradually put into effect by the CIA.’”

In a letter to Peck, Belgian Ludo De Witte—author of the recent book, The Assassination of Lumumba —also made clear that Timberlake, Devlin and Carlucci worked together “on Congolese efforts to get rid of Lumumba.” De Witte further commented: “We know that Devlin and other US personnel in the capital were informed about the transfer of Lumumba to the Kasai or Katanga... Everybody knew that there were waiting some subcontractors to do the dirty job, and, given the rank and involvement of Carlucci in Lumumba-related activities from the US embassy, we may assume (although it’s not proven) that Carlucci knew of what equaled a death sentence for Lumumba.”

After leaving the Congo, Carlucci was in Brazil at the time of CIA and US State Department efforts to overthrow the Goulart government, which lead to a military coup in March/April 1964. He was the US ambassador to Portugal during the years of intense revolutionary crisis in 1974-77, before returning to Washington and assuming top posts in the military and intelligence apparatus.

Carlucci’s efforts to suppress his role demonstrates that US complicity in Lumumba’s death remains a sensitive issue. The American establishment does not care for anyone to know that its interventions—past, present and future—are guided by the economic and political interests of US capitalism and often carried out by criminal and bloody means.

The bleeping of Carlucci’s name from Lumumba is not simply a matter of covering up the past. Carlucci remains a major figure in both the US state and the American corporate world, as well as within the Republican Party. The US, moreover, is intensifying its intrigues in Africa, and a reminder of its dirty past complicates its present-day activities on the continent.

The crude censorship of the film underscores as well the increasingly open assault on democratic rights and freedom of expression in the US.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

NPR's On The Media Corrects Report on The Infinite Mind: Apologizes for 'Lapse of Journalistic Judgment'

"NPR's "On The Media" has corrected and apologized for a report it aired last fall accusing the executive producer of "The Infinite Mind" public radio series of having known about ethically questionable behavior by the program's host, Dr. Fred Goodwin.

(PRWEB) March 22, 2009 -- NPR's "On The Media" this week corrected its November 28, 2008 report that accused the executive producer of "The Infinite Mind" public radio series of having known that the show's host, Dr. Fred Goodwin, had received $1.2 million in fees for giving marketing lectures on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, while he was hosting the program.

In its on-air correction (, "On The Media's" host, Brooke Gladstone, apologized for what she called the "lapse of journalistic judgment" in the report, which relied on an unnamed source to corroborate Goodwin's claim that Lichtenstein was aware of the speaking fees. In its correction, "On The Media" acknowledged that, contrary to what was originally reported by the show, the anonymous source says she has "no first-hand evidence that (Lichtenstein) knew of any fees." Gladstone added that "The Infinite Mind" says it "had always adhered to standard journalism practice in vetting guests and disclosing conflicts of interest."

"On The Media" also apologized for failing to seek a comment or response from Lichtenstein, who has maintained that he first learned about Goodwin's speaking fees from a November 22, 2008 article in the New York Times, and that Goodwin's activities violated the strict conflict of interest agreement Goodwin had with "The Infinite Mind." Gladstone said "On The Media's" failure to present Lichtenstein's and "The Infinite Mind's" side of the story was "a mistake, it wasn't fair and it didn't serve our listeners."

Despite "The Infinite Mind's" protests at the time of the broadcast, "On The Media" corrected the story only after the anonymous source came forward to say "On The Media" had incorrectly reported what she told the program. The source said she told "On The Media" that in 2003 "The Infinite Mind" was aware that host Goodwin gave educational lectures, but said she had no knowledge or evidence to support Goodwin's claim, as reported by "On The Media," that Lichtenstein or "The Infinite Mind" was aware that Goodwin was being paid to give marketing talks on behalf of pharmaceutical companies.

"On The Media's" report, which aired a week after the New York Times article was published, attracted wide attention as it represented the sole evidence that "The Infinite Mind's" producers were aware of the reported $1.2 million in speaking fees received by Goodwin.

Since the publication of the New York Times article in November 2008, Goodwin has shifted his position from stating that "The Infinite Mind" was aware of his activities, to maintaining in interviews with the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) and other publications that he did not believe there had been, in fact, a conflict of interest. "I frankly do not see these things as a conflict of interest . . . I always thought that if you have multiple relationships they sort of cancel each other out," Goodwin told the student newspaper at George Washington University, where he is on the faculty.

"The Infinite Mind" had previously announced it would, after 10 years, be ceasing production at the end of 2008. "The Infinite Mind" was independently produced and distributed to public radio stations, and NPR aired the series on its Sirius Satellite channel.

For a decade, "The Infinite Mind" was public radio's most honored and listened to health and science program, examining all aspects of the mind and the biology of human behavior. The program featured the leading names in neuroscience and mental health, along with appearances by renowned authors, musicians and actors, and was the recipient of 30 major broadcast journalism awards.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Please, just leave - Right-wing crackpots plot to abandon the union

March 19, 2009

"What kind of revolution appeals most to you?" read the now-deleted poll question on Sean Hannity's message board: "Military Coup, Armed Rebellion, or War for Secession?"

The next four to eight years are gonna be some fun!

Barely two months into the Obama administration, wing-nuts across the land are frothing at the mouth, talking feverishly of secession, violent revolution, tax revolt, "going Galt," and national divorce. It would be hilarious if it weren't so creepy.

We all had a good laugh this past December when Igor Panarin, dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's academy for future diplomats, predicted that the financial crisis would eventually lead to widespread unrest, martial law, and, by 2010, a civil war in the US — the end result of which would be a motley collection of rump states like "Atlantic America" and the "Texas Republic," that then glom onto countries such as Canada and Mexico. It's an absurd idea.

Or is it? Perusing some of the sheer insanity spewed on rightist blogs, message boards, and comment threads — the pitchfork-shaking anger directed at this so-called socialist government — one has to wonder just what's percolating in this country. Maybe the big break-up is coming sooner than we think? ...

ut protests do only so much. More and more, it seems, nothing less than outright secession will satisfy some of these cranks. The right-wing Web is all atwitter over a recent open letter, spreading from blog to blog like a hanta virus, by one "John J. Wall, Law Student and an American." In it, Wall puts it plainly: he wants a divorce.

"Let's just end it on friendly terms," he writes. "We don't like redistributive taxes so you can keep them. . . . Since you hate guns and war, we'll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA, and the military." (What they'll do with all the guns he doesn't say.)

Ironically, when not busy fomenting revolution or concocting a plan to carve up the continental US, conservatives act a lot like the "hippies" that Wall went on to lambaste in his letter — thumbing their nose at authority and threatening to drop out of society.

It was reported on last month that a soldier, First Lieutenant Scott Easterling, who is stationed in Iraq, has balked at following orders: "Until Mr. Obama releases a 'vault copy' of his original birth certificate for public review," he declared, "I will consider him neither my commander in chief nor my president, but rather, a usurper to the office — an impostor."

And the latest bit of in(s)anity making the rounds in conservative circles in is the notion of "going Galt," in which angry rich people protest Obama's fiscal policies by following the lead of John Galt —übermensch protagonist of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged — and removing their ostensibly valuable productivity from society. ...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


By Alex Constantine

Alex Beam

AC Note: I've written about Jacob Beam, Alex Beam's father, in the past. Jacob was chairman of Radio Free Europe at one time (in which capacity he was cozy with the CIA and earned his "Mockingbird" psyop wings - inherited and currently sported by his "journalist" son), a carded member of the ultra-conservative Committee on the Present Danger, and a close friend of native Nazi Charles Lindbergh (I know, I know - the media have cleaned up his image) - and together they were pampered guests of the Hitler regime in Nazi Germany.

Alex Beam, a columnist at the
Boston Globe (and a vicious "Mockingbird" propagandist who reviles "conspiracy theorists" who get too close to the truth about fascism in domestic politics - in the pages of the most widely circulated daily in New England) distances himself from his roots by doing us all a favor - he has written an opinion piece excoriating philanthropist Frances Gould for her Nazi liaisons in France.

By posing as a freedom-loving anti-fascist, Beam apparently hopes to allay any suspicions concerning his fascist roots and (CIA-sponsored?) "journalism career":

The BSO's Tainted Donor
By Alex Beam
Boston Globe
March 17, 2009

Now a new book from Yale University Press states that the late Florence Gould - benefactress of the Symphony's Florence Gould Auditorium at Tanglewood, whose foundation bountifully subsidizes programs at Harvard, Milton Academy, the Boston Public Library, the Boston Camerata, the New England Conservatory, UMass-Amherst, and elsewhere - was a dyed-in-the-wool Hitlerite and bigot. "She was a Nazi sympathizer and a terrible anti-Semite who cohabited with the most appalling figures of the German occupation in Paris" - including the head of the Gestapo responsible for dynamiting synagogues and deporting Jews to the death camps - according to the book's author, Frederic Spotts.

Who was Florence Gould? She was a French divorcee and dancer who caught the eye of Frank Jay Gould, son of the famous robber baron Jay Gould. Her husband spent World War II on the Riviera, but she "quickly returned to Paris," according to Spotts's book, "The Shameful Peace: How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation," "and in no time was cultivating Wehrmacht officers and Gestapo officials."

Spotts writes that Gould became a "collabo [collaborationist] queen" who hosted a ritzy salon "while Sylvia Beach [American founder of the famous bookstore Shakespeare & Co.] and some three thousand British and American civilians languished in an internment camp." According to its most recent tax filing, the Florence Gould Foundation donated $10,000 to Shakespeare & Co. in 2007.

The anti-Semitic French novelist Louis-Ferdinand Celine was fascinated by the woman he called "Madame Frank J. Gould, the wife (the 5th! I also knew the 2nd quite well) of the old American railroad billionaire . . . a former manicurist, French by birth (Lacaze), flighty and not at all dumb, a snob." Celine wrote that "she was enormously compromised with the Luftwaffe - where she had at least three young lovers and was very much at home in the German military headquarters." Gould's main squeeze was Ernst Junger, a German cultural official, World War I war hero and writer who had dabbled in anti-Semitic propaganda in 1930, according to an article Mehlman published in Modern Language Notes in 2007.

You know what they say: Money doesn't care who owns it. "She's not the first outrageous person to give money away," Spotts told me in a telephone interview from his home in the south of France.

Gould died on the Riviera in 1983, at age 87. She had no heirs and her legacy is the $100 million - those are 2007 endowment dollars - New York-based foundation in her name that makes extraordinary gifts to cultural institutions. Most recently reported recipients include the Metropolitan Museum of Art ($250,000), Lincoln Center ($100,000), Cornell medical school ($200,000), and so on. The Clark Art museum in Williamstown, founded by the American fascist and Parisian expatriate Sterling Clark, received $20,000 from the foundation.

The French Institute Alliance Francaise operates a Florence Gould Hall in Manhattan and there is a Florence Gould Theater in San Francisco.

BSO spokeswoman Bernadette Horgan said the Tanglewood auditorium was built in 1990 with a gift from the Florence Gould Foundation. The recently reported details of Mrs. Gould's biography were news to her. Foundation president John Young did not return my call.


Three of the four best books I read last year were novels by Justin Cartwright; the fourth was "Cost," by Roxana Robinson. The plot of Cartwright's "Masai Dreaming" disturbingly evokes the world of Florence Gould. A Jewish doctor has survived the Nazi occupation of Paris by ministering to patients in a Jewish hospital. His daughter returns to Paris to warn him to escape, before the last group of Jews is transported East, to the death camps. But he insists that he is out of danger; the Allies have landed in Normandy, and he has achieved a modus vivendi with the more enlightened elements of the German administration.

Maybe yes, maybe no.

Alex Beam's e-dress is


From: "Alex Constantine"
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 8:14 PM

Dear Vermin:

Here you are, in all your CIA-Nazi glory:

March 20 Update: Mr. Beam did not respond to my request for a comment above. I also contacted some half-dozen editors and reporters at the Boston Globe. None of them acted on the information re Alex and Jacob Bean, and no response has come from any of them.

I interpret this silence as confirmation.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Is the Internet killing the news media?

Pew report on state of American journalism paints bleak picture
'Net Insider By Scott Bradner
Network World - 03/16/2009

The latest Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism report on the state of the U.S. news media makes for sobering reading if you are a student thinking of pursuing a career in journalism or if you are already in the business. The bottom line is that the business is toast unless you are in the Internet side, and even there it's toast.

The report's first few sentences tell most of the story:

• Newspaper ad revenues are down more than 20% in the last two years.

• Twenty percent of the journalists who worked in newspapers have lost their jobs in that time period.

• Ad revenues were down last year in local TV news more than 5% (even in an election year).

• The traffic at the top news sites went up more than 25% last year.

• The ad-based model for funding journalism is unlikely for the future.

" ... All over America, as newspaper revenues plummet – by the end of 2008, ad sales were down about 25 percent from three years earlier – publishers cannot seem to shed editors, reporters and sections of their papers fast enough. ... "

The Conversation: What do you lose if newspapers don't survive?
The New Republic
MAR. 01, 2009

... More than any other medium, newspapers have been our eyes on the state, our check on private abuses, our civic alarm systems. It is true that they have often failed to perform those functions as well as they should have done. But whether they can continue to perform them at all is now in doubt.

Even before the recession hit, the newspaper industry was facing a mortal threat from the rise of the Internet, falling circulation and advertising revenue, and a long-term decline in readership, as the habit of buying a daily paper dwindled from one generation to the next.

The recession has intensified these difficulties, plunging newspapers into a tailspin from which some will not recover and others will emerge only as a shadow of their former selves. The devastation is already substantial.

At the Los Angeles Times, the cumulative effect of cutbacks has been to reduce its newsroom by half – and that was before its parent company, Tribune, declared bankruptcy. Another company weighed down by debt, the McClatchy chain, which includes the Sacramento Bee, the Miami Herald and 28 other dailies, has laid off one-quarter of its work force in the past year; according to one executive, the editorial downsizing is under 20 percent but is now cutting "close to the bone."

(On Friday, the Rocky Mountain News, owned by E.W. Scripps Co., published its final edition. Earlier last week, the Hearst Corp. said it will close or sell the San Francisco Chronicle if it can't cut expenses.)

Newspapers are also shrinking in numbers of pages, breadth of news coverage, features of various kinds and home delivery of print editions.

All over America, as newspaper revenues plummet – by the end of 2008, ad sales were down about 25 percent from three years earlier – publishers cannot seem to shed editors, reporters and sections of their papers fast enough. And there is more pain to come. According to a December forecast by Barclays Capital, advertising revenue will drop another 17 percent in 2009 and 7.5 percent more the year after.

Who should care

Some observers, confident of the blessings of technology, refuse to shed any tears for the traditional giants of journalism, on the grounds that their troubles are of their own making and of little consequence to the general welfare. In this view, regardless of whether newspapers successfully adapt to the Internet, new and better sources of news will develop online, and they will fill whatever void newspapers leave. Others are so angry at the mainstream media – the reviled "MSM" – that they see the economic misery of the press as a deserved comeuppance. Let the bastards suffer.

These reactions fail to take into account the immediate realities and the full ramifications of the crisis threatening newspaper journalism.

This is no time for Internet triumphalism: The stakes are too high. Nearly all other news media, except for online news, are also retrenching, and the online growth is not close to offsetting the decline elsewhere.

Despite all the development of other media, the fact is that newspapers in recent years have continued to field the majority of reporters and to produce most of the original news stories in cities across the country.

Drawing on studies conducted by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, Tom Rosenstiel, the project's director, says that as of 2006 a typical metropolitan paper ran 70 stories a day, counting the national, local and business sections (adding in the sports and style sections would bring the total closer to 100), whereas a half-hour of television news included only 10 to 12.

And while local TV news typically emphasizes crime, fires and traffic tie-ups, newspapers provide most of the original coverage of public affairs. Studies of newspaper and broadcast journalism have repeatedly shown that broadcast news follows the agenda set by newspapers, often repeating the same items, albeit with less depth. ...


Sunday, March 15, 2009

CNN's Yellin failed to identify CPR chairman as ex-CEO of scandal-plagued hospital firm

Vampires (who want the decimation of all health care proposals) this way come:

Summary: CNN's Jessica Yellin identified Conservatives for Patients' Rights chairman Richard Scott as someone who "runs urgent-care clinics" and the leader of "a media campaign to limit government's role in the health-care system." But Yellin did not note that Scott resigned as chairman of the nation's largest for-profit health-care company in 1997 amid a federal investigation into the company's Medicare billing, physician recruiting, and home-care practices.

Story at

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Polish media bill targets former neo-Nazi head of TV

By Gabriela Baczynska
Mar 12, 2009

WARSAW - Poland's center-right ruling party and leftist opposition unveiled Thursday plans to reform the state television broadcaster which would allow for the removal of its controversial head who has a neo-Nazi past.

Piotr Farfal, a onetime skinhead and former editor of a neo-Nazi magazine known for its anti-Semitic, homophobic views, became acting chief executive of Polish Television (TVP) in late 2008 after an internal power struggle at the broadcaster.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk's government needs the new bill to oust Farfal, a member of the right-wing, staunchly Roman Catholic League of Polish Families (LPR).

Farfal says he has renounced his youthful association with extreme rightwing ideas, which are particularly controversial in Poland, which lost millions of its citizens, including Jews, during Nazi Germany's brutal wartime occupation.

The bill would force a shakeup in the TVP management, scrap Poland's national television and radio licensefee and prepare TVP for digitalization.

Tusk's Civic Platform says the bill would also reduce the scope for political meddling in public-owned media.

"Today we are presenting a joint project aimed at reforming the public media," said Jerzy Szmajdzinski, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament and a member of the small leftist SLD opposition party.

Tusk needs SLD support to overcome an expected veto of the bill by President Lech Kaczynski, a conservative who blocked a similar attempt to reform public broadcasting last year.

Kaczynski is twin brother of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland's main opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS), which led a coalition government in which Farfal's LPR also served until Tusk's party defeated them in elections in October 2007.

Farfal and many others in the state television hierarchy owe their positions to that period of PiS-led government and, under current rules, cannot be easily dislodged.

Public media in Poland has remained vulnerable to political interference since the end of one-party communist rule in 1989.

In deference to leftist insistence that TVP should continue to receive public funds to support its 'educational' mission, senior Civic Platform lawmaker Zbigniew Chlebowski said a "public mission fund" would replace the current license fee.

It was not immediately clear how the new fund would work.

Parliament is expected to approve the media bill by early June, Szmajdzinski said.

(Writing by Gareth Jones; editing by Katie Nguyen)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jon Stewart vs. CNBC

You've most likely seen this video of Jon Stewart dissing CNBC. But in case you missed it, here it is.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

John "Torture Memo" Yoo & the Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution

Explanatory note: The Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution is an annual event funded by the Annenberg Foundation. It's a propaganda farce, of course:

Faculty for 2009

Kenneth W. Starr, Dean, Pepperdine University School of Law

John Yoo, Professor of Law, University of California at Berkeley

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, University of California at Irvine School of Law

Todd Brewster, Director of the Center for Oral History, United States Military Academy West Point

Akhil Amar, Professor of Law, Yale Law School

Susan Estrich, Professor of Law and Political Science, University of Southern California

David Westin, President, ABC News

Sherrilyn Ifill, Professor of Law, University of Maryland School of Law
Messing with Our Liberty isn't any President's Job
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

If you were wondering to what extent President George W. Bush was messing with our rights and liberties, look no further than the story that broke earlier this week.

On Monday morning, National Public Radio reported that President Barack Obama's administration had on that day revealed the Bush administration's "anti-terrorism memos that claimed exceptional search-and-seizure powers and divulging that the CIA had destroyed 92 videotapes of interrogations and other treatment of terrorism suspects."

While the Bushies ultimately concluded they couldn't get away with some of the things outlined in the memos, the story indicates that President Bush "had broad authority to set aside constitutional rights."

Given their druthers, we'd have no Fourth Amendment protections. Bring on the unwarranted searches and seizures.

And First Amendment rights? Meh, wrote Bush's Deputy Assistant Attorney General John "Torture Memo" Yoo. "First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully...(and) may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically."

The NPR story indicated that Yoo didn't return calls. How come? Well, he might've been busy playing catch-up on messages. After all, he was a faculty member at the Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution in Philadelphia over the weekend. I was there as a fellow, and in deference to my generous hosts, held back on cornering Yoo, who was there as an esteemed guest of the program. Unfortunately, he didn't hold a panel (not even an off-the-record one) on what he was thinking when he wrote that anything short of pain equaling that of organ failure or death wasn't torture. No, he didn't seem remorseful, but one can hope. None of the other members of the Bush administration sitting on a fascinating behind-the-scenes panel (including White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith) seemed wracked with guilt. That party line? They're still clinging to it, so much so that one member of the audience snapped, calling them "a den of vipers." ...

Now, about those 92 tapes...

Until now, the CIA had copped to destroying three tapes documenting the interrogation -- and torture -- of terror suspects. We were told in late 2007 that that the tapes had been destroyed with the knowledge of several Bush administration attorneys in November 2005, five months after a U.S. District Court judge ordered the government to save "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at Guantanamo Bay."

According to the Los Angeles Times, all the tapes -- not just the three -- were destroyed after that order. This is why no administration -- that includes Obama's -- ought to have the kind of power and secrecy Bush's yielded.

As an aside, I'd hate to take off without saying: I'll miss you -- dear readers -- all of you. You've taught me much, and I won't let those lessons go to waste.

D. Parvaz is an editorial writer.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Freedom Next Time: John Pilger on Propaganda, the Press, Censorship and Resisting the American Empire

August 7th, 2007

"Liberal Democracy is moving toward a form of corporate dictatorship. This is an historic shift, and the media must not be allowed to be its façade, but itself made into a popular, burning issue, and subjected to direct action," said John Pilger. "That great whistleblower Tom Paine warned that if the majority of the people were denied the truth and the ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the Bastille of words. That time is now." We spend the hour airing a recent lecture by the acclaimed Australian filmmaker and muckraker.

When Rupert Murdoch won his bid to take over Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal last week, the Australian media baron brought one of America's oldest, most respected and widely circulated newspapers into his vast media empire. Murdoch's News Corp media conglomerate owns more than 175 other newspapers as well as the Fox Television network, 21st Century Fox film studios, several satellite networks,, HarperCollins, and much more.

Besides amassing a media empire, Murdoch has repeatedly been accused of using his media holdings to advance his political agenda. In 2003, all of Murdoch's 175 newspapers supported the Iraq invasion. He spoke to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the lead-up to the invasion, some in Blair's inner circle even called him “the 24th member of the [Blair] Cabinet.”

After the announcement of the five billion dollar sale, Murdoch told the New York Times that in order for the Wall Street Journal to remain editorially independent it needed to make healthy profits. Murdoch said, "The first road to freedom, is viability."

Well, one of Rupert Murdoch's fellow countrymen, an Australian who also resides in Britain, strongly disagrees. John Pilger - the eminent investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker - is a harsh critic of the corporate media. Pilger began his career in journalism close to half a century ago. He has made over 50 documentaries and is the author of numerous books, his most recent is titled "Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire."

Today, we spend the hour with John Pilger talking about journalism, war, propaganda, and silence.

JOHN PILGER: The title of this talk is Freedom Next Time, which is the title of my book, and the book is meant as an antidote to the propaganda that is so often disguised as journalism. So I thought I would talk today about journalism, about war by journalism, propaganda, and silence, and how that silence might be broken. Edward Bernays, the so-called father of public relations, wrote about an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. He was referring to journalism, the media. That was almost 80 years ago, not long after corporate journalism was invented. It is a history few journalist talk about or know about, and it began with the arrival of corporate advertising. As the new corporations began taking over the press, something called "professional journalism" was invented. To attract big advertisers, the new corporate press had to appear respectable, pillars of the establishment—objective, impartial, balanced. The first schools of journalism were set up, and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around the professional journalist. The right to freedom of expression was associated with the new media and with the great corporations, and the whole thing was, as Robert McChesney put it so well, "entirely bogus".

For what the public did not know was that in order to be professional, journalists had to ensure that news and opinion were dominated by official sources, and that has not changed. Go through the New York Times on any day, and check the sources of the main political stories—domestic and foreign—you'll find they're dominated by government and other established interests. That is the essence of professional journalism. I am not suggesting that independent journalism was or is excluded, but it is more likely to be an honorable exception. Think of the role Judith Miller played in the New York Times in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Yes, her work became a scandal, but only after it played a powerful role in promoting an invasion based on lies. Yet, Miller's parroting of official sources and vested interests was not all that different from the work of many famous Times reporters, such as the celebrated W.H. Lawrence, who helped cover up the true effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August, 1945. "No Radioactivity in Hiroshima Ruin," was the headline on his report, and it was false.

Consider how the power of this invisible government has grown. In 1983 the principle global media was owned by 50 corporations, most of them American. In 2002 this had fallen to just 9 corporations. Today it is probably about 5. Rupert Murdoch has predicted that there will be just three global media giants, and his company will be one of them. This concentration of power is not exclusive of course to the United States. The BBC has announced it is expanding its broadcasts to the United States, because it believes Americans want principled, objective, neutral journalism for which the BBC is famous. They have launched BBC America. You may have seen the advertising.

The BBC began in 1922, just before the corporate press began in America. Its founder was Lord John Reith, who believed that impartiality and objectivity were the essence of professionalism. In the same year the British establishment was under siege. The unions had called a general strike and the Tories were terrified that a revolution was on the way. The new BBC came to their rescue. In high secrecy, Lord Reith wrote anti-union speeches for the Tory Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and broadcast them to the nation, while refusing to allow the labor leaders to put their side until the strike was over.

So, a pattern was set. Impartiality was a principle certainly: a principle to be suspended whenever the establishment was under threat. And that principle has been upheld ever since.

Take the invasion of Iraq. There are two studies of the BBC's reporting. One shows that the BBC gave just 2 percent of its coverage of Iraq to antiwar dissent—2 percent. That is less than the antiwar coverage of ABC, NBC, and CBS. A second study by the University of Wales shows that in the buildup to the invasion, 90 percent of the BBC's references to weapons of mass destruction suggested that Saddam Hussein actually possessed them, and that by clear implication Bush and Blair were right. We now know that the BBC and other British media were used by the British secret intelligence service MI-6. In what they called Operation Mass Appeal, MI-6 agents planted stories about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, such as weapons hidden in his palaces and in secret underground bunkers. All of these stories were fake. But that's not the point. The point is that the work of MI-6 was unnecessary, because professional journalism on its own would have produced the same result.

Listen to the BBC's man in Washington, Matt Frei, shortly after the invasion. "There is not doubt," he told viewers in the UK and all over the world, "That the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now in the Middle East, is especially tied up with American military power." In 2005 the same reporter lauded the architect of the invasion, Paul Wolfowitz, as someone who "believes passionately in the power of democracy and grassroots development." That was before the little incident at the World Bank.

None of this is unusual. BBC news routinely describes the invasion as a miscalculation. Not Illegal, not unprovoked, not based on lies, but a miscalculation.

The words "mistake" and "blunder" are common BBC news currency, along with "failure"—which at least suggests that if the deliberate, calculated, unprovoked, illegal assault on defenseless Iraq had succeeded, that would have been just fine. Whenever I hear these words I remember Edward Herman's marvelous essay about normalizing the unthinkable. For that's what media clichéd language does and is designed to do—it normalizes the unthinkable; of the degradation of war, of severed limbs, of maimed children, all of which I've seen. One of my favorite stories about the Cold War concerns a group of Russian journalists who were touring the United States. On the final day of their visit, they were asked by the host for their impressions. "I have to tell you," said the spokesman, "that we were astonished to find after reading all the newspapers and watching TV day after day that all the opinions on all the vital issues are the same. To get that result in our country we send journalists to the gulag. We even tear out their fingernails. Here you don't have to do any of that. What is the secret?"

What is the secret? It is a question seldom asked in newsrooms, in media colleges, in journalism journals, and yet the answer to that question is critical to the lives of millions of people. On August 24 last year the New York Times declared this in an editorial: "If we had known then what we know now the invasion if Iraq would have been stopped by a popular outcry." This amazing admission was saying, in effect, that journalists had betrayed the public by not doing their job and by accepting and amplifying and echoing the lies of Bush and his gang, instead of challenging them and exposing them. What the Times didn't say was that had that paper and the rest of the media exposed the lies, up to a million people might be alive today. That's the belief now of a number of senior establishment journalists. Few of them—they've spoken to me about it—few of them will say it in public.

Ironically, I began to understand how censorship worked in so-called free societies when I reported from totalitarian societies. During the 1970s I filmed secretly in Czechoslovakia, then a Stalinist dictatorship. I interviewed members of the dissident group Charter 77, including the novelist Zdener Urbanek, and this is what he told me. "In dictatorships we are more fortunate that you in the West in one respect. We believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers and nothing of what we watch on television, because we know its propaganda and lies. Unlike you in the West. We've learned to look behind the propaganda and to read between the lines, and unlike you, we know that the real truth is always subversive."

Vandana Shiva has called this subjugated knowledge. The great Irish muckraker Claud Cockburn got it right when he wrote, "Never believe anything until it's officially denied."

One of the oldest clichés of war is that truth is the first casualty. No it's not. Journalism is the first casualty. When the Vietnam War was over, the magazine Encounter published an article by Robert Elegant, a distinguished correspondent who had covered the war. "For the first time in modern history," he wrote, the outcome of a war was determined not on the battlefield, but on the printed page, and above all on the television screen." He held journalists responsible for losing the war by opposing it in their reporting. Robert Elegant's view became the received wisdom in Washington and it still is. In Iraq the Pentagon invented the embedded journalist because it believed that critical reporting had lost Vietnam.

The very opposite was true. On my first day as a young reporter in Saigon, I called at the bureaus of the main newspapers and TV companies. I noticed that some of them had a pinboard on the wall on which were gruesome photographs, mostly of bodies of Vietnamese and of American soldiers holding up severed ears and testicles. In one office was a photograph of a man being tortured; above the torturers head was a stick-on comic balloon with the words, "that'll teach you to talk to the press." None of these pictures were ever published or even put on the wire. I asked why. I was told that the public would never accept them. Anyway, to publish them would not be objective or impartial. At first, I accepted the apparent logic of this. I too had grown up on stories of the good war against Germany and Japan, that ethical bath that cleansed the Anglo-American world of all evil. But the longer I stayed in Vietnam, the more I realized that our atrocities were not isolated, nor were they aberrations, but the war itself was an atrocity. That was the big story, and it was seldom news. Yes, the tactics and effectiveness of the military were questioned by some very fine reporters. But the word "invasion" was never used. The anodyne word used was "involved." America was involved in Vietnam. The fiction of a well-intentioned, blundering giant, stuck in an Asian quagmire, was repeated incessantly. It was left to whistleblowers back home to tell the subversive truth, those like Daniel Ellsberg and Seymour Hersh, with his scoop of the My-Lai massacre. There were 649 reporters in Vietnam on March 16, 1968—the day that the My-Lai massacre happened—and not one of them reported it.

In both Vietnam and Iraq, deliberate policies and strategies have bordered on genocide. In Vietnam, the forced dispossession of millions of people and the creation of free fire zones; In Iraq, an American-enforced embargo that ran through the 1990s like a medieval siege, and killed, according to the United Nations Children's fund, half a million children under the age of five. In both Vietnam and Iraq, banned weapons were used against civilians as deliberate experiments. Agent Orange changed the genetic and environmental order in Vietnam. The military called this Operation Hades. When Congress found out, it was renamed the friendlier Operation Ranch Hand, and nothing change. That's pretty much how Congress has reacted to the war in Iraq. The Democrats have damned it, rebranded it, and extended it. The Hollywood movies that followed the Vietnam War were an extension of the journalism, of normalizing the unthinkable. Yes, some of the movies were critical of the military's tactics, but all of them were careful to concentrate on the angst of the invaders. The first of these movies is now considered a classic. It's The Deerhunter, whose message was that America had suffered, America was stricken, American boys had done their best against oriental barbarians. The message was all the more pernicious, because the Deerhunter was brilliantly made and acted. I have to admit it's the only movie that has made me shout out loud in a Cinema in protest. Oliver Stone's acclaimed movie Platoon was said to be antiwar, and it did show glimpses of the Vietnamese as human beings, but it also promoted above all the American invader as victim.

I wasn't going to mention The Green Berets when I set down to write this, until I read the other day that John Wayne was the most influential movie who ever lived. I a saw the Green Berets starring John Wayne on a Saturday night in 1968 in Montgomery Alabama. (I was down there to interview the then-infamous governor George Wallace). I had just come back from Vietnam, and I couldn't believe how absurd this movie was. So I laughed out loud, and I laughed and laughed. And it wasn't long before the atmosphere around me grew very cold. My companion, who had been a Freedom Rider in the South, said, "Let's get the hell out of here and run like hell."

We were chased all the way back to our hotel, but I doubt if any of our pursuers were aware that John Wayne, their hero, had lied so he wouldn't have to fight in World War II. And yet the phony role model of Wayne sent thousands of Americans to their deaths in Vietnam, with the notable exceptions of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Last year, in his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the playwright Harold Pinter made an epoch speech. He asked why, and I quote him, "The systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought in Stalinist Russia were well know in the West, while American state crimes were merely superficially recorded, left alone, documented." And yet across the world the extinction and suffering of countless human beings could be attributed to rampant American power. "But," said Pinter, "You wouldn't know it. It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest." Pinter's words were more than the surreal. The BBC ignored the speech of Britain's most famous dramatist.

I've made a number of documentaries about Cambodia. The first was Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia. It describes the American bombing that provided the catalyst for the rise of Pol Pot. What Nixon and Kissinger had started, Pol Pot completed—CIA files alone leave no doubt of that. I offered Year Zero to PBS and took it to Washington. The PBS executives who saw it were shocked. They whispered among themselves. They asked me to wait outside. One of them finally emerged and said, "John, we admire your film. But we are disturbed that it says the United States prepared the way for Pol Pot."

I said, "Do you dispute the evidence?" I had quoted a number of CIA documents. "Oh, no," he replied. "But we've decided to call in a journalistic adjudicator."

Now the term "journalist adjudicator" might have been invented by George Orwell. In fact they managed to find one of only three journalists who had been invited to Cambodia by Pol Pot. And of course he turned his thumbs down on the film, and I never heard from PBS again. Year Zero was broadcast in some 60 countries and became one of the most watched documentaries in the world. It was never shown in the United States. Of the five films I have made on Cambodia, one of them was shown by WNET, the PBS station in New York. I believe it was shown at about one in the morning. On the basis of this single showing, when most people are asleep, it was awarded an Emmy. What marvelous irony. It was worthy of a prize but not an audience.

Harold Pinter's subversive truth, I believe, was that he made the connection between imperialism and fascism, and described a battle for history that's almost never reported. This is the great silence of the media age. And this is the secret heart of propaganda today. A propaganda so vast in scope that I'm always astonished that so many Americans know and understand as much as they do. We are talking about a system, of course, not personalities. And yet, a great many people today think that the problem is George W. Bush and his gang. And yes, the Bush gang are extreme. But my experience is that they are no more than an extreme version of what has gone on before. In my lifetime, more wars have been started by liberal Democrats than by Republicans. Ignoring this truth is a guarantee that the propaganda system and the war-making system will continue. We've had a branch of the Democratic party running Britain for the last 10 years. Blair, apparently a liberal, has taken Britain to war more times than any prime minister in the modern era. Yes, his current pal is George Bush, but his first love was Bill Clinton, the most violent president of the late 20th century. Blair's successor, Gordon Brown is also a devotee of Clinton and Bush. The other day, Brown said, "The days of Britain having to apologize for the British Empire are over. We should celebrate."

Like Blair, like Clinton, like Bush, Brown believes in the liberal truth that the battle for history has been won; that the millions who died in British-imposed famines in British imperial India will be forgotten—like the millions who have died in the American Empire will be forgotten. And like Blair, his successor is confident that professional journalism is on his side. For most journalists, whether they realize it or not, are groomed to be tribunes of an ideology that regards itself as non-ideological, that presents itself as the natural center, the very fulcrum of modern life. This may very well be the most powerful and dangerous ideology we have ever known because it is open-ended. This is liberalism. I'm not denying the virtues of liberalism—far from it. We are all beneficiaries of them. But if we deny its dangers, its open-ended project, and the all-consuming power of its propaganda, then we deny our right to true democracy, because liberalism and true democracy are not the same. Liberalism began as a preserve of the elite in the 19th century, and true democracy is never handed down by elites. It is always fought for and struggled for.

A senior member of the antiwar coalition, United For Peace and Justice, said recently, and I quote her, "The Democrats are using the politics of reality." Her liberal historical reference point was Vietnam. She said that President Johnson began withdrawing troops from Vietnam after a Democratic Congress began to vote against the war. That's not what happened. The troops were withdrawn from Vietnam after four long years. And during that time the United States killed more people in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with bombs than were killed in all the preceding years. And that's what's happening in Iraq. The bombing has doubled since last year, and this is not being reported. And who began this bombing? Bill Clinton began it. During the 1990s Clinton rained bombs on Iraq in what were euphemistically called the "no fly zones." At the same time he imposed a medieval siege called economic sanctions, killing as I've mentioned, perhaps a million people, including a documented 500,000 children. Almost none of this carnage was reported in the so-called mainstream media. Last year a study published by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found that since the invasion of Iraq 655, 000 Iraqis had died as a direct result of the invasion. Official documents show that the Blair government knew this figure to be credible. In February, Les Roberts, the author of the report, said the figure was equal to the figure for deaths in the Fordham University study of the Rwandan genocide. The media response to Robert's shocking revelation was silence. What may well be the greatest episode of organized killing for a generation, in Harold Pinter's words, "Did not happen. It didn't matter."

Many people who regard themselves on the left supported Bush's attack on Afghanistan. That the CIA had supported Osama Bin Laden was ignored, that the Clinton administration had secretly backed the Taliban, even giving them high-level briefings at the CIA, is virtually unknown in the United States. The Taliban were secret partners with the oil giant Unocal in building an oil pipeline across Afghanistan. And when a Clinton official was reminded that the Taliban persecuted women, he said, "We can live with that." There is compelling evidence that Bush decided to attack the Taliban not as a result of 9-11, but two months earlier, in July of 2001. This is virtually unknown in the United States—publicly. Like the scale of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. To my knowledge only one mainstream reporter, Jonathan Steele of the Guardian in London, has investigated civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and his estimate is 20,000 dead civilians, and that was three years ago.

The enduring tragedy of Palestine is due in great part to the silence and compliance of the so-called liberal left. Hamas is described repeatedly as sworn to the destruction of Israel. The New York Times, the Associated Press, the Boston Globe—take your pick. They all use this line as a standard disclaimer, and it is false. That Hamas has called for a ten-year ceasefire is almost never reported. Even more important, that Hamas has undergone an historic ideological shift in the last few years, which amounts to a recognition of what it calls the reality of Israel, is virtually unknown; and that Israel is sworn to the destruction of Palestine is unspeakable.

There is a pioneering study by Glasgow University on the reporting of Palestine. They interviewed young people who watch TV news in Britain. More than 90 percent thought the illegal settlers were Palestinian. The more they watched, the less they knew—Danny Schecter's famous phrase.

The current most dangerous silence is over nuclear weapons and the return of the Cold War. The Russians understand clearly that the so-called American defense shield in Eastern Europe is designed to subjugate and humiliate them. Yet the front pages here talk about Putin starting a new Cold War, and there is silence about the development of an entirely new American nuclear system called Reliable Weapons Replacement (RRW), which is designed to blur the distinction between conventional war and nuclear war—a long-held ambition.

In the meantime, Iran is being softened up, with the liberal media playing almost the same role it played before the Iraq invasion. And as for the Democrats, look at how Barak Obama has become the voice of the Council on Foreign Relations, one of the propaganda organs of the old liberal Washington establishment. Obama writes that while he wants the troops home, "We must not rule out military force against long-standing adversaries such as Iran and Syria." Listen to this from the liberal Obama: "At moment of great peril in the past century our leaders ensured that America, by deed and by example, led and lifted the world, that we stood and fought for the freedom sought by billions of people beyond their borders."

That is the nub of the propaganda, the brainwashing if you like, that seeps into the lives of every American, and many of us who are not Americans. From right to left, secular to God-fearing, what so few people know is that in the last half century, United States adminstrations have overthrown 50 governments—many of them democracies. In the process, thirty countries have been attacked and bombed, with the loss of countless lives. Bush bashing is all very well—and is justified—but the moment we begin to accept the siren call of the Democrat's drivel about standing up and fighting for freedom sought by billions, the battle for history is lost, and we ourselves are silenced.

So what should we do? That question often asked in meetings I have addressed, even meetings as informed as those in this conference, is itself interesting. It's my experience that people in the so-called third world rarely ask the question, because they know what to do. And some have paid with their freedom and their lives, but they knew what to do. It's a question that many on the democratic left—small "d"—have yet to answer.

Real information, subversive information, remains the most potent power of all—and I believe that we must not fall into the trap of believing that the media speaks for the public. That wasn't true in Stalinist Czechoslovakia and it isn't true of the United States.

In all the years I've been a journalist, I've never know public consciousness to have risen as fast as it's rising today. Yes, its direction and shape is unclear, partly because people are now deeply suspicious of political alternatives, and because the Democratic Party has succeeded in seducing and dividing the electoral left. And yet this growing critical public awareness is all the more remarkable when you consider the sheer scale of indoctrination, the mythology of a superior way of life, and the current manufactured state of fear.

Why did the New York Times come clean in that editorial last year? Not because it opposes Bush's wars—look at the coverage of Iran. That editorial was a rare acknowledgement that the public was beginning to see the concealed role of the media, and that people were beginning to read between the lines.

If Iran is attacked, the reaction and the upheaval cannot be predicted. The national security and homeland security presidential directive gives Bush power over all facets of government in an emergency. It is not unlikely the constitution will be suspended—the laws to round of hundreds of thousands of so-called terrorists and enemy combatants are already on the books. I believe that these dangers are understood by the public, who have come along way since 9-11, and a long way since the propaganda that linked Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda. That's why they voted for the Democrats last November, only to be betrayed. But they need truth, and journalists ought to be agents of truth, not the courtiers of power.

I believe a fifth estate is possible, the product of a people's movement, that monitors, deconstructs, and counters the corporate media. In every university, in every media college, in every news room, teachers of journalism, journalists themselves need to ask themselves about the part they now play in the bloodshed in the name of a bogus objectivity. Such a movement within the media could herald a perestroika of a kind that we have never known. This is all possible. Silences can be broken. In Britain the National Union of Journalists has undergone a radical change, and has called for a boycott of Israel. The web site has single-handedly called the BBC to account. In the United States wonderfully free rebellious spirits populate the web—I can't mention them all here—from Tom Feeley's International Clearing House, to Mike Albert's ZNet, to Counterpunch online, and the splendid work of FAIR. The best reporting of Iraq appears on the web—Dahr Jamail's courageous journalism; and citizen reporters like Joe Wilding, who reported the siege of Fallujah from inside the city.

In Venezuela, Greg Wilpert's investigations turned back much of the virulent propaganda now aimed at Hugo Chávez. Make no mistake, it's the threat of freedom of speech for the majority in Venezuela that lies behind the campaign in the west on behalf of the corrupt RCTV. The challenge for the rest of us is to lift this subjugated knowledge from out of the underground and take it to ordinary people.

We need to make haste. Liberal Democracy is moving toward a form of corporate dictatorship. This is an historic shift, and the media must not be allowed to be its façade, but itself made into a popular, burning issue, and subjected to direct action. That great whistleblower Tom Paine warned that if the majority of the people were denied the truth and the ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the Bastille of words. That time is now.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Book Review: 'King' Chronicles the Reign of One of the Original 'Mad Men"

" ... The author ... had been a cook, a spy, an Oxford dropout, savior of 'Masterpiece Theatre' and chairman of the United Negro College Fund. ... "

TITLE: "King of Madison Avenue: David Ogilvy and the Making of Modern Advertising"
AUTHOR: Kenneth Roman
PUBLISHER: Palmave Macmillan
PRICE: $27.95
PAGES: 304

By Richard Pachter

For anyone serious about the craft of advertising, several books are essential. Confessions of an Advertising Man and Ogilvy on Advertising have permanent places in my own ever-shifting library. The author of both volumes had been a cook, a spy, an Oxford dropout, savior of Masterpiece Theatre and chairman of the United Negro College Fund. He grew up in England (and considered himself a Scot), made his name and fortune in the United States, but never became a citizen (although the head of the CIA offered to make it happen).

When David Ogilvy, the most famous advertising man of his era, died, it merited front-page notice in The New York Times. He introduced the eye-patched Man in the Hathaway Shirt and Schweppes' Commander Whitehead (and "Schweppervesence"). He turned Dove ("one-quarter cleansing cream") into a powerhouse brand, catapulted American Express from a charge card for travelers into a multifaceted worldwide brand and established one of the most successful advertising agencies in the world. He's also credited with creating a "corporate culture" decades before the term was coined.

Ogilvy grew up poor, got into Oxford on a special scholarship — his grades had been poor, but his intellect and audacity impressed the school — before illness and other distractions kept him from fulfilling his academic requirements. He'd tried several jobs until his older brother, a successful adman, lent a hand. After a bit of success borne less of talent and more of audacity and tenacity, young David emigrated to America (in steerage), got a job with research company Gallup and within a few years opened an American outpost of his brother's firm. His early success revolutionized the industry, although he later acknowledged the huge debt he owed to other, less publicized predecessors.

Kenneth Roman's very readable biography presents an expansive and entertaining portrait, offering insights into the life and times. Advertising had held a different place in culture and commerce before the emergence of Ogilvy, whose career ran parallel to the rise of the great agencies and their eventual consolidation into a handful of multinational corporate entities.

Roman, a former chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, the agency his subject founded, is also the author of two how-to books on advertising, but his well-researched and insightful life story required different skills, and Roman rose to the occasion. Using Ogilvy's own books, quotes, other writings and reminiscences, copious interviews with friends, family, colleagues and competitors, Roman does a masterful job of conveying Ogilvy's colorful personality.

It's far from a fawning tale; the author incisively compares his work and influence with predecessors and peers such as Bill Bernbach, Rosser Reeves and others. Ogilvy often comes up short and vacillated between adoration and disdain of many of his fellow admen during his lifetime.

The only knock on this book is that it isn't loaded with examples of Ogilvy's work, although a little digging online and in other books may suffice. Regardless, Roman does his old boss proud.
David Ogilvy and British/American Intelligence

" ... Tthere is evidence that total destruction of Germany was never part of the plan by the hidden powers. In May 1945, only a few days after the surrender of Germany a small group around William Stephenson, better known by his code name Intrepid formed a new company called British American Canadian Corporation S.A. This new corporation was based in New York but registered in Panama. On April 2, 1947, this corporation changed its name to World Commerce Corporation. The most remarkable aspect of this corporation was that with one exception all of its directors and almost everyone associated with it had connections with British or American intelligence.

"All officers of the corporation were members of either the OSS or of Intrepid’s network. Included in the list of officers was Sir Charles Hambro, George Muhle Merten, David Ogilvy, John Arthur Reid Pepper. The officers selected at the formation were Pepper, president, Ogilvy and Merten as vice presidents and Thomas William Hill, who gave his title as Intrepid’s British Security Coordination in New York City.

"Donovan apparently was not involved with either corporation until he became a director On October 23, 1947, at the same time Edward Stettinius, former secretary of state, joined. Stettinius had a considerable financial holding in the corporation. However, Donovan’s law firm acted as legal advisers from the beginning. Among the legal advisers was Otto Doering.

"Soon World Commerce Corporation (WCC) attracted a number of other prominent intelligence operatives to join as directors, officers or stockholders. Included in this group was Russell Forgan, Lester Armour, Sydney Weinberg, W.K. Eliscu, Lt Col Rex Benson and several others connected with the Canadian intelligence service. Others included Nelson Rockefeller, former head of the agency in charge of South America intelligence. John McCloy, former under secretary of war also came on board as did Richard Mellon and Sir Victor Sassoon. When Frank Ryan took over as president, Stephenson provided him with connections to a group of men prominent in government, intelligence and finance. The WCC contact in Greece was a former member of the Greek and British intelligence services. In Thailand the WCC’s contact person was a former OSS agent. In short almost all members of the WCC and its contacts were formerly connect with the intelligence services during the war. Yet this remarkable company even with the backing to the world’s financial elite would last only fifteen years. In 1962 the WCC was liquidated for tax reasons. ... "

David Ogilvy and the Shah of Iran

" ... Alexandre de Marenches, head of the French secret service during the presidencies of Pompidou and Giscard d'Estaing ... recalls tidbits of advice that he offered various heads of state ('Your Majesty,' he told the Shah of Iran, 'your image is terrible,' and then sent for advertising ace David Ogilvy to tutor the monarch). ... "
Other Reviews of King of Madison Avenue: David Ogilvy and the Making of Modern Advertising

Ad Age:... Early chapters of the book recall much of the classic pre-Ogilvy Ogilvy mythology that has floated around for almost a century, from his Celtic heritage to his stints in the British secret service and as a chef at the Hotel Majestic in Paris.

When the agency opens, so begins the unofficial Anecdotal Guide to David Ogilvy -- for, as Mr. Roman points out, everyone has a David story. The collection here is no less comprehensive. There's David picking up eye patches on a whim en route to the Hathaway shoot. There he is admonishing copywriters from his Rolls Royce, or charming the Amish at his farm in Lancaster, Pa. Or coining the "one-quarter cleansing cream" copy that Dove would use for decades. Or buying a castle in France. And on and on. ...

What's missing is a more critical analysis of his work, how it touched the masses and its lasting importance. One could argue this might make the book less accessible to the public, but let's be honest: The public cares a lot less about the inner workings of adland than we wish they did, "Mad Men" notwithstanding.

Lancaster Intelligencer Journal

Madison Ave. runs through Amish country
New book details former ad guru’s connection to county

Well before TV ad men pitched melancholy cavemen, loquacious lizards and touchdown-making monarchs, David Ogilvy ruled Madison Avenue.

A global icon and self-described flamboyant Scotsman, the late Ogilvy is credited as the father of brand marketing.

A new book released last month by Ken Roman ... goes beyond Ogilvy's advertising genius to explore his implausible relationships with the local Amish community and Lancaster County's social elite during the mid-1940s.

Ogilvy, who died in 1999 at the age of 88, "was not much of a farmer," Roman said. "But he loved his farm and the Amish people and their simple ways." Roman said Ogilvy, in his autobiography, spoke of being welcomed by the Amish community and wrote that "visiting the Amish is like visiting a very large rural monastery."

But Ogilvy also described a bit of culture shock at his first Amish party:

"The conversation turned to the fact that my wife and I had one child," Ogilvy wrote. "This struck them as bizarre, and a venerable great-grandmother suggested my wife should 'get a new rooster.' " ...

Ecstatic materialist
Stephen Bayley
New Statesman
19 February 2009

... For roughly thirty years between 1950 and 1980, the Mad Men dominated what was then the glamorous profession of advertising. Madison Avenue was the Manhattan asylum where they were unchained. It seems to us now - freed but tarnished by eBay and Amazon - a fabulously romantic age. This was America's Renaissance, Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution rolled into one slickly packaged and remorselessly consumerised experience. For three decades it was an intoxicatingly attractive delusion: life could be enhanced by buying more stuff. Suits were gorgeous, the commissions were generous, lunches were long, women had been liberated, but not too much. There was such a thing as an American Car and it was duotone pistachio and ivory with cosmic tail fins and chrome. Air travel was a luxurious privilege for the "jet set". Clients were gentlemen. They had fun, fun, fun.

David Ogilvy was born in 1911 into a milieu of gentility-on-a-budget. He seems to have been quite exceptionally self-possessed, travelling freely and enjoying amazing contacts wherever he landed. Money was magicked out of air. He always professed poverty, but never stinted himself. He was, of course, his own greatest invention, as Kenneth Roman, one-time chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, the advertising agency he founded, makes clear in this dutiful biography, which adds not a lot to the record, except the facts Ogilvy tended to avoid in his breezy 1978 autobiography, Blood, Brains and Beer.

I still remember three bits of advice I read in my university library copy that give some example of Ogilvy's persuasiveness. To paraphrase: when in doubt, confuse the issue; always give gracefully what you cannot refuse; always carry a box of matches so that if you foul the air in someone's bathroom, a chemical remedy is at hand (the burning phosphorus seems to have some vitiating effect on the expressed sulphur dioxide). Doesn't that, in retrospect, sound like an entire advertising philosophy?

A period with the pollster Arthur Gallup and an admiration for the metric methodology of the management consultant Alfred Kinsey were important influences. For Ogilvy, selling was the essence of advertising. He disdained the (usually unaccountable) bravura of "creativity", which in his day was a creeping malaise but nowadays wins adland awards, advocating instead "long copy". His most famous advert had the headline: "At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock." There follow four closely argued columns of small-font text. It is still often cited as the best ever advertisement (though it is more difficult to quantify the effect it actually had on Rolls-Royce sales).

Ogilvy was among the first to realise that, as all cars and soap powders are technically similar, the voodoo of brands had more value than chemical ingredients or metal nuts and bolts. It is not an accident that his two best advertisements - for Rolls-Royce and Hathaway shirts - were for small, idiosyncratic, susceptible (even credulous) companies, not for the mighty Ford or Texaco gasoline companies. In addition, Ogilvy maintained a version of morality about his trade, perhaps a racial inheritance from Scotland, perhaps acquired when he (briefly) owned a farm on Amish land in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where he affected American Gothic dungarees and a broad-brimmed hat.

As he built his agency in New York, staff were bombarded with memos, inspirational thought lets, packaged advice, aphorisms, slide shows. Ogilvy was literally a man of letters. Many of these were incorporated in his landmark book, the 1963 Confessions of an Advertising Man. It was light on confession but heavy on quotability. It was also, of course, an advertisement for himself. Here we find "The consumer is not a moron; she is your wife" and "You cannot bore people into buying your product; you can only interest them in buying it".

In 1965, Ogilvy merged his New York and London agencies and the following year they went public. In 1973 he semi-retired to a preposterously grandiose French house called the Château de Touffou, near Poitiers. Here, he indulged in very well-dressed role-playing and entertained promiscuously, but was lured from la France profonde by the transatlantic wave of advertising agency mergers that began in the late 1970s, signalling the end of one type of Mad Man and his replacement by a different type, just as Mad, but now more Corporate as well.

The Saatchi brothers bought the Ted Bates agency in 1986. That same year, the Omnicom Group was, in a defensive manoeuvre, created out of Madison Avenue's finest independents. Most significantly, Martin Sorrell, one-time finance director and consigliere to the Saatchis, bought the revered J Walter Thompson Company in 1987. Ogilvy called Sorrell, not entirely respectfully, a "gnome", on account of his stature. When Sorrell made a move on Ogilvy & Mather, the old proprietor became more specific and called him an "odious little shit" (later modified to "jerk"). Then, when Sorrell put his price up, Ogilvy told his dismayed directors, "Maybe I can reform him." Well, he couldn't. In 1989 the Ogilvy brand was bought for $862m (Sorrell's WPP Group says $864m). The consumer was not a moron; the consumer was a rapacious numbers man. ...