Sunday, May 31, 2009

Film Review: Deflating The Elephant – Framed Messages Behind Conservative Dialogue

"You will learn more about language than you ever thought was possible. Language isn’t just words, words also carry meanings which are often subconscious. It is a phenomenon known as 'framing.' How it works is that when something is repeated often enough in a cultural setting, simply hearing those words brings to mind the specific framework that the sayers have been intending to transmit. Lakoff contends that through billion dollar marketing campaigns and the far reach of the right-wing think tanks, the conservatives have created a great deal of framing which has trapped a nation of independent thinkers into a false set of suppositions."

May 30th, 2009

The political world is full of messages and it seems as though people are able to say whatever they want without every having to prove a thing. What does “pal around with terrorists” even really mean?

If Obama truly is a socialist, then why is minimum wage not $15 an hour and why are we saving the very capitalist machines that keep the means of production out of the workers’ hands? Doesn’t the death penalty stop a beating heart too?

Intelligent people are able to shake off these lies, but what most don’t realize is that repetition of an idea and the way it is framed creates a framework of untruth which most people will simply take for granted. Now you can bring home a film which will help you to see and dismantle that framework that prevents the free flow of truth.

Starting this May 19th, now available on DVD from Uneco Productions and Cinema Libre Studio comes a fantastic and essential tool to understand the concept of framing and the true power of language and cultural repetition. Deflating The Elephant – Framed Messages Behind Conservative Dialogue is ready to show you how to understand so much of what Conservatives have been saying lately and combat it with the truth. The Left has sat silent for far too long and allowed the Ultra-Right to control the messages in society. Bring home this groundbreaking documentary and instructional film to learn how to take back the truth that belongs left of the center.

George Lakoff

Starring UC Berkley professor of Linguistics and Cognitive Science and author, George Lakoff, and Academy Award winning actor, Sean Penn, this movie is all about language. Sean Penn provides introductions and short vignettes which serve a purpose I’m still not quite aware of, but the star of this documentary is George Lakoff. In this head-on style, where he’s looking right out of the screen at you, you will learn more about language than you ever thought was possible. Language isn’t just words, words also carry meanings which are often subconscious. It is a phenomenon known as “framing.” How it works is that when something is repeated often enough in a cultural setting, simply hearing those words brings to mind the specific framework that the sayers have been intending to transmit. Lakoff contends that through billion dollar marketing campaigns and the far reach of the right-wing think tanks, the conservatives have created a great deal of framing which has trapped a nation of independent thinkers into a false set of suppositions. Some of Lakoff’s example of this include the phrases “free market,” “common sense approach,” “tort reform,” “tax relief” and “war on terror.” He also says that much of what is taken for granted as being good arguments against a liberal government are falsehoods that everyone has taken to be true because they are repeated so often. With information spreading as quickly as it does now, people just use soundbites and don’t need to offer proof. Lakoff says that it is time for liberals to fight back and dismantle these horrid and repressive frameworks.

This disc doesn’t have any special features and it is so enthralling that it doesn’t need any. I know, that sounds strange, but it’s completely true. The film didn’t look that interesting when I got it, so I just popped it in before I went to bed, thinking I would watch for a few minutes and then shut it off. I watched the whole two hours all the way through and never looked away from the television once. It is fascinating and a completely incredibly documentary.

I was very impressed with this documentary and it made a lot of sense. I had never read anything that Lakoff had written, but I had read some Wittgenstein and some Derrida, both of whom dealt with the meanings behind language and the meaning inherent in language itself. Whether you think framing is a good or bad thing, this movie will convince you that it is a real phenomenon, something I was shocked by. I’m certainly left of center myself, but I thought this was a pile of rubbish when I was reading the PR treatment of th documentary. But as I watched it and Lakoff asked question after question about some of our biggest assumptions, I was forced to admit, quite against my will, this he was correct in nearly all he was saying. We have become a nation which is afraid to think for itself and we need to start making up our own minds. In calling for a return to that, Lakoff is a modern prophet in the style of Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman.

You don’t want to miss Deflating The Elephant.

This DVD is available from Cinema Libre Studios.

Nathaniel Jonet

Book Review: 'King' Chronicles the Reign of One of the Original 'Mad Men'/David Ogilvy and British/American Intelligence

" ... 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. ...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Philadelphia Inquirer hires 'torture memo' author John Yoo

Jonathan Berr
NYT/May 13, 2009

The liberal blogosphere has been in a tizzy over the Philadelphia Inquirer's hiring of John Yoo, the author of the Bush administration's so-called "torture memo," to write a column.

The hiring inspired MSNBC's Keith Olberman to award the paper's executive editor William K. Marimow and editorial page editor Harold Jackson a "bronze" in his Worst Person in the World feature. Blogger Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic magazine was even more scathing:"What can one say about the Philadelphia Inquirer's decision to hire a war criminal whose legal work was so awful in government that the Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility had to conduct a deep and apparently damning investigation of it."

Media Matters for America discusses the story on its front page, and the Huffington Post has also weighed in on the story. Even The New York Times has taken on the story. One local blog, Philebrity, is calling for a boycott of the Inquirer.

But for readers of the Inquirer, none of this is a huge surprise.

The Inquirer, Pennsylvania's largest newspaper, has been drifting to the right ever since it was purchased by a group of local investors, led by ad man Brian Tierney, with Citizen Kane-like dreams for $515 million, along with sister tabloid the Philadelphia Daily News and associated Web properties. Tierney has long been an active Republican in overwhelmingly Democratic Philadelphia. A few years ago, he was the campaign manager for the Republican candidate for mayor.

The Inquirer made headlines -- not the good kind -- when it followed up its endorsement of Barack Obama during the presidential election with a statement from the dissenters on the editorial board endorsing rival John McCain. Newspapers usually speak with one voice. Some saw the behind-the-scenes manipulation of Tierney, something he has denied.

Though he has pledged not to interfere with editorial decisions, the paper has added quite a number of conservative-leaning columnists, including talk show host Michael Smerconish, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, and now Yoo. The former Justice Department lawyer's name was suggested by Tierney, though the final say was up to Jackson, according to The New York Times. Jackson declined to elaborate further.

"The only thing I am surprised by is the timing, since John Yoo has written for the paper since 2005," said Jackson in a brief interview.

Will Bunch, a Daily News writer, discovered early this week that Yoo was given a regular columnist position and was outraged.

"None of this is a good enough justification for awarding a column to America's top defender of such a serious human rights violation as torture -- certainly not the fact that he's now a celebrated Philadelphian," he said in his column.

What Bunch discovered was a carefully orchestrated PR stunt by Tierney to help revive his bankrupt publishing company. For now, it seems to have worked.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Red-Baiting I.F. Stone

" ... Stone was already working on major exposes that would show that American cartels were doing business with Nazi Germany. ... "

By Myra MacPherson, author of the award winning biography All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone

May 28, 2009

Review: Spies: the Rise and Fall of the KGB in America and "Three Tales of I.F Stone and the KGB: Kalugin, Venona and the Notebooks"


... One has to hand it to authors Harvey Klehr and John Haynes who know a bit about huckstering and sloganeering. ...

Stone [supposedly] "worked closely with the KGB" "assisted Soviet intelligence on a number of tasks, ranging from doing some talent spotting, acting as a courier by relaying information to other agents, and providing private journalistic tidbits and data."

After this build up, the evidence reveals much less -- not several years of cooperation, not working "closely with the KGB", but a total of two instances -- which implies that Stone had to be the laziest talent spotter in their stable. ...

May, 1936 a KGB New York station memo to Moscow said that Pancake had reported that "Karl Von Wiegand works in Berlin as a correspondent for the Hearst agency " and "had been ordered to maintain friendly relations with Hitler, which was supposedly dictated by the fact that the German press was buying the agency's information. Hearst is in a deal with German industry to supply the latter with a large consignment of copper." The next sentence has a "who could blame him?" ring to it for anyone opposed to Hitler: "Wiegand does not agree with Hearst's policy." Certainly Stone was looking for a red hot story here and sought information for his own purposes. If Stone could prove the copper connection he would have blasted it across the pages of the New York Post. Stone was already working on major exposes that would show that American cartels were doing business with Nazi Germany.

Walter Lippmann and the KGB

A most interesting question is why Walter Lippmann, the establishment sage, continues to get a pass in all this discussion of spies, even though, as I noted in All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone, the Venona files show that Lippmann was far more revealing and talkative than Stone ever was with the same agent and press attaché.

In the new material, Klehr and Haynes deal with Lippmann once again with veneration. A Vassiliev note obtained for Spies states that in June 1945 Moscow Center told the New York KGB station that "the cultivation of Truman's inner circle becomes exceptionally important....To fulfill this task, the following agent capabilities need to be put to the most effective use." The four journalists code named as agent were "Ide" "Grin" "Pancake" and "Bumblebee." Since "Bumblebee" was Lippmann, how do Haynes and Klehr handle this collective inclusion? "Walter Lippman was not [the authors' emphasis] a KGB agent. He knew Pravdin only as a Soviet journalist with whom he traded insights and information." In other words, was Lippmann more gullible and less intelligent than Stone who, they claim, always knew that Pravdin was KGB? Haynes and Klehr are left with having to say that "with Lippmann's inclusion to the list, this message is ambiguous in regard to Stone's relationship to the KGB at that time and does not have enough detail to warrant a firm conclusion."

Max Holland in his paper "I.F. Stone: Encounters with Soviet Intelligence" is stuck with the same information. The journalists in the memo are lumped in with men in the government and military circles and all are referred to as "the above-mentioned probationers" who should be "directed" to get information on Truman's plans and thinking. . Holland writes "what is notable about this message is its reference to 'agents' and 'probationers', the latter term being KGB terminology for an active source or spy. Not taking care to distinguish Lippmann/Bumblebee [a non-agent in Holland's view] from the others listed in this message indicates either a range of meanings about how the term 'agent' was used or, more likely simple laziness on the part of the cable's author....Where this leaves Stone/Blin is unclear. Either Stone, like Lippmann was sloppily lumped in with the others, or else he had moved at least one degree beyond an overt contact." No explanation is given as to why Lippmann -- who figures more prominently than Stone in the Venona files, participating in conversations relaying far more information than Stone did about U.S. activities -- is not considered an agent. Like Klehr and Haynes, Holland states that the otherwise brilliant Lippmann was "unaware that he was actually talking with a skilled intelligence officer" as he chattered away. Whether he knew or not, everything he said about wartime maneuvers and so forth showed up in the KGB files.

Holland concludes that there is no question Stone was a "fully recruited and witting agent" from 1936 to 1938 but "was not a 'spy' in that he did not engage in espionage" and had no access to classified material. Says Holland, " ...Stone apparently acted out of ideological conviction like the vast number of U.S. citizens who agreed to help the Soviet Union covertly..." Unlike Haynes and Klehr, Holland places Stone in the context of his time. "By almost any objective standard, the world situation did appear as dire in the spring of 1936 as Stone believed it was. [Stone was later singled out by historians for his prescient and unrelenting editorials regarding Hitler's subjugation of Jews at that time.].He perceived fascism to be a clear and present danger. That was matched by his fervent believe--which some would label a self-delusion--that the New Deal state and the world's only socialist state were separated by just a few degrees, and could coexist amiably. Using this logic, it was a virtuous act to cooperate with the Soviet intelligence. Stone would actually be serving the best interests of his fellow citizens and the country."

As for the conflicting tales woven by former KGB agent Kalugin about his relationship with Stone from 1966 to 1968, Holland correctly notes that Kalugin "seemed incapable of telling the same story more than once." Still, this did not keep Holland from repeating the damaging and long refuted lie that Herbert Romerstein, former HUAC sleuth, developed after talking with Kalugin, that Moscow Gold subsidized Stone's weekly newspaper.

No where is there any evidence that Stone took money for anything except a possible lunch or two.. Nor is there any evidence, as Holland points out, that Kalugin was able to plant stories with Stone.

What Does it all Mean?

So, finally, what does the new meager material add to our knowledge of I.F. Stone and his life's work? Not much. We knew he was just short of being a Communist in the thirties and that he worked and talked freely with anyone on the left during the Popular Front. He thought of himself as a fellow traveler, even, he once said, "something of an apologist" and he took far too long to completely acknowledge Stalin's evils. However he was often critical of the USSR and the CPUSA and earned their loathing when he worked as a tireless interventionist, fighting for aid to Britain during the Stalin-Hitler pact when Americans of all stripes opposed such action. (Only 12% in one poll favored aiding Britain.) He supported Tito when Stalin broke with him. He warned America to "not go the way of Russia" during its Witch Hunts. ...

Full Story

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Gavin Newsom to Return $25,000 Contribution from Savage's Son

Newsom's own father was a partner in an early Silicon Valley computer firm, with Otto Albrecht von Bolschwing - a ranking Nazi official who resettled in California after the war with the assistance of Richard M. Nixon - so we do have a case of the pot calling the kettle black ... not that the average newspaper reporter is likely to rise above Good German status and say so.

- AC
MAY 22, 2009

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a declared Democratic 2010 California gubernatorial candidate, has decided to return a hefty $25,000 campaign contribution -- from the son of controversial conservative talk show host, Michael Savage.

As we reported earlier this month, Savage was one of 16 individuals on a "name and shame" list who was banned from the United Kingdom. U.K. Home Secretary Jaqui Smith charged that Savage's right wing controverial broadcasts constituted "hate speech" and could promote violence, and did not represent the "values" of Britian.

Now, the move at home against Savage comes after a progressive activist in San Francisco, Aaron Baldwin, asked the Newsom campaign to reject the May 11, 2009 contribution of $25,000 from Russell Weiner, the CEO of Rockstar Energy Drinks. The company which was founded in Nevada in 2001 promotes a popular energy beverage -- but is a family business, charges Baldwin. Janet Weiner, the wife of Savage -- real name, Michael Weiner -- is the chief financial officer for both Savage Productions and Rockstar, documents show.

Baldwin told us he contacted Eric Jaye, the Newsom campaign consultant, to inform him of a campaign called "The Truth About Rockstar.'' He said 10,000 have already signed up on Facebook to now promote a boycott of the energy drink based on Savage's alleged links with the brand.

"When I found out Rockstar was affiliated with Michael Savage, I thought it was necessary people know,'' Baldwin said, arguing that public documents show "it is a privately-held company, the (Savage) assets are co-mingled with it.''

Baldwin said documents show Russell Weiner was also a founder of the conservative Paul Revere Society -- which uses the same address as Savage Productions; the group has promoted immediate deportation of illegal aliens, support for "traditional marriage'' only, "requiring health tests for all foreign born immigrants,'' all things "that are completely opposed to everything that Gavin stands for,'' he said.

Russ Weiner, in a phone interview today, strongly denied the allegations. "The Truth about Rockstar' site is full of misinformation,'' he said, saying he started the firm "with $50,000 of my own money. It has nothing to do with my dad. He's not an officer....he's not the founder or the creator.''

Our colleague Josh Richman over at the MediaNews/Oakland Tribune's Poitical Buzz blog wrote earlier this month that while talk show Savage has been savaged by the left for saying Newsom is "in love again with the gay mafia" and has called him "a whack-job as a mayor," his son is not too far away on the political spectrum.

"He ran for the state Assembly in 1998 as a Republican, touting the fact that he with his dad had founded the conservative Paul Revere Society (later stripped of its nonprofit status, and now redirecting Web browsers directly to Savage's site), Richman wrote.

Weiner, Savage's son, told Richman regarding the Newsom donation: "We're personal friends, went to the same high school at different times...and he's a businessman, I'm a businessman, so I hope he'll be good for the business community if he's governor."

Now Jaye, in an email today to Baldwin -- which has been forwarded to us -- wrote to Baldwin that "thanks to the information you provided, the campaign is returning this contribution. Your insight is greatly appreciated.''

We just spoke to Jaye, who confirmed the information: "There was some statements made during (Weiner's) 1998 campaign in the GOP primary which conflicted with the mayor's position and we're returning the check,'' he said.

Weiner told us: "I still wish Gavin well. I always will.'' But he said that with the donation rejected, "I'm taking this money and I'm donating it to charity. We're telling them to name a charity of their choosing, and if they don't want it, we'll donate it to Project Open Hand.''

Meanwhile, his dad, Michael Savage, we reported last week, has asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for aid in fighting the ban by the British Home Secretary, and has said he will file a defamation lawsuit after being put on the same list of banned individuals as terrorists, gang leaders, neo-Nazis and other dangerous criminals.

We're seeking a response from Savage, and will keep you updated.

UPDATE: In a new email to us, talk show host Savage said the following: "I had nothing to do with the founding or creation of Rockstar. These are my political enemies, trying to hurt me through my son." He calls it a "McCarthyesque smear campaign.''

Posted By: Carla Marinucci (Email) | May 22 2009 at 02:45 PM

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Howard French, the New York Times' Collaborator in Multinational Genocide across Sub Saharan Africa

Manufacturing Genocidal Consent

Howard French

What might not be apparent to readers of a recent article in The New York Times, under the by-line of Howard French, is that both Howard French and Mahmood Mamdani, whose book he reviews, suffer from similar afflictions. On initial scrutiny, scratching the surface a bit, one might conclude the common maladies to be their status, prestige, career interests, and the hunger for acknowledgment.

Looking deeper however we find that both help to cover up the truth about the atrocities occurring in the region in Africa that they have both been writing about.

"A Continent For The Taking," French's summary of his years as a New York Times bureau chief in Africa (1993-1999) -- is devoid of serious attention to the subterfuge of multinational corporations; absent any real discussion of covert operations; flippant in its treatment of racism; and wholly supportive of the white supremacy that has Africa under a stranglehold.

French at least notes that a genocide was perpetrated against the Hutus in the Democratic Republic of Congo by the Paul Kagame military machine; and to his credit he expresses a bit of outrage about that. But whatever door to the truth was minutely cracked open during the abuses against Hutu refugees who fled the 1994 killings in Rwanda was sealed shut.

French dropped his concern for Congo -- what little of it that seemed to exist -- and moved on to become a Times bureau chief in Shanghai.

French's treatment of Nigeria, 1993-1997, on the pages of the New York Times, is more a mirror to his own youth and shallow understanding than anything else; and the ghost of Ken Saro Wiwa -- and all the other Nigerians sacrificed for the petroleum genocide there -- will certainly haunt him.

For if you read his summary of the Saro-Wiwa story in his "Continent…." you must more importantly go back and read French's trivial pursuits on the pages of The New York Times prior to November 10, 1995; and then the back peddling on the pages of the Times after Nov 10, 1995; culminating in The New York Times triumph over truth, which appeared in the form of a two-full page Propaganda "advert" about the Ogoni story, earning the Times some $136,000.

To see Howard French lauding Professor Mamdani in his review is rather apropos of how the system feeds itself and supports those of its kind.

What is important to note is who Mamdani is and where he comes from, and that is what should inform peoples' understanding of his position vis-a-vis Sudan or the Great Lakes of Africa.

Indeed, extended a bit further South, we get a glimpse of how poorly -- out of foolishness? Fear? Service to Empire? -- Mamdani conveys his version of "reality" re: Mugabe in Zimbabwe, by reading the scathing critique of Mamdani on Mugabe written by Professor Horace Campbell.

Now there is something worth talking about.

Mamdani is never mentioned in Howard French’s "Continent….", but neither are Maurice Tempelsman, or Donald Easum; yet, to borrow from the title of French’s book, the "Taking" of a Continent as Africa was easily achieved with the help of these agents of repression and organized white collar crime.

Indeed, French lauds former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo in "Continent," but never mentions the relationship between Obasanjo and Easum; or their ties to the Africa-America Institute, another Tempelsman-backed entity whitewashing truth with white supremacy; and to the assassination of Nigerian President Murtala Muhammad in 1976.

Back to Mamdani.

When Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni ascended the throne in Uganda after their war against Milton Obote’s government between 1980-1985, Mamdani was all over it.

There must be some skeleton's in Mamdani's closets, as he maintained tight relations with Museveni and Kagame to some degree for several years. So much so that when Kagame and James Kabarebe marched into Congo, wiping out the Hutu refugee camps, Mamdani was fairly silent.

Mamdani was silent about the conflagration in Rwanda from 1990-1995, and only posthumously, meaning after so many Hutus and Tutsis had been killed there, did he conjure up his version of an expose in his book "When Victims Become Killers."

Madeleine Albright, Philip Gourevitch and the New Yorker magazine concocted a "new breed of African leaders"; Kagame, Museveni, Wamba Dia Wamba, John Garang, Laurent Desire Kabila and Meles Zenawi. When these men were all studying Marxism at the University of Dar-Es-Salaam in Tanzania in the 1970s, it seems Mamdani was there too.

When Kagame and Kabarebe marched back into Congo in 1998, for the second invasion, slaughtering left and right, Mamdani went with them from Kigali, traveling with Jacques Depelchin, who was already funding the so-called RCD "rebels" of Museveni, Kagame and Wamba; before the RCD's many pathological fractures.

Where does Howard French situate these people?

French personally told me that he had "dogged Maurice Templesman." He was quite proud of his acumen as a reporter determined to get to the bottom of the Tempelsman matter; and yet, Tempelsman not only eluded French in real life, but also eluded any mention what-so-ever in French's "Continent."

Accident? Self-censorship? Intentional obfuscation? Incidental omission? We're talking about Maurice Tempelsman; right up there with King Leopold as one of the greatest enduring enemies of the people of Congo, Liberia, Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Central Africa Republic, Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone.

Another curious feat of magic is attempted recently, April 25/26, by Jacques Depelchin, in his critique of the Foreign Policy article by Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills titled "68 Million Congolese Can't be Wrong."

Depelchin, who funded the RCD, ostensibly split from Mamdani in 1998 out of Mamdani's supposed concern for "objectivity". It's no wonder that Mamdani says so little about Museveni and the US-Israeli-UK backing of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army, who play a role in the killing in Darfur, as sure as any Hutu is today certain to be labeled a "genocideare."

Howard French sums up the Museveni -SPLA story in a single sentence: "Our latest love affair with a Ugandan dictator stemmed mostly from Museveni's willingness to sponsor an insurgency in Southern Sudan against that country's Islamic Fundamentalist government."

If there is a glimmer of Hope -- after all, French subtitles his book "…The Tragedy And Hope Of Africa," it is that Howard French dared to press the limits as much as he did.

French is an African American and Mamdani is a Ugandan of Indian ancestry.

The system -- the White supremacist system -- is so ruthless and unforgiving against such people who "step out of line" that they can certainly be seen as men in line as fall guys when someone, anyone, ostensibly needs to be held to account for Africa's woes.

Such is the nature of system predicated on black [African] fall guys, who take the heat, and the white collar war criminals who don't.

Perhaps the shortcomings of such works as "Continent…." and "When Victims Become Killers," can be placed in their proper contexts.

James Baldwin comes to mind: "It is the innocence that constitutes the crime."

Tell it to the millions and millions of dead and the millions and millions more perpetually destined to suffer the abuses of the "humanitarian" misery industry, the Western profit sector, across Sub Saharan Africa.

We don't see Mamdani or French writing about that.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Media Manipulation and the Indonesian Killings of 1965-66

by Nathaniel Mehr

The Indonesian killings of 1965-66 provide a valuable case study for anyone seeking to understand the techniques with which governments and non-governmental actors manipulate information sources in pursuit of pragmatic and ideological goals.

When the Indonesian army's strategic reserve crushed an internal army mutiny on 1st October 1965, the reserve's leader, General Suharto, seized the opportunity to link the mutiny -- which had claimed the lives of six leading Generals -- to the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). At this point, the PKI was the largest communist party outside the officially communist nations, posing a credible threat to the Indonesian army's long-standing primacy in Indonesian public life. Capitalising on reports that the upper echelons of the PKI had endorsed the abortive mutiny, the Indonesian army effected a mobilisation of anti-communist opinion with the single aim of exterminating the PKI once and for all. The campaign, which did not discriminate between party cadres and the party's mass membership, culminated in the violent deaths of between 500,000 and a million people, the overwhelming majority of whom were rural peasants who had joined the PKI because of the party's progressive position on land reform issues. The massacre removed the PKI as a viable political force in Indonesia, paving the way for Suharto to seize power and install a 32-year dictatorship that became notorious for corruption and human rights abuses.

Media manipulation was central to Suharto's success in two important respects. Firstly, a fierce propaganda onslaught against the PKI helped to fuel popular resentment against the party, and helped to recruit many thousands of youths, particularly among the country's zealous Muslim population, to the task of assisting the army in its deadly mission. British secret service organisations played an important role in assisting the Indonesian army in this endeavour. It is doubtful whether the army could have carried out such a massive bloodbath without the assistance of sections of the civilian population, to whom much of the work was delegated. Secondly, the coverage of the massacre in Western media outlets has tended to distort and obfuscate the nature and extent of the killings, in line with the prevailing Cold War expediency of the time. To the extent that Suharto was very much a "friend" of the West, opening up Indonesia to US capital in the years after 1967, the killings constituted what Noam Chomsky calls "a constructive bloodbath", and therefore relatively little is known, outside of academic circles, about one of the largest mass murders of the 20th Century.

"Psychological Warfare" -- Internal and External

The bulk of the propaganda burden was borne directly by the Indonesian army themselves. Independent newspapers were shut down, and a number of army-run newspapers devoted themselves to calling for the physical elimination of the PKI. PKI members were identified as traitors and thugs, and religion was invoked in order to incite the country's Muslims into action, preying on their religious sensibilities by raising the spectre of a takeover by militant atheists, which would presumably have disastrous implications for the religious community. The message of the campaign was not limited either to calling for the prosecution of the ringleaders of the mutiny or to a generic denunciation of the PKI. Instead, the army newspapers incited physical violence against PKI members in unequivocal terms, with a strong emphasis on a sense of religious duty. An editorial in the army newspaper Angkatan Bersendjata on 8th October issued a clear call to arms: "The sword cannot be met by the Koran . . . but must be met by the sword. The Koran itself says that whoever opposes you should be opposed as they oppose you." A few days later, the same newspaper would proclaim: "God is with us because we are on the path that is right and that he has set for us". A sensationalistic newspaper, Api Pancasila, appeared in circulation just days after the coup, and disappeared again soon after the slaughter; the mysterious timing of its publication and subsequent disappearance have prompted suggestions that the American CIA was involved in its production and dissemination. Deception was central to the army's campaign against the PKI. Army newspapers ran stories which featured a host of sordid -- and completely false -- details about the circumstances surrounding the murder of the Generals on the night of the failed mutiny. Their accounts alleged that, prior to the killings, a number of women from the PKI women's organisation Gerwani stripped naked and performed a lascivious dance in front of PKI cadres and air force officers involved in the 30th September Movement, before proceeding to a ritual genital mutilation of the Generals. The Generals' genitals were severed, and their eyes gouged out, before they were finally killed and their bodies disposed of. The Gerwani women celebrated by abandoning themselves to an orgy with PKI members and air force officers in attendance; the PKI leader, Aidit, awarded medals to the most depraved performers. In every detail -- save for the killing -- this account was a complete fabrication, yet it was circulated deliberately by the army. If the allegations in relation to genital mutilation would have been shocking enough in most cultures, the descriptions of naked dancing and wild group sex were designed to shock the sensibilities of a highly conservative society and reinforce the notion that the communists represented a way of life that was anathema to traditional Indonesian values. The success of these techniques is attested to by the frenzied enthusiasm with which militias of Muslim youths executed the purge. Armed with knives and cudgels, they roamed the towns, killing without mercy, often raping and mutilating their victims prior to killing them.

The British were as keen as their American partners to help ensure the complete destruction of the PKI. For their part, the Americans had provided the Indonesian army with years of funding and training for just such an eventuality and, with the killing in full flow in November 1965, they also provided the army with a shipment of walky-talkies, and a substantial transfer of funds to an army-civilian front organisation that was helping to organise civilian involvement in the killings. The British sought to reinforce the Indonesian army's media blitz by providing independent and apparently reliable corroboration of the accounts proffered by the army-run newspapers. It was a campaign of deliberate misinformation, euphemistically referred to by foreign policy officials as "psychological warfare". Responsibility for this task was entrusted to Norman Reddaway, a Foreign Office propaganda specialist, working with the government's Information and Research Department (IRD). Reddaway's brief in relation to Indonesia was to "do anything you can think of" to ensure the PKI's demise. In the wake of the abortive mutiny of 30th September 1965, the IRD therefore focused its efforts on disseminating apparently credible documentary evidence of PKI atrocities while taking care to obscure the precise nature of the anti-communist crackdown. Over the ensuing weeks the IRD issued, from its base at the headquarters of British Far East Command in Phoenix Part, Singapore, a series of deliberately misleading background briefs for the benefit of local and international media agencies. One such briefing, entitled "The PKI Holds Its Fire", was released in December, and described a policy of mass arrests aimed at putting down the a rampant communist rebellion. The fact that communists were, at this point, being systematically slaughtered in their tens of thousands, was not alluded to in the briefing; the outright defeat of the 30th September mutiny was also overlooked for the purposes of propaganda.

Reddaway's "briefings" were for the most part drawn from information received in top secret telegrams from the British Ambassador Andrew Gilchrist. Reddaway received about four a week by diplomatic wire service from Jakarta, passing them on to his contacts at the BBC, as well as UK newspapers -- The Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Observer and The Daily Mail -- and international media organisations. The stories would work their way back to Indonesia via ordinary domestic news outlets which relied upon the BBC and other respected international media for much of their copy. In this way, the IRD managed to influence the way in which the 30th September mutiny and its aftermath were perceived by Indonesian and world public opinion, giving a seal of credibility to Suharto's interpretation of the 30th September events, while providing a duly sanitised and sympathetic account of the subsequent anti-communist crackdown. Gilchrist's influence was so direct that Reddaway would later joke: "It was about that time that I wondered whether this was the first time in history that an Ambassador had been able to address the people of his country of work almost at will and almost instantaneously".

A recently declassified letter from Reddaway to Gilchrist provides a concise summary of a number of key elements of the IRD's "psychological warfare" campaign, a list of deceptions and fabrications including: "The story of PKI systematic preparations before the coup -- the carving up of the town into districts for systematic slaughter"; "Various sitreps [situation reports] from yourself [Gilchrist] which were put almost instantly back into Indonesia via the BBC"; and "A flattering version of the night of the long knives". While these fabrications helped to stoke up anti-PKI sentiments among the Indonesian public, British public opinion was similarly misled about the nature of the Suharto coup, as attested to by the inclusion on Reddaway's list of a reference to the IRD's contact with a British correspondent, Gavin Young, who "agreed to give exactly your [Gilchrist's] angle on events in his article in the Observer of 13th March - i.e. that this was a kid glove coup without butchery". This propaganda campaign sometimes took even more direct forms. Under Reddaway's stewardship, the IRD produced an Indonesian-language radio programme entitled "Voice from the Well" (in an emotive reference to the well at the Halim airbase in which the bodies of the murdered generals of the 30th September mutiny had been thrown). This programme, made by British agents in Singapore, safe-handed into Jakarta and transmitted from a residence close to Suharto's, comprised a barrage of purportedly nationalistic anti-PKI propaganda. It is difficult to quantify the precise impact of the IRD's "psychological warfare" operations upon the course of events in Indonesia in the turmoil of the 1965-66 period. However, it is clear that the Foreign Office was actively involved in a deliberate campaign of misinformation, aimed at manipulating Indonesian and international public opinion in order to provide support for General Suharto's cynical seizure of power and his murderous anti-communist pogrom.

After the Event: the Western Media Response to the Killings

The more honest conservative commentators did not mince their words: James Reston of the New York Times hailed the "savage transformation" of Indonesia, from a country in which a communist party had a significant political foothold, into to a regional bastion of anti-communism and an investors' paradise. The massacre of half a million innocent people was "a gleam of light in Asia". Elsewhere, obfuscation and distortion were the order of the day. In December 1965, a New York Times editorial misleadingly presented the anti-communist campaign as an effort solely targeted against senior party cadres, praising the Indonesian army for having "de-fused the country's political time-bomb, the powerful Indonesian Communist Party" by eliminating "virtually all the top- and second- level leaders of the PKI". Over a decade later, the influential Los Angeles Times correspondent George McArthur went even further, informing his readers that the PKI had actually carried out the massacre themselves (against themselves): "the Indonesians broke relations [with China] in 1965, when the Mao-inspired Communist Party, now outlawed, attempted to seize power and subjected the country to a bloodbath". Where a publication could not quite muster this level of mendacity, it might content itself with a more generalised statement of support for Suharto's regime, such as the declaration by the prestigious London current affairs weekly, The Economist, of Suharto's regime as "at heart benign".

Commentators seeking to play down the systematic nature of the killings tended to characterise the killings as a culturally-determined outbreak of ritual violence, employing a full range of Orientalist clichés. John Hughes was one of only a small handful of Western journalists in Indonesia at the time of the killings. His account -- the first detailed account of the slaughter to be read in the West -- was published under the title Indonesian Upheaval in 1967, and has informed much of the subsequent commentary about the killings. Hughes drew a comparison with the conscious and deliberate suicidal violence of Balinese fighters in the face of Dutch guns in 1906, concluding that Indonesia in 1965-66 was permeated by that same sense of a "mass joyful death-wish" which he believed characterised the heroic self-sacrificing violence of an earlier era. Hughes was by no means alone in this view – the New York Times journalist CL Sulzberger attributed the killings to a "strange Malay streak, that inner frenzied blood-lust which has given to other languages one of their few Malay words: amok." Robert Shaplen of the New Yorker magazine insisted that "the rest of the rational world" should not judge the Indonesians, as they "were able to explain the bloodbath, at least to their own satisfaction, in ancient terms of catharsis and the eradication of evil." The people were "emotionally and psychologically ready to run amok." In fact, the true definition of "running amok" presupposes a pathetic, suicidal self-sacrifice on the part of the person doing the killing, so that the expression was completely inapplicable to subject under discussion. Nevertheless, the expression had the ring of anthropological insight, and was duly incorporated into much of the discourse about the killings, serving to obscure the reality of this systematic and very deliberate operation of mass murder. Sulzberger's observation that the killings took place in "violent Asia, where life is cheap", accord with this general tendency to construct a different moral framework in which the killings can be received with rather less horror than comparable events might have been in the Western world.

The reaction of the mainstream media to the Indonesian killings of 1965-66 marks the killings as a watershed moment in US and British foreign policy during the Cold War period. The episode provided a revealing demonstration of the US establishment's response to a major bloodbath in circumstances in which the political results perceived as being propitious in Cold War terms; the enthusiastic response of journalists and political leaders, combined with only minimal protest at the mass killings, set a precedent for the use of mass killings as a viable model for further large-scale anti-communist pogroms in later years. A mere seven years would elapse before the United States sponsored a similar programme of destabilisation and killing -- albeit with a death toll in the thousands rather than in the hundreds of thousands -- which brought the military dictator Augusto Pinochet to power in Chile. The Indonesian experience showed US policymakers that they could involve the US government in a policy of deliberate, politically-motivated mass murder of civilians without having to fear a substantial domestic backlash from the US political establishment or mainstream media organisations. In this way, the culture of state-sponsored terrorism which characterised the United States' conduct of international relations during the Cold War era was consolidated after the tentative steps taken in the 1950s.

Nathaniel Mehr is co-editor of London Progressive Journal ( Read 'Constructive Bloodbath' in Indonesia by Nathaniel Mehr, just published by Spokesman Books.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Glenn Beck's Ride to Cable Stardom
May. 17, 2009

By John Timpane
Inquirer Staff Writer

His show on Fox News hits in about an hour, and he's ready in black suit, pink shirt, maroon tie - and black Converse Chuck Taylor high-top sneakers, no laces. The Chucks, like Beck himself, are upmarket with a dash of irreverence.

Depending on who's talking, Beck, 45, is a hero, maniac, lightning rod. He calls himself "a guy on the radio bus." That bumpy ride took him through Philadelphia and WPHT-AM (1210), where he honed his skills, built a national audience, and - gasp - made the transition to cable-TV stardom.

Now he sits near the top of the cable universe. Number three, to be exact. The Glenn Beck Program ("The Fusion of Entertainment and Enlightenment") started only in January and is now the third-leading cable news show in prime time, behind Fox stablemates Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity - and third among all cable shows at 5 p.m. weekdays.

It all began in Mount Vernon, Wash. "My mom gave me one of the Golden Age of Radio albums," Beck says, relaxing alertly in his New York office. (He still has the album.) The little boy was enchanted, and he started appearing on local radio soon after.

It's been a long, hard ride on the radio bus. When Beck was 13, his mother lost her battle with depression and committed suicide. A brother would do the same; Beck and his father would become estranged. The radio bus wound through Provo, Utah; Baltimore; Houston; Phoenix; Washington. By the mid-1990s, he was close to the bottom. "I came from an alcoholic background and became an alcoholic," he says. "I burnt every bridge I had, including my first marriage." The radio bus stopped at Alcoholics Anonymous.

When he remarried, his wife told him: "We need a church." "So we did the American thing," Beck says. "We shopped for a church." In 1999, he and his family became members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The radio bus then pulled up in Philadelphia. Beck was fresh from converting an 18th-place time slot down in Tampa, Fla., to a market-leader, fresh from syndicating The Glenn Beck Program nationally, when he came to WPHT in 2002. His first line on Philadelphia radio was not promising: "I've moved away from my two oldest children for a job. This may be the biggest mistake of my life." In a little under four years, his show went from 47 stations to more than 200 (it's now at 350) and XM satellite radio.

Vai Sikahema, sports director and anchor at NBC10, remembers Beck's Philadelphia days. "I used to see Glenn and the other talk-show hosts taking a break outside the studios, and I'd think, 'In another year, they'll all be back doing sports.' But it's interesting: Philadelphia is a town very entrenched in the Democratic Party, and yet Glenn and the others have pulled in a huge audience for conservative talk. It's amazing what he's been able to accomplish."

Grace Blazer, who was program director at WPHT when Beck came aboard, says, "From the beginning, he had the knack of, whether you agreed or disagreed with him, making you like him, want to get to know him - and he made you feel as if you, personally, were the only person he was talking to."

Beck found Philadelphia both a great town ("I just couldn't get over all the history here") and perfect fodder for radio talk. "It's the most heartbreaking city I ever lived in," he says. "So much to offer - but Philly has allowed itself to get bogged down in corruption and incompetence. As a radio host, I found Philly an easy place to connect with listeners because everybody knows what the problems are."

In 2006, when he began a TV gig on CNN, he relocated the show to New York, and he now lives in New Canaan, Conn. But he retains an avid following here: Philadelphia remains among his top 10 syndicated affiliates.

Many are the radio people who have crashed trying to make the transition to TV. Beck is "one of the few who have done it," says Blazer. Sikahema calls his ease on-camera "unbelievable. He has somehow managed to do on TV what he does on radio - usually, it doesn't translate. He's just a natural."

On set, you see close up that Beck's energy has found a home. Inescapable is how loud he talks on camera. His manner is conversational - yet his volume reverberates throughout the set. Somehow, it not only works - it cranks. He's famous for shouting, weeping, for that sense of an emotional volcano just beneath the surface, about to blow.

He begins his May 9 show, as always, with a high-energy shout-out to viewers: "If you believe this country is great, but there's too much talk about change, and not enough action, or maybe too much change in a direction you weren't expecting, declare yourself a 9/12-er, and come on, follow me." With that, Beck strides to his desk.

Once there, he reviews what "the mainstream media" are covering. He jokes, speaks in dozens of character voices, makes faces (priceless faces), gestures. Sitting but not sitting still, he reviews the ill-advised New York flyover of Air Force One; the party switch of Sen. Arlen Specter, called "Spectator" and imitated in a gruff, old-guy voice; President Obama's health-care plan (he simpers: "We're gonna change the world").

Obama, Beck says, "has helped orchestrate a power grab of industry, energy, health care, and taxes." Minutes later, he asks: "So where does this leave you? What do you get out of this, the taxpayer? Where's the transparency we've been promised? It ain't in Washington. Tonight the transparency is right here." With that, he springs up and strides toward a blackboard to crunch some numbers.

In a reflective moment in his office, Beck says, "It's really . . . entrepreneurial around here. I'm on my own. We live and die by the ratings."

As Beck grew into a media byword, his politics grew libertarian. "I was always a fiscal Republican," he says, "but socially, I don't give a flying crap. As the Founding Fathers said, as long as you're not hurting others, more freedom rather than less."

He says that he was a "reluctant" voter for George Bush in 2000 but that "he had me at 9/11." Yet Beck started to "sour hard" on Bush because of government interference in private life, surrender of personal liberties, and huge, heedless deficits. "I just couldn't vote for Arlen Specter in 2004," he says. "I don't know who I did vote for - but it wasn't him."

Some call Fox News "conservative," a label the channel sharply disputes. Detractors decry lack of opposing viewpoints, selectivity in news stories, overwhelming emphasis on opinionators. Asked why Beck's show prospers, Eric Boehlert, senior fellow at Media Matters for America, says simply: "Hate sells. If you talk hate, you can find two million people to watch you, especially if it's right-wing hate."

But Al Tompkins, group leader for broadcasting and online at the Poynter Institute, is less worried: "We have a long tradition of partisan media in America. And I think there's a place for all of those voices in the spectrum of conversation. That's good for democracy. But it's not journalism."

Beck agrees: "I like the word 'opinionator' - but I'll take 'entertainer.' Nothing wrong with that. In every alcoholic family, one of the kids is a distracter, and that's what I was. The entertainment part is me. That's how I've always dealt with everything in my life."

Even Glenn Beck has to whistle as he looks at where the radio bus has brought him: "Why the success? I have no clue."

Friday, May 8, 2009

As the Big Newspapers Founder, Small Community Papers are Growing Despite the Economic Decline

The Christian Science Monitor reports: " ... The National Newspaper Association (NNA) last month reported on a study that showed community newspapers were far less affected by the challenging economy than the industry in general (or the economy in general, for that matter). The Suburban Newspapers of America and NNA's reporting group showed 2008 fourth-quarter advertising revenue of $428.7 million, only a 6.6 percent decline from the same quarter in 2007. The Glennco Consulting Group estimate was much worse, however, for the overall newspaper industry. There it showed decline in fourth-quarter advertising expenditures of 21 percent, according to the NNA. So while advertisers cut their spending by 21 percent across the industry, the impact to community newspapers was less than 7 percent.

"In addition, 26 percent of the SNA/NNA reporting group launched new products in 2008. Indeed, many community newspaper companies are growing. The fact is that gains among progressive community newspaper companies are offsetting a large part of the massive losses being suffered by the staid, big newspaper companies. ... "

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rumsfeld Aide’s Credibility Crumbles As DOD Withdraws IG Report On Pentagon Propaganda Program

Last month, New York Times reporter David Barstow received a Pulitzer Prize for his investigation into how the Bush Pentagon co-opted retired generals in its propaganda efforts.

“I take it as an affirmation of the principle that American journalism ought to be fiercely independent,” Barstow told Editor and Publisher upon winning the award.

But Barstow’s award was not positively received by allies of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. On Monday, U.S. News’ Paul Bedard reported that former Pentagon Assistant Secretary Dorrance Smith told him, Does the Pulitzer give prizes for works of fiction? Perhaps they just got the wrong category.” Current Rumsfeld aide Keith Urbahn went further, citing a January 2009 Pentagon inspector general’s report to attack Barstow’s reporting:

Rumsfeld’s current spokesman, Keith Urbahn, cites a January 2009 Pentagon inspector general’s report debunking the story: “The Times’s reporting on DoD’s routine outreach to military experts didn’t merit a place in the paper, much less a Pulitzer.” [...]

Says Urbahn: “Between the New York Times and the Pentagon’s inspector general office, it’s pretty clear which is a more credible and non-partisan source.”

Just one day after Urbahn’s intemperate remarks, however, the Pentagon announced that it was withdrawing the IG report because it “did not meet accepted quality standards for an Inspector General work product.” In a memo announcing the withdrawal of the report, Donald M. Horstman, the Pentagon’s deputy inspector general for policy and oversight, told staff “do not continue to rely on its conclusions.”

In the New York Times today, Barstow notes that the report was controversial as soon as it was released, “with some members of Congress calling it a ‘whitewash’ marred by obvious factual errors.” In January ‘09, New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt called the IG report “highly flawed,” noting that it “left its conclusions open to question by erroneously identifying several retired officers as having no ties to military contractors when in fact they did.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Village Voice Continues to Collapse

" ... The problem, our tipster says, is that editor-in-chief Tony Ortega has most of his hiring decisions dictated to him by his New Times bosses ... "

By ian spiegelman
Mar 29 2008

The owners of wilting alt weekly The Village Voice continue to condemn their staff to the torture of a thousand cuts. Last week, the Voice's overlords at cost-cutting conglomerate The New Times laid off dance critic Deborah Jowitt after she'd served forty years at the paper. Now, an insider tells us that writer Chris Thompson—who relocated his family from San Francisco to take the job—has been let go. The problem, our tipster says, is that Voice editor-in-chief Tony Ortega has most of his hiring decisions dictated to him by his New Times bosses "and then he sulks because he doesn't really like them, and then decides they aren't 'working out.'"

"[T]he Voice is now FIFTH in terms of ad sales amongst the entire chain," the insider tells us. "We used to be first, and now we are FIFTH. Kansas City['s The Pitch] does better than the Voice in ad sales. The [New Times] has proven over and over and over that when they go into anything other than secondary markets, they fail because they apply their boneheaded editorial strategy to the big papers, ignoring what actually worked for those cities. That's why San Francisco was their biggest money loser, because they didn't seem to get that no one wanted their cookie cutter philosophy in such an individualist town."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Talk radio host Severin suspended, 'swine flu' hysteria drives anti-immigrant hate/The Right's pandemic paranoia

Also: "The Right's pandemic paranoia," Media Matters, May 01, 2009

SUMMARY: While the Department of Homeland Security and the Centers for Disease Control spent the week informing the public with details on the H1N1 virus, the right-wing noise machine spent the week misinforming the public with paranoid theories about the virus. Because the flu virus may have originated in Mexico, the story provided some on the right with an excuse to engage in some good-old fashioned immigrant-bashing and renew their calls for greater border security. The story also provided right-wing media figures with more fuel for their fear-mongering about the Obama administration.

Friday, May 1, 2009

New Zealand: Controversial Cult Book a Best Seller

A new book about the leader of a controversial West Coast religious cult has shot to the top of the New Zealand book bestseller list.

Publishers Longacre Press said today it had ordered a second print run of The Sins of The Father, written by Phil Cooper, about his father Gloriavale Christian Community leader Hopeful Christian.

Phil Cooper portrays his father – formerly Neville Cooper – as a controlling, manipulative, sexual deviant.

Longacre publishing director Barbara Larson said the book went to the top of the bestseller list after only two days and they had ordered a reprint because the first run had nearly sold out.

Although she had expected big interest in the book, she did not expect to reorder this soon.

"Interest seems fairly widespread, and there's real interest on the West Coast."

The book was temporarily pulled from the shelves at The Warehouse in Greymouth last week, after staff were approached by cult members.

Paper Plus in Greymouth has only been selling it on demand from under the counter.

The Warehouse confirmed today its Greymouth store had sold out, while Take Note said it was "selling truckloads" and was on its fourth order

Paper Plus would only say that sales were "steady".

Who Are The Gosslings?

By Zachary Roth
May 1, 2009

In recent days, speculation about who leaked to CQ the news about Jane Harman's wiretapped conversation with a suspected Israel agent has seemed to focus on former CIA director Porter Goss -- or, more precisely, the group of Goss aides known as the Gosslings.

So we thought it was worth taking a closer look at this crew. And it looks like they have quite a reputation...

In 2004, Goss moved over from chairing the House intelligence committee to running the CIA, and he took four of his top committee aides with him -- even though, as we noted yesterday, they had already been labelled "partisan" and "inexperienced" by Harman. At CIA, Goss reportedly invented new positions for several of them, to mediate between him and the intelligence and operations directorates, allowing them to operate to a great degree as free agents.

Indeed, Goss is said to have deferred key decisions the Gosslings, who were reportedly also known as the Hitler Youth. "He was softened up over the years by these guys like a Kobe beef cow," one person who worked at the CIA under Goss told Harpers in 2006. "He couldn't make a move without their help."

So, who were the Gosslings?

Patrick Murray

Murray was the top lawyer on the intelligence committee under Goss, and became his chief of staff at CIA.

While on the committee, Murray acted as a crucial go-between for Goss and the Bush White House. In 2005, a former committee staffer told Robert Dreyfuss of the American Prospect: "There was a sense that [Murray], even more than Porter, was close to the folks at the White House. And that [Murray] was making everything happen, with lots of meetings at the White House, with Cheney's office, and House leadership."

Dreyfuss added that Goss "was seen as a prisoner of his staff -- above all, of Murray."

For instance:

During one confrontation over a controversial piece of legislation, when other members challenged Goss, he deferred to Murray. "Goss looked sad and apologetic, and he looked at us and said, 'Pat runs the show,'" according to a source. "We all wondered, 'What does Pat Murray have on Porter Goss?'"
Once at CIA, Murray quickly alienated the agency's old guard. In November 2004, the Washington Post reported that John McLaughlin, a CIA veteran who had served as acting director, resigned after warning Goss that Murray, "was treating senior officials disrespectfully and risked widespread resignations." Soon afterwards, Steve Kappes, the deputy director for operations also resigned, after Murray had ordered Kappes to fire a deputy with whom Murray had clashed.

Jay Jakub

Jakub was a subcommittee staff director under Goss, who at CIA became a senior advisor for operations and analysis."

During the 1980s and 1990s, Jakub was a CIA analyst and case officer, before serving as the chief investigator on GOP congressman Dan Burton's famously partisan inquiry into Clinton-Gore campaign finance practices stemming from the 1996 election.

While on the committee, Jakub took the lead in writing a June 2004 intelligence committee report, which called the CIA "dysfunctional" and accused it of "misallocation and redirection of resources, poor prioritization of objectives, micromanagement of field operations and a continued political aversion to operational risk." The report triggered charges that Goss was angling to replace George Tenet as CIA director -- which occurred three month later.

"He's widely viewed as having very strong partisan views," a former CIA colleague of Jakub's told Salon that year. "Jay leaps too early. He acts on his views, and often doesn't seem like a measured decision maker."

In 2006, Harper's reported that Jakub "undertook a major (and unnecessary) review of the CIA's liaison relationship with British intelligence, in part, sources said, because it allowed him to make multiple trips to London, a favored destination."

Michael Kostiw

It says something about this crew that perhaps the best-regarded of them had his career derailed for shoplifting pork products.

Kostiw was picked by Goss to be executive director -- the number 3 job that later went to Dusty Foggo. But the Washington Post soon reported that, 20 years earlier, Kostiw had been arrested for stealing a package of bacon, and instead became a senior adviser to Goss.

In that capacity Kostiw, an agency veteran, reportedly acted as a force for moderation, despite his credentials as a conservative Republican. He suggested traveling to Venezuela to meet with Hugo Chavez, with whom he had a friendly relationship, and offered realistically downbeat assessments of the situation in Iraq.

Merrell Moorhead

Moorhead was the committee's deputy staff director, and became another top aide to Goss at CIA.

CQ's Jeff Stein -- who broke the recent Harman wiretapping story, and who, we can't help noticing, seems to have kept in contact with the Gosslings -- reported in 2007 that Moorhead had moved to Nova Scotia and begun a new career as a vintner.

It's worth remembering: we don't know that any of these people, or even that anyone around Goss, leaked the Harman information. But looking at this record, let's just say, we wouldn't put it past a few of them.

How Buffett Uses the Media

" ... during a live interview on CNBC the same day, Buffett said “if Congress doesn’t approve the bailout plan soon, I will have done some dumb things.” He is basically saying he needs the bailout to rescue his investments (recall Buffett had recently bought large stakes in Goldman Sachs (GS) and General Electric (GE)). ... "
April 21, 2009