Friday, June 19, 2009

Media malfeasance

Go to this WaPost ombud link and read the comments. Really. Read them. Post Axes Froomkin's "White House Watch" Then go read this new post by Greenwald: The Washington Post, Dan Froomkin and the establishment media

The Washington Post editorial page does it again. This morning, it publishes two separate columns from two separate neocons, both making the same (bogus) argument about the same issue on the same page.

First we have Charles Krauthammer who's convinced that President Obama is "afraid to take sides between the head-breaking, women-shackling exporters of terror [in Iran] -- and the people in the street yearning to breathe free."

Millions of Iranians take to the streets to defy a theocratic dictatorship that, among its other finer qualities, is a self-declared enemy of America and the tolerance and liberties it represents. The demonstrators are fighting on their own, but they await just a word that America is on their side.

And what do they hear from the president of the United States? Silence.

Sharing the page is Paul Wolfowitz, who offers similar criticism with similar language.

President Obama's first response to the protests in Iran was silence, followed by a cautious, almost neutral stance designed to avoid "meddling" in Iranian affairs.... Now is not the time for the president to dig in to a neutral posture.

Wolfowitz goes on to compare the Iranian presidential election in 2009 to "Reagan's initially neutral response to the crisis following the Philippine election of 1986, and of George H.W. Bush's initially neutral response to the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991." Wolfowitz's claims don't stand up well to scrutiny, but then again, his claims rarely do.

The liberal media strikes again.

Update: Jacob Heilbrunn has more on the errors of fact and judgment in the Wolfowitz/Krauthammer criticism.

  • snark from the comments:

    You don't see it do you.

    By giving voice to two discredit neocon voices to meander weakly against the president with empty sloganeering and no real, practical suggestions while at the same time silencing Dan Froomkin who made cogent, fact-based criticisms of Obama, they are playing into the Obama administrations plan to portray all critics as big losers and failed Bush appointees. It's all part of the media's velvet handed fawning of The GReat One!

    Well played, Washington Post.

    Posted by: Adolphus on June 19, 2009 at 9:23 AM |
  • tristero: One More Example
    Riffing on dday's post on WaPo's firing of Froomkin , it is quite clear he was hired because being a "leftist" meant "criticizing George Bush." But you're no longer a leftist to WaPo if you dare criticize the Obama administration's illiberal policies: You're a dangerous anti-American extremist. That's because obviously Obama is, as they say, the most leftwing president of our lifetime. To be to the left of Obama is to be so far left, you're over way beyond Hawaii, drowning up to your commie/fascist/Islamic eyeballs in the Pacific. You don't want someone like that sullying the reputation of the august, respected Washington Post. It just won' [scroll to Update III].

    As far as I can tell, that is the only reason - other than WH pressure, which seems unlikely - that WaPo would fire such a popular and intelligent commentator while retaining such dishonest morons as Krauthammer. I hope I don't have to explain to anyone reading this that such reasoning is nuts. Among other things, it's based on several false premises, including:

    1. Obama is a liberal. He's not; he's a centrist.

    2. Froomkin is a radical leftist. He's not; he's a moderate liberal.

    And so, we have one more example of what acceptable public discourse is in this country. The spectrum of opinion permitted in the mass media runs the full gamut from deep maroon to dark red.

    And that is why Republicans accuse Obama, of all people, of socialism. And they get away with it.
  • Hamsher: Froomkin v. Washington Post — The Battle Continues
    Glenn Greenwald says most of what needs to be said about the Washington Post's firing of Dan Froomkin. But having been involved in the early rounds of this battle and watched it ferment over the years, I thought I'd add a few notes of context.

    When Debbie Howell wrote that Dan Froomkin was "highly opinionated and liberal," she didn't just think that up by her little old "yippie ki yeah motherfucker" self. It was the consensus of the newsroom, where it was believed -- correctly -- that Froomkin's writing about the war and US foreign policy were an inherent criticism of the WaPo's own coverage and editorial position.

    And so they wanted to make it clear that he was Not One Of Them, nor did he rise to their high standards. Here was Len Downie at the time:

    "We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column because it contains opinion," Downie told E&P. "And that readers of the Web site understand that, too."

    And here's John Harris (now chief of Politico):

    They have never complained in a formal way to me, but I have heard from Republicans in informal ways making clear they think his work is tendentious and unfair. I do not have to agree with them in every instance that it is tendentious and unfair for me to be concerned about making clear who Dan is and who he is not regarding his relationship with the newsroom.

    But aside from the desire to play access footsie with the White House, Downie and Harris were bristling at Froomkin's critique of -- well, them. While they were fawning over Bush, his war and his codpiece, Froomkin was writing about Bob Woodward's "unique relationship" with the White House. When Froomkin was transferred into Fred Hiatt's fiefdom a couple of months ago, it didn't bode well for his consistently popular column.

    There was always a sympathetic ear in the halls of the Washington Post for anyone who wanted to complain about Dan Froomkin. The arrogant presumption that they were carrying on some sort of noble journalistic tradition that Froomkin violated is just baked into the concrete over there. In the end, the bitter petty people who discredited the entire profession with their coverage of the war and its fallout just did not like the mirror he held up to them.

    And an organization that has long felt it could change reality simply by refusing to acknowledge its existence runs true to form once again.

  • Joe Klein: There Will Be Blood

    The Washington Post's increasingly strident op-ed page offers a double-barreled neocon assault on President Obama's Iran position today by Charles Krauthammer and Paul Wolfowitz. And it's interesting to see these fellows--among the smartest of the neos--deploy the usual intellectual shortcuts in the neoconservative bag of tricks: Broad, unsupported statements of opinion posing as fact...and false historical analogies.

    Take Krauthammer. He boldly states this:

    The demonstrators are fighting on their own, but they await just a word that America is on their side.

    They do? Which ones? Name one. And if that word came, what then? Would it be the same as the "word" Dwight Eisenhower sent, and later regretted, supporting the Hungarian protesters in 1956 when he had no intention of supporting them militarily? Or the "word" that George H.W. Bush sent the Iraqi Shi'ites after the first Gulf War, who then rebelled against Saddam Hussein and were slaughtered? In fact, it seemed clear to me when I was in Iran--and even more clear, given the events of the past few days--that the protesters realize that they have to do this on their own. And that an American endorsement would taint their movement, perhaps fatally.

    Wolfowitz deploys an interesting historical analogy from his own past--the Reagan intervention in the Philipine elections--but it is flawed as well. For one thing, no winner had been announced when Reagan intervened, after a period of restaint, in favor of Corazon Aquino and those who voted to topple President-for-Life Ferdinand Marcos. For another, the Philippines were a former U.S. colony that remained, at that point, very much a U.S. client state. We had military bases there. We had real power. (Wolfowitz also doesn't deal with the fact that there were announced results in the Iranian elections--and that Ahmadinejad might well have won without the fraud.)

    Iran is quite the opposite from the Philippines. It never was an American colony, but the U.S. policy toward the Persians was relentlessly neocolonial. The U.S. has had, in fact, a notably disgraceful history of intervening in Iranian affairs. There was the CIA involvement in the overthrow of the Mossadegh government in 1953, which Obama spoke about in his Cairo speech. There was the U.S. support for the Shah, who ran a regime every bit as repressive and arguably more brutal than the Mullahs. There was the U.S. support for Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war--and this remains a bleeding wound in Iran: I spoke with a woman in South Tehran last week whose husband is incapacitated by the poison gas Saddam used during the war (and which all Iranians, including those in the streets, are convinced was supplied by the Americans). There are many chemical victims of the war in Iran, and many war dead, a constant reminder of U.S. meddling. And there was George W. Bush's pronouncement of Iran as part of an Axis of Evil, which many of the Iranians I first met in 2001 and have kept in touch with ever since--vehement reformers all--found insulting.

    If Charles Krauthammer had bothered to ask anyone, he would have learned that the reform movement is every bit as outraged by the history of U.S. meddling as the Ahmadinejad supporters are--arguably moreso, because they are well-educated, sophisticated people who despise the neocolonialist condescension toward Iran that marked American presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush.

    The failure to understand this basic fact--the failure to even care what Iranians, even the Iranians who hate the regime, actually think--is at the heart of the lethal carelessness that marked the Bush Junior's Administration and neoconservative thinking in general. I would guess that the Supreme Leader--which is the man's actual title, no matter how Krauthammer disdains it--is itching for an excuse to send tanks into the streets. (Which he may well do anyway.) If Barack Obama were sounding like John McCain, the tanks would have been in the streets days ago, with hundreds, perhaps thousands of people killed, and a ready excuse that would have great credibility with the Iranian people: the U.S. was at it again, trying to foment a revolution to overthrow the duly elected government of Iran.

    But then, in the long-term scheme of things, the neoconservatives would undoubtedly argue, blood will be spilled in the pursuit of freedom. Undouboutedly true, but you don't want the blood to be on your hands. You want it to be the choice of those who are risking their lives in the streets.

  • Sully's Quote For The Day III
    "With the sacking of Dan Froomkin, I've given up on even looking at the Post. For a long time, I mostly read it to make fun of their OpEd clowns, but they've just gotten too ugly and vicious to laugh at anymore. It's like reading a spell-checked Free Republic," - a commenter on Joe Klein's column, exposing the ignorance and arrogance of Krauthammer and Wolfowitz.

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