Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The world is going crazy ... Part 1
My posts have become much too infrequent. But that is what happens when you are busy doing a job you love.
However, while we are all performing our jobs, raising our families, trying to grasp what is going on, it is clear that the entire world is going mad ... insane ... crazy. When is up down and down up? When is truth a lie and a lie, the truth? Right now baby.
While I love my job in radio, sometimes I miss print. Radio is hot ... fast ... quick ... and what you say is sometimes forgotten in a split second ... slipping in one ear and out the other. Which, frankly, is good in a hot medium. Sure, some of your words may have a lasting effect and inform. But radio only works with repetition. Hence, the need to play a song five times a day until you can't leave without hearing the song and you go out and buy the record only to realize that you have bought the record and are now sick of the song!
With print, however, words can often have a very lasting effect on whatever you write about. First, the writer often has a physical copy of what he has written. In radio, you can back up your work on CDRs or tape, but you can't physically look at the words on a page. Sure, you can listen to them, but it isn't quite the same as reading. If the words are biting, heated, or hurtful, they can perform devastating harm on those you are targeting with the writing. But the printed word can also illuminate ideas and reveal the truth to the reader [or listener].
Such is the case of Newsweek magazine "scandal" and retraction this week which in an oft-handed remark seems to have set off a firestorm in the Islamic world. For the last two days, the story has been all over the media - an unnamed government official reportedly gave reporter Michael Isikoff inaccurate information about the Quran being desecrated at Gitmo [It should be noted that Isikoff is one of those "cocktail crowd-types" I am always complaining about]. Interesting that it is a government official [like maybe a plant to make Isikoff look bad] that would leak this. Of course, this makes the case why no one in the media should use unnamed sources, if at all possible.
However, deep in this ABC News piece, you see a little reality: ["White House: Newsweek Story Did Great Harm"]:
"The Newsweek account was not the first allegation about U.S. personnel desecrating the Quran at Guantanamo Bay. British and Kuwaiti detainees alleged last year that they saw U.S. personnel flushing a Quran down the toilet. The Pentagon has been unwilling to say if those allegations were investigated."
In fact, according to bloggers, the NYT, the LA Times, the UK Guardian, the Daily Mirror, and other foreign papers, have all reported the stories in Newsweek. So, what is the problem here? It is either correct or it isn't. Since the Pentagon "has been unwilling to say if those allegations were investigated" or pronounce them true, the press has to take the word of the witness and testimonial, and report what might happen to be the facts that time.
Howard Kurtz, the media critic of The Washington Post, a subsidiary of Newsweek's parent company, has a great piece here: ["Debate Over Newsweek Retraction of Report Widens"]. Here is a very telling point:
"The Newsweek report triggered protests that turned violent in Afghanistan and other countries, causing at least 16 deaths, although the degree to which the article was responsible remains unclear. Pentagon officials have blamed Newsweek, which is owned by The Washington Post Co., for sparking the violence, but Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that his senior commander in Afghanistan had told him the riots were 'not at all tied to the article.'"
This paragraph should have been written like this: " ...the Newsweek article reportedly triggered protests ..." especially when Kurtz writes that Myers said the riots were not tied to the article. It isn't fact. Kurtz doesn't know.
But, since down is up and up is down, we actually know why these riots are being tied to this article - and not the others in many other newspapers around the world over the last two years. Because the president's PR flack, Scott McClellan, planted the story in the media with exclusive - unheard of - one on one briefings to stir up the pot on Newsweek. This couldn't have anything to do with say, The Downing Street documents which are being curiously censored by the media even though they indicate that the Bush Administration may have lied to make its case for invading Iraq look better, could it? It couldn't be the fact that while Isikoff used a single unnamed source in his article that the Bush Administration used a single unnamed source to make the case that Iraq had a mobile biological weapons lab? It couldn't be the fact that the Bush Administration used that crook Chalabi as a source for a whole bunch of other bogus lies and that somehow, someway, someday, when up is up and down is down again, we might wake up from this nightmare and realize that it was all a dream, hmm?

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