Trashy TV News

April 29, 2012

Last year, I met a lovely young woman in Dubai. She has since moved to the states, and is blogging about her new life here. I laughed and laughed when I read her comments about television news.

The back story: having trouble adjusting to life in Northern California, she escaped into television. Then, she decided she had to snap out of it and “get educated” again by watching the news.

An excerpt:

“…So what did I find “Fox News” alright let me try it… “what the hell is this?” I was really shocked.. this channel is anything but news… its like when they make a funny version of a horror movie… except that the funny version sucks and people wont buy the pirate DVD from the Chinese guy in the corner.” Is this a joke?” I flipped the channel to “CNN” … some weird ass shit about republican’s affair… god.. even the news in here are trashy! The whole TV is just this crazy isolation bubble of anything but reality…”

Nothing like a truly outside perspective, eh? 

You can read the entire post “Fakeness Brought Me To Reality”, here.  

Read more of Asma Al Kendi’s blog, here.  



How The Media Corrects Itself

April 25, 2012

Usually buried deep within its pages, or behind closed doors in meetings with staff.

Corrections are supposed to occupy the same space as the mistakes. In other words, misreporting on A1 needs to come clean on A1. Retractions on broadcast tv need to happen on the same show as the mistake.

But that never happens. The New York Times dedicated a story to an NBC botch on the “Today” show. The producer was fired; meetings were held; but no public correction was made on the air. The NYT, in its pages, goes on and on in this story about how that’s unethical.

Now, I hate it when the NYT gets self-righteous, so, lest we forget, here’s how they blundered and lied a country into war:

The fake WMD’s of Ahmed Chalabi, and the reporter (Judith Miller), who relayed his message as if it was gospel. Miller’s improperly vetted “secret source” thought he was promised the Iraqi Presidency by the Americans. He reliably told the reporter what she wanted to hear, and the NYT put it on the front page over and over again.

To be fair, the NYT wasn’t the only “news source” banging the drums of war with no justifiable proof. According to Bill Moyers, and the PBS feature he produced, in the year before the invasion William Safire (a NYT commentator who predicted a “quick war” with Iraqis cheering their liberators) wrote “a total of 27 opinion pieces fanning the sparks of war.” The Washington Post carried at least 140 front-page stories in that same period making the administration’s case for attack. In the six months leading to the invasion the Post would “editorialize in favor of the war at least 27 times.” Of the 414 Iraq stories broadcast on NBC, ABC and CBS nightly news in the six months before the war, almost all could be traced back to sources solely in the White House, Pentagon or State Dept.

So, how do you correct yourself for hundreds of stories leading to 11 years of war and millions dead?

If you’re the NYT, you print one small mea culpa, buried on page A8, with hardly a headline, and move on.

If criticism persists, you say no one could have done better; improvement was impossible. Then, you print a ridiculous story about the lying reporter, saying her awesomeness got in the way of the truth. Yes, in their own words of apology, Judith Miller was “a star.”

Feel like barfing yet?

Let’s continue down memory lane.

The initial stories passing along the military’s fake reasons for Pat Tillman’s death, and the fake rescue of Jessica Lynch were on page one. When the real stories came out, they were not on the front page. Or on the second page. Or on the third…

Wonder what they’re all lying about today?

Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Read all about it.

The Tabouli Song

April 20, 2012

I wish I had this video for April Fool’s Day. But, no matter. (Thanks, AMR!)

A super funny dance tune about salad, people!

“GoRemy” gives props to his mom dancing in the background (“she’s great”), and says she’s the “best” tabouli maker. Way to give it up, dude!

First They Came for the Muslims

April 19, 2012

Tarek Mahanna, a Muslim U.S. citizen, was sentenced to 17 ½ years in prison last week for being a terrorist. But, as former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges writes in this excellent article, Mahanna’s real crime was refusing to become a government informant.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Mehanna, a teacher at Alhuda Academy in Worcester, was convicted after an eight-week jury trial of conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq and providing material support to al-Qaida, as well as making false statements to officials investigating terrorism. His real “crime,” however, seems to be viewing and translating  jihadi videos online, speaking out against U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and refusing to become a government informant.”

In the article, “First They Come for the Muslims,” Hedges interviews attorney Stephen F. Downs, founder of Project Salam; and prints Mahanna’s statement to the court before his sentencing.

Downs sees cases like Mahanna’s as a bleak trend in government prosecutors’ own contempt for the rule of law.

Downs: “I was unprepared for the fact that the government would put together a case that was just one lie piled up on top of another lie,” Downs said. “And when you pointed it out to them they didn’t care. They didn’t refute it. They knew that it was a lie. The facts of most of these pre-emptive cases don’t support the charges. But the facts are irrelevant. The government has decided to target these people. It wants to take them down for ideological reasons.”

The title of the article, “First They Come for the Muslims,” is a take on a famous quote attributed to German pastor Martin Niemoller. Niemoller was an early supporter of Hitler’s rise, but then changed his mind about the virtues of Nazism. He was arrested in 1937 and survived his time in the concentration camps.

The original quote (usually stated as a warning against political apathy):

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Wikileaks Founder On Russian Television

April 17, 2012

Julian Assange will debut a talkshow on the Russian channel RT (Russia Today) today! (Tuesday, April 17)

The first guest is a secret, but the composer of the theme music is M.I.A.

In the promo, Assange says that providing full source material keeps journalism honest. Amen to that.

We Were All Born This Way

April 13, 2012


Lady Gaga recently started the Born This Way Foundation, taking its name from her most recent album.

The Lady told Time Magazine that it is “a youth empowerment foundation.” Rather than “anti-bullying” (“Bullies were born this way too,” she said).

Among her goals in this endeavor is helping youth recognize and foster the kind and loving parts of themselves. According to Gaga, this can require an enormous amount of bravery, because nice is not “cool.”

She said: “In fact, my courage and my bravery at a young age was the thing I was bullied for, a kind of ‘Who do you think you are?’ This is not coming from a place of ‘I’m a popular kid. Let’s all be brave.’”

When asked: “If you think people should be themselves, why do you have the elaborate costumes that seem so much like a disguise?”

Gaga replied: “Well, this is myself. How else would I maintain it every day? It may be perceived that my creativity is something I have to work on, when that’s probably the most natural part of me. I think we should try not to by cynical about the individuality of others. Perhaps instead of a disguise, people should see it as an expression.”

Sotheby’s Sells Stolen Art

April 11, 2012


The feet of this statue are still in the Prasat Chen Temple in Northern Cambodia. Court documents filled by Federal agents in New York say the statue was literally ripped from a temple pedestal in the 1960s or early 1970s, when Cambodia was embroiled in civil war.  

According to the LA Times, Cambodian officials notified Sotheby’s that the statue was looted during civil unrest; Cambodian government officials were in “negotiations” with Sotheby’s. Negotiations ended when the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York stepped in on Wednesday (April 4), filing a suit.

Internal emails quoted by the Times, show that Sotheby’s mocked concerned parties as “temple huggers,” and said profits from the sale would make it “worth the risk.”

American attorney, Tess Davis, told the Times that a study of Sotheby’s sales shows that 71% of Cambodian objects the auction house has sold had no documentation of ownership – suggesting that they were all obtained on the black market.

Other art looted during wartime has shown up at Sotheby’s, such as a missing, jewel encrusted plate, that was stolen from the Dar-al-Athar museum collection in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion in 1990.  It appeared in Sotheby’s London catalogue in 1996. (It was returned.)   

  • Kuwaiti authorities estimate over 400 pieces looted during the Iraqi invasion are still missing from the museums, and from private collections.
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum returned 40 objects to Italy, after Swiss authorities raided a warehouse in Geneva containing antiquities stolen from archeological sites, and documentation showing they were sold to the Getty. While Marion True, the Getty’s curator of antiquities at the time, and her “supplier” (i.e. fence), lucked out of a conviction due to Italy’s statute of limitations on the case, the actual grave robber is in jail because he requested a speedy trial.
  • During the recent civil unrest in Greece, museum robbers made off with a Picasso, and other paintings by famous artists. “Austerity” measures imposed on that country by their European neighbors have forced Greece to cut back on paying for security at their numerous museums.