Jan 1 2008


Crying Wolf

A Washington Post op-ed column by Naomi Wolf (11/25/07) complaining that young people are woefully ignorant of the workings of democracy displayed some remarkable historical lapses of its own. “When New Left activists of the 1960s started the antiwar and free speech student movements,” Wolf wrote, “they didn’t get their intellectual framework from Montesquieu or Thomas Paine: They looked to Marx, Lenin and Mao.” Actually, the free speech movement did not draw inspiration from Communist philosophers, who tend not to be particular fans of free speech. And the antiwar movement owed much more to Thoreau, via Gandhi and King, than to any Marxist writer. Wolf’s depiction of post-1960s activism was scarcely more recognizable: “In the Reagan era, when the Iran/Contra scandal showed a disregard for the rule of law, college students were preoccupied with the fashionable theories of post-structuralism and deconstructionism.” But there wouldn’t have been an Iran/Contra scandal were it not for the Boland Amendment, the ban on aid to the Contra rebels that was passed at the urging of the Nicaraguan solidarity movement, a largely student-based phenomenon. Rather than being fascinated by Lacan and Derrida, as Wolf suggested, the actual campus left in the 1980s was preoccupied by the nuclear freeze and anti-apartheid campaigns—real-world struggles that produced real results.

Don’t Blame the People

Reporting on the attitudes of Iraq War correspondents in 2004, Vanity Fair’s William Langewiesche (11/07) wrote, “Some realized already that the war had been lost, though such were the attitudes of the citizenry back home that they could not yet even imply this in print.” But if it were really the public that journalists were afraid of (and not, say, Beltway-bound editors and the government officials they dine with), then that fear would presumably have subsided by 2004. Polls that found 70 percent saying the war was “worth fighting” in April 2003 (ABC/Washington Post, 4/27-30/03) had dropped to 48 percent by February 2004 (2/10-11/04), and to 42 percent by the end of that year (12/16-19/04). The percentage has only dropped 6 points since then (9/4-7/07). The public lost enthusiasm for this war long before media did.

Out of Many, Few

Asked by media reporter Howard Kurtz (CNN, 11/25/07) whether journalists should “have been more skeptical toward the line the administration was selling” prior to the invasion of Iraq, former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw allowed that “on the war plan they should have been a lot more skeptical,” but that “you have to remember, the opposition voices were not that many in this town, for example, in Washington. There just weren’t that many.” Really? On October 26, 2002 there were 100,000 people marching against the war in Washington, D.C.—that would seem to count as “many.”

It’s Only Lying if It’s About Sex

The New York Times and Washington Post both reported (11/28/07) former President Bill Clinton’s statement that he had opposed the Iraq war “from the beginning.” According to the Times, this statement was “more absolute than his comments before the invasion in March 2003.” And the Post reported that Clinton was “glossing over the more nuanced views of the war he has expressed over time.” The D.C. paper added, “Past remarks made by the former president do leave open a question about how fervently Clinton opposed the war at the outset.” In fact, Clinton did not oppose the war, fervently or otherwise. In a March 18, 2003 column in the London Guardian, he urged Britons to trust Tony Blair’s decision to go to war, even saying that “military action probably will require only a few days.” In a 2004 interview with Time magazine (6/28/04), Clinton said he had “supported the Iraq thing” and declared that “Bush did the right thing.”

Nation of Potheads Radio?

NPR’s Morning Edition (11/8/07) said of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul: “He’s got a little something for everyone. The pothead can focus on Paul’s stand to legalize medical marijuana; the pro-lifer can take solace in Paul’s view that there’s no constitutional right to abortion. But could those supporters co-exist in a real-life campaign?” Actually, a CNN/Time poll (10/22-23/02) found 80 percent support for medical marijuana use—that’s a lot of “potheads.” And since about 40 percent of the public describes itself as pro-life, it’s a safe bet that half of that group or more supports medical marijuana as well. As a FAIR reader noted, “It seems that only the press is surprised when they are confronted by the reality of a complex electorate.”

No News Is Bad, Actually

A new ad campaign from the CW television network, recently created from the merger of UPN and WB, promotes the fact that the network now has “no news” in certain markets. In one ad, according to Timothy Karr at the group Free Press (11/13/07), a professor declares that the “good news” about a CW station is “no news”; in another, a rapper proclaims, “No news—ain’t that a blast.” Evidently CW’s corporate owners at CBS and Time Warner have forgotten the part in the license agreement where it says they have access to public airwaves in exchange for broadcasting that serves the “public interest, convenience and necessity.”