Jul 20 2005


James Weinstein, 1926-2005

“Jim Weinstein was a shining example of a truly independent journalist…. In his own way, he was in the tradition of George Seldes and I.F. Stone and Lincoln Steffens–muckraking journalists who challenged the received wisdom. He always asked ‘Why?’ and ‘Who is behind what?’ and ‘Where are the bodies buried?’ More than ever, we need journalists such as Jim, who insisted that we must think things through, that we must remember the past in order to understand the present and prepare for the future.”

–Studs Terkel on In These Times founder James Weinstein (AlterNet, 6/19/05)

A Shining Standard

“The media…stoked the ratings with constant, trivializing coverage while other, far more important stories went under-reported or completely ignored in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea and Washington, D.C. The press might respond by saying, ‘We gave the people what they wanted.’ My response would be, ‘My job is to give them what they want. When he steps into a recording studio, it’s Michael Jackson’s job to give them what they want. Your job is to give the people what they need.'”

–Novelist Steven King on coverage of the Michael Jackson trial (Entertainment Weekly, 6/15/05)

Oh, That Kind of “Balanced”

Corporation for Public Broadcasting Chair Kenneth Tomlinson has given every indication that he wants to reshape public broadcasting in a more right-wing image (Extra! Update, 6/05). But just how far right wasn’t clear until this anecdote emerged in a report on NPR (Morning Edition, 6/20/05): “At one closed board meeting, according to two former CPB officials, Tomlinson suggested bringing in Fox News Channel anchor Brit Hume to talk to public broadcasting officials about how to create balanced news programs.”

Selling, Not Telling

“Whether it’s subconscious or conscious on the part of the editors who run those [real estate] sections, it doesn’t behoove you to speak ill of the product that your section is there to sell. If the auto section of the New York Times were to run articles week in, week out saying driving is unsafe and it’s a bad time to buy a car, it wouldn’t be around for too many more months.”

–Writer Daniel Gross on why real estate sections don’t talk about the housing bubble (On the Media, 6/10/05)

Birds, Bees and Big Business

“Getting the New York Times to explain the real operation of social class in America is, at the end of the day, a lot like granting your parents exclusive license to explain sex to you: There are simply far too many conflicts that run far too deep to result in any reliable account of how the thing works.”

–Chris Lehmann (Boston Phoenix, 6/3/05)

From Woodstein to Coopler

In a generally thought-provoking column speculating about how the rise of right-wing media would have changed the course of the Watergate scandal, Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter (6/13/05) oddly put Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the situation of Judith Miller and Matt Cooper, as if the latter reporters were being pressured to reveal the names of government whistleblowers. The actual whistleblower in that case is Joe Wilson, whose wife Valerie Plame’s career was ended by an apparently illegal leak from the Bush administration; Miller and Cooper are being asked to reveal the source of that punitive leak. To put the case in Alter’s Watergate 2005 scenario, it’s as though Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox had tried to find out who in the Nixon White House had gone after Mark Felt’s family–and reporters who refused to cooperate with his investigation were treated like heroes for “protecting their sources.”

The Banality of Error

Rush Limbaugh (6/20/05) was highly exercised by Sen. John McCain’s argument that the
Guantánamo prisoners ought to be put on trial because “even Adolph Eichmann got a trial” (Meet the Press, 6/19/05). “Adolf Eichmann was executed on May 31, 1962,” Limbaugh pointed out. “That was 17 years after World War II. Adolf Eichmann was not in prison for two or three years, and then a senator back then said, ‘You know, we’ve either gotta charge him or let him go.’… If [McCain’s] going to use the standard of Nuremberg here, then the detainees at
Guantánamo got a lot of years to sit there at Club Gitmo before they get a trial…. It took us years to find the guy, and then it took us a long time to try him, and it was not until 1962, the war ended effectively ’45, and he’s executed in 1962, and to compare that with what’s going on down at
Guantánamo Bay is just a mistake on Senator McCain’s part.” Limbaugh’s mistake is leaving out the crucial date: May 11, 1960, when Israeli agents captured Eichmann in Argentina (not Brazil, as Limbaugh had it). Within a year, Eichmann was put on trial; a little more than a year after that, he had been sentenced to death and executed. By comparison, the U.S. has held hundreds of prisoners at
Guantánamo for more than three years now without charging them with any crime.

Ignoring Papal Straight-Bashing

“Last week the pope condemned divorce, masturbation, birth control, in vitro fertilization, living together before marriage and same-sex marriage. According to Bennie, all of the above add up to ‘anarchic freedom.’ The headlines the next day? ‘Pope Condemns Gay Marriage as “Anarchy.”‘ The headlines should have read something like this: ‘Pope Condemns Majority of American Heterosexuals for Private Sexual Conduct, Also Gay Marriage.'”

–Sexual advice columnist Dan Savage (Village Voice, 6/14/05)