Aug
01
2005

Soundbites

Big Brother Is Blocking You

In a disturbing illustration of how easily the Internet can be used to censor political speech, organizers of a July 23 day of events around the Downing Street Memo found that all emails containing the name of the activists' website, AfterDowningStreet.org, were being blocked by Comcast, a major broadband provider. The company that runs Comcast's spam filter, Symantec, supposedly received tens of thousands of bogus spam complaints about AfterDowningStreet, and added the website's address to a list of forbidden phrases that get a website automatically blocked. Because AfterDowningStreet was never notified that it had been put on this blacklist, it took several days for the group to discover the source of the problem, and then more days (and some anti-Comcast protests) to get the block removed, delays that considerably disrupted efforts to organize the events. At press time, it was unclear whether the bogus spam complaints were a political dirty trick, or whether there was some innocent explanation.

Arresting the Competition

"You must know the difference between dissent from the Iraq war and the war on terror and undermining it. And any American that undermines that war, with our soldiers in the field, or undermines the war on terror, with 3,000 dead on 9-11, is a traitor. Everybody got it? Dissent, fine; undermining, you're a traitor. Got it? So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they're undermining everything and they don't care, couldn't care less."

--Bill O'Reilly (Radio Factor, 6/20/05, cited by Media Matters, 6/22/05)

"Bold and Good" Terrorism

Tucker Carlson, on his new MSNBC show The Situation (7/15/05), listed things he liked about the French: "Twenty years ago on Sunday, they blew up the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland Harbor. It was a bold and good thing to do." It's hard to describe the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, which prevented the ship from protesting French nuclear tests, as anything other than an act of state terrorism. The bombing killed Fernando Pereira, a 35-year-old Greenpeace photographer. Earlier in his show, Carlson had asked a rapper whose work made light of terrorism, "What would you say to the families of those who lost relatives on 9/11?" One wonders what Carlson would say to the widow and two children Pereira left behind.

Lives in the Balance

The New York Times article "GIs Recover Bodies of Two on SEAL Team in Afghanistan" (7/5/05) is an illuminating illustration of mainstream media news judgment. As the headline suggests, the bulk of this article is about the recovery of the bodies of two U.S. Navy Special Operations fighters killed in Afghanistan. Then, in the eighth paragraph, the piece notes that "as many as 17 people, women and children among them, were reported killed in a American airstrike on a compound in continuing fighting in Kunar Province on Friday. The United States military conceded in a statement that civilians had been killed in the airstrike and said that it deeply regretted the loss of innocent lives, but that it had been aiming at a known militant base." The inescapable message: Killing as many as 17 Afghan civilians is less important than finding two American bodies.

Love Me, I'm a Liberal

There's a certain kind of pundit that only claims to be progressive when they're trying to promote a conservative position. A prime example is Susan Estrich (Christian Science Monitor, 6/21/05), who penned a gushing love letter to her employer, Fox News Channel, in which she billed herself as "a liberal...a feminist and a Democrat"--a liberal, that is, who once begged, "Let Clinton Be the Centrist Clinton" (USA Today, 6/22/95); a "feminist" who criticized Arianna Huffington for running for governor instead of staying home with her kids (Indianapolis Star, 8/21/03); and a Democrat who worked on Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's transition team.

Erring on the Side of PR

Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz (7/4/05), asking whether media writing about a housing bubble are “erring on the side of pessimism,” turned first to "financial commentator" James Glassman, who said: "I do think the press has gone way overboard.... They're scaring people." Not mentioned was the book Glassman wrote in 1999 at the height of the tech-stock bubble: Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting From the Coming Rise in the Stock Market. (The Dow hit 11,000 in 1999, a number it hasn't quite climbed back to since the stock market crash.) Nor did Kurtz mention that the website Glassman runs, Tech Central Station, is actually published by the DCI Group lobbying firm, and often champions the causes of its "sponsors" (Washington Monthly, 12/03). Not incidentally, one of those "sponsors" is Freddie Mac, the mortgage financing firm, which has everything to lose if housing prices drop (Huffington Post, 7/4/05).

Southern White God

"It was amazing. I went in and I realized this is what God probably was gonna look like. The white hair, the blue eyes, he'll have a Southern accent, that's the way it should be, I think."

--Newsweek managing editor Jon Meacham on interviewing Rev. Billy Graham (Imus in the Morning, 6/27/05)