Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Journalism, Maddow, Greenwald & “Terrorism”

From The Rachel Maddow Show’s opening segment on August 19th, 2013:

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“Journalism is not terrorism. Journalism can be enraging to people in power. Journalism can sometimes even be frightening to people in power. But journalism is not terrorism. Reporting on what governments do, even when those governments prefer to keep those actions secret, is not terrorism. Terrorism is... not an all-encompassing term to be applied to everything the government doesn’t want you to do.” [5:19 mins]

[The whole episode, actually, was excellent, with Maddow taking on a number of important issues, including Corporate malfeasance, in an intelligent and impactful manner.]

Most disappointingly of all, the White House reported that it had been given a heads-up from the UK that they would be detaining Greenwald’s partner. This is very disappointing indeed. Given the “special relationship”, why on earth didn’t the US object to the detention? As Maddow says, surely the UK would have no qualms in stopping if the US government asked us to? Clearly, the US must not have asked, as the detention took place. Standing by while this happens does nothing to help make the government’s case. It’s the equivalent of petty retribution from authorities who seem to have forgotten that they are under scrutiny, and have taken leave of their senses. It’s pathetic, but massive bullying. It’s embarrassing that members of the US and UK governments would act this way.

I wanted to write a little bit about Greenwald’s response, too. The first I read about it was the journalist’s rather aggressive (though understandable) response, in which he reportedly said (reported on Huffington Post):

“I will be far more aggressive in my reporting from now. I am going to publish many more documents. I am going to publish things on England too. I have many documents on England’s spy system. I think they will be sorry for what they did,” Greenwald, speaking in Portuguese, told reporters at Rio’s airport where he met Miranda upon his return to Brazil.

The Telegraph ran an article with the headline “Glenn Greenwald threatens UK after partner's Heathrow detention”, stating that the journalist will “start publishing material with more frequency and fervour” in the wake of David Miranda’s detention.

My initial thoughts, after reading this, were that if he is going to blitz a slew of articles and documents about the UK’s own unacceptable surveillance activities from Snowden is an understandable reaction. At the same time, I am also wary of anyone – journalist or otherwise – offering reporting motivated by revenge. It diminishes (if not destroys) said reporter’s credibility. That being said, Greenwald does admit that he engages in “adversarial journalism,” and I think that is in part what makes me uncomfortable (for want of a better word) about his style: not necessarily that he tries to challenge powerful people and institutions with his journalism (it is absolutely what a free press is meant to do), but more that his work is so self-consciously, and so tonally, adversarial. It is for much the same reason that I don’t like much of Keith Olbermann’s and Lawrence O’Donnell’s reporting, not to mention pretty much everything by a “celebrity” on Fox News (and that’s before we talk about the actual content of their “news” programs).

Thankfully, Greenwald has been able to clarify his comments (which were provided out of context, and at 5am after a highly stressful period) – the gist of which seems to have been slightly lost in translation. The Washington Post sort-of reported on this (with a disappointing lack of detail). Greenwald was later exclusively interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night. Here’s the specific exchange about “revenge”:

COOPER: Glenn, I saw a quote from you saying you would be “more aggressive, not less” in reporting on England. Some headlines seem to indicate you were going to be acting out of revenge. Is that accurate?

GREENWALD: It’s completely inaccurate, Anderson.

I was asked whether or not the detention of David would deter my reporting and what I thought the outcome would be for the U.K. government. What I said was that if they think they're going to deter me in any way from this threatening behavior, they’re deluded. It’s going to have the opposite fact on me.

It will embolden me, and the reason it will embolden me is because when I see governments abuse their power, as the U.K. government did, I realize that they need even more transparency and more accountability and it makes me want to work harder and it makes me want to faster to inform the world about what it is that they’re doing. When I said I thought they would come to regret it, it wasn’t because I was going to publish out of vengeance.

It was because I knew what they had done was extremely counterproductive to their own interests.

The transcript from the interview can be found here [CNN]. And here’s the video clip itself (which I got from Mediaite)…

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Morning Joe, GOP’s Unattractive & Muddled Signals.

Catching up on some news. This time, a segment from Morning Joe’s August 16th episode. In this segment, Joe addresses GOP opposition to Obamacare, immigration and more. He also takes some time to discuss the general lack of guts in elected leaders to “stare down the crazies in their parties”, the divisive, money-making fanatics (“some of these crazies are killing us”):

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There is something in this segment that stood out to me. In part, it shows a stunning lack of awareness of the place of the media in terms of opinion-forming and issue-framing. Joe is talking about how many in the GOP loudly supported George Zimmerman before any of the facts were known in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Joe says something that I both agree with and also take strong exception to:

“I’m not in office, and if I were in office I would have apologised.”

The implication is that only those in office have a responsibility to be, well, responsible. When, in fact, I think media personalities probably have more of a responsibility to act appropriately. As a presenter/host on MSNBC, I imagine he has a larger platform and audience than any individual Congressman (as a former Congressman himself, he should known this, too). MSNBC ratings are hardly majorities, but to scold a member of Congress for not apologising, while abdicating his own responsibility to do the same? Disappointing.

To be fair, Scarborough was not as vociferous in trying the case in the court of public opinion as Lawrence O’Donnell did when the media circus first wound up. Despite also believing (from the evidence I’ve seen, read and heard) Zimmerman effectively stalked and hunted Trayvon Martin, O’Donnell’s approach made me somewhat uncomfortable, as he obviously attempted to influence the case before it even went to trial.

Monday, 19 August 2013

“Repeal Obamacare!”

Still boggles my mind that many in the Republican Party are still crusading to repeal Obamacare… Here’s a clip from The Ed Show, from August 18th (presented in Ed’s typically… excitable manner):

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And here’s a clip from Morning Joe:

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UP, Mandatory Minimums

Just a quick post. Near the end of 2012, I posted a piece about Mandatory Minimums. The blog post was inspired by an article in The Nation (where I was an intern at the time) and also a recent re-watch of a West Wing episode that addressed the same issue. Over the weekend, MSNBC’s UP hosted a few segments that looked at the “Three Strikes” Law and Mandatory Minimums, responding to Attorney General Eric Holder’s comments on these harsh laws. There were some interesting comments and statements made, and some useful data.

First, the introductory segment (Holder’s comments start at 3:30 mark):

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And the first chunk of discussion:

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Monday, 12 August 2013

Craig Ferguson on the “Deification of Youth” & How That Led to the “Deification of Imbecility”

This is a great clip, from a great comic. Marketing, the obsession with youth, and its inherent connection to stupidity and inexperience.

I’ve always felt a kinship with Craig Ferguson. Not only does he make me laugh (always a good thing), but he’s a Scot who has a fascination with the United States, and probably knows a lot more about their history than many Americans.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

President Obama Questions GOP’s “Strategy” on Healthcare

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The President gave a full-throated defense of his healthcare plan. It is certainly welcome, but given how obvious Republican obstructionism and naked, overt partisanship has been ever since January 2009, I remain concerned that nothing will change.

“… [members of] the other party have made the idea of preventing these people from getting healthcare their Holy Grail. Their number one priority. The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have healthcare.”

The President continued, stating that, “We’re not in a normal [political] atmosphere, when it comes to quote-unquote Obamacare.” I would say we’re not in a normal political atmosphere on any subject that the White House holds a stated position…

“At least they used to say, ‘Well, we’re going to replace it with something better.’ There’s not even a pretense now that they’re going to replace it with something better… basically, they don’t have an agenda to provide healthcare to people.”

Three years on, the Republican Party is still fighting the same fights of three years ago. This after the Supreme Court ruled the Affordable Care Act constitutional, too.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

American Journalism is Going for Fire Sale Prices… “How important is it who is buying?”

A great segment from last night’s Rachel Maddow Show, about the sale of the Washington Post to Jeff Bezos (CEO and founder of Amazon), and also the Koch Brothers’ attempts to buy swathes of important, influential press outlets. This is a really important issue, and something that goes undiscussed too often.

Rachel Maddow has Dan Rather on the show for commentary.

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More on this as and when information becomes available. [I’ll try to get a longer piece written over the next few days, too, time permitting.]