We need more spite

Jacob Bacharach understands the visceral necessity of shouting off an odious little fascist like Ray Kelly:

You see, the point of shouting Ray Kelly off the dais isn’t to get rid of “stop-and-frisk,” which these students are sophisticated enough to understand as merely symptomatic of greater injustices and inequalities in American life. No, the point is to get rid of Ray Kelly, to make the point that he has nothing to say that’s deserving of public consumption, that he is a wicked fellow who ought to be drummed from public life, his opinions, like those of most of us, to be shared grumpily over beers with no one to listen but the other cranks and kooks drinking in the middle of the day. The point is to shame Brown University—admittedly, a difficult task, since the university in the form of its administration is, as noted, shameless—for inviting the weasely little fascist onto the stage in the first place.

More than ten years ago I already blogged on how the Argentinians treated some of their war criminals, those fuckers who helped torture and disappear tens of thousands of people during the military dictatorship and who had gotten largely away with it. Not that physical violence is desirable in this case, but we shouldn’t overlook the value of pure spite and grudge holding.

There are too many people who are making the world a worse place getting unjustified respect and financial rewards for doing so, whether it’s police chiefs like Kelly endorsing racist and hateful stop & search policies or the more common creep who cheerlead such policies. It’s all the little Eichmans being oh so reasonable and polite in making their case for destructive, cynical policies, like Matty Yglesias arguing that we shouldn’t worry about Bangladeshi textile workers dying when the factory collapses on top of them, because “different countries have different safety standards”. In a just world, such odious views should see him shunned by all well thinking people; instead things like this are quickly forgotten and he remains free to to write vaceous posts about the next tragedy.

CotD: the benefit of the doubt fallacy

In a Crooked Timber thread on a dumber than usual Russ Douthat column, one commentor calls bullshit on Douthat’s defenders:

It is sweet, though, that virtually every mendacious reactionary hack** given an elevated media platform to spew sophistry all over us lesser folks has a cadre of online defenders. They usually embrace some common themes: suggesting that the blogger in question is engaging in behavior beneath ver by pointing out the latest episode of bullshittery; pulling out scattershot quotations that purport to completely negate the plain reading of everything else in the article; and above all, implicitly or explicity demanding that we evaluate every work sui generis, with no consideration whatsoever of the track record of the author or vis peers. I wonder if someone has made a benefit-of-the-doubt bingo card.

You don’t just see this sort of behaviour in defence of rightwing hacks against their own hackery, but much more dangerously, also is something you see a lot of in the socalled mainstream media. Take the War on Libya for example, which when proposed was quite obviously a clusterfuck waiting to happen for those of us allowed to remember the Wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, but which for some reason few serious commentators were able to discuss in this context.

“I see a cascade of shit pirouetting from your penthouse office, caking each layer of management, splattering all in between.”

a Daily Star hack has had enough of the paper’s nastiness and inflaming of Islamophobia and quits his job:

When you assign budgets thinner than your employee-issue loo roll there’s little option but for Daily Star editors to build a newspaper from cut-and-paste-jobs off the Daily Mail website, all tied together with gormless press releases. But when that cheap-and-cheerful journalism gives the oxygen of publicity to corrosive groups like the EDL – safe in the knowledge it’s free news about which they’ll never complain – it’s time to lay down my pen.

You may have heard the phrase, “The flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil sets off a tornado in Texas.” Well, try this: “The lies of a newspaper in London can get a bloke’s head caved in down an alley in Bradford.”

Al Jazeera

Good piece in The Nation on American views of Al Jazeera over the last decade. Key graphs:

Al Jazeera’s real transgression during the “war on terror” was a simple one: being there. That is what Al Jazeera is doing today in Egypt and why it is so dangerous to the Mubarak regime. While critical of US policy, Al Jazeera is not anti-American—it is independent. In fact, it has angered almost every Arab government at one point or another and has been kicked out of or sanctioned by many Arab countries (the one country which Al Jazeera arguably does not cover independently is its host nation of Qatar). It was the first Arab station to broadcast interviews with Israeli officials and is hardly the Al Qaeda mouthpiece the Bush Administration wanted us to believe it was. Now that is abundantly clear to Americans who over the past week have come to depend on Al Jazeera for accurate news on the developments in Egypt.

The real threat Al Jazeera poses to authoritarian regimes is in its unembedded journalism. That is why the Bush Administration viewed Al Jazeera as a threat, it is why Mubarak’s regime is trying to shut it down and that is why the network is so important to the unfolding revolutions in the Middle East. It is the same role the network plays in reporting on the disastrous US war in Afghanistan.

Part of why Al Jazeera has become acceptable is that, unlike throughout much of the Bush era, it now has a full 24-hour English language news channel filled with veteran reporters who came to the network from CNN, the BBC and other Western news outlets. When it was an Arabic language only network, it was a lot easier to demonize and malign because fact-checking US officials’ fabrications and pronouncements required a real effort.

Saying stupid things about Egypt: blame the media

How not to be a dumbass about Egypt; aimed at Americans:

“The Twitter Revolution”. No, this is the Revolution of the Egyptian people. Egyptians resisted for decades. They were tortured, jailed and repressed by the Mubarak and Sadat regimes. Twitter and Facebook are tools. They did not stand in front of the water canons, or go to jail for all these years to get the credit. There were demonstrations all summer long and for a several years through out Egypt but they are rarely covered, because we are worried about what Sarah Palin said, or some moronic Imam saying something stupid. Does it sound a bit arrogant to take credit for a people’s struggle?

It’s a bit unfair to blame yer Average American for this sort of misconception, when so much of the mainstream news coverage is hideously stupid, with the commentary even worse. For example, I saw bits of the European Unions’ pronouncements about the revolution and it was so obviously disconnected from the reality on the ground as seen on Twitter, blogs and Al-Jazeera, with its focus on wanting a “peaceful dialogue between government and the people” rather than actually siding directly with the people struggling for democracy. If the news coverage is all slanted towards what powerful people in the west think how Egypt must forward and how the White House should manage the situation and most of the socalled experts shown are deeply compromised through links to the American foreign policy bureaucracies, how easy is it for normal people to understand what’s really going on?

QotD: Daniel Ellsberg on Wikileaks

Daniel Ellsberg was the man most responsible for leaking the Pentagon Papers back in 1971, which showed that the US government had systematically lied about the War on Vietnam. It was a defining moment in American politics, as important if not moreso as Watergate and, like Watergate, it has become part of Boomer mythology. So it’s not surprising that it’s now being used against Wikileaks, as the golden standard that Assange and co’s leaks don’t measure up to. Ellsberg himself however knows better:

As part of their attempt to blacken WikiLeaks and Assange, pundit commentary over the weekend has tried to portray Assange’s exposure of classified materials as very different from — and far less laudable than — what Daniel Ellsberg did in releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Ellsberg strongly rejects the mantra “Pentagon Papers good; WikiLeaks material bad.” He continues: “That’s just a cover for people who don’t want to admit that they oppose any and all exposure of even the most misguided, secretive foreign policy. The truth is that EVERY attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time.”

Terrorists attack here

Wikileaks has released a list of locations of strategic interest to the United States which has prompted a flood of criticism from the US and its bootlickers, like Malcolm Rifkind accusing Wikileaks from aiding terrorists:

The list is “a gift to any terrorist (group) trying to work out what are the ways in which it can damage the United States,” said Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee in Britain.

“It is grossly improper and irresponsible” for Assange and his website to publish that information, he said.

Oh Rly?

Let’s look at the Dutch locations on that list, shall we?

Netherlands: Atlantic Crossing-1 (AC-1) undersea cable landing Beverwijk, Netherlands TAT-14 undersea cable landing, Katwijk, Netherlands Rotterdam Port

Two internet connection points and the Rotterdam harbour. Inconcievable that terrorists would think of these targets on their own.

More seriously, the target list here might be of strategic interest to the US, but it’s of little value to any really existing terrorists, rather than the phantom menace conjured up by State Deparment spokepersons. Yes, terrorists could more easily attack a soft target like the e.g. anti-snake venom plant in Italy that’s also mentioned than something like the Statue of Liberty, but this assumes that terrorists select their targets to cause maximum damage for minimal risk rather than for maximum publicity and, well, terror. Moreover,thinking that releasing this list is supporting terrorists because we need to hide important targets for them is the worst sort of security by obscurity. If your strategy depends on keeping that sort of basic information secret, you’ve lost already, as any sysadmin worth their salt knows already.

But then this is just outrage theatre and nobody responsible actually believes this, do they? Do they?

Nobody knew? No, nobodies knew about the dangers of Iraq

Last Tuesday Glenn Greenwald was right to call out the Washington media on the stupidity of excusing their cheerleading for the War on Iraq seven years ago with the idea that “nobody knew” it would be like this:

I could literally spend the rest of the day quoting those who were issuing similar or even more strident warnings. Anyone who claims they didn’t realize that an attack on Iraq could spawn mammoth civilian casualties, pervasive displacement, endless occupation and intense anti-American hatred is indicting themselves more powerfully than it’s possible for anyone else to do. And anyone who claims, as Burns did, that they “could not know then” that these things might very well happen is simply not telling the truth. They could have known. And should have known. They chose not to.

While Avedon Carol is also right to notice that he had missed one particular high profile politician who had been arguing against the invasion from the start, somebody who should have been taken serious but wasn’t, because, well:

Oddly, Glennzilla does not mention in his list of people who predicted disaster if we invaded Iraq one of the foremost voices who was inexplicably dismissed and derided by the entire press corps, presumably because the man we had elected to be President of the United States is fat.

What both miss however is something much more important: “nobody knew” inside the Washington Beltway what a disaster the War on Iraq would become, but outside it, “nobodies knew” it was a bad idea from the start. At least fifteen million people worldwide demonstrated against the war back on the 15 Februari 2003, with the largest demonstration ever held taking place in London that day and huge demonstrations all over America and Europe, smaller ones in Africa and Asia and South America and Australia and even one in Antarctica (!)

All us little people outside of the loop and not professionally blind to the idea that invading a country on spurious grounds is in itself a bad idea were perfectly aware the War on Iraq was going to be a disaster. We knew that the best we could hope for was a repeat of the first American-Iraqi Gulf War, a US blitzkrieg that would once again kill thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians and deliver the final blow to an infrastructure that was never allowed to recover from the first war. Literally no one I spoke to during the runup to the war — family, friends, coworkers, passing strangers — no matter their political allegiance thought it was a good idea. And while the serious people would later grudgingly accept that we were right, they’ve never given us credit for it, prefering to think our opposition was just an emotional reflex rather than a reasoned position…

Your daily NYT shovel of steaming bullshit

The New York Times has always been an active cheerleader for mendacious or false stories about Democratic candidates, usually staying just short of outright lying, if only through allowing third parties to lie for them, followed up by halfassed denounciations. But their smear campaign against senatorial candidate Richard Blumenthal crosses that line completely. Their story is that Blumenthal, who served in the Marine Reserves during the War on Vietnam, but not in that war itself and who has been a staunch supporter of war veteran causes, has been fibbing about his service to create the impression that he did go to ‘Nam:

But what is striking about Mr. Blumenthal’s record is the contrast between the many steps he took that allowed him to avoid Vietnam, and the misleading way he often speaks about that period of his life now, especially when he is speaking at veterans’ ceremonies or other patriotic events.

Sometimes his remarks have been plainly untrue, as in his speech to the group in Norwalk. At other times, he has used more ambiguous language, but the impression left on audiences can be similar.

Along the article they provide video fotoage of a speech in which Blumenthal says he was in Vietnam”, specifically “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam”. But they don’t provide the whole video, which soon makes it clear that actually, apart from that quoted sentence he makes quite clear he served during, not in Vietnam. And if Blumenthal was so eager to fudge his record, you’d also expect him to mention it during the recent Democratical senatorial debate, but no:


 

The original story has been followed up with several new stories and editorials, none of which bring new evidence for the NYT’s allegations, but which do keep repeating them. The effect wasn’t long in common, with Blumenthal’s lead over likely Republican opponents dropping quickly after the original story was published. Pushback from the campaign as well as bloggers, once it became clear how false the story was has been fierce, but the paper stands by its now disproven accusations:

The New York Times in its reporting uncovered Mr. Blumenthal’s long and well established pattern of misleading his constituents about his Vietnam War service, which he acknowledged in an interview with The Times. Mr. Blumenthal needs to be candid with his constituents about whether he went to Vietnam or not, since his official military records clearly indicate he did not.

The video doesn’t change our story. Saying that he served “during Vietnam” doesn’t indicate one way or the other whether he went to Vietnam.

Local reporters meanwhile — the ones actually in Connecticut having followed Blumenthal for years — are puzzled over these allegations:

So I asked reporters, anchors and columnists to tell me (a) whether they could remember Blumenthal ever claiming to have served in Vietnam and (b) whether they had been under the impression for whatever reason, that Blumenthal had served in Vietnam. Here are the answers so far.

Mark Pazniokas of the Connecticut Mirror, who may have covered Blumenthal more often than anybody else, referred me to his quote in an NPR national story: “Every time he talked about his military record, he was quite clear that he had been a military reservist and never came close to suggesting he was in Vietnam.”

Greg Hladky of the Hartford Advocate, formerly of the New Haven Register and Bridgeport Post, right up there with Paz in Blumenthal coverage: “Never personally heard [Blumenthal] say he was in Vietnam. I knew he had been the the Marine Corps Reserve, talked about that briefly during interview for a profile I did recently, and he never mentioned being in Nam.”

It goes on like that, with half a dozen or so prominent local journalists saying that, no, they never got the impression served in ‘Nam, knocking the stuffing out of the idea that Blumenthal consistently lied about his service. The question remains why the New York Times went for this smear campaign on such slender evidence. Smearing happens all the times, but usually a supposedly unbiased newspaper like the NYT is careful not to be too transparant…