Friday, December 26, 2003

This chapter, from a forthcoming book on television, had as an alternative title “A Rumor about the Liberals.” This is the title of Steven Eric Bronner’s important and chilling book on the history of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion;” he adapted it from a remark by Theodor Adorno, that “Antisemitism is the rumor about the Jews.” I decided that that title would be too esoteric, but it would not have been inappropriate: much of the literature about “liberal control of the media” has the same character as the infamous “Protocols,” and the same malignant intentions.

THE LIE ABOUT LIBERALS

Part I

The most common contemporary account of mass media, that they suffer from “liberal control,” is the big lie of the late Twentieth Century, and if we believed that facts speak for themselves it would be inconceivable that anyone should be able to read such a phrase without laughing (or crying). The nature of this lie as it relates to the television system–the subservience of news departments to the business interests that “own” them; the conservative domination of news and opinion shows (including those on that special target of the smear campaign, PBS) and the prevalence of Republican Party and other right wing spokespersons who deliver a daily, mostly one-sided, mostly unchallenged, barrage of contempt for liberals and liberalism; the exclusion of women-as-feminists from visual media (whereas men speak as masculinists all the time); the relegation of minority spokespersons to the sidelines, unless they deliver conservative propaganda; the fawning reliance of media on government sources during the Reagan and both Bush Administrations contrasted with their skeptical and often sneering treatment of Clinton and his Administration–is a simple matter of record. The record has been established beyond cavil (literally, since no reviewer has yet been able to find a cavil) by Eric Alterman in his definitive account, What Liberal Media? The Truth about Bias and the News. It can also be found regularly in Extra!, a bimonthly publication of the New York-based media watchdog group, Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR). It would be pointless, and mind-numbing, to repeat the examples of right-wing bias and control turned up in its pages; readers must look it up for themselves, and will be amply rewarded. In any event, as we shall see examples are not really the issue.

It ought to be enough to say that since 9\11 an ignorant and wilfully mendacious Republican president has been treated considerably more gently on news television than was his Democratic predecessor. President Clinton and his wife were subjected to the vilest insults, accusations of criminality not excluding murder, and a grossly trumped-up effort to remove him from office, without the faintest demurral from any so-called “conservative;” support for him from millions of ordinary people was treated as mass moral degeneracy, rather than normal respect for legitimate authority. So the Right critique of news media cannot be taken seriously; it is simply partisan, without any redeeming characteristic of intellectual integrity.

Rather than repeat what has already been done more than satisfactorily, then, I’ve found it more useful to address two questions that still leave a sense of puzzlement after one has plunged into the literature on TV “bias.” The first is this: how can the right-wing critics of “liberal” television possibly even be attempting to make a case that is so evidently counter-factual? And the second question is, Why, in a period of long-term conservative triumph, both institutional and ideological, do they have such a burning desire, such a rage, to make a case that denies their own power? How can the ubiquitous Ann Coulter see Susan Sarandon or Sean Penn, as demonized and marginalized as they are, as important threats to the polity? The first is a question of methodology, and is more easily and clearly answered than the second, which is a question about the ambiguities of psyche and identity, to which answers can only be speculative.

As the word “examples” suggests, most accounts of alleged bias on television consist of the piling up of instances, and this poses an immediate problem. An anecdote is not an argument; even a thousand anecdotes do not add up to an argument. For example, piling up quotations from Edward Kennedy and Barbara Boxer and Tom Daschle could make the U.S. Senate sound “liberal”; but it isn’t; it’s just that all the contrary evidence has been omitted. The worst example of this kind of incompetent methodology in action is Bernard Goldberg’s recent addition to “liberal-elite”-bashing, Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite. From a field of thousands, perhaps millions, of available quotations about policy, politics, culture, and power, from “media elites,” Goldberg has managed to find a few dozen that are satisfactorily “liberal” in order to make his case. Some of these are actually defensible arguments or simple statements of fact (check out the quotations from Maria Liasson and Carole Simpson on pp. 125 and 126); some are recycled from his previous book Bias, as though the well of liberal duplicity and “arrogance” has actually run dry; and some are not relevant to anything at all. (At one point Goldberg asks us to match “offensive quotations” with the presumably liberal celebrities who uttered them, under the heading “That’s Entertainment!” What does this have to do with anything? Why shouldn’t there be liberal celebrities? Since they’re all virtually without power of any kind, why should anyone care? On the other hand, anyone on the Left might be glad for this insertion; the quotations from Jessica Lange, Barbara Streisand, and George Clooney at least are straightforward, legitimate, and persuasive critiques of the Bush Administration). Anyone–Eric Alterman, for example–can with ease find an equal or (more likely) far greater number of quotations or behaviors to support the contrary case for conservative “bias” and “arrogance.” (Goldberg actually manages to go on and on about “liberal bias” without ever even mentioning Alterman’s work.) This is simply not the way to make an argument. Where the data set is infinite, and classifications are arbitrary and tendentious (“liberal,” “conservative,” etc.), we need a way to test our characterization of the whole that goes beyond one-sided countings of the uncountable. In this context, anecdotes only become a genuine argument when they can be fitted into the confines of a theory, that is, a hypothesis which accounts for the given examples by showing how the theory they support explains what is happening in all its profusion and variety. In the case of media “bias,” there are indeed two competing theories, though only one of them is usually made explicit.

Theory one may be described as follows: a small number of corporations, and the persons who control those corporations, own and oversee the activities, the institutions, and the organizations of American mass media. Particular media outlets, therefore (and especially visual media outlets, because of their greater concentration of ownership), behave in such a way as to forward the agenda of those corporations and persons. That agenda includes first, making a profit comparable to that made by other similar corporations (and by all corporations generally, since they all compete for funds in the same investment markets); second, ensuring that the profit-making activities–in the case of visual media, audience-pleasing cultural commodities–do not impair the reputation or economic viability of the parent companies, or of important capitalist entities and operations, most importantly the operations of “private enterprise” and “the free market,” in general; third, supporting and reproducing the conditions of economic monopoly that define the visual media field; and fourth and quite definitely last, producing and distributing the kinds of audience-pleasing commodities that the immediate producers (though not the laborers, who Marx would have considered the “immediate producers”) are comfortable producing. We might call this the class/structural model of media control. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s Propaganda Model, from their book Manufacturing Consent, is the most worked-out contemporary version of the class/structural model; what distinguishes it from other critiques of the role of intellectual workers is its focus on ownership and control of the media, not on the political or moral beliefs of journalists, teachers, etc.--i.e., "intellectuals." They show how both political leaders and capitalists exercise power and authority to ensure that newspaper and television journalists will in the end not subvert the interests of their masters: the dominant class.
(It is true that sociologists of the media who are not conservative critics have offered a view of journalistic behavior which might seem to undercut the Propaganda Model, since they emphasize the extent to which journalists learn to follow "professional" rules of conduct in determining what is "news," and when. However, "professionalism" itself is defined within the confines of the dominant ideology; one has only to look at how news sources become sources, become quoteworthy, to see this process in action. Chomsky himself, for example, is never quoteworthy on the subject of Israel in the United States, though he is so everywhere else in the world. Moreover, in the information culture, viewers are often devoid of any means for checking the reality of the propaganda to which they are subjected, especially if it is about far-away events. News can be manipulated or suppressed, as by the Department of Energy after Three-Mile Island and the U.S. Military during the Gulf War or the Iraq invasion; or it can fail to become news, as American complicity in the East Timor massacres, or strikes that are not reported except locally).

According to the contrrary second theory, control of the production of cultural commodities rests in the hands, not of newspaper chain proprietors, television network owners, and so forth, but in the hands instead of the immediate producers, including studio executives, visual media professionals, journalists, creative artists, and the mid-level overseers of production and distribution; not economic oligarchs but communications and educational specialists exercise intellectual hegemony. In this account, intellectual hegemony has somehow mysteriously become detached from the actual economic and political hegemons; it rules with a life of its own. Moreover, the elite that incarnates it has the strangely conceived agenda of pursuing its own political and ideological purposes, according to which audience-pleasing as an economic goal is subordinated to the ideological goal of subverting and degrading traditional American values. This approach is a particular version of the explanatory schema best known among social scientists as the theory of "elite domination;” but it is a bizarre version of that theory.

Elite-oriented theories of decision-making come in several forms, but the most well-known, stemming from the work of the modern Machiavellians Robert Michels, Max Weber, and Gaetano Mosca, expounds the persuasive (if arguable) thesis that all complex organizations, including governments and even democratic governments, are necessarily dominated by small groups of activists. These may consist of apparatchniks (Michels), experts and bureaucrats (Weber), or exceptionally ambitious and politically talented men (Mosca and Machiavelli). In any case, it is perfectly clear how they got where they are, and why (if you accept the theory) they have to be there. From the standpoint of classical elite theory it is possible to criticize the society that requires such a form of organization, though all the elite theorists would regard such criticisms as utopian. It is neither required or relevant, though, to impute nefarious motives or behavior to the elites themselves, who are just doing a necessary job. "Who says organization," in the words of Michels, "says oligarchy." In the most complexly worked out of these theories, that of Weber, it is also important to note that “the capitalistic entrepreneur is, in our society, the only type who has been able to maintain at least relative immunity from subjection to the control of rational bureaucratic knowledge.”

Clearly, the kind of right-wing reasoning that sees opposition and subversion as the work of educated and even well-off persons is not the same kind of analysis as Marx’s notion of class warfare; but it is equally far from the reasoning of the classic elite theorists as well. Instead, this neo-conservative critique does impute nefarious motives and behaviors, "the desire of elite groups,” in the unbelievable words of one critic, Stanley Rothman, “to control images and stories, without necessarily converting them into monetary advantage." The most straightforward version of this approach is the one that has been made familiar by some black nationalists and recently an English conservative: Hollywood has been and is dominated by a cabal of Jews. Many of the conservative cultural critics are themselves Jews but, unembarrassed, they adopt this version of elite theory wholesale and simply substitute "liberals" for "Jews" as its core category. This is not a minor event.

The ideology revealed by this move, rather than being that of true elite theory, is the 20th Century European variant of populism, the nationalist ideology which proceeds by dividing society into two camps, the virtuous people and the malignant elite. This rightwing populist ideology--what the British sociologist Stuart Hall has called "Authoritarian Populism”--has always argued for the inherent harmony of self-evidently inharmonious communities by attributing all dissidence and division to a subversive "enemy within." Since the enemy according to this version of ideology is always a deviant subculture (Jews, liberals, feminists, homosexuals, Communists, pornographers, Satanists, the criminal underclass, etc.), we need only expel it from the body politic to produce communal reintegration: conveniently without having to challenge patterns of economic and social elitism, of corporate capitalist power and patriarchalism, in the slightest. In the ominous title of one book of right-wing media criticism, Michael Medved's Hollywood Against America, a classic example of this posture, we can see the authentic hand of the commissar, and smell the deadly whiff of grapeshot. Describing a Hollywood "elite" who are losing the battle of the marketplace by defying conventional American morality, he can only explain this seemingly irrational behavior by postulating an ideological take-over by "liberals" who would rather promote their anti-American ideas than make money (an idea borrowed from Rothman). This would be truly extraordinary behavior, and suggests a frightening degree of ideological dedication on the part of burrowers from within, much like that which was attributed to Hollywood "Communists" in the 1940's; in fact, the vocabulary and imagery has been taken over from previous “red scares” almost wholesale.

The point about these competing theories of the media system is not to proclaim which we prefer, but rather to ask how they help us to understand what actually goes on. For here, suffice it to say that one of them is debatable but plausible. The other–that is, the contemporary, neo-conservative version--is totally implausible, especially in its depiction of a system in which underlings exercise power outside the control of the owners who employ; in which it is better to be Diane English or Steve Bochco than Rupert Murdoch, if one wants to amass ideological power. What is of more moment, however, is the starkly different ways in which these theories amass and use evidence to support their main outlines; this has to do with the method of anecdotalism, and the way it is used to distort the actual facts.


THE LIE ABOUT LIBERALISM

Part 2

Here, to begin the analysis, are some examples of media bias taken from the publication Extra! during the past decade. A great many of them pertain to ABC News reporter John Stossel who, as Extra! puts it, “enjoys a special position in broadcast network news: Though not usually identified as a commentator, Stossel is routinely allowed to use his one-hour primetime specials and his regular ‘Give Me a Break’ features on 20/20 to explicitly promote his personal ideological agenda–from singing the virtues of corporate greed to attacking child labor laws--a perspective that is distinctly different from the generally muted centrism that pervades broadcast TV news.” Stossel may be unique as an outright propagandist on network news, but it is important to remember that ABC is routinely criticized by right-wing critics as the most “liberal” of the networks. Among the falsifications that this “liberal” news operation has implicitly endorsed are the following: In a special during which he trashed public schools compared to private and religious schools, Stossel claimed falsely that “SAT scores are lower than they used to be” (they’ve been roughly stable for two decades, and anyhow such comparisons are meaningless since the tests are re-normed regularly); and said falsely that public schools have a 49% graduation rate, when in fact it was at least 73% (and probably higher) in1996. In other reports he falsely claimed that Parkinson’s kills more people than AIDS, although the latter kills at least four times as many Americans, and used to kill many more; claimed that factory workers’ wages had risen to match executive compensation, without adjusting for inflation (in fact real wages had fallen in the 1983-98 period he was describing); claimed government spending on the poor was $324 billion, when that figure (borrowed from a work he cited) included Medicare spending, most of it going to non-poor persons, and the biggest item in the data base by far; sneered at an OSHA spokesman’s statement that workplace fatalities had been cut in half since its creation, though that is a simple fact; falsely alleged that an injured home-worker could sue his employer because of OSHA, although OSHA regulations are enforced by the agency, not by private lawsuits; implied that OSHA was spending $200 million a month on ergonomic research, when the real figure was about $32 million; falsified the facts about what he called “the alar (apples) scare;” and turned outside estimates of possible price rises based on putative global warming controls into firm predictions.

Unlike Stossel, PBS’s National Desk, being a “public” entity, is supposed to give voice to all sides of issues, and purports to do so. But this too is a fiction. On a series on “the gender wars,” for example, the three hosts were all well-known conservatives, and allowed virtually no persons of any other viewpoint to respond to their opinions. The opinions, of course, were offered as “facts,” but were nothing like that; plus the series violated all rules of journalistic integrity, in that the various segments were underwritten by four explicitly right-wing foundations, and the show’s promotional material claimed to afford “a look at how the Social Engineers use Government to manipulate behavior–even to the point of fooling with Mother Nature.!” A segment entitled “The War on Boys” included such false claims as that female athletes were given athletic scholarships at the expense of minority boys, and the “experts” who supported the false claims were actually not experts but publicists funded by the very same foundations that were underwriting the program. The same violation of ordinary journalistic ethics marked a program on public education, a la John Stossel, which offered 38 conservative “experts” from (again) the underwriting foundations as well as for–profit and religious school employees. In defense of public education were four guests, two of whom were NEA officials and denigrated as such. None of the 38 offered any credible data supporting the claim that private and for-profit schools offer “a better education.” They did not report on the major current study of vouchers in Milwaukee, a mixed verdict, or on another study showing that reduction in class size, unlike school voucher programs, has produced notable test-score gains for African-Americans; and they allowed one prolific litigator on behalf of conservative causes to assert without rebuttal that public education has been in serious decline for several decades, without offering the faintest evidence (much of which, to be sure, contradicts the assertion).

More tellingly, in the winter of 2002 all major network news programs supported the Bush Administration “fire reduction” plan: a plan based on arguable if not false claims about that fall being the “worst season” ever, as well as false claims about tendency of fires to destroy soil for ever; and as well as quoting a Forest Service report that was repudiated by the General Accounting Office of Congress as being based on incomplete and misleading statistics--but not the GAO’s repudiation of it. At the same time ABC’s Peter Jennings (another supposed “liberal”) gave a special report on the proposed reintroduction of wolves into Idaho; his report suppressed interviews with supporters of the program, who included ranchers as well as environmentalists, and falsely claimed that most Idahoans were against the program. Only in his reply to critics did Jennings acknowledge that by “most” he’d meant “the body politic of the state, responding to the wishes of the livestock industry”–that is, the wealthiest and most powerful industry (and lobby) in the state.

During the invasion of Iraq, Extra! also documented the extent to which all media coverage was completely subservient to the military, accepting Pentagon communiques about hostilities and the existence of and search for WMD’s without question, and putting down anyone who managed to express an on-camera dissent. The reports focused especially on Fox, the most extremely one-sided of all the networks, hosting Bill O’Reilly’s unembarrassed self-contradictions on the Administration’s supposed knowledge about WMD’s, and his outright lie that Hans Blix had accused Saddam Hussein of not letting UN inspectors interview Iraqi scientists (Blix had rather said that the list given to the inspectors was incomplete); as well as reporters who called dissent “treasonous,” or “unpatriotic,” and boasted of being “slanted and biased;” and who spread the ugly lie that foreign journalists who’d been killed in a shelling of the Palestine Hotel had been used as “human shields” by the Iraqis; while the network itself, supposedly a source of “news,” posted scathingly critical signs about anti-war protestors on its New York news building. In this same period the periodical also documented O’Reilly’s racist slurs (a recording group might be out “stealing hubcaps,” “wetbacks” were infiltrating across our borders, the “most unattractive women in the world” are Muslim, black athletes “can’t speak English”). Fox was not alone in its priorities, though. Before the invasion MSNBC had hired talk-show veteran and liberal commentator Phil Donahue, but during the invasion of Iraq they fired him, for reasons documented by Extra!: an internal network study described him as “a tired, left-wing liberal out of touch with the current marketplace” who would be “a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.” His program, the study added, could be “a home for the liberal anti-war agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.” Prior to his firing, the network managers, according to Extra!, had told Donahue “that he had to have more conservative or right-wing guests than liberals on the same hour show.” For several months no such concerns attended the hate-filled diatribes of Michael Savage on the same channel; eventually he too was fired by MSNBC, only after expressing a literally murderous homophobia on the air. Extra!’s approach to Savage, incidentally, was not to suggest that he should be fired, but to ask why he’d been hired in the first place, when there were plentiful coherent, decent, civil voices (like the “liberal” Donahue) who are never asked to appear on cable TV.

In addition, Extra! also documented egregious conflicts of interest and advertiser control over content, such as WCBS-TV in New York running a newcast that promoted a medical procedure it had advertised on its website; Barbara Walters turning eight shows into paid infomercials for Campbell’s Soup; a Washington state channel presenting an infomercial by the Washington Forest Protection Association, a timber industry group, as though it were a documentary on how the timber industry is “Saving the Salmon;” General Electric’s NBC bashing Oregon’s universal health care initiative with false assertions and propaganda out of the medical industry’s playbook; and other examples from ABC’s The View, and NBC’s Today show. Worst of all, they reported on a Fox affiliate in Tampa that fired two reporters for refusing to report false information about growth hormones in milk; the station did not dispute the facts but simply asserted (with the agreement of a Federal appeals court) that it had a right to discipline its employees for violating orders. Extra! also noted various instances of cross-promotion by so-called news programs, as CBS News promoting the network’s Survivor as if it were a news topic, and NBC doing the same with its Olympic coverage. All these, of course, are just a few among the many instances of conflict of interest it has noted since its founding in 1988.

Two comments about this record (actually, just a tiny portion of it) are critical. First, they aren’t merely anecdotal. That is, and this is crucial, you don’t have to have previously believed the class/structural theory to make sense of them; because of the topics they cover (economic power, the war effort), they suggest it even if you’d never heard of it, and it then in turn explains them. Second, none of the examples I have noted involve differences of opinion about ideas or policies, or questions of appropriate amounts and types of coverage. They are all verifiably about distortions of fact or unethical behaviors, In both these respects Extra!’s coverage differs sharply from that of the Right in the latter’s allegations of “liberal bias.” Ann Coulter’s hysterics aside, the most well-known “documentations” of that “bias” are the two books by Goldberg (Arrogance and his earlier Bias) and L. Brent Bozell III and Brent Baker’s And That’s the Way It Is(n’t), published in 1990 at the height of the “liberal media” scare, and often taken to be some kind of conservative counterweight to the Left critiques of Extra!, or the contemporary collection edited by FAIR’s Norman Solomon and Jeff Cohen, Through the Media Looking Glass. In the first place, the right-wing books don’t support the “liberal elite dominance” thesis unless you already believe it; rather, they suggest that there are some “liberals” at work in the media (wow!), and that they produce programs they like and don’t produce programs they don’t like; but not that they have any permanent or structural power. Second, these books are completely different in another important way in their approach to their alleged subject matter.

Bozell and Baker especially make no effort to pursue facts or document critical accounts of news broadcasts. Rather, they begin with an irrelevant review of the alleged political leanings of “journalists;” irrelevant because, despite the Right’s presumption that every thinking person is an ideologue and every statement dependent on a concealed ideology, most journalists are neither politicians nor ideologues nor academics, and their political postures are as fragile and evanescent as mayflys. They then proceed entirely by criticizing news judgments and interpretations that they (and the Right generally) disagree with, as though finding them bore out the implications of the “political leanings” study–a methodology later followed by Goldberg. Instead, these “findings” simply tells us what would have been “the news” had Bozell and Baker been reading it instead of (a favorite whipping boy) Tom Brokaw, but it is impossible to tell why Brokaw’s reading constitutes a particular bias. Bozell and Baker are incensed, for example, because “the news” gave more coverage to human rights abuses in South Africa and Chile than in the Soviet Union, and treated Mikhail Gorbachev as a reformer rather than just another Stalinist tyrant; just as Goldberg is later incensed because television news gives more prominence to the injuries of American women than to those of American men. In fact, there are all sorts of good reasons for the former disproportion, if it indeed existed, and on Gorbachev the “reference guide” is simply wrong. As to the travails of men in schools or divorce courts, Goldberg does not attempt to account for the fact that almost all the people making these decisions about coverage are themselves (white) men, though the most obvious distinction here is that the men whose injuries Goldberg wants covered are mostly lower-class men, and as compared to its focus on the middle and upper classes, male or female, the system has never been comfortable with or much interested in such “victims.” Nor is he himself, apparently, since when he discusses homelessness and AIDS in Bias, his approach is to castigate the media for over-estimating the extent of those conditions, and for “prettifying” the victims when they ought to be blaming them--that is, for showing homeless people as attractive persons instead of drug-ridden down-and-outs; or AIDS victims as white victims of blood transfusions (e.g., Ryan White) instead of black, homosexual drug users. But this is simply disingenuous. “Prettifying” is what television always does, and as a long-time tv reporter Goldberg knows this. He simply refuses to notice “prettifying” when it doesn’t make his point, as in the “prettifying” of giant corporations, or advertised products, or President Bush, or “cops,” or college athletics, or professional football, or male and female news anchors, or the devastation of Iraq...but one could go on and on. It’s sufficient to add here that as AIDS has become a world-wide heterosexual epidemic, television’s avoidance of this topic is ignored by Goldberg. American tv’s isolationism, much more central to its mode of operation than any “liberalism,” is of no interest to its ideologically invested critics.

These criticisms, in other words, are all about being “right” or “wrong” (or “left”), which are totally matters of emphasis and judgment; rather than about “true” or “false,” which are not. To take another example, network coverage during the 1980's allegedly featured more anti-SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars”) than pro-SDI coverage. The former, in a particularly slanderous bit of slanting, is called by Bozell and Baker “the Soviet side,” as though Gorbachev’s insistence that “Star Wars” deployment would unbalance the arms race were not shared by many thoughtful Americans; and the consensus of the expert scientific community, that a workable missile shield was a pipe dream, was not simply ignored. Perhaps the networks were too much slanted toward President Reagan’s initiative in giving it any credence at all; there’s no way of even considering the matter intelligently simply by conducting an arcane count of “mentions” and “instances.” The failure of this method (if it can be called that) is nicely illustrated by a quotation from (an allegedly “gushing”) Tom Brokaw, who said “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Soviets will do something more [in the area of ‘human rights’ reform]. They are very eager to put the best face, of course, on the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev.” Bozell and Baker do not even perceive Brokaw’s evident skepticism about the Soviets’ intentions; so intent are they on policing adherence to their own view they can’t recognize neutrality when it’s right in front of them.

The same is true of every other issue their “guide” covers. One study shows that the media had more “focus stories” on the recession economy of 1982 and its aftermath than on the allegedly improved economy of the mid-80's, a discovery very similar to a finding, say, that there were more stories about shark attacks than about shark migration. Somehow the media preference for “bad news” becomes “liberal,” as though the New York Post’s picture of New York City as a place where people mostly get mugged, murdered, or ripped off by one government agency or another, were to make it “liberal.” The guide consistently confuses the journalistic maxim, “If it bleeds, it leads,” with a political ideology. Worse, its ideological posture is not only binary, but Manichean. Everything that is not “conservative” is “liberal”: the Brookings Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Foreign Policy Association. Even TV’s failure sufficiently to cover “the killing fields” of Cambodia, an omission that would seem not only explicable but over-determined to just about every journalism professor in the business, becomes evidence of media “bias.” In fact there was coverage of the Cambodian tragedy, just not enough: a shortcoming that would be unsurprising to critics here and abroad who know how insular American news coverage is compared to that of, say, the BBC, or even CNN Abroad.

Perhaps more detailed study of the text than I was able to endure would turn up an actual mistake by one or more of the “liberal media.” It is belaboring the point to say that I was unable to find any. A decade later, critics of “liberal bias” such as Goldberg are still more often than not playing the same game of searching for ideological rectitude and acceptable news judgment as an index for the existence of their unicorn, turning a handful of statements by particular reporters into “the media” and (mis)reading the evidence to suit their own “bias.” To take a particularly salient example, Goldberg in Bias argues at various points–it is his central, even crucial, argument--that television news departments bend over backwards to be uncritical of black people. It is undoubtedly true that millions of American white people–not at all just “liberals”–quite properly feel so much guilt about the history of American racism that they do not trust their own responses to events that could be perceived as negative revelations of African-American culture. But as Eric Alterman points out in his critique of Bias, Goldberg, apparently without realizing what he is doing, quotes supposedly telling remarks from network moguls that actually make the opposite point. In fact, what they say (according to Goldberg himself) is that they look for stories that they think will sell, and downgrade stories that they think won’t sell; and that is the sum of their thinking–most of which is in practice not at all beneficial to African-Americans, whose interests and ideas and problems are on the whole perceived as not saleable.

To be sure, the thought process that produces decisions about what constitutes an interesting story, is undoubtedly influenced by years both of exposure to racial stereotypes and of attempts to rise above stereotypical behavior. That conflict is real in most Americans, and its result can go either way depending on circumstances and the particular person’s various predispositions. But in the media world, all of those are ultimately trumped by the desire to do what will be acceptable to the largest possible audience: a black man killing a white woman is news, a black man killing another black man isn’t, unless the other black man is an undercover police officer. If a wealthy suburban student attending an elite university is killed in Manhattan, or kills someone himself, this is news no matter who did the killing, or who was killed. All such decisions faithfully track rules of choice, alluded to above, that have been built up over centuries of journalism: man bites dog is more interesting than dog bites man; lower is better than upper but wealth is more interesting than poverty; sympathetic victims take precedence over unsympathetic victims; and so on. These occupational prejudices intersect with race, of course, in that people do not come into the world with “sympathetic” or “unsympathetic” marked on their foreheads; where and how they fit into their particular social milieu determines that identification. In this respect we can truthfully say that by their own account most news producers in the tv system make little or no attempt to submit the “popular” determination of what is interesting to their own independent moral interrogation; they give into it, without asking how “the popular” came to be “popular.” From the standpoint of the people making them, then, none of these business-like choices and non-choices are either “liberal” or “conservative.” Those are after-the-fact characterizations; they substitute the critic’s version of what the decision-maker must have meant for the decision-maker’s own understanding, however limited, of what he was trying to do. Thus we could never understand from the ideologue’s perspective why affirmative action programs (another instance of liberal elite favoritism according to Goldberg) have been more entrenched in the corporate world than anywhere else. It could hardly be because personnel administrators and CEO’s are “more liberal”–than whom? No, they simply want to score points with a potentially critical community, avoid lawsuits and government regulation, and thus protect long-run profit potentials–without engaging any of the nagging philosophical questions they’d have to confront if they were, say, academics at a liberal arts college. On the other hand, where no controversy beckons, because any possible oppositional constituency is too weak (either in spending power or in legislative halls) to make itself heard, we can see the system in its true colors; they are not any variation of red. There is, for example, a recent university press book that relates negative views about “welfare” (of the kind that led to its abolition under President Clinton) to the way television has portrayed both welfare costs and welfare recipients; another scholarly work similarly indicts the media’s standard portrayal of labor strikes and protests. (See the book by Martin Gilens, Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of Anti-Poverty Policy, and Christopher R. Martin’s, Framed: Labor and the Corporate Media.) Of course the conservative media critics don’t recognize the existence of actual research; their only interest is in each other’s polemics, as though multiplying criticisms makes them more likely to be true. It does not.



THE LIE ABOUT LIBERALISM

Part 3

In short, the methodology of this search for “liberalism” is worthless; whatever the case might actually be, it can’t be found by substituting interpretations for data, and it can’t be found by giving multiple examples taken only from the body of evidence that can be tweaked to support the case. One collection of pieces from Extra!, in comparison, offers a list of news items that television could have covered, but did not: how agribusiness firms used donations to key congressmen to prevent nutritional labeling on products; how certain congressmen parlay fealty to powerful lobbies into personal riches; how Philip Morris bankrolled a mis-named California initiative for “Statewide Smoking Restrictions;” how industry groups similarly mis-name themselves in order to present themselves as friends of environmental reforms they actually oppose; how “General Electric lobbyists...helped draft the corporate tax law that reduced the company’s taxes to below zero;”and how representatives of “public interest groups” propose legislation that would solve the problem of corruption by big money. Unlike in the case of Cambodia, there is no TV coverage of these issues. Moreover, the authors of this guide are as happy (or dismayed) to find evidence of liberal as well as conservative malfeasance (the list I’ve just adumbrated notes large contributions, fully reciprocated, from the Chairman of Archer Daniels Midland to the campaigns of both George Bush and Bill Clinton). That is because they are looking for “bias” in the news reporting rather than in the reporters. The hated “liberal” Tom Brokaw is a wonderful example of the payoff in looking at all the evidence, rather than just the ideologically acceptable: Bozell and Baker did not find it worth mentioning that Brokaw, with his nightly “America held hostage” report during the Iranian hostage crisis, possibly had more to do with discrediting Jimmy Carter and delivering the ‘80 presidential election to Ronald Reagan than any other individual. Was this a triumph for liberalism, or for ABC-TV’s triumph at having found a way to compete with the Tonight show at last?

The methodological contrast with what Extra! does is complete. The latter, as I’ve said, is published by the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), and the notion of “fairness” and “accuracy” that motivates it is that of fidelity to the material. If you see an orange and they tell you to call it a lemon, you must call it an orange; that is the definition of journalistic integrity. The right-wing critique has no interest in fidelity to the material which, though often hard to describe and difficult to interpret, is there. Instead the Right prescribes fidelity to an ideology, that is, an abstraction, or collection of abstractions, that exist only in the minds of various observers. An egregious example from Arrogance is Goldberg’s description of the volubly anti-feminist, and much quoted Christina Hoff Sommers as a “feminist” who “wouldn’t toe the party line” and was sent “to the gulag,” which appears to have set up one of its surprisingly cushy camps at the American Enterprise Institute. (This kind of fraudulent invocation of “victim” status is standard in right-wing media.) Goldberg manages to find a few instances of silly media mistreatment of Sommers, but none of the many instances at all of the fawning treatments received by this anti-feminist; and he makes no effort either to track down the existing critiques of her work that demonstrate, not its ideological deviation, but its own shortcomings. Looking at her work in toto, we find, as might be expected, ambiguity: some of what she says is just, some unjust, and some still needs to be clarified a decade later. But he can only assume ideological correctness: his enemy’s enemy must be his uncriticizable friend. This whole approach, in sum, makes journalistic integrity impossible, for the material that ought to be the source of the observations that follow it, now becomes merely fodder to realize one’s own desires and fantasies. There is no such thing as liberal news or conservative news, liberal facts or conservative facts; there is only what has happened, of which there is so much that it is impossible to reduce “it” to a name, let alone get it all “right.”

Even given that impossibility, however, if we subject these contrasting approaches to the test of how well they function in support of their respective hypotheses, there is indeed something to be found out about “the news.” The “Left” hypothesis fares fairly well, if not decisively so. The priorities it predicts–maximizing corporate profits, reproducing the conditions of monopoly, producing audience satisfaction, and last and least producing personal satisfaction–on the whole seem to be as predicted; though like all Marx-influenced class theory, it arbitrarily assigns popular nationalism to ruling class influence, without considering whether the causal arrow might not at times be the other way around. The blatherings of Fox’s pundits may indeed give personal satisfaction, but they are also very popular with a particular audience (mostly resentful white males), and they comport wholly with the views of the owner, Rupert Murdoch. As to the owner himself, Extra! (and others such as The Nation) point out that despite his ferocious anti-Communism he too surrendered his own presumed personal satisfaction to market imperatives by deleting the prestigious and much-watched BBC World Service from his Sky network, and ordered “his” book publisher Harper-Collins not to publish a book critical of the Chinese regime, in order to satisfy the demands of his putative Chinese hosts and their prospective billion-person audience. Nor does the class/structural hypothesis have any difficulty accounting for the evidence on the other side, such as it is. Thus at the end of one of his books on media, Michael Parenti, an unabashed socialist and perhaps the most outspokenly Left-wing voice among American social scientists, writes that “...the ruling class rules but not quite in the way that it wants. Its socializing agencies do not work with perfect effect, free of contradictions--or else this book could not have been written or published or understood.” There is no reason why some or at times many journalists employed by monopoly capitalists should not be liberals; they rarely bring any harm to their employers; their dedication to any liberal agenda is negligible compared to the dedication of their right-wing counterparts (as Alterman shows, they typically bend over backwards to show “the other side ”); and in their partial professionalism they provide the best possible facade for the claim that the mass media are not under their owners’ thumbs. There are capitalist nations that have been governed by people well to the Left of Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw for decades at a time, yet remain capitalist. None are or have been threatened by the fuzzy, non-mobilizing, and non-threatening ideological stances of professional media spokespersons. What is impermissible in the privatized media in any of those nations, however, is that such persons should tell the truth about the interests and activities of their employers; and this, at least in the United States, does not happen. A comparison of BBC News, even on domestic British matters, with any American television news operation is simply embarrassing.

The “Elite Domination” hypothesis is another story. The factual statement that many news persons are politically liberal can account for some of the instances of one-sidedness highlighted by Bozell and Goldberg–only some, because it is quite possible that the nature of the actual facts dictates the others. But the attempt to turn these instances into the generality “elite domination” fails miserably. Unlike the class/structural analysis, this analysis brooks no quarter; it is impossible to imagine any Right-wing equivalent of Parenti writing such a sentence, or perhaps even thinking it; conservative ressentiment seem to preclude taking any notice of how politically and culturally successful one actually is. Yet nothing in its story about “liberal elites” can account for the documentation to be found in Extra!, not to mention Chomsky and Herman’s Manufacturing Consent, or the work of Robert McChesney, the premier Left media commentator. (See also various special issues of The Nation about who controls the media over the last six years). The hypothesis cannot explain why or how station or network executives kill stories unpalatable to themselves or their bosses or advertisers, and twist the “news” to promote or whitewash associated products; it cannot explain the censorship to which Michael Moore’s satirical show TV Nation was subjected during its brief run in the summers of 1994 and 1995. It cannot explain why there has never been a visibly “liberal” opinion show on either commercial or public television, though many conservative ones on both. It cannot explain the vindictive assault on a more-or-less liberal president, and the salacious prurience on which that assault was based, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. It cannot explain, inter alia, the why television gave George W. Bush a free ride about his defects of character, behavior, and intelligence, while mocking Al Gore, during the 2000 election; it cannot explain the medium’s uncritical endorsement of the ideology and hype (and lies) of the most war-like Administration in American history (though to be fair, as I’ve suggested in discussing the force of popular nationalism earlier, this is an observation that also gives class/structural analysis difficulty). Above all, the elite domination hypothesis cannot refute the contrary hypothesis–what an analyst might call the “null hypothesis”–that within structural and institutional limits (as developed by the class/structural theory) the behavior of the “liberal” media commentators is mostly explained by their appropriate but occupationally narrow pursuit of what they conceive to be “the truth.” To refute this counter-hypothesis, the right-wing media critics can as we’ve seen offer only the argument--what they seem to think is a critique–that journalists have “more liberal” views than the population at large.

Most recently, Goldberg in ch. 5 of Arrogance, asserts that “the elites remain in denial...despite the surveys that show that large numbers of Americans consider the elite media too liberal....” There are two serious problems with this accusation, though. The first is its confusion of a word–“liberal”–with a condition–alienation. Of course “large numbers of Americans” are alienated from the media; they ought to be, because alienation is the condition that monopoly domination of mass media creates (or rather, “alienation” is the best description of that condition). That many among that number attribute the nature of the media monopoly to “liberals” tells us nothing except whose propaganda is more successful in “the marketplace of ideas.” The second problem with this reasoning shows up if we ask, does Goldberg really believe that everything “large numbers of Americans” believe is true? In making this move he and his fellow critics insist, as a justification of their own reasoning, on precisely the shallow intellectual pandering that they have already sternly rejected as an explanation of the media’s behavior: “my audience, may it always be in the right, but my audience right or wrong.” This defense of media by its controllers is certainly not offered in good faith (think of the their opposition to the technology that enables the fast-forwarding of commercials). But then neither is the populist attack on liberalism, since it would have to be happy with, even to demand, media endorsement of whatever “liberal” views the majority happens to share--and there are many, according to Rothman’s own data (is the media’s distaste for single-payer health care, let alone the belief that Iraq was behind the attack on the World Trade Center, examples of liberal conspiracy at work?). They do not do this, because intellectual consistency is not what they are after.

The elite domination hypothesis, in sum, is an hypothesis that fails every test, except the ultimate test of being politically acceptable to the men who pay the pipers and call the tune. That such a tendentious, partisan, palpably false, and intellectually superficial argument about the alleged power of “liberals” should have become the conventional wisdom, is the most telling possible refutation of its own claims to truth.



To ask why the right-wing propagandists assert a thesis with such obvious limitations is to waste time; people will say anything that helps them attain power. The more interesting question is why they should believe what they say so passionately, as they obviously do. Given the burial service for liberal politics that has been going on ever since 1968 (at the latest), the frantic concern over a few television commentators seems paranoid. But even paranoids, as the saying goes, have enemies, or at least what appear to be enemies. We therefore want to ask, What is it about the commercial TV system that makes it seem inimical to the conservative, despite all the reasons for dissatisfaction with the system that are evident to persons such as Chomsky, or myself. Some of the answer to that question has to do with the peculiar nature of fiction television, that the most enjoyable narratives proceed by presenting an apparently unconventional view before they conclude in a blaze of conventional glory; but that’s a subject for another essay. The most crucial point here is this: The right-wing critique, unlike Chomsky’s, is in fact not a complaint about the manufacturing of consent, but is rather a complaint about the manufacturing of dissent.

This is a significant difference. The argument of Chomsky, McChesney, and others is that if public space is monopolized by certain kinds of communications with which people are regularly bombarded, then some of those people may be led to believe things that they wouldn’t otherwise believe: would not believe in the presence of truly free, unmonopolized, communications. The right-wing critique is rather that people may be led to dis-believe what they ought to believe, and really do believe in the absence of concentrated dissent. But this is totally implausible. In the first place, it is counter-factual: consent possibly can be “manufactured,” though the experience of the Soviet Union shows how difficult this is. But dissent can never be “manufactured,” it can only be generated. To manufacture it, one would have to control the entire structure and process of communications, and even then success would not be guaranteed. (And how could the people who control the core of a social order possibly want to encourage dissent from it to begin with?) But what is wrong with generating dissent? The right-wing argument is that the people’s true values–patriotism, religion, etc.–are in danger of being subverted; the flak machine, as Chomsky and Herman call it, exists to prevent this subversion. But at the same time the Right denies that people really change their beliefs, at worst they’re confused by liberal lies; and yet the right-wing critics are always quoting “public opinion” to show that the people are really on their side.

What then is the problem? How can people be led to dissent from a truthful account of their material world, if the conservative account is indeed truthful? The answer, and the reason for the discrepancy between the two types of argument, is that the Right’s world is one of ideas and symbols rather than material welfare or ill-fare; the material world hardly counts as such, because our perceptions of it are infinitely malleable. In the 21st Century indeed right-wing politics has consisted to a great extent of outright lies about the material realm–the effects of tax cuts, the causes of war, the nature of environmental problems, etc. (The literature of the Bush Administration’s lies is so extensive by now I’m not even going to begin to mention it). This being the Right’s own view of life, conservatives project this as the real world. “Culture” then stands above the economy and politics; it is all-powerful, because only it, and its images, are really real.

A comparison with Manufacturing Consent is instructive here. Manufacturing Consent is largely a description of structures and processes: “a propaganda model suggests that the ‘societal purpose’ of the media is to inculcate and defend the economic, social, and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the state. The media serve this purpose in many ways: through selection of topics, distribution of concerns, framing of issues, filtering of information, emphasis and tone, and by keeping debate within the bounds of acceptable premises. We have sought to show that the expectations of this model are realized, and often considerably surpassed, in the actual practice of the media in a range of crucial cases.” Speaking of Watergate and the Iran-Contra affair, Chomsky and Herman go on to add: “Contrary to the usual image of an ‘adversary press’ boldly attacking a pitiful executive giant, the media’s lack of interest, investigative zeal, and basic news reporting on the accumulating illegalities of the executive branch have regularly permitted and even encouraged ever larger violations of law, whose ultimate exposure when elite interests were threatened is offered as a demonstration of media service ‘on behalf of the polity.’ These observations reinforce the conclusions that we have documented throughout.” And they conclude that “As we have stressed throughout this book, the U.S. media do not function in the manner of the propaganda system of a totalitarian state. Rather, they permit–indeed, encourage–spirited debate, criticism, and dissent, as long as these remain faithfully within the system of presuppositions and principles that constitute an elite consensus, a system so powerful as to be internalized largely without awareness.”

Despite their book’s ominous title, and aside from the initial and concluding generalizations in the above passage (“inculcate,” “internalized”), Chomsky and Herman actually have little to say about the state of people’s beliefs, what they do believe, what they might believe, and especially, what they ought to believe. Their complaint is that the media frame issues in such a way as to diminish the possibilities for achieving fuller and more accurate knowledge about them. The structure is pluralistic and it provides a variety of viewpoints within bounds (the “filters”). Therefore its communications do not falsify most people’s immediate experience, and its main effect is to circumscribe possible interpretations of situations, not to keep them from view (though it sometimes does do that); in this respect also the Left hypothesis does not deny the existence of pluralism, and need not deny it, as long as that pluralism does not encompass system-threatening activities. As big media’s consistently hostile treatment of the anti-WTO 1999 demonstrations in Seattle demonstrates, these boundaries can be policed as firmly as if a Commissar of Information were commanding the media instead of a collection of private enterprises. Indeed, the strength of the propaganda model is that both in theory and in practice it doesn’t require a commissar to explain how this policing takes place.

In a sense, then, the propaganda model is a model of alienation, in which possibilities of authentic knowledge and experience are removed from people’s grasp by the very structure of the situation. But manipulation and deceit are not inevitable (nor alienation). They are not built into the existence of modes of mass communication (as Michels, for example, claimed they were), but only into its existing social relations–its institutions. Therefore, to the limited extent that full knowledge of a state of affairs is possible, we can all come closer to realizing it–but first it is necessary to smash through the limiting frame, to make the structure truly instead of only notionally pluralistic, and that is what they try to do (and by explaining the nature of the situation, to enable others to do). Although they are strong critics of contemporary liberals, in fact theirs is the classic liberal position, as best articulated by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty. More discussion, more debate, and especially more dissent, are always healthier than less. People can increase their understanding; we can overcome our own prejudice and bias; we can try (at least) to achieve what the philosopher Thomas Nagel calls “the view from nowhere.” There can never be “too much dissent,” and dissent can never be dangerous, or bad for anyone’s intellectual health: “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

“Liberal” and Conservative,” therefore, are not, as is sometimes said, mirror images of each other, or extremes between which a wiser middle position can be located. Mill’s position is the middle position (if we must have a middle), between authoritarianisms of Right and Left (say, Castro, or the Chinese regime) that would squelch one or another kind of dissent; that do not believe that more discussion is always healthier, and that arguments in dissent–the questioning of established beliefs, whether patriotic or religious–are preferable, as Mill argues, to conformity. Thus whereas the Left critique is that there’s not enough dissent, not enough voices questioning the monopoly over words and images in public space, the Right critique, contrarily, is that there’s too much. Even the feeble questionings of a Brokaw or Rather or Jennings, almost never stated with such force as to threaten the seats of authority, are more than can be tolerated.

But how can this be? What is the counter-argument against dissent? It is hard to tell, since it is rarely made explicit. But there seem to be three justifications for the attack against dissent. The first is that it is not really dissent; that established beliefs are not sufficiently available in visual culture. This is manifestly false. The entire media machine, plus of course the primary and secondary school establishment everywhere, the publishers of textbooks, the great majority of churches, and so forth, are dedicated to providing almost nothing but established beliefs. With very few exceptions, having mostly to do with the history of slavery and the conquest of Native Americans (and not even that in large parts of the Union), young people rarely hear anything at all like what Howard Zinn calls “a people’s history of the United States.” As for the visual media, since TV relies mostly on government sources, and secondarily on sources from private business for its news items, it would simply be impossible to make the case that the established view of affairs is slighted. But that’s not really the argument either, for the Right doesn’t want the established view, it wants its own view put forward: sectarian or even theocratic religiosity, “anti-government” positions as a matter of abstract ideology but total fealty to “government” when its own personnel are in power; and punitive, authoritarian nationalism in place of a vaguely tolerant and non-specific patriotism. And this view, its spokespersons clearly think, is under-represented in visual media. However, this argument is also manifestly false either on the facts, or else in its portrayal of the power of the media. For otherwise, the cliches of “liberal media” and “political correctness” would not be mouthed by millions of Americans as though they represented some kind of reality; Americans would have stopped belonging to fundamentalist churches instead of joining them in great numbers; and the various wars the polity has engaged in over the past two decades would have been sabotaged by the populace instead of endorsed by apparently enthusiastic majorities (or substantial minorities). There is no danger of the Right view of the world going unheard; it shouts itself from every radio talk show, every cable TV channel, and most op-ed pages; and dominates the national government (it has won three of the last six presidential elections, and stole a fourth). If, as Mill again argues (and would the haters of liberalism endorse any of his arguments?), the “minority opinion” is always the one that most needs to be heard; then with reference to what’s available on television, as between the opinions of Brent Bozell, Goldberg, Rothman, Tom Delay, and say Sen. Rick Santorum on the one hand, and Noam Chomsky and Robert McChesney or the Nation magazine on the other, there isn’t the faintest doubt which one more “needs to be heard.”


But even this is not the gravamen of the right-wing complaint, for when we attend to it closely, we discover that the Right really does believe that criticism of what it construes as “the American way of life” is bad and there ought to be less of it, because its promulgation in any degree leads to disrespect for authority, anti-Americanism, weakening of faith, and the general degradation of society. This is an extraordinary testimony to the power of pundits who are never seen nor heard on the visual media, and magazine that are lucky if their circulation figures reach six figures, or in most cases five. As Alterman notes, in this perspective the New York Times and Washington Post, which (especially the Post) carry many conservative and neo-liberal voices on their op-ed pages and magazine sections (and book review sections), as well as even sometimes in their editorials, become organs of liberal propaganda, whereas the far-right Washington Times, which carries absolutely no dissenting voices at all, is a respectable and even valuable newspaper. The truth is, in other words, that the Right wants the visual media to be more of a propaganda machine than it is; what’s wrong with Chomsky, in other words, is not (as many liberal academics would argue) his description of the Propaganda Model, but his criticism of it. “Manufacturing consent,” it turns out, is exactly what the Right is after, and the failure to engage wholeheartedly in the struggle is a sign not of good, pluralist intentions, but of insufficient patriotism and free-market dogmatism. Cultural imperialism is a social good; we just don’t have enough of it. The standpoint of these conservatives, very simply, is that if they are not allowed to dominate the media, then they are being excluded from it. Anything short of their total control amounts to “liberal bias” or even subversion of the polity. As theory, in other words, the Elite Domination Paradigm itself belongs to the realm of propaganda rather than ideology; it is politically useful rather than intellectually serious. As a political practice within the realm of propaganda it undoubtedly expresses the fondest hopes of ruling groups everywhere: that ideology should be coterminous with propaganda; that all ambiguity or hints of opposition should be leached out of it; and that doing this is the responsibility of those communications specialists who are in their employ. Given the huge outpouring of funds with which right-wing foundations underwrite publications such as The American Spectator, The National Interest, The Public Interest, National Review, and the New Criterion, a whole host of right-wing campus newspapers, and institutions such as the Center for Media Affairs, it is clear that the Elite Domination Paradigm is better understood as the Elite Manipulation Paradigm; and that, if nothing else, it is an accurate account not of what television or movies accomplish ideologically, but of what right-wing funders are paying their own communications specialists to do.

In this light, there is much more at stake than a debate over control of the media or the power of liberalism. The real issue, rather, is the very meaning of the American Constitutional settlement itself. The reason that occasional dissent, skepticism, or even bland neutrality can be read as “liberal domination” is that the contemporary version of conservatism is essentially a fundamentalist religion–a secular authoritarianism that attaches itself to real religiosity in order to validate itself, as the right-wing media critics angrily attack the supposed denial of religion in the media without every uttering a word of religious belief themselves. It is a weapon for them, rather; a weapon with which to beat their secular enemy (rarely do they admit, or confront the implications of, the official opposition of the Roman Catholic Church to much of what they believe). The religious fundamentalist, and his counterpart the secular dogmatist, views all deviation in belief as Error, and the incompleteness of domination by Truth (as of course must always be the case) is taken as the domination by Error. Thus the authoritarian fundamentalist is always unappeasable. Free expression of opinion is the weapon of the enemy, who seeks to establish the “tyranny” of secular pluralism. This is not so much because the political program of this Right wing is totalitarian (though some of it surely is, in its ambition to wipe out all traces of oppositional power), but because its notion of liberty is totalitarian–or, to be more circumspect, authoritarian, as in “authoritarian populism.” As against the liberal democrat Mill, who argues that only the doing of actual harm to others justifies impositions on speech and writing, the authoritarian populist holds that your liberty to speak and write, if it constrains my effort to put my desires into practice, whatever they may be, is a “harmful” constraint on my liberty–in the instant case, on my liberty to monopolize the realm of culture in the name of “truth.” This rage never to be thwarted or opposed, can only be understood in the language of the passions; and liberals, most of the time, are unable to withstand its thrust, or negotiate its demands, because they are non-negotiable, and negotiation is, contrarily, the core of liberal doctrine. Perhaps liberals have their own passions, which they have simply learned too well to repress; but in any event, as the attempts of CNN and MSNBC to compete with Fox demonstrate, the unappeasable can never be appeased.

It is for this reason that the conservative “flak machine” only piles up instances of “error,” that is, of disagreement with its doctrines. It counts up no instances of sycophancy (toward Republican authority figures), but only deviations from it. This is why Bernard Goldberg can write about “Bias” while offering so surprisingly few instances of it, because he has adopted the stance according to which any deviation from proper behavior is “bias;” unlike say Cohen and Solomon, who offer extensive examples of mis-reporting by “liberal” figures, Goldberg does not even mention one instance of the dogmatically pro-market, anti-social-criticism bias of John Stossel, or of the attacks on environmentalists that his network (CBS) engaged in; or of its cozying up to business interests. He (nor Bozell and Baker, nor Rothman) produces no structural account of “liberal bias”–of an institutional weighting against the expression of conventional views–because he couldn’t. Conventional views are all around us, night after night, on channel after channel. Goldberg is like the film critic Michael Medved, who piles up instances of the positive depiction of homosexuality, without bothering to notice that almost everything else around us is oriented toward heterosexuality. (Try to think of one TV commercial that “privileges homosexuality,” or more than a partial handful of series.) When a writer like Adrienne Rich, conversely, refers to the privileging of heterosexuality, she means by this that almost all institutional supports and expressions in any field of culture, are structured in that direction. For the Right, that there is any remainder at all is apparently too much. Virtually nothing, and that only if marginalized, would be a proper indication of not-bias. For Goldberg similarly, the sadly thin attempt of big media (at the verbal level only) to face up to the nature of American apartheid and its destructive effects on African-Americans; or to cover up its own exclusion of women from positions of power with occasional gestures toward a genteel version of “feminism,” is the only “bias” he can deign to notice.

There can be no understanding of the lie about liberalism without an understanding of this basic asymmetry in political philosophy. Tolerance and intolerance, pluralism and the rejection of otherness, freedom for the speech that we hate and freedom for the speech that we approve of, are not “different sides of the same coin,” or two visions of democracy. Advocates of liberal pluralism reject authoritarian populism in principle, but respect its right to speak for itself. Advocates of authoritarian populism do not reject the right of liberal pluralism to speak at all. They merely wish to deprive it of the power to do so, unless its advocates are safely outnumbered, and it is made clear that they are “wrong.” To these power-seekers, the liberal feminist who defends herself against the ravings of Ann Coulter merely illustrates the French proverb that “Cet animal est tres mechant/Quand on l’attaque, il se defend.” (“This animal is very wicked/It bites the foot that tries to kick it”). Every defense becomes a symptom of aggression; every expressed desire to escape from the dominance of white males over information culture (the monopolists of almost every talk show or roundtable discussion, the persona of virtually every news anchor) becomes an example of that helpful evasion, “political correctness.” But the lie about liberalism remains just that: a lie.

Philip Green, Sophia Smith Professor of Government Emeritus, Smith College; Visiting Professor of Political Science, New School University Graduate Faculty

Please: all comments and questions are very welcome: philip.green9@verizon.net

Sunday, December 21, 2003

today brings sad tidings from our dear friend at the Times--The Week in Review. This article, with its slightly mocking tone, tut-tuts that Americans DO in the main believe in Heaven, but that it is a place much like earth, oh dear. John Edwards, lying fake psychic asshole, as opposed, of course, to John Edwards, seemingly decent but ultimately doomed politician, is named as a phenomena that supports the views in the article, without any question about his alleged and obviously fake "abilities". I guess no one at the TImes watches "South Park", which had a takedown of Edwards this season so brilliant it was painful. Including was a scene of Stan saying, directly to the camera "John Edwards, you are a fake and a fraud, and if what i'm saying isn't true, then you should sue me." Genius, one of the funniest eps they've ever done, but i digress.

Anyhoo, this article talks about American belief in Heaven (82%! Hire three more Peter Steinfels!!!!), and how we like our Heaven all soft and squishy. Michael Novak, some kind of "academic", is unhappy that there is no more fire/brimstone, like the old days. This is where i start to scratch my head. Fine, i started the moment i saw the headline, this is where i draw blood and kill lice. This guy is a fucking PHD with an expertise in Heaven? Heaven forfend, has he perhaps been there? Seen it firsthand? Has he read works by others who have been there? Seen it firsthand? Or, more likely, has he read a bunch of other people's completely random guesses, and then created "expertise" out of gobeldygook. I mean, could i become a PhD in Arcturus 7 Alpha Prime life forms? I have as much knowledge about those aliens (greenish, small, thin, shiny thing at end of finger) as he does about heaven. SHit, there are whole books devoted to this stuff!

fucking pathetic. the whole article mindlessly accepts the assumptions of the religious folk, without even realizing it is doing so. it manages to patronize those who believe this crap, while pissing off those who don't.

robert

Saturday, November 22, 2003

From Philip Green, Sunday, Nov. 22nd.

Here are a few quotations from WRESTLING WITH ZION (posted by Philip Green, Nov. 19th).

From the philosopher Martin Buber, 1939: "And our attitude toward the Arabs? Almost all of us knew how to distinguish between the terrorists and the Arab people. But there's no hope that the Arabs will be able to distinguish between our thugs and the Jewish people, for very long. And then how shall we arrive at an understanding with the Arabs?"

From Hannah Arendt, 1945: "...the Zionists, if they continue to ignore the Mediterranean people and watch out only for the big, far-away powers, will appear only as their tools, the agents of foreign and hostile interests. Jews who know their own history should be aware that such a state of affairs will inevitably lead to a new wave of Jew-hatred."

From an interview with Gen. Moshe Dayan in the New York Times, after the 6-Day War:

Q: An it is necessary in your opinion to maintain this as a Jewish state and purely a Jewish state?

A: (Gen. Dayan) Absolutely--absolutely. We want a Jewish state like the French have a French state.

Too bad he didn't get one. That's a well-known Zionist comparison, and a well-known lie. In the French state, anyone can be a citizen, and all citizens have equal legal and political rights. Not so in Israel.

In today's New York Times (Sunday Nov. 22), Edward Rothstein expresses puzzlement that Jews from Martin Buber to Tony Judt today, as well as a growing number of Israelis, support the idea of a bi-national state. Why, he asks, isn't any other ethno-religious state asked to give up its identity? Funny he should ask. With the exception of Serbia (not an analogy that should make any Zionist happy!), no other nationalism in modern history, religious or otherwise--not Islamic in India/Pakistan, or Polish, or Croatian, or Bosnian, or Quebecois, or Basque, or Slovenian, or even Irish--has proceeded by demanding a nation inhabited almost entirely (90% in 1946) by other people! and then procured the nation by expelling most of them--what was euphemistically called "population transfers" in 1948, but is now known by its more honest title of "ethnic cleansing." Only American propagandists for Israel, what Tony Judt calls "useful idiots," don't know this (or pretend not to). Some say--this is so vile one doesn't even want to name names--that the Palestinians left "voluntarily" in 1948. Right, they so much would rather have lived in refugee camps than on their own lands. There may by now be no viable solution to the tragedy of Palestine, but intellectually the one viable solution is always to tell the truth, and not to lie.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

hey everybody--look at that---a blog from the man himself!

well, back to my crap...

Thomas Powers is an erudite man, one who constructs sentences with near-surgical precision. I'm not so much like that. i will break down his extraordinary article in the NY Review of books as follows:

a) a specific case was made to go to war, with specific claims that are verifiable
b) none of those claims have been verified. zero. zilch. nada.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

For everyone whose fed-up with the Sharon-Bush axis, this should be interest:

NEW from GROVE PRESS:

WRESTLING WITH ZION
Progressive Jewish-American Responses
to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Edited and with an Introduction by
TONY KUSHNER & ALISA SOLOMON

Amid the clamor of contesting viewpoints surrounding the Mideast conflict,
one perspective has been under-represented and even silenced in the debate-
that of the substantial part of the Jewish-American community that is
identifiably progressive in its politics and highly critical of the actions
and policies of both the Israeli government and the current administration in
Washington. Wrestling with Zion gathers together for the first time in one
volume some of the most powerful and eloquent voices of Jewish-American
dissent, protest, and critical inquiry: more than 50 poets, essayists,
journalists, activists, academics, and playwrights who hope to help liberate
American voices of negotiation for an end of the occupation, for justice, and
for peace and security for both Palestinians and Israelis.

CONTRIBUTORS: Seth Ackerman, Ammiel Alcalay, Joel Beinin, Phyllis Bennis,
Daniel Boyarin, Jonathan Boyarin, Naomi Braine, E.M. Broner, Judith Butler,
Blanche Wiesen Cook, Marc H. Ellis, Marcia Falk, Steven Feuerstein, Jonathan
Safran Foer, Marcia Freedman, Richard Goldstein, Philip Green, Marilyn
Hacker, Susannah Heschel, Esther Kaplan, Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, Naomi
Klein, Irena Klepfisz, Joel Kovel, Tony Kushner, Brad Lander & Meg Barnette,
Daniel Lazare, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Robert Jay Lifton, Rabbi Ellen Lippmann,
Michael Massing, Arthur Miller, Aurora Levins Morales, Marilyn Kleinberg
Neimark, Grace Paley, Marge Piercy, Robert Pinsky, Mitchell Plitnick, Letty
Cottin Pogrebin, Adrienne Rich, Sara Roy, Douglas Rushkoff, Grace Schulman,
Ruth Knafo Setton, Ella Shohat, Henry Siegman, Alisa Solomon, Susan Sontag,
Michael E. Staub, Lynne Tillman, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, C.K. Williams, Ellen
Willis, Daniel Wolfe

Wrestling with Zion Grove Press ISBN: 0-8021-4015-7 $12.95 379 pages

Thursday, November 13, 2003

a comment i left on abortion at the right christians blog:

so...boring...so...obvious...

a) all agree that the "born" are individuals with enumerated rights, regardless of religion. though those rights change from society to society, again all agree that the "right to life" (e.g. the right NOT to be killed by other members of the society) is primary.
b) some people, the GREAT majority of whom are driven by their religious convictions, believe that a fetus has those same rights that any individual has in society. But many others, in fact a plurality if not a super-majority, disagree with this viewpoint. So, unlike a) what we have here is a point of major dispute. does a) apply? some say yes, some say no, but in such numbers do some say no that those that say yes, pretty much everywhere in the civilized world, have to live with the will of the majority.
c) there are 5.7 billion people on earth, of whom only 2 or less billion are in fact Christian. Of those billion plus Christians, not all agree that fetuses have the rights of an individual in a society. yet
d) those who are both Christian AND believe in the rights of the fetus as an individual believe further that their belief system, esp. on this point, must supercede the beliefs of the other 4 or so billion people on this earth, both in the micro (their society) sense, and in the macro (the rest of the world who does not share their religious belief) sense.

e) now read carefully here, because this is the key point--IF YOU THINK THAT YOUR MINORITY BELIEF SYSTEM IN A GOD THAT KILLS HIS SON FOR YOUR SINS MUST BE FOLLOWED BY ALL UNDER ANY AND ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, YOU ARE INSANE.

f) To understand this is to understand why many people HATE religion and (even worse) religiosity. just to be clear--I promise, forever, not to make your daughter have an abortion. I really do. Until i hear from Christians that they promise NOT to prevent my daughter from having a safe and healthy abortion, should she so choose, i will reserve the right to find Christians, as far as cults go, to be the most dangerous and hateful of them all.

obviously, there is a fundamental and inherent insanity in a belief system that is self-reflexively and necessarily omnipotent, and one that 4 billion people don't have any time for. So...boring...to...have...to...point...this..out...



peace,

r

Monday, November 10, 2003

Don't read if you haven't seen the Matrix yet:


here is the movie i thought/wished to see:

neo discovers it's all a trick--zion is a construct, the machine world is a construct, it's all part of one unitary supercomputer. the architect is the only "representative" of the outside world, and he tells neo/the oracle that none of it is real, that in fact, there is no "real" for neo/the humans as they have been led to believe. and that either a) neo can go and tell everyone this, destroying whatever hope they have, or b) neo reaches into THE ARCHITECT and we smash cut to some hermetic white room at JPL or something, and all of the sudden they have finally created "true" AI, or maybe c) Neo is told by The Architect, "look, do whatever the fuck you want, you have know gained total control over the Matrix, remake it in "your" image.

Friday, October 31, 2003

If I were writing the copy for the Times part I:

Somewhere, buried in the business section, is a little innocuous article about Dennis Miller being hired to do a primetime show on CNBC. No mention is made of his politics, nor of those of CNBCs various hosts.

I might have written it thusly:

"CNBC, whose hosts run the gamut from middle of the road (Keith Olbermann) to hard right Wall Street (Kudlow and Cramer), have added another conservative pundit to their line-up. Dennis Miller, who has introduced President Bush and Ahnuld in recent weeks, is slated to begin his new show in the spring. Miller has come to be known for his acerbic attacks on Democrats, particularly President Clinton, along with other Democrats. Miller's transformation from Libertarian to conservative began in 199..."

same info, all true, acknowledges the reality of CNBC. is perfectly "objective" by any measure. but nope, not a word about any of that in the Times' article. SCLM indeed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

David Brooks is doing that damn thing that seems to be epidemic these days--Chris Rock said it best when he exclaimed to Ann Coulter "you just make shit up!". At the end of an up-and-down seeming attack on the GOP (though he manages to posit that only McCain, Gramm and Novak are heroes in this case of Boeing "leaseback"--what, no Dems on that list, what a shock) Brooks pines for the days of Gingrich, when the Republicans were young and angry. The question (and it's damn near metaphysical) is simple: is Brooks aware of the facts, of Gingrich's district regularly being ranked in the top three pork receivers while he was speaker? Or that Reps spread it around EVEN MORE THICKLY than Dems? Or that Red States get more than they give? I figure he does know this (sorry about reading your mind David, but one becomes cynical about your ilk these days)--Gingrich was a legendary feather-bedder, and i'm sure David has been to one or more lectures at some Gingrichian Institute of Funny Walks down there in Georgia...

Brooks has had a chance to be an important voice of conservative reason on the Times Op-Ed, an antidote to the insanity of Safire (who makes really dangerous shit up), the wishy-washy yucky neo-liberalism of Kristof, the...someone help me out with how to sum up Friedman, someone? Fat chance. Just another guy who would rather score a point than have one.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Why I hate hockey, a sport I used to love more than any other to watch.

The first in a series of very occasional sports posts...

2-1 final scores are great in soccer, but hockey's scoring dearth is depressing. the game has been ruined by
a) steroids, which in turn have led to players who are TOO FUCKING BIG. If i want to watch football, i will. I'm sick of every player looking like a linebacker, with hands that match the profile. 6'6" 245 is NOT hockey size.
b) rink size. they are too small. in part, this has to do with a, cuz bigger players take up more room on the ice, obviously. but still, a bigger euro style rink would make for more scoring and skating. course, you would have to get rid of some seats (and premium seats!) so fat fucking chance.
c) goalie equipment. too much too big. every year they say they are making stuff smaller, but come on--goalies should look the way JD did in 1979.
d) bad rule changes. the NHL made several changes to slow down the Oilers in the 80s (couldn't have too many stanley cup games in CAnada now could we?). some of those rules were idiotic--what the hell is wrong with a two line pass? of course, no one can get around to changing the rules back to when hockey was...exciting.
e) a diminished talent pool, though in fact a) is the root of this. i'm sure there are plenty of 5'11" guys languishing in lower divisions or in europe...
f) coaches who are afraid of their own shadows. Anyone with knowledge of Italian Serie A soccer from the 70s knows that catenaccio grew out of coaches worried about getting fired, so thus, play for the 0-0 and you are better off. hockey is thick with coaches who play not to lose, and that leads up to..
g) the trap. the worst thing in hockey, other than a).

fuck it, i can't watch it any more, and it really does make me sad. farbeit from Bettman et. al. to learn from baseball--what energized baseball more than any in modern history? why, it was a home run race between mcgwire and sosa, probably juiced up with the tightest wound baseball since 1930.

my two cents.
Seymour Hersh, in his (as usually is the case) excellent article in The New Yorker says this:

"The government of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, President Bush’s closest ally, was also brought in. As Blair later told a British government inquiry, he and Bush had talked by telephone that summer about the need “to disclose what we knew or as much as we could of what we knew.” Blair loyally took the lead: on September 24th, the British government issued a dossier dramatizing the W.M.D. threat posed by Iraq. In a foreword, Blair proclaimed that “the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt that Saddam . . . continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons.” The dossier noted that intelligence—based, again, largely on the sismi report—showed that Iraq had “sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” A subsequent parliamentary inquiry determined that the published statement had been significantly toned down after the C.I.A. warned its British counterpart not to include the claim in the dossier, and in the final version Niger was not named, nor was sismi [ITalian intelligence]. "

Bob Somersby over at the (nearly always) excellent Daily Howler harped for weeks on this particular aspect of the NIger scandal--that Bush's "sixteen words" were NOT in fact a reference to NIger, because Bush repeated Blair's claims that "Sadaam has sought nuclear materials in Africa (emphasis mine)" as opposed to specifically saying Niger, and thus all reporting on Bush's words that didn't clarify this was misleading, lazy, or possibly worse. I think this is important because this is the first time the press, EVEREVEREVER, got around to actually dealing with Bush's raging mendacity, taking a meme from the blogworld and making it mainstream (as always, Paul Krugman gets honorable exception...). But in truth, as one reads the above, it seems clear (and to me has forever seemed clear) that the Niger claim WAS the Africa claim--that is, there was no other evidence to which Blair or anyone else could refer. NOw, ex post facto, vague and hopeful bits of spin were thrown out there by Cheney and others about some third country in AFrica, but none was ever named, no evidence was ever offered--e.g. just more bullshit. So, it seems clear that it was in fact reasonable to assume that Niger=Africa for the sake of this argument, and that sometimes, even my heroes like Somersby can have feet of clay.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Parsing the Times part MDMCXVIII:

So on the cover, we get a story that Bush is saying that THE PHILLIFUCKINGPINES are our template for Iraq. The times reporter in classic "while some claim the earth is round, others believe it is flat" mode gently points out around para 32 that it took 50 or so years for us to leave them to their good graces after our splendid little war. And in para 31 that the precipitating incident, REMEMBER THE MAINE, was bogus.

what they don't mention is that after 50 years, we ended up with Ferdinand Marcos, and the lovely and talented Imelda, fascists who raped and pillaged their own country to the tune of a billion or so dollars. Oh, and if you think this is old news, there was a military coup attempt 3 months ago too. Great fucking template, moron-in-chief. I wish i knew how to curse someone in Tagalog.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Michael Newdow is my hero. Someone should give this guy a fucking medal. He is smart and well spoken, and he doesn't believe in supremedeitythatlivesintheskyandknowseverything. support him here.

This was written, maybe, by Norman Rush and you should click there and buy his new book. Even if he didn't send me this. Like i think, maybe, he did.

US soldiers bulldoze farmers' crops

US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops.

The stumps of palm trees, some 70 years old, protrude from the brown earth scoured by the bulldozers beside the road at Dhuluaya, a small town 50 miles north of Baghdad. Local women were yesterday busily bundling together the branches of the uprooted orange and lemon trees and carrying then back to their homes for firewood.

Nusayef Jassim, one of 32 farmers who saw their fruit trees destroyed, said: "They told us that the resistance fighters hide in our farms, but this is not true. They didn't capture anything. They didn't find any weapons."

Other farmers said that US troops had told them, over a loudspeaker in Arabic, that the fruit groves were being bulldozed to punish the farmers for not informing on the resistance which is very active in this Sunni Muslim district.

"They made a sort of joke against us by playing jazz music while they were cutting down the trees," said one man. Ambushes of US troops have taken place around Dhuluaya. But Sheikh Hussein Ali Saleh al-Jabouri, a member of a delegation that went to the nearby US base to ask for compensation for the loss of the fruit trees, said American officers described what had happened as "a punishment of local people because 'you know who is in the resistance and do not tell us'." What the Israelis had done by way of collective punishment of Palestinians was now happening in Iraq, Sheikh Hussein added.

The destruction of the fruit trees took place in the second half of last month but, like much which happens in rural Iraq, word of what occurred has only slowly filtered out. The destruction of crops took place along a kilometre-long stretch of road just after it passes over a bridge.

Farmers say that 50 families lost their livelihoods, but a petition addressed to the coalition forces in Dhuluaya pleading in erratic English for compensation, lists only 32 people. The petition says: "Tens of poor families depend completely on earning their life on these orchards and now they became very poor and have nothing and waiting for hunger and death."

The children of one woman who owned some fruit trees lay down in front of a bulldozer but were dragged away, according to eyewitnesses who did not want to give their names. They said that one American soldier broke down and cried during the operation. When a reporter from the newspaper Iraq Today attempted to take a photograph of the bulldozers at work a soldier grabbed his camera and tried to smash it. The same paper quotes Lt Col Springman, a US commander in the region, as saying: "We asked the farmers several times to stop the attacks, or to tell us who was responsible, but the farmers didn't tell us."

Informing US troops about the identity of their attackers would be extremely dangerous in Iraqi villages, where most people are related and everyone knows each other. The farmers who lost their fruit trees all belong to the Khazraji tribe and are unlikely to give information about fellow tribesmen if they are, in fact, attacking US troops.

Asked how much his lost orchard was worth, Nusayef Jassim said in a distraught voice: "It is as if someone cut off my hands and you asked me how much my hands were worth."

read it here

Comment: Every now and then we hear reports of "friendly fire" or other "accidents." They're not, and they're not "mistakes" or "bad judgment" by some troops or other, either. If I throw a match onto a mattress soaked with kerosene and it lights up, we don't call it an "accident." It's a predictable consequence, as are all of these: the Iraqi cops killed by "friendly fire," etc. When you occupy a nation by armed force, against resistance, the way you do it is to kill people every now and then. If you go around asking if they're the right people to kill, it's already too late. So right now the U.S. military is in the business of killing Iraqis or destroying their property: pour encourager les autres, as the saying goes.

It's important to understand, therefore, that despite what all the pundits and middle-of-the-road Democrats say, the United States has absolutely NO "responsibility" to help rebuild Iraq. That's like saying that after burglars have trashed a house, they have a responsibility to stay and help the householders clean it up--just love to have you guys around. Or after a rapist has impregnated a woman, he should move in and help her raise the child. No--the "responsibility" of the invader is to dis-invade and get OUT--and then, of course, pay what's owed to compensate for the destruction. Who should be rebuilding is the only people who did not support the invasion and consequent destruction--the U.N. With the money the U.S. owes for the job. But of course the U.N. cannot and should not possibly do this until the opponent of peaceful reconstruction, the guys who want to do it all their way for their own profit and fuck the Iraqis--namely the U.S. Bush Administration--are out of there. And if the U.N. can't do it either, that's too bad, history is sometimes disastrous. But the people who brought about the disaster in the first place can only pile more on top of it by pursuing the agenda that brought it about in the first place. That many Iraqis are grateful for the chance at building democracy is a good thing; but they won't have that chance in the present course of events, whether or not they realize that--as more of them every day are indicating they do.

U.S. Out. U.N. In.