Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Reality Testing Fails at PBS

Here's a BBC bit about President Bush's recent comments at the Nato summit in Riga:
He rejected the use of "civil war" as a term to describe the fighting in Iraq, preferring to say: "The battles in Iraq and Afghanistan are part of a struggle between moderation and extremism that is unfolding across the broader Middle East."

One wonders why the fierce opposition to the term "civil war"? The Bush administration is doing everything it can to prevent the term "civil war" being given credibility. However, like it's "war on terror" in Iraq even in this war of propaganda the Bush administration is losing. The Los Angeles Times over a month ago began officially using the term civil war for the Iraq situation and this week NBC announced that it too would begin using the term civil war officially.

Last night on PBS's The News Hour with Jim Lehrer there were four "journalists" talking about whether it is a "civil war" in Iraq. Though the foreign editor from the LA Times, Marjorie Miller, described her paper's adoption of the term and the Bush propagandist from Yale DONALD KAGAN, Professor of History, said "I don't see how it helps" to call it a "civil war", none of the four journalists, including the New Hour's reporter JEFFREY BROWN, ever bothered to even state the definition of "civil war." This clearly demonstrates the complete lack of reality testing that is evident today in the national media.

Well for those who like their reality tested by the facts, here is the definition from Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary:

civil war
One entry found for civil war.
Main Entry: civil war
Function: noun
: a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country

So DONALD KAGAN, a professor of history at Yale University, says,
"It has been very significantly Sunni against Shia, perhaps in a more cloaked form. The majority of the government is, after all, Shiite, as the majority of the country is. The Sunnis have been insurgents because they refuse to accept the fact that their minority will no longer be allowed to lord it over the majority. The first job has always been to convince the Sunnis, however we do it, that they must accept the new realities.

And then he has the audacity to say this is not a civil war. Obviously, KAGAN'S "new reality" doesn't include using language accurately to state the self-evident truths. Whether or not his simplistic description of the fighting as being between Shia and Sunni is accurate, it clearly and unambiguously meets the plain definition of civil war. Yet this professor says it does no good to call it a civil war. How could this be? How could it do no good to use the English language properly?

The answer of course is that like all propagandists, Professor KAGAN, doesn't want the language used plainly when it can be bent to his own ends, which he very clearly stated were the continuation of the Bush agenda in Iraq. KAGEN understands that if people see the fighting in Iraq for what it is as a civil war underneath an occupation, that the reason for the occupation evaporates unless we choose sides. And as we discovered in Vietnam, if we choose the wrong side we lose anyway.

As much as this segment exposed the muddleheaded propaganda of the Yale professor, I can't help but think that the whole piece by JEFFREY BROWN would have made much more sense and benefitted the public discourse to a far greater extent if he had only begun with the simple definition of civil war and measured the words of his interviewees against that conventional reality.

If we return to Pres. Bush’s quote at the top of this piece, we see that Bush does the classic bait and switch by claiming the war in Iraq is not a civil war because it is “part of a struggle between moderation and extremism that is unfolding across the broader Middle East.” Of course whether or not there are similarities in any other country between the sides fighting in Iraq is irrelevant to answering the question of whether the fighting in Iraq is “a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country.” The vast majority of deaths in Iraq are Iraqis killed by other Iraqis. That US troops are there killing Iraqis and being killed by Iraqis is only another layer of fighting which makes the occupation a political cover for the civil war.

President Bush’s continuing denial of the civil war in Iraq is like a veterinarian who can’t tell the difference between a horse and a crocodile. He can’t have much to say about how to be of help if he can’t even diagnose the species of the animal he’s dealing with. No one should believe that Bush is that stupid as to believe the propaganda is issues. The underlying problem with our democracy is that the national news media like PBS totally fails to measure the government’s propaganda against something as simple as a dictionary definition.

On another note of failed reality testing by PBS last night was the great presence of ex-President Jimmy Carter being interviewed about his new book "Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid". Here JUDY WOODRUFF, NewsHour Special Correspondent, was in the full glory of inside the beltway bias. There is a funny thing the journalists do when they interview someone like President Carter who presents a politically unorthodox view not countenanced by the opinion makers in the media. They take an adversarial position and call that being "objective." You don't see this approach when they interview people who are the purveyors of political orthodoxy with whom the publishers and editors agree.

Well, I'm happy to report that Pres. Carter gracefully put Ms. WOODRUFF in her reportorial place. Here's the exchange in which Pres. Carter politely outed WOODRUFF's bias.
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Carter, people would listen to what you're saying here, and they would read your book, and they would say, "He's putting the onus here on the Israelis." And many would return that by saying, "But wait a minute. It's the Palestinians who continue to fire rockets into Israeli land. It's the Palestinians who have kidnaped Israeli soldiers. It's the Palestinians that continue to perpetuate terrorist acts against the Israelis."

JIMMY CARTER: Sure, that's what you say, and that's the general consensus in the United States. The fact is that, when the Palestinians dug under the Israeli wall from Gaza and captured the Israeli soldier, one soldier, at that time, Israel was holding 9,200 Palestinians prisoner, including 300 children, almost 300, 293 children, some of them 12 years old, and holding almost 100 women prisoner.

And immediately, the Palestinians who took that soldier said, "We want to swap this soldier for some of our women and children." And the Israelis rejected that proposal and refused to swap at all with the Palestinians in the West Bank. That was the key to the issue.

So it's right that the Palestinians took a soldier, which they should release. But for Israel to keep 9,000 Palestinians and not release any of them is something that you don't mention in the question, and it's generally not even known in this country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we want to give you the opportunity to give that side of the story...

JIMMY CARTER: That's why I wrote the book.

JUDY WOODRUFF: ... as well, and that's why we're here talking to you about it.


WOODRUFF"S bias was again exposed in her final comments of the segment when she exited with these words:
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Jimmy Carter, with some passionately held views. We thank you very much for being with us on the NewsHour. We appreciate it.

Everyone who knows anything about reportage knows that the words "passionately held views" are code for "emotional and irrational beliefs." So, there she was getting a strong dose of reality testing from Pres. Carter, and her response was to dismiss him by saying in effect, "Well, that was nice, too bad you are irrational."

So much for the ability of PBS reporters to provide reality testing for the public. For now, we the public must gather our reality between the lines, using our own good sense to defend against the beltway propaganda presented by the government with the willing cooperation of the national media..

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