September 13, 2005


I couldn't tell watching the two hour Aaron Brown/Anderson Cooper extravaganza/Katrina-rama last night whether it was more about the hurricane and its victims, or instead more about 'emo'-anchoring star Cooper's rise to bigger and better things...prob more the latter, all told. A star is born!

P.S. Austin has more.

P.P.S. Is it just me, or did Aaron seemed bummed as Anderson kinda stole his anchor seat from under him, what with all the welcoming of viewers to the show, and handing off of programing, and so on...can't they conceal the tiresome behind the scenes positioning and intrigues--particularly amidst such tragedy--a tad more tastefully and effectively?

Posted by Gregory at 04:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 14, 2005

CNN's Finest

Can I just say what a fan B.D. is of Christiane Amanpour? I'm in the Caucasus now, catching her just shy of 10 PM local interviewing Iranian Presidential candidate Hashemi Rafsanjani. She's head and shoulders over so many other journalists (let alone television journalists) who'd be stumbling and clueless conducting such an interview. Truly a class act. Her remarkable coverage of Bosnia in the mid-90s--judicious yet passionate, courageous yet never reckless, gracious yet gung-ho, go-getting--it truly stands out as one of CNN's finest moments. Pity the channel has been grotesquely dumbed-down (especially in the U.S.). Still, Amanpour and a few others still make it worth watching now and again--especially when overseas.

P.S. Even Christiane almost seemed to lose her game face when Rafsanjani intoned: "Iran, more than any other country, has fought terrorism." Pretty rich fare...

P.P.S. While I'm on the subject of gutsy, talented women: how 'bout a shout out to Natasha Kandic? Her moral (and physical) courage in the face of the gross excesses of Serbian nationalism through the 90s and to the present day (she was the key person who released the recently aired Srebrenica tape) has been truly remarkable. Chapeau, as they say.

Posted by Gregory at 11:24 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 03, 2005

Misleading Headline Watch

So I log on and check the NYT website after work and am greeted with this headline: "New Poll Finds Bush Priorities Are Out of Step With Americans." I've been doing this too long, so my instinctual reaction is to stifle a giggle and burrow into the piece to spot the transparent spin (and isn't it Bashar who is "out of step" these days? Didn't anyone tell the Times?). It wasn't hard (to find the spin, that is):

The poll was the first conducted by The Times and CBS News since the president's inauguration. It comes after six hectic weeks for the administration, in which Mr. Bush has witnessed successful elections in Iraq - which he hailed as validation of his decision to remove Saddam Hussein - but also the toughest period he has encountered on Capitol Hill, as he has struggled to win support for the signature proposal of his second term.

In an apparent reflection of the success of the Iraq elections, 53 percent of those surveyed said that efforts to bring order to Iraq were going very or somewhat well, up from 41 percent a month ago. That is the highest rating on that score since the capture of Mr. Hussein.

Still, 42 percent now say that Mr. Bush would have been better off trying to counter the threat of North Korea before invading Iraq, compared with 45 percent who think Mr. Bush was correct to focus first on Iraq...The elections in Iraq have contributed to some improvement in the perception of Mr. Bush's policy there, though it remains far from popular. In this poll, 50 percent of those surveyed said they disapproved of his Iraq policy, down from 55 percent a month ago, while 45 percent approved, up from 40 percent.

So let me get this straight. There has been a leap from 41% to 53% on how many polled view the Iraq effort, the major foreign policy issue of Bush's Presidency, positively. Might that not be the lede, at least on the foreign policy side of the story? No it's doom and gloomy with Bush woefully out of step with his countrymen, alas. Then we are told: "Still, 42 percent now say that Mr. Bush would have been better off trying to counter the threat of North Korea before invading Iraq, compared with 45 percent who think Mr. Bush was correct to focus first on Iraq." Still? I don't get it. A majority, that's 45%, thought Bush made the right call to go into Iraq first rather than North Korea. So why the "still"? Both poll results are pluses for Bush, the result on the NoKo vs. Iraq question should just flow from the positive uptick in support on Iraq from the previous sentence. But it's Adam Nagourney--so verbal contortions and spin come heavy. Next, we are treated to some awkward sentence constructs and numerical gymnastics: "In this poll, 50 percent of those surveyed said they disapproved of his Iraq policy, down from 55 percent a month ago, while 45 percent approved, up from 40 percent." Why not write the sentence thus instead: "In this poll, 45 percent of those surveyed said they approved of his Iraq policy, up from 40%; while 50 disapproved, down from 55%." It's all in the emphasis, eh?

Then there's this:

And Mr. Bush does not appear to be much more in step with the nation on what the White House has long viewed as his strong suit: 58 percent of respondents said the White House did not share the foreign affairs priorities of most Americans.

I await the publication of the detailed polling data (not readily googable as of this hour) but will make this bold prediction. That 58% number will be unmoored from the full panoply of the polling results on matters foreign policy so that it's a rather unreliable indicator in context. I'll try to follow up tomorrow night on this point. Note too, of course, this poll is pre-Beirut's liberationist stirrings. It's sad when the auto-spin gets this predictable, no?

Posted by Gregory at 04:57 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 01, 2005

Press Monitoring in the Levant

Nothing to see here. Move along...

Posted by Gregory at 03:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2005

Dowdification Watch

MoDo, writing in today's NYT:

The vice president told Don Imus that Iran was "right at the top of the list" of trouble spots, and that Israel "might well decide to act first" with a military strike.

Maybe Maureen's been reading too much David Sanger of late. Or, alas, she simply hasn't bothered to read the full transcript of Cheney's interview on Imus, or alternately, she did read it, but decided to "Dowdify" (ever so conveniently truncate quotes to fit the preordained meme) so as to purposefully misrepresent Cheney's Imus interview. After all, the column has less juice if you can't make it look like crazy Dick is about to send our boys into Teheran, doesn't it? Or that varied Likudniks, perhaps with Larry Franklin and assorted AIPAC-ers along for the ride, are about to launch an assault on the Mullahs--all with Dick's blessing bien sur (and so hapless Georgie's too). Except, of course, that it's all mostly hyperbolic B.S. if you bother to read what Cheney really said.

Cheney on Imus:

IMUS: Back to not Iraq, but Seymour Hersh, in the current issue of The New Yorker, suggesting that you all are up to something in Iran, and I guess my question is—I don’t understand that much about it, but my question is, are we trying to determine what they have? And if we find out that they have a nuclear program, then what?

R. CHENEY: Well, we are, I’d say, very concerned about Iran, because for two reasons, again, one, they do have a program. We believe they have a fairly robust new nuclear program. That’s been developed by, or being pursued I guess would be the best way to put it, by members of the E.U.—the Brits, the Germans and the French—have been negotiating with the Iranians to get them to allow greater transparency in their program so the outside world can be confident they’re not building weapons, that it’s for peaceful purposes.

The other problem we have, of course, is that Iran is a noted sponsor of terror. They’ve been the prime backers of the Hezbollah over the years, and they have, in fact, been—used terror in various incendiary ways to kill Americans and a lot of other folks around the globe, too, and that combination is of great concern.

We’ll continue to try to address those issues diplomatically, continue to work with the Europeans. At some point, if the Iranians don’t live up to their commitments, the next step will be to take it to the U.N. Security Council, and seek the imposition of international sanctions to force them to live up to the commitments and obligations they’ve signed up to under the non-proliferation treaty, and it’s—but it is a—you know, you look around the world at potential trouble spots, Iran is right at the top of the list.

IMUS: Would that mean us again?

R. CHENEY: I think it means a serious effort to use the...

IMUS: Why don’t we make Israel do it?

R. CHENEY: Well, one of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked, that if, in fact, the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards.

We don’t want a war in the Middle East, if we can avoid it. And certainly in the case of the Iranian situation, I think everybody would be best suited by or best treated and dealt with if we could deal with it diplomatically. [emphasis added]

Here's the deal folks. Cheney is saying a) he wants to handle Iran diplomatically at this juncture, likely through continued employ of the Euro-troika (the UK/German/French foreign ministers) and b) if that doesn't work, the next step would be to seek sanctions at the UNSC (how militaristic and unilateralist!). Then, goaded by Imus ("why don't we make Israel do it?"), Cheney makes it clear that he wouldn't be particularly thrilled by such an Israeli action (ie, the "worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards" part). Finally, for avoidance of doubt, Cheney puts it pretty plainly: "everybody would be best suited by or best treated and dealt with if we could deal with it diplomatically." "Everybody." I guess that means the Israelis too...

Got it? It's not bombs away over Teheran in Cheney-land. But, without the benefit of the full Cheney-Imus exchange, if you're just casually breezing through MoDo's latest in the Sunday Times--already worried that the hyper-militaristic, freedom-exportation obsessed, in-bed-with-Arik-crew is marching off to yet another land war in the 'region'--your worst fears appear to be confirmed. Yet again, as is her dreary wont, MoDo clips the quotes to fit her tiresome story line. Pray tell, when are the grown-ups going to put an end to all this bricolage fun over at W.43rd? Doesn't their reading public deserve a bit better than this so transparent distortion of a Vice President's statements on an issue of such major geopolitical import? I've said it before, but I don't think Jim Hoagland or Dave Ignatius would get away with these consistent misrepresentations. So why does Shipley give Maureen this carte blanche? Maybe he thinks her ribald, breezy-with-the-facts style moves paper. Call it the Fox-ification of the NYT. But isn't the Gray Lady supposed to be above the crude machinations of a Roger Ailes?

UPDATE: Hey, look who is playing the story the same way! [ed. note: why the exclamation point? It's not really surprising, is it?]

STILL MORE: A reader writes in:

"Be advised...that the site you linked to is not the real Al Jazeera, but an annoying imposter site. Actual AJ is [here]. No, we don't agree with it, but if you really want to see what they're saying..."

Thanks to Tim Usher for the clarification. And apologies for any confusion. But, as it turns out, the real Al Jazeera is playing the story, in the main, the same way too (truncated Imus quote and, for good measure, the requisite Sy Hersh regurgitations). It's a bona fide party, it seems!

Posted by Gregory at 03:29 AM | Comments (48) | TrackBack

January 13, 2005

Pray Tell, What Is an Emo-Anchor?

CNN's new President, Jonathan Klein, moving the network towards the brave new world of "emo-anchors" and news-readers metamorphosing into poets:

Invigorated by CNN’s coverage of the tsunami disaster, Mr. Klein dissolved the network’s trademark political talk show, Crossfire, while proclaiming a healthy future for "storytelling"—old-fashioned news, soaped up with reality-TV drama and delivered by emo-anchors like Anderson Cooper, the gray-ghost newsman who is becoming the embodiment of the new CNN. It seemed to be Mr. Cooper that Mr. Klein considered the exemplar of what CNN now stood for: a reality-TV "authenticity," with human dimensions, rather than the stentorian, scripted authority of the network era...Anchor-poet Aaron Brown’s first-person commentary seemed to be another model of the kind, with Mr. Klein describing his reporting on the tsunami as having "almost reached the level of literature." [emphasis added]

You can't make this stuff up. For my (and my commenters) take on literary lion/poet Aaron--go here.

The dumbing down of CNN domestic (CNN international remains tolerable) is truly staggering. The hoisting up of anchors uber-theatrically rippling forth with fake notions of Heideggerian authenticity is risible and part of the problem, of course. So is the conceit that reading the news has anything to do with literature or poetry. Do media executives really believe the American people have become so dumb so that they might, with credulity, imbibe such nakedly self-aggrandizing B.S.? But Klein is feeling cocksure, it seems, what with his snotty put-downs of the blogosphere:

I don’t think that blogging, which is, you know, glorified Web-site hosting—that’s what it is. I had a blog for a while, but I just didn’t have time," he said. "I don’t think that blogs topple news organizations because of the difficulty of sifting through reliable information and mere opinion. But they certainly have arrived on the scene as a player."

If blogging is "glorified Web-site hosting"--what is "emo-anchoring" or absurd pretenses to poetry from the anchor seat? A farce. And a sad testament to the era of reality television and 'interactivity' clumsily forcing itself into the cable news space--so that the President of CNN would deem it important to tell the NYO that Anderson Cooper "felt the tsunami story in his bones, not as a journalist even. It wasn’t a professional curiosity he had, it was a human connection to the suffering. He’s that kind of guy. And you saw it from the anchor chair, which I’ve never seen before, because usually those lights and makeup add a layer of filtration."

Sorry, but who the F cares whether Anderson Cooper felt the tsunami disaster "in his bones"? Perhaps, eventually, 300,000 dead in this massive tragedy and this is what Jon Klein finds memorable and worth discoursing about vis-a-vis his networks's coverage of the story? Makeup and an extra "layer of filtration", alas, too often keeping the "emo" out of the anchoring? This is truly the triumph of imbecility, solipsism, extreme self-importance and indulgence. Welcome to the new CNN.

Posted by Gregory at 02:37 AM | Comments (4)

January 06, 2005

Media Query

Aaron Brown: insufferably smug, frustratingly arrogant and suspiciously faux--or a beacon of light, intellect and civilization in what is otherwise a primetime cable news desert? I've been struggling with this one for a while--so any feedback more than welcome.

Posted by Gregory at 03:47 AM | Comments (19)

December 10, 2004

Lexington on Rathergate, Blogs and Big Media

A tad old (Nov 25) but still worth reading if you missed.

For most of the post-war era the American media were dominated by a comfortable liberal consensus. The New York Times was the undisputed king of the print news, while the network anchors lorded it over TV news. That consensus is now under siege. The attacks are partly coming from the cable networks—particularly from conservative Fox News. (Charles Krauthammer once quipped that Rupert Murdoch had spotted a niche market—half the country. Sure enough, Fox is now America's top-rated cable news network.) But old media also face a newer and more unpredictable source of competition—the blogosphere. Bloggers have discovered that all you need to set yourself up as a pundit is a website and an attitude.

As Glenn so aptly puts it: "If you've got a modem, I've got an opinion!" And usually one with an attitude! Oh, a reminder. I'm still trolling for votes. The estimable Samizdatistas and B.D. are in a dead heat (each with 28.8% last time I checked!) Do your part to get B.D. to 30%... vote here. Remember, you can vote again every 24 hours. So what are you waiting for? Vote for B.D., even if you think Rumsfeld is the greatest thing since sliced bread or that Bush is the devil incarnate. We run a big tent over here...

Posted by Gregory at 06:43 AM | Comments (22)

December 03, 2004

The NYT-NYRB Echo Chamber

We are losing the war in Iraq. There has been a steady increase in the assaults carried out by the insurgents against coalition forces. The attacks over the past year have risen from about twenty a day to approximately 120. We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are tyrants to others weaker than ourselves. We have lost sight of our democratic ideals. Thucydides wrote of Athens' expanding empire and how this empire led it to become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home. The tyranny Athens imposed on others it finally imposed on itself. If we do not confront our hubris and the lies told to justify the killing and mask the destruction carried out in our name in Iraq, if we do not grasp the moral corrosiveness of empire and occupation, if we continue to allow force and violence to be our primary form of communication, we will not so much defeat dictators like Saddam Hussein as become them.

Chris Hedges, NYT reporter, writing in the NYRB.

Hey, what liberal media!?! And, of course, the fact that Hedges has concluded we are an "isolated and reviled nation" that uses "force and violence" as its "primary form of communication" so that we are in danger of becoming just like a leading genocidaire of the 20th Century (what a heady, hyperbolic brew! some evidentiary moorings, please!)--that won't impact his reporting a wit, of course. Cuz, you know, it's the newspaper of record and it serves up its fare de haut en bas. Humbly accept these pearls of wisdom, friends. For they come from wiser and mightier folk than you and me...

Here's another beaut from the NYRB worth checking out too:

In the end, the war in Iraq did not have the decisive impact on the election that many had expected. In the weeks before the vote there were the massacre of forty-nine Iraqi police trainees; a deadly attack inside the previously impenetrable Green Zone in Baghdad; the refusal by an army unit to carry out a supply mission on the grounds that it was too dangerous; the explosion of several car bombs at a ceremony where soldiers were handing out candy, killing dozens of children; the abduction of contractors, journalists, and aid workers, including the director of the CARE office in Baghdad; the release of a report holding the highest reaches of the Pentagon and the military responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib; a report by President Bush's hand-picked investigator confirming that Iraq had long ago lost its ability to produce weapons of mass destruction; and the spread of the insurgency to every corner of the country, bringing reconstruction to a virtual halt. All of this, in the end, counted for less to voters (if the exit polls are to be believed) than such issues as whether homosexuals should be allowed to marry and whether discarded embryos should be used for stem cell research.

How did this happen? In many ways, George Bush's victory seems to have confirmed the fact that large numbers of voters in America today are very conservative, dominated by strong attachments to God, country, and the traditional family. At the same time, it's not clear to what extent the public was aware of just how bad things had gotten in Iraq. For while there was much informative reporting on the war, a number of factors combined to shield Americans from its most brutal realities. A look at these factors can help to understand some neglected aspects of George Bush's victory. [emphasis added]

But wait, maybe it wasn't about gays after all (more here, from Glenn)! But that wouldn't fit the NYRB narrative of primitive red-staters all in a tizzy about the death of the nuclear family--and heading to a poll near you to pull the elephant lever. Woe that, you know, some people voted for Bush both a) knowing Iraq was tough as hell and b) thinking he would be better than Kerry at dealing with it and the GWOT (as their main issues).

Then there's this unintentionally hilarious part:

The biggest bombshell (ed. note: cute pun!), though, came on October 25, when the Times, in a two-column story on its front page, reported that nearly 380 tons of high-grade explosives had disappeared from a bunker south of Baghdad, and that this had likely occurred after the US invasion. The story was quickly seized on by John Kerry, who for the remaining days of the campaign cited it as further evidence of the administration's mishandling of Iraq. On the day before the election, CNN analyst William Schneider said that the missing-explosives story seemed to be an "important" factor in a last-minute turning of the polls away from Bush.

In the end, of course, the voters did not so turn. And leaving aside any possible problems with the polls themselves, it's clear that all those stories in the Times and the Post, and the discussion they generated, did not have the impact on the public that Schneider and many others had predicted.

For "predicted" subsitute "hoped" to cut to the chase so as to get to the real meaning of these two grafs. Indeed better to say, perhaps, that a huge percentage of assorted journalists, doubtless with fingers-crossed, were in deep wish-mode that al Qa Qaa would blow Bush out of the White House. It wasn't really about the Bill Schneider's of the world predictions going awry; it was about massive gaggles of journalists, mired in deep group-think, all but openly hoping Bush would get TKO'd because of stories like al Qa Qaa.

All this said, I do agree with the author about the truly imbecilic coverage one so often finds on channels like CNN and Fox.

This fear seems especially apparent on cable news. Given the sheer number of hours CNN, MSNBC, and Fox have to fill, it's remarkable how little of substance and imagination one sees here. CNN still bills itself as "the most trusted name in news," but one wonders among whom. Its breakfast-time show, American Morning, offers a truly vapid mix of bromides and forced bonhomie. In mid-October, with a grinding war and bruising electoral campaign underway, the show spent a week in Chicago, providing one long, breathless promo for the city. Every hour or so, correspondent Brent Sadler would produce an update from Baghdad. For the most part, he offered rip-and-read versions of US press releases, with constant references to "precision strikes" aimed at "terrorist targets" and "Zarqawi safehouses." Not once did I see Sadler make even a stab at an independent assessment.

Fox, often, is even worse in its rampant idiocy (though CNN, of late, has been giving it a real run for its money). And, in different fashion, BBC is tiresomely dreary in its almost uniform, anti-American slant (one female reporter from Baghdad's voice still haunts me now several months out of London on a temporary assignment--the constant doom, doom, doom relayed in such hyper-gloomy, self-consciously high-serious baritone). When in my London flat, I used to try to piece together the 'truth', so to speak, by taking in a bit of (from right to left) Fox, CNN Int'l, the Beeb, EuroNews (this last, specializing in such stories: Euro election monitors heading to U.S.! de Villepin in Teheran! Unemployment rising in, er, the U.S.!). The "real" story was somewhere in the middle of all the narratives these channels espoused (with varying degrees of self-consciousness). But, overall (and even throwing in the mix that CNN Intl is much better than the domestic version) it was grim, underwhelming fare indeed.

I mean, thank God for blogs! I got (and still get) more juice and real news from reading Sully, Glenn, Dan, Oxblog, War&Piece, TPM, and so on than from these tired, bloated networks (I'm not talking about the print media here, of which us bloggers rely on heavily, of course, as launching off points from which to analyze the passing show). More self-congratulatory blog triumphalism from the pajama and boxers set? Kinda. But it has the merit of being largely true, doesn't it? I mean, when is the last time you watched a cable or network newcast and felt you had really learned something (apart from simply breaking news or a policy pronunciamento from some politician on, say, Tim Russert's show)?

Posted by Gregory at 05:05 AM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

November 20, 2004

Buffoonish Relativism Watch

In Iraq shortly before the war, I had an icy conversation about Iraqi elections with one of Saddam's goons. "What do you mean by 'sham'?" he asked.

"Look, Saddam gets a lot of votes, but no one's running against him," I protested. "If you only have one candidate who can win, that's not a real election!"

Oops. I spoke too soon. The U.S. electoral system looks increasingly dysfunctional, and those of us who used to mock the old Soviet or Iraqi "elections" for lacking competition ought to be blushing.

Perspective, Mr. Kristof. Perspective. You badly need some.

UPDATE: The Captain digs into all the "Kristofian fantasy" in more detail.

Posted by Gregory at 04:49 PM | Comments (10)

June 19, 2004

Why Has Britain Become Less Cool? Iraq, Of Course!

"Every British prime minister faces dark hours, but for Tony Blair it seems as if time has stood still at the nadir of his political career. The slump in his popularity brought on by the war in Iraq stubbornly will not come to an end.

Mr. Blair bounded into the top floor conference room at No. 10 Downing Street this week, radiating his trademark charm and sunny disposition to 100 reporters gathered for his monthly news conference.

"Iraq has dominated the agenda over many months and there is no point pretending otherwise," Mr. Blair told them pre-emptively. "But I should say to you that I believe every bit as passionately now that rogue states, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are indeed the security threat of the 21st century, and we have to confront them."

It was an assertion that did not carry the weight it did 16 months ago when he took the nation to war....

...The era of a cooler and hipper Britannia seems now lost to the rancor of a thousand political battles, but most overwhelmingly to the war in Iraq."

An op-ed in the Guardian?

A "news analysis" over at the Times?

Nope, just a straight piece of news reporting from Pat Tyler.

Note the (somewhat awkward) use of the word "pre-emptively."

Cute, huh?

Iraq isn't only to blame for making the U.K. less hip.

It also "pulls like the millstone around Mr. Blair's neck, and its weight has undermined his role as the pivotal prime minister, one whose leadership in Europe was supposed to give him more leverage over the Bush administration, and whose influence in Washington was supposed to strengthen Britain's hand in Europe."

Memo to Pat Tyler--it's not quite all that bad over here for Mr. Blair.

After all, polls wouldn't have Blair easily winning a third term if all were so doom and gloom.

But you wouldn't know that sitting in the Upper West Side perusing the "news" in the New York Times, would you?

Posted by Gregory at 11:01 PM