Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Will Ease Me Of Mine Adversaries

The reason I'm trying to veer away from writing about politics is that it's depressing. The reason I keep doing it anyway is that it's easy: just play Ain't It Awful.

Glenn Greenwald has a depressing post today, about a journalist languishing in a Yemeni prison because he exposed US, and specifically President Obama's, responsibility for a missile and cluster bomb attack that killed 35 people -- 14 women and 21 children.
... At the time, the Yemeni government outright lied about the attack, falsely claiming that it was Yemen’s air force which was responsible.

The Pentagon helped bolster this misleading claim of responsibility by issuing a statement that “Yemen should be congratulated for actions against al-Qaeda.” Meanwhile, leading American media outlets, such as The New York Times, reported — falsely — that “Yemeni security forces carried out airstrikes and ground raids against suspected Qaeda hide-outs last week with what American officials described as ‘intelligence and firepower’ supplied by the United States.” Those U.S. media reports vaguely mentioned civilian deaths only in passing or not at all, opting instead for ledes such as: “Yemeni security forces carried out airstrikes and ground raids against suspected hide-outs of Al Qaeda on Thursday, killing at least 34 militants in the broadest attack on the terrorist group here in years, Yemeni officials said.” While it is certain that dozens of civilians were killed, [Jeremy] Scahill notes that “whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested.”

There is one reason that the world knows the truth about what really happened in al Majala that day: because the Yemeni journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, traveled there and, as Scahill writes, “photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label ‘Made in the USA,’ and distributed the photos to international media outlets.” He also documented the remnants of the Tomahawks and cluster bombs, neither of which is in Yemen’s arsenal.
And what happened to this brave truth-teller?
For the past two years, Shaye has been arrested, beaten, and held in solitary confinement by the security forces of Saleh, America’s obedient tyrant. In January, 2011, he was convicted in a Yemeni court of terrorism-related charges — alleging that he was not a reporter covering Al Qaeda but a mouthpiece for it — in a proceeding widely condemned by human rights groups around the world. “There are strong indications that the charges against [Shaye] are trumped up and that he has been jailed solely for daring to speak out about US collaboration in a cluster munitions attack which took place in Yemen,” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, told Scahill. The Yemen expert, Johnsen, added: “There is no publicly available evidence to suggest that Abdulelah was anything other than a journalist attempting to do his job.”

Shaye’s real crime is that he reported facts that the U.S. government and its Yemeni client regime wanted suppressed. But while the imprisonment of this journalist was ignored in the U.S, it became a significant controversy in Yemen. Numerous Yemeni tribal leaders, sheiks and activist groups agitated for his release, and in response, President Saleh, as the Yemeni press reported, had a pardon drawn up for him and was ready to sign it. That came to a halt when President Obama intervened. According to the White House’s own summary of Obama’s February 3, 2011, call with Saleh, “President Obama expressed concern over the release of Abd-Ilah al-Shai.” The administration has repeatedly refused to present any evidence that Shaye is anything other than a reporter ... .

I posted a link to Greenwald's piece on my Facebook wall, with a taunting comment that I hoped to see my right-wing friends pick it up to denounce Obama's tyrannical disregard for justice and freedom -- but that of course, most of my right-wing friends support atrocities and crimes perpetrated against Muslims. So far no one seems to have taken me up on it.

Anyway, a comment posted under Greenwald's article added to my malaise. I felt so enervated, I had to stretch out on my divan.
I also wish liberals would place more pressure on Obama to stop his random killing & disregard for international rule of law.

But when in the states Republicans are passing laws to thrust dildos up the viginas of women seeking medical attention ("vaginal probes" in right wing parlance), it's hard to multitask & concurrently wag a finger at Obama for being a war criminal.

This is one of those times it would be nice if America had an adversarial media.

But America doesn't have an adversarial media, hence this is where we find ourselves.

How hard can it be to "multitask" that much? And how would having an "adversarial media" make it easier to do so? It's very convenient to blame all our problems on the media, I must say.

But what plunged me into the Slough of Despond was the commenter's ability to lament America's lack of an adversarial media while reading an adversarial media figure, namely Glenn Greenwald. We already have adversarial media in the US, and did long before there was an Internet. The Internet has, if anything, multiplied journalistic alternatives and made them more accessible. You can even read foreign publications online.

I think that what the commenter wants is that the corporate media should be both adversarial and unbiased, an oft-repeated wish that isn't likely to be fulfilled. The corporate media are big corporations, and it's reasonable for them to present the world from the point of view of the investor class. Of course the investor class isn't perfectly unanimous in its views, there are disagreements and factions, but if you use the corporate media you should be aware of where it's coming from.

And you should read other media as critically as (ideally) you read the corporate media. There's a weekly program on our community radio station, culled from shortwave radio broadcasts around the world. I've learned a lot from it. The compiler and host calls it "unfiltered," though, which isn't true even if you discount him as a filter: many of his sources are national, government-run stations broadcasting in English. They should no more be considered unbiased than any other news source, but that doesn't mean they aren't useful.

What baffles me is why, despite all the complaining I hear about the media, more people don't seek out and use the alternatives that exist. The most successful exception appears to be Fox News. MSNBC, with its liberal progressive stars, is as close to an alternative as most liberals are willing to try. Any farther might be going too far, you know. As Noam Chomsky says, the corporate media really are "liberal," in the sense that they mark the most liberal extreme that right-thinking citizens are supposed to recognize; beyond that is a murky darkness of who knows what. I've also found that when I suggest that there's little point in trying to get the corporate media to change their spots, it's just better to turn to alternatives, some liberals get upset. Possibly they believe that any sinner can be brought to salvation; possibly they aren't really all that dissatisfied with the corporate media, and only want a tweak here or there. I'm inclined to go with the second alternative.