Media

Sep
19

The African American History Missing from the Smithsonian

Tag: Culture and Society, Media, Peace and War

The new corporate-funded African-American History museum in Washington, D.C., built on the former site of Camp Democracy and all sorts of protests and festivals, is getting a great deal of purely positive press before its doors have opened.

This press and the museum's own website suggest that the museum covers slavery, Jim Crow, racism, sports, and entertainment, but doesn't step out of the mold set by the Smithsonian when it celebrated the Enola Gay or began letting war profiteers fund and shape the exhibits in the Air and Space Museum or in the American History Museum, which has gone out of its way to glorify war.

The New York Times informs us about the new museum: "Above ground, the museum departs from the chronological narrative to examine African-American achievements in fields like music, art, sports and the military. Visitors can tour these brighter third-floor and fourth-floor themed Culture and Community galleries without venturing into the harsher history sections below."

Get it? War is part of a well-rounded liberal life alongside music and sports, unlike those "harsh" bits of history. The new museum's website promotes "Military" as a category of exhibit item. Click it and you'll find 162 things including smiling portraits of soldiers in uniforms, medals, letters, hats, binoculars, propaganda posters, etc. If you search the site for "Peace" you find one photo of an unidentified man wearing a peace sign necklace and one photo of unidentified men holding up a giant peace sign.

We know that Marin Luther King Jr. is to be found in the new museum, but we don't know if he's the corporate-approved Martin Luther King Jr. who opposed racism but never noticed war. We know that Muhammad Ali shows up in the sports section along with his head-gear and gloves. We don't know if his reasons for refusing the Vietnam War draft are included.

African Americans have been a major part of resistance to war, especially from the Korean War through the nomination of Barack Obama for president. Some of this history is told by Kimberley Phillips who will be speaking in Washington, D.C., as the museum opens, but speaking at a conference at American University called No War 2016.

Does the Smithsonian touch on African-American resistance to wars on Africa or the growth of Africom? Also speaking at No War 2016 will be Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo. Is the story his group tells in the film Crisis in the Congo told by the Smithsonian? Also speaking on a panel on racism and war at No War 2016 will be Bill Fletcher Jr. and Darakshan Raja. Where is their wisdom at the Smithsonian? Where is any history of the ties between a racist foreign policy and domestic racism? What is the relationship between racism and war propaganda? I wouldn't enter the new museum holding your breath until you find that exhibit.

What public service is being offered by a museum that celebrates the Tuskeegee Airmen but thus far has given no public indication that it will explore the significance of the Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiment? Bombing foreigners who engage in human experimentation makes a better story than just bombing foreigners while engaging in human experimentation. The story can be told with the flaws of segregation, later remedied or in the process of quickly being repaired. There is value in that story. It's not without its merits. But it is fundamentally false and may just get us all killed.

Sep
08

The Trumpillary War Machine Is Bad News

Tag: Media, Peace and War

I was fortunate enough to view a screening of the new Snowden movie Wednesday evening with some of the whistleblowers who have cameos in it and with its director Oliver Stone. I'm not allowed to review it until Saturday night, but it is a truly great movie and has the potential to be the most widely seen, heard, or read thing of any political decency or truth in the world this year. That's not, however, why I'm glad I saw it.

I'm glad I watched Snowden because it gave me an extra several hours of living on earth without having yet seen the NBC special on the Trumpillary war machine, in which first Hillary Clinton and then Donald Trump promised NBC they'd wage plenty of wars. Earlier, on Wednesday I had posted this on my Facebook page:

Sep
01

Public Relations Firm Claims to Have Ghost Written Thousands of Op-Eds in Major U.S. Newspapers

Tag: Media

Laura Bentz of Keybridge Communications describes her company as "a boutique PR firm -- founded by a former writer for the Wall Street Journal -- that specializes in writing and placing op-eds. With some of the country's most influential trade groups and global corporations as clients, we run many of the major op-ed campaigns in the U.S. We place roughly 3,000 op-eds per year."

On its website, Keybridge openly claims to be able to "brand a CEO" by putting op-eds into newspapers in "virtually every major city."

Less openly, Keybridge carefully markets its services with a PDF that names people for whom it claims to have written and placed op-eds.

For a mere $5000, Keybridge offers this service in the PDF: "First, we write a 500-800 word op-ed. Then we place it in one or more newspapers around the country. If we're pitching to a national audience, we guarantee that we'll reach at least 50,000 readers. Includes media monitoring."

The PDF claims credit for and includes full images of op-eds in the following newspapers by these individuals:

Wall Street Journal, an op-ed by Bill Ingram, vice president of Adobe Analytics and Adobe Social. Washington Post, an op-ed by Doc Woods, a member of Virginians for Quality Healthcare. Los Angeles Daily News, an op-ed by James G. Nondorf, vice president for enrollment and student advancement at the University of Chicago, and Jarrid J. Whitney, executive director of admissions and financial aid at Cal Tech. Newsday, an op-ed by Patricia Morton, Dean and Professor at the University of Utah College of Nursing. USA Today, an op-ed by Kevin Chou, CEO of Kabam.

Of course it goes without saying that organizations and political campaigns and businesses have staff ghost write or draft or assist with op-eds by their figureheads. So this could be described as merely outsourcing that service to a PR firm. But it's considerably more damaging to public communications than that, I think.

For one thing, there are millions of people with important and new and different things to say who do not have $5000 to spend on saying it. Read these op-eds in the PDF and see if you can claim they are in the top 1,000 you've seen. Is there one among them you'll have a hard time forgetting?

Additionally, paying $5000 for this service is not simply paying for research or editing. It's paying for the unfair advantage of having your op-ed pitched by people who've built cozy relationships with op-ed page editors, and who in at least some cases used to be op-ed page editors.

Even worse, it's paying for the insider skill of churning out or transforming an op-ed into just the sort of familiar, boring, cookie-cutter columns that clutter up the dying institution of the daily, dead-tree, advertising-and-rewritten-government-statement sheets we call major newspapers.

This is why the more stimulating op-eds are often to be found on independent websites.

But to the extent that this service can really reach 50,000 people whom one wouldn't have otherwise reached, it is part of the corruption of a thoroughly corrupt communications system. It's part of the rigging of everything that breeds cynicism and resentment.

Do op-ed page editors know that Keybridge pitches op-eds that it claims to have ghost written? Are they all completely, or only partially, ghost written? Those might be questions for some future WikiLeaks release.

Meanwhile, here's a fun fact: Keybridge is a supposedly savvy PR firm in Washington, D.C., that bears the name of a bridge named for Francis Scott Key who owned people as slaves, supported killings of African Americans, penned an anti-Muslim poem that later became a celebration of killing people escaped from slavery and of a flag surviving a battle that killed human beings during a war that failed to conquer Canada but succeeded in getting the White House burned. That revised poem became the U.S. national anthem. Great image, guys! I'd pay $5000 for that.

Jul
20

Top 10 Reasons Why It's Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children

Tag: Media, Peace and War, Political Ideas

Is it really necessary for me to explain to you why it's acceptable, necessary, and admirable for the United States and its minor allies to be blowing up houses, families, men, women, and children in Syria?

This latest story of blowing up 85 civilians in their homes has some people confused and concerned. Let me help you out.

Jun
11

"Modern Warfare Destroys Your Brain" in More Ways Than One

Tag: Media, Peace and War

The most likely way to die in a U.S. war, by far, is to live in the country that the United States is attacking. But the most likely way in which a U.S. participant in a war will die is by suicide.

There are a couple of widely observed top causes of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops returning from recent wars deeply disturbed in their minds. One is having been near an explosion. Another, which has been around longer than explosions have, is having killed, having nearly died, having seen blood and gore and suffering, having imposed death and suffering on innocents, having seen comrades die in agony, exacerbated in many cases by having lost faith in the sales pitch that launched the war -- in other words, the horror of war making.

May
30

How Dateline NBC Lies About Drones

Tag: Media, Peace and War

By David Swanson

NBC's Dateline program aired pro-drone propaganda this week and has posted the video online. Their so-called report purports to be "balanced" and "even-handed." In fact it misleadingly promotes an extremely destructive government program that millions of people would protest if they knew the actual facts of the matter.

Dateline introduces us to drones with the claim that drones have saved lives by "hitting terrorist targets." Unlike any negative statement about drones made in the course of this Dateline video, such positive statements are never immediately countered by somebody authoritative saying the opposite in a different vocabulary (such as "murdering human beings never convicted or even indicted for any crime" rather than "hitting terrorist targets"). Much less is any positive statement countered with actual facts. At the very end of the program we'll hear that during this "war on terrorism" terrorism has increased, but the causal connection recognized by numerous experts is brushed over. In fact numerous top officials involved in the U.S. drone program blurt out, the moment they retire, that it is generating more enemies than it is killing. Numerous such statements are publicly available, and such voices could have been included in this program.

Next Dateline shows us a drone pilot in Nevada in his car and "on his way to fight ISIS." In fact, U.S. drone pilots (who dress up as pilots and sit at a desk) blow people up in numerous countries, have (like their commanders) no idea who most of the people are whom they blow up, and have seen ISIS recruitment soar since the U.S. began bombing that organization which its earlier bombings and occupations and prison camps and torture and weapons sales were absolutely central to creating.

Dateline shows us footage of drones, but none of what they do -- only fuzzy videos selected by the Air Force in which we see no humans, no bodies, no body parts, and are just told that the people murdered were ISIS, which is supposed to make it moral and legal. Endless footage exists and is available, including of course from the Air Force, of the people blown to pieces by drones. Plenty of reporting explains that this type of warfare kills more innocent people than even other horrific types of warfare. But Dateline will instead eventually get around to focusing on phony critiques like "Is this too much like playing a video game?"

Dateline lets us meet "pilots" and hear their views. We meet no victims, no survivors (available footage includes testimony before Congress), and no targets. A man recently traveled to London from Pakistan to request to be taken off the kill list and for the United States and Britain to stop trying to blow him up. He was not arrested, by the way, which CIA Director John Brennan falsely claims later in the program is always preferred.

Drone pilots and the narrator (should we call him a "reporter"?) tell us on Dateline that they protect human lives, rather than destroying them: "Operators often keep watch over U.S. troops on the battlefield." Dateline glorifies the technology describing "an exotic array of onboard bombs and missiles." Dateline shows us drone footage of their "journalist" that is fuzzy but that he tells us is clear. Yet that's the closest we come to seeing footage of an actual drone victim. Government documents that reveal that most victims have never been identified or targeted, and which contradict much of what government officials say on this program, are public.

"Do you ever feel guilty that you're fighting an enemy who can't hit you back?" Dateline asks a drone pilot, reinforcing the idea that he's fighting an enemy, and not asking if he feels guilty for killing human beings, for killing non-enemy human beings, for generating more enemies, or for violating the laws against murder and against war. "We're saving our troops on the ground," the drone pilot says, without explaining how or, of course, why those troops are on that ground and couldn't be saved by leaving it.

"Drones are decisive weapons, key to U.S. military dominance," Dateline tells us. Then we see Brennan claiming drone murder protects the United States. Then we see fuzzy distant footage of an unarmed drone's film supposedly showing Osama bin Laden prior to 9-11. The implication is that blowing him up would have prevented 9-11 and its thousands of deaths, if not perhaps the millions of deaths caused by the U.S. wars marketed as responses to 9-11, since those wars might have been given a different marketing theme. But the cartoonish implication that a single evil mastermind was the source of all resentment and violence toward the United States, and that murdering him wouldn't have further enraged many others, is torn down by Dateline itself which later claims triumphantly that drones have murdered seven potential replacements of bin Laden.

The CIA's role in the Dateline film is more extensive than in the production of Zero Damn Truth -- er, I mean, Zero Dark Thirty -- and we next hear Brennan claiming that "Counter-terrorism professionals always would prefer to capture individuals." That counter terrorism is terrorism, that children living under the constant buzz and threat of drones are traumatized, never comes up. And Brennan's claim is false. We know of numerous cases when someone could have been easily arrested, but murdering them and anybody nearby was preferred -- or at least murdering whoever had that person's cell phone at the time.

Brennan's next utterance is ludicrous: "Taking kinetic action against a target or individual usually is a last resort." Because the option of not doing so doesn't exist?

This flood of propaganda is not impeded by the voices of critics, protesters, lawyers, survivors, or victims, by the views of foreign governments or the European Union or the Pakistani courts, by the perspective of families afraid to step out of doors. The "successful" drone war in Yemen that predictably led to a larger war is not examined. The spread of terrorist groups, the strengthening of al Qaeda in places like Yemen goes unmentioned. Instead, Brennan blatantly lies that al Qaeda has been "very methodically dismantled." No voice replies to that provable falsehood. In fact, Brennan tries to fudge his words to leave a way out, but the message received by the viewer is false.

Dateline's "reporter" who is to a reporter more or less what a drone pilot is to a pilot holds up what he says is a list of "285 names of terrorist targets" and exclaims that "about half are gone" -- clearly expecting us to shout Hurray!  

Then -- blink and you'll miss it -- we hear from critics of drone killing, specifically three former participants therein. But it's the Dateline reporter who claims this: "It's because drones are so effective that we use them more than we should, critics say." Effective at what? The critics he then turns to say drones are counterproductive and immoral, but they don't say that on Dateline. The seconds they are given do not allow them to say on NBC what they've said elsewhere.

The former pilots and participants do raise the topic of killing civilians, and the "reporter" asks whether they didn't realize the military kills people. He also asks them if drone warfare is "video game warfare" and then takes that line of his to the commander of Creech Air Force base and asks him the same silly question. He also lets that commander claim that "every effort is made" to avoid killing civilians, before devoting one sentence to what "international human rights organizations say," without putting them on the air to say anything. But our "journalist" counters that with what Obama says -- allowing Obama to say it directly -- and then brings on a pseudo-critic to wisely tell us that the truth must lie somewhere in the middle. Isn't it more likely that the truth lies somewhere near the serious journalism that identifies the victims?

Dateline brushes aside the question of who's being murdered and never touches the question of legality, focusing instead on the supposed need for "transparency" from the White House. Dateline briefly mentions signature strikes and double taps, and even has Brennan acknowledge that the number of terrorists has grown (without commenting on why).

The best question Dateline asks is when it asks the base commander what the U.S. will do if other nations do drone murders (perhaps in the United States). But the reply is not met with laughter or critique: "We'll adapt. We don't rest on our laurels." Adapt how? Wasn't that the question.

Brennan closes out his program by saying: "When I see the extent of evil and the number of individuals who wantonly murder innocents, the obligation of government is to ... protect its citizens." Nobody mentions that his drone pilots are murdering innocents, that doing so is evil, or that it's endangering U.S. citizens -- or that in fact some of his drone victims have themselves been U.S. citizens, including in one case that we know of a child -- whose head may not have been cut off with a knife but whose head certainly didn't remain on his body.

Jump to the end of this episode of Dateline, sponsored by the number 1 and the letters "C" "I" and "A" and we are treated to footage of little children speaking in their cute little voices over military music telling us how heroic the U.S. military is. "They protect people" a tiny boy says in his cute little baby voice.

The United States is the one nation on earth that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child which forbids military recruitment of children.

Seymour Hersh 8891d
May
10

Seymour Hersh Erases Public's Role on Syria

Tag: Media, Peace and War, Political Ideas

By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune

We once again owe the great reporter Seymour Hersh a serious debt for his reporting, in this case for his London Review of Books articles on President Barack Obama's war making, now published as a book called The Killing of Osama bin Laden. Despite the title, three of the four articles are about Syria.

But there is a shortcoming in how Hersh tells history, as in how many reporters do. I've watched Hersh do interviews about the topic on Democracy Now and never once heard him mention the U.S. public. In his book, the public gets one mention: "The proposed American missile attack on Syria never won public support, and Obama turned quickly to the UN and the Russian proposal for dismantling the Syrian chemical warfare complex." Taken in isolation, that sentence suggests what I think is an important causal relationship. Taken in the context of a book that spends many pages offering other explanations for Obama's decision, that one sentence seems to be simply stating two unrelated incidents in chronological order.

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