Monthly Archives: August 2005

“One of the most astounding and brazen acts by the MAVM (American Mass Audio-Visual Media) – which, as far as I know, remains unchallenged – has been their overt support of lies by the Bush administration, which claimed that it was attacking Iraq in order to destroy Sadaam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction”,” notes filmmaker Peter Watkins in part one of his massive analytical essay The Media Crisis.

“The Bush administration has now more or less admitted that it had fabricated this threat. As far as I know, no such admittance has been made by the American audiovisual media, which pumped out this misinformation to the American people, night after night. There has been no retraction by the American MAVM of this false premise for going to war … It’s as if the lie never existed.”

Well it’s a bit trickier than that. In the face of the obvious, that Saddam Hussein had no “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” it switched to a fallback position — that the CIA, then led by George (“It’s a slam dunk!”) Tenet had supplied BushCo with “faulty intelligence.” That the administration actively encouraged such “faulty intelligence” was clear from former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s report on alleged Iraqi dealing with Niger. His disinclination to follow the BushCo script, in which “yellowcake” uranium was sought by Saddam, led to the administration’s “outing” of Wilson’s wife, Valarie Plame, who was, until her exposure by columnist Robert Novak, employed as an undercover CIA agent.

As the secret information Novak made public was known to a wide variety of journalists and their editors as well — in that the administration “shopped it around” with considerable alacrity — special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been requesting testimony from a great number of individuals. To date only the NYT’s Judy Miller has stood in “contempt of court,” refusing to testify. And Miller and th NYT have done everythign in their considerable public relations power to transform this contempt into heroism, today’s “Free Judy Miller” editorial being typical.

The New York Times reporter Judith Miller has now been in jail longer for refusing to testify than any reporter working for a newspaper in America. It is a very long time for her, for her newspaper and for the media. And with each dismal milestone, it becomes more apparent that having her in jail is an embarrassment to a country that is supposed to be revered around the world for its freedoms, especially its First Amendment that provides freedom of the press. Ms. Miller, who went to jail rather than testify in an investigation into the disclosure of an undercover agent’s identity, has been in a Virginia jail 55 days as of today.”

Yep, it’s dismal alright.

“Last week a Paris-based journalists’ organization called ‘Reporters Without Borders’ sent around an impressive petition in support of Ms. Miller. It was signed by prominent European writers, journalists and thinkers including Günter Grass, Bernard-Henri Lévy, the French philosopher, and Pedro Almodávar, the Spanish filmmaker. The text should be required reading for the judge, the prosecutor and the White House. “At a time when the most extremist ideas are gaining ground, and when growing numbers of reporters are being killed or taken hostage, arresting a journalist in a democratic country is more than a crime: it’s a miscarriage of justice,” they wrote.”

That the proudly neo-fascist B-H L, the “Born Again” Wenders, and the congenitally clueless Almodovar have rushed to Judy’s side is no surprise. But until now I wasn’t under the impresion that Gunter Grass had his head up his ass.

You can read the whole story at (no surprise) Free Republic. Just look at this list of Judy fans:

Pedro Almodovar (film director, Spain) – Kate Adie (former chief news correspondent at the BBC, United Kingdom) – Colette Braeckman, journalist with Le Soir, Belgium) – Pascal Bruckner (writer, France) – Giorgio Bocca (journalist with L’Espresso, Italy) – Sabine Christiansen (journalist and executive producer with TV21, Germany) – Eva Elmsater (Political commentator on Swedish television) – Charles-Henri Favrod (journalist and founder of the Elysée Photographic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland) – Prof. Bronislaw Geremek (former minister of foreign affairs and member of the European Parliament, Poland) – Soledad Gallego-Diaz (assistant editor at El Pais, Spain) – Gunter Grass (1999 Nobel Prize in Literature, Germany) – Marek Halter (writer, France) – Bernard-Henri Levy (philosopher and writer, France) – Maria Dolores Masana (journalist with La Vanguardia, writer, Spain) – Margit Maximilian (journalist with ORF TV, Austria) – Robert Menard (Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders, France) – Ettore Mo (journalist with Il Corriere della Sera, Italy) – Rosa Montero (journalist with El Pais, writer, Spain) – Christine Ockrent (journalist with France 3 TV, France) – Dr. Rotraud A. Perner (writer, psychotherapist, Austria) – Jean-Jacques Roth (director and editor-in-chief of Le Temps, Switzerland) – Fernando Savater (philosopher and writer, Spain) – Hans-Peter Spoerri (editor-in-chief of Der Bund, Switzerland) – Maruja Torres (journalist with El Pais and writer, Spain) – Yvon Toussaint (former editor-in-chief of Le Soir and former chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Brussels, Belgium) – Gianni Vattimo, philosopher and writer, Italy – Wim Wenders (film director, Germany

Don’t see Harold Pinter there do you? Didn’t think so.

And so we get respective 11 O’Clock Numbers from the NYT:

“It’s time for the authorities who jailed Ms. Miller to recognize that continued incarceration is not going to sway a reporter who believes she is making a principled sacrifice. As Jack Nelson, a veteran journalist for The Los Angeles Times, wrote recently: “Without leaks, without anonymity for some sources, a free press loses its ability to act as a check and a balance against the power of government.”


“He cited Watergate, Iran-contra and President Bill Clinton’s lies about Monica Lewinsky. If Judith Miller loses this fight, we all lose. This is not about Judith Miller or The Times or the outing of one C.I.A. agent. The jailing of this reporter is about the ability of a free press in America to do its job.”

and “Reporters Without Borders”

“We have always admired the United States for the freedom enjoyed by its press. A press that-under all circumstances-has informed, levied blame, and could make presidents tremble, or even topple them from power. In this area, America set an example for the rest of the world. We were therefore dismayed by the news that Judith Miller, a journalist with the New York Times, had been thrown in jail on the grounds that she had refused to reveal her information sources to the court. At a time when the most extremist ideas are gaining ground, and when growing numbers of reporters are being killed or taken hostage, arresting a journalist in a democratic country is more than a crime: it’s a miscarriage of justice. After this, how can we demand that other countries in the world respect freedom of expression and information-one of the pillars of democracy? In the name of our common values, we urge the American judicial system to reconsider its decision concerning Judith Miller, who was merely performing her duties as a journalist.”

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

What’s really going on here is best explained by Watkins masterpiece La Commune (de Paris, 1871), a nearly six-hour long recreation/analysis of both a historical event and the MAVM that no thinking individual should miss whenever it plays your way. Vast in scope, thrilling in intellectaul precision, it’s the fastest six-hours you’ve ever spent at the movies.

Here’s Watkins overall description of the making and purpose of the film.

His essay, “The Media Crisis,” is a continued exploration of several of its aspects. To whit —

“In a word, the American MAVM now hold precisely the same position regarding Washington, as Dr. Goebbel’s propaganda machinery held vis-a-vis the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, and the Nazi Party. They have become nothing less than the propaganda arm of the state. Thus we saw ‘embedded’ journalists from CNN, Fox Network, ABC-TV, etc., reporting directly from Iraq, wearing their ‘objective’ USA combat uniforms – and having precisely the same role as the German Wehrmacht cameramen who stormed across Poland, bringing newsreel images of the blitzkrieg to non-critical and manipulated audiences throughout the Third Reich.”

In light of the facts, this not an extreme statement. Watkins goes on —

“Notable in the manipulation of grief by the American media was the way in which every single person connected with the events of September 11 became an instant hero. The people who died were heroes, their surviving families were heroes. The heroes became TV icons, and the living were besieged by media cameras: the American MAVM transformed the event into a prolonged and cruel soap-opera, in which the families of victims were repeatedly prodded to tell how much they missed their dead son/daughter/brother/mother – accompanied by endless dissolves between their crying faces, and portraits of their deceased family members
On one occasion (I believe an Oprah Winfrey show), a grief sequence included a small group of September 11 widows. They were asked to watch a monitor showing a montage of photos of their dead relatives – in this case mostly husbands. The Oprah Winfrey producers constantly dissolved the cameras between the edited photos and the crying widows. Some minutes into this traumatic material, the faces had changed, and I slowly realized that I was watching a commercial for Paxil, a drug for generalized anxiety disorder. So adroit was this change, that I wasn’t sure if the people were now talking about their ‘ailments’ – or about their fear of the next terrorist attack.
Notable in this drawn-out process of grief manipulation, was the role of anchor-people and presenters: “How do you FEEL?”, “Where do you get the COURAGE from?”, “Do you MISS him/her?”. Constantly probing, prying, intruding, suggesting – and always, always dripping with sincerity. Throughout this disingenuous process, one knew that as long as the hapless families mourned their loved ones, or even participated in anecdotes (the dog waiting for his master beneath the bed), all was hunky-dory, for this was the collective image that TV – and government officials – wanted and needed: it conformed to the ideals of the Hollywood narrative, and tied in perfectly with the increasingly paranoid victim-role into which America was being immersed (and which was crucial for the military end-game). “

And thus we see the problem created by the otherwise admirable Cindy Sheehan. Insofar as she remained a “suffering victim,” she was an acceptable televisual subject. When she spoke out and fought back she lost that teleprivileged status.

She is now an enemy of the state.

Meanwhile elsewhere in the MAVM, it has been revealed that a journalist for a student newspaper, The Daily Egyptian manufactured a story detailing emotional parting between father about to serve in Iraq and his young daughter. Neither father nor daughter exist.

No surprise then to discover, in another publication, a story in which students claim to find Public Relations preferable to journalism, the former apparently regarded as a more honest undertaking.

That said students can actually tell journalism and PR apart gives one hope.

But not as much hope as Peter Watkins.