Every once in a while there’s an opinion piece so grossly naive, horribly uninformed, or passively apologetic that it deserves pushback.
BBC’s Adam Curtis’ blog post, WHAT THE FLUCK [sic], is such a piece. Read it for yourself. I’m still scratching my head about this overlong, winding post that ultimately says,
“…Maybe today we are being farmed by the new system of power. But we can’t see quite how it is happening – and we need a new journalism to explain what is really going on. …”
No. We have the right journalism, even if it is not perfect or dispersed evenly, even if we could use more of it. The Guardian’s work on the Snowden story is just one example; if I may say so, Emptywheel sets another fine example as citizen journalism.
What we need is a public willing to invest time and energy in reading the material reported, discuss it openly after careful analysis, willing to demand and support more good journalism by way of subscription, donation, or advertising revenues as a last resort.
What we don’t need are naive or uninformed opinion leaders who tell us we don’t have journalism reporting about the size, scale, and nature of the corruption we face.
What we don’t need are apologias masquerading as demands for more and better journalism.
Curtis’ piece in particular does several things to muddy the public’s perception about journalism today:
• He throws us a narrative about poor little rich girl Tamara Yeardye Mellon and her father that is not unlike reading about poor little Paris Hilton, or poor little Kardashian Annoying-Sister-Of-The-Day. The narrative utterly misses a critical point, derailing its own effort, yet he feels the public need more backstory narrative in order to really understand today’s challenges..
• Rupert Murdoch is treated as if he was handed a bag of flaming dog poo by his editorial predecessor, dealing with the mess in the best manner he could — as if cellphone hacking by Murdoch’s employees was mere fallout inherited immaculately by Murdoch.
• Curtis ignores his own role, using his bully pulpit to complain about an absence of reporting he is capable of providing instead of this meandering whinge.
With regard to Tamara Mellon’s allegedly lost control over of her luxe shoe business Jimmy Choo Limited to Phoenix Private Equity, Curtis failed to note that not even a Mellon family member is safe from predation. Even a Mellon can be made into a corporate vulture’s bitch.
What does this tell us about the nature of the beast? Continue reading
The Wall Street Journal–owned by the same guy whose company and son are in trouble in the UK for criminally wiretapping those they wanted to collect information on–has found something to love in the Obama Administration.
Well, not everything President Obama and the 112th Congress managed to achieve is so terrible. With scarcely any notice, much less controversy, they did at least preserve one of the country’s most important post-9/11 antiterror tools.
That would be wiretapping, which you may recall liberals portrayed during the George W. Bush era as an illegal and unconstitutional license for co-President Dick Cheney and his spymasters to bug the bedrooms of all U.S. citizens. But now Washington has renewed the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that were due to expire at the end of 2012, with no substantive changes and none of the pseudo-apoplexy that prevailed during the Bush Presidency.
In addition to applauding Obama’s “fairly ruthless antiterror prosecut[ions] and unapologetic assert[ions] of Presidential powers,” the WSJ revels in this opportunity to mock those who thought illegal wiretapping was wrong.
This is a turnabout from 2007 and 2008, when letting U.S. spooks read al Qaeda emails or listen in on phone calls that passed through domestic switching networks supposedly spelled doom for the American Republic. Democrats spent years pretending that Mr. Bush’s eavesdropping program was “wrong” and “destructive,” as Attorney General Eric Holder put it at the time, lamenting that “I never thought I would see a President act in direct defiance of federal law.”
Maybe this mutual love of abusive wiretapping is why–as Elliot Spitzer has pointed out–DOJ has thus far failed to pursue News Corp under Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
And finally, where is the inept U.S. Department of Justice in all this?
The DOJ has brought many irrelevant and tiny cases against companies for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal to bribe either individuals or government officials, even in a company’s overseas operations. The DOJ loves to use the statute to show just how tough it is.
Yet now they have the most important case sitting right there in front of them. It’s easy. Even a rookie could field this one.
But what are they doing? It’s not clear.
If they fail to make this case against News Corp., Eric Holder is a failure as attorney general.
After all, Eric Holder’s DOJ successfully fought to give legal sanction to Cheney’s illegal wiretapping. It would look rather silly, after having extended warrantless wiretapping past the end of the Obama Administration, for them to prosecute Rupert Murdoch for doing the same thing Cheney did.
Presumably as part of David Petraeus’ effort to rehabilitate his image, Bob Woodward obtained a tape of a discussion in which Fox News’ “Analyst” Kathleen McFarland passes on Roger Ailes’ April 2011 advice to Petraeus: if Obama doesn’t name him Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Ailes instructed, he should quit and run for President.
When you listen to the tape, it seems clear Petraeus is getting the promises Ailes and Rupert Murdoch previously made to him on a tape he presumably knew was running. Note the way he leads the discussion in this passage.
Petraeus: He is. Tell him if I ever ran [laughs] but I won’t . . .
Q: Okay, I know. I know.
Petraeus: But if I ever ran, I’d take him up on his offer.
Q: Okay. All right.
Petraeus: He said he would quit Fox.
Q: I know. Look, he’s not the only one.
Petraeus: And bankroll it.
Q: Bankroll it? [Laughs]
Petraeus: Or maybe I’m confusing that with Rupert. No. [Laughter]
Q: I know Roger, he’s done okay, but . . . no, I think the one who’s bankrolling it is the big boss.
Petraeus: That might be it.
Q: Okay. The big boss is bankrolling it. Roger’s going to run it. And the rest of us are going to be your in-house.
Mind you, I’m not sure what Petraeus thought he was accomplishing by getting this on tape. It is not news, after all, that Republican hacks like Ailes wanted Petraeus to run. Nor is it news that Fox is a partian organization that would drop everything to back the right candidate. And a tape record that Murdoch promised to bankroll the unsullied Petraeus for President does not legally bind Murdoch to do the same for a now-shamed former General.
So while the tape and transcript are fun on a lot of levels, all they really does is confirm what we’ve long known about Ailes, Murdoch, and the publicity hound Petraeus.
Moreover, I’m far more troubled by the way McFarland discussed what she called gossip she has picked up from some former chiefs, purportedly repeating the White House’s fears, about Petraeus.
Q: Okay. But they think if you’re chairman, they can’t overrule you. They can’t go against whatever your advice is going to be, militarily. Plus, they have a Colin Powell problem. Where Colin Powell, very successful chairman, is everybody’s sort of rallying point to run for an office where there’s nobody that they think is — that the group can . . .
Petraeus: But of course he didn’t run.
Q: But he could have.
Petraeus: And he wouldn’t have. No.
Q: He could have. Politically, he could have. So they look at you and they think, how can we keep him quiet? We don’t want him out on the loose to potentially run in ’12, and we sure don’t want him in ’16. We’ll put him at the CIA, where he can speak publicly twice a year before an open session of Congress. No backgrounders to the press, no Sunday talk shows, no speeches, no nothing. Now, I’m throwing that out as gossip.
Mind you, McFarland attributes these beliefs to the White House via presumably retired officers, not Ailes. But it comes just after she has delivered Ailes’ instructions: take JCS or run for President.
Q: That’s not the question at this point. He says that if you’re offered chairman, take it. If you’re offered anything else, don’t take it, resign in six months and run for president. Okay?
So in addition to a purported media outlet (albeit one that solicited advice on its coverage) recruiting Petraeus to run for President, said media outlet first said that if Petraeus could get into a position where the White House “can’t overrule” him, he should stay in government.
Just minutes after relaying advice that he should stay if he were JCS Chair, McFarland stated that the value of having him at Chair is that the Commander-in-Chief could not overrule him.
For Fox, it seems, having their guy in charge is more important than maintaining civilian rule over the military.
When Woodward contacted Ailes about the conversation, Ailes downplayed McFarland’s actions, her position at Fox, and his own role.
In a telephone interview Monday, the wily and sharp-tongued Ailes said he did indeed ask McFarland to make the pitch to Petraeus. “It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have,” he said. “I thought the Republican field [in the primaries] needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate.”
Ailes added, “It sounds like she thought she was on a secret mission in the Reagan administration. . . . She was way out of line. . . . It’s someone’s fantasy to make me a kingmaker. It’s not my job.” He said that McFarland was not an employee of Fox but a contributor paid less than $75,000 a year.
He wasn’t a kingmaker, Ailes said. Though it seems he was happy to play Chairman-Maker.
Libor ” scandal” very suspicious. 2008/9 huge crisis and Brown should defend pressure to keep rates down and prevent meltdown.
Don’t know, but suspect Diamond scapegoat used by old establishment who did not like energetic competitor.
So one of the richest and most powerful businessmen in the world–and the owner of America’s premiere business newspaper–considers the way the banks gamed a key market measure a scare-quote “scandal.” This newsman appears to suggest Gordon Brown (a man who has been trashing Murdoch relentlessly of late) should get out there and defend having his government tell Barclays to lie about how healthy it was, all to prevent a meltdown.
Nevermind the municipalities who got robbed in the process. Nevermind that the practice of gaming LIBOR started before the crash and reportedly continued after the danger had passed.
Rupert Murdoch appears to want to defend what Simon Johnson, cataloging the business press acknowledging what a big deal lying about LIBOR is, calls “Lie-More as a Business Model.”
I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. After all, some of Murdoch’s most important properties, starting with Fox, thrive on lying as a business model. But at a time when even the (British, at least) business community is finally awakening to what happens when the banksters reveal the “market” is just a bunch of really rich white guys operating behind a curtain, Rupert Murdoch is doubling down on lies.
The guy who covered up CIA’s torture, Jose Rodriguez, worries that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed might give a speech during the course of his military commission.
Although he acted defiantly in court, Rodriguez said KSM would like nothing more than a forum to preach radical Islam.
“This is a process that will continue for a long time,” Rodriguez said. “I have heard he may plead not guilty, and if he does, he’ll use the [legal] process as his platform . . . to talk about his jihadist beliefs.”
“It seemed to us that he was looking for a platform from which he could spout his hatred for all things American, and a trial would certainly present that opportunity,” Rodriguez writes. “It strikes me as more than a little ironic that several years later, Attorney General Eric Holder almost granted KSM his wish.”
Ironically, Rupert’s rag decided to plug these Rodriguez fears the day after KSM and his co-defendants tied up the military commission in knots not by speaking, but by remaining silent.
Judge [James] Pohl turns to Mohammed’s attorneys and his right to counsel. Mr. Mohammed, he says, pursuant to the Manual for Military Commissions, you are today represented by two military lawyers, Derek Poteet and Jason Wright, your detailed counsel. Do you understand this?
There’s a pause – the first of many, as we’ll soon see – as the court and counsel wait for the defendant’s responds. KSM doesn’t give one, and Judge Pohl notes as much. Very well, he continues, detailed counsel will be provided to you.
Episode one of Who Rules Your World?, pitting Barack Obama against Rupert Murdoch, passed mostly under the radar. The “privatize education” event ended in an early draw when the darling of both contestants, Michelle Rhee, resigned in disgrace for a cheating scandal. Though in truth, Murdoch’s loss of a big NY state contract (the contract opportunity arose out of Obama’s Race to the Top program) and Obama’s determination to continue his reforms using executive orders tips the balance to the President.
Episode two of Who Rules the World?, the illegal wiretap cover-up, has thus far been a clear Obama win. Within weeks after taking office, Obama reaffirmed the state secrets invocations of his predecessor. And while al-Haramain still fights to impose penalties in its successful case against the government, Obama has otherwise succeeded in shielding the government for any accountability for illegal wiretapping. Crucially, John Brennan, who had a role in the illegal wiretap program, has suffered no consequences for his role in the scandal.
Rupert’s son James has not enjoyed the same luck Brennan has. He had to resign from BSkyB to prevent News Corp’s hacking scandal from endangering the rest of the corporation’s business plans. Add in the substantial fines News Corp has already paid and the likelihood that a number of people involved in its illegal wiretap program will do jail time, and it’s clear that Obama has won the illegal wiretap coverup hands down.
Episode Three of Who Rules Your World?, leak retribution, might be more interesting. Sure, the retribution against Jeff Sterling for his employment dispute with John Brennan and John Kiriakou for revealing members of the torture squads (a program Brennan also had ties to) are ongoing. But the case against Thomas Drake for exposing the graft involved in NSA’s illegal wiretap contracts blew up in spectacular fashion; plus, the failure of the retribution against Drake has led to more revelations about the illegal wiretap program.
Meanwhile, we’re just beginning to see how News Corp will respond to the efforts of Fox Mole, now exposed as Joe Muto, for passing embarrassing videos to Gawker. It will be particularly interesting to see how Fox balances retribution with a desire to prevent any more embarrassing revelations. Though of course, Fox is hampered because unlike Obama, he can’t make Fox Mole unemployable by withdrawing his security clearance. Unlike national security whistleblowers, Muto’s employment prospects probably just got a lot rosier, as other news outlets scramble to add to News Corp’s discomfort.
It’s probably just as well that Obama is winning Who Rules Your World? by such margins at this point. I wouldn’t want Rupert to get smart ideas about trying to compete in the assassinations category.
Most sane people are outraged by the WSJ’s hacktalicious editorial calling for calm on the hack scandal.
As well they should: the editorial discredits WSJ as a paper.
But I was particularly interested in this bit.
In braying for politicians to take down Mr. Murdoch and News Corp., our media colleagues might also stop to ask about possible precedents. The political mob has been quick to call for a criminal probe into whether News Corp. executives violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act with payments to British security or government officials in return for information used in news stories. Attorney General Eric Holder quickly obliged last week, without so much as a fare-thee-well to the First Amendment.
The foreign-bribery law has historically been enforced against companies attempting to obtain or retain government business. But U.S. officials have been attempting to extend their enforcement to include any payments that have nothing to do with foreign government procurement. This includes a case against a company that paid Haitian customs officials to let its goods pass through its notoriously inefficient docks, and the drug company Schering-Plough for contributions to a charitable foundation in Poland.
Applying this standard to British tabloids could turn payments made as part of traditional news-gathering into criminal acts. The Wall Street Journal doesn’t pay sources for information, but the practice is common elsewhere in the press, including in the U.S.
The last time the liberal press demanded a media prosecutor, it was to probe the late conservative columnist Robert Novak in pursuit of White House aide Scooter Libby. But the effort soon engulfed a reporter for the New York Times, which had led the posse to hang Novak and his sources. Do our media brethren really want to invite Congress and prosecutors to regulate how journalists gather the news?
This is structured as an appeal to other media outlets, warning them that if they pile on, it might well hurt them too (this structure continues to the rest of the editorial).
This argument ends with the Scooter Libby argument–the claim that the NYT, because it purportedly “led the posse to hang [Bob] Novak and his sources” (including, among others, Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby), ended up getting embroiled in the Libby case (in spite of the fact that NYT discredited itself by protecting Libby for a year after they had published his name as Judy’s source).
Fair enough. The NYT–and especially Judy Miller–was exposed to be as hackish as Novak was (and, as another outlet who published bogus leaks in the Joe Wilson pushback, the WSJ) when its laundering of government leaks was made clear.
So the WSJ is rightly reminding other media outlets that they are as hackish as it is. Perhaps they have specific incidents of hackishness in mind? Maybe the rest of the press should worry that a focus on how corrupt our press has gotten will reflect badly on them too. It appears, for example, that the WaPo is worried about just such a thing.
Then, oddly (working backwards from the Judy Miller issue), the WSJ warns that if other media outlets pile on, it’ll criminalize payments made in the course of news-gathering–with a claim that such a horror would only matter for British tabloids. Only, that’s not exactly true, is it? And that’s before you consider the number of “consultants” TV stations pay for their “expertise.”
Then, in the first part of this passage, the WSJ rails against what is probably one of its biggest worries–it’ll be held liable in the US for the fairly well-established bribery it engaged in in the UK (even assuming no such bribery were discovered here in the US). It suggests that a poor helpless media company would never bribe a government for something real–like a contract. Putting aside the appearance that Murdoch’s minions bribed the cops.
Except at the heart of this scandal is Murdoch’s attempt to get full control of BSkyB. Not to mention Murdoch’s fairly well-established pattern of trading political support for Tony Blair, Hillary Clinton, and David Cameron in exchange for political favors.
This is bribery every bit as much as Halliburton’s bribery to get Nigerian contracts was bribery. A satellite concession is every bit as tangible a goal as is a contract. But it attempts to couch decades of Murdoch’s ruthless business practices in First Amendment hand-wringing. It suggests that whatever meager journalism Murdoch’s minions do, it should excuse his illegal business practices.
This WSJ editorial is a damning exhibit in outright hackery.
But I suspect its audience–other hackish media outlets–finds it a persuasive read.
Update: With this editorial in mind, I wanted to point to a few paragraphs of Alan Rusbridger’s description of how the Guardian broke this story. A key part of it, he describes, was in partnering with the NYT to break the omertà among British papers.
Big story? Not at all. Not a single paper other than The Guardian noted [a $1 million settlement against News of the World for bullying] in their news pages the next day. There seemed to be some omertà principle at work that meant that not a single other national newspaper thought this could possibly be worth an inch of newsprint.
Life was getting a bit lonely at The Guardian. Nick Davies had been alerted that Brooks had told colleagues that the story was going to end with “Alan Rusbridger on his knees, begging for mercy.” “They would have destroyed us,” Davies said on a Guardian podcast last week. “If they could have done, they would have shut down The Guardian.”
If the majority of Fleet Street was going to turn a blind eye, I thought I’d better try elsewhere to stop the story from dying on its feet, except in the incremental stories that Nick was still remorselessly producing for our own pages. I called Bill Keller at The New York Times. Within a few days, three Times reporters were sitting in a rather charmless Guardian meeting room as Davies did his best to coach them in the basics of the story that had taken him years to tease out of numerous reporters, lawyers, and police officers.
The Times reporters took their time—months of exceptional and painstaking work that established the truth of everything Nick had written—and broke new territory of their own. They coaxed one or two sources to go on the record. The story led to another halfhearted police inquiry that went nowhere. But the fact and solidity of the Times investigation gave courage to others. Broadcasters began dipping their toes in the story. One of the two victims began lawsuits. Vanity Fair weighed in. The Financial Times and The Independent chipped away in the background. A wider group of people began to believe that maybe, just maybe, there was something in this after all. [my emphasis]
News Corp would have destroyed the Guardian, Rusbridger and Nick Davies say, if they had had the dirt to do so. Such threats are presumably how News Corp enforced the omertà on the story.
Now look at the editorial. It appears, first of all, to be an appeal to precedent–a similar kind of appeal often made when pointing out that an espionage prosecution of Julian Assange will criminalize newsgathering.
It argues that a prosecution of News Corp under the FCPA would be a bad precedent, equating contracts with–well, I”m not sure what News Corp is admitting to here, as its media interests do amount to a contract. It then suggests–the logic is faulty–that such a prosecution would also criminalize the news gathering of those who pay for stories. This seems to be an implicit threat directed at those who do pay for stories (note that this editorial doesn’t say News Corp, including Fox TV, doesn’t pay for stories, just WSJ), perhaps an attempt to silence TV news.
But then, after having already impugned newspapers that, like the Guardian and NYT, gave “their moral imprimatur” to WikiLeaks, the editorial levels a threat clearly directed at the NYT, noting how the the newspaper’s purported efforts to go after Novak’s sources ended up backfiring on the NYT.
Not long after Rusbridger described the omertà that helped News Corp forestall consequences in the UK, Murdoch’s mouthpiece here in the US issued a veiled threat against the NYT.
I’m betting that Murdoch thinks the NYT will be easier to destroy than the Guardian.
As a number of people are reporting, Julian Assange told John Pilger Wednesday that WikiLeaks has files on some media companies. Thanks to a PDF link made available by The Nation (see 12:05 update), here’s the exact quote from the New Statesman article in question.
If something happens to me or to WikiLeaks, ‘insurance’ files will be released. They speak more of the same truth to power, including the media. There are 504 US embassy cables on one broadcasting organization and there are cables on Murdoch and News Corp.”
I wanted to look at the exact quote, because coverage of this claim has been conflated into “insurance files = 504 cables = Murdoch, News Corp, and Fox.” That is, the assumption is that some of the insurance files pertain to a subset of 504 cables that pertain to a broadcasting organization that given the mention of Murdoch and News Corp, must be Fox.
That’s not necessarily the case: after all, Assange appears to have talked about insurance files, some of which pertain to the media, and then discussed 504 cables on one broadcasting entity, and then mentioned Murdoch and News Corp. It is possible that there are 504 cables on a broadcast outlet — something like ABC, which has a habit of laundering intelligence leaks, or NBC, owned by a defense contractor. These cables might reveal something like the Rent-A-General’s program, first exposed by NYT. And there are files on Murdoch and News Corp. generally (which could include any of his properties worldwide).
Mind you, in its coverage of the issue, the Guardian (which as it points out, has access to all the cables) doesn’t exactly correct such a misimpression, if it is one.
WikiLeaks: Julian Assange claims to have Rupert Murdoch ‘insurance files’
Founder claims WikiLeaks has more than 500 US diplomatic cables on one broadcasting organisation
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, claimed today he was in possession of “insurance” files on Rupert Murdoch and his global media company, News Corporation.
Assange also claimed that WikiLeaks holds more than 500 confidential US diplomatic cables on one broadcasting organisation.
Speaking to journalist John Pilger for an interview to be published tomorrow in the latest edition of the New Statesman, Assange said: “There are 504 US embassy cables on one broadcasting organisation and there are cables on Murdoch and News Corp.”
Assange refers to these specific cables as “insurance files” that will be released “if something happens to me or to WikiLeaks”.
The Guardian has published stories based on more than 700 of the cables and has access to all 250,000.
Which I find all the more interesting, in that it suggests the media involved — including the Guardian, NYT, and Norway’s Aftenposten (which obtained its own complete set of the cables) — all have seen what Assange considers the insurance files relating to Murdoch, if not Fox.
So what would be shocking enough about Fox and or Murdoch to consider it part of an “insurance” file?