Environmental Ethics
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Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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The Gadfly Bytes -- August 29, 2006

All The News that Fits the Bush Agenda

Ernest Partridge

It is difficult to understand how anyone with even a modicum of critical intelligence, can still believe the right-wing complaint that the mainstream media (MSM) "has a liberal bias." Evidence to the contrary is overwhelming, and new evidence appears almost daily.

The persistent belief in "the myth of the liberal media" is still more evidence of the efficacy of "the big lie." The myth is repeated so often and forcefully that, among the "true believers," it is accepted despite the evidence.  "They wouldn’t say it, if it weren’t true, right?"

And so the mainstream media, with a very few honorable exceptions, persists in its unwavering service to the GOP, George Bush, and his "war on terror."

Case in Point: The (alleged) London/Airline Bomb Plot.

On August 10, the day after Ned Lamont’s victory over Joseph Lieberman, the MSM breathlessly announced that an imminent plot to blow up as many as ten trans-Atlantic airliners had been foiled in London.  Some twenty-four British Moslems, we were told, had devised the plan which would cause, in the words of a London police administrator, "mass murder on an unimaginable scale." (So much for fabled British understatement).

And who will save us from such dastardly deeds?  Why, none other than our "wartime President" along with his faithful Brit ally, Tony Blair.  (The polls indicate that "the war on terror" is Bush’s strongest issue, and perhaps his only effective issue).  Thus several Busheviks were quick to claim credit for the work of British law enforcement.

Sensational! And Topic #1 on the MSM for a few days, at least.

Then it all began to unravel:

  • Specific details of the plot were obtained from lead suspect, Rashid Rauf, under torture by Pakistani authorities.   As is well known, testimony obtained by torture is of little value, since the victim will say anything he believes the torturers want to hear, regardless of the truth.

  • The plot couldn't have been "days away," as first announced, since none of the alleged plotters had airline tickets, and a few did not even have passports (required for international flights).

  • Chemistry experts report that the kind of "binary" chemical explosives described in news reports would be virtually impossible to activate and explode in flight.

  • Moreover, why should terrorists resort to such complicated and unreliable methods, when all they need to do is stash explosive devices in the cargo compartments of the airliners (as was done in the Lockerbie bombing)?  The Bush administration, let us recall, has declined to enact full-scale inspection of airline cargo.  "Too costly," we are told.

Away from "the mainstream," additional serious and informed doubts about the plot have been raised by Craig Murray in The Guardian, Christopher Reed in Counterpunch, James K.  Galbraith in The Guardian, and Gwyn Dyer in The Age.  

PSST! That’s the sound of another "terror plot story" being deflated.

And so, we’ve heard very little about the "deadly liquids bomb plot" of late.  But it did succeed in diverting public attention from the Connecticut primary.  Mission accomplished.

In short, in with a bang, out with a whimper.  "The Great Liquid Bomb Plot" shrivels in the light of subsequent evidence – and lack of evidence.

This is not to say that there was no serious terrorist bomb threat that further investigation might prove, followed by the conviction of the culprits.   We just don't know.  And that's the outrage.   We have a right to know, and the media has an obligation to report.   But once again, the MSM, in its typical failure to report counterbalancing doubts and anomalies, casts no light on the issue.   It merely adds more fuel to fire up public fear in support of Bush's "war on terra."

Rot at the Top: The decline and fall of "The Grey Lady."

Junk journalism has always been with us, and always will be.  So in attempting to discredit the MSM, there is no point in exposing the shortcomings of such dregs of journalism as The National Enquirer, The Washington Times, or The New York Post.

Nor is there any need to do so.  The decline of American journalism can be better demonstrated if we can find it in the most prestigious and esteemed publications, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times.  And, sadly, it appears that we can.

At The Washington Post, Bob Woodward, the scourge of the Nixon administration and an essential instrument to Nixon’s downfall, has become a stenographer and apologist for the Busheviks.  And efforts at investigation and reform by John Conyers are met with scorn and derision.

But I choose, instead, to direct my attention to The New York Times: the "flagship" of American journalism and the so-called "newspaper of historical record" which proudly proclaims every day on its masthead: "All the News that’s Fit to Print." If The New York Times, presumably the best of American journalism, has been corrupted, then whom or what can we trust?

So what have we to learn from The New York Times?  In the last decade, we have learned:

  •  There is good reason to suspect that Bill and Hillary Clinton were involved in an illegal land deal: "Whitewater." (They have since been totally exonerated).

  •  A Chinese-American nuclear scientist, Dr.  Wen Ho Lee, may have sent classified secrets to China.  (Also exonerated).

  •  A newspaper consortium analysis of the 2000 Florida vote "proved" that Bush would have won the state and the election regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, "Bush v.  Gore." (The text of that November 12, 2001 article refuted the headline assertion).

  •  As reported by now-discredited Times reporter Judith Miller, Saddam Hussein imported aluminum tubing that could only be used to refine uranium for nuclear bombs.  Miller also "informed" us that, according to "reliable sources" (i.e., the convicted embezzler, Ahmed Chalabi), Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.   All these claims were subsequently proven to be false.

  • And this is what The New York Times has not told us – presumably not "fit to print."

  • That the GOP slanders against Al Gore (e.g., that he claimed to have invented the internet and to have "discovered" the toxic site, Love Canal) were all groundless. 

  • That the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" conducted a baseless smear against John Kerry, and conversely, that Kerry’s military record and his medals were authentic.

  •  That George Bush was absent without leave from his military obligation with the Texas Air National Guard.

  •  That Bush likely violated securities law as an executive and investor with Harken energy.

  •  That there is compelling evidence that the 2000, 2002 and 2004 elections were stolen by the Republicans through election fraud.  

  • That, according to "The Downing Street Memos," Bush and Blair were willing to "fix the intelligence" to fit the policy.

  •  That the Bush Administration violated the FISA laws on wiretapping of US civilians.  (The Times did report this eventually, but "held" the story past the 2004 election, which might have been affected by the disclosure).

  • "All the news that’s fit to print?" I think not.

    How the mighty have fallen! With a record like this, why should anyone pay any attention to what The New York Times might be reporting?

    Decades ago, when I lived in Manhattan and taught at the City University of New York, one of the highlights of the week was when I brought a newly-minted Sunday New York Times to my flat, and spread it out on my bed, reading voraciously.

    No more!  Today, I won’t pay the annual $50 for access online to the NYT columnists.  "It will only encourage them." Despite the worthy contributions of such "exceptions" as Frank Rich, Bob Herbert and Paul Krugman,  "the best of American journalism" is simply not good enough.

    So we must turn to the remaining independent media, the foreign press, and the internet for our news.

    We, the progressive public, do not own The New York Times, nor do we have a voice on its editorial board.  Still, we do have leverage – simply by ignoring them.  Like all modern newspapers, The New York Times relies more on advertising than on subscriptions and sales for its revenue.  But advertising rates are a function of circulation.  If the public gives The New York Times (and The Washington Post, etc.), the attention and credence they authentically deserve (i.e., very little),  their bottom lines will suffer.  Then, at long last, a reform of American journalism may soon be at hand.

    A Plea to the (formerly) responsible media: "Just the fact, please."

    We don’t need a mirror-image liberal-bias to "balance" the rightward slant of the MSM.  "Just the facts," will do just fine.  For, as Steven Colbert so aptly put it, "reality has a liberal bias."

    And so to The New York Times in particular, we plead, fulfill the daily promise on your masthead: print "All the News that’s fit to print."

    If, in general, American journalists are once again permitted to report the unbiased facts, then the fall of Bushism will be assured and the restoration of our democracy will take care of itself.

    Copyright 2006 by Ernest Partridge


    In an e-mail to The Crisis Papers, The New York Times' Don Van Natta replies:


    Your outrageous piece is riddled with so many errors and flat-out falsehoods that I hardly know where to begin.  The New York Times published my piece (co-written with Elaine Sciolino and Stephen Grey) on Monday that is an in-depth look at the London jetliner bombing plot.  Indeed, I believe it is the most rigorously reported article on the plot.

    We found, among other things, that some of the men who were arrested wanted to carry out the attacks because of US policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We found that it would have been very difficult, perhaps impossible, for the bombers to make liquid explosive devices on board.  We found that the public statements of officials in the US and Britain that the plot was "imminent" were overstated, and that the bombers were not ready to carry out their attacks.

    Our story is easy to find.  It is on the New York Times website, and it has attracted much attention this week.

    In fairness, you should write about the mainstream media's entire record, rather than selectively cherry-pick a few items that fit your biased agenda.

    Don Van Natta Jr.
    Investigative Correspondent
    The New York Times

    Ernest Partridge replies:

    Mr.  van Natta says that he "hardly knows where to begin." And so he doesn't. 

    With specifications of the alleged "errors and flat-out falsehoods" I might be prepared to reply.  With none, I am presented, not with a rebuttal, but with a rant.

    I did, in fact, read the long and detailed van Natta, Sciolino and Grey article with care and some appreciation.  And I read several other accounts, both foreign and domestic.  Of all these, the NYT story was among the more alarmist.  Missing from that account was the fact that the alleged leader of the plot confessed under torture, or any mention of the part the Bush administration may have played in precipitating the premature arrests and announcements.  The infeasibility of the bomb plot was understated: Mr. van Natta's words, above, "difficult" and "impossible" do not appear in the article, which instead tells us that "officials" were "unsure" of the ability of the plotters to "pull it off."

    So who was I to believe?  Van Natta et al in the NYT, or such credible experts as Craig Murray, Christopher Reed, James Galbraith and Gwyn Dyer?   There was a time when I would not have hesitated to choose the New York Times as the most reliable source of information.  But after Whitewater, Wen Ho Lee, Jason Blair, Bush v. Gore, Judith Miller, and the many crucial items that I specified in my essay that were deemed "unfit to print" in "the newspaper of record," I no longer look to the NYT for credible information.

    Yes, I am aware that the Times endorsed Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004, that it ran Joseph Wilson's column, and that it allows OpEd space for Frank Rich, Bob Herbert and Paul Krugman.   Furthermore, I do not contend that a debunking of GOP slanders (Gore's "invention" of the internet, the Swift Boat Veterans) or mention of Bush's disqualifications (Air National Guard, Harken, Arbusto, etc.), or election integrity issues were totally absent from the voluminous pages of the New York Times.  However, they were not prominent and hence not consequential.  On balance, Gore and Kerry were dumped on and Bush was given a pass.   (See Parry and Boehlert).

    Mr.  Van Natta takes me to task for "selectively cherry-pick[ing] a few items."

    Some "Cherries!"

    His complaint reminds me of that old quip: "other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, what did you think of the play?"

    Had the New York Times responsibly investigated Whitewater allegations (concocted by Richard Mellon Scaife's "Arkansas Project"), had it accurately reported Lt. Bush's record with the TANG and Kerry's military service in Viet Nam in prominent rebuttal to the Swift Boat slanders, had it given Judith Miller the space that her Chalabi-generated rumors deserved (i.e., none), had the Times conspicuously disclosed "The Downing Street Memos,"  and had the Times thoroughly investigated and reported the statistical, anecdotal and empirical evidence of election fraud in the past three elections, then surely George Bush would never have been elected, the federal government would now be solvent, we would not now be fighting in Iraq, and the international reputation of the United States of America would be intact.

    As I said in my essay regarding The New York Times, "how the mighty have fallen!"  And the consequences have been incalculably grave.

    PS:  Mr.  van Natta chose not to respond.   EP.

    Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .