Category Archives: Media Criticism


For those who, like me, seem to be watching coverage of the Iraq situation as reported by people from a bizarro dimension, in which they speak a language very similar to English, but with subtle and confusing differences, I think that I’ve finally broken the code, and have thus put together a little translation guide for the rest of us.


Nations that we either defeated or liberated six decades ago, and then paid to rebuild half a century ago, and continued to pay for their defense through the Cold War, which has been over for more than a decade, who now feel that they are thereby entitled to obstruct or dictate our foreign policy, which is driven by our own self defense, in the furtherance of the business interests of their corrupt governments and the brutal dictators that they cynically coddle.

going it alone“:

Meaning 1: Taking action in concert with numerous European and Middle-Eastern nations, and others around the globe, but without France and Germany.

Meaning 2: Using the coalition from (1) to enforce numerous UN Security Council resolutions, including one that was passed within the past three months, which was supposed to be final, without going back to the Security Council, hat in hand, to get yet another “final” resolution.

let the inspections continue“:

Allow more time for a few dozen people to literally cluelessly wander around a country hundreds of thousands of square miles in area, searching for things that the Iraqi government has no intention of letting them find, and are hidden in private homes, or mosques, or presidential “palaces” (some of which are themselves the size of typical western cities), or in caves that we don’t even know exist, or that are moved just prior to the threat of an actual search in any of these areas, in order to continue to delay military action in the slim hope that some other means of delay can be found while this one continues, or that the weather will get too hot, or that W is so dumb that he will eventually forget why he’s doing this, or choke on a pretzel, this time for good, all in order to put off forever the day that we actually remove Saddam Hussein from power.

making war on the innocent Iraqi people“:

Removing a malign tyrant who, along with his vile offspring, has been torturing, starving and murdering the Iraqi people for decades, often for no reason other than his own perverse pleasure, and thus thereby finally giving them peace. To fully satisfy the definition, he must be removed while we spend vast amounts of money on precision munitions to minimize collateral casualties to the Iraqi people, even to the extent of risking higher casualties to our own forces to do so.

rush to war“:

Waiting a dozen years after Saddam signed an agreement to relinquish his weapons of mass destruction; waiting almost half a decade after he threw out the arms inspection teams who were there to see that he carried out his commitment; waiting a year and a half after being attacked by Middle Eastern forces that woke us up to the possibility of our vulnerability to people who have been threatening us for years; waiting over a year after declaring Iraq one of the nations that constitute a danger to the planet; carefully crafting and passing yet another UN Security Council resolution reiterating all the previous ones, with the stated intent of being a final one; waiting two months after the submission of a declaration in response to that supposedly final resolution that was 12,000 pages of non-responsiveness, before actually taking any significant military action to see that Saddam’s capability to attack his neighbors and our own nation is eliminated through military force.

smoking gun“:

The level of evidence that will justify removing Saddam Hussein by military force. This one is very precisely defined.

It is a photograph of Saddam Hussein, standing next to fifty-gallon barrels clearly labeled “Anthrax, “Tabun, “Sarin,” “VX,” “Phosgene,” and “Smallpox Virus,” along with a suitcase marked “Danger: ACME Suitcase Nuke–Stand Well Back Before Detonating,” next to a geiger counter with meter pegged. One of Saddam’s hands is evilly twirling his mustache a la Snidely Whiplash, and the other arm is around the shoulder of a hale and hearty Osama bin Laden, who is in turn holding up a clearly-identifiable copy of last Sunday’s New York Times.

The picture must be taken by an objective, prize-winning photographer, such as Robert Fisk. No satellite imagery or CIA evidence is acceptable, since such a photo could be easily faked, and its provenance would thus be highly suspect.

I hope that this guide will help make more sense out of the speeches from politicians and commentary by clueless pundits and reporters that you’ll continue to hear over the next few weeks.

What A Choice

According to this story, Aaron Brown has regained some viewers against van Susteren. What it doesn’t point out is that, if Fox were available to as many viewers as CNN, they’d be killling them in the ratings. These numbers indicating a “tie” in the ratings are thus quite misleading. When people have a choice for news channels, they watch Fox. Much of CNN’s audience is captive.

Pundit Cluelessness And The War

Well, Professor Reynolds beat me to the punch line, but here’s the post I promised last night.

The conventional “wisdom” of the media and punditocracy seems to be the following:

The Middle East is a region of states hostile to us (Iraq and Iran), states indifferent to us (Syria), and states friendly to us (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the other Gulf States, and Egypt). In order to deal with the hostile states (primarily Iraq) we have to get support of the “friendly states,” particularly Saudi Arabia. This is the famous “coalition” that we had put together in the Gulf War.

But the Saudis are nervous about us being on their territory at all, because this is one of the things that upset Osama, and their own people might not stand for it. In addition, though they’d like to help, they and the other “friendly” states (like Egypt) are upset with us about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (which has nothing to do with the War on Terrorism). So, at a minimum, in order to have them as part of the necessary coalition, we must first resolve the Palestinian problem, or at least reign in our ally, Israel, who is mostly to blame for all the problems over there, and (remember again) this has nothing to do with the War on Terrorism–it’s just a distraction from it.

The War on Terror (you know, the one that has nothing to do with Israel or Palestine) is being waged against us by a (relatively) few fanatics, and they are supported by renegades in those “friendly” countries, and there’s little their governments can do about it, because the people are so righteously angry at us for the Palestinian problem that any attempt to crack down on terror in those nations might result in instability in the region, causing those “friendly” governments to fall, with much worse replacements.

This is the standard template for almost all discussion of the subject, at least in most mainstream news sources.

Now here’s the reality:

The Arab world is at war with us (us being western civilization), and has been since at least the end of World War II. For most of the world, and for most of that time, it has been a low-grade war, with the only active battlefront in Israel, because the Arab states lacked the resources to take it to their real enemy, in Europe and America, other than with pinpricks like the Lockerbie bombing, and the embassy and Marine barracks attacks.

Because they couldn’t successfully wage a conventional war against us, they’ve instead been waging an unconventional one. They have colonized large parts of the world with their ideology, by funding mosques and religious schools (including North America), and taken over the governments of the countries themselves when they could get away with it (e.g., Afghanistan). They have funded terrorists both directly and indirectly, and they have filled their own people with a rage against us, while at the same time oppressing them. Part of this unconventional war was to pretend that it wasn’t happening, with diplomacy and propaganda, paid for by their oil millions. Unfortunately, we’ve been merely swatting them away like mosquitos, instead of recognizing them for the threat they were.

Up until September 11, the main front was in Israel, using hapless maleducated Palestinians as their pawns and proxies. We have to recognize that, as PM Netanyahu says, we and Israel are fighting the same war, against the same nihilistic enemy, and have been for decades. The Intifada is not a separate problem from the War on Terrorism–it is an integral part of it, and always has been, even when we (the U.S.) didn’t realize that we were at war.

But last September, they figured out how to take the war more directly to the enemy, or at least they thought they did. They played, and in fact overplayed their hand, and they can now be recognized for what they are–open enemies of our country. At a minimum, their near-term goal is to prevent us from inhibiting the spreading of their vile beliefs further into lands they consider naturally Wahhabi Islamic. Ultimately, they would like for the entire world to believe as they do, which is why they take the millions we provide them for oil, and fund mosques and madrassas with it, even in the US.

People who say that we have to wait until we straighten out the mess in Israel before we can take on Iraq have it exactly backwards. Taking out Saddam will eliminate the most immediate threat of being attacked with WMD, and it will provide an object lesson to the remaining regimes of what happens when you wage war against civilization. And it will make it much easier to put someone in
charge of the Palestinians who is reasonable and can actually be negotiated with in trust.

But the road to Baghdad may lie through Riyadh. And in fact, though the Administration has been loathe to admit it, they may not be able to ignore the elephant in the living room for much longer–even Cokie Roberts pointed out this morning that the Saudis are rewarding Palestinian Islamakazis, just as Saddam is, though neither she, nor anyone else in the roundtable, discussed the true implications of this.

The current Saudi regime has to go eventually–they are the source, the wellspring, of the Arab war against us. Most of the Al Qaeda’s money came from there, most of the 911 attackers were from there, all of the hatred being preached in the mosques is funded from there. But I suspect that the Administration has been hoping that they can instill a change in Saudi behavior by making an example of Saddam, who has much less support (though still too much) from our European “allies,” and against whom a clear-cut case can be made of being in more-or-less continuous breach of the surrender agreement he signed in 1991.

I think that this is a naive view. Saddam must go, but so must the House of Saud, at least in its current form. If they won’t grant us permission to use their bases for our mission in Iraq, and we require them to save lives, money and time, then we should use them without their permission. They must recognize that we finally recognize that they have been warring with us since at least 1948, and that we are no longer going to tolerate it, and there’s little they can do to prevent it.

If their regime falls as a result, c’est la guerre. It will be a necessary beginning to liberating the people of all of the Arab states from their oppressors. And for those who value “regional stability” over freedom and security, I say, when the status quo is so odious, instability is our friend. We are at war.

[Update at 2:49 PM PDT]

Glenn notes this post, and says that I say “that now they’re ready to take it to a higher level.”

Actually, just to clarify, I don’t think that they were really ready to take it to a higher level–they just accidentally did. Osama got ahead of them, and I don’t think that they realized exactly how ambitious he was.

So now it’s at a higher level, we’ve been tipped off, and they’re not ready for it, so they’re continuing to pretend that it didn’t really happen–it was just that terrorist over there (averting eyes to the ground, whistling, making circles in dirt with toe…).

[Update at 3:01 PM PDT]

I should also add, that I’m not actually proposing going to war with the entire Arab world. We need to use a little jujitsu, and actually work with the few friends that we have there to really splinter it (not a difficult task at all, since they’re always on the verge of doing it to themselves). Probably the best hope is Jordan. We need to cut a deal with King Abdullah that he gets back the Saudi Peninsula, in exchange for use of his territory for strikes on Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Put the Hashemite Kingdom in charge of the holy places, and cut out some territory for a Palestinian state in present-day Jordan (after doing another Black September on the current Palestinian leadership, which Israel has already made a start at). Egypt, hopefully, could be left on the sidelines.

This would be a major step toward an Arab world with which we, and the Israelis, could live.

More (Good) Bad Publicity

I’ve tried to keep this a Rall-free zone, but Jane Skinner on Fox News just had on the publisher of the magazine who ran the latest outrage about the greedy firefighters (I think it was Bob Guccione? but I’m not sure), and he was of course defending the stupid thing.

His story:

a) Good satire sometimes offends;
b) He found it very funny;
c) He had no intent to offend anyone by running it;
d) We must draw a distinction between depicting greedy firefighters in the present, and those same firefighters projected ten years into the future, and anyone who can’t do that is hypersensitive.

I agree with (a).

I believe (b) (or at least I have no reason not to believe it–there’s no accounting for taste or sense of humor). To me, it was utterly humorless, and anyone who found it funny is warped, but then there’s no reason, based on that interview, to think that he’s not.

I don’t believe (c)–I think he’s lying.

But the real crux of the issue is (d). In addition to being utterly unfunny, it was utterly pointless.

Good satire has a germ of truth. If his point was that the money flowing into charities is being misspent, there are many appropriate targets at which to aim satirical barbs (like the Red Cross, or United Way). But I’m not aware of any misappropriation or inappropriate expenditures of funds by the NYFD, past, present or (especially) future.

If in ten years, there are some activities by the NYFD that even vaguely resemble what are described in the cartoon, then it might be funny then (or at least as funny as it’s possible for a Rall cartoon to be, which is, if history is any guide, not at all).

But to run it now is not only pointless, it is obviously meant to be simply iconoclastic and cruel, under the thin guise of satire.

But then, consider the source.


Matt Welch has a nice little rant about the disgusting practice of journalists letting their subjects edit their own stories. Fair enough.

But something that I’ve never understood is most journalists’ unwillingness to even allow their subjects to review and comment on the stories prior to publication. If they would do this, there would be many fewer boneheaded articles being written (particularly on matters scientific, but also matters simply factual) by journalists who don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m not saying that they should have to make changes, or accept editing–just that they should be willing to accept suggestions and use their own judgment as to whether or not to make the changes.

If I were writing an article, I would certainly want to get as much input as possible before finalizing it and avoid making myself look like a fool. I don’t understand why journalists don’t have that attitude. Is it something in the water in J School?

This problem extends, by the way, to movie directors. I see many stupid, incredible scientific blunders in many movies that are simply pointless. They don’t make for a better story, they don’t advance the plot, the movie would be dramatically just as good if they get the science right instead of wrong. And it wouldn’t make people like me think that they’re fools.

And it’s not even a matter of not having the expertise available–I’ve seen really stupid films made, supposedly with consulting by NASA. One suspects that they listen to the advice, shrug their shoulders, and then do it the way they want anyway. They’re, after all, the artists–what do those science geeks know?

Unfortunately, there probably aren’t enough people (like me) who care for the market to work and punish them sufficiently to get them to change. But the problem is, even if most people don’t mind (or notice) that things don’t make sense, it simply continues to reinforce scientific ignorance and innumeracy on the part of the populace.


Tim Blair bludgeons poor Margo Kingston today (though, unfortunately, probably not into submission).

Margo is truly a national Ozzie wonder, like Ayers Rock, or the Barrier Reef, or vegemite, and he’s lucky among all of us anglospherians to have her. We have our Ralls, our Salters, and they have Heather Mallick Up North, and Fisk across The Pond, but somehow, you just can’t beat the non-stop, vacuous platitudes of Margo.

However, while I realize that she’s a rich ore to mine, he should have broken it up into installments–one can only take so much unprecedented idiocy at a single sitting. One has the frightening thought that he could probably do this every day for a month and never run out of material.

Distaff (And Distressed) Whistleblowers

Will Vehrs says:

…look for any number of follow-up articles on the relative honesty of women versus men, profiles and interviews with the distaff whistleblowers, and maybe even a comparison with the women of the Clinton years, such as Susan McDougal.

Of course, Susan was practicing omerta. But, actually, of course, there were female whistleblowers galore during the Clinton years, most notably Linda Tripp, who, while most well known for her involvement in l’affaire Lewinsky, revealed lots of unrelated unseemly and probably even illegal activities. There was also Jean Lewis, RTC investigator in Whitewater (they went after her private emails). And the doctor who was practically drummed out of the military because she questioned the Ron Brown autopsy. Not to mention Gennifer Flowers, Dolly Kyle Browning, Kathleen Willey, etc.

Of course, in contrast to the brave souls exposing Enron improprieties and illegalities, whistleblowers (particularly female whistleblowers) on the Clinton Administration were not heralded by the media–they were vilified, via the “nuts ‘n sluts” whispers emanating from the White House and parroted by an adoring press.

I continually found it ironic that the feminist movement was so eager to defend a president who not only eviscerated their hard-fought legislative victory in workplace sexual harassment, but used women, both figuratively and literally, as toilet paper…

More Krugman Bashing

Mark Steyn has started going after Krugman today.

While I agree that Andrew Sullivan has been ODing on the story, that’s probably out of frustration at the fact that no one in the “mainstream media” seems to think that it is a story…

And to Matt Welch and Jeff Jarvis–I don’t “scream about media bias until blue in the face.” My face remains a healthy fleshy color. I simply calmly point it out as a fact…

More Media Bias Confusion

In his failed attempt to debunk the notion of media bias, Jeff Jarvis misses the point entirely. He does, however, unwittingly make the point of Goldberg, and those of us who do claim bias:

…journalistic integrity — or bias — is the product of the consciences of individuals far more than of the conspiracies of institutions.

Exactly. Media bias exists, but it isn’t caused by editorial pressure, or some kind of conspiracy, so most of what Jeff says is utterly irrelevant. It is caused by the intrinsic staff composition of the major media organs. Most reporters and editors are liberal, both by their nature (many go into journalism to “change the world”) and training (most journalism professors, like most humanities professors, are liberals to one degree or another of extremity). Also, if you’re not a liberal, in the social circles that journalists hang out in, you will not get invited to the right parties, or get access to the best sources. How else to explain that 89% of the Washington press corps voted for Bill Clinton in 1992?

It’s not a conspiracy–it’s just an emergent trait of the profession. Jeff doesn’t see it because he is immersed in it. Fish are similarly unaware of water.