Frankly, LI doesn’t like Atrios’ wanker of the day award, because it associates one of God’s greatest gifts – wanking – exclusively with the warmonger and the feeb. I guess it is the last gasp of the great onanism fear that swept over Europe and the States in the 18th century. But it has had one good effect at least – it is obviously driving Time Magazine’s Joe Klein crazy. Today, he published a You can trust a Communist to be Communist post on his blog, and it is a useful map of the parameters of U.S. reporting. Anything that seems to indicate that a reporter will be called a “left wing extremist” is excluded. Since Klein is an insider to these circles, I think we can trust his accuracy. Here are the rules, the things that are tabu for your average thumb up his ass D.C. scribe:
A left-wing extremist exhibits many, but not necessarily all, of the following attributes:
--believes the United States is a fundamentally negative force in the world.
--believes that American imperialism is the primary cause of Islamic radicalism.
--believes that the decision to go to war in Iraq was not an individual case of monumental stupidity, but a consequence of America’s fundamental imperialistic nature.
--tends to blame America for the failures of others—i.e. the failure of our NATO allies to fulfill their responsibilities in Afghanistan.
--doesn’t believe that capitalism, carefully regulated and progressively taxed, is the best liberal idea in human history.
--believes American society is fundamentally unfair (as opposed to having unfair aspects that need improvement).
--believes that eternal problems like crime and poverty are the primarily the fault of society.
--believes that America isn’t really a democracy.
--believes that corporations are fundamentally evil.
--believes in a corporate conspiracy that controls the world.
--is intolerant of good ideas when they come from conservative sources.
--dismissively mocks people of faith, especially those who are opposed to abortion and gay marriage.
--regularly uses harsh, vulgar, intolerant language to attack moderates or conservatives.”
While Joe Klein richly deserves Atrios’ scorn – if he is a wanker, he is the kind of masturbator who gives that glorious supplement a bad name – he’s done a service by spelling out the rules that run through the head of the press corps. One by one, the fear that one will show, for instance, that a corporation is acting evilly, or the fear of showing that fundamental democratic rights are violated by the governing class in the U.S., stifles the baby news story in its cradle. The item that particularly amused me was “believes that American imperialism is the primary cause of Islamic radicalism.” Let’s see. The U.S. financed the Islamic radical fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s; the U.S. encouraged Saudi Arabia, from 1956 onward, to use its position as a fundamentalist Islamic state to fight Nasser and communism; the U.S. gave a green light, after the Iranian revolution, to the Saudi program of pouring millions into Wahabi controlled mosques, placed from Morocco to Indonesia, from Germany to Turkey; the U.S. went so far, in the 1980s, as to give the man who directed the first bombing of the WTC in 1993, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, a CIA signed visa into the U.S. His air fare and travel arrangements were practically comp’ed by the CIA in the 80s, which he spent flying around on behalf of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. This is Robert Friedman’s article for that communist magazine, the New Yorker – which Klein, innocent of those vile red schemes, actually worked for himself! – published in 1995:
Here’s a snippet:
The Alkifah Refugee Centre, in addition to providing a hangout for the disaffected, distributed pamphlets and videotapes on the rebel war in Afghanistan. On any given day, a visitor to the centre might take martial-arts classes, or sign up for an automatic-weapons training course taught by instructors from the National Rifle Association. The club even had its own T-shirts: A MUSLIM TO A MUSLIM IS A BRICK WALL. But the highlight for the centre’s regulars were the inspirational jihad lecture series, featuring CIA-sponsored speakers.
”One week on Atlantic Avenue, it might be a CIA-trained Afghan rebel travelling on a CIA-issued visa; the next, it might be a clean-cut Arabic-speaking Green Beret, who would lecture about the importance of being part of the mujaheddin, or ‘warriors of the Lord.’ The more popular lectures were held upstairs in the roomier Al-Farooq Mosque; such was the case in 1990 when Sheikh Abdel Rahman, travelling on a CIA-supported visa, came to town. The blind Egyptian cleric, with his ferocious rhetoric and impassioned preaching, filled angry, discontented Arab immigrants with a fervour for jihad – holy war. This was exactly what the CIA wanted: to stir up support for the Muslim rebels and topple the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan.
The sheikh, however, had a somewhat broader agenda.
A former investigative counsel for the Senate Foreign Relatiosn Committee, now a private attorney in Washington, Jack Blum speaks bitterly but fatalistically. ‘After every covert war there is an unintended disposal problem,’ he says, as if he were talking about unexpected land mines and not potential Islamic terrorists living in Brooklyn. ‘We steered and encouraged these people. Then we dropped them. Now we’ve got a disposal problem. When you motivate people to fight for a cause – jihad – the problem is, how do you shut them off?’”
This, of course, is noway near as satisfying as Paul Berman's little book, that blames it all on the Nazis. Those nazis. Intellectual history as wanking - oh, wanking, so many crimes have been committed in your name!
And, according to Sy Hersch, the latest Bush folly is to … start the Saudis up again.
How does this work out as a parameter? when looking at the news, one has to have a sense of what isn’t being reported as opposed to what is. For instance, the reports about Iran’s supposed supplying of weapons to the Shi’a militias have taken up, I’d estimate, oh one hundred times more story space than the story of the Saudi and Gulf Sunni financing of the Sunni insurgents. Now – it isn’t that I don’t expect that the Saudis would operate like that, in their own self defense. That financing just happens to have contributed to a hundred times more deaths of American soldiers than the Iranians have. But… just as a hijacking that was manned mostly by Saudis and financed by a Saudi millionaire in close contact with Pakistan’s secret service operates as an excuse to invade Iraq, so, too, the dance around the obvious is a way of trying to lead us into a war with Iran. The truth, of course, is that the U.S. just isn’t powerful enough to take on the Saudis. Who wants them to? I don’t. I simply want the U.S. to recognize its real strength in the Middle East is weak at best, and operate accordingly. But to get back to the theme – sometimes, newspapers do stumble over reality. They do their best, at these moments, to move on. One of the funnier examples of this, recently, was a NYT story about the evil Iranians, supplying those evil Shi’ite militia those American killin’ weapons. Here’s an excerpt from this James Glanz piece, Feb. 27th:
In a dusty field near the Baghdad airport on Monday, the American military laid out a display of hundreds of components for assembling deadly roadside bombs, its latest effort to embarrass the country it contends is supplying the material to armed Shiite groups here: Iran.
Officers of the First Cavalry Division whose unit seized the components said they had been found in a palm grove just north of the Iraqi capital two days earlier, after a tip from a local resident. An explosives expert said the components were made to be assembled into the deadly canisters called explosively formed penetrators, or E.F.P.'s, which explode and hurl out a high-speed blob of copper designed to cut through tough American armor.
''I've lost good friends to these E.F.P.'s,'' said Capt. Clayton Combs, whose unit turned up the cache of weapons. ''And the fact that we found these before they got to the side of the road is just a huge win for us.''
The cache included what Maj. Marty Weber, a master explosives ordnance technician, said was C-4 explosive, a white substance, in clear plastic bags with red labels that he said contained serial numbers and other information that clearly marked it as Iranian.
But while the find gave experts much more information on the makings of the E.F.P.'s, which the American military has repeatedly argued must originate in Iran, the cache also included items that appeared to cloud the issue.
Among the confusing elements were cardboard boxes of the gray plastic PVC tubes used to make the canisters. The boxes appeared to contain shipments of tubes directly from factories in the Middle East, none of them in Iran. One box said in English that the tubes inside had been made in the United Arab Emirates and another said, in Arabic, ''plastic made in Haditha,'' a restive Sunni town on the Euphrates River in Iraq.
The box marked U.A.E. provided a phone number for the manufacturer there. A call to that number late Monday encountered only an answering machine that said, ''Leave your number and we will call you back.''
Right ho. Why is it that the NYT isn’t going to call back? Joe Klein gave us the answer. I think I could pretty much predict the ratio of stories about reality - who supplies the money to buy the goods for the insurgents - as opposed to the Administration's soft soap story about Iran. I would guess one to fifty. I'll check this with Factiva some time. It is nice to have a propaganda criterion.
And people say wanking has never lead to anything good.