This morning, I tweeted this disturbing and sometimes insightful, but ultimately maddening, guilt-ridden sanctimony dressed up as constructive criticism in  op-ed by Steve Almond in the NYTimes. Wanting to think more about it, the best I could say at the time was this tweet:

RT ‏@Shoq: I've been scolded for saying we mock rather than advance ideas. Still, this a mea culpa from a liberal Fox watcher j.mp/KXyDQR
I shared it with my good friend, Joy-Ann Reid (@theReidReport), Managing Editor at TheGrio.com, and a Miami Herald columnist. As usual, within hours, she'd let loose with blistering critique that captured much of what irked me when I read Almond's piece the first time. You can read her post here. 

On any given day, I agree with almost everything Joy says, and this day was no different, for the most part. But I did have some concerns about dismissing the entirety of Almond's essay too casually, feeling that as is often the case, that all elusive truth may lie somewhere between two poles.  So I wrote this to Joy in response, and felt I'd blog it. Just because I can.

 

Thank you joy,

You have told the other side I've been wrestling with so much better than I could.  But I am still torn because while my reaction this morning was just like yours (and I tweeted about it), after reading it again, I am still plagued by the nagging sense that he (and Karoli) are also more than partly right; that we do give them too all far much attention in a meta sense. While, as you point out, there are damn good reasons do that, it's become such a reactionary passion on the left, that it empowers all the lefty demagogues (those self-flagellating masters of the liberal universe), while generally sucking all the energy from the progressive room. There's just not too much remaining for the political process (which serves the status quo nicely). I see this progressive anger-fatigue every day, and it's really worrying me. I see it worrying others, too. Obama can lose, and lose convincingly. And the Senate may go with him.  We all know this. And I think all the anger-merchandising, so well played by the corporate media (and the liberal and conservative industrial complexes, as well), are to a large degree distracting us from really focusing on shaping messages and getting out that vital progressive congressional and presidential vote, without which, we're probably just doomed.

But what the writer doesn't get right at all (besides the ridiculous title) is that he has no real end game; he never discusses where all that surplus attention that he wants to conserve would go if recovered. He hints at it, but so minimally, that he's implying that just turning the other ear and merely showing up to vote will mitigate the damage that a highly cultivated incivility is now doing to us.  It won't. All the polite rhetorical salon parties he imagines won't make the smallest dent in the Koch/Fox audience axis, and they still vote far more reliably than we do.

No, as you point out, ignoring and negotiating just doesn't work. We have to defund, deflect, or somehow denude their omnipotence; strip it from our politics and culture with a combination of strategies that ignore the more cynical of the noisy megaphones, while pushing back effectively against the most influential of them, denying them social and financial currency where possible In the absence of bigger plans, I am going to keep on with efforts like StopRush, which may yet show that market forces can greatly impact how these influencers really operate on and against all of us.

It's all I can do… for now.

 

Related

 

 

 

In an op-ed today, Rex Huppke discusses a problem any thinking person knows about and discusses, nearly as often as they shrug off any notion that there could be a solution for it. A frequent subtext of many things I write about in this blog is that finding answers to problems like these must become a national—even an international—priority, or humanity is in for a world of hurt.

“It’s very depressing,” said Mary Poovey, a professor of English at New York University and author of A History of the Modern Fact. “I think the thing Americans ought to miss most about facts is the lack of agreement that there are facts. 

Thanks to a deliberately promoted anti-intellectualism, which generously serves the interests of the plutocracy at large, America and the world are both in grave crisis on a dozen levels. We need many more articles like Huppke's before we will even begin to redress the damage done by 35+ years of radical conservatism and its many propaganda proxies like Fox News, which have both nutured and exploited this ecosystem of rabid dumbshittery. Together they have been alarmingly effective at obliterating any operational respect for science and all those pesky and often politically inconventient things called facts.

But these agents of assholery have merely been the high priests of this Church of Stupid with its anti-englightenment agenda.  They have been all too enabled and supported by the mainstream meda which has selfishly abrogated any sense of responsiblity to the common good by letting such issues roll over in the public's consciousness again and again without any effort whatever to propose a solution, or consistently voice a need for one.

Every day, another pundit like Huppke decries this mendacious mess, while cashing the checks of the increasingly conservative-owned and controlled newspaper and broadcasting industries which knowingly allow these toxins of falsehood to metastisize into a full-blown cancer on the body politik of humanity itself. It is a disease that has all but crippled our ability to respond to even the smallest of political issues, and anyone that doesn't see that is either not paying attention, or probably on the payroll of the larger pertetrators of this cultural homicide in progress. .

If we don't find a way to rebalance the scales and make thoughtful inquiry and dialog fashionable again, we are probably finished as culture, and perhaps even as a species. Greed, war, disease, social injustice, econonmic inequity, and countless other man-made issues may be solvable, despite our worst instincts. But global ecocide courtesy of preventable climate change may not be. 

 I have my own ideas about how we must reset global society by reinventing how we organize, process and share human knowledge and actionable intelligence on nearly everything known or knowable. If we can better account for what we know, and what we do—or have done—with what we know, we can establish more normative guidelines for agreeing on what is real, and what is mere polemical masturbation, propaganda, and agenda hawking.

Whatever it is that we do, we'd better do something… and fast. And that's a fact.

 

 

See important update at the end.

Forgive my link-baited title, but it was just as contrived, gamed, and inaccurate as this one from Paul Farhi in today’s Washington Post:

Limbaugh sees heat over comments turn down to a simmer

That awful bit of non-reporting spawed these (and other) derived items from so-called “journalists” sucking down free content, with no fact checking whatever:

Rush Limbaugh Is Doing Just Fine

Then of course, we have this gem from Rush’s #1 astroturfed professor at Cornell Law, @leginsurrection, who was all too happy to use the crappy reporting from the so-called “Liberal Washington Post” (owned by arch-conservative, Donald Graham).

#StopRush turns into #MediaMattersStopped

And finally, never to be outdone in the lame department, the DailyBeast jumps in:

Advertisers Stick With Limbaugh
 

Now of course, paid flacks like Cornell’s “Professor Jacobson” are expected to use any kind of drivel the MSM writes to support their astroturfed hysteria.  But the Post and the Atlantic wire? This kind of reporting is absurd, and a prime example of why our media (and nation) are such a mess. 

Since the Washington Post cannot even manage a typical permalink  to specific comments, I have posted my response to Farhi’s reckless reporting here so you don’t have to scroll through 1000 comments to find it:

 
I would like to know which of the 161 dropping or avoiding sponsors listed here http://sn.im/stoprush Mr. Farhi actually contacted. I would wager the answer is zero. If he had, he would know that the only known sponsors to “trickle back” are a single regional sponsor that Rush’s PR flack, Brian Glicklich had CLAIMED wanted to come back (TheSleepTrain) in an LA Times puff piece, and TaxResolutions, a company that never really stopped to begin with (they just said they did to milk some free attention from Twitter). 
 
That’s it. And readers will note that virtually no research of any other kind is indicated in this article. This kind of reporting is merely passing along Premiere’s propaganda. And it does so with almost nothing but conjecture and suppositions based on what the author was obviously told, and not what he himself investigated. Farhi simply absorbed a robust spin-spew of misdirection from Limbaugh and/or Premiere which we have seen coming from his bots and paid proxies all week. Yes, the author called Carusone, and probably spent all of 15 minutes with him to pretend he was actually doing journalism. Anyone who knows Carusone’s efforts knows that what is said here is barely a fragment of the facts concerning this campaign, which can be heard more fully on any of his many radio interviews. In short, this is article comes off as a thinly-veiled PR favor to ClearChannel, a major media corporation which probably has many overlapping relationships with the Washington Post and/or its advertisers. 
 
It is also important to note that while sustaining any “outrage” can be challenging, this StopRush campaign has also coincided with the Trayvon Martin case, which has sucked the oxygen out of most stories emanating from the left in the past two weeks, so naturally some cooling of engagement would be evident. But as someone who sees the engagement of volunteers very close-up, I can tell you that the women, men, and families that Rush has offended aren’t going away, nor are they forgetting his egregious and vile remarks about Sandra Fluke in particular, and women in general. They are simply sharing their passions with other important issues of conservative hatreds which Rush can take great pride in nurturing in today’s America. They are not backing off or backing down. 
 
Mr. Farhi, please do just a bit of homework and update this story with real facts that you have actually verified, and not the convenient and self-serving spin of ClearChannel or their proxies. In short, do your job. 
 
Thank you.

Posted at 11:10 on 3/29/2012

Note: A look through the comments of that post will reveal literally dozens of astroturf bots, come of them posting at least 10 times. The WaPost makes no effort to screen such astroturf, nor even limit it to one or two comments per article. Thus, the astroturfers ensure that their gamed spew will always turn up in the list of most recent comments.

Update

In my haste to respond to the Washington Post, I neglected to point out that the author DID update his story. He removed a completely erroneous misquote where he claimed that Carusone had said “only 5 sponsors had dropped the Limbaugh show.” In fact, Carusone tweeted that after correcting them, the author updated the post and simply deleted the entire misquote. This was more shoddy journalism. The entire premise of the story—now so widely repeated—revolved around that one ludicrously sloppy misquote. The Post should have posted the words “Updated,” and corrected it. They still should.

Please visit http://sn.im/stoprush for more news and information about the #stopRush effort.

Help us push back against this kind of propaganda by retweeting this post. Thanks!!

See update below

Last night…

journalist and commentator, GoldieTaylor told a remarkable story to @CNN’s Don Lemon. She was inspired to tell it by the grotesque story of accused predator, former Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky.

She not only told of the horror of her own abuse, and that of other high school cheerleader classmates at the hands of a high school football coach, but even decided to “out” her tormentor’s identity, as well.   This added act of courage makes her story all the more special, because so few victims ever do that. And she decided to do it knowing full well it may have serious legal consequences. She sounds fully prepared for those, even welcoming of them.

I haven’t asked Goldie whether it was planned or not, but around 1:15 pm yesterday, she just started tweeting her story on Twitter, almost as a preview of what she would discuss on @CNN last night. As so often happens on Twitter, her thread gained traction almost immediately, and many thousands were transfixed as her history unfolded like a painfully grim fairy tale. I was on the phone at the time, but was seeing random remarks pointing to the thread, and only later did I fully learn about what had happened.

While Goldie is always eloquent and insightful on TV, I thought everyone should see the original tweets as they unfolded on Twitter. So I asked my ever-useful friend @dvnix to pull the tweets together into a contiguous story, minus some extraneous tweets that didn’t seem essential to her tale.  He graciously did so, and you can now see Goldie’s story unfold as so many did before she went on TV to tell it verbally, as she did again on @TheLastWord, and probably will again a few hundred more times going forward.

Goldie’s Story, as told on Twitter.

Stories like Goldie’s need telling…

and too few journalists with the skills to tell them this well ever come forward to tell them.  We need more people with such courage, and not just in matters of child abuse.  Whether in the form of domestic spousal abuse, rape, workplace discrimination, or even the cultural economic abuse that Occupy Wall Street is dramatizing, we’re all enduring different forms of abuse at the hands of many abusers.  And we all need to find an inner strength to step up, step forward, speak out, act out, and start to change whatever status quo that abuses us. Silence is a mask that evil wears defiantly. It must be ripped away so that justice can show its face.

Thank you Goldie, for tearing one off for us.

To help Goldie’s story get out, your RT of this post using the Tweet button below is much appreciated.*

Updates

As you might imagine, the accused coach has lawyered up.

References

* Note: I don’t carry any kind of advertising on this site.  I ask for retweets only in the interests of promoting the issues or injustices I cover on this site from time to time.  If you want to follow me on twitter, my handle is simply, @shoq.

 

Today, my very good friend Angelo Carusone, (a.k.a. @stopbeck), campaign director at Media Matters and currently working on the DropFox effort at Media Matters for America, announced that Orbitz, the travel agency powerhouse, and a significant Fox News sponsor, has agreed to review all of their advertising on Fox News, a clear signal that big changes may be coming soon.

Alternet broke the details of the story today, and Media Matters has a statement and some additional information on their DropFox site. While DropFox's first campaign against Orbitz was mocked by many Fox apologists, it's presence all over the Internet in the past few weeks was startling to Orbitz, as well as many long-time watchers of progressive activism efforts on the Internet.

This Orbitz review is just the first very big win in a long effort to hold Fox News accountable for the brazen and reckless political operation which they have been conducting, often over airwaves licensed to them by the taxpayers. Carusone's  @stopbeck effort had already succeeded in starving Glenn Beck of advertisers after a protracted, two year battle which Beck often openly mocked, both on the is radio show, and on Twitter. But that guerilla effort, conducted mostly by Carusone alone, with only the help of Twitter and other social media, finally forced Fox News to drop Beck from their lineup earlier his year.

While you may think this DropFox effort seems like a run-of-the mill petition campaign, it has been anything but that by a wide margin. With Media Matters and its many allies, and the brilliant tactics of Carusone and the DropFox team, it seems to be organizing a coalition of diverse interest groups and constituencies – all with a common distaste for what Fox News has been doing to their individual interests as well as our society. It appears that together, and without much fanfare, they have launched a coherent, coordinated and well-implemented pressure coalition that actually works. And one that might be a prototype for many more like it.

Perhaps the most unique thing about the effort is that it is not designed to embarrass or punish advertisers into not advertising on Fox. Rather, it seeks to educate them about how much it is hurting their brand in and among the many consumer communities (LGBT, environmentalists, Latinos, etc.).  It's the ultimate expression of free market principles. There are many places to advertise. Why do it where it hurts the brand that a company works so hard to build and protect?

Clearly the strategy is starting to prove itself. And with a few more outcomes's like this, it will soon demonstrate that Progressives have more power than many have thought when it comes to influencing the corporate forces which have so dominated our public discourse and politics for years. Stay tuned… 

"Where trade unions are most firmly organized, there are the rights of the people most respected." Samuel Gompers

About

The Wisconsin budget showdown might be the Stonewall moment of this generation. A time when the middle class finally wakes up and decides to take action, trying to save their jobs, their lives, and their nation.  This primer will try to provide key resources that I discover as the story unfolds. If you have things to contribute, please tweet them to @shoq (using hashtag #wiPrimer). As always, using the Tweet button below will help get this where it needs to go: to the people.

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The labor movement in the United States grew out of the need to protect the common interest of workers. For those in the industrial sector, organized labor unions fought for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions. The labor movement led efforts to stop child labor, give health benefits and provide aid to workers who were injured or retired.

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Finally…

A real journalist steps up to knit together the many questions about the Manning story that you probably won't be reading at Firedoglake and Salon.com.  But now, thanks to this post, we may finally see some from the rest of the stenographic media. Emphasis on "may."

I'm pleased that some of the work that my friends and I did is pointing out some of the gaping holes in the story around this Manning detention circus, and the fact that almost no one else has been taking a careful look at all the clowns. They've accepted uncritical, politically charged reporting from Greenwald, Hamsher, House, and FiredogLake, or entirely client-centric spin from Manning's attorney, nearly verbatim—for months.

@MSNBC and Miami Herald columnist Joyannreid writes:

How well does David House know Bradley Manning?

The issue of Manning’s cognitive function is relevant both because of the torture allegations being made, and because of more recent allegations that have surfaced about Manning’s state of mind going back perhaps to 2007.

And this:

So now I’m really confused. A guy who had possible links to Manning before his alleged theft of classified data and who was stopped by Homeland Security from getting on a plane and had his laptop seized in relation to the Manning case, is nonetheless permitted near exclusive access to the defendant at a U.S. military base?

Read the Post

 

Please RETWEET this.

With the button below.  Perhaps we can actually nudge (shame?) more of the media into asking a  few questions. Who knows? Maybe we can start a trend. Again, their tendency to take the easy content, and add no value, is most of my complaint in this entire Manning/Wikileaks affair. If stories this interesting can't get our media to go long on following leads that may be important to the truth, what will?

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Shoq's Related Posts

Team Manning Attacks

Other Resources

 

 

 

Dear Glenn:

Today I posted a blog entry about Jane Hamsher at 1:30 pm, EST. Then I went to the dentist for a 3 hour session. I came back to find Jane Hamsher acting like Jane Hamsher. Rather than respond to anything in my post, she resorted to another round of goofy attacks on me. This time it was for attacking you on a day when you had just entered hospital with what is, apparently, a very serious illness.  .

As my post was 8700 words, a reasonable person would be right in assuming I was editing all morning, and not reading any blogs or other news, so I was of course not aware of your condition.  In fact, my entire stream was unaware of it until Jane tweeted about it.

As my post wasn't really about you, but merely discussed you in a few places (and actually commended you), I doubt I would have withheld it anyway. But I might have added a note at the top to acknowledge your situation. I am quite confident that you know that my complaint is about some of your work, and not remotely about you personally. 

I hope you are getting the best care available.  I wish you well, and a very speedy recovery.

-Shoq

Yesterday, I became another in a distinguished line of critics openly Twitter-flamed by the illustrious Salon.com blogger, Glenn Greenwald. He took time out from the glorious weather in his home town of Rio de janeiro to hector me publicly for posting this tweet on Twitter.

It was addressed to one of my Twitter followers, who has been quite openly concerned about Wikileaks-related issues. In it, I voiced an opinion which implied that the allegations of “inhumane treatment” of Bradley Manning were mostly emanating from what has been reported (or alleged) by Greenwald's blog, or Jane Hamsher's Firedoglake.com (FDL).  From these root sources, a wide array of allegations, suspicions, protests and conspiracy theories have spread out around the globe via the Internet, the mainstream media, and an enormous army of sympathetic voices who see Wikileaks and Manning as their generation's cultural mash-up of Vietnam, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, the Rosenbergs, and Rubin Hurricane Carter, all rolled into one big super-sized, link-baited mega-scandal.

Greenwald is always on the lookout for Internet mentions of himself, and is wicked-fast in his responses to them. If he doesn't immediately post a comment to a critic's blog, or write some caustic diatribe on Salon, he has gone more directly after people like me on Twitter, often with a bullying tone designed to intimidate or cow, or perhaps only to impress his Twitter followers with another example of his special brand of righteous indignation about something or other. Of course, Twitter is just a fun respite from his typical day, which he more often spends eviscerating any Progressive he sees as consorting with the fascist Obama administration, or saving journalism and the free world by lambasting The Nation over a flawed TSA story, or wired.com for their Wikileaks coverage, both of which failed to measure up to his standards of something or other. While my little micro-blog (Twitter) is not even a gnat on the ass of those acclaimed publications, yesterday was my turn to be swatted at by the Rabble-Rouser from Rio.

And so, the story: I had awakened to find that Glenn responded to the tweet to my friend, and what followed was as disturbing as it was revealing.  We had an exchange that many observers found almost comical (if not a little embarrassing for him), as he bullied, badgered, and all but called me names, trying to substantiate his charge that I was asserting “falsehoods” in my tweet. What was false, in his view, was my assertion that only he and Jane Hamsher found Bradley Manning's treatment remarkable, implicitly trying to suggest that it was they who were making most of these charges, and much of the me-too media and the global civil liberties lobby were following their lead.

When I didn't immediately drop to my knees and beg forgiveness for my brash affront to his supremacy in all matters Manning, he attempted to refute my heresy by pasting links to newspapers or organizations like Amnesty International, which had done nothing but report on, or echo his charges, or pledged to "review" them.  None of the links he offered suggested anything unique about the story as it was being told and retold by Greenwald and Hamsher. Moreover, none of them said what reporting they themselves had done, what sources they had consulted, what prompted their decision to probe the case, nor even why they were interested at all. It was almost as if the Flying Spaghetti Monster himself came down to earth and enlightened these institutions about the egregious foulness afoot in the dark recesses of a U.S. military brig.  But Glenn still felt very smug and satisfied that he had called me out on my vicious falsehoods which no one but him could see.

You can see the entire exchange here,as it was favorited to my backup account:

http://twitter.com/#!/Shoqq/favorites  Update #1: A more complete version is here:  http://chirpstory.com/li/593

True to past form, Glenn rushes off to grab his formidable word whacker in order to lash out at me and Miami Herald columnist, Joy-Ann Reid, in another one of his legendary hissyfits.  His supporters have come to adore these rants for their pontifical, libertarian righteousness about all the things he despises, particularly Barack Obama, the US Government, and anyone critical of anything Glenn ever says—or how he says it.

I suspect he included me among his various matters screed not only because he knew he'd best blow some smoke over his silly Twitter spectacle, but also so that he could avail himself of yet one more opportunity to label another critic as an evil “Obama apologist,” using little more than a single tweet without much context.  Realizing that his attempt to Twitter-flame me had backfired a bit, and that my simple request for any hard evidence made him look unprepared, he was going to make the most of what the event had offered. I dared to challenge him to provide some evidence that these other accounts had originated from anything other than the world-wide attention generated from the claims of “inhumane treatment” coming from both he and FDL, and now I was going to feel his wrath.

I am just a lowly technology consultant. I'm not a journalist, and certainly not a professional writer, and neither do I play those roles on Twitter. I am just a commoner with an anonymous cat avatar, and arguably, a minor talent for mocking Republicans. I have no other stature, standing, or even one of those icky dogs in this hunt. Whether Manning is or is not being humanely treated is not within my expertise or my pay grade to know. That is for professional journalists and/or investigators to probe and decide.

My issue and complaint are over how these two bloggers—let's call them Team Manning—have made these charges week after week, and the mainstream media have done little more than take stenography from them about Manning's treatment. Go and Google “Manning and Greenwald” and you'll get 216,000 hits. Then peruse a few dozen of the stories which have appeared in the media and try to find any facts not directly attributed to Team Manning. Let me know what you find. I ask rhetorically because I've tried. It won't be much. What you will find is endless retelling of Team Manning's regular reports, harangues and condemnations, often framed as exposes, which are always aimed directly at a global news audience that they kmnow to be primed and ready to devour anything Manning and/or Wikileaks.

Among other things I am not, is a journalism professor or a media critic, but to my untrained eye, some of the Team Manning stories have seemed like such ginned-up polemics, that I can imagine serious journalists blanching at the reaching, supposition, speculations or just self-righteous moral posturing around which many of their stories revolve. Even when the facts appear to be sound, the conclusions spun from them seem painted with such an uncritical or hyperbolic brush that they come off as mere ideological joy rides on the way to a red herring eating contest. As journalism, they feel more like train wrecks.

Is Team Manning right? Is Bradley Manning, who is being held for possible espionage against these United States, being treated so badly that it rises to the level of inhumane imprisonment—or even torture? I really have no idea. But if they are, I sure don't know it from Team Manning's hyperbolic and often inflammatory reporting, nor from the worldwide echo chamber reverberating from it each day in the mainstream media. If there is any agenda behind my writing this post, beyond merely venting my spleen about what has been an excessive amount of really shoddy Wikileaks coverage from most sources in general, it is that I'd like to start a larger discussion about the many ways our media is failing us. It's a failure that happens far too often, with far too many impacts, and in too many ways that are not being adequately offset by bloggers, citizen journalists, or other alternative media. And if we don't find a way to improve this sad state of affairs, we might as well just surrender now, and let the much more media-savvy Fox Party take over. They probably will anyway.

Having voiced my pretensions toward loftier purpose, let me descend back to earth as a simple Corpizen™ who just wants some responsible reporting from our media.  With respect to Manning, that means getting more than the daily agenda-laden diatribes of two bloggers who are consistently contemptuous of the Obama administration, and work tirelessly to condemn any and all examples of its executive overreach, or any other abuses of power that they can find, allege, speculate, and most of all, furiously fulminate about.

What they do each day is not, to my mind, anything like journalism, nor even good blogging. It's pure political agenda hawking that masquerades as journalism, and it's not a whole lot different from what Fox News does all day long. They find sensational and titillating charges, rumors, or innuendo that supports or confirms their political point of view, and use their broad visibility to make as much self-promoting noise as possible.

That it drives huge traffic to their very successful websites, and promotes their careers as talking heads on the cable news shows, or pumps the coffers of their various political action committees is just an inconvenient truth we're never supposed to notice. This kind of single-focus blogging, day after day, month after month, we are to believe, is purely about truth, justice and the American way. Got that?

Alternatively, let's keep it real. With the tenacity with which Team Manning have pursued the Wikileaks/Manning saga, you might think that the Team itself would become a story for someone with a more journalist chops than I have.  Wikileaks is a global story, and Team Manning found a way to climb aboard that gravy train with relative ease.  All it took was taking up the case of Bradley Manning's supposed torture at the hands of the evil American empire.

Greenwald and Hamsher, and their readers, supporters, and assorted acolytes, collectively comprising the dedicated Team Manning syndicate, have aggressively dogged this story, using not much more—as far as I have been able to find— than the impassioned and subjective accounts of Manning's personal friend, David House, and Manning's attorney, David Coombs. Yet, day by day, both Greenwald and FDL put up deeply emotional and compelling posts asserting this or that abuse, with little more than House's or Coombs's interpretations of what some commander or jail psychologist said about this Manning condition, or that jailer's response to it. Often, I have been frustrated by the lack of documentation for some of these assertions.

Just yesterday, for example, we heard that the Military "admits" Manning was punished, and yet, the statement they claim military officials made is not even copied, nor linked for their readers to evaluate for themselves. You're on your own to evaluate the assertion. Similarly, in other stories, sensational headlines seem to mostly derive from something Coombs said someone else had said. But it always sounds really dramatic, until you parse the story for any really meaningful evidence that substantiates their claims—or reveals just why what is claimed is really all that unique or serious, beyond their grim-faced insistence that it is.

Other times, Team Manning can just take dramatic liberties with facts. Consider this story, where an FDL blogger directly quotes the U.S. Uniform Code Of Military Justice (UCMJ) to support his contention that Manning is being held or treated contrary to its own Article 13, while trying to (unsuccessfully) debunk a very detailed Gawker story that challenged many of the more sensational charges made by Team Manning. The FDL blogger writes:

In fact, there is statutory authority directly on point to this effect, Article 13, UCMJ, prohibits: (1) intentional imposition of punishment on an accused before his or her guilt is established at trial; and (2) arrest or pre-trial confinement conditions that are more rigorous than necessary to ensure the accused’s presence at trial. (See: United States v. Crawford, 62 M.J. 411).”

To my reading of the context, the blogger wants to imply that any form of disciplinary or precautionary measures during his incarceration would violate Article 13. But let's now look at the verbatim text from the actual UCMJ statute:

No person, while being held for trial, may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement upon the charges pending against him, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon him be any more rigorous than the circumstances required to insure his presence, but he may be subjected to minor punishment during that period for infractions of discipline.(bold emphasis mine)

For reasons not clear to me, the blogger redacts the "other than confinement" part in his summary of the statute. Why does he make this seemingly simple adjustment, I wondered? Why not let the reader see the full and unredacted statute and let them decide for themselves what it meant, especially when it's the very statute upon which many of your arguments and protestations are based upon?  Perhaps, I speculate, it is clear that the purpose of the statute is to prevent the brutal beatings and solitary confinements (of the "hole" variety), which are much closer to torture than mere segregation from other inmates, which is often necessary to ensure an inmate's safety. And by redacting the confinement part, the casual reader is less likely to focus on the specific intent of the statute, and is more likely to just dwell on how unjust it is to have any form of punishment inflicted on a pre-trial detainee, almost as if he were not actually in prison yet, and thus subject to any of the safety or disciplinary rules which applied therein. (The Military has consistently maintained that Manning's pre-trial treatment is no different than any other espionage suspect they have held in Quantico, or other brigs.)

Now, I have had 3 friends read that blog post independently, and 2 saw my point, and 1 did not. And that's part of my  point. When you selectively massage the full and unexpurgated facts, you can change the very essence of what something means or implies.  It's poor journalism and/or scholarship, and it can lead to confusion, misinformation, or suspicions of explicit or implicit manipulation. 

I have come cross other representations, distortions, or omissions on some of the other charges that Team Manning have made, and I rarely see the Team post anything that might be used to dispute, mitigate, or suggest alternative framing of their sensational allegations. Here are just a other examples:

That Manning is not a suicide risk: All they provide as evidence of this is David Coombs's statement that 3 brig experts have said he wasn't. Perhaps I missed it, but I have yet to see the actual statements of these experts in several accountings. And we know from earlier stories that other experts said he was.

Could professionals differ in their opinions? Of course. Hamsher has also maintained that despite these “countless testimonials from psychiatrists” (from the same three? Or someone else? She doesn't tell us), Manning was recently placed on a “Suicide Watch”, improperly (once). Though a single instance of such a watch hardly seems like cruel and unusual punishment anyway, even the Washington Post, perhaps more experienced at practicing journalism than Ms Hamsher, has noted yet another of those messy details conveniently omitted from her FDL account:

A Quantico spokesman, First Lt. Scott Villiard, said that he did not know why Averhart recommended the suicide watch, but that the determination was "based on input from more than one person." That included medical professionals, mental health professionals and the Marine guards who watch detainees, he said.

Averhart "has a responsibility to make sure that these detainees are safe, secure and make it to trial," Villiard said.

Does the Team Manning reporting even suggest that there might be a valid concern that a young prisoner, possibly facing a big chunk of his life behind bars, might actually be a suicide risk? Or that perhaps Military brig commanders, who deal with such questions every day, might have a legitimate concern to worry about? Nah.

And is there any cause to worry? You betcha. Just last February, in still another fact that Team Manning doesn't bother to look for, another prisoner in that very same Quantico Brig that is holding Bradley Manning committed suicide.  And military jails, like prisons of all kinds, are known to have suicides, often carried out with great creativity by inmates using everything from shredded linens as nooses, to ingesting shoelaces, to smashing their own heads into commodes. The tragic fact is, prisoners off themselves all the time. You would think that conscientious journalists—or just people interested in seeking the truth—would point out such mitigating factoids to their readers, and maybe even speculate that perhaps a brig commander actually cares that a celebrity prisoner like Bradley Manning will live to even see a trial.  You might think that, but Team Manning doesn't. To them, it's entirely inconvenient to their Obama Military Tortures Bradley Manning narrative.

That Manning conditions are harsh and unusual: this can only be claimed with the caveat that these are pre-trial conditions. As the Gawker article pointed out, this nation has a long and storied career when it comes to incarcerating people, especially in solitary confinement.  But more importantly, their story gets very much to the weaknesses of some Team Manning claims, and with a precision one wouldn't normally expect from a glorified gossip site that uses snarky, but none-the-less accurate pokes like this one:

Manning sleeps on a mattress with a built-in pillow and an uncomfortable blanket, a state of affairs that Greenwald described as a "vindictive denial of a pillow or sheets."

Now, you might ask, “what does a gossip site like Gawker know about how prisoners should be treated?” And you'd be right. So just take a look at this:

United Nation's Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

After browsing the standards for yourself, go back and read some of the more sensational Team Manning accounts that you've read or heard about concerning Manning's treatment, pillows, exercise, and all the other unpleasant things that are supposedly harming his mind as they've been so frequently alleged by Team Manning.

I was hard pressed to find anything that clearly violates the requirements or spirit of the standards set therein, with the possible exception of prisoners being allowed to work—if they want to. But the UN clearly states these are only guidelines, and there are often good reasons why some things can't be done, or always done, as written. Until I know that Manning has even asked to work, and heard the brig's reasons why he's not working, I hardly think this is a very pressing concern. It's certainly not any evidence of "inhumane treatment." Claiming that it is only serves to help desensitize us to the true brutalities of genuinely inhumane incarceration.

But that hasn't slowed up Team Manning even a little bit. Without any really compelling evidence, they continually try to make as much as they can of Manning's physical situation, decrying such things as the "petty, vindictive denial of a pillow or sheets." 

Greenwald would consider it monstrous and Redstate-y of me to point out that Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton had no pillows or swank accommodations in jail either. Never mind that Redstate.com's Eric Erickson has publicly rebuked me for making his early CNN days a "living hell," I just must be a sympathetic tool of those authoritarian-lovin' wingnuts if I even suggest that, historically, unappealing prison hardships are as common as the well intentioned activists who condemn them. The best of those activists would seek to do so for all prisoners, and not just one celebrity defendant who is explicitly connect to a global cause célèbre, and whom Team Manning has vigorously helped propel to a minor level of martyrdom.

You don't have to be a conservative wingnut, or watch more than 100 episodes of MSNBC's Lock-up to know that life in prison just fucking sucks. And that's why I pay my taxes, and don't punch out many Republicans that I meet on movie lines.  And all this high moral posturing that "he hasn't been convicted of anything," completely ignores the fact that a) Manning is a high-profile detainee who should expect to be guarded with a maximum eye toward his personal safety, and b) the U.S. military has never been obligated to follow many civilian rules about matters of law, justice, and confinement. (Just one more reason I loathe our warrior culture in the U.S.)

That Jane Hamsher and House were harassed and prevented from visiting Manning: this yarn, widely reported all over the world (says FDL), is really rather entertaining. Jane Hamsher and David House show up at Quantico to visit Manning and to deliver a “petition” demanding that he be treated better. A summary accounting was was posted on FDL which neatly encapsulated a so very dramatic play by play that was being live- tweeted and blogged on FDL. I was told this spontaneous event was completely unplanned, though Jane and House were both tweeting it aggressively, as were her many FDL fans, and even, I was told, an FDL publicist who was on hand for the fun (which I can't confirm, but I haven't tried, either).

All these accounts make it seem that two big dogs on Team Manning were being harassed and detained without provocation or cause whatever. We were told there was a little mix-up over a silly insurance card which Hamsher only had an electronic copy of. Only later, thanks to real reporters at the Washington Post, that the more serious offense was expired license plates. This even gets echoed at the bottom of the play by play by an FDL commenter:

Just can’t believe this would happen in America . . . hey, your tweets seemed to leave out the fact that your car had expired tags? Sure it was just a mistake and not a deliberate omission.

As you might expect, this was played all over the world as a dramatic event that had some meaning, but from what I've seen so far, the expired plates are downsized to some "minor traffic violation."  As the story rolls, those big bad U.S. Military bastards were preventing them for seeing Manning—the torture victim.

Never mind that House and Hamsher had both visited him before, and that no one seems to have said they couldn't come back and try again with plates that were not expired. But of course, that wouldn't sound nearly dramatic. Better to play victim and make the narrative all about the unjust harassment of Manning's valiant protectors. Could Jane have seen this coming? I mean, is showing up at one of America's most secure military bases with a great big box, but without a regular insurance card, or valid license plates, something she might have anticipated as a potential problem? It's not like the base is just another base:

Quantico is one of the largest U.S. Marine Corps bases in the world. Home to Marine Corps Combat Development Command and HMX-1 (the presidential helicopter squadron), DEA Training Academy, FBI Academy and FBI Laboratory. The base is known as the "Crossroads of the Marine Corps. Source

More importantly, it's not like Hamsher and House, having traveled all this way, did not have prior access to the information that any military person, or their families, nor anyone else that has ever visited any U.S. Base knows all too well: have your shit together.

So there we are…

Above, I've tried to list just a few of the things that have been reported by Team Manning which are just never quite as urgent or outrageous as they first seemed, once some thoughtful questions are asked, or mitigating facts are considered. Those are things good journalists are supposed to do for us before we think we need them. If a  crowd-sourced wiki were to be set-up on this subject, a few thousand people could probably pick apart most of what Team Manning has reported in the past 6 months.

And that might be useful, because the mainstream media is clearly not interested in debunking or de-sensationalizing topics like these. Knowing that Wikileaks is very big news, and very big traffic, they have no motive to vet such things. For them, Team Manning is just a factory for more free content, and a source of more links they can sprinkle around the Internet. And for the many well meaning liberals and civil libertarians all over the world who are following these stories? They seem to have very little inclination to question much of it.  Sympathetic to many of the emerging Wikileaks memes and issues, they eagerly accept what Team Manning produces as intuitive or obvious.

And what makes that so maddening to me is that I share many of the concerns of those same civil libertarians. I am deeply troubled about where our nation is heading, and many of the issues that Team Manning often touches on are very important to our free society—as long as it lasts. All the more reason why the reporting should be thorough, balanced, and as hyperbole-free as possible. These stories and their underlying facts should be as well vetted as they can be, and it really shouldn't be up to amateur fact checkers like me to police the reporting. We generally need a better process for doing that, and people like Scott Rosenberg and his Mediabugs project  are working on it. 

But in the meantime, Team Manning would do us all a much better service if they would stop making themselves or their beliefs and agendas the story quite so often, and just try and guide all of us to the salient facts as they find them, without always trying to pump-up each little emerging development as if it were the next big stop-the-presses moment. The rest of us, for our part, should be tweeting and bitching the crap out of the mainstream media until they responsibly follow up on what bubbles up from that process.

Though they have pissed me off many times, I have absolutely nothing personal against either Glenn Greenwald or Jane Hamsher. I think Glenn can be spot on target sometimes about other issues (most recently, his discussion of Clarence Thomas's ethical fails). I value his place in the many conversations we are all having about the future of America. That said, I also think he can be a comic-book-level pugnacious narcissist and bully who has a very unprofessional habit of labeling any critic of anything he says as an Obama-loving sycophant.

For the record, and for readers who don't follow my Twitter stream, I have many criticisms of Obama, even more of Democrats, and an unbridled, Chris Hedges-level fury at the corporatists who run almost every show in this country.  I simply believe the problems facing this nation require that Democrats, feeble as they may be right now, still maintain control of government so that we have even the smallest prayer of fixing any of those problems, despite the long odds. They will never be fixed by these loopy Teaparty Republicans. Period. And as long as that holds true, I will urge constructive criticism that aims to encourage Obama to move as left as he can, without turning the whole mess back over to the people who created it. I do not see the relentless administration bashing, nor the Team Manning brand of winner-take-all idealism, which there is no progressive mandate to actually achieve right now, as being even marginally helpful toward that end. And I more strongly believe that the incessant, anti-establishment, anti-government, anti-capitalist, stick-it-to-the-man style libertarian cum-nihilist wing of the Fuck Anything Or Anyone That Impedes My Personal Liberties Party, who are constantly rallying around Greenwald and Hamsher on Twitter, are hardly the people who will find solutions to our problems, and probably not support them if we ever find any.

And I do have my doubts about Hamsher's motivations, but perhaps I am just cynical over her Hollywood past, and her tendency to show up on TV whenever a chance to bash Obama or the administration pops up. And I have still not forgiven her for palling around with Grover Norquist.

Finally, I have no complaints with most of the other bloggers at Firedoglake or Salon. I try to look at each blogger's work independently. While of course, Jane has her soldiers and standard bearers at FDL, there are fine bloggers like Marcy Wheeler and Spencer Ackerman whose work on other topics has often stood apart from Hamsher's daily agenda and her steady stream of polemical angst.

I never meant this post to turn into this epic. But I don't regret writing it. Thanks for getting this far. Now I want to get back to thinking about how we might fix what's mostly wrong with America. And for me, that's not Barack Obama, Wikileaks, or the treatment of someone who violated his duty oath and is now imprisoned as an espionage suspect awaiting military due process. I am strenuously opposed to torture or human abuse in any form, and if Bradley Manning is in fact being mistreated, I would welcome responsible journalistic or legal efforts to reveal it so that it might be stopped.

I  wish Bradley Manning well. He probably did think he was doing a righteous thing, revealing something that the world needed to see. But was one more of the many unfortunate massacres of innocent civilians, which happen with every war really worth this personal sacrifice? I don't think so. As with the Phoenix project, the Bay of Bigs, the Gulf of Tonkin, Pat Tillman, and other abuses of government in wartime, these things probably would have surfaced in other ways. 

But then I'm not Bradley Manning.  But if I were he, and I really did believe what he said he believed, then I would have fully prepared myself for the criminal consequences that I would surely face before I engaged in what any service member knows is a clear and unambiguous crime against their government.

I would do it with fear. I would do it with pride. I would do it with a conviction that I had a higher purpose in life. But I would not do it without expecting a swift and severe punishment for it.

Related

I am hardly the first to call out Greenwald and FDL for the sensational polemics they put out in pursuit of some larger political agenda; one which they seem all too eager to drape over Manning and Wikileaks. And like many of them, I expect I will shortly face yet another of Glenn's scathing word-dumps denouncing me for my vicious lies, smears, or my fascistic obsequiousness. I am sure he will again use me as an example of "how bad things are," without ever seeing himself as part of those things.

Just to give context to that precious moment, when and if it does come, here are just a few related items you can find on the web about Glenn, Jane, Team Manning, or other things I've discussed herein:

Lt. Villiard said to me that he enjoys his job, and enjoys the opportunity to be "as transparent as humanly possible" about the work of the Dept. of Defense.  He noted that the cause of transparency is harmed when journalists like Greenwald write op-eds and make misleading claims.  It diminishes trust in the relationship between reader, journalist, and the subject who is interviewed.

"You are not being tortured if you are denied access to a newspaper."

"Greenwald and the people at FDL are actually reducing our ability to call foul on real corruption. After all, if everything is a scandal, nothing is a scandal."

“The fact that anyone defends Obama on the grounds that he is a good person is a 'follower' who lacks the perfect intellectual purity of the Holy Greenwald and his flock”.

    "There you go again!"

    Once more, as they have so often done, the right wing is going to try to rewrite history, methodically reconstructing 8 horrendous years of the Bush administration, replacing a systemic pattern of crimes, malfeasance, and incompetence with glowing portraits of another unsung American hero who exists only in their minds, and the pages of a carefully crafted script, written by a right wing organization and hand delivered to Fox News for a daily distribution to the masses.

    It's begun with the pimping on his memoir, and a slow and steady parade of pundits and commentators "suggesting" that the Bush years may be in for a big makeover.

    It will get steadily worse over the next year, as the GOP attempts to place all blame for the nation's economic malaise onto Obama and the Democrats, while recasting every historical reality they can sell to their increasingly (and embarrassingly) gullible Foxified audience

    And they know how do do it. They did it with Ronald Reagan. Most people under 40 are still working with bastardized facts, alternate reality fabrications, and outright lies about his miserable presidency, the many policies of which helped lay the foundation for the absolute ruination of the American way of life that Barack Obama is now tasked with holding together with paste, bailing wire and duct tape. 

    You can blame Grover Norquist for what a rather brilliant strategy and near perfect execution. I call his technique, Colorforms history. Plastic dress and ornamentation are applied to a skeletal frame, presenting a fun and colorful portrait which suits the makers rhetorical, political, and propaganda ambitions. With enough repetition by a compliant media, the plastic bonds to the frame and the false depiction becomes the permanent reality—even in text books.

    It Doesn't Have To Work This Time

    Learn Grover's methods and note his tricks. You will soon seen them turning up everywhere—again. The primary devices can be seen in this one brief profile of his most successful project ever:

    The Ronald_Reagan_Legacy_Project

    Now that democrats are once again in the minority, the GOP will launch a steady stream of investigations, resolutions, and commemorations, all orchestrated by astroturf groups, with the express purpose of convincing the next generation that one of our worst presidents, was actually one of our best.

    Please help resist this grotesque manipulation. Each time you see evidence of their efforts to fool us again, lash out hard. Direct people to this post using blog comments, tweets, or any other web tool at your disposal. And of course, retweeting this post often with the little green button will help jump start an effective counter-revisionism right now. Worry not when you do; this blog never sells advertising. Unlike Grover, it's about truth telling… not selling.

    Related

    About Grover Norquist

    About Revisionism & Propaganda