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December 22, 2004

Adventures In Journalism: I'm Wearing Pajamas!

The unthinking arrogance of some major media columnists astounds me sometimes.

Yes, obviously I'm easily astounded. My god, there's a bird standing on one leg! Astounding!

Perhaps I should qualify the statement, and say it's the continued unthinking arrogance of some major media columnists, given the fact that somewhere in the world, someone typing in his pajamas will cast a jaundiced eye on even the blandest assertions of fact, think "I wonder....," then proceed with the fact checking.

Take Ted Rall, whom I don't normally pay much attention to, as his every column seems like it's written from the viewpoint of an X-Files level paranoiac, but it's a slow day. I'm not going to debate his Social Security numbers, as there's no point. Social Security monetary projections are like Bible verses. Look hard enough, and one can find something to support even the wildest suppositions.

No, what gets my goat is his breezy instruction to

Think back to the 2000 election campaign. Was anyone talking about Iraq? No way. Yet by fall 2002 we'd gotten so riled up--although nothing had changed--that millions thought Saddam was an imminent threat that had to be taken out. You have to hand it to George W. Bush: he can conjure a crisis from a vacuum.

The emphasis is Ted's, by the way. It's almost as if he wants a thousand enraged and spittle flecked responses to find their way onto the Net. I suspect he does. Ted strikes me as the type who defines himself by the number of people he can piss off, rather than by the number of those he has inspired. I don't blame him. It's much harder to reach out in one's prose than it is to slap back, and when taking the low road is also financially rewarding, the temptation must be overwhelming.

Online Netiquette Tip #8 "You are what you write." Not sure what this makes me, other than some off-putting flavor of moldy white bread, but for Ted, "bitter and vindictive," spring to mind PDQ.

Still, it's not "although nothing had changed" that stuck in my filter. The mesh has been adjusted there, so that incitations of that nature, like "Bushitler" and "Red State Morons" pass right through. There's no common ground for dialog, so why bother even to notice? Best just to quietly revel in the repeated humiliations the world saves for those who believe in such things, perhaps with an appropriate ale in hand.

No, what turned my head was Rall's declaration that no one was talking about Iraq during the 2000 election, even though we'd been enforcing a no-fly zone there for years by then. It's a stupid thing to assert, and what's more, it's an easy thing to check. It is, of course, also wrong.

New York Times - October 30, 2000 - If elected president, Al Gore says he will use America's military power to halt Bosnia-style massacres, its economic influence to press failing states to adopt democracy, and the carrot of trade accords to encourage adoption of Western-style labor and environmental standards.
...
Mr. Gore, in his interview, showed that he indeed has absorbed seven years of daily intelligence briefings - and that he can name names with ease. He spoke with authority about the differences between the separatist movements in two parts of Indonesia, and discussed what kind of opposition movements in Iraq the United States could exploit to help unseat Saddam Hussein.

A Lexis/Nexis search on that article revealed that it was originally accompanied by a graphic - "The Candidates on Using Force Abroad." The invasion of Iraq was the fourth entry on the list GORE -- "Yes, I voted for it, supported it." BUSH -- "Yes."

George Bush - September 29, 2000 - "On the Clinton/Gore watch, Saddam Hussein's Iraq has become a major supplier of oil to America. This means that one of our worst international enemies is gaining more and more control over America's economic future."

The Second Bush/Gore Debate - Oct 20, 2000

Bush - "The coalition against Saddam Hussein has fallen apart, or it is unraveling, let's put it that way. The sanctions (against Iraq) are being violated. We don't know whether he's developing weapons of mass destruction. He better not or there's going to be a consequence should I be president."

Asked if there were any real differences in their positions on the Middle East, Bush suggested that he "would be able to convince people I could handle the Iraqi situation better.... There's no inspectors now in Iraq. The coalition that was in place (during the 1989-1993 presidency of Bush's father) isn't as strong as it used to be. He (Saddam) is a danger. We don't want him fishing in troubled waters in the Middle East. ...It's going to be important to rebuild that coalition to keep the pressure on him."

Gore - "I want to give robust support to the groups that are trying to overthrow Saddam Hussein. And I know there are allegations that they're too weak to do it. But that's what they said about the forces that were opposing Milosevic in Serbia. And you know, the policy of enforcing sanctions against Serbia has just resulted in a spectacular victory for democracy just in the past week. ....You know all these flights that have come in (to Iraq), all of them have been in accordance with the sanctions regime, I'm told, except for three, where they notified. And they're trying to break out of the box, there's no question about it. I don't think they should be allowed to."

New York Post - Oct 8th, 2000 (via Lexis/Nexis, so no link. Sorry) -

In the tussle between the Butcher of Baghdad and the Wafflers of Washington, Saddam has bested Team Clinton-Gore.

Less than 10 years after President Bush's triumph in the Gulf, the sanctions on Iraq are history. Saddam is free to brutalize his countrymen, threaten his neighbors, wreak havoc with oil.
...
And Saddam has made a mockery of the U.N.'s "humanitarian" decisions to lift the bans on oil, food and medical supplies: Goods are reportedly re-sold abroad, with the proceeds - along with the oil money - spent on Saddam, his henchmen and military rebuilding.
...
It's only a matter of time before the last vestiges of the sanctions - meant to ensure that Saddam trashed his weapons of mass destruction (right!) - fall by the wayside.

Meanwhile, U.N. inspectors train and train, forever waiting for Saddam's OK to enter Iraq. They're getting quite good.
...
Saddam has proved time is on his side.

Clinton's successor - whomever he might be - has a problem.

The Christian Science Monitor - September 21, 2000 - Iraqi President Saddam Hussein appears to be testing US mettle just as the Clinton administration comes to a close and America occupies itself with presidential elections.

In recent weeks, Saddam has threatened two US allies - Kuwait and Saudi Arabia - and tried to urge other oil-producing countries not to help the US and Europe with their soaring fuel costs.

Those actions have put US officials in a bind - because they don't want a military engagement so late in President Clinton's term and they don't want Iraq to play a role in the tight election between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

The above are the results of less than 10 minutes searching. 10 minutes more would bring up at least as many results. Obviously people were talking about Iraq during the 2000 election--which brings me to another reason why there's no point in picking apart Rall's arguments on Social Security.

When the first thing out of his mouth is a demonstrable untruth, why should I bother with the rest of it?

Posted by Bigwig at December 22, 2004 11:12 AM | TrackBack
Postscript:
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.
Comments

Bah! What a waste of time! All you have on your side is facts and logic. Mr. Rall has badly drawn "cartoons", liberal vitriol, and blatant racism. That trumps your puny facts and logic every time.

Nice job of research, by the way,

Posted by: UML Guy at December 22, 2004 04:49 PM

Ted Rall's essays are about as well thought out and accurate as his cartoons are clever and funny.

Posted by: kman at December 22, 2004 04:55 PM

You have infinitely more patience than I do. Unfortunately, that patience won't pay off.

I've told people for years that it wasn't that no one was talking about it, it was that nobody was listening.

Selective memory, even when links are handed to them, even when transcripts are pointed to. It doesn't matter, all that matters is Bushitler! Warmonger! Bush Lied Troops died!

As for the troops, where were all of these "caring" people 4 years ago? 6 years ago? 10 years ago? I get told constantly how bad the benefits are, how bad the armor situation is, I can go on for days. Where were they when it truly was shit? Is it perfect now? God no, but it's light years ahead of where we were 5 years ago. It doesn't matter that my family lives it, I'm wrong, they're right.

My husband is a Soldier, that must mean he's stupid and had no other options, I'm just a Soldiers wife, that must mean that I just don't understand, or that I'm uneducated in the matter. Whatever.

I'm at the point that I'm sick of the whole thing. Babble away people, I'm done responding, it's not that I don't care or that I don't know, it's just that they don't care to listen. They, who have never walked in my shoes or my husband's boots, want to lecture me on what we live, what we see. Amazing.

I'm done,I'm tired. I have enough to deal with without their "help".

Posted by: W at December 22, 2004 05:13 PM

I haven't the slightest idea what Ted Rall is trying to accomplish with his writings/drawings. I don't know who pays his salary, but surely there are better columnists on the left who will work for his wages.

Nothing's worse than opinion/editorial writers who completely ignore the facts and fail to do any reporting. I cannot stand articles that look like they were taken from the DNC or RNC platform.

Posted by: Michael at December 22, 2004 06:14 PM

Don't give up hope quite yet.

You'd be suprised how one "anti" opinion resonates.

It will soon be the two year anniversary of my "newbie" status with the blogosphere.

The more I read, the more I learned.

Keep speaking out. You may think you are "preaching to the choir," but, in fact, any one individual post may be the springboard for another "newbie" to start thinking and searching for answers.

Believe in what you believe. Speak out against what you see as errors. "Opinionate."

I think if you (we) knew the half of it, we would be very humbled by the force of (near)daily self-expression.

It has a sincerity that cannot be denied. For many, it whets the appetite for further knowledge/research -- for many, it may even represent the first introduction to critical thinking.

If you believe something, say it.

I think that is THE lesson in the face of fascism and propaganda: Have not only the conviction of your beliefs, but the conviction that your beliefs deserve to be heard and might make a difference.

Or, at least, the conviction that you have the right to believe as you do, and that you have the right to express that belief.

Exercising said right always strengthens it.

That can only be a good thing.

Posted by: cj at December 22, 2004 11:10 PM

I don't read your stuff often, but I am usually impressed by what you put down on paper. I hafta wonder, though. It's good research, lots of good quotes and all, but why bother? For Ted Rall? It's a waste of your time and talent. Hell, probably the only reason he's still alive is because the bullet is more valuable than he is. Oh well, the essence of what you wrote is good.

Posted by: mark at December 23, 2004 10:24 AM

Ted Rall's real problem is that he is having a debate with his own imagination. He's never actually listened to what Bush or members of his administration said about the war. His comment that:

"millions thought Saddam was an imminent threat that had to be taken out."

The Bush administration never argued that Saddam was an "imminent" threat i.e that he would likely attack within some near term time frame. In fact, Bush repeatedly argued that we needed to attack him before the threat became "imminent."

But Ralls, like many other war opponents, just assumed that Bush was basing his argument on an imminent threat because that is one of the classic justifications for a war. He never actually bothered to listen.

Leftist like Ralls live in their own little echo chamber of a world. They don't actually know what the arguments of the other side makes.


Posted by: Shannon Love at December 23, 2004 11:05 AM
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