Surrender Monkeys: Liberal
Strategy in Culture Wars: Play Dead -- by Allan Uthman
press is all over Newsweek’s "Quran in the toilet"
article and subsequent retraction. The story is hot. It’s
renewed interest in the debate over the credibility of the
media, the responsibility of journalists, and available
remedies when they make mistakes. For the first time in
American history, the deaths of a handful of Muslims is
a big deal, and many are advocating the firing of, well,
some people at Newsweek.
thing it seems nobody is interested in is that the story
reported at RawStory.com, "the allegations of religious
desecration at Guantanamo…are common among ex-prisoners
and have been widely reported outside the United States…Several
former detainees at the Guantanamo and Bagram airbase prisons
have reported instances of their handlers sitting or standing
on the Quran, throwing or kicking it in toilets, and urinating
New York Times reported on a hunger strike at Gitmo
in 2002, sparked by such Quran abuse, which ended when a
senior officer apologized to the camp. They got the story
from a detainee, and a former interrogator confirmed it.
Another detainee confirmed the story in the Guardian
a year later, and another in the Daily Mirror.
The Washington Post reported on a toilet incident
in March of 2003, with a detainee as the source. There are
more accounts, from the BBC, court testimony, and other
sources. Whether Newsweek’s story is accurate or
not, what’s clear is that US interrogators have indeed desecrated
the Quran, like it or not.
mistake, it seems, was reporting that the Pentagon was actually
going to admit what they had done, which, I must say, seems
like quite a stretch.
New York Times’ Judy Miller relied on a single source,
Ahmed Chalabi, for a series of articles which legitimized
Bush WMD claims leading up to the Iraq war. As we all (I
hope) know now, Chalabi was feeding Miller a line of crap
designed specifically to elicit public approval for the
war. But no one at Fox, or the National Review, or any other
conservative news source, is banging their drums for Miller’s
head. Why? Her "lies" got them what they wanted.
fact, despite The Times’ continued amnesiac reporting
about the war and total denial of America’s status as an
international lawbreaker, conservatives still attack the
paper on a daily basis as the bastion of the "liberal
media elite." And it’s working. In its own recent internal
report, "Preserving our Readers’ Trust," many
recommendations are made to the Times’ executive
editor, some of which are obvious reactions to the increasingly
strained criticism they’ve been receiving from increasingly
incoherent ideologues. Among the "improvements"
recommended are increasing religious coverage, avoidance
of "loaded" terms—like "religious fundamentalists"—and
including more "contrarian" viewpoints. In other
words, they’re either buying into the "balanced"
fallacy, or they’re tired of mean people yelling at them
and they’re caving in.
favorite quote from the Times report: "The public
editor found that the overall tone of our coverage of gay
marriage, as one example, "approaches cheerleading."
By consistently framing the issue as a civil rights matter
-- gays fighting for the right to be treated like everyone
else -- we failed to convey how disturbing the issue is
in many corners of American social, cultural and religious
that really framing? Isn’t gay marriage a civil rights issue,
regardless of whether you’re for or against it? You know
what else was a similarly "disturbing" issue in
those same corners once? Interracial marriage. I wonder
how the public editor would have "balanced" its
coverage on that? Sometimes, the truth is just the truth.
right wing’s distaste for reportage that reflects poorly
on its heroes, no matter how solid, demonstrates the falsehood
of the "balance" concept: it really doesn’t go
both ways. While some liberals find the decidedly conservative
Washington Times’ emphasis on the UN oil-for-food
scandal to be disproportionate, nobody’s saying the story
shouldn’t be investigated. Nobody’s calling it a witch-hunt,
nobody’s calling the reporters scumbags or calling for them
to be arrested. That would be just stupid. On the other
hand, Washington Times editor and general gasbag
Tony Blankley thinks the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh
should be tried for espionage. Maybe he’s just jealous of
all those scoops.
silliest thing about all of this is the unquestioned dogma
on the right that stodgy, middle-of-the-road publications
like the New York Times and Newsweek are leftist.
This is, really, just stupid. If you’re looking for a left-wing
Bush-hating rag to target, try the Nation—or the
Beast, for that matter. But to characterize a magazine
that carries the delusional ravings of George Will as commie
propaganda—which, seriously, a lot of these people really
think—only says to the rest of us that you either have never
read the thing or you’re nuts.
to those who mindlessly cheer on corruption and eagerly
anticipate a more authoritarian future for America, the
real crime of Newsweek, and of Dan Rather, isn’t
in their journalistic screw-ups. Their crime is pursuing
a story which reflects poorly on America, or Republican
America. Exposing our ugliness is "unpatriotic,"
whether the story is true or not. These same people calling
for heads to roll at Newsweek think everyone who
files an embarrassing story is a traitor. When footage surfaced
of marines shooting a wounded man in Iraq, the photographer
was to blame. When the famous Abu Ghraib pictures exploded
across front pages around the world, whoever let the pictures
get out there was the culprit.
most would not admit it, behind this mindset is the conviction
that there’s really nothing wrong with torture, religious
desecration, indefinite imprisonment without charges, or
indeed killing, as long as we’re doing it to foreigners
and they’re not doing it to us. When stories like this break,
conservatives aren’t appalled; they’re embarrassed.
And when a story goes south, they jump on it with bared
fangs, attributing the mistake to some ludicrous "journalistic
jihad" to overthrow the government.
believe me? Well, just to be sure no one thinks this article
isn’t "balanced" enough, I checked out what some
of the red meat conservatives over at FreeRepublic.com had
to say about the Newsweek scandal. Here are a few
highlights from a single thread on the topic:
quotes aren’t made up, folks. It goes on and on like this,
seriously. These people really, really believe that the
editorial staff at Newsweek—Newsweek, for
Christ’s sake—wake up every morning and say, "Let’s
see…how can I help to destroy America, get people killed,
and undermine Christian values today?"
mind that Mike Isikoff, co-writer of the Newsweek
piece, spent the better part of the ‘90s pursuing Clinton
sex scandal stories, one of which actually turned out to
be true. Of course, nobody seemed to have a problem with
Isikoff using what Media Matters calls "…sources whose
stories were unverifiable, motivated by personal agendas,
and often collapsed under later scrutiny" back then.
That was helping America, to the freepers.
what they see as unpatriotic, or downright treasonous, is
empathy for the other, the tendency or even the ability
to put oneself in someone else’s shoes. Stories about lengthy
detention and torture without charge bother most people,
because they imagine themselves in the situation. They imagine
how terrible it must be, how awfully unfair, especially
for those who have done nothing to deserve such treatment.
But the Neocon horde and the "Christian" conservatives
see such empathy as not only weak, but a crime—a thoughtcrime.
They go on the offensive instinctively, because they see
weakness in it. And a weakness it is, because rather than
standing up and defending themselves, yielding no ground
the way any good conservative would, news outlets like Newsweek,
CBS, and the New York Times fall into fits of self-examination
that no right winger would ever engage in. They crumple
and fold like the pussies they are when faced with minor
errors backed up by lots of yelling, while Republicans refuse
to concede even their most clear and blatant lies in the
face of overwhelming evidence.
why the right is winning. Their case is laughable, but they
don’t give an inch, ever. They will never sacrifice their
own—not O’Reilly, not John Bolton, not Rumsfeld, nobody.
They push and push, and they win. And liberals wring their
hands, still not ready to meet them with equal force, still
trying to talk it out with people who are actively trying
to shut down the free flow of information, even to themselves.
You don’t talk to people like that; you fight them. You
don’t try to respect their beliefs—when have they ever done
that for you? You belittle them at every turn, because they
deserve it. You call them what they are: Stupid. Ignorant.
Delusional. Bigoted. Fascists.
if you’re more eloquent, you might say something like this: