August 27, 2010

If I've Won Cronkite, I've Won America

jessica lynch.jpg
PFC Jessica Ogilvy

Yesterday, on the Ron & Fez show (XM202-- this is a stellar show), the director of The Tillman Story was interviewed.  The Tillman Story is a docu-drama on the the cover-up of the death of Pat Tillman.

I haven't seen the movie yet; but something the director said to host Ron Bennington completely floored me.

If you can remember the Jessica Lynch story, she was ambushed and attacked by Iraqi soldiers, and, apparently, ninjas, who stabbed and tortured her and then hospitalized her.  Then came the daring rescue operation with Rangers and Seals, the first ever military rescue of a POW (?)  We've since learned that that there were no ninjas in Jessica's ambush, and the rescue footage was staged and edited by the military.

jessica lynch rescue1.jpg"this is impressive"

jessica lynch rescue2.jpg

That the military would manufacture the truth doesn't surprise me.  I've seen enough action movies to know that a) it's always a cover-up; b) it goes all the way to the top.  Poor Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austrian immigrant, was the victim of a military cover-up 11 times between 1984 and 1999.  It's a wonder he wasn't later killed by a drunk driver in a terrible hit and run accident, but I guess they figured keep your enemies closer.

commando scene.JPGSully chose to take the blue pill

Because of the 2007 Congressional hearings, we have finally been able to see the real, unedited footage of that rescue, and it shows... well, it's boring.  No bad guys, no radio for air support, no one needs to shoot two pistols at once.  They do actually get her, but you clearly get the sense that this less for Jessica's benefit than for the camera's.

I know, I know, it was Evil George Bush and the Republicans hiding the truth, trying to get us flag waving.  For the record, I didn't expect it to change at all under Obama, and so far so right.  No one who sits in that chair is going to willingly give up any power.  He can barely make things work with all that power, "how am I going to do this with less?"  Power corrupts and absolute blah blah blah. Maybe instead of pardons, an outgoing President could sign away powers?

So this is what the director of The Tillman Story said, and I'm trying to quote from memory:

Ron: And the other thing I found fascinating was how the news networks went along with it.

Amir: I'm so glad you brought this up, because this is really the real story.  That unedited footage (of Lynch's rescue) we show in the movie didn't come from some undercover/hacker network, it wasn't Deep Throat-- we got that footage from the regular news media.  They had both the edited and unedited footage the whole time, but they chose to run the edited footage because it was more dramatic.

Holy crap.  You almost expect it from Fox News, ok; maybe even CNN, they just want ratings, fine.  But did no one in 2003 think to show the unedited footage?  Even selfishly to boost their own ratings, did no one try to make the story, "Hey, Look, the MSM Is Lying To You!"

When they pretend not to know the truth about some pop culture story, the real shame is on me for expecting truthful reporting on nonsense.  But  for the media to pretend not to know the truth about something like this-- dozens of news outlets, all playing chicken hoping no one  blinks first and tells the truth...


There's a lot written about the causes of the failings of the Froth Estate: beholden to ratings, a dumbed down America, having to compete with other media, but I submit a slightly different cause: there's too many of them.

Back in the day, when there were three networks giving America the news, if any one of them went a different way, it would have been big news.  "If I've lost Cronkite," President Johnson maybe said, "I've lost America" and he was right for a different reason than he meant: he wasn't the window to America, he was the filter of the information.  Cronkite wasn't filtering anymore.

In fact, the intellectually snobby thing to do circa 1969 was pretend to read the foreign press.  If you read Le Monde you were sophisticated, and if you read Izvestiya and Pravda-- smuggled out or transcribed from memory, of course-- you were outing yourself as an intelligence analyst.

Now there are news outlets everywhere, all competing with each other-- hence the focus isn't truth but survival, and survival means more boob pictures and a willingness to play by the government's rules because if they cut you off, you're done.

There's an even worse factor in play: the multitude of news outlets makes you think they're all checking on each other, that even if one gets it wrong the other 19 won't.  But most are  getting their story from the same single source, the AP.

"So where do we go for objective news?"  I don't think that's the question, because the market requests it, and the way to get the market to request it is for all of us to be aware of the tricks and manipulations of media.

I make fun of John Stewart because it seems silly to me, but maybe shows like his are the only thing standing between us and, well, CNN.