Kidsí Bucks Vile "Propaganda"; CBS & ABC Conflict on Civilians Killed; NPR: Journalists First, Americans Second; Brokawís Anger
1) ABC News portrayed President Bushís call for kids to
give a dollar each to help Afghan children as a vile propaganda ploy.
Michele Norris warned that "behind the scenes there are quiet
grumblings about this dollar drive" with "concerns that American
children are being used in a propaganda campaign." But school
officials are afraid to speak out now that "America appears to be
swept up by symbolism."
2) CBS and ABC aired conflicting reports about civilian
deaths caused by U.S. bombing. "In Kabul, they say, only military
targets have been hit," CBSís Jim Axelrod summarized in relaying
the view of refugees, one of whom suggested "they say that civilians
are killed to stop Americaís attacks." ABCís David Wright,
however, highlighted how "the Taliban claim that some 200 civilians
lost their lives in the attack on Jalalabad alone."
3) CNNís Tom Mintier found people walking out of
Kandahar in order to avoid U.S. bombing "reminiscent of what happened
in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 1975 when the residents started fleeing the
city as Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge started to take over."
4) "I donít care if heís sending a signal,"
NPRís Nina Totenberg proclaimed in blithely dismissing any concern about
the chance Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda are using their videos to send
messages to agents in the U.S.
5) Asked if NPR correspondents "would report the
presence of an American commando unit" unknown to the enemy, NPR
senior foreign editor Loren Jenkins responded: "You report it"
since "I don't represent the government. I represent history,
information, what happened."
6) Actor James Woods told Jay Leno: "I love George
Bush right now" because heís handling terrorism in a "very
deliberate, very careful" manner. Woods fondly recalled the way the
U.S. responded to Moammar Gadhafi which ended his terrorism by killing
"his whole family, blew the crap out of them, never heard from him
7) Tom Brokaw concluded Fridayís NBC Nightly News:
"This is so unfair and so outrageous and so maddening itís beyond
my ability to express it in socially-acceptable terms."
could find a nefarious motive behind President Bushís call for
schoolchildren to donate one dollar each to help kids in Afghanistan,
castigating it as insidious "propaganda"? ABC News. On Friday
night ABCís Michele Norris asserted that "behind the scenes"
at schools "there are quiet grumblings about this dollar drive. There
are concerns that American children are being used in a propaganda
In an October 12 World News Tonight story,
Norris showed video of kids in St. Paul and Washington, DC
enthusiastically lining up to put dollar bills into bottles and boxes on
Friday following the Presidentís request made Thursday night at his
press conference. A five-year-old kid in Kansas City, she noted, decided
to give all the money he had, $29.
Norris asked an 11-year-old boy in Washington,
DC: "What do you think it says about this country?"
replied: "I think it says that our country is loving and
Norris then countered his naive idealism as
she ominously intoned: "Behind the scenes there are quiet grumblings
about this dollar drive. There are concerns that American children are
being used in a propaganda campaign. But school officials said they
wouldnít dare air those concerns publicly, not when America appears to
be swept up by symbolism. Apparent today as Americaís school children,
at the urging of the White House, simultaneously recited the Pledge of
With over 50 million kids, I think, under age
15 in the U.S., a dollar each from just half of them would seem to add up
to a bit more than "symbolism."
Following video of children at various
locations reciting the pledge, Norris concluded on an affirmative note:
"In the war against terrorism, a new tactic: Responding to hatred
with generosity from Americaís young."
With the kind of jingoistic attitude the
11-year-old expressed ("I think it says that our country is loving
and caring"), heíll never get a job as a journalist.
ABC aired conflicting reports Friday night from Northern Afghanistan about
civilian deaths caused by U.S. bombing. "In
Kabul, they say, only military targets have been hit," CBSís Jim
Axelrod summarized in relaying the view of some refugees he encountered.
"ĎNo civilians are killed,í says this man" who suggested
"ĎThey say that civilians are killed to stop Americaís
attacks.í" ABCís David Wright, however, highlighted how "the
Taliban claim that some 200 civilians lost their lives in the attack on
Jim Axelrod checked in from Northern
Afghanistan on the October 12 CBS Evening News: "Seventeen refugees
from Kabul are packed into this truck, more cling to the roof,
eyewitnesses to the strikes. In Kabul, they say, only military targets
have been hit. ĎNo civilians are killed,í says this man, Ďonly the
Taliban are killed. They say that civilians are killed to stop Americaís
attacks. They announce that. Itís wrong.í"
Over on ABCís World News Tonight David
Wright, also from Northern Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance,
relayed: "U.S. officials confirm today that they continue to be in
touch with the Northern Alliance but they say that they are not
coordinating targets with them. Meanwhile, on the Taliban side,
significant developments as well. The Taliban claim that some 200
civilians lost their lives in the attack on Jalalabad alone. And, for the
very first time, theyíve invited some Western journalists in to see for
themselves. Well we plan to take them up on that and we hope to have that
story in the days to come."
The Taliban hardly need to offer any proof in
order to get their claims heard by Americans given ABCís eagerness to
relay whatever the Afghan regime alleges.
On Thursday night, for instance, ABCís Bob
Woodruff repeated accounts of civilian atrocities before asserting:
"The Taliban believes more than a hundred civilians have died in the
bombings, but thereís no way to verify any of it." For more
details, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011012.asp#2
The night before, on World News Tonight,
Wright had maintained of refugees: "Many who are leaving say it would
be one thing if the Americans were only bombing the terrorist camps in
Afghanistan, but, they say, the killing of innocents is not okay."
For more on his October 10 story, refer back to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011011.asp#2
Tom Mintier found Afghan citizens walking out of Kandahar in order to
avoid U.S. bombing "reminiscent of what happened in Phnom Penh,
Cambodia, in 1975 when the residents started fleeing the city as Pol Pot
and the Khmer Rouge started to take over."
Mintierís observation from Pakistan over
extremely poor video, in which it was hard to make out anything more than
a group of people walking, came at just past 2am EDT on Thursday morning,
October 11. The MRCís Rich Noyes caught the odd comparison, to when
communists took over, while reviewing CNNís overnight coverage.
Mintier reported, as taken down by MRC analyst
Ken Shepherd: "Now as we look at this video phone footage, it does
look a little jerky and herky, but this is, I think, a clear indication of
whatís going on in the streets in as close to real time as we can get.
And for anyone who is old enough to remember, these scenes are reminiscent
of what happened in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 1975 when the residents
started fleeing this city as Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge started to take
over. You see what could be described as organized panic in the street as
people are making their way out with what limited possessions they have,
trying to find their way to some place of safety in the countryside. As
again, as I said, anyone old enough to remember 1975 in Cambodia, the
pictures somewhat eerily representative of what happened then..."
First, Americans Second at NPR, part one. NPRís Nina Totenberg blithely
dismissed any concern that al-Qaeda and/or Osama bin Laden could be using
the videos, which the White House asked the networks to stop airing in
full as soon as they are released, to send messages to their agents in the
United States: "I donít care if heís sending a signal."
Totenbergís arrogant comment came on Inside
Washington, the weekly roundtable show aired by many PBS stations over the
weekend and which ran Friday night after the CBS Evening News on
Washington, DCís WUSA-TV which produces it.
Totenberg, of National Public Radio, referring
to how National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice had called the network
news chiefs, argued:
"I was very fascinated by the fact that that
suggestion from Condoleezza Rice came a day after I read deep in a story,
I think in the Washington Post, a blind quote from a network executive
saying, Ďwell you know, they havenít asked us not to air it.í I
thought this falls in the category of crying wolf. I think there are times
when the President will want to have some information not be aired, and
this is just foolishness, the idea that heís sending a signal. I donít
care if heís sending a signal, itís been all over the entire Arab
world. The only people who wouldnít see it would be Americans."
Next, columnist Jack Germond insisted:
"The fact is that most elements of the mainstream press are not
I guess Totenberg is not part of that
Krauthammer soon pointed out to Totenberg that the videos could be used to
send messages to activate sleeper agents to kill Americans as he asked how
a cell in the U.S. could see the videos on the Arab satellite network, al-Jazeera?
"I donít think itís that difficult in a computer modern
age," Totenberg shot back.
Indeed, you can get a live feed over the
Internet of the Arab network and, FNCís Brit Hume noted a few nights
ago, itís even carried on a direct satellite system in the U.S. But both
those delivery methods are more difficult to access. Why make it so easy
for our enemies by making it impossible for them to avoid hearing or
seeing messages whenever they turn on a TV?
And do you think Totenberg would think any
differently if al-Jazeera werenít available by any means in the U.S.?
First, Americans Second at NPR, part two. Asked by a Chicago Tribune
columnist whether National Public Radio correspondents "would report
the presence of an American commando unit" presumably unknown to the
enemy in a "northern Pakistan village," NPR senior foreign
editor Loren Jenkins responded: "You report it" since "I
don't represent the government. I represent history, information, what
Jenkins also contended that "in one form
or another," the military "never tell you the truth."
His comments were quoted in an October 12
column by Steve Johnson in the Chicago Tribune which Jim Romenesko
highlighted Friday on his MediaNews page: http://www.poynter.org/medianews
An excerpt from Johnsonís column:
Just as the international politics of the American-led war on terrorism
is a maze, so is the attempt to cover the campaign.
That truth has been underscored this week as the first American bombs
have dropped on Afghanistan, and the American public has seen nothing like
the vivid video that came back from the Persian Gulf War, no pictures of
American correspondents on a rooftop in Kabul, providing play-by-play on
A seminal moment came midday Monday, Day Two of the bombings, when CNN
had its screen split between its live "exclusive" Nightscope
pictures of Afghanistan, showing what appeared to be nothing, and Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying not much more.
"The Ďfog of war' takes on new meaning in this particular
circumstance," says Tom Yellin, an ABC News executive producer.
"It implies you're in the middle. We can't be in the middle of it.
It's the fog in the distance. It's far away, and it's very foggy."...
Journalists predict that coverage will continue to be a struggle for
the duration of the conflict, complicated by its likely episodic and
decentralized nature, a White House-led clampdown on information, and an
American public more hungry to win than they are to know.
In such a murky environment, they say, the basic journalism values of
reporting and skepticism become more valuable than ever.
"The best reporting is getting to a place and assessing it
yourself," says Loren Jenkins, senior foreign editor of National
Public Radio. "Since Vietnam, the Pentagon has made this harder and
harder for reporters to do, mostly because they all blame the press for
losing the war in Vietnam."
Jenkins has some 13 reporters in the area of Afghanistan and the Middle
East, in the kind of all-hands-on-deck approach typical of news
organizations' response, and he says his marching orders to the troops are
to try to find where the Americans are.
"The game of reporting is to smoke 'em out," he says. Asked
whether his team would report the presence of an American commando unit it
found in, say, a northern Pakistan village, he doesn't exhibit any of the
hesitation of some of his news-business colleagues, who stress that they
try to factor security issues into their coverage decisions.
"You report it," Jenkins says. "I don't represent the
government. I represent history, information, what happened."...
American reporters are already on U.S. warships, but an open question
is to what degree American reporters will be allowed to accompany ground
troops, especially because nobody knows whether ground action will ever be
more concerted than secret raids.
No news executive in his right mind expects to have a reporter
accompany the Green Berets, but a coalition of news organizations has been
talking with Pentagon officials to try to extract promises that the news
media will be able to report firsthand on military action when feasible.
News organizations and, presumably, some segment of the public felt
burned after the Gulf War, when they learned American military's tight
control on information had included misleading reports about how smart the
so-called "smart bombs" really were.
At NPR, Jenkins' operating theory about information from the military
is that "in one form or another, they never tell you the truth.
They've been proven wrong too many times."
Or, as MSNBC President Erik Sorenson puts it, "We'll find out in
five or 10 years what the real truth is."....
For the entire column, go to: http://chicagotribune.com/features/chi-0110120007oct12.column?coll=chi%2Dleisure%2Dnav
The attitude of Jenkins reminded me of the
1989 PBS session with Mike Wallace and Peter Jennings recounted in the
October 10 CyberAlert. Wallace and Jennings agreed that if they were
traveling with enemy troops and learned of an ambush planned to kill U.S.
soldiers they would not provide any warning. For details: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011010.asp#4
night on the Tonight Show actor James Woods told Jay Leno: "I love
George Bush right now" because heís handling the terrorist crisis
in a "very deliberate, very careful" manner as heís
"doing the right thing." Woods fondly recalled the way the U.S.
responded to Moammar Gadhafi which ended his terrorism by killing
"his whole family, blew the crap out of them, never heard from him
again. A little lesson in there, okay. We didnít negotiate and worry
about collateral damage."
Woodsí points matched what he said during an
interview shown on the October 8 Entertainment Tonight. For quotes, go to:
Woods maintained on NBCís October 12 Tonight
Show: "Now, of course, I think the President is doing an
extraordinary job. Itís a good thing Iím not President because I would
have just [motioned hand to press a button launching missiles] launched.
Okay, Iím sorry, I just would have. But our President and I just, I love
George Bush right now and I always have. Iím the only guy in LA who
voted for him [audience applauded]. And I have to tell you the way heís
handling it is very deliberate, very careful and so on and doing the right
Following a brief return to what they
discussed at the start of his appearance, how he canít talk about
details of how he believes terrorists were onboard casing an American
Airlines Boston to Los Angeles flight he took in August, Woods recommended
we follow the Russian model for a response:
people are genuinely, you know, out for our total and complete and
ultimate destructive. So, kind of the way I would have done this thing is
just kind of, oh let me tell you about the Russians because you have to
ask yourself this, Ďwhat would the Russians have done,í right?
Hereís a little story that I heard from a guy who actually was in on the
raid against Libya, remember, Moammar Gadhafi? By the way, killed his
whole family, blew the crap out of them, never heard from him again. A
little lesson in there, okay. We didnít negotiate and worry about
collateral damage and so on, just wiped them out, never heard from them
Leno then jumped in to insist that before time
ran out Woods say something about his new movie, Riding in Cars with Boys,
in which he stars as Drew Barrymoreís father.
For a biography of Woods, go to the Internet
Movie Databaseís page on him: http://us.imdb.com/Name?Woods,+James
For more about his new movie, you can check
the Sony Pictures page for it: http://www.spe.sony.com/movies/ridingincars/
Brokaw ended Fridayís NBC Nightly News, broadcast from the Today show
set since the regular studios are on the 3rd floor of Rockefeller Center
which was blocked off to check for Anthrax, with a personal note prompted
by the Anthrax contracted by an assistant who opened an envelope addressed
tonight, on behalf of NBC News, and especially on behalf of our friend and
colleague, thank you for your concern. She has been, as she always is, a
rock. And sheís been an inspiration to us all. But this is so unfair and
so outrageous and so maddening itís beyond my ability to express it in
socially-acceptable terms. So weíll just reserve our thoughts and our
prayers for our friend and her family. Thatís Nightly News for Friday.
Iím Tom Brokaw."
We share Brokawís sentiment.