The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Achieving "truth" through repetition

Press Corpse Watch

Today, I’d like to talk about the power of the press, and how it is often misused. I’m not sure what the final take-home message is, other than the press is incredibly powerful and now seems to be run by incompetents and miscreants, both of which are pretty obvious points. But I guess I would like to emphasize that often the press just makes things up . . . with no consequence to them. Broad, narrative arcs are created out of very thin air, and used to try to explain, categorize, and defame. Specific details are generated out of whole cloth, often maliciously, to hurt other people. And yet, even when these deliberate falsifications come out, no one loses their job, no one is reprimanded, the “retractions” are soft and weasely. This is especially true if the victim is a Democrat or a progressive, but we’ll see that this phenomenon touches a lot of people, regardless of their affiliations. The press often tries to defend itself by claiming that even though the story isn’t “factually” true, it reveals some “inner truth” about what readers believe to be true, or would like to be true, or some other such nonsense. This pattern is a sign of a dead national media, one that cannot and will not police itself or the people in power, and is a very bad sign for our democracy.

Take a trip back with me through memory lane, to remember some past and study some recent incidents. Some you may even believe to be true, and you can bet that future “historians” will get the details wrong, as constant repetition of these lies has engraved them in our national memory:

Poppy’s grocery scanner

Here’s one that affected a Republican, but a Republican who was on his way out of office. Poppy Bush goes to a convention, makes some small talk with a guy working a grocery scanner. The one journalist who was actually at the event writes that Bush had a “look of wonder” on his face at one point. And the editorial writers go to town about how out of touch Bush is, how he has no experience of the common man, hasn’t entered a grocery store in 25 years, etc. All of which was untrue, but made for good editorial writing. Most of the story is documented here.

Hillary’s gift registry

At the end of the Clinton’s term, some friends of theirs got together to buy them some furniture to help them furnish their new living spaces. Somehow, the false idea that Hillary had registered for gifts got associated with the story, and acid-penned and brain-addled gossip monger Maureen Dowd was off to the races with several baroque and bizarre fantasies about Hillary picking out expensive gifts and items. Dowd even supplied dialog for Mrs. Clinton and her friends regarding this completely fictitious, grubby registry. But, as it turned out, this was completely false. No retraction from Dowd that I know of has ever been issued. Here is one take on this story.

White House Trashing (also theft from Air Force One)

Then, there was the story of the trashing of the White House and Air Force One. To the whorporate media’s credit, they didn’t invent these tall tales . . . they just passed them on with no proof. These two were invented by Bushco, pushed by Ari “mouth of Sauron” Fleisher, and carried dutifully by the press. GOP journalists moaned and writhed and foamed about the immoral Clinton administration, and failed to notice that both stories were complete and utter bullshit. Here ( is an account by FAIR of how the conservative media ran with this false story. Josh Marshall writes about how the Bushies advanced this story through innuendo.

Escalating lies about the Air Force One “scandal”, and Bush’s retraction of the story, are discussed here.

While we are at it, every Clinton “scandal”. Ever.

We should mention here that every “scandal” that was used to flog Clinton while he was in office, including the gifts, trashing the White House, stealing from Air Force One, the travel office flap, murdering Vince Foster, fathering a child with a black prostitute, running drugs out of a Mena airport (!), Whitewater, FBI filegate, etc. etc. ad naseum infinitum, ALL of them were completely unsubstantiated. They were investigated through the legal process and the Clintons were found not guilty of wrongdoing in all of them. The only real legal issue Clinton had was the fact that he gave a misleading deposition in a civil lawsuit that was later dismissed by the presiding judge for lacking substance. And it was only Starr’s wild, illegal, runaway investigation that even put him in that position, where Clinton’s sex life was under legal investigation. What a farce. And yet, when you think of Clinton’s term in office, doesn’t the word “scandal-ridden” come to mind? The GOP paid a lot of good money to make that so. There are things not to like about Clinton’s policies, but the “scandals” that plagued him were to a huge degree created out of whole cloth by a little group of people, feeding a gullible and in some cases actively complicit press. That the New York Times has never apologized or retracted its incredibly irresponsible reporting on Whitewater, just for one, is a sad indictment of that once great paper. You can read more about it in “The Hunting of the President” or watch the documentary.

It should also be noted that the number of Clinton government officials that were convicted of crimes committed for conduct while they were in office is ONE. The chief of staff of the secretary of agriculture was convicted in a case that involved football tickets. The most heavily investigated administration in modern times was also one of the very cleanest. The corresponding number for the Reagan administration is 30 . . . and would have been much, much higher, including cabinet members and the Vice President/President himself, if George HW Bush hadn’t have pardoned all of his Iran-Contra co-conspirators on Christmas Eve, 1992. What, you don’t remember the media outrage against Poppy Bush saving his own ass by pardoning Cap Weinberger and several others for cabinet-level, Constitution-busting treachery? That’s because there wasn’t any.

Gore: Campaign 2000

A whole chapter needs to be devoted to the press’s trashing of Gore. Unlike the Clinton “scandals”, which were created by GOP operatives, and merely passed on by a non-functioning press, most of the very damaging false stories about Gore which appeared during campaign 2000 were created by the press corpse itself. Some were created or flogged by the GOP, and these were picked up by the mainstream media with gusto. But many were just created by the reporters assigned to cover Gore by the nation’s top newspapers. Imagine the delight of Bushco when they realized that they didn’t even need to do the dirty work anymore, that the mainstream media would smear Gore itself, through slanted writing and even through vicious lies.

The best documenter of the Gore media outrages is Bob Somerby. He has done a very thorough job of sifting back through all the evidence to find out what really happened. First, “invented the internet”. Gore never said he “invented the internet”, but what he did say about his role in helping to create it is very true. The GOP decided to flog this story, and the presstitutes ran and ran and ran with it. See this for the details. And this is a story that won’t ever die.

Then there was the Love Story incident, in which Gore was painted to have an inflated picture of himself.

The “Love Canal” story was one that was wholly invented by Ceci Connoly, the reporter covering the Gore campaign for the Washington Post. She deliberately misquoted him, then she and others ran to write about what a horrible person he was based on that deliberate misquotation. There was a heartbreaking segment on “This American Life” about the schoolkids Gore was talking to at the time, and how they tried, in vain, to get the news to report the truth. It is the first segment.

The Buddhist Temple flap also found Gore not at fault, though you’d never know that from reading the papers.

There are a million others. The Florida schoolgirl chair flap. Doggie pills. Farm chores. Growing up in a fancy hotel. In each instance, the press deliberately lied or repeated lies from the GOP, desperately painting Gore in a bad light. “Al Gore” is now a national joke, just as the GOP had hoped. But Gore still beat Bush in 2000, despite the media trying to deep six him. Read more about the truth behind these stories, and you’ll see yet again how close America came to having a great chief executive.

Judge to rape victim: “Get over it”

Here’s a more recent example. A judge was talking to an assistant prosecutor about a 14 year old rape victim. He said, about the victim, "(She) is 14; she can't go through life as a victim. She's got to get over it.” In this quote, we see that the judge is expressing the desire that this poor girl overcome the crime committed against her, because she has a long life ahead of her. One reporter took this conversation, and began telling the world that the judge told the victim, to her face, that she needed to “get over it”. The reporter went so far as to go on Bill O’Reilly’s show and present this lie. Needless to say, the outrage over this lie was tremendous. The victim and her family are incredibly upset, the judge’s life is about ruined, with him getting death threats from people all over the country.

Kerry and Nascar

John Kerry was left relatively untouched by the press in this election cycle. For the most part, they did not make up false stories about him. They failed to call the false stories coming from the GOP out as lies, of course, but they didn’t seem to be actively trying to destroy him, as with Gore. Yet, old habits die hard. Once again we find Maureen Dowd inventing quotes to beat Kerry with. In this case, she created a quote from Kerry: “Who among us doesn’t like NASCAR?”. Then she proceeds to flog him with it, for being a phony. Other reporters pick it up as if it is the Gospel truth, and also flog Kerry with it. See Somerby for what he actually said, and how this got started. No retraction from Dowd, of course.

Osama’s last appearance

How about Bin Laden’s last appearance, right before the election, when he released a video? Remember how all of the media decided that this move helped . . . Bush? Did any of you experience cognitive dissonance over that, as I did? My only thought was, "Why is this asshole still alive to taunt the US? Thanks for another job well done, Bush." Once again, the media creating the reality they want.

“Moral Values” victory

Finally, in the weirdest piece of media projection, we find this absurd meme about Bush’s win being brought about by, or evidence of, or a mandate for “moral values”. Why the press wants to further empower the lunatic religious fringe in this country I will never know, but the truth of the matter is while there were some people who said “moral values” were important in their vote, something like 22%, this number is way down from years past. In 1996, when Clinton was re-elected, the number was about 40% or so, with none of the accompanying crowing about “moral values”. Lesson? They paint events any way they chose, in any way that is good for them.

All of these examples leave me feeling a bit afloat, in a world where history is being written by the most delusional elements of our society, and where those elements control the perception of reality to a large degree. I don’t know what the answer is to it, or even if there is an answer. But we have to cling to the actual truth of events, rather than the GOP/media line, if we are to retain even a blurry picture of reality.


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