Monday, February 11, 2008

Setting the Record Straight

Lies, Damned Lies, and the WSJ's Lies
"The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."
-- Henry A. Wallace, Vice President to FDR, 1944 --
The Danger of American Fascism

Glenn Greenwald has a good post up this morning, about how the Wall Street Journal is fudging the facts in support of telecom immunity. Most blatantly they are trying to present it as though immunity already exists and the Democrats are trying to change the law. Nothing could be further from the truth. The laws have been on the books for some time, and it's the White House that wants to change them retroactively, as GG shows:
Just marvel at this paragraph, incoherent and false in equal parts:
By far the worst threat is an amendment from Senator Chris Dodd (D., Conn.) to deny legal immunity to telephone companies that cooperated with the government on these wiretaps after 9/11. The companies face multiple lawsuits, so a denial of even retrospective immunity would certainly lead to less such cooperation in the future.

This is precisely the goal of the left, which has failed to get Congress to ban such wiretaps directly but wants to use lawsuits to do so via the backdoor.
The assertion that Congress has failed "to ban such wiretaps directly" is an absolute lie and there is no other way to phrase that. The reason there are lawsuits brought against telecoms isn't because of some cliched liberal-judicial-activist effort to impose on telecoms obligations which don't exist in law. The opposite is true: the lawsuits were brought precisely because telecoms violated multiple clear, long-standing laws that make it illegal to do exactly what they did: namely, allow government spying on Americans and access to their customer data without judicial warrants.
To claim, as the WSJ does today, that "the left" is using lawsuits as a "backdoor" because it "failed to get Congress to ban such wiretaps directly" literally could not be more false and misleading. And, as always, the falsehoods are bolstered by Bush-following lawyers who are single-mindedly devoted to the authoritarian goal of increasing unchecked government power, such as former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy, who hails the WSJ Editorial as "superb" despite what he must know are its undebatable falsehoods about the law.
Welcome to the Orwellian world of Bu$hCo™ doublespeak, a dialect apparently not far from the corporate language of buzzwords. Greenwald goes on to dissect further lies told in this same editorial, most prominently the idea that the telecoms are not already protected for actions in compliance with legal government requests for co-operation. IOW, even when the government may have been acting illegally, the telecoms are protected if they can demonstrate a 'good faith' argument that they believed otherwise.

Greenwald underlines the mendacity of the anonymous WSJ editorialist
in a single beautifully written paragraph.
The persuasiveness of an argument can often be determined by the willingness of its advocates to confine themselves to the truth when making it. That telecom amnesty advocates resort to demonstrable falsehoods -- literally pretending that telecoms did not violate multiple laws when allowing warrantless spying -- is a powerful testament not only to their lack of integrity but also to the deceit and corruption that forms the crux of their efforts.
Nor do I believe for a moment that the editorialist's anonymity was an accidental slip. The persuasiveness of an argument can also be determined by one's willingness to put one's name to it. Another way to put this: "A man who does not know the truth is just an idiot but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook." -- Bertolt Brecht
Perhaps the most frightening thing about the fascist shift that is going on in America is the takeover of what was once a free and independent press. I say this not just because control of the press is point #8 on Naomi Wolf's list of 10 steps that fascists take to shut down a democracy, or point #6 in Laurence Britt's 14 Characteristics of Fascist Regimes. I find this frightening because of why this is a common point.

If there is every to be an awakening from the nightmare Bush has imposed on America, it will be through a groundswell of public opinion that overwhelms even the will of the military industrial complex and the emerging feudal state of multinational corporate capitalism. How is that groundswell going to take place if the fascists control the media, and the media control people's opinions and attitude?

As popular as Greenwald may be in the pristine wooded hills of Greater Left Blogsylvania, that doesn't necessarily translate to that great a readership in the world at large, certainly not approaching the circulation of the Wall Street Journal. These falsehoods will doubtlessly be widely circulated in the corporate owned media and trumpeted through the malarial swamps of Lower Left Blogistan as well. As Churchill said, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

I leave you with a further sampling of quotes on the media, the truth, and the power of lies.
"Both by definition and practice, Laws Of Media deny commercial networks any sort of neutral or unbiased role."
-- Prof. H. Marshall McLuhan --
"All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values."
-- Marshall McLuhan --
"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."
-- A.J. Liebling--
"Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
-- George Orwell--
"False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil."
-- Socrates--

UPDATE: From today's post at The Existentialist Cowboy: Alexandra Robbins recalls her 'encounter' with a bonesman.
Certainly, Skull and Bones does cross boundaries in order to attempt to stay out of the public spotlight. When I wrote an article about the society for the Atlantic Monthly in May 2000, an older Bonesman said to me, “If it’s not portrayed positively, I’m sending a couple of my friends after you.” After the article was published, I received a telephone call at my office from a fellow journalist, who is a member of Skull and Bones. He scolded me for writing the article—”writing that article was not an ethical or honorable way to make a decent living in journalism,” he condescended —and then asked me how much I had been paid for the story. When I refused to answer, he hung up. Fifteen minutes later, he called back.

“I have just gotten off the phone with our people.” “Your people?” I snickered.
“Yes. Our people.” He told me that the society demanded to know where I got my information.

“I’ve never been in the tomb and I did nothing illegal in the process of reporting this article,” I replied.

“Then you must have gotten something from one of us. Tell me whom you spoke to. We just want to talk to them,” he wheedled. “I don’t reveal my sources.”
Then he got angry. He screamed at me for a while about how dishonorable I was for writing the article.

“A lot of people are very despondent over this!” he yelled. “Fifteen Yale juniors are very, very upset!” I thanked him for telling me his concerns.
“There are a lot of us at newspapers and at political journalism institutions,” he coldly hissed. “Good luck with your career”—and he slammed down the phone. --Alexandra Robbins, Secrets of the Tomb
Also Posted at Ice Station Tango. A recommended place to chill out.

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