The Media

A quick follow-up on Glenn Greenwald’s blundering comments about the anti-Hillary protests in Egypt:

Indeed, the tomato-throwing protesters were anti-Islamist, not anti-Mubarak. In fact, this report indicates the protesters were riled up by bogus claims regarding the Obama administration’s Egypt policy — claims spouted by hysterical right-wingers in the U.S. including Michele Bachmann and Frank Gaffney.

So Greenwald, rushing to validate anti-American sentiment and project his own views onto the situation, ended up misreading the protests completely.

[Update: More on this, although not touching on Greenwald, from Rachel Maddow. And Robert Mackey.]

Regarding the protests against Hillary Clinton that occurred in Alexandria, Egypt, Glenn Greenwald tweeted this:







And then this:






As if the Arab world is one undifferentiated mass of anger at the U.S.

In fact, this report (hat tip David Toube via FB) on the demonstrations includes the following line:

“The protest appears to have been the result of suspicions that Washington had helped the Muslim Brotherhood win elections in Egypt in the wake of last year’s ouster of president Hosni Mubarak after 18 days of massive street protests.”

In other words, the protesters were not voicing their anger at the U.S. for propping up Mubarak. They were apparently voicing their anger over a perceived U.S. tilt toward the Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak’s longtime arch-nemesis. Such is the view of at least this one particular group of Egyptians, and it’s not my intention to comment on it.

But I will say that Greenwald’s Iraq analogy is inapt, and it reveals much about his simplistic Chomsky-ish view of foreign policy. It goes something like this: America has done bad things in country x. Therefore, the people of country x are angry at America. And that’s all that liberal and lefty Americans really need to know about the events unfolding in country x.

PS: Note the placard in the third photo in this story about the demonstrations: “Message to Hillary: Egypt will never be Pakistan.” What does that mean? I’m not exactly sure, but it merits further inquiry. It could mean that Egypt won’t tolerate violations of its sovereignty, as many believe has occurred in Pakistan. Or it could mean Egypt cannot be allowed to be overrun by religious extremists, as has definitely occurred in Pakistan. Again, I’m not sure, but it points to something far more complex than Greenwald is comfortable dealing with.

In my inbox is a notice from World Village-Harmonia Mundi: Saxophonist Gilad Atzmon “makes a rare appearance in New York City beginning May 5th and is available for interviews.” Oddly I see no gig schedule listed.

In any case I won’t be interviewing Atzmon during his visit, because I’m too busy interviewing musicians who don’t claim that the Jews provoked Hitler. And don’t hail Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And don’t garner praise from neo-Nazi David Duke, or write things that end up cross-posted at racist sites that proclaim “No Jews. Just Right.”

My point, and one I’ve made many times before, is that Gilad Atzmon is a Jew-hater — and far from the only one in the UK and elsewhere who’s found it helpful to drape himself in the Palestinian cause, or the fashionable rhetoric of anti-imperialism.

But of course there’s something different about Atzmon: He’s a musician, and a strong one at that. He insists that his music is intrinsically political. And this is therefore something that every New York music journalist planning to cover Atzmon needs to weigh carefully:

How does a man of such views claim the mantle of “cultural resistance” that is so bound up with the history of jazz? How can an apologist for the Iranian regime — an apologist for Nazi Germany — claim to be “fighting oppression of every kind”?

He gets away with it only if compliant journalists allow him.

After critiquing Nir Rosen’s shoddy excuse-making for terrorism in January 2009, I paid only slight attention to his work. But on the occasions when I stumbled onto his Twitter feed, I actually had to stop and wonder whether someone had hacked his account. The opinions were so extreme, so loutish, so flagrantly unprofessional, so obviously unbecoming of a Fellow at the NYU Center for Law and Security (no longer), a writer with bylines in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Salon and other highly respected outlets.

But yes, that was Rosen. Now he’s telling us, in the wake of his appalling comments about CBS News correspondent and sexual assault victim Lara Logan, that he’s really not like this. Well, yes, he is like this, as anyone who’s looked at that Twitter feed in the last year would know.

I can only wonder, as others have, why Rosen was able to hold onto his NYU position after linking to Taliban propaganda on the anniversary of 9/11 — and declaring that he agreed with it. Or calling for a punitive bombing of Tel Aviv as far back as April 2002. And it’s Lara Logan, he tells us, who’s the “major war monger.”

Of course, Rosen is not alone in attacking Logan: right-wing nut Debbie Schlussel made an absolutely chilling and deplorable statement as well.

So we’re back to the question I’ve often been asked: Why am I, a person of the left, focusing my anger on Rosen rather than on Schlussel? Because we know what Schlussel is: a hate-spewing figure of the gutter. She stands for for unashamed racism. Yes, she is a menace, and she has not apologized (to my knowledge). Rosen, on the other hand, considers himself “someone who’s devoted his career to defending victims and supporting justice,” as he wrote in one of his many lame apologies. A lot of people believe him.

But Rosen hasn’t done any such thing. He’s devoted his career to offering apologetics for the Taliban, Hezbollah and other so-called “armed resistance” movements. He’s betrayed the victims of those groups, and thus supported injustice, even as he proclaims the opposite. It’s an Orwellian lie, it’s the height of hypocrisy, and it ought to raise the ire of far more people on the left.

Lawrence O’Donnell, Keith Olbermann’s replacement on MSNBC and host of “The Last Word,” devoted a segment to the Logan fallout the other night and focused entirely on Schlussel. He said nothing about Rosen. Look, it’s the left that prides itself on facing uncomfortable facts and confronting the whole truth. O’Donnell failed. He gave his viewers a partial account and did the public a disservice.

Via Jack Shafer’s Twitter feed, this AP story on Fidel Castro’s decision to fill three of the eight scant pages in the party-controlled newspaper Granma with nonsense from 9/11 Truther and Bilderberg conspiracy theorist Daniel Estulin. AP writer Will Weissert does a nice job detailing how Estulin’s work actually draws on the thinking (rather, “thinking”) of the extremist right.

I’m glad to see that the Obama administration is moving to ease travel restrictions to Cuba. And yet I’m still amazed that there are those on the left who continue to admire Castro, this pitiful crackpot, who has long outlawed the very existence of a journalistic culture on the island, preferring to force-feed the Cuban people his own ravings, along with the ravings of fellow loons.

I know, journalism in the U.S. is anything but perfect, but the quick dissemination of news and debate fostered by the Net — and the enormous flux in media and information cultures detailed in this very interesting pair of pieces in Wired (hat tip John Murph) — couldn’t stand in starker contrast to the utterly shriveled, hideous excuse for a media outlet that is Granma. And every other official organ like it elsewhere on the planet.

Read Chris Anderson’s thoughts on iPads and RSS feeds and Pandora and the like. And then recall that the Cuban government took the enormous step of legalizing cell phones in 2008. We thought it was right-wing anticommunists, per William F. Buckley, who “stood astride history, yelling ‘Stop!'” Turns out it’s actually the communists. (Of course, America’s Castro apologists benefit from cutting-edge online communication to get their organizing done.)

By the way, Castro’s not the only one spouting laughable conspiracist rot. Hugo Chávez, we learn in this valuable piece by Christopher Hitchens, believes the moon landing may not have actually happened. But the most amusing part of Hitchens’s account is how deeply, how desperately, Sean Penn wants to believe in Chávez’s political sanity, all evidence to the contrary.

Today the Jazz Journalists Association launched JJA News, its new official web publication, which takes the place of the quarterly Jazz Notes. I’m excited to be staying on as editor, so check out my introductory statement, and sign up at the column on the right to follow JJA News via Twitter, RSS and so forth.

Dissent has launched a new blog, Arguing the World — a new outpost of social democracy on the web. Read it here and read it often.

Conventional wisdom remains that our president is a wimp, spineless, etc., which flies in the face of jujitsu moments like this (hat tip Marc Cooper):

And that’s not to deny that Obama, in his way, makes use of political theater, which is what that health care summit was. But taking the opportunity to call out Republicans on their nonsense for six hours on national TV — is that a meaningless exercise or a cave-in? I don’t think so. Give the man a bit of credit already.

David Rohde’s extended account of his hellish seven-month-plus captivity in Afghanistan and Taliban-held Pakistan is running this week in the NYT. Part one is here. It’s about as gripping a narrative as you can possibly imagine, and a testament to the man’s extraordinary bravery and sacrifice.

Rohde took a risk in interviewing a Taliban commander because he felt duty-bound as a journalist to get their side of the story. Needless to say he got a lot more than he bargained for. If any good can come of it, it’s his ability to offer us a stunning, probably unprecedented level of detail and insight into this horrific gang of murderers.
For one thing, we’re often told that in contrast to the Karzai government and its various warlord allies, the Taliban and other Islamist insurgents are somehow incorruptible. Nicholas Kristof advanced this idea in a September 5 column, arguing that many Afghans are impressed by “the Taliban’s personal honesty and religious piety, a contrast to the corruption of so many officials around President Hamid Karzai.” Rohde, however, writes the following:

As the months dragged on, I grew to detest our captors. I saw the Haqqanis as a criminal gang masquerading as a pious religious movement. They described themselves as the true followers of Islam but displayed an astounding capacity for dishonesty and greed.
That’s just one example of Rohde overturning conventional wisdom with some firsthand, all-too-personal experience. Read on.

I haven’t had to time to sit down and absorb the proceedings from today’s National Summit on Arts Journalism, but thought I’d highlight their five featured new media projects: Departures, Glasstire, FLYPMedia, San Francisco Classical Voice and Flavorpill.

I’m glad to be surfing the last wave of old media at the Inquirer (will have a Christian McBride feature there soon). But it’s good to see the next entrepreneurial wave taking hold — we’re going to need it. The Jazz Journalists Association is planning its own conference on new media, tentatively January 7-10 in New York. More details to come.

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