Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Weapons of Mass Communication

I finally broke down and got cable TV -- yup, for the past 30 years, when I've had a TV at all, I've had rabbit ears sitting on top of it. I haven't been able to watch CNN, Fox News, or for that matter the Daily Show, any of that stuff. But I needed cable to watch the Red Sox, so I had no choice.

So, for better or for worse, I can now experience the alternate realities of the current age of mass representation. I actually watched Valerie Plame Wilson's testimony before Henry Waxman's committee on C-Span, which means that I now have actual grounds for my complaint about the news coverage. Here are some things you would never know if you got your information about this event from the TV news, or for that matter from the New York Times.

Only three Republic Party Congresspersons bothered to show up, whereas the Democratic side of the dais was full. The Chair allotted equal time to all members, but thanks to inexorable laws of arithmetic this meant that the Republic Party only had about 15% of the time. During Democratic questioning of the witness, it was established that VPW was indeed an undercover CIA operative, who had traveled abroad under cover within the past five years, whose employment status was classified information, and who kept her work a secret from everybody but her husband and colleagues. It was further established that multiple administration officials, in the White House and State Department, including Karl Rove and Richard Cheney, revealed her identity -- classified information -- to people in government and to reporters. (BTW, it is not known who provided the information to Rove or Cheney, that was not established in the Libby trial.) The revelation that VPW was a secret agent destroyed ongoing intelligence operations, derailed her career, and put the lives of U.S. intelligence assets at risk. The CIA approved having Congressman Waxman read a statement to the above effect, and Plame Wilson testified to it under oath. It was not VPW's idea for her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to undertake a fact finding mission to Niger. She did not recommend him for the job. It was not nepotism. In fact, she would have preferred that he not go. She was merely asked to convey the message to him that the CIA was interested in having him do it. Every one of these facts is in direct contradiction of widely repeated Republic Party talking points, including assertions repeatedly made by reporters and pundits on TV talk shows as well as avowed administration apologists.

The Republic members of Congress, in their questioning, established the following: that Joseph Wilson is a Democrat. That Valerie Plame Wilson is a Democrat. That VPW once attended a conference at which her husband spoke about the Iraq war. She was there as his spouse and did not participate. Then they complained that they hadn't had enough time to ask all the important questions they still had. Of course, if a couple more of them had shown up they would have had all the time they wanted. Furthermore, if they had a bunch of zinger questions lined up, why did they use their time to ask a bunch of lame ones?

So, here's how the corporate media covers this hearing. Since reality did not supply "balance," they had to alter reality, giving equal time in the newscasts to Democratic and Republic questioners. Since that would not permit them to enumerate most of the important facts established in the hearing, we get to learn only two: That VPW says she was undercover (and not that the CIA confirms this), and that she is a Democrat. Written reporting was little better, but you don't have to take my word for it, here's Greg Mitchell at Editor & Publisher.

C-Span also carried the rest of the hearing, which the corporate media completely ignored, including the revelation that there had been no internal investigation of this leak by the White House at all! Translation: George W. Bush is a stone liar.

Now, one has to consider the theater of this as well. I doubt that more than 1/20th of 1 percent of the public actually watched it on C-Span, but it did seem more like the movie version than the real thing. I'm not sure how this plays in Peoria, but VPW is -- how should I say this? -- a stone fox, woo woo woo, hubba hubba hubba. Now, that probably boosts her cred as a secret agent woman (Plame, Valerie Plame. Why thank you, I'll have a sweet Manhattan, stirred not shaken, with a cherry), but as a witness, she seemed more like Sharon Stone playing Valerie Plame in the movie version than the actual real person -- even though I admit, she is the actual real person.

Also, there was the slightly deranged looking woman with the pink T-shirt that said "Impeach Bush Now" who stayed in the frame as VPW testified. The CNN Newsroom show, to their credit, did a respectful interview with her, and she is not deranged at all, she's authentic, unbriefed and unpolished, but she did pretty well. Nevertheless, in Peoria she is likely to be perceived as an offensively countercultural 60's refugee. Anyway, she added to the whole feeling of the event as artifice, a prop added by the auteur to bring the controversy raging outside into the hearing room.

The facts elucidated in the hearing ought to be most offensive to right wing super-patriot militarist wing nuts, in fact. They would think that leftists would be happy to see a CIA agent exposed, and they think people who do that sort of thing ought to be shot. But in this case, the world has been turned upside down -- and your Liberal Media are making sure it stays that way.

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