Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Propaganda: Journalistic Fraud is Where You Find It

I have already taken a brief stab at "Journalistic Fraud" by Bob Kohn. So now for a second effort.

I decided to find out a more about Bob Kohn. His own bias seems conservative. So I was very surprised to read this about him.

"He also serves as Chairman of Laugh.com, a comedy record company he founded with comedian George Carlin."

George Carlin was somebody I admired, and I kind of imagined George as being liberal. Although George didn't like the environmentalists, I'm pretty sure he was not pro-war or conservative, but I went to Google to be sure. Here are some quotes, with my assessment of which way he leaned, or if it was neutral.

"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that." This could go either way, as each side regards the other as stupid.

The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, “You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.” Undecided on this one, whether it is pro-war or anti-war. it sounds just a little bit disrespectful of our troops, but maybe they would find it funny too.

"If it requires a uniform, it’s a worthless endeavor." OK this is anti-war here, although it also could be calling MacDonald's worthless. Not excessively clear but I'll say Left-leaning

"You know the good part about all those executions in Texas? Fewer Texans." Since Texas is conservative, it could be taken as a liberal joke. But then there are other reasons why you may want Texans dead. The pickup trucks, the guns, the bragging about how big their state is, etc. And he does not really seem to be opposed to the death penalty. He does not say "the ONLY good part". Very slightly left leaning.

"I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a man nailed to two pieces of wood." This indicates George is not a Christian. Does that automatically make him a liberal? No because I know a lot of liberal Christians. But for sure he is not a right wing fundamentalist, the group that strongly supports the Republicans. I am undecided.

"Have you noticed that most of the women who are against abortion are women you wouldn’t want to **** in the first place? There’s such balance in nature." This gag, although it does not promote abortion, seems to take a pot shot at the number one voter issue for the right wing, abortion. Full points on the left here for George.

"Have you ever wondered why Republicans are so interested in encouraging people to volunteer in their communities? It’s because volunteers work for no pay. Republicans have been trying to get people to work for no pay for a long time." I rate this as fully left wing, even naming the Republican party.

"Once you leave the womb, conservatives don’t care about you until you reach military age. Then you’re just what they’re looking for. Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers." This one is unambiguously liberal.

It was the second Gulf War, that Bob Kohn accuses the NY Times of fraud in not supporting. Now here is a really long anti war rant by George Carlin. This is only a small part of it, and it refers to the first Gulf War, which was in fact LESS controversial than the second

"We enjoy war. And one reason we enjoy it is that we're good at it. You know why we're good at it? Because we get a lot of practice. This country is only 200 years old, and already we've had ten major wars. We average a major war every twenty years, So we're good at it!

And it's just as well we are, because we're not very good at anything else. Can't build a decent car anymore. Can't make a TV set, a cell phone, or a VCR. Got no steel industry left. No textiles. Can't educate our young people. Can't get health care to our old people. But we can bomb the shit outta your country, all right. We can bomb the shit outta your country!

If You're Brown, You're Goin Down

Especially if your country is full of brown people. Oh, we like that, don't we? That's our hobby now. But it's also our new job in the world: bombing brown people. Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Libya. You got some brown people in your country? Tell 'em to watch the fuck out, or we'll goddamn bomb them!"

This is clearly and diametrically opposed to Bob Kohn, who accused the NY Times of fraud because its news stories were slanted against going to war. So how can it be that Bob Kohn and George Carlin were both partners in starting Laugh.com?

I think I have a partial answer, on the Laugh.com website.

"Laugh.com is owned by legendary comedians, including George Carlin, Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle, Red Buttons, Phyllis Diller, Bill Dana, Rich Little, Shelley Berman, Jackie Martling, Norm Crosby, and some money grubbing Internet-savvy engineers, lawyers, comedy professionals, ordinary accountants, and shipping monkeys. If we don't do right by you, please blame the shipping monkeys."

Let's get back to the NY Times and its fraudulent journalism. Kohn lists titles and dates of 76 anti-war (in some cases not sufficiently pro-war) articles printed in 2002. Bob calls these "a political campaign against the Bush Administration's policy on Iraq." I'll give a couple of examples, and I comment on whether they sound like journalistic fraud. (These are not totally at random, but I did not cherry pick the only ones that proved my point.)

  • U.S. French Split on Iraq Deepens. (Oct 15) True, later confirmed by Bush by renaming French Fries to Freedom Fries.
  • Thousands March in Washington Against Going to War in Iraq (Oct 27, 2002) True, so why is this called fraudulent journalism?
  • The Aftermath: Rift Over Plan to Impose Rule on Iraq (Oct 10) Very true, and in fact the major reason things fell apart after the swift initial invasion.
  • Liberals Object to Bush Policy on Iraq Attack. (Sep 28) Well I did anyway. So did Mary Ann, that's two at least.
  • 3 Retired Generals Warn of Peril in Attacking Iraq Without Backing of UN (Sep 24), Also proved true. Canada (among others) refused to help for this very reason.

Given, this book was published before it all went wrong. But it seems to me that in hindsight the Times was telling the truth, and the conservatives were heading for a snafu. Yet conservatives are still complaining the NY Times is biased against them (and war), and should be bombed. Shouldn't there have been some kind of apology to the Times? Well, no, because after all they also printed stories that justified going to war, which are not mentioned in Kohn's book. For example. (from Wikipedia)


"Judith Miller was criticized for her reporting on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. On September 7, 2002, Miller and fellow New York Times reporter Michael R. Gordon reported the interception of metal tubes bound for Iraq. Her front-page story quoted unnamed "American officials" and "American intelligence experts" who said the tubes were intended to be used to enrich nuclear material, and cited unnamed "Bush administration officials" who claimed that in recent months, Iraq had "stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb".[5]

Miller added that

"Mr. Hussein's dogged insistence on pursuing his nuclear ambitions, along with what defectors described in interviews as Iraq's push to improve and expand Baghdad's chemical and biological arsenals, have brought Iraq and the United States to the brink of war."

Now that was an example of journalistic fraud, in my opinion. But not a pro-liberal fraud, it was a conservative and pro-war fraud. And from none other than the New York Times.

1 comment:

  1. I was a long-time fan of George Carlin, back as far as his Al Sleet days.

    Carlin was at his finest when he was puncturing the hypocrisies in American culture. His political criticism extended to both the right and left, bashing both liberals and conservatives.

    A lapsed Catholic, he was merciless on religion, and his infamous routine, 'Religion convinced the world that there's an invisible man in the sky who watches everything you do,' remains a classic.

    An important American philosopher of the 20th Century, university courses of the 21st Century will no doubt recognize Carlin's contributions ;-)