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December 08, 2009

How the Crock of Shit Gets to Your Breakfast Table

Each morning Rupert Murdoch's media delivers a warm, steaming crock of shit to the world's people. How does it happen? To understand, let's take a look at one particular crock of shit, from September 24, 2002.

On that day, Murdoch's tabloid The Sun (readership eight million) ran a giant front page headline about Saddam Hussein's terrifying WMD:


Then on the inside of the paper, the headline was:


The Sun stories were based on a dossier released by the British government about Saddam Hussein's terrifying WMD. In it Tony Blair stated that "[Saddam's] military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within
45 minutes of an order to use them." This was so important the dossier repeated it three more times. That day Blair told parliament that the intelligence the dossier was based on was "extensive, detailed and authoritative."

So what was the ultimate source for this claim? The British media is reporting today it was AN IRAQI TAXI DRIVER. But not just any old Iraqi taxi driver—an Iraqi taxi driver BRITISH INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS NEVER MET. Here's what happened:

1. MI6 was "squeezing their agents in Iraq for anything at all."

2. The Iraqi National Accord, an exile organization set up with money from the CIA, had hooked up MI6 with a senior Iraqi military officer. This officer claimed he spoke to the taxi driver, and said the taxi driver in turn claimed he'd heard this from OTHER Iraqi officers he'd driven somewhere. So this was completely uncorroborated, third-hand, with a taxi driver in the middle.

3. The Iraqi National Accord's spokesman later described the "45 minute" claim as a "crock of shit."

4. Breakfast time!


Today—the same day the news broke about the Iraqi taxi driver—Rupert Murdoch wrote this in a Wall Street Journal op-ed:

From the beginning, newspapers have prospered for one reason: the trust that comes from representing their readers' interests and giving them the news that's important to them. That means covering the communities where they live, exposing government or business corruption, and standing up to the rich and powerful.


—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at December 8, 2009 11:05 AM

And an article about the man himself!!! Strange......

"Murdoch: From Media Villain to Champion"

And Iraq inqiry on Channel 4

Posted by: Rupa Shah at December 8, 2009 12:14 PM

Today's keen eye prize goes to mister schwarz.

Posted by: N E at December 8, 2009 12:42 PM

Wait, Jon - do you actually read the WSJ? Is that a picture of your brain in the saucepan? Seriously, be careful! That's a dangerous drug!

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at December 8, 2009 02:47 PM

Thank goodness we have Rupert Murdoch to protect us from the rich.

How... does that... even make sense? Even to Sun readers?

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at December 8, 2009 03:02 PM

Shorter Mr. Murdoch:

Soon you will be required to pay for the shit we make up. It is the future as foretold by the founding fathers so it's OK.

Posted by: Jimbo at December 8, 2009 03:11 PM

Kim Philby, thou shouldst be living in this hour.

Posted by: Hogan at December 8, 2009 03:15 PM

Ah THE SUN. It's greatest moment of infamy: I dunno if anyone remembers the famous GOTCHA! headline from the Falklands War.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at December 8, 2009 08:12 PM

This thread is starting to make
me feel stupid. The "Kim Philby" line has sailed right over my head, and I'm just watching it fly off into the distance, and I don't remember the "GOTCHA! headline from the Falklands War either.

Posted by: N E at December 8, 2009 09:14 PM

N E:
May be this will help!
"A new Britain, a new kind of newspaper
One paper stood out - for its xenophobic, bloody-minded, triumphalist coverage. It was Kelvin MacKenzie's Sun."


ps the story is very interesting and talks about Murdoch's personal involvement in the headline!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at December 8, 2009 10:23 PM

Why blame the taxi driver? I would still trust a taxi driver over a News Corp editorial writer any day.

The rest of the WSJ is pretty good though...better than the NYT.

I remember listening to Blair go on about the "dossier" as though that word alone authenticated whatever it contained.

The fact remains that anyone who cursorily followed the Iraq WMD story prior to 9/11 could easily see through all the Bush-Blair had all been debunked already. Journalists are too lazy to do their own investigations, or even to read the back issues of their own newspapers!

Kim Philby ran counterintelligence for MI6.

Posted by: Seth at December 9, 2009 12:12 AM

I have never told a lie. Naturally I tire of people lying about me, alleging I used to work in counterintelligence and MI6. Lying is wrong, darn wrong. Is that a crock of chile con carne?

Posted by: Kim Philby at December 9, 2009 12:49 AM

And I say, if it's good enough for Thomas Friedman, why not MI6?

Posted by: NomadUK at December 9, 2009 03:38 AM

The WSJ editorial page is harmful to one's mental health. Here's something I wrote in October of 2007:

missus charley, m.d. and i get the Financial Times (we are by no means financiers, but it was an option to use airline miles about to expire) and we are favorably impressed with it, not only the reporting, but the cultural stuff and the commentary – the contrast of the editorial opinions with those expressed at the WSJ is quite striking

my dad, retired army colonel charley, has had a return to relative sociopolitical sanity since he stopped reading the WSJ a couple of years ago – now he sees how psychotic the still pro-bush views of my stepmother are – who knows if it’s good or bad?

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 9, 2009 07:19 AM

I know who you are, mister philby, you pinko commie treasonous self-loathing egalitarian you, so don't be coy with me. I just thought you might have some special insight into this newscorp trivia, beyond the routine observation of how Rupert plays the english speaking world for fools over and over again in such a simple way that any real professional deceiver like you would gasp in shock at his nerve. Or something like that.

Thanks for the link rupa shah. I didn't read the Sun at that time, and I didn't even know they were called the malvinas back then because I was absurdly young and stuck on a girl whom I chased to Germany (with tragicomic results) right before Maggie went berzerk (on cue), so I only saw the international herald tribune in english during that war. Remembering the headlines in the tribune of the conflict as it approached reminds me how young and naive I was at that time, which is even younger than I was a decade later, which is of course even younger than I was another decade after that, when the shocking and murderous Great Con of the new millenium transpired.

Now I actually feel old enough to deserve my cynicism, even almost like a real old-timer, but as Nietzche said about that particular self-delusion, "this too is youth." You might remember that, mistah charley, even though you're a decade ahead of me, because the most brilliant Friedrich of them all wasn't talking about calendars.

Posted by: N E at December 9, 2009 09:41 AM

En Ming Hee

I disagree, the one I liked best was during the Norman Scott/Jeremy Thorpe Towel over arm and vaseline in hand debacle with the headline
"Scott of the Arseantics"

Posted by: Bill Jones at December 9, 2009 10:44 AM

Kim Philby ran counterintelligence for MI6.

Actually he ran counterintelligence for the KGB at MI6.

Posted by: Hogan at December 9, 2009 12:24 PM

> Is that a crock of chile con carne?

I believe it's Cocoa-Wheats, a branded American hot breakfast cereal which comprises cream-of-wheat and chocolate flavoring.

Posted by: joel hanes at December 9, 2009 01:29 PM

Is that a crock of chile con carne?

I think it's applesauce.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at December 9, 2009 01:34 PM

"Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age." Victor Hugo

The Voyage of Life

The phrase "this too is youth" which N E quoted interested me, but the only place Google found it, besides here, was in a book of poetry, Vagaries, Charles Granville, 1915, London.


A little fount upwells
On some snow-soilèd hill;
In infant lustihood
Leaps down a glancing rill.

A white gleam streaks the plain,
The stream a channel graves;
And a dead element
Is conscious as it raves

And spurts in wilding shout,
And frets the rival course;
Or frowns---this too is youth---
In leaf-browed pools of scorn.

A crystal river flows
Thorough the haunts of men---
Alas for purity,
For stainless origin!

A turbid mild expanse
Moves or moves not at all;
And nearer calls the deep,
And sweeter grows the call.

A cloud-wraith flakes the sky,
Fresh risen from the sea;
And youth and age are past,
And soul again is free.

I am much struck by the resemblance between this poem and Thomas Cole's 1840 series of paintings "The Voyage of Life," which is one of my favorites at the National Gallery of Art.

In the paintings, the human is traveling ON the stream, whereas in the poem the soul IS the stream - but otherwise the resemblance is quite close.

A note on the text of the poem: I found errors which I attributed to the process of optical character recognition, but on examining the PDF of the scan it is clear these were errors in the original printing, which now live on in the reprints still available. I have corrected two of them: "hown" on the fourth line of the poem should be "down", obviously; and "turpid" is "turbid", clearly {ha ha! pun intended}. The phrase "a dead element" bothers me, and I'm pretty sure there's an error there - but what SHOULD it be? Any suggestions?

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 9, 2009 02:07 PM

Tomato, tomahto. Such silly people.

Posted by: Kim Philby at December 9, 2009 02:10 PM

What have you got against taxi drivers?

Typical liberal.

Posted by: Figment at December 9, 2009 02:26 PM

mistah charley

I distinctly remember discussing that phrase from Nietzsche, or something very close to it, with a wise mentor of mine well over twenty years ago, and now I cannot find it either, or remember in what book I read it. Knowing what I do about the fallibility of memory, I have little confidence that Nietzsche ever said precisely that, though I suspect it was something reasonably close. Sort of.

On the bright side, my tricky memory has led us to a fine poem, which reminded you of a fine and favored painting. I really like the poem, which strikes me as even better now that I've scrutinized it to answer your question. I would bet that the phrase "a dead element" was in fact intended, partly because of the word "grave" in the preceding sentence, which harmonizes with it, but more importantly because the great Google Books feature reveals that the phrase "dead element" can refer, as far back as Clement of Alexandria, to the spirit or soul, which makes infinite sense in the poem, which is after all about the cycle of human life through the metaphor of the water cycle, and which in the beginning describes our "dead element" fretting and frowning under a leaf browed pool of scorn (which I love) about the folly of youth. I liked the poem before I figured that out just because of its sound, and I like it even more because it isn't stupid once I understand it, which alas is my problem with too many poems. So thanks!

p.s. i agree that "hown" almost certainly should be "down" and that turpid is a fabulous and intentional pun.

Posted by: N E at December 9, 2009 05:38 PM

life is like a beanstalk, innit?

Thanks for Googling "dead element", N E - here's an illustrative passage from Greek Orthodox theology:

The universe consists of two elements: the dead and the living one. Strict laws of physics govern the dead element. The essence of its activities are reduced to the formula: "Cause and effect." It contains masses of "matter," mainly in its coarse, almost wild form, and physical "energy."

So our poet is pointing to the seeming paradox (from one perspective) of consciousness and emotions in something made of matter, that is part of the physical world. Suffusing the entire poem is the idea that during the life cycle the soul enters the world by participating in the body's life, and then at the end leaves it behind.

As James Taylor put it,

"You can believe it if it helps you to sleep;
Singing works just fine for me."

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 9, 2009 09:02 PM


from Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

God made mud.

God got lonesome.

So God said to some of the mud, "Sit up!"

"See all I've made," said God, "the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars."

And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.

Lucky me, lucky mud.

I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.

Nice going, God.

Nobody but you could have done it, God! I certainly couldn't have.

I feel very unimportant compared to You.

The only way I can feel the least bit important is to think of all the mud that didn't even get to sit up and look around.

I got so much, and most mud got so little.

Thank you for the honor!

Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.

What memories for mud to have!

What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met!

I loved everything I saw!

Good night.

I will go to heaven now.

I can hardly wait...

To find out for certain what my wampeter was...

And who was in my karass...

And all the good things our karass did for you.


Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 9, 2009 09:19 PM

Thank you, mistah charley, for that great passage of Vonnegut, and for straightening me out on the 'dead element,' which sounds like it was more the material world than the soul. So maybe I was a bit hasty announcing my comprehension.

This reminds me: Once when I was traveling to Norway (alas, my only trip!) on a steamer from Copenhagen, I met a fine young Norwegian who was returning from a Greek Orthodox seminary in Athens. Stig was his name, and before docking in Oslo we had a friendly conversation about what he was doing in Athens becoming a Greek Orthodox priest. He said he liked the Eastern Church's greater harmony of body and spirit. I asked (not complaining) why then all the topless girls sunbathing in the city parks, and he said he viewed it as just the flip side of the Protestant revulsion with the body. I agreed then and still do.

To bring this back to the original topic, it's too bad we can't all bring our bodies and souls into harmony and develop a healthy social sensibility, because if we could manage to pull that off, I think people would wisen up to the Sun and the intelligence agencies and quit allowing themselves to be served up all these crocks of shit.

Posted by: N E at December 9, 2009 10:24 PM

jonathan, you've made it. somebody is trying to sell ugg boots on your site.

Posted by: N E at December 10, 2009 10:18 PM