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June 26, 2010


Here's Jeffrey Goldberg again, writing about how great it was that the Washington Post fired Dave Weigel:

The sad truth is that the Washington Post, in its general desperation for page views, now hires people who came up in journalism without much adult supervision, and without the proper amount of toilet-training...some people at the Post (where I worked, briefly, 20 years ago) still know the difference between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior.

But how does this housebreaking of reporters by the adults at the Washington Post actually function? Here's an example from the late eighties, when Saddam Hussein was conducting the genocidal Anfal campaign against Iraqi Kurds, using chemical weapons. This included the gassing of the town of Halabja in 1988.

So how did the Washington Post toilet train its journalists? This is from pages 185-6 of A Problem from Hell by Samantha Power:

Official Knowledge, Official Silence...

[W]hatever the broad knowledge of the facts, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad gave the impression that the demolition and population transfers were both justified and likely soon to subside...

The U.S. media did not press the matter...The Washington Post's [Jonathan] Randal had visited in 1985, but he could not persuade his editors that another trip would be worth the expensive, the risk and the hassle. Once, when he tried to get the Post to publish a picture of a gassed Kurd, his editor asked, "Who will care?"

At the time, this was a story the U.S. government didn't want covered. So the Post helpfully trained its reporters not to ask questions about it.

But by 2002, this had turned from the wrong story into the right story. It was something the U.S. government very badly did want covered. Someone definitely cared. And so, using the toilet-training he'd acquired at the Washington Post, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote thousands of words about it, with tons of vivid detail:

In the late morning of March 16, 1988, an Iraqi Air Force helicopter appeared over the city of Halabja...

Nouri Hama Ali, who lived in the northern part of town, decided to lead his family in the direction of Anab, a collective settlement on the outskirts of Halabja that housed Kurds displaced when the Iraqi Army destroyed their villages. “On the road to Anab, many of the women and children began to die,” Nouri told me. “The chemical clouds were on the ground. They were heavy. We could see them.” People were dying all around, he said. When a child could not go on, the parents, becoming hysterical with fear, abandoned him. “Many children were left on the ground, by the side of the road. Old people as well. They were running, then they would stop breathing and die.”

Then when Saddam Hussein was on trial in 2006, the Anfal campaign was again the right story. So the Washington Post ran a long article about it, also with lots of detail:

To Amina Khalid Saleem, 54, Hussein is already guilty. She still vividly remembers the morning the chemical bombs pounded her village of Siareh, nestled in the foothills of Gara Mountain. "It entered my nose, and I started coughing, and something yellow began to seep from my mouth," said Saleem, a short, strong-voiced woman in a blue skirt and white head scarf. "Everything around me turned yellow, and it became dark. People were fleeing in all directions."

So whatever you want to say about Jeffrey Goldberg, he's definitely telling the truth when he says Washington Post reporters and he himself have been extremely well trained.

Here's what George Orwell wrote in 1944 about this training process:

One of the most extraordinary things about England is that there is almost no official censorship, and yet nothing that is actually offensive to the governing class gets into print, at least in any place where large numbers of people are likely to read it...Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.

However, even Orwell never imagined that some circus dogs would brag about their obedience.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at June 26, 2010 08:37 PM

The 'Trick Dogs" R US. They have always been US. Yellow Press-a term that's old as dirt in America.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 26, 2010 09:13 PM

DON'T BUY their rag, it looks and smells like a shitty disposable diaper.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 27, 2010 12:05 AM

Likewise, from the long suppressed introduction to Animal Farm (which Chomsky has noted and quoted):

. . . "it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves."

. . . "The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary. Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news - things which on their own merits would get the big headlines - being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that 'it wouldn't do' to mention that particular fact."

The author of a respected book on the British Official Secrets Act has concluded/confirmed that the law is less important than the deference of the British press to the government and public opinion.

It's the same here.

Posted by: N E at June 27, 2010 12:55 AM

Stop insulting dogs.

Posted by: abb1 at June 27, 2010 03:05 AM

Too bad you had to cite that monster, Susan Power, to make your point.

Posted by: Rojo at June 27, 2010 07:59 AM

Rojo, is Samantha aka Susan Power a monster because of her blindness to genocide that the US elite won't acknowledge, because she married Cass Sunstein, or for some other reason (that I don't know)?

Posted by: N E at June 27, 2010 09:42 AM

NE, in reply to your question to Rojo: Yes.

Posted by: RedPhillip at June 27, 2010 10:22 AM

RedPhillip. Funny. I guess that's what I get for asking a compound question.

Posted by: N E at June 27, 2010 11:20 AM

Samantha Power's work is of some limited use--Jon just demonstrated that. But yeah, she's a funny variety of apparatchik (sp?)--the conscience of the Serious People.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at June 27, 2010 11:33 AM

To my mind, she's a monster for putting a humanitarian gloss on American foreign policy.

I also was making a reference to the ginned-up controversy when she called our current Secretary of State a monster.

Posted by: Rojo at June 27, 2010 02:49 PM

Rojo--I'd forgotten but remember now that Power called Hillary a monster, so you slipped a clever one by me there.

I agree with Donald Johnson that like her hubby Cass Sunstein, she is the conscience of the Serious People. I read her book about genocide and barely remember it except that I felt like I was reading Time magazine. I liked Cass because of his book about FDR's Second Bill of Rights (And Why We Need It More Than Ever), but then he decided people who think the government does evil are crazy and need to be censored, which makes me think he's an arrogant ass and a public menace.

Posted by: N E at June 27, 2010 04:03 PM

I notice that I failed to acknowledge my Susan/Samantha error. Consider error acknowledged. I think I might have made a Freudian conflation with Susan Rice, also a monster (one need go no further than her flacking for Israeli/US policy on Gaza for conclusive evidence on that).

Posted by: Rojo at June 27, 2010 10:53 PM

The American Frankenstein gots and is comprized of many parts, about 300 million of them, more or less.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 28, 2010 02:16 AM