Wednesday, July 01, 2009

All Around the Mulberry Bush


If you haven't seen it, be sure to head over to the NPR Ombudsman's page and check out her belated response (she was out of the office for the past week) to the flood of comments that Alicia Shepard ("as a journalist with almost 30 years' experience"!) received for her earlier defense of NPR's use euphemisms for torture authorized and committed by the US government/military.

It has to be read to be believed, but here is the heart of her "argument":
But no matter how many distinguished groups - the International Red Cross, the U.N. High Commissioners - say waterboarding is torture, there are responsible people who say it is not. Former President Bush, former Vice President Cheney, their staff and their supporters obviously believed that waterboarding terrorism suspects was necessary to protect the nation's security.

One can disagree strongly with those beliefs and their actions. But they are due some respect for their views, which are shared by a portion of the American public. So, it is not an open-and-shut case that everyone believes waterboarding to be torture.
And this from the Ombudsman of a "public" radio organization. If you are up for it, be sure to comment, email, call, etc.

BTW - Shepard has refused to be interviewed by Glenn Greenwald.

Addendum 1: Reader Gopol did a little research on Shepard's "professional" past and...
"noticed that she worked for the San Jose Mercury News about the same time as Gary Webb, who's book Dark Alliance I've been reading. So I Google 'Alicia Shepard' and 'Gary Webb' and came up with a Counterpunch article by Alexander Coburn, How the Press and the CIA Killed Gary Webb's Career

It turns out Alicia was instrumental in assassinating Webb's credibility at the News. She even wrote an article about it: Shepard, Alicia. The Web Gary Spun. American Journalism Review, Jan./Feb. 1997."
Great find Gopol!

Addendum 2: Simon Owens of Bloggasm contacted me about an interview he did with Glenn Greenwald regarding Shepard's refusal to be interviewed by Greenwald. You can read it here.

35 comments:

The said...

"I believe that it is not the role of journalists to take sides or to characterize things."

And then:

"But no matter how many distinguished groups -- the International Red Cross, the U.N. High Commissioners -- say waterboarding is torture, there are responsible people who say it is not. Former President Bush, former Vice President Cheney, their staff and their supporters obviously believed that waterboarding terrorism suspects was necessary to protect the nation's security."

She characterizes Bush, Cheney and their supporters on this issue as responsible people, giving them credibility, and putting the lie to her first statement above. (Would have been better to characterize them as the people responsible.)

Giving Bush/Cheney credibility on this issue is very much the same as giving credibility to the claim of a bank robber that he was only borrowing the money. Intellectually honest people do not accept the criminal's claim that the crime is not a crime. Intellectually dishonest people, like Shepard, should not be accorded the appellation "journalist" or "ombudsman".

Porter Melmoth said...

Ms Shepard is splendidly predictable. Unlike SC Gov. Sanford, she and NPR lack the guts to tell it like it is, baby. Heh.

Jesse Ventura said it best: "Waterboarding IS TORTURE. I've been waterboarded. Give me 5 minutes with Dick Cheney on a waterboard, and I'll have him confessing to the Sharon Tate murders." You tell the bastards, Jesse!

I've been telling everyone I know about the Shepard Pronouncement, and for once I am taken at my word. The response has been 100% disgust. Another popular response: "Yeah, what's WITH NPR these days?"

Porter Melmoth said...

Vivian Schiller, Shepard, Garrels, Rovner, Liarsson, etc, etc....

I may be on thin ice, but I thought women were going to straighten out baboon-like, war-making men as they rose to positions of power and influence in the world.

What a pathetic disappointment.

gopol said...

Porter,

I think NPR has taken Nixon's advice. The cross-over attraction didn't end with women. Notice anything about Colin Powell, Alberto Gonzalez and Condoleezza Rice? My spell checker suggests "controllable" for Condoleezza.

Porter Melmoth said...

G,

Indeed, I had forgotten Dick's trickiness in that respect.

Idealism, hope...what are they in the face of TOTAL, UNBENDING, UNCOMPROMISING and ONGOING control? Gender becomes generic, irrelevant. Good little Nazis will always be under the protection of their Fuhrer.

Porter Melmoth said...

Sarah the P. must be a Nixonian wetdream.

Porter Melmoth said...

Estimated amount of bill sent to NPR from Frank Luntz Industries for the Master's services regarding terminology required to conform to the Shepard Proclamation (and other related guidelines): $1,246,002

(To be passed on to dedicated NPR listeners nationwide.)

larry, dfh said...

I listened to the 'on teh media'segment with sheppard. I wished Bob Garfield had asked her: if you want to be descriptive, why not refer to waterboarding as 'forced drowning'? I think detainees who die in custody should be referred to as having been 'beaten to death', which they were. And those who died should be referred to as having been 'murdered', since autopsy results establish cause of deaths as 'homicide'. No, sheppard isn't trying to be professional, she's covering asses, and she's a lying piece of shit for doing so. The truth is her foil.
And Gopol, the 'Huge complex just north of I-84' is it. Probably the biggest brick building I've ever seen, attached to other large buildings. The 'square' on the right is their parking garage, and it's large, too.

Anonymous said...

Former President Bush, former Vice President Cheney, their staff and their supporters obviously believed that waterboarding terrorism suspects was necessary to protect the nation's security.'

Completely irrelevant to whether waterboarding is torture.

One can disagree strongly with those beliefs and their actions. But they are due some respect for their views, which are shared by a portion of the American public.

By that logic, I guess we should respect the views of serial killers, which are clearly shared by a portion of the American public (the "serial killer portion").

Is this really what NPR has come to?

If so, it's worse than I ever could have imagined. Much worse.

Molly Ivins bit of advice comes to mind here: when you are in a hole, don't keep digging.

Grimblebee said...

My message to the Ombudsman:

I'm reminded of that scene in "My Cousin Vinnie" when the lawyer says, "I think I get that point" and the judge says, "No, I don't think you do. You're now in contempt of court."

Well, Ms. Shepard, you are in contempt of journalistic integrity and common sense.

If an NPR journalist were reported to have dived into the water and flailed his arms and legs a bit, that would be called "swimming." If a journalist were thrown against a wall and made to feel as if he/she were drowning, that would be called "torture" -- at least by any reasonably thinking human being (though perhaps not the torturer.) Besides, your vapid case here contradicts what is actually heard on NPR. Reporters use "enhanced interrogation techniques" and similar language. They don't give a detailed description every time -- how could they?

The flaw in your logic -- and I'm being generous here -- is to contrast the groups who "say" that waterboarding is torture to the Bush Administration people who "believed that waterboarding terrorism suspects was necessary to protect the nation's security." But wait, you are comparing apples (whether or not waterboarding is torture) to oranges (whether or not waterboarding is justified). Your argument is indefensible.

Grimblebee said...

Correction: That was the collection of letters, with spaces in between them, that I typed onto a keyboard and then, because of circuits and microchips and such, appeared on my screen, and which I then sent to the person at something called "National Public Radio" (I'd describe it, but I'm running out of space and time) whose employment has something to do with representing the people who listen to the collection of sounds coming out of an electric box......

GRUMPY DEMO said...

I just wanted to share one of my bon mots typos, I just posted on the Ms. Shepard's NPR site (save you from having to read the other 160+ negative comments, but you should):


I think Bob Garfield at On The Media said it best:

"BOB GARFIELD: The U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights says that waterboarding is torture. The International Committee of the Red Cross have called what the U.S. did “torture.” Waterboarding is unambiguously in violation of the International Convention on Torture, which has been ratified by 140-some countries.

"It seems to me that the only people who think it’s a debate are the Bush Administration, who are the culprits. So how does that constituent a debate?"

http://www.onthemedia.org/transcripts/2009/06/26/02

You may have "30 years of experience as journalist", but you're now a embarrassment to you profession and NPR.

Congratulations you've become Juan Williams.

Anonymous said...

Shepard is free to "respect the views" of those who carried out the acts in question all she wants.

When she makes such arguments, she is proving beyond any reasonable doubt that she is unethical both from the journalistic standpoint and from the standpoint of human decency.

But Glenn Greenwald makes an important point. People DIED as a result of the "harsh interrogation tactics" that were carried out at the behest of and under the direction of the Bush administration. That is not a point that is open to some idiotic "journalistic debate" about words.
(though Alicia Shepard obviously believes otherwise)

According to Greenwald:
"The interrogation and detention regime implemented by the U.S. resulted in the deaths of over 100 detainees in U.S. custody -- at least. While some of those deaths were the result of "rogue" interrogators and agents, many were caused by the methods authorized at the highest levels of the Bush White House, including extreme stress positions, hypothermia, sleep deprivation and others. Aside from the fact that they cause immense pain, that's one reason we've always considered those tactics to be "torture" when used by others -- because they inflict serious harm, and can even kill people."" -- Glenn Greenwald

GRUMPY DEMO said...

Mytwords,

Warning, it's a plot by Ms. Shepard and NPR.

See, NPR's blatantly stupid behavior is intended to drive you into such a blind rage that you will blog so much it will to inflame your carpal tunnel syndrome soo bad that you'll have to give up NPR Check.

It won't work.

GRUMPY DEMO said...

FYI, y'all

"@ombudsman On Twitter
Twitter Updates

* I will be on Talk of the Nation tomorrow from 2:40 - 3:00 pm Eastern. Topic of discussion? NPR and the language of torture. 55 minutes ago"

bag!pank!fozzy!bonny! said...

Shame that the spyrogyral Ms. S has to be made the sacrificial lamb for an organization that overally has gradually eroded into a pariah beyond pathos.

But hey, she kinda asked for it.

Anonymous said...

Shepard's refusal to be interviewed by Greeenwald is pretty much the way things work at NPR.

If they want to avoid an discussing an issue, they just refuse to do so. they act like it did not even exist with the idea that it will "blow over"* (*The only problem is that in this case it seems to have blown up in Shepard's and NPR's face)

Just a few examples of NPR's avoidance tactic:

1) Downing Street Minutes that stated that the intelligence was being fixed about the policy to invade Iraq. NPR mentioned it's existence but never really covered it.

2) S&L fraud investigator William Black has indicated that there was most likely massive fraud (liars loans and the like) at the core of the recent financial meltdown. Not a word about Black's allegations on NPR.

Another case of "I see nothing" (or maybe "I know nothing" [Hogan's Heroes' Sgt Schultz] would be a better characterization of NPR)
Avoid the issue as if it did not exist.

3) Tens of billions of public money funneled through AIG to companies like Goldman Sachs. Again not a peep out of NPR.

Avoid the issue as if it did not exist.

Shepard is just following NPR standard operating procedure in cases like this: if you don't like it, avoid it.

Anonymous said...

"a journalist with almost 30 years' experience"


From wikipedia:
"In 1987, Shepard, her husband and one-year-old son, Cutter, set sail on their 32-foot sailboat, “Yankee Lady”, for the South Pacific. They spent three years cruising in the islands, and she wrote about their adventures. They sailed to Japan and stayed for two more years writing, editing, teaching English and learning Japanese."

Now there's some hard hitting journalism for you.

gopol said...

Anonymous Said,

Your digging into Alicia's past prompted me to do the same. Pay dirt.

I noticed that she worked for the San Jose Mercury News about the same time as Gary Webb, who's book Dark Alliance I've been reading. So I google "Alicia Shepard" and "Gary Webb" and came up with a Counterpunch article by Alexander Coburn, How the Press and the CIA Killed Gary Webb's Career

It turns out Alicia was instrumental in assassinating Webb's credibility at the News. She even wrote an article about it:
Shepard, Alicia. The Web Gary Spun. American Journalism Review, Jan./Feb. 1997.

gopol said...

"whose book" not "who's book" I credit Porter for the error.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Former President Bush, former Vice President Cheney, their staff and their supporters obviously believed that waterboarding terrorism suspects was necessary to protect the nation's security.

This is precisely why there is no way in hell that BusCheney will EVER be convicted of any wrong-doing in these matters. All they have to do is play the "we were protecting MURKA!" card.

Enough folks would buy this excuse that there could NEVER be a unanimous decision...

Anonymous said...

That story "How the Press and the CIA Killed Gary Webb's Career" is a good find gopol.


From the above article:
"Webb got a call from a friend, saying that a reporter had requested copies of all of Webb's clippings. The reporter seemed interested in digging into Webb's personal background. She particularly asked about an incident in which Webb had fired his .22 at a man who had been trying to steal his prized TR6 and who threatened Webb and his then-pregnant wife. (The man turned out to be a known local crook already convicted of manslaughter.) The reporter pursuing this story was Alicia Shepard of the American Journalism Review. Shepard had formerly worked as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. Her story was another smear on Webb's journalistic ethics,"

With "journalism" like that, we'll have to start calling her Alicia Shepward (I hope Bob Woodward does not sue me for libel)

It may be of no meaning whatsoever, but it IS interesting nonetheless that the primary focus in both the Webb case and in the torture case is the CIA. In both cases, their reputation (and more) is on the line.

They are the ones with the most to lose from a classification of waterboaring and other enhanced interrogation as "torture" and I am sure that they are none too happy with any journalist who characterizes their methods as torture.

larry, dfh said...

Thanks Gopos, and soooo right, Anon. It's whose ass she's really covering, make no mistake about it.

Kevan Smith said...

Here's Shepard's article:

http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=257

The Web That Gary Spun

gopol said...

Thanks, Kevan, wading through the article, I had this growing creepy feeling about how the overarching curve of the piece was going to go, and sure enough, at the end she quotes "many"

IN THE END, MANY WOULD ARGUE that, by leading reasonable readers to believe the CIA played a role in the origins of the crack explosion, the paper hurt its credibility, hurt journalism, caused irreparable damage in the black community and shed little light on the question of whether the CIA looked the other way while cocaine was smuggled into this country. Webb and his reporting have become as much the issue as the CIA and crack.

The only authority higher than "many" is Senator Arlen Specter (no spook he):

the CIA was not involved in his drug trafficking business in any way

Well, that settles it. The man who gave the Warren Commission the single bullet theory and, with Simpson and Hyde, redeemed the fine character of Clarence Thomas in the face of Anita Hill's libelous accusations, is unimpeachable. His word would have sufficed and made for a much shorter article.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't Greenwald just call out the CEO of NPR on this. Shepard doesn't do anything but justify (though the Bee thing is "interesting") policy set by others.

edk

Anonymous said...

RE calling out CEO of NPR

I agree.

Vivian Schiller.

What a perfect name for the head of NPR.

Though I doubt she would ever stoop low enough to talk to the unwashed bloggers like Greenwald

She's undoubtedly too snooty for that (being an Ivy League brat and all)

Anonymous said...

Webb and his reporting have become as much the issue as the CIA and crack." -- Alicia Shepard

... just as Alicia Shepard and her employer's use of Newspeak have become as much the issue as the CIA and torture.

Feel free to correct me if I am being redundant.

Anonymous said...

It turns out Alicia was instrumental in assassinating Webb's credibility at the News. " -- from Counterpunch

http://www.counterpunch.org/webb212172004.html

Just my opinion, but I'd have to say that those involved in the effort to discredit Webb the man are guilty of more than just "character assassination."

On December 10, 2004, he [Gary Webb] was found dead from two gunshot wounds to the head.[19] Sacramento County coroner Robert Lyons determined that it was suicide. Webb's ex-wife, Sue Bell, said that Webb had been depressed for some time over his inability to get a job at another major newspaper.[19] -- Wikipedia


Not sure how someone can live with the knowledge that they may have quite literally helped destroy the life of an award winning investigative journalist who had far more respect for "truth" than most journalists today -- and certain FAR more than most of those bent on discrediting him.

For any who still believe that Webb's main allegations (that the CIA "tolerated" the contras' cocaine trading) actually WERE proven false, you might want to read what some truly independent ombudsmen (unlike Shepard) have said

(from wikipedia)
Writing in 2005 in the Chicago Tribune, about "the Dangers of Questioning Government Actions," Don Wycliff, the Tribune's public editor, wrote, "I still think Gary Webb had it mostly right. I think he got the treatment that always comes to those who dare question aloud the bona fides of the establishment: First he got misrepresented -- his suggestion that the CIA tolerated the contras' cocaine trading became an allegation that the agency itself was involved in the drug trade. Then he was ridiculed as a conspiracy-monger.." [14]

and this from a former ombudsman at the Post (related by Normon Solomon) :The Post's ombudsman, Geneva Overholser, was on target (11/10/96) when she re-raised the question of the U.S. government's relationship to drug smuggling and noted that the three newspapers "showed more passion for sniffing out the flaws in San Jose's answer than for sniffing out a better answer themselves." Citing "strong previous evidence that the CIA at least chose to overlook contra involvement in the drug trade," Overholser found "misdirected zeal" in the Post's response to the Mercury News series: "Would that we had welcomed the surge of public interest as an occasion to return to a subject the Post and the public had given short shrift."

and this from LA Times:

The LA Times piece criticizes its own unfair portrayal of Webb -- "we dropped the ball" -- and notes that "spurred on by Webb’s story, the CIA conducted an internal investigation that acknowledged in March 1998 that the agency had covered up Contra drug trafficking for more than a decade" and concludes that "History will tell if Webb receives the credit he’s due for prodding the CIA to acknowledge its shameful collaboration with drug dealers. Meanwhile, the journalistic establishment is only beginning to recognize that the controversy over “Dark Alliance” had more to do with poor editing than bad reporting [on Webb's part]"[13]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Webb

Anonymous said...

Gopol says So I Google 'Alicia Shepard' and 'Gary Webb' and came up with a Counterpunch article by Alexander Coburn, How the Press and the CIA Killed Gary Webb's Career

gopol

Google 'Alicia Shepard' and 'Gary Webb' now.

Guess what comes up at the top.

Hee hee.

I bet old Alicia is wishin' right about now that she had never opened up that can of torturous worms.

Anonymous said...

The talk of the Nation interview of Shepard is the most disgusting piece of advocacy (in this case for Shepard and NPR policy) that i think I have ever heard.

The more NPR people we hear from on this, the more it becomes perfectly clear that these people actually SUPPORT NPR's newspeak policy.

That's downright frightening.

Where are the people at NPR who are standing up for good journalism? (and I'm not referring to the "we need to represent ALL sides of an issue" [including that of the torturers]. Where are the journalists who actually believe that journalism is about finding and reporting truth?

There seem to be NONE of the latter at NPR.

Anonymous said...

The more NPR people we hear from on this, the more it becomes perfectly clear that these people actually SUPPORT NPR's newspeak policy.

That's downright frightening.

anon.

This is frightening but how about the listeners that buy into this world-view? NPR is in the business of pacifying America's management class. This is a class of people that believes in the rule of law until they don't. They oppose torture until they don't. They oppose wiretaps and illegal surveillance of citizens until they don't. They are for the "little guy" in financial matters up until they aren't.

I shake my head at some of the civiliasn voices I hear on call-ins and interviews (and since I am in the survey thingie now) fellow respondents.

edk

Anonymous said...

edK
You are undoubtedly right that there are millions of people who buy into what they hear on NPR because it re-inforces their world view and identity.

but as far as call ins and surveys, I take all that with a big block of salt.

It's simply too easy to skew the surveys and the call ins.

In fact, someone gave an example on another thread here about how they do just that by 'screening' calls to NPR programs.

What surprises me -- and disturbs me -- most about this stuff is that HAVE to be at least a few journalists at NPR who realize precisely what is going on. THEIR silence is deafening.

They have no excuse (can't claim ignorance like the vast majority of listeners can).

In some regard these people (they know who they are) at NPR who recognize what is going on (that NPR is using the "balance" ruse to propagandize) and nonetheless remain quiet are in some regard worse than those who have actually convinced themselves that NPR is actually following good journalistic practices.

Anonymous said...

Former President Bush, former Vice President Cheney, their staff and their supporters obviously believed that waterboarding terrorism suspects was necessary to protect the nation's security.
--------------------------

Amazing to hear this from a "journalist," since there is essentially no evidence that these people believed anything of the kind -- either in regard to necessity or to national security.

Based on what I've been reading lately, they believed waterboarding would help them shore up a story which they knew to be false and which was rapidly being proved to be false, which had nothing to do with the nation's security.

She just ... throws that out there as if "they believed it necessary" and "national security" were established fact. Stellar.

Well, at least we know where the "PR" in NPR comes from.

Anonymous said...

Amazing to hear this from a "journalist,"

To call Shepard a "journalist" (in the traditional sense of the word) is, shall we say, a bit of a "stretch."

After all, if she were a real journalist, why would she be working as an ombuttsman? and at a backwater "news' organization like NPR at that?