Monday, December 06, 2010

Hatchet Job


Liane Hansen works hard to convey a friendly, down-to-earth, aunt-like persona as she reads her scripts for NPR. But like the gooey Scott Simon, she too knows how to carry a blade. Don't you ever wonder what kind of dysfunctional, warped childhood people like Liane Hansen had that would make them want to front for a journalistically bankrupt institution like NPR? No? Of course not. What in God's name, does someone's childhood have to do with reporting on the actual content and substance of that person's behavior? Everything - if your purpose is to smear and discredit them. Which brings us to Hansen's chat on Sunday morning with the sleazy, discredited New York Times reporter, John Burns. Hansen opens up her tabloid discussion with this:
"Before we get to his current troubles, can you give us just a little bit of biographical information on Mr. Assange, specifically, what was his childhood like in Australia?"
Burns is more than willing to supply irrelevant hearsay:
"He was brought up by his mother. It was a nomadic life. I think he had some troubles in school. In fact, he very often wasn't in school."
And that's the nice stuff these two jorno-assassins had to say about Assange. Here's Hansen at her reportorial best:
"People who know him have described him as imperious, a control freak, an ideologue, an egomaniac, a genius, and unique."
"His detractors say he's reckless; he puts lives at risk."
And so it goes, with Burns providing most of the smears and hits:
"...he struck me as being, yes, brilliant, capricious, arrogant, but not terribly self-knowing..."
"He is strange because, as you said in your introduction, he lives in the spotlight, occasionally popping up at news conferences and bathing in the celebrity. And then he disappears again."
"...his mobile phones, which he switches...like other men switch shirts."
"He's very concerned about his security. And, who knows, maybe he has reason to."
Who knows? Yes, you might think powerful figures were calling for his assassination [e.g. here, here, and here] or execution, or that the the world's most bloated and violent military institution had targeted his organization for destruction [pdf of leaked document here], or that the nation that runs that institution is in the habit of assassinating "high value targets" or kidnapping [with its allies] and torturing such people. You have to love that Mr. Uber journalist John Burns can only murmur "who knows" and yet say about Assange:
"And he struck me as...not gifted, I have to say, with much of a sense of irony."
Irony indeed...

24 comments:

miranda said...

We really are reliving the Nixon era, aren't we? I can scarcely imagine how so many "journalists" (they consider themselves that, anyway) can delight in the smearing and imagined execution of a man whose unspeakable crime was to publish something true (Enemies List and Ellsberg redux).

What about the murderous empire-advancing propaganda those august faux-"liberal" institutions the NYT and NPR have published/broadcast over the blood-soaked decades? Ah, just doin' their jobs.

As for Assange's accuser on sex charges, see this:


Firedoglake

Anonymous said...

I don't wonder much about the childhood of most of these NPR folks because it's pretty obvious:
as children, they were always outsmarted, outplayed and outclassed by nearly everyone around them.

So what they do now is simply their way of "getting back at" all the "smartypants" -- especially those who went on to become liberal academics, Nobel Prize winners, etc, many of whom actually ARE geniuses and therefore made the NPR folks look like the idiots that they are (and made them FEEL totally inadequate)

Put a George Bush costume on any of the guys and gals at NPR and you would not know it was not the real George (and of course, George would never call his own actions torture, now, would he?)

So, no I don't wonder about their childhood, but I do wonder about the adulthood of some of these folks: eg, about whether they work(ed) for the CIA.

I especially wonder about the ones with "interesting" backgrounds that have nothing whatsoever to do with real journalism (no relevant training or experience) -- or in some cases, completely "blank" backgrounds ("missing" years on the resume) -- the ones who seem to have come out of nowhere to move into a position at or near the top of NPR.

Miranda,

I think it's actually much worse than the Nixon era because during that time we still had a Congress and a soemwhat independent press that were interested in truth (rather than just smearing the messenger).

Now, we have neither.

All we do have is the internet and that may not last long if people like Joe Lieberman have their way.

Personally, I could not care less about the background of Assange, Ellsberg or anyone else.

The "information" is what is important and if NPR journalists had one shred of integrity they would be focused on (actually investigating)that rather than on rumors about the messenger.

OF COURSE, not all of the information released by wikileaks is accurate (personally I would not beleive a word that some official from Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan said).

But that's what journalism is all about(or supposed to be), looking into this trove of information and doing real old time investigative journalism to make that determination and present it in a form and context that most people can understand.

But I serioulsy doubt anyone at NPR even knows what that means. These so-called jouirnalists at NPR are a complete joke.

Most amazing of all: They seem to have no clue just how idiotic it makes them look to be feeding the tabloid rumor mill.

Anonymous said...

I don't wonder much about the childhood of most of these NPR folks because it's pretty obvious:
as children, they were always outsmarted, outplayed and outclassed by nearly everyone around them.

So what they do now is simply their way of "getting back at" all the "smartypants" -- especially those who went on to become liberal academics, Nobel Prize winners, etc, many of whom actually ARE geniuses and therefore made the NPR folks look like the idiots that they are (and made them FEEL totally inadequate)

Put a George Bush costume on any of the guys and gals at NPR and you would not know it was not the real George (and of course, George would never call his own actions torture, now, would he?)

So, no I don't wonder about their childhood, but I do wonder about the adulthood of some of these folks: eg, about whether they work(ed) for the CIA.

I especially wonder about the ones with "interesting" backgrounds that have nothing whatsoever to do with real journalism (no relevant training or experience) -- or in some cases, completely "blank" backgrounds ("missing" years on the resume) -- the ones who seem to have come out of nowhere to move into a position at or near the top of NPR.

Miranda,

I think it's actually much worse than the Nixon era because during that time we still had a Congress and a soemwhat independent press that were interested in truth (rather than just smearing the messenger).

Now, we have neither.

All we do have is the internet and even that may not last long if people like Joe Lieberman have their way.

Personally, I could not care less about the background of Assange, Ellsberg or anyone else.

The "information" is what is important and if NPR journalists had one shred of integrity they would be focused on (actually investigating)that rather than on rumors about the messenger.

OF COURSE, not all of the information released by wikileaks is accurate (personally I would not believe a single word that some official from Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan said without independent verification).

But that's what journalism is all about(or supposed to be), looking into this trove of information and doing real old time investigative journalism to make that determination and present it in a form and context that most people can understand.

But I seriously doubt anyone at NPR even knows what that means. These so-called journalists at NPR are a complete joke.

Most amazing of all: They seem to have no clue just how idiotic it makes them look to be feeding the tabloid rumor mill.

Patrick Lynch said...

I agree it's much worse than the Nixon era. My parents only get their news from NBC and PBS and when I've mentioned various things going on in the country, they've heard nothing of them. They've heard nothing of the contents of the leaks only the character assassination of the messenger.

I used to think more highly of Liane Hansen until like everyone else at NPR around late 2002 when her script reading became finally obvious to me. It isn't just the coverage of the news on Sunday mornings that has gone down the tubes but all of the arts coverage and even the puzzle master segment is just execrable. I'm glad I slept in last Sunday and missed this interview.

Anonymous said...

RE script

one of the main problems with radio "journalism" is that you can't see their face.

At least with TV news, you can see the reporter's face.

..and you CAN tell a lot from that, particularly when they are simply reading a script word for word.

Most of the good TV news people (Walter Kronkite, Harry Reasoner, for example) didn't actually read their script anyway. It was there if they needed it, but (like concert pianists), they did it mostly from memory. In other words, they had done their homework ahead of time (in many cases actually doing investigative journalism in the field) and actually knew what they were talking about when they told the public about it on air.

on the other hand, I'd bet that the folks at NPR would be completely lost without a script that tells them precisely what to say and probably even HOW to say it (when to pause for a breath, when to chuckle, when to act smug ...oh, wait, the NPR reporters doen't need a script for the latter.

More specifically, Liane Hansen has never struck me as the brightest bulb in the room (not even in the NPR newsroom). She's a 40 watt bulb in a room full of 60 watters (as compared to Walter Kronkite, who was 200W in his heyday)

Anonymous said...

..and of course, when you can see their face, it's a lot easier to tell if they are lying.

RepubLiecan said...

Oh man, if this isn't an example of the pot calling the kettle black, I don't know what is.

John Burns says:
"...he struck me as being, yes, brilliant, capricious, arrogant, but not terribly self-knowing..."

Although maybe not so much on the brilliant part.

By the way, thanks to all of you who listen to NPR News, so I don't have to.

=============== ============ ===

Anonymous said...

So, by Swedish law, consensual sex without a condom (which is what Assange is apparently "guilty" of) is considered rape?

By that standard Bill Clinton would undoubtedly be in jail for "having [unprotected cigar] sexual relations with that woman" (Along with probably 3/4 or better of the single men in the US.)


I was actually under the impression that Sweden had a fairly modern, liberal society.

I guess i was mistaken.

If their "rape" law is any indication, their legal system makes the US look downright enlightened.

gDog said...

Sometimes an association does indicate some culpability. Take this Glenzilla observation:

(National Review's Michael Ledeen: "Rich [Lowry, Editor of National Review] and I share an admiration for Michael Gordon, one of three (along with Burns and Filkens) NYT reporters who really work hard to get the Iraqi story right").

This is the Ladeen who has been fingered for involvement in the forgery which claimed that Saddam Hussein had bought yellowcake in Niger. The Ladeen who has said, "the only way to achieve peace is through total war," and "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

If Ladeen takes Burns as a fellow traveler, then well, I haven't heard Burns dissociate himself from that, so...

Porter Melmoth said...

The vilification of Assange is another perfect opportunity for the neo-Neocon program to be engaged, and with extreme prejudice, so to speak.

Indeed, when progressive societies like Sweden are drawn into anti-democratic plots, it shows that mafia techniques will be employed without reservation, and the consequences, if any, can be dealt with later. (In my experiences in Sweden, I have witnessed many examples of their progressiveness, but even they have a growing Neocon sentiment, and it isn't just Steig Larsson's Dragon Tattoo girl who's encountering it. How DID Larsson die, anyway? How DID Paul Wellstone die, anyway...?)

And supposedly cool (but Neocon-cooperative/Perle-friendly) Switzerland has frozen Assange's bank account. WTF??

Noam Chomsky states that anti-Wikileaks action shows a profound hatred of democracy. He also accurately puts many of the US cables into proper perspective: i.e. Iran's neighbors being violently opposed to Iran's given status. The heads of state (pro-US) in the region have objections, but not necessarily the populace. Most of these heads of state are dictators, but because they're 'on our side', the label doesn't apply.

I notice that S.S. Nelson is now in the Persian Gulf region, backing up the notion that the whole non-Iranian world hates the Iranian world.

A racial note: because NPR has so few staff of Morrocco-to-Indonesia origin (very telling!), those brainy bozos in NPR are sending Soraya into the fray, probably because they think she can 'pass' as local, and thus infiltrate for the cause, I suppose. However, in a matrix of sophisticated societies where persons can instantly identify others from the next valley, let alone country, I think Ms. Nelson will be getting most of her info from where she usually does: her embed-mates.

Forget Nelson! I'm sure al-Jazeera has some different perspectives. And DN!, naturally.

Representing the Neocons, NPR aims to get some 'capital' out of the Wikileaks cables, so as to snow everyone as to the validity of 'taking out' Iran.

There's no doubt that the world's mafia controllers, wherever they might be, see the wisdom in Madoff-izing Assange. Not to equate Madoff with Assange of course. It's just that, by channeling their own corruption onto a single figure, easily removable, the greater creeps can be insulated from investigation.

Yes, Auntie Liane has crafted quite a following through the centuries, especially, sadly, middle aged women like herself. I know several who genuinely rely on Liane for clarity and reassurance. And these are intelligent women who disdain the more commercial media (!), and are seeking some sanity in sorting out current events. Well, as has been demonstrated many times, Liane comes through with her low-key, easily-digested subversion.

It's almost as if many of these NPR lifers, now that they've reached the big time (as opposed to the low-ratings, low pay and esoteric egghead audiences of the pre-9/11 years), just love the ego-porn of being self-righteous quasi-celebrities. And in their botching of the job of being 'America's Storytellers', they have become like Reagan Era yuppies and cheerfully hopped on the sell-out wagon. With very few exceptions, they've always been sell-outs though - it's just more blatant now.

But because next year our Auntie might be sipping Starbucks with Bawlb Edwards somewhere 'by the ocean', I should think that NPR'll be losing many of those carefully-nurtured audience members. Liane will be impossible to replace. Fortunately.

Anonymous said...

He also accurately puts many of the US cables into proper perspective: i.e. Iran's neighbors being violently opposed to Iran's given status. The heads of state (pro-US) in the region have objections, but not necessarily the populace.

That's precisely why it is so important that news organizations investigate all of this massive "data dump" anmd figure out which stuff is true and which not -- and try to place it in a coherent context.

If no one does that, then cables from (Saudi Arabia and other unreliable governments) can simply be used to support an attack on Iran (whether it is warraneted or not).

But I have absolutely no hope that anyone at NPR will even READ any of the leaked material, to say nothing of try to figure out what it all means.

They are more interested in the "sensationalism" (directed against Assange).

Though I am not suprised by all th attempts to shut wikileaks down, it actually makes no logical sense.

Wikileaks has stated that all this stuff (and much more) has been widely disseminated (and encrypted) to ensure that it gets out even if wikileaks is shut dowm entirely.

So, no matter what one thinks of wikileaks, if one is being rational about this, one really has to clonclude that the effort to prevent the material getting out will almost certainly fail in the end.

It's the proverbial finger in the dike story.

It's actually laughable, the picture of all these powerful officials of the most powerful nation on earth bringing all their might and resources to bear on ONE guy (or maybe a few people at most), when his ultimate goal (dissemination of the material) does not even depend on him or his organization -- in fact, can be done by ANYONE, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME with an internet connection.

The idea that this can be stopped/thwarted is absurd. Just plain dumb.

It's doomed to fail and it just makes all these officials (Clinton and others) look like a bunch of buffoons in the process.

In fact, it makes the US (the most powerful country in human history) look utterly powerless (to say nothing of undemocratic, when they are using extrajudicial means to shut this guy down (perhaps quite literally)

gDog said...

How's this for unbelievably fanciful right wet-dreaming:

A decade ago, Olson was a rock star in conservative legal circles after he represented George W. Bush in the famous Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore, and won.

A year later, on Sept. 11, 2001, as Olson sat in his office at the Justice Department, he would hear his wife Barbara's voice for the last time. She was calling on her cell phone from American Airlines Flight 77, just moments before her plane struck the Pentagon.



Breathtaking in it's fictitious bravado. As Roger Carpentter (magnus) wrote in the comments section:

This has been proven to be incorrect. Why doesn't NPR reporting reflect the known facts, as described below--
"The most serious official contradiction of Ted Olson’s story came in 2006 at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker. The evidence presented to this trial by the FBI included a report on phone calls from all four 9/11 flights. In its report on American Flight 77, the FBI report attributed only one call to Barbara Olson and it was an 'unconnected call,' which (of course) lasted '0 seconds., According to the FBI, therefore, Ted Olson did not receive a single call from his wife using either a cell phone or an onboard phone."

Fred Baumgarten said...

Porter: Just curious, honestly, about your comment re: Bob Edwards. I associate him with a time of relative "innocence" at NPR, and in my mind think of him as the last honest and interesting host. Of course, that was also just before I started coming to NPR Check and having my eyes opened...So maybe it's naive nostalgia, but as I say, I'm just curious what you think. Sure there was the "folksy" Bob, but I actually found that to be part of his appeal, and if voices count for anything, his was serious but reassuring.

gDog: Good point, and not coincidentally brings us back to Porter's question about Paul Wellstone. But this is going where NPR will never, ever go, not in a million years. In fact, neither will anyone not brave enough to put their lives and well-being on the line to be perceived as tin-foil-hat-wearing pariahs.

MYTWORDS: My thanks for putting featuring my blog on yours! Much appreciated. I used to have another blog, but I tore it down a couple of years ago (cf. above).

Sorry I haven't posted more on NYT Check, but my day job ebbs and flows and it's flowing now! Plus I just had some minor oral surgery today, so just getting back in the saddle.

Porter Melmoth said...

Hi Fred,

I just tossed in Edwards' name because he's a former NPR host who used to command considerable influence and audience loyalty. As I'm sure you know, he was, in a complicated maneuver, replaced by the more 'assertive' Inskeep & Montaigne. In my opinion, Edwards had a few issues worth dissecting of his own (some archive-probing in this blog would be necessary to quote examples), but the new team was blatant evidence that NPR was going for the gold. They have certainly been more than cooperative in conforming to the neo-NPR imperatives.

So, Hanson is exiting voluntarily (I presume), while Edwards was edged out in the effort to make NPR more mainstream and to capture younger audiences. Sunday morn ratings are not so much a big deal, so Liane is/was able to keep her seat.

I would imagine that, should Edwards and Hanson ever get together to compare notes, they might have differing views on how NPR treated them.

(And yes, as our resident bunny pointed out, he does pronounce his name 'Bawlb'.)

Cheers,
PM

Porter Melmoth said...

Some Chomsky clarity:

http://www.truth-out.org/
the-charade-israeli-palestinian-talks65701

Fershlugginer Potrzebie said...

The Nixon era was rife with murderous corruption and a compliant, roll-over press that was fully the equal of our own so-called Fourth Estate. The media-wide condemnation of leftist thought and the chorus of praise for Nixon has to be seen to be believed. I lived through it, yet to revisit it is mind-boggling.

I think the point that Miranda is making is that the structure of secrecy, dirty tricks, financial corruption and criminal hypocrisy that began with Richard Nixon continues to this day. Many of the right-wing operatives we so deplore today (Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, and even a young Karl Rove) were major players in the Nixon administration.

What we have today is the logical extension of Nixon's poisonous ethos, with in many cases the same cast of characters.

larry, dfh said...

And right on schedule comes juan forrero, telling us that sombody somewhere sent a memo which Wiki leaked that said "the coup in Honduras is illegal", so that proves the U.S. was not involved in the Honduras coup, and for good measure you conspiracy-theorists can shove it. Juan didn't mention the reply to that memo: So? (made that up) But really, juan's breathy delivery, like he's talking incognity from some super secret closet is only exceed by his exquisit logic.

Anonymous said...

a compliant, roll-over press that was fully the equal of our own so-called Fourth Estate. "

I also lived through the Nixon years, but would note that if the press then had really been "fully the equal" of the press now, Nixon would never have found himself forced from office as a direct result of the work of the mainstream press.

Nor would America have been forced out of Vietnam by the direct actions of the very same press.

Things really have changed -- and for the worse, unfortunately.

Porter Melmoth said...

Well I remember Tricky Dick pretty well, too. At the very least, we had the Fairness Doctrine then. A helluva lot more than we have now.

Speaking of Cronkite, I remember when he voiced his objection to the Iraq War on CBS. He wasn't invited back much after that. Even though he made a few contributions to NPR, Cronkite seemed to be held at quite a distance there. Probably because Dan Schorr ruled the senior roost there, and he always had old axes to grind, which he never hesitated to remind us of.

I've said it before, but thank heavens Ed Murrow's not alive to see what's happened to the media that he'd hoped he'd helped send in the right direction. Sorry Ed, we humans just have to muck stuff up, I guess.

gDog said...

I came of age politically during the Nixon days. I was 10-14 during his run. I remember hating him with a passion. The whole Vietnam thing was just so obviously wrong. Kind of like the AfPak/Iraq thing now, only there were many, many more Americans being killed.

Recently, I've been following Russ Baker's work, which is quite revelatory re Watergate, etc:

Now, for a bit of cognitive dissonance. Woodward’s signature achievement - bringing down Richard Nixon - turns out not to be what we all thought. If that comes as a surprise, you have missed a few books, including bestsellers, that put pieces of this puzzle together. (Family of Secrets has several chapters on the real Watergate story, but there are others that present detailed information, including those by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, James Rosen, Jim Hougan and others.)

Patrick Lynch said...

Now that he's been arrested, I hope Assange goes nuclear with the insurance package but nothing I've read so far leads me to believe that is going to happen soon. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

patrick,

Assange's lawyer has indicated that that that would be used only in a very extreme case. He did not say specifically what the actual "trigger" for such a release would be. He was intentionally vague about that.

But one might speculate that assassination or torture of Assange or other wikileaks workers would probably be among the things that would trigger such a release.

Apparently, the insurance package is different from the other releases because it contains EVERYTHING in the wikileaks archive , including the unredacted names of intelligence sources and operatives.

It would actually NOT be in Assange's interest to release that EXCEPT under the most extreme cases, because if he did, he would almost certainly have the full force of the US military come down on him and his colleagues. (ie, he'd be burnt toast in a matter of seconds)

Assange and the US government are playing very high stakes poker and it is very UNLIKELY that Assange is bluffing.

He's almost certainly holding a royal flush.

So, "can one beat a royal flush?" a poker novice may ask?

Five of a kind beats it, but you can't beat it "naturally".

You gotta have "wild" cards ("jokers") for that.

Come to think of it, we're prolly golden.

We've got Barak and Hillary in the hole.

Anonymous said...

gDog

On Watergate, there were clearly those in the government who wanted Richard Nixon gone (Mark Felt and others) , but that really does not detract from the key role played by Woodward in Bernstein.

The leakers leak and the press then lets the public know about it.

Each plays a key role and each depends on the other.

Without either of the two, Nixon would almost certainly have finished his term in office.

If felt has simply written a book about what he knew, few would have bought it and even fewer would have beleived it -- to say nothing of the fact that it probably would not have been published until after Nixon's term had ended.

But what was true at the time of Watergate is no longer the case in the internet age because now the leakers can make the information directly available to the public -- which is undeoubtedly one of the reasons the press is so uncomfortable with wikileaks. They perceive wikileaks as a threat to their very existence.

That is actually very ironic because what wikileaks is actually doing is making a huge amount of original raw material available -- for the press and anyone else who wants to analyze and report on it.

gDog said...

Yeah, well I haven't finished reading Russ Baker's Family of Secrets yet, so I'm not entirely clear on what his angle is - it seems that "the shadow govt" wasn't too keen on Tricky Dick either.