Saturday, February 26, 2011

Echo Chambers, Mirrors and Henny Penny Temple-Raston

Juan Cole and NPR Check reader, informedveteran, recommended Tom Englehardt's excellent piece on the Washington Echo Chamber's reaction to the revolutions sweeping the Middle East. Englehardt writes:
"It would seem like a good moment for Washington - which, since September 12, 2001, has been remarkably clueless about real developments on this planet and repeatedly miscalculated the nature of global power - to step back and recalibrate.

As it happens, there's no evidence it's doing so. In fact, that may be beyond Washington’s present capabilities, no matter how many billions of dollars it pours into 'intelligence.' And by 'Washington,' I mean not just the Obama administration, or the Pentagon, or our military commanders, or the vast intelligence bureaucracy, but all those pundits and think-tankers who swarm the capital, and the media that reports on them all. It’s as if the cast of characters that makes up 'Washington' now lives in some kind of echo chamber in which it can only hear itself talking."
(Enter Dina Temple-Raston stage far-right)

Dina was not about to let her bread and butter (banging the al-Qaida fear drum) get drowned out by the inspiring and historic events in North Africa and the Middle East. On Thursday's ATC she dragged out a trio of "those pundits and think-tankers who swarm the capital" to rattle on about the terrifying opportunities that the uprisings provide to al-Qaida. The statements of these "experts" provided some rich irony:

Bush stooge Juan Zarate said,
"That is to say, al-Qaida has been very good at focusing the attention of their constituents and of the world on this idea of the far enemy. That is that all of the world's problems, all of the angst and grievances of the Middle East can be blamed on the United States, or at least can be affected by attacking the United States."

Seems to me there was some other terrorist organization that focused its constituents' attention on a far enemy and blamed every problem on a distant foe.
Then Temple-Raston trots out NPR regular & CIA-award winner, Bruce Hoffman to state that al-Qaida will
"exploit whatever issue is served in front of it, and do so equally adroitly. So for now it will focus on the near enemy."

Oh my God, enemies of freedom and civil rights focusing on the "near enemy"!
Lastly Temple-Raston highlights the expertise of Rick "Ozzie" Nelson whose "last military assignment was with the Joint Special Operations Command" (can you say JSOC?) Regarding Yemen and Libya, special operative Nelson explains that al-Qaida's leadership is
"probably best positioned to exploit the weakness in those countries."

Imagine the cynicism of a group that exploits weakness and upheaval in troubled countries to indiscriminately murder civilians.
Seriously, one of the things that I love about these uprisings in the Middle East is how starkly they expose the history of US government actions in the region as being based on complete contempt for the human rights and dignity of the actual people in the region. The fact that al-Qaida apes Washington in its contempt for the people it claims to champion and - like the US government - is willing to use extreme methods of violence to achieve its aims is almost laughable compared to the decades of such behavior by Washington.

But it's not laughable if you are one of the media "professionals" who depend on the Washington echo chamber that Englehardt critiques. In that case you have to keep hammering on the same discredited themes that earn you access to the "expert" think-tankers and counterterrorism wankers that populate your predictable reports. These reports are predictable that you'd think a journalist would be embarrassed. Not Temple-Raston, she was back on Saturday morning squawking about the terrible danger of al-Qaida rising Phoenix-like from the turmoil in Libya. Want to guess who her experts were? Bruce Hoffman, Juan Zarate, and Rick "Ozzie" Nelson. Now where have you heard those names before?


Mytwords said...

Oh horrors, looks like my comment got dinged on NPR's Temple-Raston Libya story. I guess it was my offensive play on words: I ended my comment by noting that like a vacuum, Temple-Raston's report "sucked" - how offensive.

larry, dfh said...

Osama bin Laden, the dead boogeyman, still makes an appearance in DTR's pieces. Phoenix-like is right. Even Jesus only came back once (so they say). ObL, like a good little Cerberus, comes back from the underworld at the whistle of his master. Amazing, simply amazing. Her being a 'security expert' and all, bragging about her bona-fides to Glenn Greenwald, and throwing up a tired, and very dead cliche like ObL. I'm operating under the principle that anyone who mentions ObL, be it Gates, or Obama, or DTR, is flat out lying to my face, and deserves the disrespect which that entails.

gDog said...

Let's take this opportunity to recall the off-script Temple of Doom:

DTR: Hi there, I’m Dina Temple Raston with NPR and I’m a big follower of yours Glen, and I like your stuff very much but I’m sorry I’m going to have to correct you on a number of very basic points that clearly our representative from the FBI feels uncomfortable correcting you on.
The first is Michael Leiter actually came out and said Awlaki did indeed have an operational role in AQAP on July 1st in Newsweek, so you can look that up.
The second thing is, it was pretty clear when Abdumutallab, the underwear bomber, was caught, he specifically said in very early reports that we got both quietly through sources and also publicly, that Awlaki trained him and others to do what he did. So your whole premise about Awlaki just being targeted for his speech, as far as we know, actually for people who do national security reporting more deeply, I think that would be inaccurate.
The second thing I wanted to talk about has more to do with our subject at hand, which has to do with free speech and these people and I wonder if you can talk a little bit about this case that just happened in the UK. There was a straight A student, woman, who went to Kings College, London, and she says watched a great number of Awlaki’s videos and they specifically inspired her to stab a former PM in the stomach a number of times. I think she was just sentenced yesterday. Can you talk about that cause and effect and whether or not that’s straight enough? I don’t really have an opinion on it, I’m just wondering as a specific example that you could talk about.

gDog said...

GG: Can I ask you a question? The idea that Abdumutallab said that he was trained by Awlaki. How do you know that and what exactly did he say?
DTR: Uh, he specifically said…I can’t tell you exactly how I know this
GG: Government officials told you that, right? You were in the room?
DTR: Maybe I actually saw something…
GG: You were in the room during the interrogation?
DTR: Maybe I actually saw something that you haven’t seen.
[outburst of laughter]
DTR: Is that possible?
GG: You’re a journalist, so you should share with us what that is.
DTR: I..I…I’ve seen his statement.
GG: You’ve seen Abdumutallab’s statement.
DTR: I’ve seen parts of Abdumutallab’s statement.
GG: What’d he say?
DTR: I just told you what he said.
GG: He said he was trained by…
DTR: That he was specifically trained by Awlaki with others. As many as ten others.
GG: uh huh.
DTR: Ok. I mean it’s not what you…you don’t do national security reporting for a living so there’s no reason why you should do it…

gDog said...

GG: I kind of do actually. I sort of do. So you saw Abdumutallab’s statement and he said that Awlaki trained him as a terrorist operative…
DTR: Well now you’re putting words in his mouth. He trained him as an operative with ten others.
GG: Hmm hmm. So then we ought to be able to…that’s really good evidence – we ought to be able to indict Anwar Awlaki as a terrorist. That’s great evidence.
DTR: Probably should, but that’s not what…but…but…anyway, the other point was that you said they have never ever said…whether you believe my sources or not…whether I believe my sources or not…you’ve said that they’ve never publicly said Awlaki had an operational role. And it was specifically said in Newsweek by Michael Leiter.
GG: Oh no, lots of…I mean, Leon Panetta went on ABC and said that he thinks Anwar Awlaki is a terrorist – there’s just never anything specified about what it is that they claim that he did, so I think that the way the the U.S. sort of is supposed to work is that the way that we determine guilt is not by people whispering to reporters certain things or showing them little pieces of documents that nobody can show anybody else, that it can be examined – I think that the way that we’re supposed to have it is with due process where you can go into a court and present this evidence and convince a jury that somebody is actually guilty and punish them. I think that’s the way it ought to work.

gDog said...

On the idea of inspiring things…I don’t have any doubt that there are people who listen to Anwar Awlaki and then go and get motivated to commit violence. There was just a criminal who tried to go and kill lots of people at the Tides foundation and the ACLU and he said that he was inspired by Glenn Beck. And this has been happening all the time. There are lots of people who just wrote columns like Jeffrey Goldberg and Jonah Goldberg and Mark [?] in the WaPo saying that we should be targeting Julian Assange for murder and for killing him and that may very well inspire violence as well and so the idea that you can be held guilty or culpable for things that you inspire, not only is unconstitutional, but I think quite dangerous. It’ll sweep up lots and lots of people that we probably don’t intend to sweep up.

informedveteran said...

Another disgusting aspect of the echo chamber is that once you are in "the big club" as George Carlin called it, you apparently can never be discredited.

Fareed Zakaria's Global Public Square (GPS) just had on Paul Wolfowitz!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Porter Melmoth said...

Temple of Doom shall not forget the 'thousand injuries' inflicted on her by Glennzilla. She will not get mad. She will get even.

Schooled in Goebbelskraft as he is, Inskreep's Best Behavior (TM) interview with Dean Baker this morn was meant to be a Teabaggage dream of pillorying and exposure, but Baker's dignified control caused yet another of the I-kreep's backfires.

The Neocons are primed for a renaissance. My good buddy Paul W. is ready to hang his comb in public again. Like Cincinnatus of old, he shall serve again if called.

Porter Melmoth said...

Wolfie was at his best scoff-laughing through the interview w/o offering anything of value whatsoever.

And speaking of sophisticated Neocon strategies, Rummy's trying a Neocon renassance through comedy:

No self-respecting Neocon is afraid of prostituting themselves in order to sell books.

Anonymous said...

As General Michael Hayden said last year in his comments on Gabriel Schoenfeld’s fine book on national security secrecy, the government is "kind of out of Schlitz" when trying to persuade the foreign media not to publish a national security secret. American journalists display "a willingness to work with us," he said, but with the foreign press "it's very, very difficult."