An Exercise In The Forensic Analysis Of Journalism

In Number 158 of this newsletter, you (doubtless) studied carefully the item that explored the sophisticated techniques used by, among others, media apologists for Obama and assorted “progressive” causes. The overall thrust of TLB’s contentions was that a lapdog press in thrall to collectivist ideology is producing what is tantamount to propaganda, and is hiding it in plain sight.

You will (doubtless) recall that TLB insisted that the tenor and techniques of biased journalism could be detected, and that you should be ferreting out the hidden assumptions made by those who claim to report rather than comment.

The news provides an excellent example of tax-supported propaganda/journalism pretending to report on a controversial issue. The subject is the Islamic center that includes a mosque (that is claimed to be small, as if that mattered) near Ground Zero in New York. Yes, National Public Radio has the story. By all means read it.

Sure, the issues are debatable, and partisan views are strongly held and angrily expressed. For the moment at least, set all that aside and try to consider this extraordinarily emotional issue forensically. This newsletter will guide you through a few steps in the analysis necessary if you are to understand how the news is presented to you. The aim is not to settle the issue of whether the mosque is appropriate, but whether the news media in general are reporting candidly, honestly, objectively and accurately. Are journalists, in other words, doing their jobs as they claim?

Yes, NPR is not representative of all journalists. And it would be surprising if NPR, being the creature of the federal government that it is, were biased against Obama. Again, set those sorts of questions aside, and recognize the fact that if NPR is employing propaganda techniques, hiding its assumptions from its audience, slanting the story, shading the meanings of words to lead the reader to irrational conclusions, the tactics may be detectable. Learning how to spot them is a skill that can benefit the news consumer who reads the Washington Times, the NY Times, and the LA Times.

Here are a few quotes from the article, followed by comments that are designed to help you divine not just their full meaning, but their implications and intent.

Experts worry the controversy surrounding an Islamic center near ground zero in Lower Manhattan is playing right into the hands of radical extremists.

The supercharged debate over the proposed center has attracted the attention of a quiet, underground audience — young Muslims who drift in and out of jihadi chat rooms and frequent radical Islamic sites on the Web. It has become the No. 1 topic of discussion in recent days and proof positive, according to some of the posted messages, that America is indeed at war with Islam.

Listen to the music, not to the words, and what do you hear? The first paragraph quoted above tells the reader that controversy can be harmful, as it aids “radical extremists.” Is that a claim — an unexpressed assumption — that, if the public is to be safe from the actions of nutcases, controversy must be avoided? Is it a statement that silent solidarity is protective, while open debate can be dangerous?

Everyone recalls having been lectured by The One on the constitutional aspects of religious liberty. No, Obama was never a professor of law, but he does know what the first amendment to the constitution says, and he assumed that many US citizens do not. So if controversy over this planned mosque near Ground Zero is harmful, and The Big Man is scolding ignorant people into silence…. Well, draw the conclusion.

This newsletter would say that the NPR message is, “You have been instructed. Obey! Be silent! Keep your opinions to yourselves! Conform!” You may not agree with that interpretation, of course. But if you restrict yourself to the words and their implications, do you see no hint of authoritarian caution about expressing your feelings, your hurt, your indignation? Is there no “Good Americans won’t enable nasty extremist radicals by talking” sloganeering here?

One might go a small step further, and ask what issue should be above debate in US politics. Can it be that some things simply cannot be talked and argued about? (“Obey.”) What other implications might there be, if one explores that question fully? Finally, would it not be hypocritical of the press to encourage an end to public debate on any issue?

Then ask whether the USA’s military adventures and misadventures in the Middle East are considered by Muslims to be anti-Muslim. Maybe somebody should ask the Muslims who live in the region what they think of the presence of US military units in (not near, in) their nations. That information might be of interest to those trying to add valuable perspective that NPR deliberately omitted from its story. Or?

Second example:

As originally conceived, the idea behind the Islamic Center in downtown Manhattan seemed simple enough. The brainchild of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan, the building was supposed to be like a YMCA — only it would be Muslim, not Christian, and it would contain a small mosque. It would be a small office tower, not a building with minarets, about two blocks from where the World Trade Center towers once stood.

This one, as Aunt Matilda used to say, is a barn-burner. Before you read what TLB has to say about it, re-read the above quote carefully, and ask yourself whether there just might be a very cleverly hidden assumption in it.

If you saw that NPR claims implicitly to know the minds of the founders of the Ground Zero mosque, and implies that it knows that those minds are not hospitable to guile or malice, you are on target. NPR knows the Islamic center was not conceived as a provocation, a triumphalist statement, a declaration of intent (“Cordoba”?) or a threat. NPR knows that, and because the idea of the mosque is fully known and understood, it should be clear — even to inbred Tea Partiers — that it was a decent concept from the first.

Once again Aunt Matilda comes to mind, for her reaction to this would have been, “That’s bullshit, Sonny. Those bastards at NPR don’t know diddly-squat about what those Muslims are thinking or thought. Because they don’t want to.” (Auntie M was, er, plain-spoken.)

And why would Auntie M use such strong language? Because there are lots of quotes (more here) from this idealistic, peaceful, loving imam on the internet, and they prove him to be a rascal of the first water (see also the item in “Links,” below, that begins, “Truth, lies, and consequences”). They also make it clear that NPR is necessarily either hopelessly stupid, deliberately ignorant, or a nest of liars.

Be totally clear on this important point: while NPR is probably correct to say that the plans for the mosque appear harmless at first glance, it also claims that it knows exactly what was and is in the minds of its promoters. That claimed knowledge does not lead NPR to question the motives, politics and plans of Rauf and his wife, though considerable hard evidence indicates the two are Islamofascists who support the violent destruction of the Liberty of the USA. Without mentioning that evidence — it is brushed aside as right-wing opposition to the mosque — NPR concludes its risible examination of the values, ethics and intentions of the mosque’s proponents. How rational is that?

Now for the third example taken from NPR’s astounding (but calm and superficially reasonable) report.

Extremists and radical clerics posted a stream of “I told you so” messages: After years of telling followers that Islam was under attack by the West, the harsh reaction to a simple community center seemed to prove it.

Since by now you have a feel for how forensic approaches to journalistic deceit proceed, you may notice several distinct weak points in the silly sentence quoted above.

The purists among you may recognize an unattached participle, of course; the “harsh reaction” did not spend “years telling followers” anything. Well, that’s not propaganda, it’s just ignorant and sloppy English. Let it go.

The addition of “seemed” softens the propaganda, doesn’t it? That’s clever, for concessions and admissions that there might be two possibilities rather than just one are not the propagandists’ favorite tactics. When employed, they are often insincere, but let that go, too.

What should stun you and anger you about this ridiculous example of journalistic subservience to the Bicoastal Elite’s authoritarianism is that it proves yet again that propaganda is only partly what is said. Propaganda is also what is not said; censorship is its other half. There is no mention of the many statements by Muslims radical and moderate of the supremacy of Islam; of its mission to convert, murder or enslave all of mankind; of its divinely-mandated eternal war with infidels; of its holy inspiration to constant violence; or of its endlessly repeated call for the West to abandon its ways and submit. There are, in other words, no quotes from the Koran or hadith to show the intent of Islam.

One can imagine NPR’s apologists whining that, “Oh, none of that is necessary here. We are dealing with the story of the mosque and those who are helping the immoderate Muslims by opposing it.”

If you say something that breathtakingly stupid, you are sure to be met with an angry rejoinder to the effect that you are promoting surrender to a totalitarian theocracy. You would be asked to explain what the best course of action is — for you would be advancing the view that if the West opposes Islam, it will be aiding it, whereas if the West does not oppose Islam, it will be surrendering to it.

Following the deceitful path indicated by NPR would lead the deluded to a reductio ad absurdum that could only result in the extinction of Liberty.

There is more — oh, my yes, there is a lot more nonsense to be found in this exemplary NPR piece. The report is an insult to the intelligent, culturally sensitive and humanitarian individual, but it is to be expected. And why is that? Because, to name just one among other reasons, you pay for it with your taxes.

When The Facts Are Not With You, Pretend You Are Deaf

The response of the establishment (the press, for the most part, and the political leadership of the nation) to the hard science of climatology has been… to ignore it. Facts are literally irrelevant to the folks who have invested heavily in predictions of disaster, or who insist on taking the blame for raping Gaia. It’s insane, and, as this newsletter has repeatedly insisted, it is also a textbook example of a persistent doomsday cult.

Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is an impossibility. That does not mean that things will get better, of course, for climate change is certain to occur, no matter what. The most important point, however, is this: if the earth is warming or cooling, there is no way to link either of those phenomena to human activity — carbon dioxide is simply not physically capable of doing anything like overheating the globe. The folks who point to this or that peculiar event that appears to be linked to climate simply can not demonstrate its cause; their claims to the contrary are irrational.

This newsletter believes the story of how the hockey stick graph was created and how the data have been rigged is the most interesting aspect of the cult. (Yes, we know who did it: Mann, Briffa, Jones and a few others, and the nonsense was swallowed whole by Hansen at NASA, who coached Gore.) Intrigued? For more information, write this newsletter and request the AGW-related items published here in past months; you will be flooded, as if the glaciers had all melted and sea level were in downtown Denver. For the whole amazing story in one book, if you are in the UK, look here; those elsewhere should call up this webpage.

The One Moves In Mysterious Ways, His Hopeandchange To Impose

This newsletter has often tried to understand and characterize Obama. To that end you have read here information about his hardcore Marxist past and speculation about how he approaches and avoids problems. It has been noted that he hides his history with legal barriers to inquiry, and that Billy “Bomber” Ayers almost certainly wrote Dreams From My Father. In a sense, that is all to say that Obama is a fraud. It is known, for example, that he never was a law professor and that his record in the Illinois senate and the federal senate was unspectacular in the extreme. How, therefore, he managed to become a multimillionaire is a puzzle.

Some gullible folks believe he is the tool of a sinister conspiracy, while others think he is just an extremely ambitious fellow who used his glib and charming ways to fool people into thinking that he is a true intellectual. Meanwhile speculation continues on whether he will be able to retain his office into 2013.

To this have now been added some ruminations on his opinion of himself. His career goals are under re-examination. Some are saying that he aspires to higher office than the US presidency, eventually attaining global prominence as a kind of supra-leader whose moral authority trumps all others. For more, see this commentary.

The guess that Obama wants to be King of the World begins with the perception that he does not like being president (have you noticed all those vacations?), is dismissive of the opinions of others, cares not at all for the wishes of the people, views most US citizens as the results of economic processes rather than as individuals with rights and true significance, and has always had his sights set on indescribable prominence.

In truth, the man is genuinely alien. He has no identifiable values more profound than superficial neo-Marxist rhetoric; he seems unable to grasp the essence of Christianity, democracy or Western ethics. Being culturally apart from virtually all US citizens of whatever ethnicity, he appeals to those who expect him to advance their narrow economic interests. Others mistake him as somehow representative of the victory over racism. His obsessive secretiveness, his abiding cynicism and impatience with circumstances, his failure to appreciate the importance of the details of good governance, his overweening ambition and finally his pretentious belief that he can banish difficulties with empty incantations all combine to make him a puzzle. Might he fancy himself a sorcerer? Certainly he is anything but an executive.

Rather than accept the assumption that he is first, last and always a political phenomenon, this newsletter considers him a psychological conundrum that needs to be understood.

He may indeed not care to run for a second term. He may have far loftier goals (!). In any event, this newsletter continues to insist that he is grossly unqualified for the office he holds, and that he should first fire Holder, and then resign his position.

Yes, Joe Biden is an idiot. But he’s human.

Links

What is “begging the question,” anyway? This post offers an answer, but it seems a bit unclear when compared to Fowler’s simple 1926 statement that it is “…the fallacy of founding a conclusion on a basis that as much needs to be proved as the conclusion itself.” And as for the spineless twaddle in the internet post to the effect that language changes, therefore ignorant usage is somehow all right (not “alright”), well, that’s spineless twaddle that just validates ignorance. Change is one thing, error quite another.

Look at the interstate commerce clause of the US constitution. It’s been misinterpreted by the courts and abused by Congress, resulting in a mockery of democratic governance. The video at the link is highly recommended.

For those hoping to gain insights into the complexities of the Middle East, this post is superb.

Getting creative with history: if Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn can do it, why can’t the Japanese?

India looks nervously at China and wonders what might come next. Fatal pet food? Deadly toys? Naah — those are fantastic paranoid fantasies! Plain old war makes more sense, and it is certainly precedented. How quickly the world has forgotten the undeclared shooting war between China and India only a few decades ago. It’s as if it never happened, and therefore never could again.

Medical history in the making: a new treatment for terminal cancer of the prostate is showing great promise, albeit in only one case so far. The patient, who one year ago was expected to die in three months, is still alive. The exact nature of his treatment is being kept confidential; the Libyan government does not permit researchers to examine the remarkable survivor or interview his care-givers. Meanwhile people around the world are concerned about his welfare and are trying to influence the outcome of his illness. Thus far, Wiccan curses and voudon rituals have failed to produce the sincerely desired effects. More information here.

Blago could not be convicted of much of anything because a single juror refused to go along with the other eleven. Thereby hangs quite a tale; start here and then read a prosecutor’s take on the problem.

Speaking of the miscues that attend governance attempted by amateurs, here’s yet another gem.

This looks like a good place to find election news.

Are you interested in what really happened in Bangkok when the government was challenged by the “Red Shirts,” the followers of former PM (and now fugitive from justice) Thaksin? An excellent account of the tactical situation is to be found here. The author’s weblog also links to an important expose of the incompetence and bias of BBC and CNN, and to a Thai’s comments on the disaster. Scroll down on theweblog, going to older posts, for a lot more insightful and helpful information. These posts should have been resorted to by the US press.

“The supposedly pragmatic political wise men have been blinded by ideology or incompetence and have failed to see what was so obviously around the corner. A big, honking Islamic center built to capitalize on 9/11, in a building that was damaged on 9/11? What could go wrong?” Quote from this thoughtful commentary.

Here’s a rather confusing post on US politics that offers a lot of links and some bite-sized opinions. We learn, for example, that Sarah Palin may not be Wonder Woman, but she does count for more than a lot of people thought she would — and certainly a lot more than some people hoped she would. This newsletter assumes she has advisers and aides who are looking after her security. Remember, Billy “Bomber” Ayers got away with it….

Truth, lies, and consequences: “Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are both hyper-articulate former law professors.” So says NY Times super-columnist Maureen Dowd, but it’s not true. Obama was as low as you can get on the totem pole of a law school, an unrespected empty suit who was never considered for a tenure track job — and was not good enough to get a position as an adjunct of the lowest level. A professor? Absolutely not. Yet Dowd says he was. Check it out here (you can get away with lies like that when you work at the NY Times). Then she says, “By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for.” More untruth: read this report and see how “moderate” this guy is. If that does not convince you, read how the imam dodges and weaves when asked direct questions about his support of Hamas. He’s no “moderate;” Dowd is a plagiarist and a liar whose malicious creation of misquotes gives us the term “dowdification,” and the mosque mess is teaching the electorate something about Islam, politicians, and the press. It is to be hoped that’s happening, anyway.

How close is the proposed Cordoba House to the WTC site? According to this web page, the “…planned location for the mosque was part of the real estate attacked and damaged on 9/11 – the home of the Burlington Coat Factory until it was struck by a landing gear from a plane that struck one of the Twin Towers. Perhaps he (the imam of the future mosque) used that term to brand his ‘Cordoba House’ because body parts from the victims of those attacks have been found all over Lower Manhattan, including the old Burlington factory area, making it part of the hallowed ground.”

You may be frustrated to learn that those cookies you deleted from your browser were not actually deleted: a company has devised a way of hiding “zombie cookies” where they can be brought back from the dead. Yes, there really are a lot of folks with designs on your privacy. Google is not alone.

It’s this sort of nonsense that allows some malicious morons to say or imply that Linux is just as vulnerable to malware as is Microsoft Windows. In the Open Source community, there is no such thing as stealth; one can get all the information on anything, so when a kernel is updated, everything happens out in the figurative sunshine. Finally, after you have read the article, note that the servers that run the internet do not have GUIs.

“Once again, violence for which the Tea Party is blamed turns out to come from the left.” He’s talking about this, an unfortunate incident that was quickly exploited by some of the folks who are terrified by the Tea Party Movement and hope to discredit it — or intimidate it with death threats. Then there’s a stabbing, which a nutcase blogger tried to blame on Fox News. Does any of this remind you of Mad Mary Mapes and Dan Rather? And doesn’t it lead naturally into the next item?

Guess what led the author of this statement to conclude his remarks thus: “The anti-war movement was a sham; a cover for violent anarchists. It wasn’t actually anti-war; it was mostly anti-draft, and nothing more. It was over-indulged white males who didn’t want to be conscripted. It would never have happened if there hadn’t been a draft.” Answer here.

California-bashing has become a popular activity. A weblog recently posted six links with almost no commentary: One; Two; Three; Four;Five; Six. Wow.

The world is not as humanitarian and advanced as we would like to think. Sometimes it’s like this when it does not have to be. You’d think even fanatical communists could do better on issues of this sort.

Civilian militias in the USA are the object of this British report. It’s interesting reading, but what does the author mean by the phrase, “…in his local Italian….”? Well, it’s a jaundiced and otherwise flawed commentary, not really a truly objective report, but don’t let that deter you. Most of it is almost certainly accurate (what the quoted fellow named Potok says is not completely true or rational, which is too bad), and the sentiments of the fascinated reporter are quite obvious. Brits still have a tendency to see “Americans” (by which they mean folks in the USA) as peculiar and somewhat primitive.

“Where the extra plastic is going is the big mystery,” we are told in this Quixotic article. OK, great. But let’s just say it’s being eaten by the Plastic Monster, and get on with something important, all right? Scientists….!

Hey, here’s more good news from the scientific community! Cancer treatment is enhanced by ancient Chinese remedy! Yeah…well, one hard fact is being ignored and one unhappy development will almost certainly unfold. First, the fact: while lots of cancers in laboratory rats and mice can now be cured, treatments developed with the help of rodents don’t usually work on humans. Everybody forgets that. Second, TLB believes that in a year this news will have vanished utterly from the media, and it will never result in new drugs or treatments (drat). Here’s the overenthusiastic story.

Many of the companies that make the major brands of computer and IT-related gear (variations on the mobile phone, as well as all the internal parts of all sorts of computers) don’t want you to know how they do it. This is the natural result of a marketplace that demands the lowest possible cost. The wholesalers and retailers are often therefore at the mercy of industries tasked with destroying the manufacturing capacity of nations like the USA. Ultimately, the consumers who are delighted with the cheap goods will have a lot to regret. When price is unrelated to quality, the consumer cannot buy better by paying more. The only market worse than a mono-tiered one is no market at all.

Did you read about this in your paper, or see it reported on TV? Some folks are wondering why it was under-reported. Perhaps it was not.

Snarling lapdogs: Obama’s partisans in the press protect presidential prestige with parroted panegyrics and parlous pamphleteering.

This, supposedly, was The One stepping on the banana peel and beginning his pratfall from grace: “…the multiple vacations, the legal harassment of the state of Arizona on behalf of illegals, the clownish response to the Gulf oil blowout. But when historians come to select the moment when Obama went over the edge of the world, I think they’ll find the great Iftar mosque speech of August 13, 2010 hard to beat.” Could be. It was not the smartest thing in the world to do. That might raise questions about the man’s intelligence, eh? Or possibly about his religious orientation? That’s what happens when you start messing up — the questions are soon coming faster than you can answer them. Satisfactorily.