Friday, August 30, 2013

Establishment Radicals

I hate mainstream media.  Let me rephrase that.  I loathe MSM with a passion.  Just to state this for the permanent record: I do not and never will advocate violent revolution. I abhor violence of any kind.  But if it happens here, and instead of the government, the corporations, or banks, the initial target of the masses ends up being MSM, it wouldn't surprise me in the least.  It would be a needless act of destruction born out of distraction.  But if there's one thing the right and left sides of the political spectrum can agree on, it's that the media sucks.  They just don't agree on the reason (the right side sees the problem rooted in ideology, the left side sees it rooted in money), which is probably why this scenario has no realistic chance of happening.

Why do I loathe MSM?  Rather than recount the history I have documented on this blog of their omissions, distortions, dishonesty and propaganda, I'll point out a more recent incident to illustrate how scary the arrogance of MSM is.  No, it's not the detention of Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda, who was interrogated for nine hours under the Terrorism Act by British authorities at Heathrow Airport through the flimsy pretext that he might have classified intelligence documents (Greenwald having published the Snowden NSA revelations) on his laptop computer.  That's a great example of how alternative media is harrassed and persecuted for doing the job MSM fails to do.  But my example of the arrogance of MSM occurred just the day before Miranda's detention (ironically, Miranda was not allowed to obtain his own lawyer), coincidentally or not, and centered around the opinion a mainstream media journalist had of an alternative media journalist.  That MSM journalist was Michael Grunwald of Time Magazine and here is the opinion he tweeted of alternative media journalist Julian Assange:

"I can't wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange."

Naturally, there was somewhat of a negative reaction to a mainstream journalist advocating murder.  Some even asked Time for his resignation.  Frankly, I doubt Time will demand it since, in all likelihood, they agree with the sentiment behind his callous "joke": that there are "real" journalists, i.e., the corporate-owned Establishment journalists, and there are "fake" journalists, i.e., the alternative speaking-truth-to-power journalists, and the "fakes" should be eliminated by any means necessary.  Therein lies the darker truth of this episode, which Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic explores quite incisively in a recent article.  "Mainstream" is really a self-appointed label that the Establishment media uses to hide the fact that they are, in reality, quite radical.  Friedersdorf explains how this is so:

It is nevertheless worth dwelling on his tweet a moment longer, because it illuminates a type that is common but seldom pegged in America. You see, Grunwald is a radical ideologue. It's just that almost no one recognizes it. The label "radical ideologue" is usually used to describe Noam Chomsky or members of the John Birch Society. We think of radical ideologues as occupying the far right or left. Lately a lot of people seem to think that The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald is a radical (often they wrongly conflate the style with which he expresses his views with their substance).

But Grunwald graduated from Harvard, spent a decade at the Washington Post, and now works as a senior correspondent at Time. How radical could someone with that resume possibly be?

Extremely so.

That doesn't mean that he's a bad guy, or that he shouldn't be a journalist. But as someone who finds Grunwald's ideology as problematic and wrongheaded as I'm sure he finds aspects of my worldview, I tire of the fact that people who share it are treated as pragmatic centrists while their critics, whether on the libertarian right or the civil liberties left, are dismissed as impractical ideologues.


Now, no one thinks of Time as a magazine that publishes radicals. But Grunwald's article fit comfortably in its pages, and he cited the article to explain the thinking that made him eager to defend a murder. Perhaps Time occasionally publishes material that is far more ideological than most of its readers or even its editors realize -- a radicalism not of the left or right, but of the establishment.
Consider a passage from the essay:
America was born from resistance to tyranny, and our skepticism of authority is a healthy tradition. But we're pretty free. And the "don't tread on me" slippery-slopers on both ends of the political spectrum tend to forget that Big Government helps protect other important rights. Like the right of a child to watch a marathon or attend first grade without getting killed -- or, for that matter, the right to live near a fertilizer factory without it blowing up your house.
Our government needs to balance these rights, which is tough sometimes. But not always. Requiring gun owners to pass background checks and restricting access to high-capacity magazines would be a minuscule price to pay to help avoid future Newtowns and Auroras. If the FBI waits a few days to read Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the Miranda boilerplate he's already heard a million times on Law and Order, the Republic will survive, and the authorities might learn something that will help prevent another tragedy. (In fact, if America's ubiquitous surveillance network hadn't captured Tsarnaev on video, he might still be at large.) Even in a free-enterprise system -- especially in a free-enterprise system -- a factory owner's right to run his business without government interference is trumped by the public-safety rights of the local community.
This isn't the time to debate all these issues individually, but they are unalike in a way Grunwald shows no sign of recognizing. Background checks for gun owners would come about via democratic legislation. If the bill passed, it could be challenged in court. And it could be found, by way of an established legal process, to pass constitutional muster or else to violate the Constitution.

Denying a particular American his Miranda rights, because we're really sure this one is guilty, and hey, terrorism!, is objectionable in different ways, which cannot be waived away with "the republic will survive." Preserving a culture of due process is, in fact, vital to the survival of a free society. No single violation is fatal, but Grunwald appears oblivious to the danger of undermining the culture, and to how radical it is to call for one-off departures of convenience from long established norms. Using the same logic, one could argue that, hey, torturing Dzhokar Tsarnaev might've prevented further tragedy, and it isn't like the republic wouldn't survive another waterboarding!

Of course, the republic can also survive torturing no one, and reading every accused criminal their rights.

Even setting aside the merits, suffice it to say that the judge who decided to advise Tsarnaev of his rights was, in fact, showing deference to long-established criminal-justice procedures. She embraced a protocol arrived at through a normal constitutional process -- one in which stakeholders already pondered the proper balance between liberty, security, individual rights, and law enforcement needs. Grunwald was advancing a far more radical proposition: that a painstakingly developed, widely accepted, longstanding process should be abandoned in one special case. He invoked "the republic will still stand" language to make himself seem like a pragmatist.

But no. Calling for ad hoc departures in highly charged cases is not pragmatic. Doing it by the book is pragmatic.

Grunwald's position was radical in its departure from established norms, and informed by an ideology that discounts the importance of process. Little surprise that he seems to discount the rule of law. It reduces the discretion people have to implement the policies he prefers.


The irony is that Grunwald sees perfectly clearly that only the most extreme ideologue would be against all the government acts he bundles together -- but is oblivious to the fact that anyone who is breezily comfortable with all the things he mentions is also an extremist ideologue. He goes on:
I guess you could call me a statist. I'm not sure we need public financing for our symphonies or our farmers or our mortgages ... but we do need Big Government to attack the big collective-action problems of the modern world. Our rights are not inviolate. Just as the First Amendment doesn't let us shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater [note to Grunwald: bad example], the Second Amendment shouldn't let us have assault weapons designed for mass slaughter. And if the authorities decided it was vital to ask Tsarnaev about his alleged murder of innocents before reminding him of his Fifth Amendment rights to lawyer up, I won't second-guess their call. The civil-liberties purists of the ACLU are just as extreme as the gun purists of the NRA, or the anti-regulatory purists in business groups like the Club for Growth.

Again, this is analytically muddled. It's true that government is needed to tackle some big collective-action problems of the modern world. That explains his desire for environmental regulation. But it hardly explains his unexplained comfort with extrajudicial killing and ad hoc changes to criminal-justice norms using a staggeringly naive "if the authorities decided it was vital" standard. (Remember when John Yoo took that one to its logical conclusion? It depends on why the president wants to crush the testicles of the child ...) Grunwald seems to stand for whatever it is that he and the authorities think is best in a given instance, to hell with any procedural constants or absolute checks on power, like the Bill of Rights, getting in the way. Let's just be clear: that worldview has a lot of ideological assumptions baked into it, and is totally contrary to the system laid out in our written Constitution, as well as the real world approach that we've followed successfully for decade after decade, with departures in times of war that we almost always came to regret. To repeat myself, Grunwald's position is the radical one.**


Sometimes we say stupid things that have no logical connection to our larger belief system. That isn't what happened when Grunwald wrote that tweet. He trusts those in power not to abuse it, is averse to absolute liberties (like the one about not being deprived of life without due process of law), and regards established legal and prudential protocols as overvalued formalities that gets in the way of pragmatism. I find his ideology dangerous precisely because it might lead a man to defend an idea like the extrajudicial killing of a transparency activist who undermines the establishment. In other words, Grunwald said something stupid that was logically connected to his belief system. Having acknowledge it was dumb, he ought to reflect on the belief system. I don't expect him to give up his ideology, or to embrace mine, but perhaps he could be more attuned to its excesses, and accord more respect to the wisdom of civil libertarians. Slippery slopes may seem more real to him now that his own brain briefly slid from libertarians worry too much about worst-case scenarios to eagerness to defend a murder.

**Call the ACLU impractical purists all you want. Then look back two and three and four and five decades, and ask whose track record looks better, the ACLU or its opponents.

So if the Establishment media is rooted in a radical worldview, how does the alternative media counter this problem?  Unfortunately, it seems the more financially successful an alternative media outlet becomes, the more susceptible they are to literally "selling out" to the Establishment and incorporating that same radical ideology into their framework.  If you remember how Huffington Post was from 2005-2010, then look at how it's changed since it was bought out by AOL in 2011, you know what I mean.  But it doesn't have to be a literal sell-out.  Sometimes money and the prestige that big money buys can corrupt the integrity of an alternative media outlet in more subtle ways.

I'm thinking specifically of Rolling Stone.  Recently there was a "controversy" in their choice of cover photo for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the alleged Boston bomber.  Certain MSM outlets, namely Fox Noise, did their best to gin this make-believe brouhaha up, claiming that Rolling Stone was attempting to glamorize Tsarnaev and glorify terrorism.  As if die-hard Rolling Stone fans who normally hate terrorism and terrorists would look at the cover and say, "Well golly, if he's on the cover, he must be cool and so is terrorism!"  I think the absurdity is highlighted quite well in an article by Amanda Marcotte in which she refers to this incident that made Rolling Stone double their sales as The World’s Stupidest Controversy©.

Personally, I thought the only real controversy was not that the choice of subject for a cover glamorized Tsarnaev but that Rolling Stone ignored the opportunity to honor one of their own writers who was recently killed, Michael Hastings.  That they have ignored the controversy surrounding what really happened to Hastings, which I have covered here, is just one aspect of how their integrity has been corrupted.  Another is the content of the actual article on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, which I finally did read.  To me, that is the real controversy, the lazy and sloppy research masquerading as journalism.  Starting from the first page, the author Janet Reitman accepts at face value that Tsarnaev wrote a note on the walls of the boat, despite the fact that this find was not reported until four weeks after he was captured, conveniently after much of the information contained within those scribblings were obtained by authorities interrogating him before he had been read his Miranda rights, and the owner of the boat, David Henneberry, had "no clue" that there were any writings on his boat, which is strange considering he's the one who found Dzhokhar hiding in his boat!  This first offense is really just par for the course in a piece that blindly accepts the official story that the two Tsarnaev brothers are, to use Reitman's words, "seemingly affiliated with no one but themselves."

Now, just because I detect the outlines of a deep state conspiracy in the Boston Bombings, which I have documented on numerous posts on this blog, doesn't necessarily mean I think the Tsarnaev brothers are innocent.  It's not an either/or proposition; a good example where both elements were at work is the Reichstag Fire in Nazi Germany 1933 where Goering conceived of the terrorist act and was able to get a willing communist dupe, Marinus van der Lubbe, to do the act and take the blame to enable the Nazis to entrench their totalitarian government.  But far too much has slipped under the rug with our lazy MSM on the watch, especially where Dzhokhar is concerned.  Rolling Stone is not the lone offender; most mainstream articles seem content to paint him as Tamerlan's follower, perhaps with some influence from his mother, but not much else to explain his radicalization.

Thankfully we have a real investigative journalist named Mark Ames who has explored some intriguing connections to Dzhokhar going back to his high school years.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately, considering the sad state of media I've been documenting) he writes for a small alternative publication called NSFWCORP that publishes some great articles that are only accessible online if you're a subscriber.  Thankfully, hiddenite at Rigorous Intuition obtained access and posted the entire content of the article there.  (Most of this information was also corroborated at OpEdNews.)  For the sake of brevity and focus, here are some pertinent passages:

For now, I want to start with one of the biggest "What The Fuck?!" elements of the bombing story, a detail so far completely overlooked: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's high school project "mentor," Brian Glyn Williams. Brian Glyn Williams happens to work for the CIA, on Islamic suicide bombers, Chechnya, and jihadi terrorism. Williams is also an associate professor of history at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, the university where 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was enrolled, and where he spent many of his last free hours between the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, and his arrest on April 19.

The day after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested, Brian Glyn Williams, the CIA man at U Mass-Dartmouth, confessed to a local reporter for the New Bedford Standard-Times,

"I hope I didn't contribute to it."


Professor Williams is an expert on suicide bombers and radical Islamic jihad, and he publishes regularly in one of the best-known CIA-linked outfits, the Jamestown Foundation, which was set up in 1984 by Reagan's CIA chief William Casey as a sort of PR "colony" for Soviet defectors, who were expected to churn out Cold War propaganda under their CIA handlers' watchful eyes. Big names have sat on the Jamestown board, including Dick Cheney, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and former CIA chief James Woolsey. Today, Jamestown's board includes former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden and retired Marine Corps four-star general Carlton Fultord, along with longtime GOP heavyweights like Kathleen Troia McFarland, who in 2011 couriered the controversial note from Roger Ailes to Gen. David Petraeus promising Murdoch's support if Petraeus ran against Obama in 2012.

If you've been following my investigation of the Boston Bombings, you might recall that Dzhokhar's brother Tamerlan also has a connection with the CIA: he attended a workshop sponsored by the same Jamestown Foundation that Professor Williams publishes regularly for when he traveled to Georgia in the summer of 2012, a trip Tamerlan would not have been able to make if the FBI hadn't cleared him to the Russian government as not posing a threat!  This is the root of why I'm really pissed at Rolling Stone: Reitman interviewed and quotes Professor Williams in the article without once mentioning his employment with the CIA!  The correspondence between Williams and Tsarnaev is described as happening "coincidentally."  Reitman also mentions Tamerlan Tsarnaev's wife Katherine, yet neglects to mention that coincidentally, her grandfather, Richard Warren Russell, was in the Yale secret society riddled with CIA connections, Skull and Bones.

Perhaps it is all coincidence, but to just sweep details under the rug without reporting the facts that don't fit into the framework the reporter (and I assume the editor) want to have the public believe is shoddy journalism, though typical of MSM.  The discussion of conspiracy theories does fit into this framework, but only in a cursory condescending fashion to portray Dzhokhar's friends in a patronizing light.  Reitman mentions unanswered questions regarding the backpack that contained the pressure cooker, yet no serious analysis or mention of how members of or individuals posing as members of private mercenary firm Craft International were also wearing backpacks at the Boston Marathon that looked more like the actual one that blew up.  If it doesn't fit into the narrative of poor little brother led astray by big brother that the Radical Establishment Media has decreed, it's not worth mentioning.

Maybe instead of the acronym MSM, if we call them by the more accurate description Radical Establishment Media, we'll have the much catchier acronym REM.  (Like the group.  Get it?  What's the Frequency, Kenneth?)  But regardless of how much I try to debase them, their influence is undeniable.  The same power they have to drive home the necessity of confronting Syria across our collective screens and front pages one day allows them to minimize it to the point of absence the following day if it seems that Miley Cyrus twerking will bring in more bucks.  Then bring back to the forefront, almost as if they never neglected it, the situation in Syria.  Never mentioning, of course, how what's being plotted over Syria might have anything to do with what we've been examining in Boston.  It's more important, as we coincidentally approach the 74th anniversary of the start of World War II, to beat the drums of war ever more vociferously.  The relationship between Establishment Radicals in the media and Establishment Radicals in the Military-Industrial Complex and how they get the public to accept their mutually agreed agenda has been described by Dhani Harrison (yeah, that's George's son) in his song Choose What You're Watching as follows:

They control you with your fear
And they fill your eyes with greed
Then they're giving you impulses
To buy things that you don't need

Monday, August 5, 2013

Zero Hour

ABC never really gave it a chance.  Network TV in general is an incredibly unforgiving environment where if you're not a hit right out of the starting gate, you're history.  I don't know what the TV equivalent of the Midnight Movie is; perhaps that's what Zero Hour needed to succeed.  Unfortunately, ABC seemed to be operating under the assumption that Zero Hour was something to be hyped like another Lost.  The problem is the show was not just another Lost, which probably accounted for the ratings decline that led ABC to cancel the show and shelve the remainder of the episodes they originally started airing this spring to the summer.  But in many ways I liked this show better than Lost (or what Lost eventually mutated into after the brilliant first two seasons, anyway) because of its differences.  Zero Hour was like Raiders of the Lost Ark meets The DaVinci Code.  Yeah, way better than Lost.

Zero Hour was equal parts historical exploration/conspiracy theorizing/religious faith/rigorous science, all set to a plot filled with globe-trekking adventure.  It revolves around Hank Galliston, played by Anthony Edwards, editor of the magazine Modern Skeptic for over 20 years.  His wife Laila, played by Jacinda Barrett, is kidnapped, presumably over a rare valuable clock she recently purchased.  As the series unfolds, we discover that not all the characters are who they appear to be, conspiracies layer over conspiracies, and each piece of the puzzle that is put in place leads to a race to find the cross that Christ was crucified on.  While only wood fragments eaten away by beetles are found, this leads to the real project as envisioned by the megalomaniacal Melanie Lynch, played by Amy Irving, which is to obtain the DNA of Jesus Christ and bring about His Second Coming.  It may sound over the top, but it was some of the most exciting entertainment I've seen in a TV show for some time.

But beyond the exciting entertainment of the relentlessly driving plot, one of the things I really enjoyed about this show is the way the characters unfolded and we came to understand them.  I was especially fascinated by the character Vincent, played by Michael Nyqvist.  He could very easily have come off as a one or two-dimensional psychopath.  Instead, it is almost as though someone took the Silas character from The DaVinci Code and invested him with intelligence and curiosity.  I think part of the success of this character is due to good writing, but a great deal of credit should be given to the acting of Nyqvist, who invests a garish character with a good measure of subtlety.  His relationship with Hank undergoes a fascinating transformation, and there is even a dose of kind empathy in his friendship with the mute Messenger Boy, played by Henry Kelemen (a very well-cast young actor reminiscent of a young Haley Joel Osment).  There are a number of other great characters, but for me Vincent was the stand-out.
Michael Nyqvist as Vincent on Zero Hour

Not to say this show was without its problems, by any means.  I found the labeling of the competing factions "Shepherds" and "Pirates" to be a bit cliched.  I found the fact that the character of Laila and what ultimately happened to her was not addressed by Hank at all in the final two episodes to be a missed opportunity for character growth and closure where their troubled relationship was concerned.  And what the hell happened to Lynch?  Did Vincent kill her?  Did the Book of Revelations dragon devour her and her mutating fetus?  My feeling is that once ABC canceled the series, the finale was rewritten from a season finale to a series finale, which inevitably leads to loose ends.  But all things considered, the writing stayed fairly consistent from beginning to end.

One element in particular from the finale that I especially enjoyed was the denouement with Hank and his fellow reporters/partners in conspiracy adventure, Arron and Rachel, played by Scott Michael Foster and Addison Timlin.  Having spent their entire careers devoted to writing skeptically about conspiracies, yet just experienced a conspiracy beyond belief, Hank believes they should now devote the magazine to return to every story they had previously debunked and examine it again, looking to see if they possibly "missed something."  I found this ironic and refreshing, considering the name of their magazine is Modern Skeptic.  So many so-called real life skeptics are solely self-styled "debunkers" who, rather than keeping an open mind in searching for the truth, have built a cottage industry around finding facts to fit a pre-determined conclusion designed to ridicule, disparage and obfuscate any possibility that a conspiracy could explain a particular event.  I would not call such researchers skeptics, I think the term "septics", as coined by kentauros on Democratic Underground, is more appropriate.  Rather, I would say that what Hank and his crew have chosen to undertake at the end of Zero Hour is a better representation of true skepticism: research, gather the evidence and keep digging until you've arrived at the truth.