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See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003),
Friday, April 30, 2004
WE LIVE IN A POLITICAL
WORLD. Two good pieces at Mediachannel.org
on the controversy
over ABC's Nightline, on which Ted Koppel will read the names
of American soldiers killed in Iraq tonight.
Danny Schechter, noting Koppel's
credentials as an establishment conservative, writes,
"It is likely to embolden more critical journalism in the unbrave
patriotically correct world of US media."
Meanwhile, Timothy Karr
that the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is protesting Koppel's
alleged politicization of the war in Iraq by refusing to run
Nightline on its eight ABC affiliates, makes 98 percent
of its political contributions to Republicans.
Politics is in the eye of the
MEDIA LOG ON CNN. I'll be on
this Sunday (11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.) talking about media coverage of
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. I'm told I'll be on
with Boston Globe reporter Michael
Kranish, lead author of the
Globe Kerry bio, and National Review Online's Jonah
posted at 11:16 AM |
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Thursday, April 29, 2004
AN INTRIGUING TERROR
CONNECTION. Is there an actual, provable link between Saddam
Hussein's former regime and international terrorism? That's always
been the big question. If the White House had been able to prove such
a connection, a whole lot more people would have supported the war in
in today's Wall Street Journal tells what is known so far
(which is admittedly not much) about a terrorist attack that was
foiled in Jordan earlier this month. Among the allegations: the
terrorists had planned to use poison gas, which could have killed as
many as 80,000 people; the gas came from Syria; it might have been
shipped to Syria from Iraq before the war; and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,
whom the Bush administration says was given carte blanche to operate
in Iraq by Saddam's government, may have been behind the
Here is a piece
from the Christian Science Monitor of Tuesday covering much of
the same ground.
Obviously we need to wait for a
much more in-depth report. It's always curious when the
Journal's right-wing editorial page runs with something that
its news section - one of the finest in the world - has ignored. But
this is potentially a huge story.
HATE SPEECH AT UMASS. There
is opposing the war but supporting the troops. There is opposing the
war while openly mocking the troops. And there is a UMass student by
the name of Rene Gonzalez, who actually manages to trash the memory
Tillman, the NFL star who
joined the Army Rangers after 9/11, and who was killed in action in
Gonzalez, after calling Tillman an
in the Daily Collegian:
Tillman, probably acting
out his nationalist-patriotic fantasies forged in years of
exposure to Clint Eastwood and Rambo movies, decided to insert
himself into a conflict he didn't need to insert himself into. It
wasn't like he was defending the East coast from an invasion of a
foreign power. THAT would have been heroic and laudable. What he
did was make himself useful to a foreign invading army, and he
paid for it. It's hard to say I have any sympathy for his death
because I don't feel like his "service" was necessary. He wasn't
defending me, nor was he defending the Afghani people. He was
acting out his macho, patriotic crap and I guess someone with a
bigger gun did him in.
Wow. I guess what surprised me the
most is that Gonzalez is described as a graduate student. Most
people get such crap out of their systems by the time they're 21 or
Well, Gonzalez's views are
protected by the First Amendment, if not by the rule of common sense
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DOUGLAS BRINKLEY'S VERY BAD
DAY. The historian and John Kerry biographer gets one
the head from Boston
Globe columnist Alex Beam. I'd say Beam has Brinkley dead to
rights in his portrayal of him as a campaign surrogate.
Here is Brinkley's Tuesday
for Salon (sub. req.) on the non-story of whether Kerry threw
his ribbons or his medals over the fence in 1971. Pretty convincing.
But - idiotic as this controversy may be - why can't Kerry explain it
as succinctly and convincingly as Brinkley, Tom
Naturally, Mickey Kaus
Anson's account is evidence of more shocking Kerry lies.
NEW IN THIS WEEK'S
PHOENIX. When Bob met Dubya: Woodward's latest is
lot easier on the president
than the author wants you to think.
Also, Jay Severin's
posted at 8:47 AM |
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Wednesday, April 28, 2004
LET THEM EAT BOEUF!
Media Log's slogan: You can't make this stuff up!® I just
found this nugget near the end of John Harris's Washington
of last Saturday on Republican efforts to cast Senator John Kerry as
a wealthy elitist:
There has been an echo of
this kind of down-home invective in the controversy over Kerry's
statement that foreign leaders secretly back his candidacy.
Pressed last Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" on where and when
the leaders told him this, Kerry declined to say, but he noted:
"You can go to New York City and you can be in a restaurant and
you can meet a foreign leader."
This prompted House Majority
Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) on Monday to sneer: "I don't know where
John Kerry eats, or what restaurants he attends in New York City.
But I tell you, at the Taste of Texas restaurant - it's this great
steakhouse in Houston, Texas - the only foreign leader you meet
there is called filet mignon."
Boneless steak for a bonehead. Don't
you wish Tom DeLay was your congressman?
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COMMON USAGE. Not long after
writing a piece on the rivalry
between the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, I
received a message from inside Wingo Square. My informant complained
I hadn't noted that the title of the redesigned Boston Globe
section - "Boston Uncommon"
- was already being used by Herald sports columnist
Fair enough. But it turns out that
"Boston Uncommon" is about as original as "it was a dark and stormy
night." Click here
and you'll see what I mean. "Boston Uncommon" has been
used to describe wedding and honeymoon packages, attractions for
students, and crab cakes. It's the name of a vocal group, the title
of an article about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and the headline on a
story about a Palm Beach County gardener who moved there from
The Christian Science
Monitor used it for a things-to-do piece. TCPalm.com, a Florida
website, used it for an 82-year-old guy who was planning to run the
Boston Marathon. The Cincinnati Post used it to describe a
former Ohio State football star named David Boston.
Titles are often used to evoke a
sense of the familiar rather than dazzle with originality. They also
can't be copyrighted, although they can be trademarked for certain
limited purposes. (Very limited, as Roger
Ailes learned when he went
after Al Franken.)
Does any of this matter? No. Just
thought I'd share.
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AIR AMERICA'S GROWING PAINS.
Ridiculous though it may be, it appears that the death watch has
already begun for Air
America Radio. The
Chicago Tribune reported
yesterday that two of the liberal network's top executives, Mark
Walsh and Dave Logan, have left the building - Walsh under his own
power, Logan possibly not. This comes on the heels of a legal and
financial dispute that has left Air America without stable homes in
Los Angeles and Chicago.
The New York Times
up today. And Michael
Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, tells
the Washington Post the obvious: "Chaos is not a good sign." A
nitwit named Corey Deitz goes so far as to argue
that Air America hosts Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo should emulate
Gordon Liddy. What, by going to prison?
Needless to say, Air America can't
be heard in Boston, either, unless you're paying for satellite radio
or listening to the live stream over the Web.
Obviously Air America is going
through growing pains, or maybe something rather worse than that. But
the network is still only a month old. The unanswered question - and
the key to the whole operation - is how much money its backers are
prepared to spend to get this thing off the ground. If they're
willing to spend whatever it takes for a year or two, then the
current chaos doesn't matter. If they were hoping to break even
within months after launching, then one suspects they didn't know
what they were getting into in the first place.
Air America continues to add
affiliates, including WMTW Radio (AM 870) in Portland, Maine. The
station is changing its call letters to WLVP, which veteran
radio-watcher Scott Fybush guesses
stands for "Liberal Voice of Portland."
One thing I wonder about is whether
the liberal audience that Air America has targeted really understands
how bad talk radio is most of the time. Everyone talks about how
successful Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are, but they host
dreadful, almost unlistenable shows - smug, boring, unentertaining
agitprop that is nearly impossible to listen to unless you've been
lobotomized. Air America wants to rise above that, but it's
hard to do so hour after hour after hour. Conservatives may be
willing to listen to such crap, but that's one of the reasons that
Time will tell whether Air America
is going to succeed, and money will determine how much time there is.
Everything else is irrelevant.
THE SILENCE OF THE LEAKEE.
There is a magical moment laying bare the media-political axis
toward the end of today's James Risen New York Times
on Defense Department neocon conspiracy theorist Douglas Feith ("the
fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth," according to
Risen writes this about Michael
Maloof, one of several deep thinkers Feith brought in to concoct ties
between Iraq and Al Qaeda:
Mr. Maloof's Pentagon
career was damaged in December 2001, when his security clearances
were revoked. He was accused of having unauthorized contact with a
foreign national, a woman he had met while traveling in the
Republic of Georgia and eventually married. Mr. Maloof said he
complied with all requirements to disclose the relationship.
Several intelligence professionals say he came under scrutiny
because of suspicions that he had leaked classified information in
the past to the news media, a charge that Mr. Maloof denies.
His lawyer, Sam Abady says that Mr. Maloof was a target because of
his controversial intelligence work and political ties to
conservative Pentagon leaders.
Today's question: is there any
chance whatsoever that Risen doesn't know whether or not Maloof
had leaked classified information to the news media?
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Tuesday, April 27, 2004
NOT-SO-TABLOID VALUES. The
Boston Herald today opted for substance over sensation in a
heartening way. Like the Boston Globe, the tabloid led with
Superior Court judge Margot Botsford's ruling that the state's system
for financing public education is inadequate and discriminates
against poorer communities.
The front-page splash in the
Herald is "SAVE OUR SCHOOLS," along with a photo of Julie
Hancock, the Brockton 10th-grader who is the lead plaintiff in the
lawsuit. (Hancock is the daughter of Brockton School Committee member
Maurice Hancock.) Inside is a meaty, two-page package - a
story by Kevin Rothstein,
sidebars by Rothstein on Hancock
and school-funding activist Norma
Shapiro, a column
(sub. req.) by Mike Barnicle (who failed to stay on message, instead
going off on a bender about gay marriage), and a chart showing
educational inequities between rich and poor communities.
The Globe's coverage,
by Anand Vaishnav, is fine, and I'll certainly take the
editorial over the
stance. But the
Herald's package was, I hope, a sign that acting editor Ken
Chandler's reign isn't going to be all sex and celebrity.
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SMEARING KERRY'S SERVICE.
There has always been something uniquely John Kerry-ish about the matter
of whether it was his medals or his ribbons that he threw over the
fence at that antiwar rally in Washington more than three decades
ago, or even whether medals and ribbons are or are not the same
thing. As Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi
today, "A person watching Kerry run for president wants to shake him
and say, 'Stop, please stop.'"
Still, ABC News's "exclusive"
on Good Morning America yesterday is an utter disgrace - an
attempt to make something out of nothing, and to impugn the integrity
and patriotism of someone who came to oppose an immoral war in which
he had fought. Tom Oliphant's eyewitness
account in today's
Globe ought to put this non-story to rest.
"God, they're doing the bidding of
the Republican National Committee," the Globe's Patrick Healy
Kerry as saying of ABC. Kerry's right, and it's frighteningly
reminiscent of the way that the media took dictation from the
Republicans in going after Al Gore four years ago.
Yet Healy also undermines Kerry's
ability to defend himself by getting something else half-right. In
response to the ABC/GOP smear, Healy writes, "Kerry turned the issue
against the president, saying for the first time that Bush was far
more vulnerable on matters of Vietnam-era choices because of
questions about whether he completed his service in the Texas Air
National Guard. 'He owes America an explanation about whether or not
he showed up for duty in the National Guard. Prove it,' Kerry told
NBC." Healy then adds:
Kerry has said for months
that he would not question the president's Texas Air National
Guard record even as his allies, such as the Democratic National
Committee chairman, Terry McAuliffe, and former US senator Max
Cleland, suggested Bush had been "AWOL" at times in the early '70s
and may not have completed his Guard service. Kerry said that, as
a Vietnam veteran, he had come to terms with others' decisions
about serving their country during the Vietnam era, and once
defended President Clinton for not serving.
And then this, farther down in the
pounced on Kerry's comments about Bush yesterday, noting his past
pledge not to criticize the military service of other members of
the Vietnam generation. "It's another example of John Kerry saying
one thing and doing another: He said he would never question the
president's honorable service in the National Guard, but now he is
lashing out," said Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush
campaign. "It is a purely venomous political attack, and the
American people will reject it."
Now, I can't cite chapter and
verse. But I've followed this pretty closely, and it seems to me that
Kerry has always said the issue he considered out of bounds was
Bush's decision to serve in the Texas Air National Guard rather than
opt for potentially more hazardous duty in the US military. To my
knowledge, though, Kerry has never said he would not question
whether Bush didn't serve in the National Guard. (Oof. Triple
negative. Sorry.) Those are two completely different issues. Choosing to serve in the Guard is one thing; blowing it off is quite another. And if
the Republicans are going to attack Kerry's military service, it is
absurd to think that Kerry shouldn't fight back.
E.J. Dionne has a terrific
in today's Washington Post on the Republicans' loathsome
attempts to smear Kerry's military record, noting that Bush's fellow
Republican John McCain has come to Kerry's defense. Asks Dionne: "Now
that McCain has spoken, will Bush have the guts to endorse or condemn
the attacks on Kerry's service? Or will he just sit by silently,
hoping the assaults do their work while he evades
Sadly, I think we already know the
SEVERIN'S WORDS. The
Boston Globe has obtained a transcript
of WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) talk-show host Jay Severin's remarks of last
Thursday, which he both defended and expressed "regret" for
There appears to be something for
everyone. On the one hand, Severin was right about what he actually
said. He did not say, "I've got an idea, let's kill all
Muslims," as claimed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations
(CAIR), which has called for his firing. As Severin correctly said
yesterday, his actual words to a caller were, "You think we should
befriend them; I think we should kill them."
On the other hand, Severin offered
virtually no context, at least according to the Globe report,
by Michael Rosenwald. At one point, Severin is quoted as having said,
"My suspicion is that the majority of Muslims in the United States,
who regard themselves as Muslims first and not as Americans really at
all, see an American map one day where this is the United States of
Islam, not the United States of America. I think it pays to harbor
That doesn't sound like someone who
was only advocating the killing of Islamist terrorists.
posted at 8:50 AM |
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Monday, April 26, 2004
SEVERIN DENIES CHARGES. I
just listened to Jay Severin's opening monologue on WTKK Radio (96.9
FM). Severin addressed the claim
made by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that he had
said on his show last Thursday, "I've got an idea, let's kill all
Muslims." Severin denied ever having said such a thing, blasted the
Boston Globe for reporting CAIR's charges without contacting
him first, but nevertheless expressed "regret" to anyone who was
offended by his remarks.
Calling it "a big story about
imagined hate speech," Severin said, "If we were to make a tape of
it, I could find maybe 1000 recordings ... with my saying the
following words: all Muslims are not terrorists, all Muslims are not
our enemies. But, so far, all the terrorists killing us are Muslims."
He referred to Boston Globe columnist Jeff
Jacoby's Sunday piece on
Arab and Muslim hatred toward the United States, and to a
story in today's New
York Times headlined "Militants in Europe Openly Call for Jihad
and the Rule of Islam."
Severin said that his remark about
killing Muslims came in response to a caller who advocated peaceful
relations with those elements of the Islamic world that hate the US. "When he said to me, 'I think we
should be befriend them,' I said, 'I have a different notion, a
different policy. I think we should kill them,'" Severin said today.
He added: "I certainly regret any misunderstanding. I certainly
regret any discomfort that may have been caused by the
misunderstanding of my remarks." But he said that he has been "very
clear, very contextual, very consistent" in saying that the US should
kill its Muslim enemies - not that it should kill all
"My remarks were not taken out of
context. Someone made up my remarks," Severin said. He charged that
CAIR simply took what a listener had e-mailed to the organization and
wrote up a press release demanding that Severin be fired. "Those
words were never uttered by me. Not off the air, not on the air, not
ever. Never uttered by me," he said, calling CAIR's characterization
"100 percent false. A fantasy, a fabrication, totally made
Severin also accused the
Globe of not checking with him before going to press. (The
Globe's story was published on Sunday, not Saturday, as I
mistakenly reported earlier today.) He said someone at the
Globe told him today that the reporter, Jessica Bennett, had
tried to reach him and failed. But Severin said, "I'm in a 24/7
business. Everyone knows how to contact me."
He added: "My statements weren't
taken out of context. My statements were made up, and then printed by
the Boston Globe. Now, I wish to repeat that I'm not here to offend
anyone. [Media Log aside: Hah!] I'm here to provoke
thought, I'm here to express opinion."
A few off-the-cuff
- A couple of quibbles aside, I
basically believe Severin. I am thoroughly disgusted by his referring
to Arabs and Muslims as "towelheads," by his suggestions that the US
should nuke its enemies, and by his advocacy of scorched-earth
tactics in Iraq. But I listen to him enough to know that it's not
credible to imagine he would suddenly call for the deaths of "all"
Muslims. He's always been clear that he wants us to kill Islamist
terrorists who are trying to kill us. And, of course, we
- Severin refers to the
Globe as "a ridiculously irresponsible major newspaper" for
going to print without first contacting him. But according to
Bennett's story, she did contact the station's general
manager, Matt Mills, who reportedly declined to comment. She also
refers to Severin's remarks as "alleged," which does qualify things a
bit. CAIR had put out a press
release on the wires the
day before the Globe story ran. Assuming that Bennett
genuinely attempted to reach Severin and couldn't, her and the
paper's choice was either to run with what they had or hold it. Maybe
they could have waited another day, but I don't think the decision
they made was wrong.
- Severin makes no reference to an
e-mail that Mills supposedly sent to CAIR in which he said: "I have
spoken to Jay Severin and he knows we take this seriously and do not
condone offensive remarks toward any religious groups and he will be
apologizing on his show Monday afternoon. He did not intend to offend
anyone." Maybe Mills will now claim that he never sent any such
e-mail. But assuming that he did, it sounds like Mills was upset with
his star talk-show host. Severin should have talked about that rather
than blaming everything on CAIR and the Globe.
Maybe he will later this afternoon.
Unfortunately, I won't be listening, because I'm on deadline with
posted at 4:00 PM |
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SEVERIN REPORTEDLY TO
APOLOGIZE. Well, this should be interesting. The Council
on American-Islamic Relations
(CAIR) claims it has been promised that WTKK Radio (96.9 FM)
talk-show host Jay
Severin will apologize
today during his show for saying, "I've got an idea, let's kill all
Muslims." Severin allegedly made that remark last
from an e-mail the organization says it received from the station's
general manager, Mark Mills: "I have spoken to Jay Severin and he
knows we take this seriously and do not condone offensive remarks
toward any religious groups and he will be apologizing on his show
Monday afternoon. He did not intend to offend anyone."
Severin's alleged outburst
reportedly came he while talking about a supposed Muslim plan to take
over America, even if it takes centuries. CAIR is calling for Severin
to be fired. The organization's chairman, Omar Ahmad, is quoted as
saying: "We believe a mere reprimand and apology is insufficient and
demand that he be taken off the air as he would be if he had attacked
any other religious or ethnic group."
The Boston Globe
on Severin's latest on Saturday.
I didn't hear Severin, so I don't
want to prejudge this. I'll wait to hear what he has to say shortly
after 3. But if past is prologue, this is unsurprising. As I've
previously, Severin regularly refers to Arabs and Muslims as
"towelheads" and illegal immigrants as "wetbacks." He has often
advocated the use of nuclear weapons against enemies of the United
States. And with the death toll in Iraq rising, Severin has expressed
frustration that the US military is engaging in urban warfare - thus
costing American lives - instead of essentially leveling areas where
the Iraqi opposition is strong.
But doesn't Severin have a First
Amendment right to say such things? Yes, of course. What he
doesn't have is a First Amendment right to host a talk show.
Hate speech is protected, but it's up to the management of WTKK to
decide whether it wants to pay for such garbage. And CAIR has a First
Amendment right to protest and to demand that Severin be
Recently another 'TKK talk-show
host, Mike Barnicle, apologized
for using the word "Mandingo" in referring to the marriage of former
secretary of defense William Cohen, who's white, and former Boston
television personality Janet Langhart, who's black.
Last October, WEEI Radio (AM 850),
after initially trying to ride it out, suspended
John Dennis and Gerry Callahan for two weeks after they jokingly
referred to a gorilla that had escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo as
a "Metco gorilla." Metco is a program that lets urban
African-American kids attend public schools in the
Two months before that, one of
'EEI's sister stations, WRKO Radio (AM 680), parted
company with John "Ozone"
Osterlind after Osterlind allegedly called for the "eradication" of
the Palestinian people on the air. (At the time of his departure,
Osterlind disputed what happened, and a complete tape of his
offending remarks has never surfaced. And a disclosure: WRKO pays me
to talk about the media on The Pat Whitley Show every Friday
at 9 a.m.)
All this is only tangentially tied
to the uproar over indecency. That, after all, only dates back to the
Super Bowl. Rather, what all of these local incidents have in common
is that they involve ugly joking, or even hate speech, about race,
ethnicity, and/or religion. Such a thing would have been unheard of -
literally - 10 years ago, but it has become a staple as
corporate-owned radio chains have continued their downward
I suspect that Severin will slide
by with an apology, and that he'll be able to claim his remarks were made within an entirely political context. In any event, stay tuned.
posted at 9:24 AM |
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MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.