Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What about the 'madrassa' scam?

Yes, today there are propagandists everywhere you look -- all of them furiously spinning to win.

The word “propaganda” was set loose on the world by the Catholic Church in the 1600s. By the 1800s it was being used more often to do with politics. In the 1900s the Bolsheviks and the Nazis, with their heavy-handed isms, perfected artful techniques with methods of mass communications that made propaganda more important than ever before. Then came television and focus groups and all the horses left the barn.

Now the “blogosphere” that’s getting so much mention/ink in the mainstream media is tantamount to a food-fight of propaganda, 25 hours a day on the Internet.

So, afraid of loosing their grip on whatever power to shape minds they have remaining in today’s info-saturated culture, newspapers are putting their content online for free and even forcing/allowing their staffs to become bloggers, to join the food-fight. No doubt, this trend will blur boundaries and spawn some tricky situations down the road.

One sort of tricky situation is illustrated by the curious “madrassa” story reported by Fox News last week. Much has already been written on this particular planted story brouhaha, so this time I’ll allow the Richmond Times-Dispatch to properly scold the guilty parties with its short editorial, “Conversion,” which throws a penalty flag at the supposedly legit news organizations which participated in what was a scam.

“...Insight -- a publication affiliated with The Washington Times -- reported that as a youngster Barack Obama attended a ‘madrassa’ in Indonesia, i.e., an Islamic school that teaches militancy. Opinionists at Fox News couldn’t resist, especially as the inflammatory info supposedly came from leaks from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Solid sources were conspicuously absent from Insight’s account. Ideologues delighted in a scoop that (1) embarrassed Obama and (2) suggested machinations on the part of the Clinton apparatus.”

While the rightwing sulkosphere continues to rant incessantly about the Washington Post’s supposedly slanted coverage of the Allen vs. Webb race, what do the sulkers have to say about Fox News reporting a totally bogus story in order to injure Democrats?

Moreover, can’t we all agree that information from any source has a slant built into it, regardless of how professionally the message is massaged?

The process of gathering and presenting news can be done fairly, but there are always going to be calls to be made -- choosing words and images, the crafting of the story -- in which the thinking of those doing the job inevitably bleeds into the product.

Forget about shadings and slants. What people who respect the truth ought to focus on is remembering, even citing, newspapers and broadcast networks and bloggers for their deliberate prevarications, when they have been caught at it.

Some folks will propagate a lie, knowing it probably is a lie, because it hurts somebody they don’t like. Some folks won’t. Right or left, stop or go, it really is as simple as that.

1 comment:

Mosquito said...


I prefer folks who are "up front" with their bias (everyone has a bias) so then I know what perspective is tilting their "reports" and commentary.

I refuse to continue to use someone as a news source that will lie....I realize anyone can make a mistake...but then an honest retraction (and usually an apology) is necessary to keep me on as a reader.

Ethics people....ethics....we really need some old fashioned honesty in today's world.

Now a plug for my fave news source....DemocracyNow.org on Dishnet tv AND the internet at their website.\