Thursday, September 07, 2006

The shame of capitulation 
Back when I was a full-time straight journo, I took a lot of inspiration from reading the autobiographies of reporters I admired. I remember reading Leslie Stahl's book a while back, talking about when she was on the White House beat (I think she covered Reagan and Bush I). Whenever she got some pushback from the White House flacks or the President himself, the immediate response from the press - and from Leslie - was "you don't tell us what to publish, Mr. President."

And they were absolutely right.*

So it especially pains me to see a major network bow down to blatant strongarming by an organized cabal of Clintonites.

If the show was a dramatization, then let it be a dramatization. The network should have said "we have faith in the writers and researchers that we have, and we stand by the story. You have no standing to dictate to us what we cover and how we cover it. So sod off."

Ok, maybe not that last part. But you get the idea.

Now Madeline Albright is coming out arguing that her characterization in the film is "defamatory."

Ok. But defamation is a legal term of art. It has a specific meaning, with specific defenses to it. Madeleine Albright was a public official, acting in a public capacity. The 9/11 movie portrays her as a public official, acting in a public capacity.

Is it defamatory? If she thinks so, let her argue her case in court. Honestly, I'd love to see her try. I'd love to see her show damages from it, too. I'm not a lawyer - and I invite anyone who has some litigation experience in cases surrounding the defamation claims of public figures to weigh in. But my sense is that Albright would have an EXTREMELY uphill battle to fight, with a truly daunting burden of proof and the weight of every doubt accruing to her detriment.

ABC's proper reaction: "Bring it on."

I did that for readers of this blog. When a financial services company I won't name (*cough* First Command *cough*) sent me a letter demanding I retract some things I wrote about them back in 2003 and 2004, I stuck to my guns - offering only to correct any factual errors they could point out. There were none. And so I stuck to my guns and didn't change a damn thing (though I got some referrals to some good libel law attorneys just in case.)

Six weeks later, the New York Times was on the case, the National Association of Securities Dealers was investigating them for alleged acts which led to a 12 million dollar settlement, Congress was debating destroying the whole contractual funds business model.

I never got another letter from them - they had bigger problems.

And I stuck by my readers - largely soldiers who needed a tough-minded writer to cover these guys honestly, and sure as Hell weren't getting that from the Army Times.

Me. A little guy. A one man shop.

So I have little tolerance for the executives at ABC News, who are themselves covered by E&O and liability insurance and the company's own liability and umbrella policies, with access to a flotilla of attorneys and billions in stockholders' money.

You can't rely on ABC to stick up for itself, much less for its viewers.

This is a sad day for network credibility. One of many.

Splash, out


* I say this as someone who does recognize a compelling state interest in keeping critical classified information hidden, but that's another issue that was not relevant to the stories Stahl was covering then.

There are specific lies in the documentary. Try addressing them. And I'll be waiting for your apology with respect to the early warning of the WTC attack given to employees of Odigo, the Israeli instant messaging firm.

Oh, and speaking of anti-semitism, how about the latest spy for Israel caught by the U.S. Navy? Lots of hush-hush on that one.
There are specific lies in your last post. I know you won't address them, though, so I'll just quietly chuckle at your latest silly rant.

(If Israel didn't spy on us, I'd consider them incompetent. And vice versa.)
Yes, but in this case we had an American soldier spying for Israel. That sailor should get life in prison, just like Jonathan Pollard did. And AIPAC should be required to register as a foreign agent, and be investigated in the manner that the German-American Bund was investigated in the late 1930s.

Oh, and the news media should stop covering all of these things up, and should be even-handed in its coverage of the Middle East. There's more freedom of the press in Israel than there is in the United States, which is captured lock, stock and barrel by AIPAC.
Correction, not an American soldier but rather an American sailor.

One other thing: Will the media tell us that the United States is on the brink of paying for Israel's war on Lebanon? Didn't think so.
Didn't CBS knuckle under to pressure about that Ronald Reagan bio-pic they produced? Isn't this a little like that?

Just asking.

(Disclaimer: ABC shouldn't have caved. Neither should have CBS. But they get to make their own decisions).
Unactuality, are you an American? If so, what is your opinion about Americans caught spying for Israel?
Of course Eric Blair is not "just asking." If he in fact believes ABC is wrong, then whether CBS was wrong is really irrelevant, except to suggest two wrongs make a right.

But as he is asking whether the two cases are the same, the answer is "no."

Reagan was and is dead and was unable to defend himself, whereas Bill Clinton, Berger and Albright are complaining at top volume, with the Democratic Party leadership threatening ABC's licenses.

CBS's program smeared the Reagans.
TIME's TV critic, James Poniewozik, claims this movie ultimately indicts the Bush Administration.

Moreover, Poniewozik wrote at the time of the CBS program that "If one is to judge from selective quotes that made the press, the critics seemed to have a point." So the question that should be asked is whether Clinton, Albright or Berger have a point, or as the 9/11 Commission's investigators found:

"The Clinton administration had as many as four chances to kill or capture bin Laden between December 1998 and July 1999, but all the operations were scuttled because of uncertain intelligence and fears that civilians or dignitaries might be killed. In one example, in May 1999, sources provided detailed reports about bin Laden's whereabouts in the Kandahar area over a period of five nights, but strikes were not ordered because the military was concerned about the accuracy of the reports and the risk of collateral damage."

It may well be that Berger is not as culpable as the version of the new movie people have seen would suggest. But Eric, having decided two wrongs balance out, would have no standing to complain about it.
Exactly how did the CBS program "smear the Reagans?" Be specific.
Looks like ABC got trapped in its and now might yank its propaganda film, which seems to have caused a rare among the wingnuts, although not the lyin' bastard fucktard (this site's words) Jason and his amen chrous.
Oops, I screwed up posting. Let's try again.

It looks like ABC got and now might yank its propaganda flick, which has caused a rare among the wingnuts, although not the lyin' bastard fuckard (this site's words) Jason and his amen chorus.
Wow, you picked up quite the collection of trolls here, Jason.

CBS pulled "The Reagans" because of threatened boycotts of their sponsors. This is the public marketplace in action. A large enough portion of the potential viewing audience raised a ruckus about the program and the network cancelled it, rather than piss off a bunch of their customers.

Apparently, former Clinton administration officials are pressuring ABC to edit their miniseries. This is private arm-twisting. Anyone opposed to the treatment of the people involved are free to have their supporters flood ABC with complaints, or organize a boycott of their sponsors. This is not the route these former officials have chosen.

I can see the difference, can you?
Exactly how did the CBS program "smear the Reagans?" Be specific.
Anyone opposed to the treatment of the people involved are free to have their supporters flood ABC with complaints, or organize a boycott of their sponsors. This is not the route these former officials have chosen.

Excuse me, your lyin' bastard fucktard, but those who object to ABC's propaganda have deluged ABC with complaints. You really ought to try to keep your lies straight.
The plot gets thicker with respect to ABC's propaganda hit job. Turns out it was funded by wingnut bible-thumpers. It figures. Not that they have an ax to grind.
Yup the filmmaker has evanglical ties. And we all know what that means: The wingnut Christians lie with impunity, having given themselves permission to do so.
did i miss something? i thought that only 900 people have seen it so far. how , pray tell,would you know (much less enough supporters to flood abc?
ABC sent the movie out to wingnut bloggers and to media reviewers, the latter of whom have verified the lies. We know specifically what lies are contained in the ABC propaganda hit job.

Now tell me exactly how the CBS program "smeared the Reagans." Be specific. And while you're at it, tell us how the wingnuts managed to flood CBS with protests before that program was to be shown.
Hey, even your fellow wingnuts at are pissed off at your wingnuts liars.
Yet more about the lyin' bastard wingnut fucktards -- Jason's best friends -- who concocted the ABC network's propaganda smear job on the Clinton administration. There's nothing you people won't stop at, is there?
With all due respect Jason, for someone who supposedly cares so much about accuracy in journalism, you seem to be very willing to let inaccuracies slide if we just call the piece a "dramatization." Oh sure, it is about an actual event, contains portrayals of actual people, is even called "The Path to 9/11", but since they call it a dramatization they can play fast and loose with the way the events actually occured. Why not have an actor playing Clinton say "Osama is my best friend forever"? It's a dramatization after all.
Jason is tolerant of all those lies because he's a liar himself. There's no wingnut falsehood that's too low for Jason and his friends.
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