Shock horror… Fox News are ratcheting up the fear factor again with another of their ever-so-fair-and-unbalanced reports … this time about GPS jamming equipment which could… only could you understand… be used to try and crash an aeroplane.
Having establish a tenuous connection, between GPS jammers and airline navigation systems, and said they can be bought ‘legally’ on the internet when every federal law enforcement agent they spoke to said “they’re illegal”, Fox then go on to tell you how they work and the potential disaster and havoc they could cause.
So any would-be terrorist doesn’t have to do any research, those kind folks at Fox News have done it all for them.
Of course what Fox don’t point out is that the only jammers with a signal that’s likely to be strong enough to affect a plane’s GPS system work off a car cigarette lighter … now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a car cigarette lighter socket on a plane … I can’t think why that might be.
Nor do they really highlight that fact that GPS is only one of the navigation systems used by aircraft, and that a plane wouldn’t fall out of the sky if its GPS system went offline – I wonder how many times that actually happens and the plane carries on normally under the control of ground-based air traffic control radar? Probably more often than you’d like to be honest.
The bottom line is a news story designed only to scare, and devoid of the facts that would make it not at all scary, and therefore, not news.
Maybe the channel should get a new catchline: FOX – Non-news written by non-journalists for non-entities.
One day after I highlighted the removal of a blog piece from the Al Jazeera English website because it dared to tell the truth about an ally of the Qatari government, it seems the infection is spreading, and it’s another champion of free speech that’s succumbed.
This time it’s The Huffington Post who have removed a remarkably anodyne report from well known 9/11 sceptic Jesse Ventura – his posting told of how hundreds of architects and engineers have signed a petition calling on Congress to re-examine the destruction of the World Trade Center’s twin towers on September 11, 2001.
As usual, HuffPo management have shown a remarkably tenuous grasp on reality, and an breathtaking ignorance of the medium they work in, by openly removing an article which is bound to appear elsewhere along with suitable public approbium about how one of America’s standard-bearers of free-speech has joined the racks of the mainstream media’s blue pencil brigade.
Almost immediately the full article has appeared elsewhere on sites like 911Blogger, as have the reports of the takedown in the wider news media.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a policy that says “no conspiracy theories”, which is what the HuffPo is now cravenly hiding behind, and almost every site on the web will have different policies for dealing with different eventualities.
What’s troubling in this case is that Ventura’s report is not a conspiracy theory, but a factual report about how a group of real experts have done nothing more conspiratorial than call for a re-examination of the scientific evidence because their research says the science is inconsistent with the official story told by the Bush-administration appointed 9/11 Commission.
As Ventura pointed out, this was never covered in the mainstream media, so it is exactly the kind of story the HuffPo should be highlighting, but because Ventura mentions his new book, American Conspiracies, it was obviously too much for the spineless editorial team, who seem intent on putting their pensions before their principles. It is a sad day for the Huffington Post, and what’s worse is that it is not the first time they have been caught censoring their contributors.
As for the subject matter, well I’m no conspiracy theorist (I prefer cock-up every time), but given the choice between the American Institute of Architects and a bunch of Dubya’s lackeys… who would you choose?
Assuming of course you were given the choice, something which the American mainstream media and now, remarkably, The Huffington Post, don’t appear to want you to have.
A few months ago I noted the start of the ‘new’ blogs section on the Al Jazeera English website, and the utter lack of imagination that had been put into them, not least by the correspondents, who seemed to think that describing the tedium of their journey to their latest interview was a suitable substitute for in-depth analysis and investigative reporting.
Since then I have been watching with a growing sense of despondency the accumulation of lazy, pointless hackery which only serves to bolster the ego of the correspondent (as they weren’t bolstered enough by useless managers and acquiescent editors) and leave the audience wanting, especially while the excellent Focus section of the same site dwindled and atrophied.
Fortunately there have been some rare exceptions, including one excellent posting in February from Jane Dutton about her visit to Eritrea to interview the country’s president – now, you can follow the link if you like, but as of today, it goes to an Error 404 page, as it seems the article has been removed from the Al Jazeera website.
The posting, when it existed, was the perfect example of how to use blogs and first person narrative to get behind the story, and give the audience more understanding about the context of a piece – in this case using a blog written after the fact to get around the government minders and reporting restrictions so often imposed on journalists by dictatorial regimes.
Now though, it has been removed, the blogger has been censored and the truth has been lost, probably on the orders of some invertebrate, obsequious lickspittle of a manager who knows nothing about news and journalism, and cares even less about his audience.
A quick Google search explained why – Qatar is doing business with this secretive and brutal African regime for its own ends, and the Eritrean president is lapping up their money and their largesse, while his people are trapped in their own country, and will be shot if they try to leave – no wonder the emir of Qatar wanted the truth about Eritrea suppressed, and since he pays for Al Jazeera, he calls the shots.
So much for Al Jazeera’s code of ethics, and its claim to be editorially independent, impartial and objective.
Fortunately as well as being spineless and brown-nosed, Al Jazeera’s managers are also remarkably stupid, as the article had been published long enough to be cached by Google and many other search engines; however in the interests of freedom of information, here is the article in full:
Eritrea’s president declares me ‘insane’ – by Jane Dutton
We hadn’t even arrived in Eritrea when I started to get a sense of the man I had been sent to interview. Our flight from Dubai airport was delayed. Nobody told us for how long or why. Four hours later, when the plane finally arrived, we found out the president had decided to borrow it for the morning, on a whim.
We were on our way to one of Africa’s most secretive regimes.
Granted a rare interview with the Eritrean president, Isaias Afewerki, a man constantly ranked in the top 10 of the world’s worst dictators and accused of helping turn the Horn of Africa into one of the most volatile regions on the planet.
Our plane – Eritrea’s only carrier – was one of the few international flights that still fly into the country: a desolate place blighted by years of war with Ethiopia and Yemen, and increasing political isolation.
At the airport we were met by unfamiliar silence – no network connections, no SIM cards, no blackberry! And Rafael, our minder. Rafael is a man of contradictions: even his backcomb appears to grow forward.
“Let me tell you the truth,” he would say every couple of hours, immediately followed by anything but. He also ominously warned that he could keep a watch on our every movement if he chose to do so, at our hotel, on the job.
Our interview was scheduled for Saturday and we were told it would take two hours to get to the city of Massawa, the president’s new bunker retreat on the coast. He is reported to spend more time there after an attempted assassination last year.
The roads are manned by checkpoints. The population’s every move seems to be watched and noted in this country. And it probably is. Eritreans need a visa to leave and there is very little chance of them ever getting one. But that hasn’t stopped tens of thousands escaping every year.
The UN estimates that 63,000 sought asylum abroad in 2009. Around 1,800 brave the shoot-to-kill police orders to cross over into Sudan every month. The majority say they are fleeing the permanent military service and repressive nature of the regime.
After several shouting bouts with Rafael, we finally get to Massawa, an exotic port city built by the Turks in the 14th century – a fascinating place with narrow alleyways and looming mosques. It is supposed to be the hottest place on earth. And I would concur.
I noticed then it wasn’t just the capital that was surprisingly clean – everywhere we went in Eritrea was immaculate. The streets are shiny bright, the hotels are spick and span, even the food is safe.
Our interview was delayed by a day and instead we were corralled into watching Massawa’s 20-year celebrations of liberation from Ethiopia. We decided to shoot a promo for our interview while we were there. People were out in that sweltering weather to see their long-time leader, carefully controlled by police.
What amazed us was that the police had no qualms about beating women and children with sticks a few feet away from where we were shooting. A truly shocking scene. And our cameras were still rolling.
The next day we were all set up and ready at our interview location in time for the planned dawn o’clock interview. We guessed the president would keep us waiting, and he did. Six hours later he arrived. We were all drenched with sweat and jangled with angst by the time he sat down.
Was he going to throw us out of the country for asking the questions we wanted asked? Why is he helping Iran supply weapons to Hamas in Gaza and the Houthi fighters in Yemen? Why does he order the police to shoot-to-kill anyone escaping from the country? Why is there no free press or free speech? Why were all of his political opponents whisked away never to be seen again? How come he refuses to let aid agencies feed the two-thirds of his country who are starving?
This was a man who came in on a promise of liberating his people 20 years ago. Every question I asked was met with a blank stare, a flat denial, cold laughter and finally allegations that we were making it all up. And he told me personally I am simply “insane”.
Back in the car and back on the winding roads, climbing thousands of feet to the cooler capital of Asmara. You can smell coffee percolating through the streets: thick, lovely and freshly brewed – the legacy of Italy’s colonial rule under Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime.
All the buildings boast a beautiful jaded art deco influence, and the streets are full of old men cycling with their hats doffed to one side alongside colourful Fiats from the 1960s. We ended the day with a piece to camera from the tank graveyard on the outskirts of the city. Thousands of armoured vehicles dismantled and stacked heading for the trash heap.
They were used in the 30-year battle against Ethiopia. And although that was two decades ago, Eritrea remains on a permanent war footing. The majority of the population is conscripted – whether it be in the army, in the hotel bar, as a street cleaner or our ever present minder Rafael. They remain braced for an Ethiopian attack that may never come.
According to a friend who lived in Hull it was known universally as the Dull Daily Mail – the newspaper that served the readers of Hull and East Yorkshire was never known for its journalistic prowess and from all accounts spent most of its time rehashing the day’s breakfast headlines from BBC Radio Humberside.
In the last 24 hours though the Hull Daily Mail has put itself right on the map as the local paper that completely lost the plot, embedded its foot firmly in its mouth and reaped a whirlwind of 21st century feedback that will serve as an object lesson in social media that will be repeated by journalism teachers around the world for years to come.
A few days ago the HDM led its tatty tabloid edition with an exposé of a local website producer, Paul Smith, who also happened to be the mind behind a hyper-local news site HU17.net, which covers the town of Beverley and surrounding areas.
Much to the HDM’s disgust, Mr Smith had, in the past, built the infrastructure for various porn websites, so they mounted an ‘elaborate’ sting operation involving a reporter posing as an escort (complete with fake Facebook site), and lined up various clueless local councillors to heap on the moral approbium, then produced an article which stayed just the right side of the defamation laws but still managed to suggest the Mr Smith was responsible for the content of hundreds of porn sites, and using inneundo even suggested paedophilia!
Of course they failed to point out a few salient facts, like the fact that Mr Smith’s site was a direct competitor to their monopolistic presence, was a better and more popular website than theirs (those in the know say the HDM’s coverage of Beverley was always woeful and doesn’t seem to have improved much), and that the HDM is financed by large number of ads, many of which offer escort and massage services (see the screenshot to the right).
They also only just managed to point out that Mr Smith’s business is entirely legal, and while I leave it up to you to judge the morality, it is a fact that one of the few business sectors making a resounding profit out of the interwebs these days is the pornography industry, so they, along with the online bookies, tend to pay website builders pretty well compared to most other clients.
Mr Smith’s response to the ‘sting’ operation was to pose for a picture and invite the hapless reporter in for a cup of tea so they could see for themselves the purely business relationship he had with the website owners in question, and he himself posted a rebuttal on his own website outlining the facts for his readers.
What the HDM didn’t point out was that there is a world of difference between building the infrastructure for a website and providing the content, they also failed to make any inquiries about domain name ownership, which would have shown that website contractors usually own the domain names on behalf of their clients because the clients don’t usully have the experience or training to secure and manage these themselves.
So that fact that Mr Smith “owned” these websites was, in their view, proof positive of their case, and of course, they’re not going to let the facts get in the way of a good story, and the HDM has, in its zeal, posted some follow-ups to their story which, of course, they claim are all in the public interest. So, no self-interest there then.
Aside from the fact that this is a deeply distasteful article and a great example of truly appalling journalism, what’s been interesting is the huge backlash that the HDM has reaped from the online community, where hundreds of posts have appeared in the last 24-48 hours supporting Mr Smith.
Even on the HDM’s own site comments have been suspended after hundreds of people took them to task for running the article, only a handful were on their side; John Meehan, the HDM’s editor, then tried to defend his mistake with weasel words and sophistry … and then made things worse by suggesting that those whose criticised the HDM were “misinformed”, and claimed the comments facility was still open (it’s not).
Whatever your views on the story itself, this is a perfect example of the fights to come, as the old media press barons struggle to hold onto their readership and their incomes in the face of growing competition from smaller, leaner and more agile publishers who know their community way better than the press barons’ lackeys could ever do.
The bottom line is that in this age of media literacy and instant interactivity, misguided old farts like John Meehan (and his head-in-the-sand overseers at DMGT) insult the intelligence of their audience at their own peril.
Interestingly The Register also provide coverage, although if I were them, I’d check their headline with a good libel lawyer.
Columnist Frank Rich provides a detailed takedown of what he describes as the “Obama Haters’ Silent Enablers” and the corrosive effect that they and their message are having on what passes for political discourse in the US.
Another writer, Paul Krugman takes a wider ranging view of reaction to the murder of Dr George Tiller by an anti-abortion fanatic, followed in short-order by the incident at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington in which a security guard was shot dead by a white supremacist and Holocaust denier.
Both point to what seems to be an increasingly worrying trend that incidents like this are on the increase following Barack Obama’s election as President, and that the right-wing media, including the Faux News Channel, bear some responsibility for this.
What’s worrying in the middle of all this is that having been trounced at the elections in November the Republican Party is currently leaderless, rudderless and clueless, as exemplified by the recent fiasco over whether Gingrich or Palin should speak at a fund-raising dinner – if they can’t get their guest lists sorted out you have to wonder whether they ever will re-discover the plot ahead of 2012, or whether they have already written that off and are concentrating in 2016.
Unfortunately nature abhors a vacuum, and so into that breech have stepped a whole swathe of unelected, possibly even unelectable, voices like so-called comedian Rush Limbaugh and actor Jon Voight, who told Faux News Channel and others that his devout wish was to “bring an end to this false prophet Obama“.
This is exactly the kind of swing to extremism that the British Labour Party suffered after its humiliation at the hands of the Conservatives in 1979 – and by the time the next election came round in 1983, the Party was riven with divisions as it lurched to the left under Michael Foot.
Labour’s manifesto for the 1983 elections included abolition of the House of Lords, leaving the EEC (the fore-runner of the EU) and abandoning the UK’s nuclear deterrent, prompting one senior Labour MP to describe it as “the longest suicide note in history“.
It took the reality check of the Conservatives Party’s 1983 landslide to set Labour back on the road to electoral respectability, although it took them another 14 years to actually achieve their goal of regaining Number 10.
There’s no doubt the electoral roller coaster that is American politics plays out much quicker than the UK one, but one wonders whether the Republicans are already paying the price for allowing the extremism of the election campaign to get so out of hand, as evidenced in the Al Jazeera video I posted a few days ago.
Frank Rich is already alarmed that no-one is reining in the “hard-core haters”:
The only voices that might penetrate their alternative reality — I emphasize might — belong to conservative leaders with the guts and clout to step up as McCain did last fall. Where are they? The genteel public debate in right-leaning intellectual circles about the conservative movement’s future will be buried by history if these insistent alarms are met with silence.
Hang on a minute, did he say McCain had guts – in classic sports broadcasting terms, let’s see that again…
So that’s having “the guts and clout to step up” eh Frank? We can clearly see McCain is embarrassed because he knows his campaign has been based entirely around Obama’s race and background, and now one of his base supporters has come out and said it and he’s got to agree with her without agreeing with her, knowing that if he gets the next few statements wrong, his whole campaign is doomed to be filed in a garbage bin marked “flip-flopper”.
So he fumbles, he humms, he errrs, and he comes out with something so remarkably anodyne that it can be read any which way you like; the only decisive thing he does is to get his microphone well away from the loony old trout.
McCain didn’t “step up”, he fell over, tried to stand up, managed to get his foot out of his mouth and then ran like hell, and in doing so he showed all the leadership qualities of a concussed bee.
What was needed was for McCain to walk slowly and silently back to the centre of the stage and then to deliver a quiet but stinging rebuke to anyone in his party who dared to make the rest of the campaign about race, to make it clear that the election should be about policy, and not about fearmongering – then he should have gone away and slapped down anyone on his campaign team who disagreed.
That would have been leadership, that would have been “stepping up” but he blew it, and so set in motion the course of events that lead us to where we are today, with right-wing extremism on the rise in the US effectively being encouraged by a leaderless and ineffective Republican party and egged on by loud-mouth shock jocks like Limbaugh, Beck and O’Reilly who really are the perfect examples of the inverse ratio between the size of the brain and the size of the mouth.
Someone needs to step up and provide the same kind of reality check as the Labour Party got in 1983; the problem is that if the American Right waits until after the 2012 election, how many people are going to die in the meantime?
Normally I keep my political comments restricted to UK and US, but one of my e-mail alerts this morning drew my attention to a shocking video that’s starting to do the rounds about the views of young people in Israel about the recent speech given by President Obama on the Middle East.
I watch what is happening in the Middle East with utter dispair sometimes, it’s almost as if neither side wants to a budge an inch and that all the leaderships involved are quite happy for the fighting to continue because it’s become the only thing that defines their power.
In contrast then was Obama’s eagerly-anticipated speech in Cairo which basically said “the status quo is not acceptable, there must be change, but the only people that can make that change are the people of the Middle East themselves”.
Although the speech appeared to hit the mark with all concerned, especially both sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, guaging the reaction of people on the ground was slower in coming, although when it did, the considered response was also welcoming.
One wonders though how much of the story we’re actually hearing, and when you hear the one of the vanguards of 21st Century news, The Huffington Post, is censoring content that runs counter to the preceived wisdom, one has to start questioning how the narrative is being constructed.
The piece that was removed from the HuffPo is a short video vox-pop of young people in Israel giving their views on the Obama speech – the views expressed, especially those from the young American Jews, and the language used are utterly shocking – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED:
Even the people who produced it, Max Blumenthal and Joseph Dana were shocked at the views expressed, and the forcefulness with which they were made, but were further shocked when an administrator at the HuffPo removed the video from the site, claiming, according to Blumenthal that: “I don’t see that it has any real news value”.
So I suppose there was “no real news value” last year, when Al Jazeera English broadcast a vox-pop of people attanding a Sarah Palin rally in Ohio, and shocking the world with a similar level of ignorance:
Now I can see many reasons why an old media organisation might remove such a video from their site, or indeed, choose not to publish it at all – some of these, such as the question of taste and decency, are arguably legitimate, and indeed I myself thought long and hard about whether to embed the video or just link to it because of the foul language used.
For a premier blog to remove it because they consider is has no “real news value” is extremely dangerous; it’s exactly the kind of nebulous reason that would be used to justify censorship by an old media outlet like Fox News.
There’s no doubt The Huffington Post has made a massive contribution to the development of the interwebs as a space for news/information that engages with its audience rather than just preaching to them, but the kind of editorial arrogance they’ve displayed over the Blumenthal video will only serve to raise so much unnecessary speculation about their editorial credibility.
The problem is that its co-founder and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington seems to spend more time getting her face on the old media with guest spots on MSNBC and guest hosting Squawk Box on CNBC, which only serves to make her look more and more old corporate and old media; a perception I would be running a mile from if I was running the best politics site on the planet.
The financial downturn, the difficulties faced by old media companies and the collapse of the newspaper industry is the time for organisations like the Huffington Post to be rising above the frey, consolidating and leading the way, not pracing around on TV while quietly adopting the same tired old editorial dogmas they claim to have moved on from.
As for the morons on the video their disgusting comments seem to show where the real oppositon to change in the Middle East lie, and that there is a bedrock of racism and bigotry both in Israel and among American Jews that is going to be Obama’s biggest and toughest obstacle.
These people, the same people who supported the killing of over 1,000 Palestinians in January in the most one-sided war in the history of mankind, all hide their hate behind the shield of victimhood, claiming that the world is against them.
Well here’s newsflash – it is, and on the basis of this kind of disgusting bigotry – is there any wonder why?
There’s nothing that annoys me more than lazy, cut-and-paste, hype-ridden journalism, and no subject has generated more of this than Climate Change (or so-called “Global Warming”).
Some wonk somewhere produces a report saying so many thousands of people have died, or lost land, or been internally displaced because of global warming and the hype-mongers of the press are all over it like a rash with doom-laden white-on-black prophecies of impending catastrophe.
This happened the other day when the Global Humanitarian Forum put out a report claiming that global warming is killing 300,000 people a year; former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said it was a “silent crisis”:
Climate change is the greatest emerging humanitarian challenge of our time, causing suffering to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
But even in Kofi Annan’s comments on the report are the seeds of doubt. Here’s how it appeared in The Times:
Mr Annan said the report could never be as rigorous as a scientific study, but said: “We feel it is the most plausible account of the current impact of climate change today.”
In other words: “We haven’t a clue”.
What makes this worse is that this is not actually the Forum’s own report, but one that they farmed out to some “thinktank”, a consultancy group called Dalberg Global Advisers who themselves admitted their estmates had:
a significant margin of error
In other words: “We haven’t a clue either”.
The problem is that Climate Change is like the Cold War – our political leaders have jumped on it as a way to scare the bejeezus out of their electorate, and so the only way for scientists to get decent funding for new research is to claim it has relevance to Climate Change – just like in the 1960s and 1970s when the best way to get research funding was to claim some Cold War defense implications.
Of course the outcome of this research is often so spurious and theoretical that no-one really knows what it means and can put any kind of spin on it that they like; this is especially true of any Climate Change work done with atmospheric modelling, a branch of science which sometimes seem to owe more to Harry Potter than it does to any real world physics.
For example – we’re told that the Arctic ice cap is disappearing at an increasing rate. Now watch this video and ask yourself a simple question: “If the ice appears and disappears so quickly every year, how can they be so certain?”
So Kofi Annan’s comment about about rigorous scientific study is telling, because that is actually happening, although because the results don’t have BIG numbers or lots of dead, injured and displaced that fit neatly into a headline, the lazy hacks in our newsrooms don’t give a damn.
I saw this example over on another blog today: Lindzen’s Climate Sensitivty Talk: ICCC June 2, 2009 – not the world’s most inspiring headline, and it has a link to a powerpoint which is full of graphs and equations which would make the average person’s head spin.
To sum it up: Dr Richard Lindzen compared the main Climate Change predictive models to the real data, the observations of what has really happened, and he found the real world did not behave like the models said it would.
What we see, then, is that the very foundation of the issue of global warming is wrong. There is little to be concerned about (due to our emissions). Of course, climate change will always occur and we should be prepared.
Dr Lindzen knows which way the winds of political opinion are blowing on climate change, so he has a little afterthought for those who spend their lives neatly coccooned on Planet Politics:
In a normal field, these results would pretty much wrap things up, but global warming/climate change has developed so much momentum that it has a life of its own – quite removed from science. One can reasonably expect that opportunism of the weak will lead to efforts to alter the data (though the results presented here have survived several alterations of the data already). Perhaps most important, these results will of necessity ‘offend the sensibilities of the of the educated classes and the entire East and West Coasts,’ and who would want to do that.
OK, so this is just one report, and no doubt the ardent Climate Change supporters will pooh-pooh it, but that’s the way science has always worked, just remember some of the crap that Galileo and Copernicus had to put up with.
What’s more worrying is that underlying all of this is knowledge that this report will not get the same coverage as the UN’s spurious “finger-in-the-air” fearmongering did, because the majority of mainstream media journalists are too lazy, too stupid or just too ignorant to dig out the truth.
Just look at sites like this infotainment site from ABC News and ask yourself: “Apart from a few question marks in some of the headlines, where is the rigorous journalistic examination of the facts?”*
If our scientists can’t agree among themselves, shouldn’t THAT be the story the public are told?
*[EDIT/Update: Viewing the ABC News site further I found myself asking another question: “If ABC News had existed back then – what would they have foreseen for a fictional child born on June 2, 1909?” – if you think about this for more than just a second, and look at where we are at now, you’ll start to grasp just how ridiculous a once-great journalistic organisation has become.]