"The political and commercial morals of the United States are
not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet."-- Mark Twain
Truth or Fiction: What
Do We Know, and Where Did
We Hear It?
leger de main
sleight of hand
is No Spoon
The Public Broadcasting Service is commemorating the
anniversary of the September 11th attacks by wiping Israel off the map, the New York Sun reports. The Sun's Ira Stoll notes
that a Web page accompanying a PBS program called "Caught in the Crossfire: Arab-Americans in Wartime" shows a map
of the Middle East on which Israel, Gaza and the West Bank are depicted as one contiguous entity and labeled "Palestine."
(The map is actually labeled "Lebanon, Yemen and Palestine [1941-2002]," so it is accurate for the first seven years of that
61-year period, when Palestine was under British control.) Stoll notes other ways in which the Web site whitewashes Arab history:
"Yasser Arafat is described as 'leader of the movement
for a Palestinian state' with no mention of his connections to terrorism."
"The site makes it sound like Jordan did not participate
in the 1948 Arab attack on Israel."
"The Web site lists the election of [Benjamin] Netanyahu
and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin as setbacks to peace negotiations in the 1990s, but makes no mention of terrorist bombings
by Hamas against Israeli civilians."
"The site includes a timeline with an entry for when
[Ariel] Sharon 'provokes al-Aqsa intifada.' In fact, Palestinian Arab officials, including Mr. Arafat's justice minister and
communications minister, have acknowledged that the violence was planned by the Arabs weeks before Mr. Sharon's visit."
Who's paying for this anti-Israeli propaganda? You are.
Notes Stoll: "The program and Web site were produced by the Independent Television Service, an arm of the Corporation for
Public Broadcasting. The CPB gets about $342 million a year from the federal government." -- Edited from "OpinionJournal
- Best of the Web Today", by JAMES TARANTO September 04, 2002
Suckers for Big Lies
How much trust can we place in what we hear and read? Most would answer that it depends
on the source; but even the most reputable sources can be guilty of misrepresentation, omission, bias, and even outright prevarication.
P.T. Barnum never really said, "There's a sucker born every minute,"but you don't have to be a sucker to be taken in by disinformation when it is repeated often enough, and forcefully enough,
especially by sources we have grown to rely on for accuracy and truth. Adolf Hitler said, "The broad mass of a nation...will
more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one." I think we have plenty of evidence that he was right.
The inspiration for this article came after (another) viewing of Quentin
Tarantino's film, Pulp Fiction.
While looking for the book and verse, first in various editions I have
laying around, then on the 'net, I made a brow-raising discovery.
The Bible quote the character "Jules" is so fond of reciting before he blows
someone away is pivotal to the meaning of the film because it deals with extremes of character, good and evil, and the variations
in between. Much to my astonishment, I discovered that no matter which version of the Bible I consulted, only the last portion
of the quote bore any resemblance to Ezekiel 25:17 -- the rest was fiction.
I don't expect to find true-to-life down-to-the-last-detail depictions of real
life in any film -- even if the project is purported to be "based on real events"
-- which Pulp Fiction is not. Even so, certain things are assumed to be bona fide, if not
sacred. Who would expect someone to make up a new Bible verse to fit a movie's theme? Fake Nostradamus quatrains to fit real-life
disasters, that's a given -- but the Bible? -- See "The Gospel According to Tarantino"
at bottom of page.
Trust No One
More than fifteen years before the
appearance of David Bollier's "Reclaiming the Commons," in which Bollier expresses his concern over the increasing privatization
of once public spheres such as healthcare, education, and the environment, Blair Clark was already worried. In his October
1986 article, "Newspapers in Chains," Clark spoke out against the widespread agglomeration of the nation's daily newspapers, a trend which he claimed might already
be unstoppable. "They're busy locking the barn doors at newspapers all across the country," he began, "but most of the horses
have already been stolen." Still, Clark was nervous about the remaining livestock, with good reason. Citing newspapers' lucrative
"operating profits of twenty percent or more of revenues," Clark predicted that the number of locally owned dailies, about
one third of the total number at the time, would dwindle as national chains gobbled them up. As it turns out, Clark was right.
A glance at the 2001 Forbes 400 reveals that the media industry, which Clark calculated was responsible for the fortunes of
one out of seven of the richest Americans in 1986, is indeed a "goldmine with [a] proven lode," supplying almost one in five
of Forbes's richest with their wealth. At the same time, this wealth is becoming more and more concentrated. Last year the
former owner of the Los Angeles Times, the Times-Mirror Co., which in Clark's day was merrily buying up a $600 million dollar
Baltimore chain, was taken over by the Tribune Co. The new $8 billion acquisition, added to the Tribune's previous ownership
of a slew of television and radio stations, Internet sites, and the Chicago Cubs team, made the company the third largest
newspaper chain in the nation. For Clark, one of the most pressing dangers of such consolidation was the resultant loss of
community power and voice in publication. Today, 99 percent of cities have only one paper actually based in its city of origin.
the "Boston Review"
the FAX, Ma'am...
On June 29, 2001, ABC News announced that footage
of California school children interviewed by correspondent John Stossel for his up-coming TV special on the environment would
not be aired due to objections raised by parents. Seven parents demanded that their children be left out of the special, "Tampering
with Nature" because they felt that Stossel manipulated the youngsters into giving answers that supported his point of view.
Scientific research experiments are properly constructed to safeguard against bias. However, the results of the best studies
may suffer at the hands of their interpreters. Whether a reporter, writer, politician, or businessman, interpreters may have
their own agendas, may simply be ignorant of their subject, or may be trying to apply the results to a group or issue that
was never tested by the research in question. Moreover, some research results are skewed because of a biased experimental
structure existing from the get-go. Tobacco lobbyists had scientific studies that backed up their assertion that smoking cigarettes
does not cause cancer, for example.
The JFK Conspiracy Mythos: forever linked
with overdose death of Marilyn Monroe
It's true! I saw
it on TV!
After the phenomenal success of the book and mini-series "Roots", author
Alex Haley was lambasted by the press and a wide assortment of critics when they discovered that much, if not all, of the
story was a work of fiction. Even when they are writing about true-life events, authors and reporters don't always like to
reveal how they learned about their subject, whether to protect their sources, or to ensure that any embellishments or outright
falsehoods go undetected. A gazillion unauthorized biographies contain unsubstantiated and often derogatory information about
people. Some writers are even willing to go to jail to protect the source of their information. Vanessa Leggett was held for
168 days in Houston for refusing to give up her notes about a 1997 murder case in 2002. She beat the record held by Los Angeles
Herald-Examiner reporter William Farr. He spent 46 days in jail in 1972 for withholding sources for his notes on the Charles
Manson murder cases. I am making an assumption by believing that they went to jail to protect their sources and not to take
advantage of publicity, but I suspect that it might not be so in all cases.
"Iraq showed reporters a warehouse
stuffed with baby milk and sugar . . . to repudiate a U.S. newspaper report that the building was being used to
produce biological weapons," Reuters reports. Uh, hello? Doesn't anyone remember that CNN's Peter Arnett fell for this very hoax a decade ago? -- Excerpted and
edited from "OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today", by JAMES TARANTO September 04, 2002
were quick to point out that President Bush's budget creates a 1 trillion dollar deficit. The White House quickly responded
with 'Hey, look over there, it's Saddam Hussein.'" ~ Craig Kilborn
an old riddle: "How can you tell when a politician is lying? -- His lips are moving." I have a t-shirt that reads: "Reagan
lied. Weinberger lied. North lied. Clinton lied. Bush lied. Nixon lied. Hoover lied. Eisenhower lied. MacArthur lied. Kennedy lied. Johnson lied. Roosevelt lied. Lincoln lied. Washington lied. -- You think I'm going to tell the truth?" Lobbyists and
politicians use scientific research and polls frequently to bolster their arguments for or against legislation and funding.
The news is always full of scandal involving the sex lives or financial dealings of politicians. But, never mind their private
lives -- most of our leaders don't want us watching them while they're conducting official business. Politicians so feared
that coverage of grandstanding and other behaviors during sessions of the U.S. legislature might make them look bad to their
constituents that they resisted allowing radio coverage of Congress in 1922. It wasn't until 1979 that C-Span began broadcasting
televised sessions of the US House of Representatives, and C-SPAN 2 began covering the US Senate in 1986.
the Itch of the Social Voyeur
Love 'em and Hate 'em
But even more worrisome is the fact that the youngest
of our society are gaining most of their information -- not from the news, not from books, not by participating in current
events -- but from movies, television shows, performing artists, dee-jays, vee-jays, and commercials. Most modern kids spend
more of their free time watching television than any other activity. How many of them are going to question what they hear
and see and look it up to be sure of the facts? The seemingly unimportant discovery of Tarantino's rewrite of a Bible verse
has made me look around and see just how much our culture is influenced by fiction and sales pitches. If, as is projected,
somewhere between 3 to 30 million people in the United States are functionally illiterate, what kind of picture of the world
are they seeing? What kind of future are they expecting? What future will there be?
"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil
men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is surely
his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger
those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers and you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."
I've seen this movie at least a dozen times, but it was only
recently that I actually looked for this verse in the Bible. Imagine my surprise when I looked up Ezekiel 25:17 -- in
a dozen different versions -- to find that a few words in the last part of this important speech match the verse...but for the most part it's
fiction. Pulp fiction. -- theEditor
Adlai Stevenson once said of
Richard M. Nixon that "He is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech
for conservation." However, politicians don't have a corner on that market. The media, writers, publishers, producers, and
even corporate interests -- those who both measure public perception and guide it -- have used persons such as Princess Diana,
JFK Senior and Junior, Michael Jackson, Magic Johnson, Pete Rose, Ellen DeGeneres, Roseanne Barr, and countless others until
they lose favor and are discarded -- at least temporarily. Those unfortunate enough to catch the public eye never know when
they'll be elevated to near-godlike stature, only to be diminished as cheats, liars, and weirdos -- not because those exploiting
them care about them, not because of anyone's personal investment in their lives or characters -- they don't really seem to
care. Those who buy and sell have discovered that, in modern society, it doesn't matter whether they're famous or infamous.
You can use people, however unwilling, to sell things.
Long gone is the journalistic
ideal of reporting the news because the public has a right to know the truth. In today's competitive arena, the media sells
variations of a hot news story over and over, even after all news that is actually 'new' is exhausted, until they have a new
story to take its place. There is no loyalty or conscience: they'll elevate people onto a pedestal one week only to throw
them to the wolves the next. Former Congressman Gary Condit's life and career was turned upside down by media speculation
that he was somehow responsible for then-missing intern Chandra Levy's disappearance, based on the fact that he had concealed
and then lied about having had an affair with her. When Levy's remains were found in a park and the evidence pointed to a
perpetrator of similar attacks in the same park on other female joggers, instead of apologetic news bytes telling of his apparent
exoneration, Condit and his wife were both subjected to further abuse in the name of news.
in the Court of Public Opinion
Some resources for this article:
Reference Book: The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations: Adolf Hitler,
in "Mein Kampf"; and a quote attributed to Phineas T. Barnum
Article "California Parents Attack ABC News Special", June 29,
2001, writer Steve Gorman for Reuters
Article: "C-SPAN Puts Government on Television",
June 19, 2001, writer Mark Leccese for Zooba
Article: "Jailed Writer Finally Freed", January 4, 2002, writer
Todd Shields for editorandpublisher.com