Guest Blogged by Mary Mancini of the Uncounted Blog
Everyone has different tastes, and hey, if you aren’t moved after watching Uncounted that’s your prerogative. But an uniformed and half-assed review that tries to nail the 80-minute movie on one ten-second factoid - like the one delivered to Mother Jones readers by former MJ Senior Online Fellow and current TPM Media News Editor, Justin Elliott - is inexcusable.
In the review, Elliot references the following that briefly appears on screen: “Two voting machine companies --- ES&S and Diebold --- electronically counted 80 percent of the votes in the 2004 presidential election. Both companies have extensive ties to the Republican party.” He then runs the 80% number by Kimberly Brace, “a respected voting expert with the consulting firm Election Data Services” who calls it “totally wrong.” And that’s it. Proof by assertion. No follow up. End of review.
You can, of course, read the rest for yourself at MotherJones.com, where you can also read the comments of some very smart MoJo readers who recognize not only Elliott’s shoddy work but also the importance of the bigger issue - that our democracy is at stake because of bad electoral practices.
You’ll also find Uncounted's filmmaker, David Earnhardt's response, which I am also printing in its entirety...
Events in the campaign this week offer a case study in how Fox "News" assists the right wing --- in this case, the McCain campaign --- to disseminate disinformation:
Monday: Speaking before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, John McCain falsely claimed credit for supporting the 21st Century GI Bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.):
As a political proposition, it would have much easier for me to have just signed on to what I considered flawed legislation. But the people of Arizona, and of all America, expect more from their representatives than that, and instead I sought a better bill. I'm proud to say that the result is a law that better serves our military, better serves military families, and better serves the interests of our country.
In reality, the bill McCain "sought" was not Webb-Hagel, which he opposed because its tuition benefits were "too generous" to the troops. The version he sought was a different bill that he co-sponsored, and which "in no way resembles" the bill which was ultimately passed, as noted by ThinkProgress...
Glenn Greenwald returns from his vacation rested and ready to keep up his devastating work on the anthrax beat over at Salon. On Monday, he noted how the FBI's timeline for the supposed Anthrax Killer, Bruce Ivans' trip to mail deadly letters in Princeton, NJ, was literally impossible. So the FBI just leaked a different theory to the Washington Post, who had uncritically reported their first one. Again, the new theory was dutifully passed on uncritically, without the reporters even bothering to note that their first reported theory was wholly debunked.
Writes Greenwald (in reference to the Post here, but feel free to replace its name with virtually any other MSM outlet of your choice):
That's because The Post's role here has been and continues to be what the establishment media's role generally is --- to serve government sources and amplify their claims, not to investigate their veracity. That's how it was Saddam Hussein who was the original anthrax culprit, followed by Steven Hatfill, and now Bruce Ivins. It's how Jessica Lynch heroically fought off Iraqi goons in a firefight, how Pat Tillman stood down Al Qaeda monsters until they murdered him, how Iraq possessed mountains of WMDs, and now, how Russia has assaulted the consensus values of the Western World by invading a sovereign country and occupying parts of it for a whole week, etc. etc. All of those narratives came from the Government directly into the pages of The Washington Post, which then uncritically conveyed them, often (as in the case of the Jessica Lynch lies and WMD claims) playing a leading role in doing so.
He then follows up with this eerily all-too familiar refrain, at least for me and likely most long time BRAD BLOG readers:
Similarly, here is an Associated Press article from last week, by AP's Matt Apuzzo, purporting to report on what it admits are many "meticulously researched" questions that have been raised (including by me) about the FBI's case, yet repeatedly demonizes such skepticism with these phrases, laced throughout the article: "the ingredients for a good conspiracy theory"; "skeptics and conspiracy theorists"; "armchair investigators, bloggers and scientists"; "one of the great conspiracy theories, like whether we landed on the moon or whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone"; "anti-Jewish writers blame the attack on a Zionist plot"; "You can't prove aliens didn't mail the letters."
Welcome to my world, Glenn.
As always, in Establishment Media World, nothing is more insane or radical than refusing to believe every word the Government says. Even after Iraqi mushroom clouds and the whole litany of Government falsehoods, the establishment hallmark of Seriousness and Sanity is accepting the Government's word. When it says Iraq was behind the attacks, then it was. When they said Hatfill was the culprit, he was. Now that they say that Ivins is, he is, and only "conspiracy theorists" --- comparable to those who disbelieve we landed on the moon --- would question that or demand to see the actual evidence. The FBI is relying, understandably so, on their mindless allies in the media to depict its case against Ivins as so airtight that no real investigation is necessary.
Glad to hear it's not just us. Apparently, we're now in very good company, even as our Outlaw Nation continues to crumble around us. To the corporate MSM, however, everything is just fine.
Now, as the coverage fades and the story once again threatens to head for obscurity (despite doubts about Ivins's role in the attacks), I thought it might be worth mentioning a few questions that came to my mind as I read through recent coverage --- not on Ivins's guilt or innocence, but on matters that are so much a part of our American landscape that normally no one even thinks to ask about them.
His overall thesis is encapsulated in the first question:
Why wasn't the Bush administration's War on Terror modus operandi applied to the anthrax case?
Engelhardt first cites the hardships that suspects endured during the course of the investigation:
On August 10th, William J. Broad and Scott Shane reported on some of the human costs of the FBI anthrax investigation in a front-page New York Times piece headlined, "For Suspects, Anthrax Case Had Big Costs, Scores of the Innocent in a Wide F.B.I. Net." They did a fine job of establishing that those who serially came under suspicion had a tough time of it: "lost jobs, canceled visas, broken marriages, frayed friendships." According to the Times (and others), under the pressure of FBI surveillance, several had their careers wrecked; most were interviewed and re-interviewed numerous times in a "heavy-handed" manner, as well as polygraphed; some were tailed and trailed, their homes searched, and their workplaces ransacked.
Under the pressure of FBI "interest," anthrax specialist and "biodefense insider" Perry Mikesell evidently turned into an alcoholic and drank himself to death. Steven Hatfill, while his life was being turned inside out, had an agent trailing him in a car run over his foot, for which, Broad and Shane add, he, not the agent, was issued a ticket. And finally, of course, Dr. Ivins, growing ever more distressed and evidently ever less balanced, committed suicide on the day his lawyer was meeting with the FBI about a possible plea bargain that could have left him in jail for life, but would have taken the death penalty off the table.
But he then offers a chilling reminder of how Bush's War on Terror affected those accused of far less than masterminding the deadliest bio-terror attack on U.S. soil in our nation's history...
A lot of voting zeitgeist in the media of late. What took ya so long, folks? Wanted to wait until it was largely too damned late to do anything about it? Same story. New year.
In any case, on the road to Denver right now, so time enough only to round up some of the most notable must-reads on everything from: The GOP "voter fraud" scam growing in intensity between here and November (a theme I'll also be discussing in my column for the UK's Guardian this week); Election officials finally acknowledging their machines don't work, but remaining unwilling to correctly place the blame or otherwise do much about it; Faint glimmers of actual improvement at the previously dreadful U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC); A bit of news from the "Rove Cybergate" election fraud case in OH, and; The one phrase you'll want to get very well familiar with between here and November 2 (hint: my name is in it, but it has nothing to do with me.)
Eric Shawn, on behalf of Fox "News," on behalf of the RNC, continued their disingenuous and misleading "voter fraud" series over the weekend. As usual, they highlight phony fears of Democratic "voter fraud," naturally, while noting that there are "increasing cases" at what "some consider an alarming rate."
Again, and predictably, they recycle the same old, previously debunked ACORN bullshit in the latest segment. Prepare to hear more of the same, always mentioning ACORN by name, non-stop between here and November.
Trouble is, there are a few important points that Fox seems to forget to note when they join the Republicans in their misleading swiftboat campaign against ACORN. And then there's that one, rather notorious case of voter fraud felony that, for some odd reason, they seem unwilling to discuss in their continuing "investigative reports"...
[Update 8/15/08 5:05pm PT: The offending death threats discussed below, though not all of them, have now been removed by Townhall.com, and the writer's Townhall blog has had all comments scrubbed as well. So O'Reilly should therefore know about it all now, and can report on it next time Townhall's Amanda Carpenter joins him to dishonestly bash "far-left" blogs. Our cached version of the webpage still shows the offending more-than-month-old comments, as does the graphic at the bottom of this article.]
On Wednesday night, Fox "News'" Bill O'Reilly continued his dishonest and deceptive attacks on websites, such as Huffington Post and Daily Kos, which he misleadingly describes as "hate sites" featuring "vicious far-left attacks" as based on selective reader comments he's discovered posted on those sites.
In the latest of his continuing segments with "Internet Cop" Amanda Carpenter, of the rightwing website Townhall.com, O'Reilly pointed to a number of objectionable comments at the two sites, from "far-left kooks," before tepidly lauding both HuffPo and Daily Kos for having removed some of them, presumably after they were brought to the attention of site moderators.
"Where is that rocket propelled grenade launcher when you need one," O'Reilly displayed on a chyron, and then "Let's hope the dissidents aim is good!" Both of the quotes are purported to be from a "Blog Posting" at HuffPo, according to the Fox "News" graphic, posted in regard to a group of Iraq War Veterans who support the war effort.
Failing to note any distinction between actual articles posted by contributors to the two sites versus comments from anonymous and pseudonymous users, O'Reilly accuses "bloggers" at the two sites of posting "despicable" material, even though it's unknown whether the commenters in question are actually rightwing posters, or even O'Reilly supporters, writing under a pseudonym. The entire segment is posted at left, as recorded yesterday by The BRAD BLOG's Alan Breslauer.
"These people are out of control and that's where they live," O'Reilly notes indignantly before tossing it to Townhall's Carpenter for comment.
"It's a good step that they are moderating the comments section more, and we've applauded that," Carpenter says in reply, before noting the "deeper issue...of posting blogs" critical of the Iraq vet group, which is reportedly going back to the war-zone to report on the country's status following George W. Bush's "troop surge."
But O'Reilly and Carpenter clearly have been protesting a bit too much, as it turns out Carpenter's own website is guilty of the same --- and even far worse --- "vicious" attacks, and potentially even illegal ones, including death threats issued against Barack Obama and "traitorous liberals."
Despite the mock outrage of the Fox rightwingers, The BRAD BLOG has been pointed, by a reader, to a number of out-and-out (and repeated) death threats issued by "bloggers" at Carpenter's own Townhall site.
The multiple threatening comments are posted on the Townhall blog of rightwing radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt, and include death threats against the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee, Barack Obama. They were posted on July 10th of this year at Townhall and, as of this posting on August 14th, still remain on the popular rightwing website which requires registration before commenters are allowed to post...
While cable news dutifully devotes nonstop coverage to the latest random criminal cases --- kidnappings, shootouts, murderous love triangles, car chases --- it's telling when a supposed break in one of the biggest manhunts in FBI history, for a terrorist who murdered and poisoned multiple American citizens with anthrax, takes a back seat to nearly every other story. That is, if it's mentioned at all.
Even as details, leaks, and a burgeoning list of questions bubbled to the surface last week, demanding serious scrutiny, the big three broadcast networks were equally blasé. Some nights skipping mention of the unfolding story altogether, as did last Tuesday's editions of CBS Evening News and ABC World News (though both that evening reported the eminently newsworthy story of a thrill-seeking English couple who married while being strapped outside separate airplanes). On the same night, Brian Williams afforded 39 precious seconds to the anthrax investigation on NBC Nightly News.
In covering one of the most historic criminal investigations in our nation's history, the worst bioterrorism attack on U.S. soil, the overall tenor and quality of network reporting (as well as much of the work in mainstream print media) has been nothing short of disgraceful. What America saw, instead, was a dearth of circumspection and a paucity of competent investigative work that mirrors the most feckless moments of the last eight years...
Having made all too precious-little headway in overcoming the failures of the U.S. corporate mainstream media --- see these comments from over the weekend on that point --- I guess I need to "go overseas" to see if we can make any headway from over there instead.
I'm now honored to be contributing to the UK's Guardian from time to time. My first column, posted today, picks up on the anthrax case, and the dismal, one-sided case made for the guilt of the now-deceased Bruce Ivins, by both the FBI and the mainstream corporate media outlets in this country, which were all too happy to pass on misleading report after misleading report from those prolific "unnamed government sources."
As with Iraq WMD, Valerie Plame, Torture, Secret Prisons, Spying on Citizens, the U.S. Attorney Purge, Election Integrity, and so many other almost-all-but-lost landmark issues from over the past seven years or so, it has been the remarkable efforts of the citizen media that managed, at least a bit, to mitigate the corporate media-propelled "conventional wisdom" in this entire sorry matter.
Please feel free to put in a good word over there for me.
The corporate media still just don't get it. The topic came up at the end of an interesting discussion on Salon Radio Friday between Salon's Glenn Greenwald and NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen.
At the end of their conversation about ABC News' appalling inability to either retract their false 2001 stories tying the anthrax attacks to Iraq (at a very crucial moment, during this country's build-up to war there), Rosen, who picked up on Greenwald's call for accountability there, notes the media's reluctance, particularly the networks', but all of them, to examine their horrible performance prior to the war, and in the subsequent seven years since.
Those failures, the corporate media seem to argue, are all "ancient history" now.
"Because in the minds of most of the people who work in big league journalism in New York and Washington," Rosen explains, "they have done this to death. And they're way past the point of examining their own performance in the run-up to the war."
"From my point of view," he adds, "they haven't even started."
"The watchdog press died under Bush," Rosen charges. "We may have a watchdog press again some day, it could be reborn. But it died."
As you may expect, we concur with that assessment. Yet, as bad as things are right now, had it not been for the citizen media of the blogosphere, including folks like Greenwald, we shudder to think how much worse it all might have been. And that's saying quite a bit.
"It's like we're on the other side of the Moon from them on this particular issue," Rosen concludes in regard to his big media colleagues, in a phrase reminiscent of thoughts we've had so often over the last many years. Which of us is/was living on the dark side of that Moon?
The answer seems pretty clear these days, and that's the point at which we pick up their discussion below. It's just the last couple of grafs, but they are well-worth the quick read...
The case against the supposed "Anthrax Killer," Bruce E. Ivins, a researcher who worked at the Army lab confirmed by the government as being the source for the dry, powdered anthrax used in the letters targeted mainly at Democrats and other perceived "liberals," is going from bad to worse. At least the coverage of it from mainstream outlets such as AP is.
We noted, when we first jumped into this horrendous beat last Friday, that AP and many of the other corporate outlets failed to even bother noting the perceived "liberals" who made up the targets of the post-9/11 terrorist attacks. Today, Glenn Greenwald (who's been doing yeoman's work on this beat) notes AP's latest unnamed government source-based buffoonery.
Offering a fresh new bizarre angle in the anthrax case --- as per their wont, from "Multiple U.S. officials," all unnamed and all who "spoke on condition of anonymity" --- AP purports to explain Ivins' supposed seven-hour round-trip drive from Frederick, MD, to Princeton, NJ, to mail his letters, by describing a long-term obsession he supposedly had with the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
"The bizarre link to the sorority," AP's report proffers based on leaks from those unnamed officials, "may indirectly explain one of the biggest mysteries in the case: why the anthrax was mailed from Princeton, 195 miles from the Army biological weapons lab the anthrax is believed to have been smuggled out of."
Oookay...we'll bite. But then, with the unsubstantiated genie out of the bottle, a few problems appeared as AP's initial report then morphed shortly thereafter, and an update was filed...
Party Affiliation of the Now-Deceased Bruce Ivins, as Confirmed by His Local County Board of Elections, Adds Yet Another Curious Question to the Increasingly Troubling Investigation into the Post-9/11 Terrorist Attacks on American Soil...
Bruce E. Ivins, reportedly on the verge of being indicted for capital murder in the anthrax killings, was a registered Democrat, according to the Fredrick County, MD, Board of Elections. He had been registered there since 1982 and records indicate that he voted in "every election since 1996," including Democratic primaries, according to the official who responded to a request from West Virginia-based radio host Bob Kincaid.
The party affiliation of the bio-terror researcher who worked at U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID) adds a notable twist to the ever increasing questions surrounding the bizarre case following Ivins' reported suicide last week. He was, according to media reports, soon to be indicted for charges related to the post-9/11 terror attacks that rocked the nation and, as Salon'sGlen Greenwald has very effectively argued, served as a crucial influence in marching the country towards war with Iraq.
Last week, as the story of Ivins' reported suicide was breaking, The BRAD BLOG excoriated the corporate mainstream media for failing to note that the targets of the multiple post-9/11 terror attacks on American soil were primarily powerful men, perceived as "liberals" by the Republican right wing. Nonetheless, despite two senior Democratic U.S. senators, Tom Daschle of SD and Patrick Leahy of VT, having been the only known governmental targets in the deadly letter campaign which also included perceived "liberal" media figurehead Tom Brokaw, the MSM coverage --- almost uniformly --- failed to note the obvious correlations in the attacks. Most even failed to even mention the names of those who were directly targeted in what was clearly meant to appear as a follow-up attack from Muslim extremists.
Furthermore, as we also noted on Friday, despite a parade of reporters who had contacted Ivins' oldest brother Thomas that day for comment, not one of them --- until us --- bothered even to inquire about Bruce's political leanings or affiliations.
That it now turns out Ivins was a registered Democrat adds yet another curious twist to a story which is already revealing bizarre and potentially exculpatory evidence and other cracks in the government's reported (though, as yet, not publicly disclosed) case against him. Today, the New York Times noted, as we similarly did yesterday, that the FBI's case against Ivins appears to be almost entirely circumstantial, at least based on the information so far available...
We're glad it's the Washington Post, and not just us "bloggers," asking questions about this anthrax case. Had we been the ones pointing to the questions that WaPo is now pointing to, we'd have been accused of forwarding "just another conspiracy theory" and the notable questions raised might have been relegated to the trash-bin of history.
Since it's WaPo raising the questions, on the other hand, the trash-bin will take an extra day or two to fill up, but we suspect the results may eventually be the same: Legend will have it that the lone "Anthrax Killer," Bruce E. Ivins, killed himself just before he was to be indicted on capital murder charges. Case closed on the previously-unsolved deadly series of terrorist attacks that occurred on American soil since 9/11.
That said, it's certainly odd the way that WaPo has been covering this story. While their top story on page A1 today is headlined "Scientists Question FBI's Probe of Anthrax Attacks" and sub-titled "Ivins Could Not Have Been Attacker, Some Say," the paper nonetheless managed to scrub from their website --- or at least completely replace --- a story they ran originally on Friday afternoon questioning the same points (whether Ivins had the means, ability, or access to the dry, weaponized anthrax used in the attack letters against senior Democratic Senators and other perceived "liberals") with another that greatly softened concerns about those questions.
No retraction or correction notice --- unethically, in our opinion --- was given for WaPo's odd swaperoo. The Friday WaPo story we linked to that day --- which was dated "Friday, August 1, 2008; 5:46 PM" and reported that that the purported "Anthrax Killer," Bruce E. Ivins, "had no access to dry, powdered anthrax" at his U.S. Army bioweapons lab in Fort Detrick, MD --- was simply swapped out with a completely different story in its place on the matter, dated Saturday, August 2, 2008. The same URL was used for both stories, but the Saturday story didn't have the bulk of the reporting which quoted named experts and colleagues questioning Ivins' ability to even carry out such an attack.
After noticing the swap/excising of the original Friday story (hat-tip BRAD BLOG commenter Bruce Sims), we were set to run a story focusing on the spiked report, when we then checked today's paper to see that they were leading the Sunday edition with a story that raised many of those same questions from the Friday story again.
Fortunately, we cached the original Friday story here, before it was disappeared and replaced, and have done the same for today's story, should that one go missing as well. Comparisons between WaPo's (disappeared) Friday, Saturday, and Sunday coverage is curious enough, however, --- and offers some fresh, additional unanswered questions --- that it seems worth noting all of it, and the differences in each days' coverage, for the record...
With the mainstream corporate media reports today on the apparent suicide of Bruce E. Ivins of the U.S. Government's bio weapons lab at Ft. Detrick, MD, who was reportedly about to be charged with the Anthrax murders of late 2001, it's curious --- if hardly surprising --- that none of the major outlets reporting the news bothered to note that the attacks were all made on perceived "liberals."
Letters, seeming to appear as if they were from Muslim extremists, declaring "Death to America...Death to Israel...Allah is Great," were sent to then-Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Tom Daschle, powerful Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and then NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw.
Given the recent coverage (or extraordinary lack thereof) of the church shootings earlier this week in Knoxville, TN, carried out by a gunman who was said to have blamed "liberal Democrats" for all of this country's woes... and the coinciding news that the Bush Administration's DoJ illegally screened out applicants for career posts based on perceived beliefs that they might support "liberal Democratic" causes (a convergance that we noted, if few others did)... it's all the more curious --- if still not surprising in the least --- that the supposed "Liberal Media" haven't bothered to highlight who the actual targets of the anthrax attacks were, or the reasons why they appear to have been targeted.
Even the parade of reporters contacting the Ivins family today failed to bring up the topic.
We spoke with Ivins eldest brother Thomas today, to ask if he had any idea of Bruce's political leanings, and he told us "No, I didn't. I didn't know what his affiliations where. And that's a good question."
He was surprised by the question, and although he said he'd been speaking with reporters all day, "one after another," he told The BRAD BLOG none of the other reporters, not one of them, had asked him about his brother's political affiliations, leanings, or beliefs.
Apparently, it remains open hunting season on perceived "liberals." Today's remarkable MSM coverage of Ivins' death continues to underscore that point...
Had this been a study showing liberal bias in the media, it would have been all over the place by now. But as the study offers evidence that it's McCain, not Obama, who has been given an edge by network media reporting since the start of the general election campaign, it seems we better help "catapult the propaganda" a bit.
Below is the beginning of David Knowles' coverage of the LA Times coverage of a new study from George Mason University's Center for Media and Public Affairs. The new study offers empirical evidence underscoring what most folks who honestly study the corporate media already know: Democrats get a far tougher time than do Republicans in the corporate mainstream media.
For those self-proclaimed "conservatives" who continue to buy into the nonsense of the "liberal media" canard (no matter the dearth of actual, hard, real-world evidence to substantiate it) please note this study does not come from one of those 'liberal elitist think-tanks.' Rather, it was led by a man hailed by "conservative" propagandists, such as Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, for his previous studies on media bias. We have a feeling those same "conservatives" may accidentally not notice his latest study.