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February 10, 2005

Comments

I don't want a journalist to go on TV and state as a proven fact that the US is targeting journalists, but if someone believes this and says it off the record, it's absurd to me that he'd lose his job over it. He didn't broadcast it on CNN. End of issue.

Going a little further, I wouldn't mind it at all if CNN ran a story examining the question. It hardly seems unlikely to me that the US government would target Al Jazeera, though again if a professional journalist is going to make that charge on TV, he should have higher standards than, for instance, journalists have when they unthinkingly repeat US government charges about other countries possessing WMD's and treat such statements as though they possessed factual status. But in this case, a guy makes a private statement off the record and the rightwingers go nuts.

We're apparently in the realm where you aren't allowed to have voice unkind opinions of a government which practices torture.

I probably just repeated what fifteen others have said, but I was too lazy to read the thread.

On the bright side, with Jordan and Rather gone maybe someone will FINALLY rise to Giblets' challenge and claim that gold doubloon.

Sebastian: But can we admit that quick resignations before the story has even broken tend to lend some circumstantial evidence could fairly lead someone to believe that there was something to the story

No. There's no reason for anyone to believe there ever was something to the story - unless they're starting out with an anti-Eason bias - but it looks as if CNN was afraid to stand by Jordan Eason if the right-wing anti-MSM attack pack have taken against him.

Sad. As Katherine says, this kind of bullying from the right is what makes journalists afraid to act like journalists. As I said above: now we know what to think when you call for higher standards in the media. What you mean is: "No one's to criticize the US. Not even when the facts are on their side."

Has it occurred to you that in a world where journalists didn't fear bullying attacks from the right-wing whenever they said anything critical of the US and especially of the Bush administration, news about the US military torturing people, sometimes to death, might have broken sooner - might have been granted more attention by the MSM?

Riiiiiiiiiight. I'll tell that to Trent Lott, James Ryan, and Dan Rather.

I'm not that familiar with Ryan and 7 of 9, but if Lott had apologized right away and Rather hadn't of stonewalled, their careers would have been much better off. Tell me, Phil, when exactly did Jordan call for a release of the videotape?

I forgot the other parallel, which is of course the Swift Boat Veterans. I'm not the only one to see the parallel, either (those are all RIGHT of center sources). It's not only Kevin Drum who likens it to "collecting scalps," either; here are some reactions from right-of-center weblogs:

"Chalk up another scalp for the blogosphere, which has been the main source of coverage on the controversy." (link)

"If any lefty blogger wants to compare Gannon’s head on their wall to Dan Rather’s and Mary Mapes’ heads on mine (a trophy shared by Powerline, Wizbang, LGF and a whole bunch of others), come on over. And I’m making room in my barracks for Eason Jordan’s scalp."(link)

"Now that Eason Jordan's still-dripping scalp has been nailed over the fireplace, who's the next target? Come on, gang, if you could choose the MSM figure to next receive the attentions of the Blogosphere, who would it be? I vote, in no particular order: Chris Matthews, James Wolcott, Keith Olbermann, Katie Couric."
(link.)

"I also think this illustrates something very significant about the comparative successes of the Leftwing bloggers and the rightwing bloggers. The righty blogs have taken down Dan Rather and Eason Jordan. That is big game." (link)

"That was quick.

We probably emptied our gun for a little while on this one." (link)

Now, I'm sure not everyone who wrote about this story sees it that way. Sebastian's comments about Jordan, by themselves, were perfectly fair. But when it comes to the Michelle Malkins and Glenn Reynolds and Hugh Hewitts and Powerlines of the world, there is a point after which I no longer assume good faith.

And one more thing: This idea of a bunch of scruffy underdogs, ordinary citizens outgunned but holding their own against the dreaded "MSM", is smart self-marketing, but it's really just utter crap. A lot of weblogs are less powerful than the people they target (though not in all cases) but they choose their targets directly in the service of the most powerful people in the country. That's why they get results, too--it has relatively little to do with the merits.

(Obviously, people do make themselves vulnerable--there's a reason that this happens to CBS, Mapes, Churchill and Jordan, and not the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh, Paul Krugman and Dana Priest. What I'm saying is, out of all the people who say or do stupid or wrong things...it's how they help or harm President Bush and the Republican party that determines whether right-wing weblogs write about them or not; which stories "get a -gate" and which don't; whether or not someone gets fired; how much coverage the story gets.)

That's why I used the word "blacklist" before, though I had hesitated to at first because I don't think it's REMOTELY on the same level as the McCarthy era blacklist. We're talking about what, maybe half a dozen jobs lost, instead of thousands. This is the first case where I think the resignation was clearly unjustified, whereas--again, thousands. And these are pretty much all powerful people who will land on their feet, which was often not the case in the 1950s, where it included a bunch of very ordinary people, and made it hard to work in their field at all. And this is a bunch of private citizens, not a committee of the United States House of Representatives. So all of that changes things an awful lot.

The thing is, though, when you combine this with media concentration under corporate owners--people who really and truly only care about profits, and do not care about journalism--it means that a single resignation or firing can have an enormous chilling effect on journalism that is critical of the administration. I am not so worried about what happens to Eason Jordan. I think he'll be all right. I am worried about a competent, independent press corps.

Very bad things happen in the dark, and this is true whether the dark is created by government censorship or by the profit motive; whether true and important stories do not get heard because reporters are afraid to write them or because they are drowned out by a din of noise.

I certainly wish the tape of Eason Jordan's comments were released. I find this outcome (the resignation) extremely unsatisfactory.

There is a larger problem here. It's not just the adversarial environment created by the attempted collection of scalps (pick your metaphor, "all out war," "politics of personal destruction," whatever). It's not just the weak reporting that picks two opposing views and assigns them equal weight, as if "my facts are just as good as your facts."

We have a society where decisions have to be made by an informed citizenry. Rather than promoting dissemination of accurate information, all the privately-owned media outlets have inherent biases that influence their content. Fox News is perhaps the most nakedly partisan (as I recall, Roger Ailes as much as admitted this back in 2001 when he was profiled in the New York Times Magazine), but the influence of money and power over what is covered is undeniable in all the major media. The news media have become an adjunct of very sophisticated political advertising and opinion management.

I doubt that the blogs attacking the most egregious examples of bias, incompetence, lying or corruption will be enough to make the system provide higher quality information reliably. I don't think it will restore trust, either. Rather, I think it's more likely to result in a further erosion of trust.

For suggestions on what to do about this, I recommend John McManus' comments at the Aurora Forum held on Nov. 4, 2004 at Stanford. John McManus is the director of Grade the News, a media research project focusing on the quality of the news media in the San Francisco Bay Area.

[I posted this over at Political Animal also.]

Tell me, Phil, when exactly did Jordan call for a release of the videotape?

Where did I claim or imply that he had? You stated that had he thought it would "exonerate him," he would have called for the release; I called you on a mindreading penalty and indicated that there are scenarios under which he would believe it would "exonerate" him and still not call for its release. Is there some way in which I was unclear?

I do believe that there are no, absolutely no, circumstances under which the people in the cast of Bring Me The Head of Eason Jordan would have given up trying to drum him out of a job. They've been trying to do so for over a year now, ever since the Silence For Access stuff. Which, for the record, I thought was the wrong thing for CNN to do.

Phil: Which, for the record, I thought was the wrong thing for CNN to do.

Really? You think CNN ought to have deliberately caused the deaths/torture of innocent Iraqis, too?

That spin "silence for access" was a classic: I remember having to track the story back through at least half a dozen right-wing blogs all linking to each other, before I discovered a link to the original story... and found that it was Jordan Eason admitting that CNN had behaved in a responsible and sensible manner. That is, when there were stories they could have broadcast about Saddam Hussein's atrocities, but doing so would have gotten innocent Iraqis killed, they chose to remain silent. This got spun, in exactly the same way as this story has been spun: so I conclude that the right-wing blogosphere just doesn't like CNN, and my guess is, it's because CNN isn't as laudatory of the Bush administration as FoxNews devotees have come to expect.

You think CNN ought to have deliberately caused the deaths/torture of innocent Iraqis, too?

No, I think CNN should have either reported honestly and openly about the goings-on in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or not reported from there at all.

Phil: No, I think CNN should have either reported honestly and openly about the goings-on in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or not reported from there at all.

So, you think CNN should have chosen either to have more innocent Iraqis die because CNN chose to disregard the risks to them, or to ignore Iraqis completely by not going near Iraq.

I think both choices would have been bad choices: I don't think that CNN ought to have regarded Iraqi lives as expendable, as you appear to, and I do think that it is useful to have news sources from inside countries: direct reportage is valuable.

I'll be super-honest with you here, Jes: I'm not even remotely interested in having this discussion with you, because your preferred method of argumentation is to attempt to frame the argument using the most inflammatory characterization you can think of in an attempt to make the other person buckle under to opinions they don't necessary hold, whether or not those opinions are logical sequlae of opinions they do hold. And, frankly, I don't have the energy to undergo such a charade with you.

Phil, if you want to accept the right-wing framing of the reason why they targeted Eason Jordan last time, that's your decision. I just figured you should be aware that's what you're doing.

See? It's not possible for me to have reached an indepdendent conclusion, especially not if it disagrees with yours, right? Not interested.

As long as you're reading my mind, though, can you tell me why I get so pissed off in heavy traffic? That would be a lot more useful to me than whatever else you think you're reading in there.

As long as you're reading my mind, though, can you tell me why I get so pissed off in heavy traffic?

Because, as a lefty, you're furious at the failure of the free market to provide you with the commodity you desire and are planning a socialist revolution to put all other drivers into gulags where they belong?

...no?

Well, hell. Guess it's just me then.

Actually I'm a libertarian, but given traffic in the DC Metro area, that gulag idea actually doesn't sound too bad. Hood-mounted artillery is also a decent solution.

While this is a good indication of why left-wing plots are never going to get very far, I think a much funnier exemplification is the Crooked Timber post and comments. I think it is the fatal dose of ironic humor that is the key ingredient. As a challenge, I'd like to find any RW blog post about Jordan that illustrates the poster has a sense of humor.

Actually I'm a libertarian...

Oops... sorry about that. Don't know why I had you pegged wrong, not that it really matters.

Hood-mounted artillery is also a decent solution.

Ah, spoken like a true individualist. Kill'em all and let the free market sort them out! :D

Sebastian Holsclaw: I note especially that a lot of this could be cleared up IF THEY WOULD RELEASE THE TAPE.

Bird Dog: He never personally called for the release of the videotape, which would have settled this thing one way or the other. If he thought the videotape would have exonerated him, he would have called for its release a week ago. He didn't.

I'm still interested to hear how the release of the tape could have benefited CNN or Jordan. This does not go without saying, so please paint me a picture of just how that could work.

Every time I hear conservatives calling for the release of the tape, I can't help but think that they simply want incendiary sound bites they can use as ammunition. We know the exact quote, we know the context, and we know that he backed down immediately from something said off the cuff. This is a tempest-in-a-teapot witch hunt I'd expect from the likes of Charles, but which disappoints me greatly coming from Sebastian.

"I don't want to have anything to do with people who think that a much-better-than-average journalist making a single stupid remark (which was apparently immediately corrected, and possibly immediately corrected by Jordan himself) is a scandal, and extraordinary rendition is not."

Katherine, I'm surprised that you are willing to just buy the defense side on this one. Barney Frank and Chris Dodd both attended and both of them thought that he accused the US of targeting journalists and thought that he only backtracked to it not being 'official policy' as if even Bush would make it 'official policy'. Even if the US really were targeting journalists specifically, it would be an unofficial policy so that is a lame backtrack. Why in this case do you have trouble trusting first-hand witnesses whom you would normallly trust?

Gromit, what in the world does this mean: "I'm still interested to hear how the release of the tape could have benefited CNN or Jordan. This does not go without saying, so please paint me a picture of just how that could work."?

If Jordan did not in fact say that the US was targeting journalists, or if he in fact backtracked to something that made sense, of course releasing the tape would benefit him. It would benefit him because it would show that his accusers were wrong.

Of course, since Barney Frank and Chris Dodd were there, are not conservative Republicans, and claim that he did say the US was targeting journalists, you are probably quite right--the tape wouldn't have helped any more than a tape of OJ murdering his wife would have helped his defense.

The amazing thing to me is that you all can take evidence from Democrats combine it with Jordan resigning and spin him up as if he must be innocent and then go off about how unfair it is. Have you even considered the fact that he might have actually done exactly what is alleged? That he might have been at one of the most exclusive meetings of powerful world leaders and spun a yarn that he can't defend with evidence? Does that even cross your mind for a second? Or does the fact that he is on your side innoculate him from suspicion?

The only reason I use such strong language is because you all are fricking attacking me for drawing utterly normal conclusions given the fact that two perfectly liberal Democratic Congressmen agree with the damning interpretation, and the fact that Jordan isn't trying to release the tape or transcript, and the fact that he resigned before there was even more than a minor blip on the mainstream media. It is not ridiculous to take those three things together and come to the conclusion that Jordan actually said what was alleged.

"We know the exact quote, we know the context, and we know that he backed down immediately from something said off the cuff."

Don't be silly. We don't know the exact quote. What is it? We don't know the context. Tell me what it was? And all I hear is that he backed down to 'not official policy' which isn't backing down at all, it is just realizing that you don't have any real evidence.

"No, I think CNN should have either reported honestly and openly about the goings-on in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or not reported from there at all."

I looked up the original Op-Ed that Jordan wrote on this. I do think that this has been distorted somewhat, as I had this vague idea that they had actually cut a deal with the Iraqi government, and it was more that by telling the stories they would have informed the Iraqi government that they knew them. Here are the specific incidents he describes:

"in the mid-1990s one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government's ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency's Iraq station chief.

CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk."

I don't quite get all the relevant facts here. I assume that the employee got out of prison, or they would not have known what he was questioned about. Now, ordinarily a man comes to a reporter and tells him off the record that they tortured him but asks him not to write about it because it would endanger his family--you don't write about it, period, end of story. I also assume that if their employee had consented, they would have run with the story. So probably you have a situation where journalists know this has happened, but they know not because a source voluntarily contacted a reporter, but because this was their employee who had to explain why he didn't show up to work.

Maybe the strict canon's of journalistic ethics say too bad, report it anyway. But I can't imagine doing that, as a human being....to exploit an employee of yours' trust, someone who has already been tortured because he was working for you, and against his will risk his life and his family's?

Imagine how you would feel if it was a U.S. soldier's life on the line and CNN had gone with the story?

"We also had to worry that our reporting might endanger Iraqis not on our payroll. I knew that CNN could not report that Saddam's eldest son, Uday, told me in 1995 that he intended to assassinate two of his brothers-in-law who had defected and also the man giving them asylum, King Hussein of Jordan.

I was sure he would respond by killing the Iraqi translator who was the only other participant in the meeting. After all, secret police thugs brutalized even senior officials of the Information Ministry, just to keep them in line (one such official has long been missing all his fingernails).
.
Still, I felt I had a moral obligation to warn Jordan's monarch, and I did so the next day. King Hussein dismissed the threat as a madman's rant. A few months later Uday lured the brothers-in-law back to Baghdad; they were soon killed."

This one's a bit different. If you know that you cannot report anything really newsworthy that Uday Hussein says without him murdering the translator, what the F*CK are you doing interviewing Uday Hussein? I can't imagine him saying anything that would be newsworthy in a positive way--what was this, an Olympic preview?

"I came to know several Iraqi officials well enough that they confided in me that Saddam was a maniac who had to be removed. One Foreign Ministry officer told me of a colleague who, finding out his brother had been executed by the regime, was forced, as a test of loyalty, to write a letter of congratulations on the act to Saddam. . An aide to Uday once told me why he had no front teeth. Henchmen had ripped them out with pliers and told him never to wear dentures, so he would always remember the price to be paid for upsetting his boss. Again, we could not broadcast anything these men said to us."

This is an easy one: if the source consents, you run the story. If he doesn't, you don't. With a politician if they don't say "off the record" they don't get to decide afterwards, but with an ordinary citizen who tells you something in confidence, you don't say "well, I'm sorry if it gets you killed but it's a hell of a story."

"Last December, when I told Information Minister Mohammed Said Sahhaf that we intended to send reporters to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, he warned me they would "suffer the severest possible consequences."

CNN went ahead, and in March, Kurdish officials presented us with evidence that they had thwarted an armed attack on our quarters in Arbil. This included videotaped confessions of two men identifying themselves as Iraqi intelligence agents who said their bosses in Baghdad told them the hotel actually housed CIA and Israeli agents. The Kurds offered to let us interview the suspects on camera, but we refused, for fear of endangering our staff in Baghdad."

Now this is the point at which you close the bureau. If you're too afraid to report atrocities, not because they endanger specific sources who have not consented but because they're going to attack your entire Baghdad bureau--what are you doing? You're risking people's lives AND you can't even tell the truth. Get out of there, and do an expose that reveals as much as possible as what's happened without betraying a confidential source.

"Then there were the events that were not unreported but that nonetheless still haunt me. A 31-year-old Kuwaiti woman, Asrar Qabandi, was captured by Iraqi secret police occupying her country in 1990 for "crimes" including speaking with CNN on the phone. . They beat her daily for two months, forcing her father to watch. In January 1991, on the eve of the American-led offensive, they smashed her skull, ripped out her brains and put them in a jar, and tore her body apart limb by limb. A plastic bag containing her body parts was left on the doorstep of her family's home."

He doesn't give the context of this one, so I just don't know--again, the ethics of it hinge on the source's consent. If the father was willing to let them run the story and they didn't for fear of their own safety, that's terrible. If the father told it to them in confidence, they did the right thing--though if so, assuming this was a Kuwaiti family, they should have followed up after the war ended--but it may not have been possible.

All in all I'd say they made some very serious mistakes, but I think this was unfairly portrayed by the right-of-center media--sitting safely at home, thousands of miles away, without having ever dreamed of uncovering an atrocity by the Hussein regime, or risking their own lives, or being forced to choose between covering up and atrocity and causing the deaths of innocents. If you don't do any factual reporting you're not going to be faced with these dilemmas, and you can't be accused of bias if you don't claim to be unbiased--but at the end of the day what have you accomplished?

My high school U.S. history teacher could have avoided any hint of bias in the way he taught us about the Vietnam War or the Cuban Missile Crisis if he had us watch Court TV coverage of the OJ trial all day instead. But you know, I really don't think we'd be better off for it. That's why, whatever their flaws, the BBC and CNN international are more worth watching in a single week than an entire year of Fox News or MSNBC.

Sebastian, I don't much care whether Dodd's or Frank's version or Gergen's version is more accurate. Neither is a firing offense. He should have been chewed out thoroughly and apologized abjectly--as I understand it he did apologize--but I don't like journalists being fired for saying something stupid and impolitic and inappropriate, especially if there is any possibility that he is being honest in saying that what he really meant was the difference between collateral damage to a TV station from bombing a government target, and actually hitting the TV station. Getting him fired was the clear, obvious desire of a lot of the major weblogs that have covered it, and if you didn't realize that it was pretty naive of you. (Like others have said, the "release the tape to resolve this" from certain quarters reminds me a lot of the SF-form 180 thing. The tape should have been released, but I'm guessing it wasn't strictly his decision--I'm guessing his bosses preferred to fire him rather than risk the bad PR the tape would bring, and/or Davos would not consent.) If he said it on the CNN news that would be one thing. That isn't what happened here.

I mean, I'm sure Seymour Hersh is going to say something equally stupid at some public appearance at some point if he hasn't already--especially he believes it's off the record. Should he be fired when that happens?

He won't be, because the New Yorker is the New Yorker. But most of our press is owned by people like Time Warner now. The next person to be drummed it out is going to deserve it even less than Jordan does.

On what basis do you assume that it was 'something stupid'? That isn't what Frank or Dodd seem to think.

Here's another recollection of Jordan's remarks.

Based on this account, and Gergen's, and Dodd's, and Frank's--all four of whom I find trustworthy--it sounds like two sets of people are remembering slightly different versions of this exchange based on their emotional reactions to it. It sounds like a genuine miscommunication. If you know all about the Palestine hotel, you will understandably think "yes, 'targetting', the tank gun actually physically aimed at that window, it wasn't like they were just in the wrong place when a car bomb exploded" If you don't, you will understandably think "he accused American soldiers of murdering journalists--how DARE he?" Now, he should have realized this. He ought to have been much, much more careful with how he chose his words about what he must have known was an extremely sensitive topic--for his own effectiveness' sake if nothing else. (OT, but I could also kick the idiot who titled the Reporters Sans Frontiers report on the Palestine Hotel case "Two Murders and a Lie", when in fact they conclude that the troops had no IDEA there were journalists staying there, and that the real fault was with central command's failure to tell the troops that this is where the press was, and take other very basic precautions to prevent this from happening). He ought to have released the video if it was within his power. But it's a sad day for the country when this is a scandal, whereas there's not even the most minimal inquiry into what went wrong with the Al Jazeera station bombing, and I'd never even heard of it before I saw Control Room. (Can I tell you how NOT in our country's interest it is for the Al Jazeera newsroom to believe that the U.S. killed there cameraman on purpose and is now covering it up? Because they clearly do honestly believe that, however erroneously.)

And I repeat: even if Dodd's and Frank's version is true and he is lying about his intent, he should not have been fired and this will have a chilling effect far more damaging to the country than Jordan's remarks.

Do you think he would have "been chewed out thoroughly and apologized abjectly" had people like instapundit not caused a stink?

Do you think he would have "been chewed out thoroughly and apologized abjectly" had people like instapundit not caused a stink?

Apologized to those whom he had actually hurt? Of course. Hell, as far as we know he'd done that by the time everyone left the room. Which is sort of the point, if you think about it.

It seems to me that this is the real problem (from Richard Sambrook posted on PressThink, linked by Katherine above):

A second point he made, which in my view is extremely important, is that when journalists have been killed by the military in conflict it has been almost impossible to have an open inquiry or any accountability for the death on behalf of families, friends or employers. Very little information is released, we know investigations do take place but the results are not passed on.

The same applies to the seeming absence of results of investigations of prisoners held, or torture, or civilians killed or almost any crime committed in Iraq (where kidnapping, for example, is a daily occurrence).

This lack of public scrutiny is not helping the United States.

Don't be silly. We don't know the exact quote. What is it? We don't know the context. Tell me what it was?

Given that you admit you don't know what the man said, and that you admit that you don't know what the context was for the things you admit you don't know whether he said or not, your statements in this thread are so far out in left field I think you just smashed a windshield.

Perhaps in the future, we should just call for journalists to be bound, gagged, and tossed into the river if there is a question about something they said in an unofficial context. If they are innocent, we can assume they will drown, and that will clear the matter right up.

If Jordan did not in fact say that the US was targeting journalists, or if he in fact backtracked to something that made sense, of course releasing the tape would benefit him. It would benefit him because it would show that his accusers were wrong.

This is an argument by assertion. Having the facts in public record didn't help Gore, in my previous analogy. Having the facts in the public record didn't help John Kerry with the vicious Swift Vets attacks. Why? Because there are enough lazy and dishonest folks out there to keep a juicy story going, and there aren't nearly as many conscientious folks out there to follow up on the boring truth. Ted Koppel sent a team to friggin' Vietnam to get eyewitness accounts, and what was the response from the blogs? "The facts are biased!" (Or under the thrall of commies, at least.)

Anyway, for your logic to hold, two conditions would have to be met:

1) There must be a plausible scenario in which the release of the tape not only supports Jordan's account, but in which this new information persuades the bulk of Jordan's detractors to retract their charges in a public and meaningful way, leading to some repair to CNN's reputation. Can you honestly imagine this happening?

2) There must not be a plausible scenario in which the release of the tape supports Jordan's account, but in which the availability of this new media ends up exacerbating the situation for CNN anyway. See my February 12, 2005 01:20 PM post for an example of just such a scenario which I find completely plausible. So far you haven't indicated any disagreement, maybe you just haven't had the chance to comment.

So I'm still waiting for anything on #1 more detailed than "It would benefit him because it would show that his accusers were wrong." What is the scenario in which Malkin apologizes or at least admits she was wrong? What is the scenario where right-wing bloggers stop calling for Jordan's ejection from CNN? What is the scenario in which Fox doesn't get that much more mileage out of the story and CNN doesn't lose precious airtime, viewers, and sponsors to fumbling, defensive rebuttals? That's what I'm asking for, not just another iteration of "because it would clear things up."

This wasn't just some-ole place 'off the record'. It was the freaking Davos conference. This wasn't 'a reporter', it was the head of CNN International. It wasn't a verbal miscue, it was accusing US soldiers of targetting journalists. It wasn't a misunderstanding, he just downgraded from the implication that it was official policy to the implication that it was not 'official' policy. The witnesses who think he said something atrocious--even after the backtrack, aren't conservatives, they are Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd. There is a video, that they won't release. He resigned before it was a focus in the main-stream media.

Summarizing that as 'a reporter made a mistake which he corrected but has been slammed by a few of the people who heard it', is glossing over all the important facts.

Give the facts available, I'm not going to feel bad for Jordan. If I had the video, I could judge for myself whether or not Democratic Representative Barney Frank misjudged Jordan's assertion. But I don't. And I could if CNN International got the tape and released it, like they would for other scandals.

"There must be a plausible scenario in which the release of the tape not only supports Jordan's account, but in which this new information persuades the bulk of Jordan's detractors to retract their charges in a public and meaningful way, leading to some repair to CNN's reputation. Can you honestly imagine this happening?"

Wrong. Completely, totally wrong. In order for releasing the video to be helpful, Jordan's comments must appear ok to the average viewer. Nobody expects to convince the rabid partisans, and no-one cares. You don't expect a Bush speech to impress James Carville--that isn't important. The question is whether or not the video would convince most viewers. Clearly Jordan believes the answer is no.

"What is the scenario in which Malkin apologizes or at least admits she was wrong?"

Who cares? It is what the average viewer of the video thinks that is important.

"What is the scenario where right-wing bloggers stop calling for Jordan's ejection from CNN?"

Who cares? It is what the average viewer of the video thinks that is important.

We won't ever know for sure, quite possibly because Jordan is smart enough to know how he would look to the average viewer of the video.

In order for releasing the video to be helpful, Jordan's comments must appear ok to the average viewer.

Wrong. In order for the video to be helpful, there must be no soundbites that can be played ad nauseum (possibly out of context) by the right-wing's various organ-monkeys -- yes, FOX News, I'm looking at you -- to destroy him or CNNI's reputation. Until you acknowledge that, you're arguing from premises that are, as the late great Wolfgang Pauli used to remark, "not even false".

Re my comment above: That's a necessary, but not sufficient, condition I'm outlining. [Sufficiency is a much harder proposition.] In order to be "helpful" it must first not be amenable to use as a weapon... because if it can be so used, it will be.

Anarch--transcripts from tape. I'd be happy with that, and they aren't as easy to soundbite.

No offense, but are you guys making any headway in reaching common ground? Or should I check in after another 30k+ words?

Or should I check in after another 30k+ words?

Try 40k, just to be safe ;)

In order to spare rilkefan's word-count, I'll say to Sebastian what I said to Bird Dog up-thread before I check out:

Anarch--transcripts from tape. I'd be happy with that, and they aren't as easy to soundbite. [Emph mine.]

That's charmingly naive of you, Sebastian.

"What is the scenario in which Malkin apologizes or at least admits she was wrong?"

Who cares?

Who cares indeed. You get major bonus points for being unintentionally funny here. Keep the laughs coming, Sebastian.

BTW, I wondered where the # 12 came from....I come up with 8 from the Reportiers Sans Frontiers website. None of these 8 overcome my very strong presumption that U.S. troops would never deliberately kill a journalist. (insurgents have killed many more journalists and are clearly deliberately murdering them as journalists--no surprise there.) But they are cases where you could use the word "targetted" in the very literal sense of "aimed and fired at a TV station or individual journalist", which Jordan claims he meant. As far as where he gets 12, I don't know. Some of the details on the site were ambiguous as to who did the shooting but I don't see how Jordan would know it was coalition troops if RSF didn't. But, it's worth noting, RSF lists "media assistants killed" (meaning, translators, drivers, etc.) as a separate category and does not individually describe their deaths, so that could be where the other 4 (or more if I am wrong that Jordan had any of these in mind).

1.
"Al-Jazeera cameraman Tarek Ayoub (35), a Jordanian, was killed on 8 April 2003 when a missile hit and badly damaged the station's offices near the Mansour Hotel in the centre of Baghdad.

Ayoub, who was the station's permanent correspondent in Amman, was sent to beef up the team in Iraq when the war broke out. He was seriously wounded in the attack and died soon afterwards."

2, 3.
"Two TV cameramen, Ukrainian Taras Protsyuk and Spaniard José Couso, were killed on 8 April 2003 when a US tank fired on the hotel Palestine in Baghdad, where many foreign journalists were staying."

4.
"Palestinian cameraman Mazen Dana, 43, was shot dead by an American soldier on 17 August 2003 as he was filming Abou Ghraib prison in a suburb of Baghdad. US officials said the soldier mistook his camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher."

5.
"Dhia Najim, an Iraqi freelance cameraman working for the news agency Reuters was shot dead in disputed circumstances on 1st November 2004 in the town of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

A US army communique said that Najim, 47, was filming clashes between US marines and Iraqi rebels in the Andulus district of Ramadi when he was shot in the neck. The US military authorities said they had looked at the footage he had taken and claimed that it showed rebels preparing to attack coalition forces.

Reuters said it had seen video footage of Najim's death. The agency, which did not identify the source of the footage, said it indicated that he was killed by a sniper shot without any signs of fighting going on at the time.

A Reuters dispatch also noted that press photographs taken on 31 October showed US marine snipers taking up position in Ramadi. Reuters ruled out any possibility Najim being linked to the rebels and called for a thorough investigation by the US army. Najim's colleagues and family believe he was killed by a US sniper."

6.
"Palestinian journalist Mazen al-Tomaizi, who worked for the pan-Arab TV news station Al-Arabiya and the Saudi TV station Al-Ekhbariya, was reporting live on Al-Ekhbariya at the scene of a burning Bradley fighting vehicle on 12 September 2004 in Baghdad when he was hit by the impact of a missile fired from a US helicopter."

7, 8.
"Two Al-Arabiya journalists were hit by American shots on 18 March 2004 near the Borj al-Hayat Hotel although their vehicle was clearly marked "TV."

Cameraman Ali Abdel-Aziz was killed instantly, and reporter Ali Al-Khatib died early the next day from his injuries at Baghdad's neurosurgical hospital. Both worked for the Dubai-based, pan-Arab TV news network Al-Arabiya.

The TV crew was there because the Borj al-Hayat Hotel had just sustained a rocket attack. Abdel Aziz's brother, Haidar Abdel Aziz, said Al-Arabiya had been given permission to film by the US army. "Suddenly, a Volvo did not stop at the roadblock and the soldiers began to open fire," he said. "My brother and the journalist wanted to leave, they ran towards their car, and at the moment that it was starting up, an armoured vehicle fired on it."

Look at the BBC reporter's account. He is the one who comes closest to Jordan's mindset, who knows the facts Jordan knows, and therefore I think he is in the best position to guess what Jordan meant. (Well, actually Jordan is, but Jordan has a motive to lie about it whereas the BBC guy doesn't.) Barney Frank, much as I love him, is an unbelievably cranky and stubborn SOB (read about his little feud with Gavin Newsom) and Jordan started by apparently attacking him--I don't think he would be anything less than completely honest, but he was a participant in the argument, not an observer. Dodd is not going into enough detail to be helpful and seems like he's grandstanding a bit. (Imus? Come on.)) Gergen has no reason to be anything other than truthful, but also I think genuinely doesn't want to see someone fired.

As for the "release the tape" thing one last time: I agree. I seriously doubt it is Jordan's decision alone. His bosses at CNN pretty clearly decided to fire him in a cowardly attempt to avoid bad press and angry letters from bloggers. (They come off worse than anyone in this in my view.) The tape did not have to make Jordan look worse, and may indeed have made him look better, and yet fed the controversy. The very existence of Fox News guaranteees that.

Once again I predict:

This will make reporters, editors and networks more reluctant to report critically about the administration, in a way that does more damage to this country than Jordan's remarks ever could have. Someone else will be fired under similar circumstances in the not too distant future, and they will deserve it less than Jordan did. When that happens, I sure as hell hope none of you will have helped.

Ann Coulter's stated wish that the military should kill journalists will have no harmful effect at all on cable networks' decision to book her as a guest.

"Anarch--transcripts from tape. I'd be happy with that, and they aren't as easy to soundbite. [Emph mine.]

That's charmingly naive of you, Sebastian."

That's nice. And it is charmingly naive of you to think I wouldn't notice that you have neatly set up a situation where I am not supposed to criticize what it has been alleged was said nor am I supposed to ask for proof about what was actually said to see how it compares with what is alleged. Choose one position or the other, you can't have both.

Ann Coulter's stated wish that the military should kill journalists will have no harmful effect at all on cable networks' decision to book her as a guest.

There is a large and growing audience in this nation that will pay to hear someone advocate killing journalists (and grow livid at the suggestion that the US military kills journalists).

Everything else in this thread must be evaluated in that context.

"What is the scenario in which Malkin apologizes or at least admits she was wrong?"

Who cares?

Given that she's convinced any number of people that there was a better than even chance that my grandparents and uncles and/or aunts were actively involved in espionage against the US and only with the defeat of Japan, slipped back into the woodwork and therefore avoided punishment, that who cares is telling. Of course, this is not about my ancestors (because if it were, I would be dismissed as being biased, right), this is about a CNN higher-up who has a history of anti-American bias, eh? (I hasten to add that you haven't pulled that one out, but it's all over the posts that you link to)

"Do you think he would have "been chewed out thoroughly and apologized abjectly" had people like instapundit not caused a stink?"

I don't really f***ing care, because there are much worse and more harmful things going on in this country right now, and not only does Reynold not care, he actively attacks the people who do care. I am currently up to my eyeballs in them--which I brought on myself, I admit--but it is putting me in a truly awful mood, and you are probably getting more of it than you deserve because Glenn Reynolds & friends would never ever post here. All I can say is, they don't deserve you on their side as far as I'm concerned. (If you're wondering whether I mean that as an insult to them or a compliment to you: both.)

Does Ann Coulter convince anyone of anything? Isn't she sort of a shock jock? Can't we go be upset about the recent evidence the admin got warnings up the wazoo in '01?

I think he would have been chewed out with or without Instapundit. Among the people who were there are people who I imagine would have called someone at CNN even if this had not been reported anywhere, and that would have been enough, if their owners/managers are at all competent.

I see no reason to think he didn't mean what he says he meant, namely that among the people who were not just collateral damage, but were aimed at and shot, some were journalists. Not being there, I obviously don't know, but I don't see any reason not to think this is what happened.

In particular, the fact that it was at Davos is not such a reason. I mean: my tendency to have things I say come out all wrong, which is mercifully less than it used to be when I was a clueless adolescent, has always been strongest in important situations, and I don't think this is something peculiar to me. Its being Davos does make any misunderstanding, especially this one, more unfortunate, but it does not mean that he would not have said something that was open to misinterpretation. (I mean: am I the only person who does this? The only one who has such thrilling memories as the time when I was 15 and the guy I was horribly in love with said 'so, what have you been doing?', and I thought: sleeping, lying around, and said: sleeping around? And the only one who wonders: what on earth would have become of me if I had been famous and Instapundit had been around?)

Does the fact that he resigned let us infer anything? Not much. Again: I cannot be the only person here who has been involved in, or a witness to, personnel decisions, and just about the only constant is that if you know what went on and you have the slightest shred of decency, you can't tell anyone, even when speculation about why X has resigned/been fired/whatever is rampant, and everyone is saying "if only you'd tell us why this happened, we'd understand." He could have been asked to leave because CNN was afraid of controversy. He could have resigned because he felt that his continued presence would undermine CNN's claim to objectivity, given the firestorm. He could have been thinking of resigning anyways and had this be the last straw. He could have been, quite independently, caught selling crack to second graders, or been diagnosed with a terminal illness. -- OK, I just threw the last two in, but the first two especially are obvious possibilities.

The point of this is not to stick up for CNN. And it's also not to pile on Sebastian. It's just that I don't see how any of us can know enough at this point (possibly ever) to draw any conclusions about what happened. Except, I think, for Katherine's, with which I concur.

rilkefan:

"Very bad things happen in the dark, and this is true whether the dark is created by government censorship or by the profit motive; whether true and important stories do not get heard because reporters are afraid to write them or because they are drowned out by a din of noise."

As someone who wanted desperately to be a journalist, gave up, still secretly wishes, who never could have gotten a job on any news network if she dreamed of it--every single second of time on a TV "news" network or program devoted to yet another vicious shouting match is a lost opportunity. What the press doesn't cover at all is so much more destructive than any bias, real or perceived. But no one notices. I suppose that's part of what I hold against Powerline, Coulter, Reynolds, etc. I take it personally. I tried to make in this field and I didn't--partly my own choice, but not only. In the last year I have worked so hard on this extraordinary rendition stuff (I've gone offline with most of it, but at this point I've got 44 pages outlining all the cases I know about in excruciating detail)--and for what? How many people have read it or will ever read it, compared to the audience of the lamest cable TV new show (Kudlow and Cramer might BE the lamest cable TV news show actually) or any of Coulter's books, or Malkin's? Our media, with the oldest and strongest constitutional protection in the world, is pathetic compared to every other English-speaking country I've encountered. (England, Australia, Canada, South Africa.) Not close, in any case. Even if it really was completely harmless to have her talk about the deaths of journalists--and I really do not believe it is--every minute of that is a minute more lost to decent news coverage.

Does Ann Coulter convince anyone of anything?

Compared to who? Jordan? Ward Churchill?

Compared to Jordan, yes Coulter convinces people of something. Compared to Ward Churchill, yes Coulter convinces people of something. How many books has Churchill sold? Jordan? Coulter? Millions of people love what Coulter is selling. You can deny it all you want...but it just makes you look silly.

Those who thought the admin got the warnings right in '01 can be upset about the recent evidence, I guess. I don't expect any of them to be upset or to change their minds, they will invent a new justification. It goes on and on.

Phil: As long as you're reading my mind, though

Curiously enough, Phil, I don't need to read your mind to see that your comments on this thread about the first Eason Jordan "scandal" simply accepted the right-wing framing of it. (I'm interested to see that Katherine too had misremembered it in the terms the right-wing framed it - as CNN "cutting a deal" with Hussein's regime. It was obviously a very successful framing.)

I suspect that this "scandal" will also be remembered, a year or so down the line, not in terms of a bunch of right-wingers unfairly hounding a man who made an off-the-cuff comment off the record, but in terms of "Jordan said the US military were deliberately killing journalists."

And I am certain that the killing of journalists by US military will still go uninvestigated: the scandal to the right-wing was talking about it, not that it happened.

It's notable, isn't it, that the right-wing framing of any story about Iraq invariably wipes out of the picture the people who have been killed there.

Sebastian Holsclaw: Wrong. Completely, totally wrong. In order for releasing the video to be helpful, Jordan's comments must appear ok to the average viewer. Nobody expects to convince the rabid partisans, and no-one cares. You don't expect a Bush speech to impress James Carville--that isn't important. The question is whether or not the video would convince most viewers.

So we are having this discussion because average viewers have been clamoring for Jordan to get the axe? This isn't trial by jury. Nobody can be compelled to hear out both cases and render an objective judgment. The people who will write angry letters to sponsors aren't average viewers. There are no average viewers for CNN to gain here, only those who can be lost, as rabid partisans undertake a campaign to erode CNN's credibility among the general audience. (And again, for the record, I'm no big CNN fan myself.)

Your formulation mistakenly assumes that fairness in any way enters into the equation. If it turns out Jordan didn't make the accusation you seem to think he made, there is no big story for CNN to run, and consequently, no audience. If he did, there is a scandal, and folks will tune in to Fox for the gory details. In either case, Fox now has more material to use against CNN. They can just leave the footage in the hands of the O'Reillys and Hannitys, who get to show whatever part of the video they deem appropriate, and then host a "debate" on anti-American bias at CNN between a firebreathing righty and a cardboard cutout of a liberal. The righty will almost certainly argue that Jordan should be kicked to the curb, pronto, because if he didn't say it he probably was thinking it, and besides, he was a Saddam patsy. The cardboard liberal will argue that Jordan should at least get two weeks notice.

Clearly Jordan believes the answer is no.

Well, then, that makes one of us who clearly knows what Jordan believes.

Sebastian: Choose one position or the other, you can't have both.

Actually, I'm choosing neither. What I've been trying to say is that Jordan's resignation means nothing insofar as the allegations him are concerned, and that furthermore the "decision" (if there was a formal decision) not to release the video footage is orthogonal to the question of whether he's guilty of that which you think he is.

In case it wasn't clear before: I don't begrudge you your skepticism. I think you are perfectly capable of evaluating the evidence presented and giving Jordan a fair judgement, whether or not I happen to agree with it. You are, however, in the rather extreme minority here. As we've been trying to say -- and in my case, with perhaps too much snark -- is that irrespective of whether Jordan said the things he was alleged to and independent of what a reasonable individual (such as most everyone here at ObWi) might conclude, if there is anything even tangentially malleable into a scandal, a scandal will ensue. Video clip, edited transcript, it won't make a damn bit of difference. FOX will have it on permaplay, MSNBC will jump in the act like a starving weasel and every pundit from here to Saratoga's gonna have a field day because there'll be blood in the water. [I shudder to think what the NYT or WaPo would have to say on the matter. SCLM/VRWC ain't got nothin' on the delight of journalists covering, and screwing, their own.] Frankly, I'll be surprised if CNNI makes it out of this with just a single scapegoat; it's fairly clear to me that the Outrageosphere's outrage here has little to do with the substance of Jordan's remarks since, well, we don't actually know what he said. And nor, it seems, does it actually matter.

Or, to be really blunt about it: your desire to know the truth of this incident, sincere though it may be, is utterly irrelevant to the matter at hand. Same as mine.

Curiously enough, Phil, I don't need to read your mind to see that your comments on this thread about the first Eason Jordan "scandal" simply accepted the right-wing framing of it.

****yawn**** Try your shtick with someone who's buying, Kreskin.

They Shoot Journalists, Don’t They? by Chris Paterson, AlterNet. Posted February 15, 2005.

Jordan might have thought that raising the issue with the world’s top decision-makers would put it so fully into the public eye that news media, and U.S. lawmakers, could no longer ignore it. In that, he may have been right; and he may even have expected to take the fall to accomplish that goal. read the rest


Found via Jeanne at Body and Soul: Avedon Carol with the best post yet on Eason Jordan.

Open letter to David T Johnson, Acting ambassador, US Embassy, London, dated Saturday December 4, 2004:

Eliminating journalists
The images from last month's siege on Falluja came almost exclusively from reporters embedded with US troops. This is because Arab journalists who had covered April's siege from the civilian perspective had effectively been eliminated. Al-Jazeera had no cameras on the ground because it has been banned from reporting in Iraq indefinitely. Al-Arabiya did have an unembedded reporter, Abdel Kader Al-Saadi, in Falluja, but on November 11 US forces arrested him and held him for the length of the siege. Al-Saadi's detention has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists. "We cannot ignore the possibility that he is being intimidated for just trying to do his job," the IFJ stated. read the rest

Open letter to David T Johnson, Acting ambassador, US Embassy, London, dated Saturday December 4, 2004:

Eliminating journalists
The images from last month's siege on Falluja came almost exclusively from reporters embedded with US troops. This is because Arab journalists who had covered April's siege from the civilian perspective had effectively been eliminated. Al-Jazeera had no cameras on the ground because it has been banned from reporting in Iraq indefinitely. Al-Arabiya did have an unembedded reporter, Abdel Kader Al-Saadi, in Falluja, but on November 11 US forces arrested him and held him for the length of the siege. Al-Saadi's detention has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists. "We cannot ignore the possibility that he is being intimidated for just trying to do his job," the IFJ stated. read the rest

Still, what matters isn't whether or not US troops are eliminating journalists: what matters is silencing any American who raises the topic.

Sorry for the double post. Got an error message the first time, but really, I should know better...

John Simpson, BBC World Affairs Editor, wrote in June 2003:

That leaves seven: Taras Protsyuk, Jose Cuoso, Tareq Ayoub, Kamran Abdurrazaq Mohammed, Terry Lloyd; and Fred Nerac and Hussein Osman, presumed dead though their bodies haven't been recovered. All of them were killed by American fire. Seven out of ten of the journalists who died as a direct result of military action, therefore, died at the hands of the American forces. In this war, the Americans were more than twice as dangerous to the proper exercise of journalism, the freedom of reporters to see for themselves what was happening, as the Iraqis were. I don't think this figure has been brought to public attention in this way before; and as far as I know, there have been no public apologies for the deaths which have taken place. Any official investigations have yet to be concluded, and their results brought to light. read the rest

John Simpson has not, and will not, met the fate of Jordan Eason. We may not have a First Amendment in the UK, but we still value good reporters.

John Simpson isn't stupid enough to make the same charge as Jordan either. He plays the statistical game instead of using words like target (even though he may be making the same innuendo.)

"I don't think this figure has been brought to public attention in this way before; and as far as I know, there have been no public apologies for the deaths which have taken place."

As far as I know, almost a larger number of Marines have been killed by other Marines than journalists killed by Americans, but I don't think this figure has been brought to public attention in this way before and there are rarely public apologies for the deaths which have taken place.

This is of course the 'journalists are super-important' standard. Is any profession more self-absorbed? Oh wait, lawyers. :)

As far as I know, almost a larger number of Marines have been killed by other Marines than journalists killed by Americans, but I don't think this figure has been brought to public attention in this way before and there are rarely public apologies for the deaths which have taken place.

Comparing absolute numbers here is moderately ludicrous, unless you're saying that there are an equal number of journalsts and Marines in Iraq, and that they are equally likely to be engaged in combat. Rhetorically cute, but silly.

Sebastian: John Simpson isn't stupid enough to make the same charge as Jordan either.

Oh, you've decided you know what Jordan said? How did you find out? Can you share your source?

This is of course the 'journalists are super-important' standard.

You've complained in the past about poor standards of media coverage, Sebastian. It comes oddly from you to complain that journalists shouldn't object to being shot at by US soldiers in a war zone... Is that really an argument you wish to make? Would you care to rephrase?

"It comes oddly from you to complain that journalists shouldn't object to being shot at by US soldiers in a war zone... Is that really an argument you wish to make? Would you care to rephrase?"

Nope, you should rephrase. Simpson doesn't claim that they are being shot at by US soldiers. Journalists are going places where lots of shooting is occurring. It isn't at all shocking that some of them also get shot. That is how Marines get shot by other Marines too--and morally that isn't shocking to anyone who knows anything about war.

Some of them are in fact being murdered, but that has tended to involve kidnapping and head severing and has been taking place on the other side--which for some reason seems less worth reporting than accidental deaths.

I'm sticking by the Marine analogy--because it has the exact same moral connotations as the journalist deaths. When you put yourself in dangerous situations, you shouldn't be shocked that dangerous things happen. The difference may be that journalists like to pretend they aren't in a dangerous situation. If there is evidence of more than that, I would love to see it. There isn't, because I am absolutely certain that the BBC would revel in it if they had any.

"Oh, you've decided you know what Jordan said? How did you find out? Can you share your source?"

Democratic Representative Barney Frank. Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd. Thanks for asking.

So, what was all the asking for the tape about, if you know to your own satisfaction what was said?

My view of Frank and Dodd's reports has been solidified by the fact that Jordan doesn't want the tape released, doesn't want a transcript released and that he resigned before the story got much play in the mainstream media. It is also bolstered by the fact that he has said such things before. That is my considered opinion after the stonewalling of the last week--it was a much lower grade suspicion before.

So back to the Marine analogy. Do you agree that there is something rather different between accidental deaths and going after journalists to kill them?

Nope, you should rephrase. Simpson doesn't claim that they are being shot at by US soldiers.

Actually, in polite, ever-so-British style, he says exactly what [at least one interpretation of what] Eason Jordan said. That journalists have been killed by direct fire from US soldiers.

When you put yourself in dangerous situations, you shouldn't be shocked that dangerous things happen.

It's news to me that Marines are clearly marked out as noncombatants. Are they?

Democratic Representative Barney Frank. Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd. Thanks for asking.

So, you don't know. You're just (as you've been all the way through this thread) assuming that you can assume the worst - because it was Eason Jordan who said it. Whatever it was. ;-)

My view of Frank and Dodd's reports has been solidified by the fact that Jordan doesn't want the tape released, doesn't want a transcript released and that he resigned before the story got much play in the mainstream media.

Throw him in the river, Sebastian. If he drowns, he's innocent. If he floats, he's guilty. (Or a duck.) Either way, you're rid of the nasty witch.

"That journalists have been killed by direct fire from US soldiers."

Yup, and Marines who wear US uniforms also get killed by direct fire from US soldiers. So it is entirely un-fricking-surpising that journalists have gotten killed. Unless you can say that the US was targetting journalists in the sense of knowing they were journalists and shooting them anyway, this should be entirely unshocking.

"Throw him in the river, Sebastian. If he drowns, he's innocent."

I didn't ask for the river, I asked for the tape. I asked for further information--just like the media always does. The fact that they expect full disclosure from other sources but prefer to hide when they are questioned is arrogant and unhelpful. Asking for information isn't a witchhunt--especially when 2 sources who are not at all pro-Bush support the idea that something highly inflammatory was said by Jordan.

You know, this is slightly off the main thrust of the conversation, but I'm kind of stunned that the fact that whatever the words he uttered at Davos, Jordan has now ('now' being apparently at Davos, but certainly on the record immediately after this story broke) characterized them as a misstatement to the extent that they went beyond the non-controversial statement that journalists have been killed by aimed fire (in contrast to, say, high-altitude bombing), has had no effect on this controversy.

You (SH) have been arguing throughout as if Jordan were still out there saying "US armed forces murder journalists" (and I have been responding as if that were the case). This simply isn't true -- whether whatever he said was the non-controversial statement above, that was misinterpreted by his audience, or whether it was something that literally did assert that the US armed forces were intentionally killing journalists as journalists, he has clearly said that he does not believe the latter to be the case and that anything he said to that effect was a mistake.

There's something really strange about this -- it seems that in the eyes of the right blogosphere, Jordan had to be hounded out of his job not because he misled anyone, or did any damage, but apparently because he slipped and revealed that he harbored bad thoughts about the US.

Sebastian: Unless you can say that the US was targetting journalists in the sense of knowing they were journalists and shooting them anyway, this should be entirely unshocking.

Clearly it is to you, yes.

Further, a point that has been made repeatedly by non-US journalists: many journalists have been killed by US soldiers under circumstances when it certainly looked as if the US knew they were journalists and targetted them anyway. No independent inquiry into those incidents has ever been carried out: the US military simply declared itself innocent - and journalists have continued to be killed.

I didn't ask for the river

You're not a Monty Python fan, Sebastian? I'm disappointed at you.

LizardBreath: There's something really strange about this -- it seems that in the eyes of the right blogosphere, Jordan had to be hounded out of his job not because he misled anyone, or did any damage, but apparently because he slipped and revealed that he harbored bad thoughts about the US.

This is precisely what Avedon Carol said -

Understand, Jordan isn't the only newsman who has made the suggestion. The unexamined question, here, is: What if it's true? What if it's true that the reason an unusual number of journalists have been killed is that they are being targetted? What if there is more going on here than bias? What if more journalists than we're actually naming believe this to be the case because the evidence suggests journalists are being targetted?
And, if it is true, you can be assured that the question is not an attack on the troops, it's a legitimate suspicion that dictatorial leaders are doing what dictatorial leaders always do - suppress exposure of their crimes, by any means necessary.
And with the enthusiastic assistance of their supporters.

Jesurgislac: Throw him in the river, Sebastian. If he drowns, he's innocent. If he floats, he's guilty. (Or a duck.) Either way, you're rid of the nasty witch.

This is spot on. Sebastian, you still haven't addressed my assessment of why releasing the tape was quite likely a lose-lose scenario for Jordan/CNN (posted on February 12, 2005 01:20 PM). Yet you still argue as if it is self-evident that releasing the tape would help them if it bears out his account (presumably based on your "average viewer" standard, which I've answered above, to no evident response). This is an assumption on your part that needs to be logically supported.

A) He wasn't being hounded out of his job, he was being hounded into revealing what he actually said.

B) If he had not been forced to clarify, quite a few people would have apparently believed that he meant 'target' in the absolutely most normal sense of the word.

C) That clarification would not have taken place if the right half of the blogosphere had not called him on it.

"This is spot on. Sebastian, you still haven't addressed my assessment of why releasing the tape was quite likely a lose-lose scenario for Jordan/CNN (posted on February 12, 2005 01:20 PM). Yet you still argue as if it is self-evident that releasing the tape would help them if it bears out his account (presumably based on your "average viewer" standard, which I've answered above, to no evident response). This is an assumption on your part that needs to be logically supported."

I don't care if it would be a lose-lose situation. Whining about that isn't good enough for the media when they are hounding someone else now is it? I strongly suspect it would be a loser situation for them because it looks as if Jordan actually said some stupid things, and he didn't backtrack as much as he wants to claim. If I were calling for him to resign--which I did not--I would be forced confront the idea of the lose-lose situation. I was asking for disclosure--that only has to be defended from a disclosure point of view. And Jordan got hit with the exact same disclosure standard that his team applies to people all over the world.

The fact that he chose to resign rather than disclose is not something I worry about--and tends to SUGGEST though not prove that the tape wouldn't have helped him much.

"Jordan denied that last night, saying he had been responding to Frank's comment that the 63 journalists who have been killed in Iraq were "collateral damage" in the war. "I was trying to make a distinction between 'collateral damage' and people who got killed in other ways," Jordan said last night. "I have never once in my life thought anyone from the U.S. military tried to kill a journalist. Never meant to suggest that. Obviously I wasn't as clear as I should have been on that panel."

This is a quote from a February 8th WP story. Most of the eye-witnesses say he made an equivalent statement at the original panel, but he certainly said it by February 8th. Obviously, disavowing the objected-to statement did not shut the controversy down.

(Your last post, BTW, assumes that Jordan has the power to release the videotape at his own option. DO you have reason to believe that to be true, or are you just blowing smoke?)

Some of them are in fact being murdered, but that has tended to involve kidnapping and head severing and has been taking place on the other side--which for some reason seems less worth reporting than accidental deaths.

Are you really claiming with a straight face that there's been a lack of adequate reporting on the topic of kidnappings and murders by terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East? Really?

Your last post, BTW, assumes that Jordan has the power to release the videotape at his own option. DO you have reason to believe that to be true, or are you just blowing smoke?

I am quite confident that he has the power to publically ask for its release.

Phil, I am absolutely claiming that the fact that a CNN head can talk about dangers to reporters in Iraq and then choose to focus on those killed accidentally by Americans rather than those who killed say the husband of the woman he was having an affair with, is rather a bit much.

That is, of course, a different decision that to "resign rather than to disclose."

In any case, my point stands -- whatever he said, he disavowed it at least by February 8th. This appears totally irrelevant to the controversy in your eyes -- why?

"and then choose to focus on those killed accidentally by Americans rather than those who killed say the husband of the woman he was having an affair with"

Cites please. At least as many as those killed by American soldiers.

Sebastian: I am quite confident that he has the power to publicly ask for its release.

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them? (Henry IV Part I: Act 3)

1. Anyone has the power to ask publicly for the release of a video-recording or transcript of a Davos session. As Davos is explicitly off-the-record - something all attendees agree to - no-one, and a fortiori no attendee, will get what they ask for. So why should Eason have asked?

2. You have never answered the cogent point that - whatever Eason said - there is no reason to believe that releasing the video-recording would have helped him, and every reason to believe it would have hurt him. So why should Eason have asked?

Phil, I am absolutely claiming that the fact that a CNN head can talk about dangers to reporters in Iraq and then choose to focus on those killed accidentally by Americans rather than those who killed say the husband of the woman he was having an affair with, is rather a bit much.

Uh-uh. No weaseling out here -- you said "reporting": Which for some reason seems less worth reporting than accidental deaths

So, I'm asking you point-blank, what has CNN reported on more: Journalists being killed, or kidnappings and murders by terrorists?

"Cites please. At least as many as those killed by American soldiers."

I don't even know what you are asking me to cite. You want a cite to the fact that Jordan was having an affair with the widow of Daniel Pearl? Is this good enough? You want me to show what Jordan was focusing on in his chat? I can't freaking cite that because he won't release it. But it appears from reports of Frank and Dodd and others that he was focusing on US soldiers 'targeting' journalists rather than the terrorists who slit his mistress' husband's throat.

Which has CNN reported more? I have no idea, I don't watch their awful news station. Which has Jordan talked about more? He gets reported talking about US soldiers.

So I'm asking you point blank. Is there a difference between accidentaly killing journalists and 'targetting them'? Is there a difference between having a chat with your friends and discussing something at Davos?

"You have never answered the cogent point that - whatever Eason said - there is no reason to believe that releasing the video-recording would have helped him, and every reason to believe it would have hurt him. So why should Eason have asked?"

Because he is subject to disclosure of actual information just like all the people his team covers. You are right that there is no reason to believe it would help him--he probably said exactly what is alleged by Democratic Congressmen. It is ridiculous for a media person to suggest that an actual tape which could actually resolve what he actually said should remain hidden.

"whatever he said, he disavowed it at least by February 8th."

Ridiculous. You want the blogosphere to have not mentioned it, when if we had not he would never have disavowed his comments. And when he did, he played the 'who me?' game of pretending to be misunderstood. The tape is evidence for whether or not that is true. It speaks directly to the question of his credibility.

"I don't even know what you are asking me to cite. You want a cite to the fact that Jordan was having an affair with the widow of Daniel Pearl? Is this good enough?"

I had not read the language I quoted as saying he had an affair with Daniel Pearl's wife (and would not have cared enough to ask the question if I read it that way). I read what you said as saying that journalists were killed for having affairs with local women in Iraq. As Emily Latella would say, Never mind.

Sebastian Holsclaw: I don't care if it would be a lose-lose situation. Whining about that isn't good enough for the media when they are hounding someone else now is it?

The "media" isn't being judged here. Jordan is. Lets stick to his crimes for the moment. Unless you mean to make him answer for everyone who ever took up a camera or notepad?

And, to answer your question, when speaking to the matter of presumption of guilt it absolutely should be good enough, and whether it is depends on the integrity of the journalist. To read anything into the unavailability of the tape is to bank on the idea that Jordan and CNN would necessarily benefit from and could not be hurt by the response to a tape that favors his account. Not caring if it would be a lose-lose situation means not caring that you are making a baseless assumption on meaningless evidence.

Obviously this alone is not an argument for letting the story die. That argument has been made pretty well by other folks in this discussion. If we were talking about the coverup of a crime, an actual erroneous report (a la the 60 Minutes fiasco), or folks in government trying to hide their activities, even a clear public accusation of atrocities -- i.e. an actual matter of consequence -- then that would be one thing. But this was a tempest in a teapot until the public lynching.

It is ridiculous for a media person to suggest that an actual tape which could actually resolve what he actually said should remain hidden.

Did he say that the tape should not be released? You keep arguing that no evidence for equates to evidence against. That is a ridiculous notion.

"And, to answer your question, when speaking to the matter of presumption of guilt it absolutely should be good enough, and whether it is depends on the integrity of the journalist."

Exactly. And if you would like to say that Congressman Barney Frank and Senator Christopher Dodd do not have integrity on this point please do so forthrightly in your next post on this topic.

"To read anything into the unavailability of the tape is to bank on the idea that Jordan and CNN would necessarily benefit from and could not be hurt by the response to a tape that favors his account."

Nope. On a case in controversy, the media will demand such a tape EVEN IF THEY KNOW IT DAMNS THE SPEAKER.

You claim that we can't be sure whether or not the tape hurts Jordan. You are entirely correct. Unfortunately for your argument, that is entirely irrelevant.

Which has CNN reported more? I have no idea, I don't watch their awful news station.

Ah -- so you were making shit up. Noted.

So I'm asking you point blank. Is there a difference between accidentaly killing journalists and 'targetting them'? Is there a difference between having a chat with your friends and discussing something at Davos?

Why are you asking me? Have I insinuated anywhere that there isn't? Pretty sure I haven't. Did you insinuate that CNN had reported more about journalists being killed than about terrorists kidnapping and murdering people? Yep, you did.

I'm not going to stand for the public lynching analogy either.

Asking for clarifying information does not count as public lynching. Lynching implies using force to carry out a punishment without due process. Bloggers didn't have the power to fire him. Most of us weren't even asking for a punishment. The only power we had was the ability to shine some light on his statements and ask for more information to clarify. That is what we did. That the stonewalling has been coupled with a resignation rather than revelation of what was actually said is not our fault.

Phil, please feel free to read the discussion which prompted my response (posted and linked by Jesurgislac) and point out the numerous places where journalists being murdered by Islamists are reported.

I eagerly await your response.

Sebastian: The only power we had was the ability to shine some light on his statements and ask for more information to clarify. That is what we did.

No, you didn't. Because there was no point in your doing that, I hasten to add: Eason Jordan had already shone light on his off-the-cuff comment [calling it a "statement" is meiosis*] and given more information to clarify what he said. He did so very promptly after saying it, and he's done so since.

That the stonewalling has been coupled with a resignation rather than revelation of what was actually said is not our fault.

What was actually said was reported on in reasonable detail. Eason Jordan said something capable of two interpretations: he clarified what he meant, both at the time and later, and what he said he meant was (pretty much) what John Simpson said, in the article I linked to - updated with 18 months more killings.

That the right-wing blogosphere responded to this off-the-cuff comment like a frenzied mob, determined to believe that he must have meant the opposite of what he said he meant, and that all clarifications can be ignored, is not - you individually, Sebastian - your fault. Except insofar as you took part in it.

*No, it's not meiosis, is it? because meiosis is rhetorical understatement. What Sebastian is doing in calling Eason Jordan's off-the-cuff comment at Davos "statements" is rhetorical overstatement. Is there a word for that?

OK, fine. That shifts your claim to the idea that the BBC has reported more on journalists being killed than on terrorists kidnapping and murdering people. So, again, prove it or retract it. It's your claim.

Am I somehow shocked that an article about reporters being killed is about reporters being killed and not about something else? No. Should I be?

Do you think that the existence of this single article that Jes cited implies, proves, insinuates or otherwise implicates the BBC in having failed to adequately report on terrorists kidnapping and killing people? Should every article about any topic regarding the war have to include a sentence saying, "But the terrorists are worse," or, "But Saddam Hussein was worse?"

Seriously. Come on. You're on really untenable ground with this claim.

Ridiculous. You want the blogosphere to have not mentioned it, when if we had not he would never have disavowed his comments.

My point, at least partially, is that the disavowal did nothing to end the controversy. We can agree on that -- no? On your second point, all eyewitness accounts agree that at the time of the original statement he disavowed the strongest interpretation of his words: most accounts agree that he, at that time, restated to the non-controversial statement I gave above, so saying that he would never have disavowed it in the absence of the feeding frenzy is not well supported by the facts.

My larger point is that the making of the strongest version of the statement at all, despite the fact that it was retracted (immediately, either totally or at least in part; in any case totally shortly thereafter), is apparently perceived as an unforgiveable offense. (The noise about the tape is irrelevant -- assume that he said the worst thing it could possibly have revealed, and the situation remains unchanged.) This is bizarre -- the worst thing he could possibly have said was inflammatory, but not irrational in light of the unusual number of journalists killed by US fire. As soon as his factual support for it was challenged, he retracted the allegation, saying that he had spoken hastily and in error. How that makes him unfit for his job, I can't imagine.

"Am I somehow shocked that an article about reporters being killed is about reporters being killed and not about something else?"

Excuse me? The article 'about reporters being killed' is not an article about reporters being killed. It is only about reporters being killed by Americans, which I believe is my whole point.

"On your second point, all eyewitness accounts agree that at the time of the original statement he disavowed the strongest interpretation of his words: most accounts agree that he, at that time, restated to the non-controversial statement I gave above, so saying that he would never have disavowed it in the absence of the feeding frenzy is not well supported by the facts."

That isn't true. Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd BOTH left that meeting believing that Jordan said the US was targetting journalists in a singling them out to kill them kind of way. They said that he backed down only as far as 'official policy' which is hardly backing down at all. Even totalitarian regimes rarely kill journalists as 'official policy', they do so through lots of unofficial channels.

The reason the tape was requested after the Feb. 8th retraction was to see if he was speaking one way to one audience and another way to other audiences and to see if the retraction was a change in view or merely a change in position. All of those are completely legitmiate inquiries.

Sebastian Holsclaw: Exactly. And if you would like to say that Congressman Barney Frank and Senator Christopher Dodd do not have integrity on this point please do so forthrightly in your next post on this topic.

If that were the only account from a person of integrity, you might have a point. But you keep conveniently omitting the fact that there is another account from an equally disinterested party that backs up Jordan's take on the exchange.

Nope. On a case in controversy, the media will demand such a tape EVEN IF THEY KNOW IT DAMNS THE SPEAKER.

The question isn't whether they will demand the tape. That should be determined by the significance of the story. The question is if they should make statements along the lines of "Inferences that the resignation suggests something bad for Eason--you typically don't resign over a scandal where you believe you are innocent even before it really breaks." This would be irresponsible journalism, in my book. You can say that some eyewitness accounts suggest that, though you should also point out that those accounts are contradicted by similarly reliable witnesses. You instead choose to talk as if the status of the tape means something, and as if the damning eyewitness accounts are somehow more credible than the exculpatory ones, by virtue of the fact that Democrats like Barney Frank would presumably be inclined to be in bed with the anti-American media. This is a highly selective take on the available evidence.

You claim that we can't be sure whether or not the tape hurts Jordan. You are entirely correct. Unfortunately for your argument, that is entirely irrelevant.

It is completely relevant to the fact that you have repeatedly stated that Jordan not publicly calling for the release of the tape speaks in some way to its content. You are still discounting the possibility that the tape clears him but there is still a motive for not calling for its release, not to mention the fact that a scenario in which the release of the tape actually helps him has yet to even be described. Why? Because you assume the tape doesn't clear him. Why? Because he hasn't called for its release. This is circular reasoning.

It is only about reporters being killed by Americans, which I believe is my whole point.

Huh? Did you read the article by John Simpson? At that time (June 2004) sixteen reporters had been killed in Iraq. He listed them all, by name, and wrote:

Sixteen people. Sixteen good and conscientious colleagues, who knew the risks they were running but were more concerned with reporting on the war than with their own safety. Four of them were personal friends of mine, and one, Kamran Abdurazaq Muhammed, was only there because I had recruited him. Nothing can mitigate the loss their families and friends feel, but we have a duty, it seems to me, to keep their memories alive. And we have a duty, too, to examine why they died.

He then goes into how his colleagues died: "five deaths out of sixteen are depressingly explainable" (car accident, thrombosis, landmine), one by suicide bomber, ten killed by "some kind of military action". (He excludes the "death by suicide bomber" as something that no one can guard against.)

Of those ten, he points out, three were killed by Iraqis, seven by Americans.

I have no wish to belabour the American forces or the American government over this. As far as I am concerned, it is neither a political issue nor a national one. Nor is it an attempt to criticize either the fact that the war was fought at all, or the way it was fought. But I do think it's incumbent on us to try to find out why the Americans killed so many journalists, if only to persuade the Bush administration and American public opinion that something went very wrong this time, and that in the next war -- if there is another one, that is -- the U.S. military should be a great deal more careful.

John Simpson isn't writing only about reporters killed by Americans. But he is saying that, in his lengthy experience of reporting (thirty years, and more war zones than most of us have heard of) the casualty rate among reporters was very high, and that American forces appear to have been, at least, careless of journalist's lives.

And he's asking, which seems only reasonable, for the U.S. military "to be a great deal more careful".

Yet it's been 18 months since John Simpson wrote that column, and nothing appears to have changed.

Your reaction, when the topic is raised again by another man with many years of experience, isn't "Well, perhaps it should be looked into" but "ShutupshutupSHUTUP".

Why's that?

"You instead choose to talk as if the status of the tape means something, and as if the damning eyewitness accounts are somehow more credible than the exculpatory ones, by virtue of the fact that Democrats like Barney Frank would presumably be inclined to be in bed with the anti-American media. This is a highly selective take on the available evidence."

If there is a conflict of eyewitness accounts and there is also a tape of the event, do you trust one or the other of the eyewitness accounts? OR DO YOU ASK FOR THE TAPE?

"Inferences that the resignation suggests something bad for Eason--you typically don't resign over a scandal where you believe you are innocent even before it really breaks."

You call this irresponsible journalism. I am not a journalist. I do not work in journalism. That is a perfectly reponsible inference for someone offering commentary. It is not conclusive. But it is a perfectly reasonable inference. Especially when coupled with the testimony of Frank and Dodd. Especially when coupled with the hidden tape. Especially when coupled with a different set of 'retractions' at different times.

Unlike, for example, an inference that the US targets journalists merely based on the fact that journalists get killed in a war zone. The Lancet is claiming more than 100,000 civilians killed. If you accept that number why would it be so shocking that 12 journalists die? Especially since journalists seek out the danger zones rather than avoid them like normal civilians.

Sebastian: Unlike, for example, an inference that the US targets journalists merely based on the fact that journalists get killed in a war zone.

Not merely based on that fact. But on the fact that journalists have been killed by US forces in this particular war zone in unusual numbers. That according to an eyewitness account (if you read to the end of John Simpson's article) US soldiers were twitchy and undertrained and underslept and making stupid mistakes, shooting noncombatants.

Arguing that the problem doesn't exist doesn't do anything to solve it.

Arguing that the problem doesn't exist doesn't do anything to solve it.

Well, if it doesn't in fact exist, addressing a solution would be bizarre in the extreme.

Arguing that US soldiers are undertrained shows very little knowledge about military training as found in the world.

Sebastian: Arguing that US soldiers are undertrained shows very little knowledge about military training as found in the world.

Are you arguing, then, that US soldiers are trained to react like this?

At the next checkpoint everything was completely different. Seven or eight Marines were guarding the main street of the town. They had no Arabic translator and no means of understanding what was going on; but they had been told to expect an attack at any moment. I told them about our bodyguards in the car just behind us, but when they spotted their green uniforms they went berserk, pulling them out of their vehicle and screaming that they were Republican Guards.

When they found the side-arms it was a great deal worse. They forced the bodyguards to the ground, kicking their legs apart, smashing their boots down on the backs of their necks and yelling at the tops of their voices. The bodyguards were angry and humiliated, but because they had been extremely well-trained (by American special forces, as it happened) they kept calm. I waded in with my walking-stick -- our friendly fire incident had happened a few days earlier -- and yelled back that these were their allies and they must let them go at once or... well, I wasn't quite certain what. But these Marines simply seemed to need the voice of command, and they obeyed immediately.

At that point another Marine came screaming across the road -- literally. He was shouting 'Sniper! Sniper!' and swung his weapon round to point at the roof of a building opposite. I looked up. An old man, in his sixties at least, was folding up a blanket which had been left out all day to air. The Marine took aim at him. It needed another yell and more judicious use of the walking-stick to stop him shooting the old man dead.

Anyone who was in Iraq at the time and saw the way many American soldiers behaved will have plenty of other examples of this.


Slarti: Well, if it doesn't in fact exist, addressing a solution would be bizarre in the extreme.

Indeed. And Sebastian seems to be jumping directly to the conclusion that as the problem doesn't exist, the solution is to harass Jordan Eason for bringing the situation up.

Yet it would appear that two men with much more experience with journalism in war zones than I believe Sebastian has both think there is a problem... and that being so, it's interesting that the right-wing blogosphere's reaction was to condemn Jordan Eason for mentioning the issue - and to completely ignore the issue itself: that the US military appears to be killing journalists in Iraq at far above what one might sadly call "the usual levels".

It needed another yell and more judicious use of the walking-stick to stop him shooting the old man dead.

It's always easy to help oneself to credit for doing things that might have happened anyway. Me, I like to tell rocks to "stay".

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