The media runs our world, part 428

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An interesting article about why the media protects Bush from looking like the idiot he really appears to be if you hear him speak:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-0404290089apr29,1,4516177.column?coll=chi-news-col (requires registration)

Part of the argument is that the job of the press is to relate meaning rather than what was actually said. I completely disagree with this. At it’s core, pure “reporting” press is supposed to be unbiased. How can you expect to be unbiased when you’re trying to infer meaning from something? Everyone is going to take their own personal spin on it and you can’t then look back and say “Look, what he actually said was ___”

In this particular case I think the actions of the press definitely help Bush. No one wants to have the leader of a country look like a blathering idiot, but I don’t think that’s something that should be hidden either. As a voting citizen wouldn’t you want to know if your leader can’t pronounce basic words? You’re then free to infer whatever you’d like, but that’s an important data point in any case.

While we’re on the topic of the media, this is a very scary article:

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0422-09.htm

So, even though there is ample evidence to the contrary, the majority of the US population still believes that there are ties between Saddam and al-Qaeda and that Saddam had WMDs. Now, I wasn’t initially willing to fault the media for this, but then my thought was “Ok, this has been reported a lot in the media that I watch, but what about the rest?” ie: I’m sure FOX news has their own spin on it. Reminds me of this from a while back.

Bushs view and the War On Terror

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There was a very interesting discussion where I work, beginning with people taking comfort in the fact that Bush views things in a very simplified way. It eventually evolved into why this simplified view will not win the “war on terror” or settle the Isreal vs. Palestine dispute. I’ll post my contributions chronologically, trying to give some context between each one. I don’t think it would be right to post other’s comments without their permission.

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“I am reassured that Bush sees the world in a simpler picture that requires action instead of some complicated world where the intellectuals can debate ad naseum while terrorists continue killing people”

I see your point that his “simpleton” persona gives people a kind of clarity. However, I do wish that Bush and the leaders of our world would mature enough to not simplify things to the point of “Kill our people and we’ll kill your people.” The vast majority of people being killed in Afghanistan and Iraq had no affiliation, or desire to be affiliated with, what was inflicted upon the US.

When one person from this part of the world is killed it’s considered a huge deal. In the last 2 year tens of thousands of people have been killed in the Middle East at the hands of the “coalition” and it’s called “Collateral Damage.” Why are those people worth less than us? I don’t
call that clarity. I call it righteousness, calousness, vengefullness, misguided and downright wrong.

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Next I’m responsing to the argument that killing Palestinian leaders is going to stop terrorists.

That, I believe, is the fundamental flaw in the “war on terror” and the Israeli action against Hamas. Leaders in terrorism aren’t very important. I’m sure anyone can come to the conclusion that strapping bombs to themselves and blowing stuff up is going to cause some hardship
to your enemy. You don’t need coordination in the sense of “Ok, you go on tuesday, you go on wednesday, …” If both of them went on tuesday it would probably be just as effective. The only thing that these assassinations are doing is making more people angry, which in turn
creates more people willing to perform “terrorist” acts. Only time will tell if I’m right, but I’d sure bet on it.

In the specific case of Israelis/Palestinians, both sides are equally wrong. They’re both killing innocent people. However, the Israelis have definitely won the media war by having their enemy labelled as terrorists. It is much closer to a guerrilla war. The fact that a
people don’t have an organized army to fight with has nicely fallen into the Western label of “terrorists” which desensitizes the western public to their mass murder. They’re both killing innocent people with explosives. I can turn your “Jew-killing ring” around and say the Israelis run internment camps where they shoot “Palestinians in a barrel.”

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This is essentially the same part of the discussion, but I’m responding to a specific quote.

“The only real solution is continued, aggressive, and disproportionately strong displays of force against Hamas and all other Islamist organizations.”

Honestly this is (a repeat of) one of the most naive and misguided statements I’ve ever heard with respect to world politics. Show me examples of a population (not a military organization) that has been quelled long term by your “solution” above. I can’t see how any use of logic and common sense could lead to that conclusion. I would love to see you try to build some sort of logical justification for this conclusion based on representative facts from history. I’m not joking here, I really am interested to understand why people think this.

The problem is that it’s not only members of Hamas that hates the Jews because of their treatment, it’s the population (I’m sure the Jewish population feels similarly.) I’m not saying they all want to kill each other, but these are people who have been treated like $*%&. If you killed every single current member of Hamas do you honestly believe that would end the attacks? If you do, then you clearly don’t understand the situation. People would be flooding to replace them. These people have no hope, they only have an enemy. That’s the only thing that matters.

So, based on your method of dealing with the situation, should Israel kill all Palestinians?

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Now, somebody tried to respond to my request for historical evidence, and this was my response.

Ok, let’s take apart your “evidence” one at a time…

You claim that Spain, Russia and Japans populations were all quelled by “continued, aggressive, and disproportionately strong displays of force.” That is completely false in every one of those scenarios.
1. The population of Spain was overwhelmingly opposed to invading Iraq both before and after the invasion. Why does it come as a suprise that, come the next election, they picked someone who followed their views?
2. How was the Soviet Union quelled by the above description? I think the population was quelled by the fact that their government and economy collapsed.
3. Japans military was “quelled” in the sense that it was mostly destroyed. In a conventional war I think the losing country is more quelled by the fact that they can’t fight back anymore than for the force used against them.

Now I have two points.

Even if it were true that in a conventional war a population is more or less quelled as a result of being the loser that has no bearing on the current situtation where you’re fighting a population, not a military. At the end of WWII, I’m sure there were some Japanese people who wanted to rush right up and start defending their country, but the way that (mostly) works in a conventional war is through the military. Militaries don’t usually train and equip somebody in a day. However, in a less
conventional (guerilla) war, like Iraq or Vietnam, since there is little or no organized military, the only requirement is that a person finds a weapon. The US treating this like a conventional war is why they will lose this “war on terror.” (unless they fundamentally change something)

As evidenced by your points, and sadly by Bushs actions, some people can’t comprehend world politics not somehow involving violence or the threat of violence. I think, for the US, this is a remnant of the Cold War where you were locked in a tit-for-tat game with Russia. However, they need to get out of this mindset. The world isn’t going to stand for the US throwing it’s weight around with it’s military forever. (I know some people who disagree with me are thinking ‘oh yes we will – who’s going to stop us?’ And I’d say learn some history and GROW UP. Leave the bully on the playground with the 5 year-olds.)

Two articles from the “Duh!” department

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This article highlights how up to 50% of the US-appointed “Iraqi security forces” have quit (including the 10% that were shooting at US soldiers. I think we can consider them to have quit.) This is a shocker.
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=540&e=14&u=/ap/ap_iraq_terror

Arabs dislike the US more now than ever before? REALLY? The war on terror appears to be going exceptionally well!
http://news.myway.com/top/article/id/239663|top|04-20-2004::09:25|reuters.html

Another US Senator campaigning for the draft

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Here’s another Senator pushing for the draft. I guess I find this interesting because it seems like everyone except the inner circle of the administration is willing to admit publically that the military is stretched too thin. I guess this is an election year, though. I’d be completely willing to bet money that a draft will happen in 2005 if Bush is reelected.

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1521&u=/afp/20040420/pl_afp/us_iraq_military_draft&printer=1

A small slap in the face

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Interesting article on Pakistans response to Washingtons opposition to a closed trial and sentence of 23 years. Their response amounts to “you have your own secret detentions and trials, and we have ours.” Both parties claim their secret trials are for national security.

I don’t agree with the sentence for his “crime,” but I can’t disagree with their logic in terms of “permission” to hold closed trials. It is completely hypocritical for Washington to tell Pakistan it can’t do what it does itself. This, I believe, provides the strongest argument against the new US policy of preemptive attacks. What is stopping China from declaring Taiwan a threat to it’s national security and invading? Or what is stopping any country that has any level of tension with a neighbour from doing this? Nothing. They can all use similar arguments to those used by the US.

http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/asiapcf/04/16/pakistan.protests/

The new “open door” policy for politicians and their advisors

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An interesting tactic – when Karl Rove refuses to meet with your organization, don’t fret! Go straight to his house! The thought of this embarassment to humanity fuming and pacing around his house just makes me smile. It’s also fun, and useful, to make hateful and angry people even angrier, as that’s when they make bigger mistakes.

http://inthesetimes.com/comments.php?id=685_0_2_0_C

This guy was “almost” properly elected?

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Bush is a masterful public speaker. His press conference tonight was yet another example of a lot of talking without saying anything. Watch as he pulls from his deep bag of tricks:

Offend a large portion of the worlds population
…that if you?re Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can?t be self-governing or free…

Answer a different question
QUESTION: Mr. President, why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9/11 commission? …

BUSH: … And, secondly, because the 9/11 commission wants to ask us questions, that?s why we?re meeting. And I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) I was asking why you?re appearing together, rather than separately, which was their request.

BUSH: Because it?s a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9/11 commission is looking forward to asking us. And I?m looking forward to answering them.

Show ineptitude in simple tasks to deflect future, tougher, questions
QUESTION: … You?ve looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have learned from it?

BUSH: I wish you?d have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it.

John, I?m sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could?ve done it better this way or that way. You know, I just – I?m sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with answer, but it hadn?t yet.

This guy wants people to believe he can make the most important decisions in the world when he also feels tremendous pressure trying to deflect questions at a news conference? I’m glad he’s in control of the worlds most powerful military.

Ah, the contemporary art of debating. It’s more like a good game of bait-and-switch. As an answer to pretty much every question you can see the templatized list of points about terrorism, commitment to the war on terror, etc, etc. This is probably why a large portion of the population hates politics. It’s hard to not feel insulted when watching someone like this treat you like an idiot by thinking you don’t realize they’re not answering the questions being asked of them. I felt insulted just reading the transcript, and this guy’s not even my president and I’m not one of the “brown-skinned people” he decided to single out.

As a sidenote, I think there should be some international law against electing a major political figure who feels it’s ok to characterize a large portion of the worlds population by “brown-skinned people.” Geez.

Condi gets a “Get out of jail free” card

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The major media reports seem to have reached the consensus that Condi Rice’s testimony was “cool and measured” and generally took it as neither a big win or a big loss.

Have we in the West lost the ability to rationally think through what is brought forward in a public debate? Did everyone else miss the fact that Rice claimed there were no warnings of attacks within the US in the Presidential Briefing which she remembered the title being “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States”?? Is this not complete insanity? Why did no one call her on this? Why are they letting her slide? I’m sorry, but I would expect the person in charge of national security to make the same logical connections that a 6-year-old is capable of. Either that or she was blatantly lying. I don’t know what is worse.

Honestly I don’t think too much fault can or should be placed on anyone for not preventing the attacks. But the Bush administrations handling of this after the fact is horrifying. In their unwavering certainty they seem to have overlooked the one possible course of action that could save them in this situation: own up to your mistakes. I think there are very few people who would try to hold them accountable for this, because it’s unrealistic. They have pissed off many more people by their arrogant, “we can do no wrong”, position.

Oh well, I guess I shouldn’t complain as it’s just helping get them out of office. Keep it up George!

The Image Problem

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This is an email I wrote on a political thread where I work. The original topic was about the recent beginnings of a “rebellion” in Iraq and trying to figure out why the invasion made people angry. I think the topic is interesting enough so I may as well also post it here.

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Moving to the US has been an interesting experience of differences in imagery, which has a lot to do with people’s seeming confusion over why the US military has not been “greeted as liberators.” Within this country the news is almost entirely shown from the American viewpoint. This may seem logical and/or normal, however within other countries we get other viewpoints. As an example, when the US does an airstrike in Iraq the inevitable headline would be “Airstrike kills 2 suspected militants” whereas throughout most of the rest of the world the headline would be “20 civilians killed by US airstrike.” And that would be the headline in the paper of one of the allies of the US, not an enemy. My point, and I hope I’m not bursting anyones bubble, is that the rest of the world doesn’t view the US as a benevolent super-power who wields its power in the name of freedom and to help the downtrodden (which is how the news usually portrays things). But now people are surprised that an occupied country which has more than the average level of anti-American sentiment (because this is what they were taught) is rebelling? That is absolutely what is ludicrous. (Off on a small tangent it still boggles my mind that Bush and Rumsfeld actually believed this wouldn’t happen. Whoever produced the “we will be greeted as liberators” memo should be fired.)

I don’t want to start a debate on whether this image is correct or not in truth, but the fact that it is the image held by many is true. Over the last century the world has been listening to (or been a part of) US involvement in the political process and dealings of many other countries. Usually the US comes out ahead in these scenarios and most of the time there is also someone who loses. That doesn’t make people happy. Now I’m sure someone will point out “the US isn’t here to make everyone else happy.” However, when there are a lot of unhappy people there will inevitably be some extremely unhappy people, which breeds extremists. So I think sometimes it is within the best interests of a country to not make people of another country unhappy. On top of just actions, declaring to the world “You’re either with us or against us” definitely does not help, in fact I think it multiplies it many times.

So let’s propose a simple theory: more unhappy people leads to more extremism which leads to more terrorism, and less unhappy people leads to less extremism and less terrorism. The first half is currently being proven in Iraq. The second half is more interesting because even though it should be true intuitively Bush is obviously ignoring it as a possible way to combat terrorism. In fact, he seems to be mixing things up and reducing this theory to “more unhappy people leads to less terrorism.” It is in fact true that the invasion and occupation has made more people angry than just those people of Iraq. There have also been many reports in the news of how the intelligence sector believes that the ranks of terrorists groups have increased dramatically over the last year. This is why it still boggles my mind that the current efforts are considered (by some) to be an efficient way to combat terrorism. Does Bush plan to invade the rest of the world and give them all 7pm curfews in an attempt to stamp out terrorism? What scares me, and a lot of people around the world, is that the question is no longer a joke.

Also, if anyone would like to disprove the above theory, I would hope for some examples from history. ie: has there ever been an isolationist country that has suffered from external terrorism?

I guess my overall point is that the US has an image problem. This really shouldn’t be news to anyone, but I think its effects are vastly underestimated. Also, appearing to do the right thing is unfortunately not always the same as doing the right thing.

A US Draft?

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I don’t find this evidence conclusive, but it is strong enough to at least make me think that a draft is possible in the near future.

The most interesting point is that fact that after 20 years with no budget increase, the SSS (Selective Service System – registers people in case of a draft) recently got it’s budget increased by $28 million, nearly doubling it.

Also, the memos linked to below show an interest by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz to reinstate the draft. Plus the fact that the military seems very strapped for now and the immediate future.

One of the reasons I can’t decide what to think is that it would obviously be political suicide for Bush. But, if he gets re-elected perhaps he will do it in 2005 and hope, for his party’s sake, that it has blown over by 2008. If Bush’s “conviction” to invade other countries in the name of democracy is strong enough, I don’t see him having much of a choice. The military just can’t support his crusades forever without more people.

http://media.humboldt.edu/~merge/modules.php?op=modload&name=PagEd&file=index&page_id=280
http://bushdraft.com/
http://www.tbrnews.org/Archives/a708.htm

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