Journalism School Backlash Against Media Giant Sinclair Grows “In making the leap to disparage news media generally … Sinclair has diminished trust in the news media overall.”

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Fourteen journalism schools have now signed a letter denouncing Sinclair Broadcast Group for ordering local TV anchors to read controversial on-air scripts about “fake news.”

New York University’s journalism school is joining the deans and department chairs of 13 other institutions who signed the letter on Friday, a program director at NYU said Sunday.

The other journalism schools include those at the University of Southern California, Syracuse University and the University of Maryland, whose Philip Merrill School of Journalism is known for sending graduates to work at Sinclair, Poynter noted.

The letter addressed to Sinclair Executive Chairman David Smith warns that the required readings violate a basic tenet of independent journalism that news content should not be slanted to advance the business or political interests of the outlet’s owners:

In making the leap to disparage news media generally ― without specifics ― Sinclair has diminished trust in the news media overall. Ironically, Sinclair’s use of news personnel to deliver commentary ― not identified as such ― may further erode what has traditionally been one of the strongest allegiances in the news landscape, the trust that viewers put in their local television stations.


The Trump-friendly Sinclair, the largest owner of local TV stations in the U.S., has been under fire since it demanded that local anchors read a script accusing other media outlets of promoting “false news” and “fake stories.” The language echoed President Donald Trump’s attacks on the mainstream media.

The footage of so many journalists reading identical scripts about the “troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country” was also reminiscent of a hostage video, many critics said.

The conservative media group is known both for its ties to Trump and for wielding tight control over its stations’ content. In 2016, Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said the Trump campaign had struck a deal with Sinclair to give the network more access in exchange for the stations running interviews with Trump without commentary.

In a December 2016 report evaluating Sinclair’s tilt toward Trump, The Washington Post found that Sinclair had often required its stations to run stories that were favorable to him or critical of his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton.

By Lydia O’Connor/HuffPost

Posted by The NON-Conformist


PBS to Launch Conservative Talk Show Focused on ‘Serious, Civil Dialogue

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In the latest move by a mainstream news outlet to add conservative voices to their team, PBS has brought-on Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson and right-wing pundit Amy Holmes to host a new William F. Buckley’s Firing Line-esque talk show.

In Principle will began April 13, 2018 and will air every Friday night for eight weeks. Depending on the show’s reception, it may continue after the two month run.

Gerson acted as George W. Bush’s speech writer from 2001-2005 and was responsible for crafting much of the misleading information regarding the Iraq War for the consumption of the American public.

While Gerson has frequently spoken-out against Donald Trump’s administration, he is known for his immoderate neoconservative views and has staunchly advocated for nation building in attempts to spread democracy to third-world countries.

More from Mediate

Posted by Libergirl

ESPN president announces another round of layoffs

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ESPN president John Skipper announced in a memo to employees Wednesday that the company is laying off approximately 150 employees.

Skipper wrote in the memo that the majority of the eliminated positions are in studio production, digital content and technology rather than front-facing talent.

“We will continue to invest in ways which will best position us to serve the modern sports fan and support the success of our business,” Skipper wrote.

Sporting News first reported last month that ESPN would be making another round of layoffs. Those affected will receive severance pay, a 2017 bonus and the continuation of health benefits, according to the memo.

More from USA Today

Posted by Libergirl

Russia’s Favored Outlet Is an Online News Giant. YouTube Helped.

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When the state-backed Russian news channel RT became the first news organization to surpass one billion views on YouTube in 2013, it marked the achievement with a retrospective of its most popular videos and a special guest — one of the Google-owned site’s senior executives.

Robert Kyncl, a YouTube vice president who has since become its chief business officer, joined an RT anchor in a studio, where he praised RT for bonding with viewers by providing “authentic” content instead of “agendas or propaganda.”

But now, as investigators in Washington examine the scope and reach of Russian interference in United States politics, the once-cozy relationship between RT and YouTube is drawing closer scrutiny.

YouTube — the world’s most-visited video site, owned by one of the most powerful and influential corporations in America — played a crucial role in helping build and expand RT, an organization that the American intelligence community has described as the Kremlin’s “principal international propaganda outlet” and a key player in Russia’s information warfare operations around the world.

More from The New York Times

Posted by the NON-Conformist

What Is Objective Journalism?

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‘Just The Facts, Ma’am’

So what is objective, impartial journalism?

The standard view was offered in 2001 by the BBC’s then political editor, Andrew Marr:

When I joined the BBC, my Organs of Opinion were formally removed.1

And by Nick Robinson describing his role as ITN political editor during the Iraq war:

It was my job to report what those in power were doing or thinking… That is all someone in my sort of job can do.’2

‘Just the facts, Ma’am’, as Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi wryly describes this take on journalism.

It is why, if you ask a BBC or ITN journalist to choose between describing the Iraq war as ‘a mistake’ or ‘a crime’, they will refuse to answer on the grounds that they are required to be ‘objective’ and ‘impartial’.

But actually there are at least five good reasons for rejecting this argument as fundamentally bogus and toxic.

First, it turns out that most journalists are only nervous of expressing personal opinions when criticising the powerful. Andrew Marr can’t call the Iraq war a ‘crime’, but he can say that the fall of Baghdad in April 2003 meant that Tony Blair ‘stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result’.3 Nick Robinson can report that ‘hundreds of [British] servicemen are risking their lives to bring peace and security to the streets of Iraq’.4

The ‘Wham, bam, thank you, Ma’am’ version of ‘impartiality’, perhaps.

Journalists are allowed to lose their ‘objectivity’ this way, but not that way – not the way that offends the powerful. Australian media analyst Sharon Beder offers a further example of the same double standards:

Balance means ensuring that statements by those challenging the establishment are balanced with statements by those whom they are criticising, though not necessarily the other way round.5

The second problem with the no-opinion argument is that it is not possible to hide opinions by merely ‘sticking to the facts’. The facts we highlight and ignore, the tone and language we use to stress or downplay those facts, inevitably reflect personal opinion.

The third problem is indicated by the title of historian Howard Zinn’s autobiography: You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train. Even if we believe it is possible to suppress our personal opinion in reporting facts, we will still be taking sides. Zinn explained:

As I told my students at the start of my courses, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” The world is already moving in certain directions – many of them are horrifying. Children are going hungry, people are dying in wars. To be neutral in such a situation is to collaborate with what is going on.6

Matt Taibbi gives a striking example:

Try as hard as you want, a point of view will come forward in your story. Open any newspaper from the Thirties or Forties, check the sports page; the guy who wrote up the box score, did he have a political point of view? He probably didn’t think so. But viewed with 70 or 80 years of hindsight, covering a baseball game where blacks weren’t allowed to play without mentioning the fact, that’s apology and advocacy. Any journalist with half a brain knows that the biases of our time are always buried in our coverage…

A fourth, closely-related problem is that not taking sides – for example, against torture, or against big countries exploiting small countries, or against selling arms to tyrants, or against stopping rather than exacerbating climate change – is monstrous. A doctor treating a patient is biased in seeking to identify and solve a health problem. No one would argue that the doctor should stand neutrally between sickness and health. Is it not self-evident that we should all be biased against suffering?

Finally, why does the journalistic responsibility to suppress personal opinion trump the responsibility to resist crimes of state for which we are accountable as democratic citizens? If the British government was massacring British citizens, would journalists refuse to speak out? Why does the professional media contract outweigh the social contract? Journalists might respond that ‘opinion-free’ journalism is vital for a healthy democracy. But without dissent challenging open criminality, democracy quickly decays into tyranny. This is the case, for example, if we remain ‘impartial’ as our governments bomb, invade and kill 100,000s of people in foreign countries. A journalist who refuses even to describe the Iraq war as a crime is riding a cultural train that normalises the unthinkable. In the real world, journalistic ‘impartiality’ on Iraq helped facilitate Britain and the United States’ subsequent crimes in Libya, Syria and Yemen.

This is the ugly absurdity of the innocent-looking idea that journalists’ ‘organs of opinion’ can and should be removed.

So if we reject this flawed and immoral version of objectivity behind which so many corporate journalists hide, what then is objective journalism? Are we arguing for open bias, for a prejudice free-for-all disconnected from any attempt at fairness? Not at all.

Equalising Self and Other

Objective, impartial journalism is rooted in the understanding that ‘my’ happiness and suffering do not matter more than ‘your’ happiness and suffering; and that it is irrational, cruel and unfair to pretend otherwise. Objective journalism rejects reporting and analysis that prioritises ‘my’ interests – ‘my’ bank account, financial security, company, nation, class – over ‘your’ interests.

Objective journalism does not take ‘our’ side at ‘their’ expense. It does not count ‘our’ dead and ignore ‘their’ dead. It does not refuse to stand in judgment on ‘our’ leaders while fiercely condemning ‘their’ leaders. It does not hold ‘them’ to higher moral standards than ‘us’. It does not accept that ‘our’ nation is ‘exceptional’, that ‘we’ have a ‘manifest destiny’ to dominate ‘them’, that ‘we’ are in some way ‘chosen’.

A central claim of Buddhist and other mystical traditions is that we really can ‘equalise self and other’ in this way. Many intellectuals, including leftists, dismiss all such analysis as irrelevant piffle. But at a time when the Vikings were ravaging Europe, the ninth century Buddhist sage Shantideva asked:

Since I and other beings both,
In wanting happiness, are equal and alike,
What difference is there to distinguish us,
That I should strive to have my bliss alone?7

If this is an astonishingly reasonable thought, it is surpassed by an even more remarkable declaration:

The intention, ocean of great good
That seeks to place all beings in the state of bliss,
And every action for the benefit of all:
Such is my delight and all my joy.8

After four billion years of evolution ostensibly ‘red in tooth and claw’, Shantideva was here asserting that caring for others is a source of delight and bliss that far exceeds mere pleasure from personal gain.

The claim, of course, is greeted with scepticism by a society that promotes unrestrained greed for maximised profit. But if we set aside our groupthink and take another look, it is actually a matter of common experience. The Indian spiritual teacher, Osho, commented:

Have you never had a feeling of contentment after having smiled at a stranger in the street? Didn’t a breeze of peace follow it? There is no limit to the wave of tranquil joy you will feel when you lift a fallen man, when you support a fallen person, when you present a sick man with flowers – but not when you do it [out of duty] because he is your father or because she is your mother. No, the person may not be anyone in particular to you, but simply to give a gift is itself a great reward, a great pleasure.

The existence of this reward has been confirmed by some very interesting and credible science (see here).

Objective journalism is thus rooted in two claims:

1) that human beings are able to view the happiness and suffering of others as being of equal importance to their own.

2) that, perhaps counter-intuitively for a society like ours, individuals and societies dramatically enhance their well-being when they ‘equalise self and other’ in this way.

In other words, this is not a sentimental pipe dream – human beings can be fair and just, and they do experience benefits from being so.

The value of objective journalism, and indeed objective living, in this sense is clear enough. We know from research (see here) and our own experience that people who think only of themselves are as miserable as they are biased.

In his collection of spontaneous talks, ‘Ta Hui – The Great Zen Master’, Osho gave a powerful example of objectivity, in the sense intended here, from his own childhood:

It happened that in my village, between my house and a temple, there was a piece of land. For some technical reason, my father was able to win the case if he took it to court – only on technical reasons. The land was not ours, the land belonged to the temple. But the technical reason was this: the map of the temple did not show that the land was in their territory. It was some fault of the municipal committee’s clerical staff; they had put the land onto my father’s property.

Naturally in court there was no question; the temple had no right to say that it was their land. Everybody knew it was their land, my father knew it was their land. But the land was precious, it was just on the main street, and every technical and legal support was on my father’s side. He brought the case to the court.

I told him, “Listen” – I must have been not more than eleven years old – “I will go to the court to support the temple. I don’t have anything to do with the temple, I have never even gone inside the temple, whatever it is, but you know perfectly well that the land is not yours.”

He said, “What kind of son are you? You will witness against your own father?”

I said, “It is not a question of father and son; in the court it is a question of what is true. And not only will your son be there; your father I have also convinced.”

He said, “What!”

I had a very deep friendship with my grandfather, so we had consulted. I had told him, “You have to support me because I am only eleven years old. The court may not accept my witnessing because I am not an adult, so you have to support me. You know perfectly well that the land is not ours.”

He said, “I am with you.”

So I told my father, “Just listen, from both sides, from your father and from your son… you simply withdraw the case; otherwise you will be in such a trouble, you will lose the case. It is only technically that you are able to claim. But we are not going to support a technical mistake on the part of the municipal clerk.”

He said, “You don’t understand a simple thing, that a family means… you have to support your family.”

I said, “No, I will support the family only if the family is right. I will support whoever is right.”

He talked to my grandfather who said, “I have already promised your son that I will be going with him.”

My father said, “That means I will have to withdraw the case and lose that valuable piece of land!”

He said, “What can be done about it? Your son is going to create trouble for you, and seeing the situation, that he will not in any way be persuaded, I have agreed with him – just to make his position stronger so that you can withdraw; it is better to withdraw than to get defeated.”

My father said, “But this is a strange family! I am working for you all. I am working for you, I am working for my son – I am not working for myself. If we can have a beautiful shop on that land you will have a better, more comfortable old age; he will have a better education in a better university. And you are against me.”

My grandfather said, “I am not against anybody, but he has taken my promise, and I cannot go against my word – at least as far as he is concerned – because he is dangerous, he may put me in some trouble. So I cannot deceive him; I will say whatever he is saying. And he is saying the truth – and you know it.”

So my father had to withdraw the case – reluctantly… but he had to withdraw the case. I asked my grandfather to bring some sweets so we can distribute them in the neighborhood. My father has come to his senses, it has to be celebrated. He said, “That seems to be the right thing to do.”

When my father saw that I was distributing sweets, he asked, “What are you doing? – for what? What has happened?”

I said, “You have come back to your senses. Truth is victorious.” And I gave him a sweet also.

He laughed. He said, “I can understand your standpoint, and my own father is with you, so I thought it is better that I should also be with you. It is better to withdraw without any problem. But I have learned a lesson.” He said to me, “I cannot depend on my family. If there is any trouble they are not going to support me just because they belong to me as father, as son, as brother. They are going to support whatever is true.”

And since that time no other situation ever arose, because he never did anything in which we had to disagree. He remained truthful and sincere.

Many times in his life he told me, “It was so good of you; otherwise I was going to take that land, and I would have committed a crime knowingly. You prevented me, and not only from that crime, you prevented me from then onwards. Whenever there was a similar situation, I always decided in favor of truth, whatever the loss. But now I can see: truth is the only treasure. You can lose your whole life, but don’t lose your truth.”9

Objective journalism insists that ‘I will support the family only if the family is right. I will support whoever is right.’ If the facts show that the Iraq war was an unprovoked war of aggression, then objective journalism will describe it as such.

Unfortunately, of course, most corporate journalism says:

I will support my family, my party, my newspaper, my corporation, my advertisers, my arms industry, my military, my country, my class, whether or not they are right. I will support whatever benefits me. I will highlight facts and voices in a tone that benefits the powerful interests that reward me. I will ignore facts and voices that might harm my career.

Osho’s father perceived his son’s challenge as an attack: ‘you are against me’. But, in fact, Osho was not against his father, nor was he for the temple – he was for the truth.

In 2012, Media Lens compared media reaction to the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by a US soldier, with a massacre of 108 people in Houla, Syria, for which Western media found Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad personally responsible. We asked what evidence would be required before journalists found Obama personally responsible for such a massacre. Obviously, the involvement of US forces would need to be confirmed beyond doubt. These forces would need to have been acting under orders. Presumably, Obama would need to have signed these orders, or been aware of them and agreed to them on some level. But Syrian forces were instantly declared responsible, with Assad held personally responsible, even before the killers had been identified.

We were inviting readers to consider if ostensibly free, independent journalists treat foreign governments, especially Official Enemies of state, the same way they treat their own government and its leading allies. We were not against Obama any more than we were for Assad – we were for the truth.

Ironically, our attempts to challenge biased reporting in this way are regularly denounced as examples of ugly bias – we are described as ‘pro-Assad’, ‘pro-Gaddafi’, ‘pro-Putin’ ‘genocide deniers’, ‘apologists for tyranny’, and so on, often by people waging a kind of propaganda war against anyone challenging power.

More recently, we commented on the muted coverage of an Islamic State massacre of 38 people in an Afghan hospital:

If Islamic State’s attack had been on a French hospital, shooting doctors and patients, it would have been one of 2017’s defining traumas.

Again, this comment was no more ‘pro-Afghan’ than it was ‘anti-French’ – it pointed to a deep and dangerous bias in the way corporate media respond to suffering in the world.

Why do we care so much about this bias? Because, as Osho’s anecdote suggests, all is not as it seems. It turns out that there are hidden costs to mendacity, just as there are hidden benefits to truth.

After decades spent honing its talent for suppressing profit-hostile fact and opinion, the corporate media system has become incapable of reporting truth even in the face of imminent disaster. The cost, in this age of catastrophic climate change, is becoming very clear.

by Media Lens/DissidentVoice

Posted by The NoN-Conformist

Donald Trump will skip Thursday Fox News Debate

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Posted by Libergirl

The government’s authoritarian war on journalism: How a flaccid press enabled this Orwellian disgrace

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Many readers will know, or know of, the Committee to Protect Journalists. It has been around since the early 1980s and does a lot of honorable work. This is what we all know about the C.P.J. But it is not all we need to know. The C.P.J. also exhibits the usual American biases when the big ideological chips are down on the table. This must be said plainly.

Few people in or outside the craft seem to think much about this. But it is not a small problem. It is a symptom of a very big problem that belongs to everybody. What happens when reporters, editors and their news organizations defer at every turn to the preferences of power? Short answer: Rot accumulates. Flaccid work becomes the norm. A slow, daily accretion of bad judgments, or refusals to judge independently, produces a weak institution that no longer understands its responsibilities, to say nothing of fulfilling them.

The C.P.J. reports frequently on difficult media conditions in Venezuela, for instance, but takes no cognizance of a long-running C.I.A. subversion campaign that greatly complicates the scene. This is indefensible. There is no judging any revolution without reference to the counterrevolution. No exceptions, in journalism or anywhere else.

A C.P.J. report on Ukraine a year ago was, sorry to say, patently over the top. It was based on one researcher’s one trip to Kiev—nowhere else—and had nothing whatever to say about press problems, which are severe, under the U.S.-backed Poroshenko government. It focused wholly on the rebelling eastern regions and Crimea even as it quoted not a single source representing either. Not a peep, of course, about the open secret of the Ukraine crisis—McCarthyesque American coverage that has propagandized nearly an entire nation into ignorance and prejudice.

Okay, the C.P.J. comes out net-positive, if marginally, for all the work it does on behalf of seriously endangered and/or imprisoned journalists and the worst excesses of censorship. But its shortcomings and numerous blind spots lead me to this question: Where is our Committee to Protect Journalism? We need one. Fail to protect the craft and you are striking heroic poses while swatting flies for eternity.

You will never guess where the work I propose must begin. We have to look at three very critical fronts in the assault on journalism under way not in some far-away locale where bullets fly every day but here in our great country (where bullets fly every day).

* * *

Anybody see that PBS documentary aired last week, “Navy SEALS—Their Untold Story”? If not, here is the link, but I urge parental guidance. It is not quite obscene, but it is close.

PBS has put together a history, and I am all for history always. The core problem with “Navy SEALS” is the use to which this history is put. This is what makes the film so offensive.

Anyone my age or a little younger grew up on World War II adventure books such as “Up Periscope,” one I remember to this day. The precursor of the SEALS figured in some of these stories. It was a few frogmen in Speedos and diving masks then, and it did very heroic advance work in Europe, notably on D-Day, and then in the island-hop across the Pacific in the months prior to the atomic bombs and the Japanese surrender.

Fine. Superb footage. Truly remarkable men.

But the PBS film runs into trouble as soon as SEALS were first called SEALS, which was in 1961, when they activated in Vietnam. Instantly these guys were headed for Conrad country—the “Heart of Darkness” barbarities common to “civilizing” powers. “We had rules of engagement,” one veteran recalls breezily, “but in fact it was a playground.” Vietnam a playground. Right.

Can you believe PBS would let someone make that remark on camera at all—and then leave it without comment?

Another SEALS vet from the Vietnam period comes on camera to tell us, “There are parts I’m uncomfortable with, and I don’t want to go there.” One is sure of it, given what we know now about the conduct of American special forces. Nonetheless, the war in Southeast Asia stands on the record of our SEALS as another heroic chapter midway in the glorious story.

We fast forward to such episodes as the 1983 invasion of Grenada, where SEALS helped knock over a social democratic prime minister because President Reagan needed an “I’m tough” moment. It was the single cheapest shot of the Cold War decades in my book, though there are many contenders. But the SEALS get PBS’s credit for “stabilizing the country and triumphing over Communism.”

Takes the breath away, doesn’t it? But by now you know the best is yet to come.

“The threats were shifting in the 1980s—to terrorism,” the voiceover advises us. And so we come to the “war on terror,” ending up—you will not guess this, either—with the “taking out” of Osama bin Laden.

Not even a nod to Sy Hersh’s exposure earlier this year of the bin Laden assassination—since corroborated and then thrown into a deep, dark closet—as a setup to make the Pentagon, the Obama White House and the now-famous SEAL Team 6 look good to Americans if few others. Straight-out dishonesty. In my read, this film is in some measure specifically a reply to the Hersh report.

The film is rich with rubbish. We get earfuls about the “mystic bonds” among the brotherhood of SEALS and “hearts that will not quit.” And it is one continuous story, the film tells us (just in case we missed the point), “from Hitler’s beaches to the war on terror.”

“Obscene” is a strong word even as qualified here, so I had better explain.

Near-obscenity No. 1: This is a very unprincipled use of history to put the point politely. Less politely, PBS is pimping the past heroism of authentically courageous Americans to legitimize the excesses of late-exceptionalist American policy and strategy in all their lawlessness—which is what the SEALS have come to stand for.

Near-obscenity No. 2: What under the sun is PBS doing airing such a frontally propagandistic film? We now have a public broadcaster participating directly in the militarization of the American consciousness.

I long ago signed off on the supposed superiority of the programming at N.P.R. and P.B.S. Frightened since Newt Gingrich’s famous “we’ll zero them out” threat, both have reduced themselves to happy talk for the Williams-Sonoma set. Nonetheless, P.B.S.’s government funding raises a troubling question: Just how far are American media from a relationship with power that is institutionalized at state level?

Keep the question with you. It helps explain why a couple of other problems now arise and why American media have to be held in large measure responsible for both.

* * *

Back in 2010 the State Department issued a definition of anti-Semitism that any right-thinking person must count a shameful attempt to shield Israel from its ever-more-justified critics. Straight off the top, where does the State Department get off intervening in any such matter, whatever may be its definition?

While we will never get an answer to this, its highly pernicious interpretation of this highly charged term remains on the books and so is available to those who, as Israel’s policies toward Palestine grow more objectionable, can be counted on to stifle any discussion of these by any means possible.

When I first read the State Department “fact sheet” I could hardly believe what was on my computer screen. It is here. The salient passages term (1) “demonizing Israel,” (2) “applying double standards” and (3) “delegitimizing Israel” as anti-Semitic.

For the sake of argument, demonizing a nation (as Washington now demonizes, say, Russia) is anyone’s right. So are double standards—the very lifeblood of Western civilization for the past half a millennium. As to delegitimation, I am not even sure what it means, but if it is anything like what it sounds, preserving the right to it is essential to making one’s way in the world as we have made it, I would say.

No, you have not read much about this question, and what you have read almost certainly papers over the utter irrationality of the connection State draws. The exceptions—pleased to report—are David Palumbo-Liu’s carefully complete analyses on this site. Two recent pieces are here and here. I have not seen coverage remotely as thorough as Palumbo-Liu’s anywhere.

“It’s necessary to get back to the basic issue,” he writes. “Is being a critic of Israeli state policies actually the same as being an anti-Semite? If every time one voices a criticism of Israel one is acting as an anti-Semite, and if making an anti-Semitic statement is prohibited by the State Department, then ardent supporters of Israeli state policies have won a huge victory — they have essentially made Israel immune from criticism, and made anyone even thinking about raising a serious concern about Israel think twice about just how (or even if) to voice that point of view.”

State’s definition has echoed in the national conversation regularly since it was issued. Three years ago both houses of the California legislature passed resolutions referencing the State Department language; in addition, these bills specifically condemned support for Palestine and B.D.S., the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. Until last month it appeared that the University of California would adopt State’s language as its own.

The wind out west has since changed direction. The California Senate recently amended its definition to exclude the clauses equating anti-Israeli views with anti-Semitism. A few weeks ago Janet Napolitano, U.C.’s president, surprised everyone when, at the last moment, she announced that the regents had dropped the entire thought.

My take: Amid increasing protests, it simply got too hot to push this junk into law and land it atop nearly a quarter-million students and faculty. But it would be foolish to assume this is other than a running fight, far from over.

“Shameful” is almost as strong as “obscene,” so what do I mean?

Shame No. 1: To accuse critics of Israel of hating Jews is a tiresome, nonsensical ruse everyone has heard one time or another. To institutionalize this is, among much else, another cynical use of history and memory—and another offensive memorial to the 6 million, in my view.

Shame No. 2: We have here a brazen attempt to control thought and speech for purely political purposes, straight out of Orwell and Huxley. What comes after this, one has to ask. In the land of the freedom-worshipping individual, conformity in our views grows subject to law.

Shame No. 3: Not only are our media cowed into more or less silent acquiescence. I take it further: They did much to engender a climate wherein America’s foreign ministry would dare try something like this on. The line of responsibility is straight and boldly drawn.

A friend asked recently, “Does this mean the truth is anti-Semitic”? One rejects State’s definition as a matter of course, but accept it and the answer is yes. One would have to stand proudly accused if required. One’s deep objections to Israel as it has become cannot change until it stops dishonoring two great peoples who long lived side by side in peace.

* * *

After a speech I gave in Kuala Lumpur some years ago, an American embassy official in the audience put his hand up and asked a hypothetical question: “You are a correspondent and you have information of immense news value. It will jeopardize American intelligence agents if you filed the story. What do you do?”

“What if” questions are almost always pointless or traps—or both, as this one was.

I said, “Your job.” There may be extenuating circumstances, as in times of war, but the principle otherwise holds: An American journalist is a good American by being a good journalist.

Now we have a new Defense Department report, the Pentagon’s first-ever “Law of War” manual. I do not know when the Pentagon got authorization, or from whom, to write law of this kind, but here we are: This 1,180-page how-to, published in June, is a guide explaining all aspects of war and its proper conduct. It is very lawyerly. Included among its many topics is a guide to journalists as to how to do their jobs in conflict zones.

In gist, if they do them well they can be classified as enemies. Death, capture, imprisonment: It is all on the table.

Here is the document, the outcome of a process that began in 2006, by which date things had gone to hell in Iraq and Bush II’s “war on terror” was proving a wobbly narrative.

“The law of war is part of who we are,” the document begins. “The law of war is part of our heritage, and obeying it is the right thing to do.” None of the above three statements is true—not as the “law” applies to journalists in the Pentagon’s rendering of its legal authority.

The lightning-rod phrase that has drawn most attention is the suggestion that journalists may be treated as “unprivileged belligerents.” This is a stone’s throw from the “unlawful combatants” category Bush II’s lawyers concocted after the September 11th events, and you can take this as a clue to the provenance of this document.

“The Obama administration’s Defense Department appears to have taken the ill-defined practices begun under the Bush administration during the war on terror and codified them to formally govern the way U.S. military forces treat journalists covering conflicts.”

That is Frank Smyth, a senior adviser at the aforementioned C.P.J. and among the first to fasten onto this document’s dangerous implications. Bravo Smyth and the committee in this case.

“The manual’s justification for categorizing journalists this way,” Smyth continues, “is not based on any specific case, law or treaty. Instead, the relevant passages have footnotes referring to either other parts of the document or matters not germane to this legal assertion. And the language used to attempt to justify this categorization is weak at best…. This broad and poorly defined category gives U.S. military commanders across all services the purported right to at least detain journalists without charge, and without any apparent need to show evidence or bring a suspect to trial.”

Here is Smyth’s thorough analysis. Others, including Reporters Without Borders and the New York Times, have also raised their voices.

Fine, although the protests have not been as loud or as many as one would like, and a forceful rejection of the Pentagon’s baldly aggressive moves against American media is wholly in order. The Times just reported that lawyers at Defense will consider amendments to the “Law of War” tome based on these objections. Also fine. But the history at work here, once again, directly implicates the Times and most other protesters.

Go back to the Vietnam defeat and the blame cast on the press for reporting it accurately (when it finally did). The Pentagon was determined never to make the same mistake, recall? And by the first Iraq war, the new principle was established: To cover it correspondents had to “embed” with an American unit.

Maybe you recall protest then, too, but if you do you must not forget how quickly editors and publishers capitulated. It was a strategic mistake and a drastic ethical breach. The right moves for the Society of American Newspaper Publishers would have been to say, “We refuse,” file a lawsuit and urge members to publish pictures of body bags arriving at Dover Air Base on page 1 every day of the conflict.

The media made another big mistake after Bush II declared his “war on terror.” Nomenclature was not a small matter once the American press accepted this phrase and began using it without quotation marks. Had the media asserted itself as the independent pole of power they are supposed to be they would have insisted, “No, this is not a war, and we will accept nothing accruing to the term.”

How much would have been different? It is painful to ask but we all must, readers and viewers as well as practitioners. Consider this new Pentagon attempt to intimidate, and State’s “anti-Semitism” nonsense, and the PBS documentary on the SEALS. They are all symptoms of a pallid, uncourageously run institution. Too many empty chairs on the Committee to Protect Journalism.

By Patrick Smith/Salon

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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