Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 02, 2017

NYT, WaPo Send Top Reporters To Stenograph Five O'Clock Follies

When the U.S. military takes a bunch of journalists on a press junket to a foreign country it has a certain intention and prepares every detail in advance. There will be witnesses and local people who are briefed for their two minute talk with the journalists. They will convey exactly what the military wants them to convey. After enjoying local flair, for ten minutes max, some U.S. diplomat or general will treat the journos to good whiskey and a genuine local steak. The official will speak a few prepared lines on the record that will reinforce the story the locals were tasked to tell.

The outcome is predictable. The stories the journalists will write will be the same.

Michael Gordon in yesterday's New York Times and David Ignatius in yesterday's Washington Post both report of their latest junket, a visit of Tabqa in Syria.

Gordon's piece: In a Desperate Syrian City, a Test of Trump’s Policies

The young man unburdened himself about the dark years of living under the Islamic State as a crowd of curious onlookers gathered in front of a weathered storefront in the town marketplace. The militants, said the man, a 22-year-old named Abdul Qadir Khalil, killed many residents, doled out precious jobs and severely limited travel to and from the city. ...

He ticked off a list of the things Tabqa needs: electricity, water, fuel and a sizable bakery. Then, laughing about his new freedom to openly denounce the militants, he said, “If they ever come back, they will slaughter all of us.”

The Ignatius' piece: As the Islamic State falls in Syria, one city offers a preview of the country’s future

A boisterous group of young Syrian men is gathered outside a tire and vehicle-parts shop across from the warehouse. American military advisers aren’t sure at first that it’s safe to talk with them, but the men press eagerly toward two visiting reporters. Abdul-Qadr Khalil, 22, dressed in a bright blue-nylon jacket, speaks for the group. He complains that there’s not enough food, water, gas or bread, and there are no jobs. But he dismisses the idea that the Islamic State will ever take hold here again.

“No, never!” says Khalil, and the young men around him nod in unison. “It will be impossible to live if they come back. They will kill all of us.”


.. small children greet visitors with a “V” sign for victory.


Young children flash V-for-victory signs.


“A fundamental problem in our society is that ISIS’ ideology has been implanted in little kids’ brains, which means it will carry on in the future,” said Ahmad al-Ahmad, the co-president of the council.


Ahmad al-Ahmad, the co-president of the newly formed Tabqa Civil Council, ... Young boys who were indoctrinated at Islamic State training camps are trying to find their balance in a new world where beheadings and the chanting of Islamist slogans are over.


Nearly 50 tons of flour, paid for by the Pentagon, were trucked in from Iraq to an American-funded warehouse on Wednesday.


At a warehouse near the town center, the first shipment of American food arrived on Wednesday; sacks of flour and rice are stacked on pallets, ready for distribution, ...


We are not going to get beauty; it’s about pragmatism,” said Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones of the British Army, the deputy commander of the coalition force.


This is not a work of beauty. This is pragmatism,” says Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones, the British deputy commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Syria ..

I agree with the British general. The reporting in the Washington Post and New York Times is not a work of beauty but pragmatism. These highly paid journalists do not want to get their new desert dress dirty. They pragmatically repeat what the well briefed (and bribed) locals say, picture the children that make V-signs (and receive the promised candy) and they stenograph whatever the military or some diplomats say. No real reporting, no thinking and no dirty boots are required for their job.

The military wanted to convey that nearly everything is now fine in Tabqa. The people love the U.S. occupation and all that is needed now are a few billion $$$ for some minor nation building. The journalists eat up the prepared bites and transmit exactly what the military wanted them to say.

The mainstream media want their readers to believe that their narratives from war zones are genuine reporting. The above examples show that they are not. Their journalists are simple recording highly choreographed shows the Pentagon and State Department press advisors made up and the local press officers prepared in advance. A modern version of the Vietnam war's five o'clock follies.

Richard Pyle, Associated Press Saigon bureau chief during the war, described the [military press] briefings as, "the longest-playing tragicomedy in Southeast Asia's theater of the absurd."

Back then most media did not fall for the nonsense. Now they willingly join in.

Posted by b on July 2, 2017 at 19:09 UTC | Permalink

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@101 mina

gabriel talks up the uae, but the chinese notice that ...

Qatar holds a 14.6 percent stake in Germany's auto giant Volkswagen, and an eight percent stake in Germany's biggest lender Deutsche Bank.

... so his 'accolades' for the ksa camp are there to draw attention from their having blinked, and the collapse of their ultimatum to qatar?

"Financing of terror must stop! The UAE is already following a comprehensive approach!"

'comprehensive' in that it includes 'the other guys'. features them, actually. he is 'encouraging' the ksa and cronies / qatar and kuwait to do the 'right thing'. the 'wrong thing' is going to war with each other ... just as israel / the usofa have in mind.

Posted by: jfl | Jul 4 2017 23:10 utc | 101

@102 james 'i don't agree that greed is humanities default position'

neither do i ... but greed is not unlike a crystal of ice nine ... it induces an arrangement of human society that collapses it into a rigid, crystalline structure and releases all its free energy in warfare. not 'the' arrangement, but one of an unknown number of variant structures. the problem is - once everything's frozen - to produce the energy to melt it and to try another.

Posted by: jfl | Jul 4 2017 23:25 utc | 102

Falling for it over and over........humans are prone to patterns and for u to be in disbelief as I once was is natural but also is part of the divide by ideals and to put up walls against each other.

As outrageous as some people can be, the majority are simply taught not to care or to have these conversations simply as water cooler talk, like it is a sport.the ones that continually pump out these education sessions in less than 500 words are not stupid they have been compromised.......if anything I always wished for some publication to start digging for dirt on journalist and their editors as to out these professionals to grow even a pubic speck of respectability. Wiki has failed as did many this war is not going well.

What b is doing is trying to get the system to can be from the inside. Admirable. This world is unfair. But there are solutions... if u are not willing to die for ur beliefs on how wrong they are. Well neither are journalist.

Posted by: Jason | Jul 4 2017 23:58 utc | 103

The result is language that is losing its meaning. When people cannot even agree that words have specific meanings dialog becomes impossible and people end up shouting past one another. Truth in such a milieu will always remain elusive because the subtext underneath this warping of language and meaning is "everything is subjective".

Temporarily Sane @82

Language exists to satisfy "communication needs", and "shouting at each other" is one of such needs. Of course, "shouting" is not used to convince the infidel, the other, but to rally the faithful and to attract the undecided and, with luck, intimidate the opponents. It is a bit mysterious how people are attracted and repelled in this process (where verbal communications are dominated by "shouting"). For example, American right wingers love to accuse people of being fascists, e.g. "feminazi" In some cases, one can be puzzled: why would this person view "fascist" as a negative word? Even more puzzling are their explanation what "a true liberal should do" -- they proclaim a hatred of liberals. Here words are chosen to annoy the opponents more effectively, and the other faithful know and approve such verbal game.

Concerning the word "terror", when I was a wee lad, terrorism was a historical term used for activities that could be viewed positively or negatively -- dependent on political views. In particular, the first leader of "independent Poland" after WWI had a history of leading an organization that was clearly terrorist, more frequently in the form of beating up people, but more bloodily, using shooting and tossing bombs. Now in the age of Wikipedia and Wiki-wars, Polish language version of "Bloody Wednesday" uses word "action", English language, "terror-like action", and Russian Wiki, "terrorist action". You can figure out the nationalities at "giving" and "receiving" end of the bloody activities.

In contemporary USA, "terrorism" is conceptualized as similar to barbarian treat in late Roman Empire (because we are also living in the final years?). In particular, consulates serve a similar role as legions on Roman boundaries: once terrorists get visas (or once barbarians cross Rhine or Danube), there is no way to stop them until they sack the capital (unless they get confused and attack some minor city by mistake, such cases were documented). But telling a barbarian from a Roman citizen or ally was not all that simple. Even more so, telling who is a terrorist. In doubt, they should be kept on the other side of the river. Apparently, the newest threat has the form of robots constructed by ISIS (they already use drones, so it is not that much of a stretch. And thus teams of high school students from Afghanistan and Gambia (!? Gambia?) were denied entry to participate in an international robotic competition for high schoolers in Washington, DC.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jul 5 2017 4:35 utc | 104

2197 pb 'Language exists to satisfy "communication needs" ...'

see How could language have evolved?

The language faculty is often equated with “communication”—a trait that is shared by all animal species and possibly also by plants. In our view, for the purposes of scientific understanding, language should be understood as a particular computational cognitive system, implemented neurally, that cannot be equated with an excessively expansive notion of “language as communication” [1].

[1] Berwick RC, Friederici AD, Chomsky N, Bolhuis JJ (2013) Evolution, brain, and the nature of language. Trends Cogn Sci 17: 89–98.

i agree with your point, of course, just that it is not so much language you are describing as communication ... praxis. i think chomsky's argument is that language is much more than communication ... do you ever talk to yourself, and answer? i do. i'll bet you do too. and that you are really 'good at it'.

Posted by: jfl | Jul 5 2017 5:18 utc | 105

FWIW, while reading this discussion in my Tehran hotel room, an email came in from one of my friends:

Discussing Iran, China and Russia with Anne's nutty old conservative Wall Street Journal oped reading parents: "Why don't they just stop meddling in other countries' affairs and help their own people?" Without a hint of irony.

Posted by: HD | Jul 5 2017 13:25 utc | 106

Sorry for repost but my formatting disappeared. His letter read:

Discussing Iran, China and Russia with Anne's nutty old conservative Wall Street Journal oped reading parents: "Why don't they just stop meddling in other countries' affairs and help their own people?" Without a hint of irony.

Posted by: HD | Jul 5 2017 13:27 utc | 107

Stirling work from B, as always

Supplemented by a recently released book on just how pervasive media
meddling - AKA propaganda - currently is

Posted by: DavidKNZ | Jul 5 2017 22:05 utc | 108

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