Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Guild compounds its guilt

Buoyed no doubt by my dismal showing in the Newspaper Guild election, union president Linda Foley has at last seen fit to strike back at her critics. Well, actually, she’s still in hiding. Instead, she has sent forth a fellow named Andy Zipser to do battle in her stead. Zipser is editor of the Guild Reporter, our union’s newsletter. The latest electronic edition leads off with an article written by Zipser and headlined “Right-wing attack-dogs savage TNG president for comments on Iraq deaths.” By all means read it; as the headline suggests, it’s full of frenzied rhetoric, yet utterly devoid of substance. No; it's worse. Far from retracting Foley's original slur, this article repeats it.

Let’s review. I’m a member in good standing of the Guild who was shocked to learn that on May 13 Linda Foley gave a speech in which she asserted that the US military in Iraq deliberately targets journalists for death. Anyway, that’s certainly what she seemed to be saying. I suggest you judge for yourself, by reviewing the links on the left, where you’ll find a transcript and a videotape of her comments.

But to save time, here’s the part that caught my attention:

Journalists, by the way, are just being targeted, ah, verbally or, ah, or, ah, politically. They're also being targeted for real. Um…in places like Iraq. And and, ah, what outrages me as a representative of journalists is that there's not more outrage about the number, and the brutality, and the cavalier nature of the U.S. military toward the killing of journalists in Iraq. I think it's just a scandal.

And it's not just US journalists, either, by the way. They target and kill, ah, journalists from other countries, particularly Arab countries like Al -, like Arab news services like Al-Jazeera, for example. They actually target them and blow up their studios, ah, with impunity … and, ah, this is all part of a culture that it's okay to blame the individual journalists and it just takes the heat off these media, ah, conglomerates who are actually at the heart of the problem.

I think a reasonable person, reading this, would conclude that Linda Foley had just accused US soldiers of deliberately murdering journalists. But again, if you doubt the accuracy of the transcription, take the trouble to listen to her words on the videotape and come up with your own interpretation.

Anyway, this assertion by Foley alarmed me, and should have alarmed every working journalist, for obvious reasons. Either it was true, in which case the world’s mightiest army is deliberately killing us off. Or it was untrue, in which case the leader of America’s major newspaper union is willing to retail a gross and horrific lie about American servicemen and women.

And that’s not just a cruel injustice; it’s a menace to our profession. We journalists are already reviled by millions of our fellow citizens; quite simply, they don’t trust us. They think we deal in innuendo, half-truth and outright fabrication. Survey after survey shows that reporters have never been held in lower public esteem. In the midst of all this, in the aftermath of the Jayson Blair and Dan Rather fiascos, the president of the union of newspaper reporters makes a shocking assertion about men and women who risk their lives to protect us, and then fails to present a scintilla of evidence to back it up. Any journalist who values his job, his career or the honor of his profession has an obligation to demand better.

So I did. And this contemptible article is the response.

Why contemptible? Well, it’s hard to know where to begin. It’s so dreadful in so many ways. But here’s the heart of it—the piece contains neither a retraction of Foley’s scurrilous charge, nor a single scrap of evidence to support it. Indeed, Zipser compounds the calumny by quoting another fellow who shares Foley’s paranoia—a fellow named Aaron Glantz, who covers the Iraq war for Pacifica Radio. I admire Mr. Glantz for his courage; he’s certainly been there and done that. And I’ll take his word for it when he says,

“I’ve had a gun pointed at me by American soldiers numerous times and felt that my life was threatened by an American soldier, simply because they were so scared and trigger happy.”

Not hard to believe; such things no doubt happen. But note the next paragraph:

Moreover, Glantz added, as Western journalists are so intimidated by such behavior that they pull out, “the Iraqi journalists who remain and the Pan-Arab journalists who remain are specifically being targeted by the U.S. military, I believe, when they broadcast controversial material.”

Oh, he believes that, does he? Well, that’s fine. But does he have evidence for it? Any evidence at all? Not a scrap; not a shred. Yet Zipser and the Guild are perfectly content to broadcast the assertion without a trace of skepticism.

For me, the most worrisome aspect of this entire affair is the realization that few of my colleagues are troubled by this in the least. They seem to believe there’s nothing at all to fret about when a prominent voice in American journalism feels free to slander American soldiers. Of course, there’s a great deal to fret over, if you care about the state of our profession and the good name of our fellow citizens. Or, for that matter, if you care about how journalists will be treated by soldiers in future conflicts. Will these guys ever trust us again? Why in heaven’s name should they, when we lie about them, without shame?


Blogger zombyboy said...

Amen to that. I still believe that the majority of journalists are good people who are doing their jobs to the best of their ability. But it only stays that way if y'all keep each other honest.

Do keep up the good work;

8:56 PM  
Blogger bulldogpundit said...

Hey Hiawatha - Our site www.anklebitingpundits.com also was specifically mentioned and got some negative treatment in the Newspaper Guild article (not as much as you) so I guess we're proud members of this club.

We read the TNG article and noticed that they made a pretty big error when they referred to actions we supposedly took in reporting on the Foley comments.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

“I’ve had a gun pointed at me by American soldiers numerous times and felt that my life was threatened by an American soldier, simply because they were so scared and trigger happy.”

But the important point is that they apparently never fired. So how is this proof that journalist are being targeted and killed?

9:38 PM  
Blogger Don Miguel said...

This was an interesting part of the article:

"The attempt to obscure discomfiting truths with a smokescreen of allegations about the truth purveyor—challenging his or her motives, techniques or basic character—is not new, but in recent years the volume has been ratcheted way up."

Truth purveyor? Andy Zipser seems to forget that 75% of the public has little or no confidence in the press according to a recent Gallup poll. And isn't his article in effect "challenging" the motives of those critical of Foley? He's right about the "volume has been ratcheted way up." Isn't that what Foley did by accusing the military of targeting journalists? I need not mention the increase in volume from Howard Dean since his primal scream.

11:55 PM  
Blogger leaddog2 said...

I know you are a journalist. I am no longer on active duty.

Can you tell me why civilians should not take up arms in defense of our country? We are under attack by many terrorist supporting media types who claim to be journalists.

Can you tell me any logical reason they should be allowed to continue their Treason?

If 75% of Americans NO LONGER trust journalists, then it will not take long for journalists to become targets of outraged citizens.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune and New York Times are prime examples of Terrorist supporters. So, what do you propose for them.

6:01 AM  
Blogger Duke of DeLand said...

I left the field many years ago as a broadcast journalist. One of my prime reasons was the then-new movement which began presenting "editorials" as "news".

I feel not a year has gone by when the objectivity I had been taught is given less and less priority.

The incredible attitude of "we know it is true" while lacking any proof...and the promulgation of these items without a qualm is amazingly elitist.


6:09 AM  
Blogger TallDave said...

Thanks for keeping on this.

These people remind me of the bugs that crawl away from the light when the rock they hide under is lifted. It's utterly despicable to level these kinds of charges at our military men and women.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

I'm afraid too many of your fellow members are liberals who never have and never will take up arms to defend our Liberty. But will wallow in the blood of those who have even while condeming the efforts of those who bled.
I'm afraid your Guild has taken on many of the traits currently displayed by the U.N.; can we save it? I think not.

6:44 AM  
Blogger pilgrim shadow said...

Some of these 'journalists' have chosen to be ENEMIES of our troops, yet they are not targeted.

I think its high time someone targeted them...if not with guns, at least by shining a spotlight on their reckless, ignorant, arrogance. Keep then in your crosshairs...and keep shooting straight.

7:08 AM  
Blogger C.Y. said...

I cannot say that I am surprised by the increasing “Durbinization” of the media, for all the reasons you so lucidly mention. It is encouraging in some small way that at least one journalist (you) seems to care about Foley’s slander of our military, but very sad and pathetic that your concerns are not common throughout you industry.

I strongly suspect that the distrust of the media will get far worse before it gets better.

7:08 AM  
Blogger Brown Line said...

What a shame. Our republic needs news and information to function. It needs people who tell the truth as forcefully and accurately as they know how, so that we the people can make informed decisions. Journalists who lie, like soldiers who abuse, poison the well of information.

In fact, these lies make it easier for rogue soldiers to kill: after all her chicken-little screeching about journalists being targeted, who would believe this woman if she did in fact witness the murder of a journalist?

When journalists choose to serve power before the truth - whether the power of a political party or the power of their own profession - then they have prostituted their calling. Journalists in years past have fought for freedom - think of William Lloyd Garrison and Ida Wells, for example - but this woman's lies fouls their memory.

8:01 AM  
Blogger G said...

A union of newspaper people, now there's an unholy alliance. Can one conceive of anything more left wing? The arrogance displayed by Foley and Zipser is breathtaking in its scope. Facts? They don't need no stinkin' facts, they're journalists, don't you know. They speak ex-cathedra, just like the Pope.

While I admire your attempt to counter their lunacy, it is somewhat quixotic. The media do seem to be painting themselves into a corner, though. On the one hand, if Iraq ends up well, they will have been completely wrong. On the other, if we fail there, they will properly get much of the blame. Hilariously ironic, isn't it.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Silicon Valley Jim said...

Not only is there not a scintilla of evidence to support her allegation, but it's absurd on its face. It took our military (together with the militaries of about two dozen other countries) fourteen days, as I recall, from the time they landed in Iraq to the time that they captured Baghdad. If they were targeting journalists (and Ms. Foley specifically included physical targeting), how many journalists does any rational human being think would be left?

8:08 AM  
Blogger G said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Solomon said...

Keep up the good fight, Hiawatha.

8:32 AM  
Blogger dualdiagnosis said...

Thanks again Hiawatha, your determination is appreciated. What is happening to the Left? There seems to be something in the air that is causing this lunacy, it is becoming so widespread.
They have an obligation to this country to get their collective act together.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Merv said...

The reporter who accused US soldiers of pointing a gun at him because they were frightened is wrong on several levels. First, it takes great courage to go to Iraq and wear the US uniform and openly carry arms. Second, one of the reasons that the guy had a gun pointed at him is that the enemy in Iraq, in violation of the Geneva Convention, camoflages himself as a civilian. The reason the Geneva Convention requires that combatants wear distinguishing uniforms and openly carry arms is so that they will not be confused with civilians. By camoflaging themselves as civilians the enemy endangers all civilaians even reporters. It should also be noted that in at least one case a CBS employee was found to be an enemy combatant. Hopefully he had a weapon pointed at him when he was captured.

It is Foley's ignorance of the Geneva Convention and how the enemy violation of that convention that causes her to assume that US forces are targeting journalist and not the enemy. This appears to be willful ignorance, since the same people seem to think that the enemy is entitled to protection of the Geneva Convention even when they are in clear violation of it.

I have yet to see one story in the mainstream media that makes this point. By camoflaging himself as a civilian the enemy endangers all civilians even reporters. Get it!

9:49 AM  
Blogger Hiawatha said...

Silicon Valley Jim makes an excellent point. The typical war correspondent is a brave but feeble creature, being utterly unarmed and often working solo. He or she wouldn't last five seconds against a soldier with a license to kill newsies. If the government's policy were to kill reporters, they'd all be dead. This rather obvious fact seems never to have occurred to Foley.

But then we have some exceptionally bilious nonsense from somebody called leaddog2. You think the folly of stupid reporters entitles Americans to kill them? Go away, leaddog. Just...go away.

10:35 AM  
Blogger linda said...

The paper I work for is a Guild paper, but I am not personally a member (they allow for a limited number of conscientious objectors) because I believe union membership is incompatible with professional standards. (With all due respect for the proprietor of this blog, that is, because I understand many honorable people have chosen otherwise.)

I am dismayed by the comments of Foley and Zipser, but I am not surprised that the person chosen as editor of a labor-union newsletter would have left-wing politics. Unfortunately, people will assume these two speak for all journalists, which is clearly not the case.

The National Education Association gets together at its annual convention every year and passes a ton of lefty resolutions, but people don't assume all teachers support those positions.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Rich V. said...

I have many friends who are serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan...that being said. One NEVER, EVER anything but a litany of bad news from those areas. If an intelligent individual had only the traditional MSM to go by, he/she/it would believe that the war was a miserable failure. Fortunately, many servicemen and women have access to the internet and can now "report" directly what they see and hear. From them comes a far different story..."insurgents involved in firefights between the native Iraqis (baathists) and the islamists". This has been witnessed and reported by Marines at least a half dozen times in the past two weeks, but isn't reported in the MSM...I could go on, but you have at your fingertips the most important information tool yet devised, the internet. It's no wonder that journalists are held in such low regard. Many allow a political, or presupposition to colour their views and what they report. It's a shame because a modern democratic nation requires an unbiased "4th estate" inorder for it's citizens to make informed decisions at the polls...

2:58 AM  
Blogger Stephen M. St. Onge said...

      What's wrong with Zipser's article?  I fisked it, at great and perhaps excessive length.  Here's my summary of what's wrong with it.

      Editing-as-lying: one of my hobbyhorses.  The reporter only focuses on what will support the case he's building.  Instead of news, you get a prosecutor's brief.

      Ad hominem attacks and innuendo: directed at those the Mr. Zipser doesn't like.

      Editorializing disguised as news: The piece should be labelled comment.

      Lack of evidence for its assertions: Not only the charge against the U.S. military, but almost everything.

      Many errors: For instance, al-Jazeera's studios were NOT bombed, although a property next door to them was.

      Hypocrisy: For every journalist killed by U.S. forces in Iraq, whatever the reasons they were killed, the other side has killed about five.  Somehow, Foley, Zipser, and the rest never say much of anything about that, though.  And Foley complains about attacks on her, while attacking others.  Zipser claims that "right-wingers" want to ignore "discomfiting truths," while editing out any truths that would undermine his case.

      Undefined terms and changing standards: Zipser complains there haven't been "objective" inquiries into the deaths of journalists at U.S. hands.  Uh, make that, there haven't been "vigorous" inquiries.  No, let's say there haven't been "independent" inquiries.  What does this mean?  Apparently, Zipser and his kind don't believe the U.S. government when it investigates what happened and says it was an accident.  Reasons for not believing are not given.

      Cowardice: Zipser doesn't have the balls to say, outright, what he believes about the U.S. government, or why, he just uses innuendo.

      Outright lies: For instance, Zipser writes that you can read Foley's complete remarks at a certain place.  They aren't there.  He says that a British government memo shows Bush lied the nation into war.  In fact, the memos show that the British government believed that Sadddam had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

      High flown vagueness: Zipser describes Foley as trying to "defend her members."  How?  And against what?  And against whom?  Given that five out of six journalist deaths in Iraq occur because of the actions of the terrorists, that last question is especially pertinent.

      Distortion: Zipser brings up Rathergate, and that "the question of whether George Bush fulfilled his National Guard requirements was eclipsed by the question of whether Dan Rather used bogus documents in his reporting."  I looked up the story, just to check my memory.  Aside from the documents, and comments about them, there was not a scintilla of evidence offered that Bush didn't fulfill his requirements for the National Guard.  So what is it we're supposed to focus on -- suspicion without evidence?

      Finally, the writing is sloppy, the research is shoddy, and the whole piece lacks focus.  Even if Zipser were trying to tell the truth, this wouldn't be a good article.

      People like Foley and Zipser expect us to trust them blindly.  Real journalists report all the relevent facts, and let us make up our minds.  You, Mr. Bray, are a real journalist.  You bring honor to your profession.


3:44 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

Hello. I've posted about this at my blog. I'd have preferred to send a trackback, perhaps this note will suffice. Dittos to your posts.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Stephen M. St. Onge said...

      And guess what?  FOLEY SPEAKS TOO!

  Of course, she doesn't say anything, but watching her duck and dodge the isssue is midly amusing.

      It's all here.

7:29 PM  
Blogger David Pakman said...

Hey, excellent website. A great Iraq resource is Deaths in Iraq. It breaks all of the casualties down by age, race, branch of the military, country, etc.

6:12 PM  

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