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Tracking the Zigs and Zags of Issues

The Mirror (UK) reveals details of Bush's alleged plan to bomb Al Jazeera.By anybody's standards, the last few weeks have been unusual. The Mirror, a British tabloid, reported receiving a leaked government memo which purportedly shows that George W. Bush wanted to silence Al Jazeera's journalistic coverage of Iraq with a bombing strike on its Doha, Qatar headquarters. When a memo of the April 16, 2004 meeting between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair was leaked, Blair wanted the British media gagged to stop the public from finding out other details of his chat with Bush. While he doesn't want discussion of his meeting with Bush, Blair does want to foster public debate over his plan to expand nuclear power as a 'solution' to climate change.

The Victory of Spin

More examples of the Bush administration's manipulation of news spilled out into U.S. newspapers last week. Raising further questions about how the White House continues to spin its "War on Terror," the Los Angeles Times reported on November 30 the U.S. military "is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S.

Academic Freedom Ain't What It Used to Be

This summer the Wisconsin-based staff of the Center for Media and Democracy had the pleasure of working with Molly Riordan, an Ithaca College student, who came out to Madison to be our intern. A smart and politically engaged student, Riordan quickly took to our work, adding and editing numerous articles on SourceWatch, our collaborative online encyclopedia of the people, issues and groups shaping public opinion and public policy.

I suggested that she write an article on something of interest to her. What resulted was the cover story for the third quarter issue (now available online) of our award-winning quarterly publication PR Watch. In her article "Academic Freedom Takes a Step to the Right," Riordan takes a look at Students for Academic Freedom, a conservative organization with over a hundred campus chapters that claims to promote "academic diversity." Closer examination of SAF reveals its close affiliation with "Marxist-turned-conservative activist" David Horowitz and a pattern of only identifying cases involving conservative students resisting alleged "leftist indoctrination."

One Step Forward (But Two Back) in the Fight Against Fake News

"Myself and others felt violated by the first bill," said Doug Simon, the founder, president and CEO of D S Simon Productions, a major producer of the faux television news reports known as video news releases (VNRs).

Doug (Pee Wee) SimonSimon was referring to the Truth in Broadcasting Act (S 967). In its original incarnation, this bill would have required a "conspicuous" disclosure to accompany any government-produced or -funded prepackaged VNR or the radio equivalent, an audio news release (ANR).

The Emperor Doesn't Disclose: Why the Fight Against Fake News Continues

Like much news that's damaging to the Bush administration, the report came out on a Friday.

"Remixed War Propaganda" by Micah Ian WrightSince then, it's gotten little media attention -- just 41 mentions in U.S. newspapers and wire stories, according to a news database search on October 11. That's remarkably sparse coverage for a story showing that the U.S. government has been engaged in illegal propaganda aimed at its own citizens.

The Wave of the Future: From Tragedy to Far-Reaching Policy, in Less Than a Month

"Maybe something good can come from this hurricane," Senator Lindsey Graham (R - S.C.) told FOX News Sunday's Chris Wallace on September 18th.

Graham and Wallace were discussing the "torrent of federal spending" on relief and reconstruction projects in the Gulf coast states devastated by Hurricane Katrina that is "just exploding the deficit" (both Wallace's phrases). The Senator was advocating for budget cuts to balance the disaster spending, which is expected to total as much as $200 billion.

Jim Crow Propaganda


Jim Crow
The term "Jim Crow" was originally taken from a character performed in blackface by Thomas Rice, a pre-Civil War white actor who dressed in rags to portray a shabbily dressed, rural black man.

Last week I was invited to give a talk about free speech at Ferris State University in Michigan. Much to my pleasure, I discovered that one of the professors at Ferris is an old colleague, Dennis Ruzicka, who was a fellow reporter 20 years ago when we both worked for a small-town, daily newspaper in Wisconsin.


After the talk, Dennis showed me around the campus. One of our most fascinating stops was the "Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia" that has been assembled by sociology professor David Pilgrim. The Jim Crow Museum contains more than 2,000 racist artifacts, dating from pre-Civil War days to the present: cartoons, Sambo masks, Coon toys, Picaninny ashtrays, Ku Klux Klan literature, postcards with Black children portrayed as "alligator bait."

"All racial groups have been caricatured in this country, but none have been caricatured as often or in as many ways as have black Americans," Pilgrim writes. "Blacks have been portrayed in popular culture as pitiable exotics, cannibalistic savages, hypersexual deviants, childlike buffoons, obedient servants, self-loathing victims, and menaces to society. These anti-black depictions were routinely manifested in or on material objects: ashtrays, drinking glasses, banks, games, fishing lures, detergent boxes, and other everyday items. These objects, with racist representations, both reflected and shaped attitudes towards African Americans. Robbin Henderson, director of the Berkeley Art Center, said, 'derogatory imagery enables people to absorb stereotypes; which in turn allows them to ignore and condone injustice, discrimination, segregation, and racism.' She was right. Racist imagery is propaganda and that propaganda was used to support Jim Crow laws and customs."

Never Whoosh A Spook!

Non-violence training workshops I attended in the 1980s often featured, as a tension-breaker or wind-down game, a little exercise known as the whoosh.

For the uninitiated, a whoosh consists of one person standing in the centre of a circle of people holding hands. Starting from a low crouch, the circle slowly moves in with the pronunciation of whooooooosh building to a crescendo as the group converges, culminating with an enthusiastic jump. The person in the centre is then considered to have been whooshed.

If such exercises are still in non-violence training workshop manuals, maybe it's time a warning label was added: Never whoosh a spook!

A protest against the arrest and deportation of Scott ParkinWhy? This week the Australian government deported Houston-based peace and environmental activist Scott Parkin, after revoking his six-month visitor visa. No reason was given; for all we know, Scott whooshed some hapless, wet-behind-the-ears Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) spook sent to spy on one of the non-violence training sessions he was attending.