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“Good And Evil Are Interchangeable”: How Fox News Created A Monster And Made Two Others Disappear

Anyone who read 1984 in high school should know that the target of propaganda can turn on a dime. But we tend to forget this lesson whenever the media’s real-life Big Bros crank out their version of “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia,” as they’ve being doing of late.

It’s worth quickly revisiting Orwell. “On the sixth day of Hate Week,” he wrote,

when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the 2,000 Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces—at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.

There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place…. The Hate continued exactly as before, except that the target had been changed.

We’ve recently gone through a Hate Week or two ourselves. Only months ago, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the last POW in Afghanistan, had been valorized by the right. Senators McCain, Ayotte and Inhofe, Sarah Palin and Allen West and right-wing websites wanted Bergdahl freed at all costs, and blamed Obama for leaving him behind.

Then, of course, Obama did free Bergdahl. You can argue that the deal struck was mishandled, but there’s no excuse—none—for the rightwing pillorying of Bergdahl into a one-man Eastasia. With no evidence and “no admission that any change had taken place,” they’ve recast him, variously, as a deserter, a traitor, a jihadist or, as Fox News reporter James Rosen bizarrely put it, “a kind of modern-day Lee Harvey Oswald.” Death threats were made against his parents; his hometown of Hailey, Idaho, canceled a celebration of his return for fears of public safety. Fox News’s Kimberly Guilfoyle declared that he was “lucky” US forces didn’t find him earlier because “he would have come home either in a body bag or come home and gone straight to jail.”

Bergdahl is back now in the United States, being treated at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, and God help him when, weeks or months or years from now, he meets the media. (This cartoon puts it succinctly.)

Then, faster than you can switch a long beard from signifying good ol’, homo-hatin’ Duck Dynasty boys to signifying that you look like a Muslim (as Bill O’Reilly said of Bergdahl’s father)—quicker than that, you can make a pair of right-wing cop killers cease to exist.

The same Fox News that usually torches not only cop killers but lawyers who defend them and singers who rap about them had almost nothing to say about Jerad and Amanda Miller, the couple who executed two police officers as they were eating at a Las Vegas pizzeria. The Millers had attended rallies at the Cliven Bundy ranch and thus hated law enforcement in the right way, in the way Fox had helped to foment. As Eric Boehlert wrote last week:

Primetime hosts Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity both ignored the shocking cop-killer story [the day after the killings], while Megyn Kelly devoted four sentences to it. (By contrast, the story covered extensively during CNN and MSNBC’s primetime.) Fox talkers on Monday were still far more interested in debating the prisoner swap of Bowe Bergdahl than they were examining the political ambush in Las Vegas….

In the 36 hours after the shooting, Fox News tread lightly around the Las Vegas story, producing regular news updates about the crime spree. But Fox provided almost no commentary, no context, and certainly no collective blame for the executions.

And that’s how Fox News deals with right-wing domestic terrorism in America, when it even bothers to acknowledge the killings and the crimes…. on Fox the perpetrators are always portrayed as lone gunmen (and women) who do not represent any cultural or political movement.

This sort of media-manufactured amnesia goes beyond a mere “flip-flop.” In a well-oiled propaganda machine, who’s lone and who’s representative, who’s a hero and who’s a heel, even good and evil themselves, are interchangeable. Anything can be instantly reframed as circumstances dictate.

As we’re already hearing from some quarters: “We have always been right to go to war in Iraq.”


By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, June 16, 2014

June 18, 2014 Posted by | Bowe Bergdahl, Domestic Terrorism, Fox News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Very Troubled Man”: Time For Right To Let Go Of Bowe Bergdahl Political Controversy

Today, the Post published excerpts of Bowe Bergdahl’s journal, along with emails and other writings, giving us the most intimate, complex, and in many ways sad view we’ve yet had of the young man who had been held prisoner by the Taliban for five years.

What the journal ultimately shows suggests that as a partisan political issue, Bergdahl’s release is likely to fade before long. The right has gotten about as much as they can out of it, and now that we know how troubled Bergdahl was before he wandered off his base, they may just let it go.

The idea that Bergdahl wasn’t sufficiently deserving of rescue has been central to the conservative criticism of the deal to obtain his release. Even as they wildly exaggerate the danger of the five former Taliban we released (to hear Fox News tell it, you’d almost think the five not only planned and executed the September 11 attacks, they also have super-powers that will enable them to reduce our nation to ashes any day now), many on the right attacked Bergdahl and his family relentlessly, accusing him of being not just a deserter but an outright traitor. Some even mobilized a PR campaign to promote soldiers who would go in the media to criticize Bergdahl.

But his writings, which were shared with the Post by a close friend, tell a story that doesn’t fit into the kind of box that can be easily used for partisan purposes. Among other things, we now know that Bergdahl joined the Coast Guard in 2006 and was quickly discharged for psychological reasons, though he claimed to friends that he had faked mental illness in order to get released (a claim about which they were skeptical). But it’s Bergdahl’s own words that are the most revealing:

The 2006 discharge and a trove of Bergdahl’s writing — his handwritten journal along with essays, stories and e-mails provided to The Washington Post — paint a portrait of a deeply complicated and fragile young man who was by his own account struggling to maintain his mental stability from the start of basic training until the moment he walked off his post in eastern Afghanistan in 2009.

“I’m worried,” he wrote in one journal entry before he deployed. “The closer I get to ship day, the calmer the voices are. I’m reverting. I’m getting colder. My feelings are being flushed with the frozen logic and the training, all the unfeeling cold judgment of the darkness.”

A few pages later, he wrote: “I will not lose this mind, this world I have deep inside. I will not lose this passion of beauty.”

At another point, using his often un­or­tho­dox spelling, he wrote: “Trying to keep my self togeather. I’m so tired of the blackness, but what will happen to me without it. Bloody hell why do I keep thinking of this over and over.”

At another point Bergdahl writes: “I want to change so much and all the time, but then my mind just locks down, as if there was some one else in my mind shutting the door in my face. . . . I want to pull my mind out and drop kick it into a deep gorge.” And then: “In a file dated a few days later, repetitions of the phrase ‘velcro or zipper/velcro or zipper/velcro or zipper’ cover nearly two pages.”

We shouldn’t be too quick to make a conclusive psychiatric diagnosis based on these words. But if you’re someone committed to painting Bergdahl as a traitor who didn’t deserve to be released — or at least, didn’t deserve to have much given up in exchange for him — what do you think when you see that? And let’s recall that until the deal for Bergdahl was actually made, many on the right were attacking the Obama administration for not getting him out sooner; for some, he’s never been anything more than a cudgel with which to beat the administration.

So maybe now they’ll decide that all the personal attacks on Bergdahl have outlived their usefulness. The administration’s opponents have every right to argue, if they choose, that those five Taliban are history’s most terrifying super-villains, and we shouldn’t have made the deal even to get back Audie Murphy. But now that we’re getting a fuller picture of what a troubled soul Bergdahl was, conservatives may decide that there isn’t much margin left in attacking him, lest they end up looking (for the umpteenth time) like they’ve overplayed their political hand and been blinded to everything, even human compassion, by their hatred of this president.


By: Paul Waldman, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, June 12, 2014

June 13, 2014 Posted by | Bowe Bergdahl, Conservatives | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Politicking With Matters Of National Security”: From ‘Grand Old’ To ‘Shameless New’, Trading National Security For Political Gain

One would think that on the weekend of the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy – a day on which almost 10,000 fathers, brothers, and sons of our greatest generation were killed as they began the liberation of Europe – the Republican political establishment would at least press “pause” on partisan attacks that use our men and women in uniform as political pawns. Even Vladimir Putin, bogeyman du jour, paused his nationalist rants to recognize the occasion.

Rather than stopping to consider those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, supporters of New York State Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert Astorino launched an ad that used the graves of U.S. soldiers as a backdrop and urged viewers “to honor their sacrifice” and “remove tyrants,” with the latter message plastered over pictures of Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo. Instead of commemorating an epic struggle between fundamentally good and evil forces, Astorino’s supporters ran with the much simpler message that Cuomo is a modern-day Mussolini or Hitler.

This is, however, not an isolated event. The GOP establishment – both elected members and their media arms – have been on a roll of politicking with matters of national security of late. This circus detracts from critical policy discussions and legitimate critiques.

As with anything the Obama administration says or does, a political firestorm has erupted surrounding the return of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Afghanistan earlier this week. While there are legitimate debates to have over how the White House prosecutes the war in Afghanistan, handles detainees at Guantánamo, and works with Congress, the tenor of the attacks has been outwardly partisan and at times disrespectful of our men and women in uniform.

With regards to the Bergdahl situation, Fox News commentator Kimberly Guilfoyle argued on air that Bowe Bergdahl was lucky that his rescuers didn’t bring him home “in a body bag.” The insinuation – even the mere suggestion – that members of the U.S. military would deliberately murder their own and betray the oaths they took to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States is so offensive that it defies words.

In perhaps the crown jewel of the week’s insensitive behavior, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), after noting that Hillary Clinton’s “involvement” with Benghazi should “disqualify” her from being president, had the extraordinarily poor taste to say on Friday to the Republican Party of Texas Conference: “Mr. President, let’s set up a new trade. Instead of five Taliban, let’s trade five Democrats.”

Paul’s lack of deference cheapens the lives of Americans in captivity by “laughing” away the importance of bringing home American personnel who have endured brutal conditions in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. The notion that the Commander-in-Chief’s responsibility to “leave no man behind” is somehow a joke – or in any way conditional – truly does disqualify someone from being president.

Perhaps the saddest thing about all this damning rhetoric is that these are the logical conclusions of a broken system rather than a particularly bad but isolated day for Republican messaging. From calling the President of the United States a “Socialistic dictator” and the “Kommandant-in-Chef [sic],” to the never-ending part-kangaroo court, part-fundraising circus surrounding the tragic events in Benghazi, to the continued narrative that President Obama hates or even “wants out” of America, the far right simply cannot stop itself from spouting vitriolic and divisive rhetoric.

There was a time when national security was the exclusive purview of the Republican Party, and any attempts by Democrats — no matter their credentials — to penetrate that sphere were either squashed by flagrant politicking or flopped on account of disastrous PR blunders. Conventional wisdom simply insisted that Democrats were “soft” and Republicans were “tough.”

However, nothing drives home the resurgence of a progressive foreign and defense policy more than the insensitive, disrespectful, and frankly out-of-touch messaging coming from the loudest voices on the right. The Republican establishment has apparently lost its respect for the office of the presidency and the United States military, and it is up to moderate voices to correct the gross excesses of the day.

There can be genuine disagreements over our military and national security, including on the subject of recent events in Afghanistan. Likewise, politics – even partisan politics – are an important part of the American political system. But we must remember those brave souls at Normandy gave their lives 70 years ago this week for the principles and values that sustain that system, and their efforts will be in vain if it continues down a track of such perversion.

However disenchanted members of the political minority may be with the current state of American politics, language of disrespect to those who serve and have served shown by all of these radical individuals crosses the line. It is our responsibility to voice our collective outrage and demand accountability for these ugly statements purely and poorly aimed at producing partisan gains.


By: Dr. Mark R. Jacobson, Senior Advisor to the Truman National Security Project; The National Memo, June 11, 2014

June 12, 2014 Posted by | Bowe Bergdahl, National Security, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In The Land Of Conservative Forgetting”: The Right Didn’t Mind When Bush Paid A Ransom To Terrorists

The Bowe Bergdahl story moves to the hearing stage this week, so we’ll be treated to the sight of preening House Republicans trying to press Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on when it was that he, too, started hating America. Meanwhile, over in the fever swamps, speculation is growing about an alleged “ransom” the Obama administration may have paid to bring Bergdahl home. That Ollie North, of all people, started this talk is one of those laugh, cry, or shoot-the-television moments that now assault our synapses with such regularity; it’s like Judas calling John or James a traitor, or Bernie Madoff aspersing Warren Buffett as a swindler.

North aside, the charge is picking up steam. Fox “News” “reported” that a ransom was on the table last year. The Free Beacon the other day quoted a “senior intelligence official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press,” who “speculated” that a cash payoff to the Haqqani Network, Bergdahl’s captors, surely had to be involved; the whole story made no sense otherwise. Get the picture? The typical evidence-free allegation, oxygenated by rife speculation from the usual suspects, who have no knowledge of anything but just want to get a meme started. So far, among elected officials, only House GOPer Steve “I’m Even Too Out There for Texas Republicans” Stockman has uttered the r-word.

But what starts with Stockman rarely ends with Stockman. And so I predict this charge is going to become a central talking point on the right in the coming days and weeks. Why wouldn’t it? It’s as high-voltage an allegation as Republicans can muster up. It carries, in its crude form, a subtext not only of colossally naive misjudgment but quite possibly of treason: the idea that not merely did the Manchurian president pay too high a price in the form of the Taliban Five to get back a good-for-nothing deserter, but now he (the theory will go) paid cash money to an evil terrorist network, thus helping to finance the group’s operations against America. As North, who knows whereof he speaks on the subject of abetting terrorists, put it: “Was there a ransom paid? Did the government of the United States, either directly or indirectly, finance a terrorist organization?”

This would all be quite shocking if proved true, right? And maybe even legitimate grounds for impeachment. Funny, though—it somehow wasn’t either of those things in 2002, when the Bush administration did it.

We turn now to the Philippines, where the Abu Sayyaf terror network—Islamic fundamentalist, al Qaeda-linked, occupant of a slot on the State Department’s official terrorist-organization list since Bill Clinton put it there in 1997—was rampaging around the southern archipelago and taking Westerners hostage. Two such hostages were an American husband-and-wife missionary team, Martin and Gracia Burnham. They were kidnapped in May 2001. Their captivity was a pretty big story for a while, but then came September, and the inferno of Lower Manhattan.

The Abu Sayyaf M.O. was the normal one—to demand large (or oddly not so large; the original demand for the Burnhams’ safety was $1 million) sums of money for their captives’ safe return. There were talks, and they bled into 2002. In April of that year, Bush gave a speech that included the line: “No nation can negotiate with terrorists, for there is no way to make peace with those whose only goal is death.”

A nice line. But of course, at that exact moment, the United States was negotiating intently with Abu Sayyaf for the Burnhams’ release. And not only that: The Bush administration arranged an indirect payment to Abu Sayyaf of $300,000, as reported a little later by ABC’s John McWethy, the veteran Pentagon correspondent, and even by Fox’s Brent Baier, whose phrasing had it that “the U.S. government facilitated a ransom payment to al Qaeda-linked terrorists.”

It seems that the payment was indirect rather than direct. But these days, that’s good enough for Ollie North (go reread his quote above). Even an indirect payment by the Obama administration to the Haqqani Network would clearly have these people screaming for impeachment hearings.

But then? Well, that was different. It was after 9/11. Bush was our Churchill. We were strong then, united! And sure enough, I find little record of conservative talking heads or elected Republicans criticizing Bush then, and alas not even any sense that cowed Democrats said much of anything. Those were the days of watching what you said, watching what you did.

Oh. I forgot one detail. We “facilitated” the ransom, but even then we still failed: Poor Martin Burnham was killed in a skirmish when the Philippine army stormed the compound to rescue the couple. Gracia lived, and lives on now. But just imagine that Obama had “facilitated” a ransom to Haqqani, and yet Bergdahl had been killed during a rescue mission. I don’t think I need to complete that thought.

And so here we are again, in the land of conservative forgetting. I do hope, as these hearings commence and House Republicans start raising questions about a possible ransom, that some of their colleagues remind them.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June10, 2014

June 12, 2014 Posted by | Bowe Bergdahl, House Republicans, Terrorists | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tantrums Don’t Change The Facts”: McCain Rejects Evidence, Accuses Critics Of ‘Lying’

Republican reversals on securing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have been jaw-dropping for much of the week. As we discussed yesterday, Republicans were happy about an American POW coming home; then they changed their minds. Republicans endorsed the prisoner swap itself; then they changed their minds. Republicans extended their thoughts and prayers to Bergdahl and his family; then they changed their minds. Republicans demanded that the Obama administration had a responsibility to do everything humanly possible to free this POW from his captors; then they changed their minds.

But perhaps no one has been quite as brazen in the flip-flop department as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who’s still treated as a credible figure on matters related to foreign policy and the military, despite his poor track record. The Arizona Republican expressed public support for the prisoner-swap, then did a 180-degree turn after President Obama pursued the course McCain endorsed.

Apparently, the senator is angry that his shameless flip-flop has been noticed.

“The details are unacceptable and for anyone to accuse me, therefore, of saying that I’d support any prisoner swap under any circumstances is lying,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

“And the details are outrageous. They went to Qatar, where the Taliban has an office, and in a year they are going to be out and the deal is, like any other agreement, as I said, in the details,” McCain said on CNN, explaining his opposition to the swap. “I mean, it’s just totally unacceptable. These people would be back in the fight.”

It’s hard to know if McCain actually believes what he’s saying. Indeed, the senator has never been detail-oriented, so perhaps he doesn’t fully understand the nature of the recent criticism.

But in reality, as the New York Times’ editorial board noted today, McCain “switched positions for maximum political advantage” – as he’s done “so often in the past.”

The lawmaker can throw around words like “lying” if he chooses, but a closer look at the facts lead to only one conclusion.

As far back as 2011, the Obama administration was in talks with the Taliban about securing Bergdahl’s release, in exchange for five specific detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison, who would then be transferred to Qatar. Members of Congress, including McCain, were aware of these talks and knew exactly which five Taliban prisoners would be included in the prisoner-swap.

In 2012, McCain was asked about this during a national television interview. Though he said he’d need all of the details, the senator said he “would support” the exchange.

And then the Obama administration made the exchange, at which point McCain condemned the exact same policy he’d already endorsed.

Indeed, perhaps unaware his own position, McCain has been quite unconstrained in denouncing the swap he used to support, calling it “outrageous” and “unacceptable.” At a classified briefing yesterday, the senator reportedly “walked out shortly after shouting at an official.”

Tantrums don’t change the facts.

What surprises me is McCain’s willingness to keep digging. His audacious reversal was uncovered on Tuesday, at which point the senator could have laid low so as to not draw attention to his shameless, knee-jerk opposition to an idea he supported. Indeed, I had no intention of returning to the subject, since it was so obvious that the Arizona Republican had contradicted himself.

But McCain can’t seem to help himself. Caught in a shameless reversal, he feels the need to lash out, making matters worse for no reason.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 6, 2014

June 9, 2014 Posted by | Bowe Bergdahl, John McCain, POW/MIA | , , , , | Leave a comment

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