On June 1, Taliban insurgents attacked a U.S. outpost in Khost, near the Afghan-Pakistani border. The official claim from coalition forces was that they “successfully repelled the attack” and “there are no reports of ISAF fatalities.” But as The Washington Post details today, that claim was wildly misleading and in some cases outright false. The attack was “much worse than originally disclosed by the military as insurgents pounded the base with a truck bomb, killing two Americans and seriously wounding about three dozen troops … Five Afghan civilians were killed and more than 100 other U.S. troops were treated for minor injuries.” Because “the statement did not report any casualties, nor that there was a truck bomb” — indeed, the official statement claimed there were no casualties – The Post today delicately concludes: “the scale of the attack and the extent of the U.S. casualties contrast with the official description.” That’s as close as an American establishment media outlet will dare get to stating that the American military made false statements (reality “contrasts with the official description”). […]

This incident was quite significant since it was a major cause of the recent escalation of the Obama administration’s drone attacks on Pakistan and their generally increased indifference to Pakistani concerns (“Now, said a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity in discussing sensitive issues, the administration’s attitude is, ‘What do we have to lose?‘”). That it was reported so inaccurately is thus important.

Let’s acknowledge some caveats. It’s common for false claims to be made in war, either due to a desire to mislead or the proverbial “fog of war.” It’s perfectly appropriate for media outlets to include in their articles the claims of government and military officials. And there may be good reasons why the U.S. military wants to downplay the success of Taliban attacks.

But none of those caveats undermines the primary point worth making: the overwhelming reliance by American media outlets on the claims of government and media officials invariably produces propagandistic and false journalism and subverts the intended function of a free press. It’s one thing merely to include the claims of “officials” in news accounts. But that is not what this reporting is.

Instead, what we see here is the standard template of American media reports: in the very first paragraph, media outlets typically state as fact what are nothing more than official assertions, and then append on to the end of the paragraph the rote phrase “officials say” (standard first paragraph: A, B and C happened today, officials say“). Over and over, this is the journalistic practice that converts media institutions into little more than glorified press release outlets for the U.S. government and military. They routinely write entire articles where the narrative and storyline are shaped exclusively by unverified claims of officials. There is a protected free press precisely because institutions are needed to check and scrutinize government claims — based on the long-standing recognition that those in power tell self-serving lies, something which hashappened over and over in the war in Afghanistan — not uncritically amplify them and convert them into Truth under the guise of independent reporting.

But this “officials say” form of American journalism converts government claims into journalistic fact. In that regard, it’s not merely redundant, though it is that: who needs a media outlet to re-print government press releases, when one can just go read those press releases on one’s own? It’s worse than redundant: it launders government claims as verified fact, as though they’ve been checked and confirmed by an independent media arbiter. That’s why government officials love to “leak” falsehoods to reporters while hiding behind the shield of anonymity, rather than just themselves dissemintaing those falsehoods: not only does that practice shield them from accountability, but it masquerades their lies as “reporting.” Today’s example is just illustrative, and far from the most important: this is the model, more than any other, that shapes American journalism. [++]

This is what happens when some national-level politicians in New Zealand get stuck at the airport. Three hours ago on some Facebook thing:

A tiring but lovely start to Easter. Like lots of other people at Wellington airport last night, I got stuck. Flight was finally canned at 10pm along with any hope of a flight the next day. Everyone waiting at the gate looked pretty gutted, but a few in particular. I was lucky enough to grab a rental car, so I doubled back through the airport to try and find the upset looking group from my flight. Turns out that one was due at a wedding, the other a 21st, and the third just wanted to see her family. So we devised a road trip together and agreed to meet after a bit of rest. Within a few minutes of leaving the airport I got a text from someone I knew through work in Auckland. It was his daughter I had just offered a ride to, and he kindly wanted to meet us all in Taupo to drive the last leg. And so here we are, a random collection of people who have had the loveliest reminder that New Zealand is beautifully small.

But needless to say, some people have stars in their eyes:

One day in the future these people are all going to remember that night they hitched a ride with the Prime Minister.

Her occupation largely in some ways being irrelevant, it was a nice thing that she did.

That and this New Zealand place is kinda pretty small, yes.

Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional ,and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up…You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!

Steadfast and Loyal

Congressman Allen B West (R-FL)

—  Today, Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz criticized House Republicans, including neighboring Florida Rep. Allen West, for their nihilistic attitude toward the debt ceiling. We’re not saying West has anger issues. We’re just saying he immediately sat down and wrote this email. (Via Ben Smith.)

Speaking of American media propaganda, the Editorial Aide to the Washington Post Ombudsman announced this week that the Ombudsman will soon address the American media’s use of the words ‘militants’ and ‘Terrorists’ to describe the victims of U.S. drone attacks, a clearly propagandistic practice in light of recent revelations about how the Obama administration has re-defined ‘combtant’ to mean any military-age male in a strike zone. The Post Ombudsman is responding to the requests of readers here, triggered by this column I wrote, in which I encouraged everyone to contact the Post Ombudsman about this media practice (‘The Post received dozens of e-mails from readers encouraging the paper to dig a little deeper to find out the actual identities of those who die in these drone strikes … Many also accused The Post of engaging in propaganda for government and military officials’).

"This kind of activism is slow, incremental, and sometimes unsatisfying, but it can make a difference; kudos to the readers here who took the time to write to the Ombudsman. The Post Ombudsman (with some exceptions) tends to defend his newspaper, so we’ll see what he says, but either way, it at least brings more attention to the issue.


Glenn Greenwald, “Officials say” journalism

tl;dr: the Post Ombudsman will address whether or not more people at the newspaper should engage in “journalism”, whatever that is, or if they should simply continue disseminating propaganda.

If you were just a regular person, you turned on the TV, and you saw Eric Cantor talking, I would say — and I’m fine with gay people, that’s all right — but my gaydar is 60-70 percent. But he’s not, I think, so I don’t know. Again, I couldn’t care less. I’m accepting.

Former governor Brian Schweitzer on Eric Cantor on the night of Cantor’s defeat in the Virginia primaries.

He has since apologized for his remarks on Facebook.

I am supporting Brian Froelich!!!!! Finally a congressional candidate I can trust!!

He is standing up for women’s rights and is a brilliant job creator!!!

    Let’s be honest. It’s not about the junk science. There were some crazy things said recently but they were crazy with a purpose.

Republican Rep. Todd Aikin (who is a policy blood brother to Republican Reps. Paul Ryan and Chris Smith) effectively said a woman’s subconscious can determine if she gets pregnant. He said as a result of a rape a women’s body can shut down its reproductive mechanisms. Of course this is junk science. And Republicans quickly reacted to the predictable public uproar by castigating Rep. Akin and seeking his resignation from the race. (Two interesting exceptions to that list were former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and current Congressional candidate Rep. Chris Smith. Huckabee by his stout defense and Smith by his silence.)

But this had nothing to do with Republicans’ regard for science. In fact science is held in very low regard in the Republican party. This is best exemplified by the fact that the Republicans appointed Rep. Akin to the Congressional Science Committee.

The real subject of Akin’s discussion was not science but rape. And his real purpose was to delegitimize and trivialize rape. His implication is that, since pregnancies don’t really happen by rape, then it can’t be a real or serious reason for seeking an abortion. (Stated otherwise, a woman seeking an abortion for rape is probably lying about really being raped.) Further, his more insidious point is that there must be degrees and types of rape. Hence there must be ’legitimate’ and illegitimate rapes, etc. Of course this is a merely a logical progression from Rep Chris Smith’s proposal to distinguish ‘forcible rapes’ from, apparently, unforced rapes.

Why is it necessary to distinguish between types of rape? There must be a reason. And the reason is simple. Abortion is a simply defined act. If there are types and degrees of rape then rape is not a simply defined act. Rape is not rape. There must be a relative scale where some rapes are worse and some better than others. Some rapes might be important and legitimate and some illegitimate and unimportant. So if you are raising rape as a reason to do, or not do, something, you must further define and defend that rational by further classifying your rape into those categories. And there can be reasonable differences of opinion where different rapes fall on a relative scale. (Like science!)  So, as an example, simple rape alone is not a reason for claiming a simple right to abortion. And once you are on that slippery slope you have lost your moral ground. Rape cannot stand against abortion.

All of this has exactly one purpose- ‘personhood’. Todd Akin, Chris Smith, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party all support a constitutional amendment on personhood. A personhood amendment says “we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed”. It says that ‘life’ begins, and is sacred and protected, at conception. It requires the logical destruction of abortion. It abides no exceptions. Rape is not an exception, incest is not an exception, a woman’s health is not an exception. Consequences be dammed. Only the imminent death of the woman can potentially stand astride this mighty and sacred right. Personhood rights also call into legal question many existing infertility, reproductive, and contraception practices

Of course all of that makes sense if you hold that religious position and are willing to legally impose it on women that do not hold it. So, in the end, it is not about junk science it is about religious and personal freedom. Republicans Chris Smith and Todd Akin believe that women have the legal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness- unless they are pregnant. Based on these Republican religious beliefs, at conception women forfeit their legal rights to someone else. The real point of Akin’s discussion was that women have ceretain rights and the Republicans want to take them away

War on!

Brian Froelich, Democratic Candidate for US Congress (NJ, 4th Dist.)

Brian Froelich is running for Congress (NJ 4th District) as a Democrat against the author of the ‘forcible rape’ language, Republican Chris Smith. Brian obtained advanced degrees at Boston College (BS, Finance), Rutgers University (MBA, Accounting), and Seton Hall Law School (JD).  He is a lifelong New Jersey resident, lives with his wife or 45 years in Spring Lake, and has five children and twelve grandchildren. He is an entrepreneur and has been a successful businessman in both large and small enterprises for decades. Brian has also been active in (and on the Boards of) several civic, business, and charitable organizations.

Mr. President, what if that potted plant right in front of us is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together its true motives?

Newt Gingrich probably didn’t say that—so far as we know. But he has said a lot of crazy things in his time. Like the time he said that he was the only thing standing between us and Auschwitz. Or the time he compared a disputed House election to the Holocaust. Actually, he’s compared a lot of things to the Holocaust. For the full rundown, check out the Newt Testament, our complete guide to 33 years of bomb-throwing.