(Reprinted from the original posting on www.forumblog.org on February 8, 2005)
Posted from the U.S
Richard Sambrook of the BBC, David Gergen of Harvard, and Senator Christopher Dodd have all weighed in their initial measures on Easongate. Much of this can be followed at Michelle Malkin's site, Hugh Hewitt, and Rebecca MacKinnon. We now understand that the WEF is mulling over the release of the videotape of the session with Jordan, and that there is a small debate brewing regarding the "on" or "off" the record nature of the session. I have also heard from the WEF's Head of Media, Mark Adams, just a few hours ago. Mark was kind enough to reply to an e-mail I sent him recently. Mark explained to me that the session was held under 'Chatham House Rules', which means that the general tenor of the debate can be reported but specific quotes are not attributable, which was done to encourage a full and frank exchange of views. Others have received a similar communication from Mark. I suppose this means that the public will not get to view a copy of the videotape, unless something changes. Unfortunately, this will likely only fuel speculation, feed rumors, and spawn numerous theories. The video would eliminate one part of this debate, and now what we will have is a pitched battle of memory, recollection, and context.
Senator Dodd's statement, "Senator Dodd was not on the panel but was in the audience when Mr. Jordan spoke. He – like panelists Mr. Gergen and Mr. Frank – was outraged by the comments. Senator Dodd is tremendously proud of the sacrifice and service of our American military personnel." is perhaps the clearest statement from a major figure present at the meeting. Thank you, Senator Dodd for at least expressing what I felt as well, and for adding some real weight to this issue. If the WEF suppresses the video, the chaff thrown out by CNN and Eason supporters may obscure and cloud all of this to a lack of contextual understanding by audience members. Let's be clear: that is a load of bull. What was said was clearly understood, and no amount of reverse engineering can undo that. If you shout fire in a crowded theatre and then try to say that what you really meant was for someone to just turn down the air conditioning, it just does not fly. There are a multitude of related issues that stem from what happened, but as I watch Easongate unfold, a line in the sand issue has emerged for me. Over dinner with a friend tonight a thought crystallized: the media is either for the right or for the left, and the lying, the twisting, and the skewing of the truth - these aberrations are just ok with us. We the public, the audience, have been accustomed to this way of living, and we are supposedly fine with it. Reporters can throw out half-baked ideas, partial truths, anything they want, as long as this plays into the political mindset of their core audience. We want to hear what they say, true or not, so long as it fits our particular system of thought. The American right is up in arms about Eason Jordan, but will a single Arabic, or European, or even Asian voice sing anything but his praise, or nod in quiet approval?
In Gergen's statement he says "Jordan realized as soon as the words had left his mouth that he had gone too far and walked himself back." I have the greatest respect for David Gergen, but he is being too kind. Jordan walked himself back because he was pushed back, and pushed back hard. It was an outrage to watch in the flesh the process of big media at work, this massaging of facts and distortion of reality to meet the needs of a specific group of news consumers. It was an outrage because these distortions fuel the minds of entire regions of the world, which propagates hatred, bias, and war. The unrestricted influence the media has on world and regional opinions and views is without parallel. I am a very strong proponent of free speech, but when will we achieve speech that is not only free, but factual and trustworthy? The concept of trust is a big one on the web in terms of data communication, password authentications, and machine to machine communication. Can this concept, or standard of trust be applied to the MSM (mainstream media)? What if MSM had to live up to standards of verification, authenticity, and the production of assertions supported by facts? What if viewers could know and understand that a member of the MSM was part of a chain of trusted information, or that he or she was outside the fold? The scientific community works in this very way: there are respected, peer reviewed journals, and there are rags of speculative nonsense. The consumer of the news, vital information that shapes all of our lives, has no such obvious choice.
Rebecca MacKinnon in a previous article writes: "Before we leap to moral judgments or condemnations, we must be realistic. In truth, it is unrealistic to expect commercially-driven TV news companies to do anything other than to seek profit maximization -- while at the same time selling a product that can still be defined as "news" in some way. The search for profit maximization means that these companies will shape their news to fit the tastes and values of the majority of their most lucrative potential audience. Citizens of democracies who want to be well informed must understand this. They cannot expect to be passive consumers of whatever news comes their way from a name-brand news source. They must question, contrast, and compare. They must demand better quality information".
Her observations define an entrenched reality, but Easongate is a challenge to that reality. It is a challenge which says "Enough!". Many people recently said "Enough!" to the tobacco companies, another amoral corporate institution driven by "profit maximization" and "lucrative potential audiences". The product of tobacco companies poisons the body and brings forth cancers and a host of disease and ailments. What of the product of commercially-driven TV news companies, where only profits matter? What does this "product" do to the minds of viewers? "The search for profit maximization means that these companies will shape their news to fit the tastes and values of the majority of their most lucrative potential audience". This is exactly what Eason was doing. Eason gave me his CNN business card after the talk. The back of his card is in Arabic, even though he is based in Atlanta. There is nothing wrong with Arabic - it is a beautiful, expressive language with a rich, wonderful, deep culture. But it is not hard to understand, or guess at, Eason's most lucrative potential audience. The news is being shaped, and it is time to say, "Enough!". Here is a crazy idea: The U.S., Europe, the Middle East, Asia - why can't we all see the same news, the same data, the same reality, and the same truth? Is the truth regional, or is a fact a fact, anywhere in the world? Science is universal - why is the news, merely a reporting of physical events, a distorted, biased mess? Is that too boring? Must we keep stirring the pot of regional conflicts? What Rebecca describes as the cold facts of commercial media, having worked for them, makes me sick. Yes, I am an outsider to this industry, but so are billions of us on this earth. We need a change. Start with Eason, but don't stop. Much of the house is rotten.
A lone blogger named Zed has posted his collected findings on the journalists killed in Iraq. The quality of Zed's work, in its very limited scope (put together with what looks like a hacker's ethic of just finding things out), overshadows the quality of anything that CNN, or most anyone for that matter, has done to defend CNN's chief, in over a week. This is not a comment on the accuracy of what Zed has found, but at least he has tried to pull together some semblance of data, given the lack of verified facts. A random, stray blogger seems to care more about the truth than the MSM. It does not matter if he is coming at this issue from the right or the left - at least he is trying. Zed and I are specks in the scheme of things compared to MSM - where are they on any of this? Easongate is not a good topic for MSM's audience, because it is pointing out the darker underbelly inside of MSM - not a great move for building profits. What we are seeing here is the blogging world practically dragging and forcing MSM to deal with this issue, perhaps even against their will.
The outrage of Senator Dodd is well taken, but will Easongate end here, or will it ultimately target the source? Will anyone join me in saying "Enough!"?