Pre-existing frameworks rule these discussions. Pundits refuse to learn simple facts. Ninety percent of on-air time is devoted to a dim-witted, fruitless process, as the pundits attempt to determine, by some sort of introspection, what must have happened in the specific incident.
Very little time is left over to discuss real societal issues. On cable, the OJ case was really about running videotape of Nicole, not about discussing race [or] sexual violence. Please. Let’s get semi-real.
It has been stunning to see the way pre-existing frameworks have been forced onto the murky events of this latest unfortunate incident. In all candor, your big major pundits just aren’t very smart. It isn’t good for your society when they pretend to discuss serious topics.
Last night, another “teachable moment” occurred.
On CNN, the cable buffoons were pondering possible “teachable moments” last night. Lou Dobbs mused about where the “moment” might lie. And then, Keith Richburg, of the Washington Post, said this. We did not make it up:
RICHBURG (7/27/09): Let me just add one thing on—
DOBBS: Quickly if you will.
RICHBURG: Yes, it just seems that one thing is, Professor Gates and his neighbor should get to know each other.
JAMES TARANTO: But she was not a neighbor. She lived about seven miles away.
RICHBURG: Well, she worked— Yes, but she worked in an office 100 yards away.
By now, Richburg understood that the caller wasn’t a neighbor—but for reasons only these Martians can explain, such narratives must never die. When Taranto corrected him, Richburg advanced a new Mars-ready theory: You should make sure you get to know everyone who lives within 100 yards of your office. You should get to know everyone who works in a building 100 yards from your home.
(We can’t vouch for Richburg’s yardage.)
We’d call that a teachable moment—about a group of unteachable life-forms. Our teaching? Only on Mars do life-forms like these actually grow and thrive.
And yet, these strange people remain on the air, shaping America’s “public discussions.” Indeed, people like Matthews remain good friends of our liberal intellectual leaders.
That's from today's Daily Howler by Bob Somerby. And it goes to how the narrative is imposed on the story and facts and anything else can be squeezed out as a result of the narrative. Above all, the narrative must be served. You can actually see that in any news program (I'm talking news, not chatting heads) when a report begins airing. There is a narrative and you can pick it out, if you pay attention, as easily as you can pick out the plot points of a summer blockbuster.
So news happens to fit the frame, not to be told. That's the broadcasting motto (unofficial). And they will shape it and shade it and get what they want out of it however they have to.
It's honestly scary when you think about it and think about how much trust they have just because they are on TV. People really think they do research and work before stepping in front of the camera. But that's not the case.
So think about that tonight and think about how hard Bob Somerby's been working for at least the last two weeks explaining these points.
That's it for me. Folks are here and we're going out to eat. First time they're letting me treat them (and they were here all last week). (Reminded, time stamp is EST. I'm not taking my parents out to eat at 11 at night. It's PST here. So it's eight which is late but they needed a nap from running around with my kids. Our reservations are for 8:45 which almost gives me enough time to get my kids cleaned up and presentable.)
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Amnesty International has written directly to the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki about recent developments relating to the more than 3,000 Iranian exiles currently living in Camp Ashraf, northeast of Baghdad, who Iraqi officials have said should leave the country. The Iranians are members or supporters of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI).
In particular, Amnesty International expressed concern at a recent statement reportedly made in an interview with al-Forat, an Iraqi TV channel, by National Security Advisor Dr Muwaffaq al-Rubaie, in which he said that the authorities intend gradually to make the continued presence of the Camp Ashraf residents "intolerable". Shortly after this, possibly in a related development, a team of medical doctors were denied access to the Camp for several days. One purpose of their visit was reportedly to provide treatment to a woman in the Camp in need of surgery for an internal cancerous tumour. The doctors were later allowed into the camp.
In its letter, Amnesty International urged the Iraqi Prime Minister to ensure that no action is taken by the Iraqi authorities that violates the human rights of the Camp Ashraf residents and to clarify the government's intentions towards them in the light of Dr al-Rubaie's reported threat to make their lives "intolerable." Amnesty International has previously called on the Iraqi government to ensure that none of the Camp Ashraf residents or other Iranian dissidents are forcibly returned to Iran in view of fears that they would be at risk of torture or other serious human rights violations there.
The PMOI is an Iranian opposition organization and many of its members have been resident in Iraq for many years. Until recently the organization was listed as a "terrorist" organization by the European Union (EU) and governments of non-EU states, but in most cases this designation has now been lifted on the grounds that the PMOI no longer advocates or engages in armed opposition to the government of Iran. Following the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the US forces provided protection for the Ashraf Camp residents, who were designated as "protected persons" under the Geneva Conventions. This situation has apparently been discontinued following the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the US and Iraqi governments which came into force on 1 January 2009, although the SOFA does not make any reference to Camp Ashraf or its residents. The Iranian government is said to be putting pressure on Iraq to expel the PMOI members and supporters from Iraq.
Today, after all the pain and sacrifices we have endured for six years, this freedom is threatened again.
After the Saddam Hussein regime fell, thousands of book and dozens of newspapers that had been banned, censored or not permitted to be printed were suddenly free to publish.
the new york times
alissa j. rubin