Friday, February 03, 2006

National Press Club: A cabal of propagandists

"Rumsfeld Speaks, We Dutifully Stenograph"

Original Email Message

To: National Press Club

Shame on you for providing a platform for war criminal Donald Rumsfeld, so that he can continue spewing his lies. (Remember the absent WMD, the last throes of the insurgency, we don't torture, and so on?) The guy's an incorrigible liar (, and yet he gets a platform from your organization. Disgraceful.

I heartily applaud Heather Hurwitz of World Can't Wait for exposing Rumsfeld during his presentation. I'm also shocked (and sadly not surprised) that the only report of her confrontation with this war criminal was on Democracy Now! and Indymedia. (Google news search comes up with nothing; reports on the speech only.)

The American media continues to provide shameful uncritical propaganda for the Bush administration. And some wonder why faith in media is so low and why people aren't reading newspapers?!?

Shame on the National Press Club.

Paul Dorn
San Francisco, CA

Response from president of National Press Club


I don't know if you had watched the broadcast, but if you had, you would have seen Secretary Rumsfeld being asked to explain his earlier claims about WMD, and whether he will go down in history as the architect of a failed war the way Robert McNamara did. He hardly had an unchallenged platform.

In 2004, when we had George Soros at the club to talk about why he was spending millions of dollars to defeat George W. Bush, the right wing sent us similar letters asking how we could give a platform to someone so he could continue spewing his lies.

When you talk about the American media providing uncritical propaganda, are you including the nation's second-largest newspaper chain, Knight Ridder, which reported how U.S. intelligence agencies had strong doubts about whether there were WMDs in Iraq, and are you including CBS News, which broke the story about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners?

As for the disruption, when someone is invited to your home, you would not expect him or her to stand up and prevent someone else from speaking, even if he or she disagreed with you. She was a guest at the press club. If she would have submitted a question to get the secretary's response to charges that he was a war criminal, I could have asked it and forced him to respond. Instead, she chose to stand up and yell insults. There was no confrontation. She didn't expose anybody. Why is that news? Even my 8-year-old knows that's unacceptable behavior.

--Jonathan D. Salant, president, National Press Club

My response to Jonathan D. Salant


Thank you for your response. You're president of the National Press Club, so one shouldn't surprised that you defend your organization and the American media.

No, I didn't see the broadcast. The challenging questions didn't make it into the press reports of the speech I've seen, which isn't all that surprising. Some reporters (Helen Thomas, David Corn, Russell Mokhiber, etc.) routinely pose challenging questions to administration officials, which are just as routinely filtered out of most published articles.

From the news articles I've found, however, I see that Rumsfeld:

1) says there are still terrorists out there (that's news?)
2) compares Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Hitler (with no correction to Rumsfeld's assertion that Hitler was "elected"; Hitler was actually first appointed chancellor by President Paul von Hindenberg. But this is America, after all, and historical amnesia is endemic.)
3) asserts that weapons of mass destruction may still be found in Iraq (he's either lying, dreaming, or is planning to have WMDs planted in Iraq for "discovery" later.)

You give too much credit to Knight-Ridder and CBS, both organizations notable more for suppressing stories and forcing out real journalists (Gary Webb, Dan Rather). The stories you mention were both well known to the foreign and alternative press, well before they were deemed safe to report to Americans. Certainly there are admirable journalists at work in the US; in addition to those mentioned above, I might include Amy Goodman (of course), Greg Palast, Alexander Cockburn, etc. However, the quality of what passes for American journalism is generally appalling.

My knowledge of George Soros' biography is admittedly sketchy. However, I don't believe he has ever been directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Nor has he ever been photographed shaking hands with the "brutal dictator" Saddam Hussein, as Rummy was in 1983. To present Soros and Rumsfeld as equivalent merely reveals how morally vacuous the National Press Club truly is.

Finally, you condemn Heather Hurwitz for, essentially, being "impolite." One wishes more journalists would be so impolite in the face of Bush administration criminality. Deference is a poor tactic for healthy journalism.

Best regards,

Paul Dorn
San Francisco

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Going Postal" and the American Empire

An unscientific and speculative bit of theorizing, by an admitted non-criminologist.*

There was another post office massacre by a former USPS employee. Police say the suspect, Jennifer Sanmarco, 44, killed six postal employees before committing suicide with a handgun. A possible seventh victim was found dead in a condominium complex in Santa Barbara where Sanmarco once lived. This incident is believed to be the deadliest workplace shooting ever carried out in the United States by a woman.

Sadly, killings by postal employees are not that uncommon. Wikipedia has an entry on Going Postal, which details some of the most infamous recent examples. The details on this latest incident are still unknown. But I would hazard a guess that Jennifer Sanmarcos is a military veteran.

The U.S. is the largest imperial power in the world. The U.S. has the highest rate of violent crime of any industrialized nation. I would suggest that this is not a coincidence. The war abroad becomes the war at home. Imperialism requires lots and lots of trained killers. Trained killers returning to civilian life are a risk to their communities. Remember Timothy McVeigh?

The easy availability of guns in the U.S. is well known. However, where does the average American learn how to use weapons? Sure, some people learn from their parents or grandparents. But according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, only 13 million Americans--less than 5 percent--are active hunters. Gun clubs, shooting ranges, local militias, and the NRA are other possible sources of weapons training. But I would guess the number of such clubs or training programs are relatively few.

No, clearly the largest provider of lethal weapons training to the American people is the U.S. Military. Apart from police operatives, soldiers are the only gun users who are legally allowed (and even encouraged) to use weapons for lethal purposes. Often soldiers suffer severe psychological stress after engaging in killing or combat activity. Resources to treat such stress are notoriously inadequate.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that veterans are incarcerated at less than half the rate of non-veterans. However, digging deeper, we find that veterans have a higher rate of violent crime than non-veterans. From the BJS report:

--Veterans were more likely to be in a state prison for a violent offense (55 percent) than the non-veteran inmate population (46 percent).
--About 35 percent of the veterans in state prisons had been convicted of homicide or sexual assault, compared to 20 percent of the non-veterans.
--Among violent state prisoners, the average sentence of veterans was 50 months longer than the average of non-veterans.

Upon leaving the military, many veterans find a career in postal service attractive, as it allows them to transfer seniority and pension credit earned from the armed services. Only 12.4 percent of the entire U.S. population are veterans. However, the USPS employs more than 212,000 veterans, or approximately 30 percent of their workforce. Might this higher percentage of veterans help explain the higher incidence of workplace violence by postal employees?

This is purely speculative theorizing. However, I'd be interested in any studies on the link between military service and violent crime. The American Empire kills abroad, and it kills at home. It's long past time to end the empire.

* Disclaimer: I greatly respect the USPS and postal workers. I liked the postal service even before they sponsored Lance Armstrong. And I don't even know if postal workers are more prone to homicidal violence than, say, truck drivers or auto mechanics. Purely speculative.