Last night, we learned of the tragic death of Michael Hastings, a relentlessly independent journalist whose 2010 reporting in Rolling Stone ended General Stanley McChrystal’s military career.
For some necessary context, this is Rolling Stone ‘s description of that piece:
Hastings’ unvarnished 2010 profile of McChrystal in the pages of Rolling Stone, “The Runaway General,” captured the then-supreme commander of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan openly mocking his civilian commanders in the White House.
The maelstrom sparked by its publication concluded with President Obama recalling McChrystal to Washington and the general resigning his post. “The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be met by – set by a commanding general,” Obama said, announcing McChrystal’s departure. “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”
This morning, barely removed from news of Hastings’ death, Michael Calderone, The Huffington Post‘s Senior Media Reporter (and a journalist I generally respect), apparently thought it would be an important journalistic task to ask McChrystal what he thought of Hastings’ death:
Calderone’s move to ask McChrystal for comment so soon after Hastings’ death immediately struck me as mildly inappropriate, given the former general’s connection to Hastings. More than that, however, it struck me as something – a comment from McChrystal – that would have virtually no journalistic value or significance.
In continuation of my series on First Amendment rights as they impact religious minority groups, I address current controversy over social media posts maligning religious groups. My previous post in this series entitled Does Freedom of Speech Allow Stereotyping discussed a greeting card that stereotyped Muslims as terrorists in an unusually offensive and glaringly inaccurate way. This week I have chosen another unfortunate event, a Facebook post that ignited debate over the possible classification of certain types of content as threats instead of free speech. Tennessee County Commissioner Barry West posted a picture on his Facebook page showing a cowboy aiming a shotgun at the camera with the caption “How to Wink at a Muslim”.
by: Andrew Lam on May 17th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
(Cross-posted from New America Media)
Self-immolation isn’t what it used to be.
This ultimate form of protest became global news in 1963 when the venerable monk Thich Quang Duc set himself ablaze in the middle of Saigon, Vietnam, protesting religious oppression. Doused in gasoline, the monk sat serenely in lotus position and lit a match. A bird of paradise thus blossomed and bloomed, and quickly charred his body.
The photographer Malcolm Browne captured Thich Quang Duc’s fiery renouncement of the mortal coil, the image quickly becoming an icon of the Vietnam War era. The term “self-immolation,” in fact, entered into common English usage after his death, which led to a coup d’etat that toppled the pro-Catholic Ngo Dinh Diem regime.
by: Lynn Feinerman on April 26th, 2013 | 9 Comments »
Memorial for the Boston Marathon attack on April 15, 2013. Credit: Creative Commons/AnubisAbyss.
On April 20, 2013, days after the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon event, President Obama asked: “Why did young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?”
Media reported that on April 22, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two brothers accused in the bombings, answered Obama’ s question. He stated they bombed the event in reaction to U.S. attacks on Islam.
Is Obama listening to that answer? How does he interpret it? Are the mainstream media, and in particular Fox News’ Erik Rush, listening to that answer?
I don’t think Erik Rush is listening. I doubt, in fact, that the Obama administration is listening to that answer… heeding the message. And innocent U.S. citizens are paying the price.
by: Thad Williamson on March 15th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
After graduating college, many students lose sight of civic engagement as they focus on moneymaking.
Many college students today feel themselves to be under immense pressure to secure their own professional futures – to be able to repay loans and to avoid falling on the wrong side of the deepening economic divide. Others want to acquire money and comfort, or power, because this is how a successful life has generally been portrayed to them. But many also have a concern with community and social problems and have experience doing various kinds of volunteer work; others are interested in politics and public service.
However, the ideas that getting serious about social change requires more than just volunteer work, and that democratic action is not simply about campaigns, elections, and the deeds of politicians, remain relatively novel to college students. As a college teacher, it is easy to get frustrated when confronted with students who are clueless, disengaged, or unwilling to see beyond the moneymaking definition of success. But in my experience many students are in fact eager for an alternative definition of a good life, and eager to learn more about social movements and social change. This is true whatever the self-described political leanings (if any) of students.
In the wake of Sandy Hook, U.S. media outlets have brought to press a flurry of critical stories on the NRA, rightfully placing the pro-gun behemoth in the spotlight. However, far too many news organizations have attempted to advertise such stories by using gun imagery in the titles.
Such titles, while intended to be witty and sharp, in truth have worked to undermine the very stories and columns being promoted.
These titles are not cute. They are not witty. They are not the product of a responsible journalistic ethic which treats the titles — the promotions — as an important part of a story’s trajectory.
by: Jay Sterling Silver on September 20th, 2012 | 9 Comments »
Admittedly, I’m a bit touchy about false reports that Jews are involved in sinister activities, like the Wall Street Journal and Associated Press reports that a Jewish real-estate developer in California, having raised five million dollars from “more than 100 Jewish donors,” created the anti-Islam video that touched off riots throughout the Arab world and became the pretense for killing American diplomats in Libya. A cursory knowledge of history, conspiracy theories, and stereotyping — from international banking conspiracies to the Holocaust and its denial to present-day hate groups — can make you feel that way. But normally responsible sources like the Journal and the AP needn’t play into the hands of reactionaries, as they did in the initial reports that Jews were at the bottom of the worldwide furor.
The error was not insignificant. In a day when hateful misinformation can produce instantaneous tragedy in any corner of an overwrought world, as it so clearly has in this case, laying responsibility at the feet of an “Israeli Jew” and his affluent Jewish friends can incite more violence against Jews and anyone else in the path of those moved to murder, in the name of God, over a perceived religious affront.
The error was entirely preventable, as well. As a cursory attempt to check the facts would have revealed, no Sam Bacile — the alleged creator of the video screed — ever walked the earth. It’s equally clear from viewing the 14-minute, YouTube post that it didn’t cost five million dollars, or even five thousand, to produce. And would it stand to reason that the imaginary Bacile, as an Israeli, would attempt to “help his native land” by provoking its neighbors with a vile depiction of Muhammad? Or that the individual at the other end of the phone — who’d be blamed for the deaths of innocent Americans and the spread of rioting across a continent, and who’d become the target of extremists himself — would provide his real name?
Thanks to the media, we can share in a tragedy and empathize with the suffering of others. Almost instantly, we can follow events anywhere in the world: if the media are there to cover them. And the closer to home, the greater the impact of these events. My wife and I find ourselves in tears as we watch the TV news of a coach-load of Belgian children shattered in a road-tunnel accident on their journey home after a skiing holiday in Switzerland. A wave of solidarity sweeps over a deeply divided country (Belgium), quieting divisive quarrels. On our Swiss TV, we have a once-weekly little film at the end of the TV news, where a filmmaker looks at the events of the week. Last Friday’s film was on this tragic accident, and made the point that silence seems to be the best way of marking such tragedies: no words, just silence.
Photo Courtesy of Brendan Cohen
This last weekend, John Yoo was attending a conference at Stanford University sponsored by the Stanford Federalist Society. John Yoo, as you may remember, is the former Bush-era lawyer who wrote the memorandum justifying the use of torture.
As some students with Stanford Says No to War and I were wondering what we might do to speak out against the acceptance of Mr. Yoo into civilized society and academic circles, we were mindful that Stanford has begun to prohibit protests and have signs posted saying, “Protests Prohibited.” So it occurred to us that perhaps we should have a “Support John Yoo” event rather than a protest. Consequently, Darth Vader agreed to make an appearance in support of Mr. Yoo. What he didn’t expect was the enthusiastic welcome he would receive as dozens of people lined up to have their picture taken with him. Mr. Vader delivered the following message on behalf of Mr. Yoo:
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
These are dire times when our nation, The Empire, is under threat from many enemies both foreign and domestic. Our economy has been weakened by social parasites; international terrorists are attempting to attack us and weaken our mastery of land, sea, air and space; the Occupiers are attempting to take over important public and private space and buildings. We must remain ever vigilant and that is why we urge you to support John Yoo. Make no mistake, the critics of John Yoo are nothing less than enemies of The Empire.
by: Max Coleman on January 18th, 2012 | 2 Comments »
I’m fairly certain that, as you read this sentence, you match a certain demographic. In fact, I can say with 100 percent confidence that you do. You are an Internet user and, by virtue of this fact, should be filled with tremendous outrage at the legislation that is set to pass in Congress.
The “Stop Online Piracy Act” (HR 3261), introduced in October, empowers copyright holders to seek punitive action when their material is reproduced online. Fair enough. But like much of the cleverly-worded legislation presented to Congress, this bill’s title is hardly reflective of its likely pernicious effect. (Remember Bush’s “Clean Air Act”?) What SOPA really amounts to is a destabilization of the Internet by corporate entities.