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Caveat lector

PROP COMICS! Fox’s odd coverage of the war is a study in pure propaganda:


TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS: Two different wars are occurring on cable—the war that you see on MSNBC/CNN, and the war that is being described on Fox. Monday night, Larry King was hosting his CNN show. He asked a fairly obvious question:

KING: General [William] Odom, in the new New Yorker, out today, Seymour Hersh, the veteran correspondent and reporter, reports of major disagreements between Secretary Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs and the people running this show. What do you make of that?
It was an obvious question. Odom said, “I don’t think that’s terribly important one way or another right now.” Despite that, he did voice his view:
ODOM: I said some time ago, it made sense to do, and I see they are doing it now, is try to move more heavy ground forces in, to load the combat power to our enormous advantage as we approach Baghdad…The idea that we go with less than three or four divisions from—at the very beginning, strikes me as a little strange. I think you would flunk an exercise in the command and staff college at Fort Leavenworth if your solution was to launch with one heavy division down there.
According to Odom, mistakes had been made. Colonel David Hackworth said the same thing when King asked him for his view:
HACKWORTH: Bottom line is, I think the Secretary Def, he made a call and went in really light, and his generals should have stood tall…The bottom line is, bad decision by Secretary of Defense. It will be salvaged by those great young men that are down on the ground and up in the air, and they’re always the guys that save the faulty plans of the generals and the guys like Rumsfeld, so we’ll do it, and it’ll be done.
No one thought the world had ended. Again, Odom downplayed the topic’s importance: “Rather than trying to fix the blame right now, the more important thing to do is render this after the war.” But both men said that mistakes had been made. King then moved on to other topics.

But ten minutes earlier, viewers of Fox had been watching a quite different war. In fact, they’d been living in a different world—they’d been living in Propaganda Land, a world where people who don’t repeat White House spin are presumed to be full of bad motives. When Sean Hannity questioned Oliver North, he took us to the Land of Propaganda:
HANNITY: Listen, I want to ask you this, Colonel. This is important, because there are negative reports. You would think when you read some of these liberal newspapers, Ollie, that this is not one of the most successful military efforts in history. You’ve been around the military a good part of your adult life. I can’t imagine we could have done any better up to this point, and I think in the next 20 days we’re going to once again show them what we’re made of in short order.
Why do you think we’re getting these negative reports, and what’s really happening? If you can describe it for people.
In Propaganda Land, Sean was troubled by “these negative reports” which were coming—not from generals and colonels, of course—but from “these liberal newspapers.” He couldn’t imagine that we could have done any better—although ten days before, people were saying that the war would be won in two days. What was “really happening” with these reports, he wondered. And Ollie was pimping hard too:
NORTH: Sean, I cannot think of a time in history, not the German blitzkrieg, not any campaign, in which an allied force or a friendly force, coalition forces, moved 250 miles into enemy territory with so few casualties. I mean, there has never been a campaign like this in world history. So when you look at the people who are complaining about what’s not happening, or it’s not happening as fast as it should, let me just tell you something. I have never seen anything like it…
General Odom? Colonel Hackworth? On Fox, they’re just “the people who are complaining about what’s not happening”—and viewers are given the pleasing impression that they’re complaining because they’re big “liberals.” On Fox, “negative reports” come from “liberal newspapers”—not from guys with titles like “General” sitting in front of their names.

But Fox is now Propaganda Land, as North again showed the next morning. On the heinous program Fox & Friends, Brian Kilmeade threw a question to North—and North began his act once again. What is Fox’s constant message? No one will tell you the truth except Fox. Those “liberals” are constantly lying:
NORTH: I think it would be helpful, Brian, given some of the disinformation that hasn’t necessarily come from the Iraqis but some of our own media, about the welfare of our marines.
Yes, we know, that isn’t a sentence. But it did express a Key Fox Thought: American media spew disinformation. Everyone lies to you except Fox. North asked an officer if his unit had sufficient food, and the officer pleasingly said that it did. North pretended that others had lied about this. Two minutes later, he was back to his spin-point:
NORTH: But it’s not just Iraqis who are spreading disinformation but some of our own media, portraying this as some kind of military debacle.
E. D. Hill closed the segment a few minutes later. She got into the paranoia game too:
HILL: Colonel, I know that not all places report what the United States forces have been doing to help people—along with the British, the Poles and the Australians—but we’re glad to have you in the field to bring this to us.
On the heinous Fox & Friends, viewers are fed a diet of paranoia—the liberal media just won’t tell you the truth. If you hear a “negative report,” it’s because those other news orgs are lying.

If you watch Fox, it’s a different war. General Odom? He won’t be mentioned. It’s “liberal newspapers” who make these “negative reports”—reports which are just disinformation. Remember: Enlightenment values are a recent addition to older desires in the human heart. Fox viewers love to be told tribal tales. The network’s hacks gladly oblige.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: When last we looked in on the heinous Hill, she was inventing nasty tales about Al Gore’s mother. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/12/02. For a taste of Fox & Friend’s tone in times of peace, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/19/02.

NEVER MIND: On Tuesday morning, Fox & Friends kicked things off by mocking those silly Geraldo reports. Had Fox’s correspondent been booted from Iraq? Pshaw! Pure piffle, the Fox friends said, one minute into the program:
KILMEADE: But some other thing we want to correct the record about, and it’s about Geraldo Rivera.

HILL: Well, in the papers, you’ll open it up and it says, “Geraldo Rivera kicked out of Iraq.” Not a chance! It’s Geraldo!! We’ve got him live in Iraq and we’ll take you out there very soon.
Hill made big funny faces, letting her viewers (mental age: 5) know how silly this story had been. And when Geraldo came on about ten minutes later, the pandering scribe played the net’s preferred games. Once again, other outlets were lying:
RIVERA: A lot of the newspapers and TV outlets back in the states have some explaining to do to their readers and viewers because, as you can see, I’m still here and I plan to be here until I have a beer with the 101st Airborne in Baghdad.
Remember: No one will tell you the truth except Fox. “The reports of my demise were premature,” Geraldo said, and Hill and Kilmeade shared a good solid laugh at those other orgs’ phony reports.

By this morning, of course, things were different; Geraldo was “voluntarily” gone from Iraq. We watched the program’s first forty minutes—and Fox & Friends’ gang of consummate hacks hadn’t mentioned that Geraldo was gone.

The Daily update

NOT SO FAST THERE, MARSHALL: Some readers complained when we picked Josh Marshall to serve on the Post op-ed page (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/1/03). Here was part of SW’s reaction:
E-MAIL: There are those among us who would maintain that Marshall didn’t just sleepwalk us into a W administration. He also helped bring us this illegal, immoral, and incredibly poorly-run war. After much “study and introspection” of the issue, Marshall months ago advocated disarming Iraq by force, completely disregarding what many of us knew: W and his people are incapable of running an action like this competently if for no other reason that because they are not doing it for the right reasons…Yes, he is a brilliant writer, and yes, I’ll continue to read him. I’ll also continue to hector him daily until he acknowledges that he made a grievous error by ever supporting this administration’s goals in Iraq.
Other readers lodged this objection, which we thought was worth noting. It remains true that Marshall’s work on Iraq—before and after—runs circles around the sleep-walking palaver penned by the dozing Post Three.

We can certainly think of other scribes with whom to replace the Post’s “liberal” pundits. But it’s clearly time for those sleepwalking “liberals” to go—and it’s time to focus on the point which William Raspberry found so shocking in Marshall’s Washington Monthly piece. What are the Admin’s larger aims in the Middle East? The cocktail crowd has known not to ask. If America is to have a real public discourse, it’s time to engage this discussion.