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Media

Archive | Media

The Journalism Wars: The Resignations at Russia Today

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Pictured: Former RT anchor Liz Wahl (L), Russian troops and RT employee Abby Martin (R)

The journalistic credo is a difficult one. The line between corporate sponsored sycophancy and state sponsored guidance is an all too fine one.

Pictured: Former RT anchor Liz Wahl (L), Russian troops and RT employee Abby Martin (R)

Little wonder that today’s news scape is awash with such experiments as those of WikiLeaks, or Glen Greenwald’s The Intercept, potent challenges to the numbing twenty-four hour news cycle. The resignation of Russia Today (RT) America anchor Liz Wahl and the off-script outburst by RT employee Abby Martin on the program Breaking the Set have provided yet another example how the Cold War dynamics that lurk beneath the relations of West and East continue to pulsate in discussions. Much of this is fantasy, an attempt to jam events into a historical, necessary frame. Even more of it is palpable laziness, examples of hack appraisals and shallow reading.

Martin made it clear in concluding remarks on March 3 that her position was hers. “Just because I work here, for RT, doesn’t mean I don’t have editorial independence and I can’t stress enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign’s affairs. What Russia did is wrong.” The response from RT was subsequently one of awkward management, suggesting that Martin make a trip under the auspices of RT to cover matters in the Crimea. Get up to speed; get a better picture.

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Fred Kaplan Misses the Mark on Snowden Clemency

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Pictured: Edward Snowden and the Times.  Sources: Associated Press and Praxis Films

Since I pretty much made a meal out of this issue over on Twitter, I’m returning from 140-character land to share my thoughts on the Fred Kaplan think piece that made the case for denying clemency to Edward Snowden.

Pictured: Edward Snowden and the Times. Sources: Associated Press and Praxis Films

I was rather bemused by the hosannas this piece attracted from certain quarters. It’s the usual collection of sneering tropes, innuendo, and speculation, marshaled in this case to repudiate a New York Times editorial urging clemency for Snowden. Kaplan puts his gloss on what he regards as Snowden’s vile shenanigans to conclude that Snowden would not agree to get strapped to a polygraph for a pre-deal debriefing about what Kaplan regards as his disingenous statements about footsie with the Chinese and Russians and thereby asserts (in the title of his piece) that Snowden “won’t (and shouldn’t) get clemency.”

Predicating any Snowden clemency on Snowden inserting himself into the maw of the US security services for a preliminary adversarial debriefing is, quite frankly, such an obvious straw man that I’m surprised Kaplan’s piece was taken seriously. But it was, by a lot of people, Ian Bremmer and Josh Marshall among others who, I speculate, are profoundly uncomfortable with what Snowden did and need the feeling that a pound of flesh has been extracted from Snowden’s currently safe, sound, and snowbound borscht-swilling hide in order to get closure.

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From Missile Defense to Chavez’s Death, the 2013 “Are You Serious?” Awards

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Pictured: Edward Snowden, Hugo Chavez, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Francois Hollande

Every year it is important to recognize news stories and newsmakers that fall under the category of “Are you serious?” Here are the awards for 2013 as recognized by Dispatches From The Edge.

Pictured: Edward Snowden, Hugo Chavez, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Francois Hollande

Creative Solutions Award to the Third Battalion of the 41st U.S. Infantry Division for its innovative solution on how to halt sporadic attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Zhare District: it blew up a hill that the insurgents used as cover. This tactic could potentially be a major job creator because there are lots of hills in Afghanistan. And after the U.S. Army blows them all up, it can take on those really big things: mountains.

Runner up in this category is Col. Thomas W. Collins, for his inventive solution on how to explain a sharp rise in Taliban attacks in 2013. The U.S. military published a detailed bar graph indicating insurgent attacks had declined by 7 percent, but, when the figure was challenged by the media, the Army switched to the mushroom strategy. “We’re just not giving out statistics anymore,” Col. Collins told the Associated Press. Independent sources indicate that attacks were up 40 percent over last year, with the battlegrounds shifting from the south of Afghanistan to the east and north.

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R.I.P. RIA Novosti: Putin Rearranges Russia’s Media Landscape

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RIA Novosti's headquarters in central Moscow.  Source: RIA Novosti

In an effort to consolidate Russian news agencies, the Kremlin has dissolved RIA Novosti and the Voice of Russia.

RIA Novosti’s headquarters in central Moscow. Source: RIA Novosti

Both agencies will be absorbed into Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), a newly created media conglomerate. Dmitry Kiselyov, a pro-Kremlin television host, made famous for comparing Alexei Navalny’s supporters to Nazis, airing homophobic slurs on air and suggesting that the recent protests in Kiev are the work of the United States and Western governments, will head the new media venture. Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s chief of staff, said that the decision to close RIA Novosti rested on the economics of the agency and it’s inability to articulate the Kremlin’s policies more thoroughly.

“Russia has its own independent politics and strongly defends its national interests: it’s difficult to explain this to the world but we can do this, and we must do this,” Ivanov said. “We must tell the truth, make it accessible to the most people possible and use modern language and the best available technologies in doing so.” Many RIA Novosti readers [myself included] would suggest that RIA Novosti did just that.

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Comic Relief: Capitalizing on the Useful Poor

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Promo for 'The Great Comic Relief Bake Off'. Source: BBC

Comic relief has become an industry, its own self-justifying premise. In January of this year, BBC2 hosted its Great Comic Relief Bake Off. It had four million viewers, meaning that 16.3 percent of the audience was nabbed between 8pm and 9pm on one specific viewing day. The object of this bakeoff – raising funds for the indigent and needy – were the spectres of the moment.

Promo for ‘The Great Comic Relief Bake Off’. Source: BBC

Comic Relief’s origins were not necessarily intended that way. As its website tells readers, “Comic Relief was launched from a refugee camp in Sudan on Christmas Day in 1985, live on BBC One. At that time, a devastating famine was crippling Ethiopia and something had to be done. That something was Comic Relief.” The paternalist sting, that message of coming to the rescue is notable – the white British hope seeking to fill the impoverished, desperate black void. Assumptions are made: the need to save, the need to help, and the need to identify the suitable victim.

How that void would be filled would be through the deployment of humour, that great salve to encourage people to help the deprived and needy. In making people laugh, British comedians would raise funds to help the disadvantaged. They would coax money out of the moneyed to pass it on to the un-moneyed. “As well as doing something about the very real and direct emergency in Ethiopia, Comic Relief was determined to help tackle the broader needs of poor and disadvantaged people in Africa and at home in the UK.”

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Reuters’ Coverage of China’s Response to Typhoon Haiyan is Curious

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USNS Mercy off the coast of the Philippines in 2012.  It has been deployed in support of rescue operations

Reuters’ concern-trolling over the low-key Chinese response to the Philippine Haiyan supertyphoon disaster is revealing, in a relatively inadvertent way. Yesterday it was, “China’s meager aid to the Philippines could dent its image,” and today it is, “No sign of help for Philippines from China’s hospital ship.”

USNS Mercy off the coast of the Philippines in 2012. It has been deployed in support of rescue operations

The Chinese government has not been particularly forthcoming in aid to the Philippines, especially in comparison with the high profile pledges by the United States and Japan, and the dispatch of the US aircraft carrier George Washington and its strike group to provide relief.

There’s a dearth of hard data on exactly why the PRC hasn’t gone all out in opening the aid floodgates to the Philippines, with whom China is locked in an antagonistic maritime dispute. China’s activist hardliner newspaper, Global Times, did weigh in with one editorial urging the government not to snub the Philippines; for the rest, Reuters has been forced to rely on the usual suspects—pundits, Twitterers, and Weibo posts—in order to weave a narrative out of the fact that China has provided less aid than the United States and Japan.

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CBS News Issues Apology for ‘Wrong’ Benghazi Report

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CBS News correspondent Lara Logan

CBS News has apologized for airing a report in October that gave false information about the September 2012 attack on a US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

CBS News correspondent Lara Logan

A security contractor told 60 Minutes he had been present during the attack, but later gave a conflicting statement to investigators with the FBI. Reporter Lara Logan said it was a “mistake” to put the contractor on air.

Four Americans died in the attack, including a US ambassador. Ms. Logan, a reporter for 60 Minutes, a storied current affairs program, said on Friday a source had provided false information during a report aired on 27 October. The security official, identified as Dylan Davies, said he had been at the US compound during the 11 September 2012 attack. Mr. Davies reported he had witnessed the attack, fought off an assailant, and later viewed the body of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens. But other news outlets subsequently revealed Mr. Davies had told FBI investigators and his employers he was not at the Benghazi compound the night of the attack.

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Grunwald, Assange and Assassination: Loving the Drone Disease

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.  Source: Reuters

“I can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange.” – Michael Grunwald, Twitter, Aug 17, 2013

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Source: Reuters

He regrets having tweeted it on Saturday. According to TIME Magazine, Michael Grunwald’s endorsement of assassinating WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange via a drone strike was “offensive.” While Twitter is a notorious medium of unreliable guff, its spontaneity, its allowance for rawness, can be a window on the mind. The mind here was particularly disturbed, and disturbing.

What Grunwald, senior national correspondent for TIME has been doing is glossing the language of murder with “statist” hygiene, showing in turn a fascination for pro-establishment rhetoric. In other words, killing Assange would be, in the manner of killing Anwar al-Awlaki, a matter of state endorsement for the broader good. Not palatable but generally acceptable; goodness, even legal, something that could be “justified.” Yes, a few eggs are broken to make a bloody omelette, but (and no doubt Grunwald’s anticipation strikes fever pitch at this point) some things must be done.

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2013 Top Young Celebrities Helping Africa

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Pictured: Jessica Alba, Natalie Portman, Angelina Jolie, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Ben Affleck

Editor’s note: In partnership with YPIA, we are especially delighted to cross-post this 2013 list.

Pictured: Jessica Alba, Natalie Portman, Angelina Jolie, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Ben Affleck

YPIA is once again happy to announce its top five young megastars under 40 years old who take time out of their busy schedules to help the African continent. This is an annual award and serves as a precursor to the May release of YPIA’s top 35 under 35. And the winners are:

Jessica Alba, 31

Jessica, who turns 32 on 28 April, has been involved in Africa for several years. In 2010, as Co-Chair of 1GOAL, Jessica went on a campaign to provide education to all children. She joined the ONE team in Senegal and Ghana, and spent a lot of time in South Africa. In 2013, Jessica became the newest global ambassador for Earth Hour, the world’s largest mass participation event that has become the iconic symbol of people’s commitment to protect the planet. She also helped bring awareness to the STUDIO AFRICA initiative by Diesel+EDUN that produces a collection that threads ethical consciousness with creativity. Keep up the good work Jessica and we hope to see you once again in South Africa in the near future!

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Print Media on Hugo Chávez’s Death

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Photo: Ni

The news of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s death understandably made headlines across the world.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Photo: Ni

Hugo Chávez died on Tuesday after a long fight against cancer. In his place, Vice President Nicolas Maduro will assume the presidency until new national elections are held.

To Chávez’s credit or detriment, he stirred opinion across the political spectrum. Following Chávez’s death, Venezuela has announced a week of mourning. Chávez died at the age of 58 after 14 years serving as Venezuela’s president. Thousands of Venezuelans poured onto the streets to grieve his passing. As Chávez’s body was being transported to the Military Academy, thousands came out to greet the procession. As expected, his fellow leaders began arriving in the country’s capital, Caracas, to pay their respects. Among them, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Jose Mujica of Uruguay and Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

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2012 “Are You Serious?” Awards

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The much maligned F-22 “Raptor” fighter jet

Every year it is important to recognize news stories and newsmakers that fall under the category of “Are you serious?” Here are the awards for 2012 as recognized by Dispatches From The Edge.

The much maligned F-22 “Raptor” fighter jet

Dr. Strangelove Award to Lord John Gilbert, former UK defense minister in Tony Blair’s government, for a “solution” to stopping terrorist infiltration from Pakistan to Afghanistan: Nuke ‘em. Baron Gilbert proposes using Enhanced Radiation Reduced Blasts—informally known as “neutron bombs”—to seal off the border. According to Gilbert, “If we told them [terrorists] that some ERRB warheads were going to be dropped there and that it would be a very unpleasant place to go, they would not go there.”

The border between the two countries is a little over 1,600 miles of some of the most daunting terrain on the planet. And since the British arbitrarily imposed it on Afghanistan in 1896, most the people who live adjacent to it, including the Kabul government, don’t recognize it.

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The Leveson Mandate: Regulating the Press

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Andy Coulson leaving the Leveson Inquiry. Karel Prinsloo/EPA

“Too many stories in too many newspapers were the subject of complaints from too many people, with too little in the way of titles taking responsibility or considering the consequences for the individuals involved.” – Leveson Report (2012)

Andy Coulson leaving the Leveson Inquiry. Karel Prinsloo/EPA

He was regarded with some distain for “prejudging” the report, but British Prime Minister David Cameron did have good reason to be reserved about the regulatory recommendations of the Leveson Report. Lord Justice Leveson recommended, among other things, an “underpinning” for a new independent system of press regulation to target what essentially had become a disease in the press establishment. The entire barrel of apples had to be carted out.

Codes of ethical behaviour have their place. It might even be claimed, for all its difficulties, that an outline of ethics is required when it comes to the behaviour of the press. But the point made my Leveson was that members of the media gave little thought to any code whatsoever. “There has been a recklessness in prioritising sensational stories, almost irrespective of the harm that the stories may cause and the rights of those who would be affected like the Dowlers, the McCanns and Abigail Witchalls.”

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Speech that Spreads Conflict Requires New International Regulation

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Charlie Hebdo’s Stephane Charbonnier. Source: The Huffington Post

The ease with which an individual opinion can cause international conflict has created the need for new regulation.

Charlie Hebdo’s Stephane Charbonnier. Source: The Huffington Post

Freedom of speech is respected across most of the Western world, is a tenet of American civil liberties, and is protected in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. U.S. Supreme Court decisions have upheld First Amendment protection of defamatory statements regarding government, gender, sexuality, race, and religion.

While frowned upon in the U.S., the Supreme Court has a record of allowing defamatory statements or behavior, even if they are seen as inflammatory (see Terminiello v. Chicago, National Socialist Party v. Skokie, R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul). In all three cases, the majority opinion has overturned the right of states to prohibit speech based on content, regardless of racially or religiously charged language.

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The Revolution on a Laptop: YouTube Journeys through the Arab Spring

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Libyans celebrating

“Social media helped the protesters communicate and organize much more effectively, but the protesters posed a real threat only when they took to the streets and put their lives on the line.” – Timothy Boudreau

Libyans celebrating

An overcast road on the outskirts of a town somewhere in Syria. Strained, panting breath and blurred views of the crabgrass on the highway divider and to the right, maybe 500 yards away, I hear the guttural whuppwhuppwhuppwhupp of automatic gunfire, punctuated by the occasional snap of a sniper rifle. Over the median, a slick river pools into a ditch, oil maybe, no, blood. I see a boy, maybe 16-years-old, crumpled over the road median, one leg folded calmly over the other. I catch a quick look at his head and wonder if there is life in his half-closed eyes. Then I notice the bullet wound in his neck, jagged pink tissue under his chin. The panting voice begins to chant hurried phrases. The only word that I can understand is “Allah.”

I chose to be here and now I want to leave. But I’m actually already at home, sitting in my living room. Yet what I saw was real. I just saw a Syrian protester moments after he’d been shot in the neck. I’d heard the shots that might be delivering the same fate to others. I’d felt the adrenaline of the survivors running over to do what they could for a boy whose blood trailed thirty feet into a ditch. Thanks to YouTube, the Syrian Uprising is real for me and I check just as I would my emails or stock portfolio. The day before I saw a mother and son’s motionless bodies after they were shot off the back of a motorbike.

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A Review of Foreign Policy Association’s After the Arab Spring

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Saudi Arabia

I had the opportunity to watch, After the Arab Spring, a joint project between Foreign Policy Association and PBS, before it airs next month on PBS stations. It’s available on YouTube if you have some free time.

Saudi Arabia

After the Arab Spring begins with a perfunctory introduction of how the status quo in Arab and North African states was “upended” by the largely peaceful Arab Spring, which has stagnated among promises of elections and reforms. A discussion hosted by Ralph Begleiter of the University of Delaware included two analysts, Shadi Hamid, Director of Research of the Brookings Doha Center, and Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American journalist. The discussion focused on what impact the Arab Spring will have on American foreign policy.

While largely sympathetic to the Obama administration, Shadi’s and Mona’s criticisms were not particularly illuminating in that they argued that the U.S. was slow to respond to the Arab Spring as it unfolded in North Africa and the Middle East, choosing instead to support the status quo. In discussing the impact on U.S. foreign policy, Shadi Hamid’s argument is that the U.S. will not be able to proactively support democracy in the region, essentially failing to “get ahead of the curve” and “proactively support democracy in the region.” Instead, the U.S. will choose to seek stability over democracy, which could have a destabilizing affect.

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