....LMB: "Ambushed"....

September 22, 2002

Even though I know that the folks at the Fox News Channel are assholes, even though I know that they love televising conflict, even though I'm sure they are drooling over the jump their ratings will see if war breaks out in Iraq, I was still astounded by a piece I saw on their network this weekend.

It began as a regular Fox News segment, as the host announced that it would be a discussion between former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, and Weekly Standard reporter Stephen Hayes. I figured this was going to be the typical cable TV "shouting heads" format, where two guys who will never, ever agree, pretty much keep stating how they're right and the other guy's wrong. I decided to watch to see if Ritter had anything new to say, but presuming that I'd pretty much heard all of his arguments.

But the debate/interview quickly turned into an anti-Ritter hit squad that was truly shocking to see.

They start off with Hayes presenting a bombshell from his latest news article, an allegation that Scott Ritter had been paid $400,000 from an Iraqi-American to make pro-Iraqi propaganda. So before we're even a minute into this piece, the focus has moved from Ritter's favorite subject, whether or not Iraq has nuclear weapons, to the subject of whether or not he is a traitor to the United States.

Ritter managed to rebutt fairly successfully that he had borrowed the money from an American citizen to make a documentary that was receiving praise for its objectivity. I can't verify too much of that claim, except that Ritter's movie is indeed a documentary, called "In Shifting Sands," about the UN weapons inspections and the effects of sanctions against the people of Iraq. I tried to find an objective source for a movie review, but I failed. Looking for more information about this fellow who backed Ritter's movie, I found several conservative websites which claimed that he had "extensive ties to Saddam Hussein's government," but none of the articles spelled out what these ties were.

So all we have for certain is that some dude who was born in Iraq loaned (or maybe gave) Scott Ritter a chunk of money to make a documentary. But too late, the smear's already out of the bag.

But already we've lost sight of anything that matters. We're now talking about Ritter himself, not about Iraq and its weapons. Which is the point, I suppose. Ritter finds himself in a lose-lose situation: if he ignores the accusations against him, he loses credibility. If he defends himself, he loses the chance to talk about Iraq and its weapons.

Then the "fair and balanced" host began gently grilling Ritter about his "change of stance" about Iraq, formerly saying that it was a threat, and now saying it was disarmed. I have already commented on this argument in a previous LMB entry, so I won't repeat it here.

Then, the host invites another person to join in via videoscreen. I didn't catch the name or affiliation of this other person, but I think she was another Fox News reporter. The first words out of her mouth (as I try to accurately quote her from memory) were, "Isn't it true that you applied to join the CIA, but failed because of lie detector problems? So why should we believe anything you have to say?"

Like I said, hit squad.

The grilling continued, with all three critics badgering Ritter, and Ritter trying to defend and/or counterattack. I couldn't stand to watch too much more of it. I changed the channel, and resumed flipping around the dial. I stopped by Fox News again. The interview was still going on. I aimlessly flipped around some more. Fox News again. Still with the Ritter-bashing. All told, I would guess that the interview was like 10-15 minutes long, which is quite a lot of time for one of these 24-hour news channels to keep with a single subject.

I'm not saying this as some kind of Ritter-worshipper or something. He seems reasonable, rational and credible to me. He's certainly not above criticism, but I haven't found much that seemed justified. One potentially valid criticism came from a recent interview with British weapons inspector Greg Goldin. Ritter has been frequently claiming that Iraq's chemical and biological weapons are no threat because they have a shelf-life: biological weapons deteriorate into uselessness after 3 years, and chemical weapons after 5. However Goldin argues, correctly, that Ritter is no biological or chemical weapons expert. Ritter was sort of the police detective of the weapons inspectors, not the biologist or the chemist. Goldin claims that Ritter's figures for weapon shelf-life are completely false. As I am also neither a biologist or chemist, I can't verify either Ritter's or Goldin's claims.

I'm a little embarassed now, as I realize that I don't know how to conclude this entry. That's alright, just stay with me and we'll figure something out.

How about "what else could we expect from the Fox News Channel?" Or "that's what you get when you publicly oppose American war plans"?

Or maybe even "Fox News drinks pee-pee"?

Yes, that'll do nicely.

Posted by Jake at 10:20 PM

Well, that's the standard FOX NEWS formula -- gang up on a dissenting guest. It's not the first time and it won't be the last.

Posted by: Eric at September 23, 2002 06:07 PM
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November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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Mission: Mongolia

Jake's first attempt at homemade Mongolican barbecue:


What went right: correctly guessing several key seasonings- lemon, ginger, soy, garlic, chili.

What went wrong: still missing some ingredients, and possibly had one wrong, rice vinegar. Way too much lemon and chili.

Result: not entirely edible.

Plan for future: try to get people at Great Khan's restaurant to tell me what's in the damn sauce.

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