Syrian butchers: Views differ

I can tell you from my viewpoint that spinning Montana’s newspapers was as easy as spinning a top. There’s precious little congressional news that is actually broken by a Montana newspaper. That works to the advantage of the politician. Absolutely. When you are free from a burrowing press, you pretty much have clear sailing. (Pat Williams, on leaving office in 1997)

Speaking of managed news, what I’ve seen today reminds me of an event involving former Montana Senator Conrad Burns back in the election campaign of 2000. One of his campaign staffers called a newspaper reporter and went on a rant about his opponent that year – Bryan Schweitzer. The words and accusations were so hard and furious as to cause the reporter to go directly to press with it, and the story caught wind.

I later interviewed Schweitzer for my little public access show at that time, oddly enough called “Piece of Mind.” I mentioned that event to him, and he gave me a bit of inside baseball. Burns had gone off leash, gotten drunk and went into a racist anti-Indian tirade with enough people witnessing to cause problems. The campaign was in damage control mode, and used the telephone call to the reporter as a deflection device. It worked. The phone call became the story, and the rant never made the news. Our news media is ever so pliable!

This came to mind this morning as I read the following two stories. Judge for yourself what the underlying reality might be.

From RT.com: ‘Whole families murdered’: Syrian rebels execute over 80 civilians outside Damascus

From Huffington Post: The Butcher kills another 76

One might be tempted to assume that the truth lies somewhere between the extremes. That’s a logical fallacy, in my opinion. The truth can lie anywhere, on the edges, in the middle, or not even apparent. From my frame of reference, I am inclined to think that HuffPo is lying or exaggerating or dissembling, as it has been my experience that the US news media is corrupt at the top and clueless at the bottom.

But I am open to suggestion.

12 thoughts on “Syrian butchers: Views differ

  1. HuffPo’s acquisition by AOL has completely emasculated it. NOt that it was any great investigative journalistic endeavor. But the fluff to news ratio used to be reasonable. Now you have to sift through grocery store checkout isle tabloid material to find anything worth reading.

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    1. I knew it was toast at that time too. But I must say I’ve changed over the years in that I found the “liberal slant” of HuffPo to be pleasing, and now it merely grates on me. They are the gatekeepers, the ones who say “This far, no further.”

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  2. Dear Matt, An Australian academic and Middle East expert, Dr Jeremy Salt, has expressed similar concerns about the mis- and dis-information in the mainstream media about the conflict in Syria. In his article, “The Magician’s Diversion; Bleeding Syria to Death”, he writes, “Like Iraq and Libya, the justification for the onslaught on Syria of the past 20 months is the ‘dictator’ or the ‘regime.’ More plausibly, the real target is the country itself. Like Saddam and Qadhafi, the ‘dictator’ is the magician’s diversion, flourished with one hand so the audience does not see what is being done with the other.” In his article, Jeremy writes about the violence of ‘armed gangs’. Their violence and terror have been present since the beginning of the crisis in Syria but barely reported in the west. On 17 April 2011, two teenage nephews of a friend of mine, their cousin and father were murdered in Homs by an ‘armed gang’, and in the same month a farmer, the uncle of a Syrian Australian friend, was killed along with two other farmers by an ‘armed gang’. We reported these killings to Amnesty officials in Australia, who sent the report to Amnesty HQ in London, but the killings were never condemned or reported by Amnesty. The father of the teenage boys was an army officer who was off-duty that day as it was a public holiday. They were killed while driving in Homs, and may have been targeted because the car would have had army number plates. Amnesty took a partisan line on the Syrian crisis from the beginning, so Amnesty HQ may have seen them as fair targets and to report it would have seriously challenged their take on events in Syria. The propaganda about Syria was very evident in Al-Jazeera reports. As early as April 2011, journalists such as Ghassan bin Jiddo, director of Al-Jazeera’s Beirut bureau, began resigning in protest against AJ’s reporting on the ‘Arab Spring’, specifically on Syria. Al-Jazeera had become a tool of its owners, most particularly the emir of Qatar, and a channel for Qatari (and US) foreign policy. It became a bad joke in the ME, but it still influenced reporting in the west. So many people have become unwitting cogs in the propaganda machine and so accomplices in this ongoing war and the terror.
    Kind regards,
    Susan
    National Coordinator of “Australians for Mussalaha (Reconciliation) in Syria”

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    1. Again, are you dense? RT is Russian Times, a non-American news site. HuffPo, an American news outlet, excluded any mention of the massacre by the rebels, and instead deflected by focusing only on the Syrian army event. That’s why I mentioned the Schweitzer event, use of deflection as a news management tool.

      Schweitzer, a clever politician, mentioned the matter to me before the interview, and never made public mention of it. He could not afford to alienate the news media by amateurish exposing of their lack of skill in reporting news. That’s why I referred it it as “inside baseball.”

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      1. He (Schweitzer) could not afford to alienate the news media by amateurish exposing of their lack of skill in reporting news.

        Oh please. If you really think that, then you are so lost tthat there is no hope for you.

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        1. Oh please – I am no fan of Schweitzer but do understand politics – apparently better than thee. You don’t fight with the press. You manipulate it to your advantage, which is all the Burns campaign did – SOP. That’s basic.

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        2. I’m suspicious that Schweitzer had such info but didn’t use it. Probably some hearsay he couldn’t pin down. So he pretends that he is a magnanimous person, kind and loving.

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          1. Think it through, Fred. If either side goes after the people in the media, they cut off their noses. So they are chess players, each knowing the other’s moves, the media mere pawns that have to be played carefully. Burns did what he did, as he was like that. Schweitzer is no saint, and is clever enough to fool a lot of people, me at the time. (I think he only appeared on my show as he was scoping me out, thinking perhaps there might be some diamond in the rough there that he might make part of his team. I was neither a diamond nor smart enough to be on his team.)

            The media are the least self-aware among us, except perhaps the publishers of the newspapers.

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          2. Well; thinking it through; Schweitzer doesn’t directly challenge the media on the alleged Burns thing; he gets someone distant to bring it up; someone from the national party; or someone from Georgia et cet who just “happens” to learn of it. Then Leroy’s cousin gives a press conference magnanimously defending Burns as a fellow Montanan; decrying this yellow journalism; etc. Just spell his name right.

            Just looks like too big of an incontinent pinata for Schweitzer to ignore.

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