Sunday, December 28, 2008

Rather Suing

I didn't realize any of this was going on, did you? News and analysis from the UK:
As George W Bush prepares to leave the White House, at least one unpleasant episode from his unpopular presidency is threatening to follow him into retirement.

A $70m lawsuit filed by Dan Rather, the veteran former newsreader for CBS Evening News, against his old network is reopening the debate over alleged favourable treatment that Bush received when he served in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam war. Bush had hoped that this controversy had been dealt with once and for all during the 2004 election.

Eight weeks before the 2004 presidential poll, Rather broadcast a story based on newly discovered documents which appeared to show that Bush, whose service in the Texas Air National Guard ensured that he did not have to fight in Vietnam, had barely turned up even for basic duty. After an outcry from the White House and conservative bloggers who claimed that the report had been based on falsified documents, CBS retracted the story, saying that the documents' authenticity could not be verified. Rather, who had been with CBS for decades and was one of the most familiar faces in American journalism, was fired by the network the day after the 2004 election. CBS newsman's $70m lawsuit likely to deal Bush legacy a new blow

Let's not forget how absolutely the media were in the pockets of the Republicans in those years. The newspapers -- from the New York Times and Washington Post on down -- spewed nothing but propaganda, basically reprinting White House press releases verbatim, weapons of mass destruction, Iraq able to attack us in forty five minutes, Kerry a fake, Bush a war hero. Dan Rather had documents proving that President Bush had gone AWOL from his military duty, but CBS, as a propaganda outlet, did not want him to broadcast it. He did anyway, and they fired him after twenty years with the network.

And we bought it. Who reading this protested the firing of Dan Rather? Did you send a letter to the editor? Complain to a friend over coffee? No, we accepted these things because there were so many of them, every day something different, by the end of 2004 people were just worn out by it all.

You couldn't complain about our sainted President. The United States of America was experiencing an intellectual blackout. It would have been unpatriotic to question whether Our President served honorably.
He claims breach of contract against CBS. He has already spent $2m on his case, which is likely to go to court early next year. Rather contends not only that his report was true - "What the documents stated has never been denied, by the president or anyone around him," he says - but that CBS succumbed to political pressure from conservatives to get the report discredited and to have him fired. He also claims that a panel set up by CBS to investigate the story was packed with conservatives in an effort to placate the White House. Part of the reason for that, he suggests, was that Viacom, a sister company of CBS, knew that it would have important broadcasting regulatory issues to deal with during Bush's second term.

Among those CBS considered for the panel to investigate Rather's report were far-right broadcasters Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

Oh, that would have been quite the panel, wouldn't it? Things are a little better now, you saw the poll that said seventy five percent of Americans are glad Bush is leaving, a couple of years ago you couldn't say anything negative about the guy. Those were dark times, and some people got thrown to the wolves, Dan Rather being one.

Skipping a little...
Rather's lawsuit makes other serious allegations about CBS succumbing to political pressure in an attempt to suppress important news stories. In particular, he says that his bosses at CBS tried to stop him reporting evidence of torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. According to Rather's lawsuit, "for weeks they refused to grant permission to air the story" and "continued to raise the goalposts, insisting on additional substantiation". Rather also claims that General Richard Meyers, then head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military official in the US, called him at home and asked him not to broadcast the story, saying that it would "endanger national security".

I have often said here that when the history books get written, this era will be noted for the influence of the media. George Bush is just a pitiful little frat-boy, in over his head, he's done everything wrong and the people should have understood from Day One. But the corporate media played along to keep the citizens ignorant.

There is a sense where you see the junk on TV and think, well, I guess that's what the people want. You are assuming a free market when the developers of a product simply provide what the consumers will pay for. This wasn't that.
"CBS broke with long-standing tradition at CBS News and elsewhere of standing up to political pressure," says Rather. "And, there's no joy in saying it, they caved ... in an effort to placate their regulators in Washington."

You don't like to think of America as a dictatorship, but you can see how easily it can happen. It's up to us, the people, to protect our own freedom, through constant vigilance. If we can't stop the authoritarians at the federal/corporate level, at least we can fight them in our own neighborhoods.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I didn't realize any of this was going on, did you?"

Yes, I heard about it some time ago.

"Let's not forget how absolutely the media were in the pockets of the Republicans in those years."

As now, not at all.

"You couldn't complain about our sainted President"

A crass mischaracterization. Bush was being heavily criticized at the time. Especially, by the mainstream media. He probably would have lost if he wasn't running against John Kerry.

"Rather contends not only that his report was true - "What the documents stated has never been denied, by the president or anyone around him," he says - but that CBS succumbed to political pressure from conservatives to get the report discredited and to have him fired."

As I recall, Rather presented a clearly falsified document. It was a supposedly typed document from the 60s which was produced in a font not invented until the 90s.

If there is some other evidence or that isn't factual, let us know.

December 28, 2008 4:20 PM  
Blogger Zoe Brain said...

Please have a look at this.

One is the memo, supposedly hand-typed using a battered ANG-issue corona portable. The other the same thing generated by the default settings of Microsoft Word.

It wasn't that it was a fake. It was that it was such a crude, ameteurish and obvious fake, plus CBS and Rather's repeated assertions about how carefully it had been checked, etc that was the scandal.

It was supposed to have been typed on the same kind of typewriter as this document you see.

January 05, 2009 3:17 AM  

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