Archive for September, 2009

Is Obama Stupid?

September 22, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama strikes his admirers as exceedingly intelligent.  The rest of us have real doubts.  His list of gaffes and blunders is already as long as his record of accomplishment is short. But most people don’t know that, as the media that cover him tend to fall in that admirer camp.

Particularly given the frequency with which the charge of “stupidity” was leveled at former President George W. Bush (one that I categorically reject), there is now more than ample reason to ask whether that trait applies to the current U.S. President.

The specific impetus for this exploration came from Obama’s apparent obsession with imposing “peace” on Israel despite the crystal clear positions of her Hamas and Fatah enemies that they categorically and fundamentally refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.  That, of course, is the most fundamental prerequisite for a resolution of that conflict and achieving actual peace.

Obama’s demand for an absolute halt to any building by Jews in eastern Jerusalem and all other areas beyond the pre-1967 “Green Line” was supposed to induce that peace.  Of course, if anything, it has tended to have the opposite effect, with the Palestinian Arabs only hardening their intransigence, waiting for more demands to be put upon Israel.  Its only redeeming effect may be to lose a few Jewish votes for Obama and his friends in future elections.

Before he came up with his “settlement”-stopping brainstorm, he proclaimed the idiocy that progress on slowing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons was dependent on Israel pacifying the demands of her Palestinian Arab enemy.  Of course, reality was, and remains, more the reverse, with the Palestinian Arabs egged on to intransigence and violence by the emboldened Iran.

To return to the beginning, Obama has no record of accomplishment.  Not even an academic record, or at least one that has been released to the public.  Quite peculiar it is.  While a tabloid-like, yet mysteriously respected Washington newspaper managed to dredge up a 20 year old thesis of Virginia’s current Republican gubernatorial candidate, it was not able to, or had no interest in, obtaining or publishing any of Obama’s academic writings or records.  Neither, of course, did any other major media outlet.

How does Obama so impress his fans worldwide?  Certainly, he is ideological, a master of double-speak, arrogant, and glib, a combination that seems to be charismatic to many and thus, effective.  The glibness is facilitated by his teleprompter, which he uses to a greater degree than anyone before him, and much more extensively than previously thought possible.

During the campaign, his misstatements and errors in judgment were second only to those of now Vice-President Joe Biden.  But he was able to endlessly and charismatically spout the meaningless drivel of “hope and change” such that enough of a naïve and gullible public bought into it.

But in evaluating his intellectual acumen, or lack thereof, we should consider the specific things he has said and done.  One was that his categorical proclamation that the surge in Iraq would not work, but would actually make things worse.  (Are we supposed to feel good that he is now our commander-in-chief?)

Other recent gems of his wisdom:

March, 2008: “I don’t think that my church is actually particularly controversial.”  To think that his church led by the ranting Jeremiah Wright would not be controversial to Americans speaks volumes – one would not have to be the brightest bulb in the room to know that it would.

He claimed that Arabic translators deployed in Iraq are needed in Afghanistan, ignorant of the fact  that Afghans don’t speak Arabic.  In a similar vein, he had also proclaimed “I don’t speak Austrian.”

He said he had traveled to “57 states” during the campaign, a mistake not even Jimmy Carter made.  (He might have been thinking of the 57 states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, but he did not visit them all, either.)

He insisted that Jerusalem remain undivided – for perhaps 24 hours, until he found out that some people don’t like that idea.

The falsification of history of his Cairo speech (was that ignorance or “just” mendacity?).

This sample listing does not consider the vast number of his statements and actions that one might attribute to stupidity, but could conceivably be explained as stemming from a differing policy perspective.

This and other evidence indicates that Obama is an artful, cunning, and hard-nosed politician.  Beyond that, he still has little to point to for a record of accomplishment, either in his current job or in his preceding ones.  His arrogance evidently detracts from his ability to see reality accurately and to make wise decisions, as exemplified by his reckless Mid East “settlement”-based “peace” adventurism.

That qualifies as stupid to me.

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Mainstream Media’s War on the Truth

September 6, 2009

Note to Readers:   This article is a slightly updated version of one originally posted in late 2006. Unfortunately, its message remains as valid today as ever.

You might think that with all the words written about the shortcomings of the mainstream media in recent years, that the subject has been adequately covered.  But, no, unfortunately, the criticism has been no match for the problem.  The media’s biases cause it to both reflexively and consciously alter its product to substantial degrees from what would be acceptable and what the public deserves.

Don’t doubt that the media’s war on the truth encompasses omission, distortion, and outright lying. The tactics of omission, distortion, and lying distort the picture provided to the public.

The media’s use of each of these sometimes overlapping techniques is explored below.

Part of the problem is that the mainstream media proclaims it is unbiased and gives us an accurate picture of our world.  Or, it may admit that it has biases, but it still gives us an accurate picture because it doesn’t let its biases affect its product.  Well, at least that is amusing, as by now most Americans and Israelis know better.

In contrast, much of the non-mainstream media is above-board about it biases, and is happy to tell you where it stands.  That knowledge of the perspective of the source makes it much easier to judge the value of the information offered.

As well, the alternative media seems less affected than its mainstream counterpart by the herd mentality and the peer pressure the rest of us felt as children.  The mainstream media exhibits a remarkable degree of uniformity among its various components in using remarkably similar language and opinions to describe the remarkably similar events they each deem newsworthy.  Their similarities are often in the guise of presumed “standards” that lead to many of the inanities listed below.  Even outlets thought to be on the edge or outside of the mainstream, such as Fox News or the Washington Times, increasingly conform to these mainstream practices in their news reporting.

Since it is difficult for those of us interested in world events to avoid exposure to the mainstream media, we are exposed to their biases and versions of events.  Supplementing that with other voices from talk radio, the internet, and niche publications often adds much valuable information and perspective.

Omission and Distortion

Omission is the mainstream media’s favorite tactic for handling information they don’t want you to know.  Often the less stringent tactic of simply burying the story and providing it less emphasis than the preferred story lines is adequately effective.

These tactics are nothing new; the media has a long and sordid record of burying crucial information. These tactics go back at least to the New York Times’ virtual burial of information on the incredibly mounting death toll of Jews in the Holocaust.

Following is a small sample of the many pieces of information that mainstream media outlets don’t want us to know and therefore don’t mention much in their reports (media omission tactic) or do note but in a distorted way (distortion tactic):

  • Hizbullah and Hamas are terrorist organizations. Distortion tactic:  Sanitize them by describing them as “militant” organizations, or with any other term but “terrorist”.
  • Hizbullah has committed numerous terrorist acts killing Americans, including 241 Marines at their barracks in Lebanon.
  • Most casualties in the 2006 and 2008 wars with Lebanon and Gaza were terrorists and those who aid and abet them.
  • United Nations peacekeepers were stationed along the Israel Lebanon border for years, but were ineffectual at best.  More realistically, they served as cover for Hizbullah and its terror attacks.  Distortion tactic:  Imply that (another) UN peacekeeping force would be an unadulterated good thing. Of course, Israel was in fact subsequently saddled with the “new, improved” UN peacekeeping force.
  • The “good guy” Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is an unrepentant Holocaust denier.  (That was his PhD thesis.)  Distortion tactic:  Without any evidence, label Abbas as a “moderate”.  On the other hand, label Ariel Sharon, Binyamin Netanyahu, and other Israelis as “hard-line”, and Israeli actions as “excessive” or “disproportionate”.
  • Distortion tactic:  Delegitimize Israel by referring to its capital and government as “Tel Aviv” even though they and you well know its government is in its capital of Jerusalem.  Would the media sound any more stupid or be any more dishonest to imply the U.S. Congress meets in Los Angeles?

These media tactics are not employed only against Israel, but against the broader war on terrorism, and other U.S. interests as well.  To wit, further omissions/distortions:

  • American soldiers and Marines in Iraq perform heroically.  Distortion tactic:  Find an allegation against the American (or Israeli) military and trumpet it in the extreme (e.g. the absurd on its face charge of flushing a Koran down a toilet; Muhammad al-Dura hoax).
  • Al Qaeda was linked to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.  For example, Abu Musab al Zarqawi and two dozen al Qaeda associates were in Iraq — in Baghdad — nearly a year before the war.  Distortion tactic:  Claim no links between Iraq and al Qaeda, or debunk the straw man allegation of an Iraq-9/11  link.

A side note is that Saddam Hussein also did have a link to first World Trade Center bombing of 1993. He harbored terrorist 1993 World Trade Center bomb plotter Abdul Rahman Yasin in Iraq and paid him a monthly stipend.

  • Some WMD were found in Iraq – including 500 sarin/mustard gas-filled shells. Distortion tactic:  Claim no WMD in Iraq.

Outright Lying

While a less charitable media analyst might also include the media’s denial of Iraq-al Qaeda links and WMD having been found in Iraq in this category, here are two other examples:

  • To delegitimize Israel’s claim to the disputed West Bank territories, refer to the 1967 armistice lines as an international border.  Could National Public Radio’s long time Israel correspondent be so ignorant as to make this mistake innocently?
  • For reasons perhaps a reader can explain, an Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, falsely claimed a road is “Jewish only”. Its defense is that the claim  is true “for all practical purposes” (shades of Dan Rather, or perhaps the old “good enough for government work”?).

Bottom Line

My bottom line measure for the integrity of a news outlet rests on its willingness to call terrorists “terrorists”.  If it can’t even honestly describe our enemy, how can we trust anything else it tells us?

Regarding media bias specific to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Stephanie Gutmann has penned an outstanding first-hand account that is highly informative, even for those of us who think we are on to the media’s tricks.  Entitled The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy, I heartily recommend it for further reading.