Propaganda and War

Independent media feel the 'heat on the street' in Vancouver

Dave Zirin, National Public Radio

As Canadian officials react to increasing public opposition to cost overruns and local impacts of the Vancouver Olympics, the independent media seems to be paying the price. Just as Democracy Now's Amy Goodman was held in November for trying to cross the border for reasons that had nothing to do with the Olympic Games, Martin Macias, an independent media reporter from Chicago, was detained and held for seven hours by Canada Border Services agents before being put on a plane and sent to Seattle. Macias, who is 20 years old, is a media reform activist with community radio station Radio Arte where he serves as the host/producer of First Voice, a radio news zine. Macias described a chilling scene of detention and expulsion. "I was asked the same questions for three and a half hours in a small room. They told me I had no right to a lawyer. I went from frustrated and angry to scared. I didn't know what the laws were or how the laws had been changed for the Olympics...why the crackdown?"

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Venezuela applies media social responsibility laws to cable channels

James Suggett, Venezuelanalysis

On Thursday, Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) released a list of cable television companies that will be subject to the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, marking an expansion of the law’s jurisdiction over television broadcasters.

The law, known by the acronym RESORTE, establishes standards for child and adult programming, prohibits inflammatory content such as incitement riot or assassinate the president, places limits on commercial advertising, and requires stations to broadcast important government announcements.

When the law was passed in 2004, it applied only to companies holding public broadcasting concessions. Last July, CONATEL announced that cable broadcasters would undergo review and be subject to the law if 70% of their content and overall operations could be considered “national,” meaning Venezuelan.

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Doh! Canada responds to Yes Men hoax by zapping thousands of websites

Justin Elliot, TPM Muckraker

The Canadian government managed to temporarily wipe out 4,500 personal and small business Web sites last month as it frantically grappled with a climate change hoax by the Yes Men, enlisting the national cybersecurity agencies of Canada and Germany in the process, a Danish web hosting company and the Yes Men tell TPMmuckraker.

Yes Man Mike Bonanno, one of the marquee personalities of the lefty activist group, tells TPMmuckraker that the experience, in which a German Internet service provider shut down the Yes Men's parody Web sites in response to a Canadian demand, is "really unfortunate for free speech on the Internet. The kind of scary thing about this is that these hosting companies seem so eager to act in the interest of whoever has the most power."

The overzealous response by Canada echoes the Chamber of Commerce's handling of a similar hoax in December: namely, suing the Yes Men in federal court.

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Amy Goodman and Canada's Olympic paranoia

Dave Zirin, Huffington Post

When it comes to independent, agitational journalism, the standard is Amy Goodman and her radio/television institution, Democracy Now! Goodman and her staff often finds themselves accosted by officials, foreign and domestic. This happened again on Thursday. But it didn't happen in East Timor or Burma. Goodman was detained by our neighbors to the north.

Canadian border officials held Goodman in Vancouver for 90 minutes when she attempted to enter Vancouver to attend events launching her new book, Breaking the Sound Barrier. But the Canadian Border team didn't care what she was there to do. They wanted to know what she was going to say. They demanded to see her computer and notebook. They searched her car. They returned her passport with papers demanding she leave the country within 48 hours.

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Kevin Jennings, the Mainstream Media, and Right-Wing Target Practice

Eric Alterman, Mickey Ehrlich, Center for American Progress

In recent weeks, the ombudsmen (or “public editor”) of both The New York Times and The Washington Post have chastised their respective papers for paying too little attention to right-wing agitation on talk radio, cable news, and the blogosphere. In order to dampen charges of bias for the Times’ tempered coverage of the Van Jones and ACORN scandals—we wrote about the former here and the latter here—the paper has announced the creation of an editor to monitor the “opinion media.”

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GRIID releases new study of local paper's recent coverage of Afghanistan war

Jeff Smith, GRIID

Today, the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy published a new 100-day study of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press coverage of the US occupation of Afghanistan. The study began in late May of 2009 and was concluded on September 2.

We looked at all stories published related to what the Pentagon now calls the Af-Pak War, since it includes US military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There were a total of 24 stories during this 100-day period, 18 were national media sources and Press reporters wrote six stories.

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Paranoid racists ascend: thoughts on Van Jones’ resignation

David Roberts, Grist

Van Jones had to resign. It became inevitable when Gibbs offered no support.

Much of the blame for this incident lies squarely on the White House. The information used against Jones was freely available on the web. All it took was a search. I thought by hiring Jones they intended to take a chance on a real left progressive, but now it appears they were simply caught flat-footed. Either Valerie Jarrett—Jones’ champion in the upper echelons of the administration—didn’t know much about him or didn’t widely share what she knew. They certainly seemed disinclined to mount a vigorous defense with Glenn Beck gnoshing on his favorite new chew toy and the health care reform battle about to heat up again. No distractions.

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The Real town hall story

E.J. Dionne, Washington Post

Health-care reform is said to be in trouble partly because of those raucous August town-hall meetings in which Democratic members of Congress were besieged by shouters opposed to change.

But what if our media-created impression of the meetings is wrong? What if the highly publicized screamers represented only a fraction of public opinion? What if most of the town halls were populated by citizens who respectfully but firmly expressed a mixture of support, concern and doubt?

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Military terminates journalist-profiling contract

Kevin Baron, Starts and Stripes

The U.S. military is canceling its contract with a controversial private firm that was producing background profiles of journalists seeking to cover the war that graded their past work as “positive,” “negative” or “neutral,” Stars and Stripes has learned.

“The Bagram Regional Contracting Center intends to execute a termination of the Media Analyst contract,” belonging to The Rendon Group, said Col. Wayne Shanks, chief of public affairs for International Security Assistance Forces–Afghanistan.

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Pentagon hires PR firm to weed out "negative"embedded journalists

Charlie Reed, Stars and Stripes

As more journalists seek permission to accompany U.S. forces engaged in escalating military operations in Afghanistan, many of them could be screened by a controversial Washington-based public relations firm contracted by the Pentagon to determine whether their past coverage has portrayed the U.S. military in a positive light.

U.S. public affairs officials in Afghanistan acknowledged to Stars and Stripes that any reporter seeking to embed with U.S. forces is subject to a background profile by The Rendon Group, which gained notoriety in the run-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq for its work helping to create the Iraqi National Congress. That opposition group, reportedly funded by the CIA, furnished much of the false information about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey