Notes From The Overground

Progressive-minded weblog devoted heavily to politics and media with some music and popular culture sprinkled throughout working on the assumption that anything that comes out of Washington or the mass media is bogus propaganda unless proven otherwise.

Created by Tom

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Saturday, April 05, 2003
Yellow Journalism '03 posted the transcript of their interview with CNN's Aaron Brown. As reported earlier, Brown went head to head with FAIR's Steve Rendall and Democracy co-hosts Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill. The transcript (and accompanying audio file), in which Brown stands by his assertion that now is not the appropriate time for reporters to question the war, is a must-read for chilling insight into typical modern "journalism." The following excerpt typifies Brown's general attitude throughout the interview:

JEREMY SCAHILL: Aaron, will you consider hiring a paid anti-war news analyst for Newsnight?

AARON BROWN: I don't think it's a relevant question. We're in a war. There are going to be times after the war when we're going to have to talk about how the occupation is going to be run, whether it's being run appropriately by the right people in a fair and smart way, and what the implications are. It's an important Arab capital, and at that point, by and large, the generals go away because there's no war to cover- or there's a different war to cover. We'll look for a range of people to talk about those issues.

AMY GOODMAN: But not right now?

AARON BROWN: No, because I think it's a red herring issue.

AMY GOODMAN: To have a paid anti-war analyst on board to be at your beck and call like the generals?

AARON BROWN: Yes -- as my daughter would say 'I'm not sure which part of that answer was confusing', but yes I don't think that's the question, and I don't think it's how we use the generals at all- period. I don't know how many times we're going to go over the same thing -- I just don't think we use the generals to argue the war. We use the generals to explain what is happening on the ground and why. That's an important thing to do and that's the role they play.

To Brown, CNN, and the rest of the American mass media complex, the generals and their pentagon-approved ilk are the only analytical voices "relevant" to current war coverage.

Friday, April 04, 2003
World War IV

Former CIA director James Woolsey drew parallels between the Cold War and the current war on terror referring to them as World Wars III and IV respectively. Woolsey stated that this fourth world war "will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us. Hopefully not the full four-plus decades of the Cold War."

The jingoistic American Right who spent over a decade in limbo have a new perpetual war, a new threat and a new menace at their ideological disposal.

When World's Collide

Aaron Brown of CNN went head-to-head with Steve Rendall of FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) on Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now. More details will be available once the DN website posts the transcript and the audio clip.

The most interesting moment was when Rendall challenged Aaron Brown to get more diverse voices on the CNN payroll to balance the generals and other establishment voices who merely echo the party line. Brown responded that since the war has begun there is no need for anti-war voices. He pointed to CNN's use of retired generals and like-minded guests for their insight, while discounting the fact that anti-war or alternative guests could provide a useful perspective during war time. This preposterous statement lays bare a stubbornly narrow-minded perspective and exemplifies the sorry state of "journalism" today. Dismissing the value of the perspectives of alternative pundits or studio guests during a time of war is akin to brushing off the views of Democrats in a Republican-led Congress (or vice versa). Aaron Brown (like 90% of his colleagues) seems to have forgotten that it is the responsibility of the press to balance all sides in the pursuit of truth while holding our elected (for the most part) leaders accountable.

Thursday, April 03, 2003
The Depth of Dubya

USA Today propagates some White House P.R. aimed at painting Shrub as a rock of pensive and contemplative intensity during this tumultuous time. Judy Keen looks beyond the "composed and controlled" public face of George and quotes "staffers," "friends," "advisers" and "aids" who give their loving testimonials of the man behind the facade. Using all the semiotic codes that define great leaders of American lore (and Aaron Sorkin's West Wing), the article paints a mythic picture of a Churchill/Kennedy/Roosevelt hybrid who "is being tested" but can rise to the challenge:

Friends say the conflict is consuming Bush's days and weighing heavily on him. ''He's got that steely-eyed look, but he is burdened,'' says a friend who has spent time with the president since the war began. ''You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. I worry about him.''

Bush is juggling a lot more than projecting the image of a confident commander in chief. He's a prosecutor who quizzes military officials about their backup plans when things go awry on the battlefield. He's a critic who sees himself as the aggrieved victim of the news media and second-guessers. He's a cheerleader who encourages others not to lose faith in the war plan. He's a supervisor who manages the competing views and egos of top advisers.

One expects to see an accompanying grainy black and white rear-view photo of the president hunched over an oval office desk in painfully deep thought. All this emotional fortitude comes from a fortunate son with the intellectual depth of a bird bath who was pushed through Yale and Harvard despite C-level grades. A man who admitted he rarely reads and has historically deferred queries on policy to his stable of GOP advisers "quizzes military leaders about backup plans." All this soul-searching emotes from a Texas Governor who never spent more than half an hour reviewing the cases of the death-row prisoners executed on his watch. All this emotional questioning comes from a man who has historically forsaken the poor and needy in his own country in favor of lining the pockets of his wealthy coffers.

Like every buzzwordy sloganeering bit of pap that spews from the Bush's mouth, this article is nothing but cliched propaganda designed to give depth and nuance to a two-dimensional image. Yet some of Bush's more dangerous sociopathic tendencies are evident if one reads between the lines. The author states that Bush believes he was called by God to lead America on this crusade. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is quoted praising Bush, stating, "When he makes a decision, he makes it, and he doesn't go back and worry about it...'' Conviction to an extent is always an honorable trait but in the case of George W. Bush it is a character flaw; once he has deemed that God is on his side there is no turning back, no chance to reconsider -- no matter the circumstances. Bush often "discounts" aids who question the established plans and refers to staffers who express concern as "hand-wringers." To claim that such an attitude is disturbing is a tragic understatement when so many lives are affected by this cabal. But Dubya, the born-again bible-thumping puppet for the rich and powerful, believes that he is on a holy mission in the name of a greater cause -- God. Such convictions led to some of history's most frighteningly dangerous figures (figures who saw the world in right/wrong, us vs. them terms). Tyrants and murderers from Adolph Hitler to Jim Jones to Osama bin Laden were fueled by such demagogic notions. (Unfortunately the protesters on the Left are slammed and marginalized for comparing Shrub to Hitler while the valid ideological point is buried beneath the rhetorical rubble). While Bush may not be a cold-hearted murderer at heart, he is still fueled by the same single-minded righteous fury that has driven so many dangerous autocrats.

So the legend of Dubya flourishes. To borrow from journalist Jack Newfield's description of New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani: a D+ president could become an A+ myth.

Perhaps this is the most telling line in the article: "He knows when heavy bombardments of Baghdad are scheduled and sometimes tunes in to see them." One can almost picture his majesty watching with tearful pride as his crusaders unleash "shock and awe" with God on their side.

Fox News and MSNBC Compete...
...Over Who Can Sink Lower

As casualties grow steadily from the ensuing war in Iraq, Fox News and MSNBC are preoccupied with their own little cat-fight.

The nascent battle between the Fox News Channel and MSNBC for the hearts and minds of American television viewers has spilled over from news coverage to network promotions and jabs at each other.

"Operation Iraqi Freedom" has provided a golden opportunity for the corporate media complex to prove just how utterly ridiculous it is (and the whole world is watching). Just when you think they have reached their nadir they surprise you and sink to new depths. The media whores, like their symbiotes in the Bushite White House, are a shameful embarrassment to America and not representative of its greatest virtues.

A New Golden Age For Alternative Media
(...or... Aaron Brown is an "Inarticulate Warmongering Space Cadet")

Matt Smith of SF Weekly explores how "Operation Iraqi Freedom" further exposes the growing irrelevance of the traditional media.

For all its horror and folly and cynicism, the Iraq assault has one potential merit: It may provide the American public with a primer about the true state of 21st-century media. Here's the scenario as I see it. Hungry for war news, Americans turn to CNN and see ... an inarticulate warmongering space cadet in the form of anchor Aaron Brown. (Didn't the weird, inarticulate spaceheads used to be on the side of peace?) Americans turn to their local daily newspapers and read decontextualized desert travelogues under the guise of war reporting. They see the occasional non sequitur clips of a world outraged at America's war. They thrash and turn for context, understanding, truth — and they discover that America has enjoyed a quiet revolution in news access during the past decade. Sure, television has continued its post-1950s downward spiral, radio's become a vast land of David Koresh sympathizers, and daily newspapers have shrunk their international news holes to mere pinpricks. Read more...

Smith goes on to cite the plethora of alternative and foreign media sources available on the internet (sources not constrained by the same semi-hidden biases as the traditional corporate media).

Superbowl Baghdad

CNN just reported that coalition troops have entered the RED ZONE. If it comes to fourth down will they kick a field goal or go for the touchdown? If the away team is used to playing on grass or artificial turf they may run into problems on sand. Maybe they'll just call an AUDIBLE like they did on opening night...

Wednesday, April 02, 2003
Modern McCarthyism

To be filed under "Reactionary, ignorant, hatemongering...", or "People who just don't 'get it'..."

"Patriotic" website ("WE HATE BUSH HATERS!") has compiled a list of notable "traitors." Apparently, to them, a "traitor" is anyone who fails to support the decisions of the Dubya administration. Luckily, for the rest of us, the law of the land still says otherwise.

(For a good laugh, I recommend the "Ari Fleischer Tribute" section....)

The Music is the Message

A Philadelphia Inquirer music critic analyzes the subliminal effects of the networks' war coverage soundtracks.

"Coalition" Forces Excercising Less Caution in Recent Air Attacks

U.S. military commanders have shed their early caution in striking some targets in Baghdad and have embarked on more aggressive air attacks that run the risk of larger numbers of civilian casualties, defense officials said yesterday.

The strikes, many of them against communication nodes, telephone exchanges and government media offices, appear to reflect a judgment that winning the war against Iraq will require more aggressive air attacks, particularly the systematic destruction of networks used by the Iraqi authorities to direct their forces. More...

Number Crunching

The Iraqometer is keeping a running tally of casualties, bombs dropped, soldiers surrendered, etc.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003
The Viceroy of Iraq

The Bushites picked another winner... "The Man Who Would Be King of Iraq":

In a move typical for what passes for U.S. diplomacy these days, the Pentagon developed and announced its occupation plan without consulting the rest of the alleged coalition (no, not even trusty Britain) or the State Department. Worse, to this highly visible and important position, it picked a man with a dubious past and ideological credentials worthy of a Bush appointee.

A unilateralist hawk, the retired general is an ideological soulmate of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, his main collaborators in developing the "axis of evil" approach to U.S. foreign policy. But when it comes to the Middle East, his track record is even more alarming.

This comes as no surprise from the same administration that tried to stick Henry Kissinger with the job of heading an inquiry into the breakdowns that led to 9/11 (not to mention putting an Iran/Contra felon, John Poindexter, in charge of the Total Information Awareness program). Incidentally, a coalition of British and American citizens are petitioning Dubya and Tony Blair to replace Garner. For more information visit

Monday, March 31, 2003
The Ministry of Truth

One cannot overstate the dangers posed by the concentration of ownership in the media industry. If one needs an example of the negative impact the consolidation has on truth and information (throw a rock and you're bound to hit one), the coverage of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (and the events leading up to it) should more than suffice. With very few remaining regulatory laws fettering consolidation, the media acts as a mouthpiece for the interests of the wealthiest echelon. Conveniently, the Bush administration (as with most powerful Republican or Democrat regimes) is in the pocket of that wealthiest echelon. It is a symbiotic relationship between the wealthy and the government and this "happy accident" of convergent ideologies has led to a weak and pandering mass media complex that is nothing more than a prettified ministry of propaganda. The mass media fosters an information environment that is conducive to the neo-conservative ideology, while the government eases regulation on the media. All of this is treasonous when one considers that freedom of the press was so valued by the founding fathers. The press was designed to act as a watchdog for the people to keep the power of the government in check. The watchdog, neutered and muzzled, is now nothing more than a docile treat-seeker who lovingly plays fetch with his master. And the FCC is considering further deregulation.

The "happy accident" of convergent ideologies is apparent in other ways. The bottom-line, profit-driven philosophy of the media corporations fits the conservative capitalist ideology. For instance, as reported earlier, broadcast consultants suggested that media outlets play down anti-war protesters in favor of patriotic pap. The consultants argued that viewers (based on polls) would be more receptive to the patriotism, ratings would surge and ad revenue would increase. Yet the symbiotically cyclical nature of the relationship between the government and the media suggests otherwise. The public's distaste for anti-war coverage is erroneously informed by the neo-conservatively biased mass media. In the weeks leading up to the opening of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" the media generally parroted the Bush administration's hawkish rhetoric while down-playing the anti-war angle. News programs played soundbite after soundbite of George W. Bush invoking the specter of 9/11 in the same sentence as Saddam Hussein so many times that a large percentage of Americans believed that Hussein was involved in the atrocities. Thus the slim margin of pro-war Americans grew as the large percentage of those against the war were ignored or trivialized. The messages of the Bushites were complicitly relayed by the corporate media, treated with reverence and rarely questioned. Meanwhile the anti-war "left" was marginalized, characterized as old-guard Stalinists and dirty hippies.

Today the war is in full blast. Americans are shocked and awed not by the barbarous blasts over Baghdad but by the fact that American soldiers are meeting such resistance. Our government, aided and abetted by our media, promised a "cakewalk." Not until after the war began, after they had played their journalistic instrument like a Stradivarius, did the Bushites stress the fact that this could be a long and arduous road. But the media, for the most part, are "on message." Retired generals and moderate-to-right pundits are embedded in the newsrooms while reporters are embedded with troops. The White House and the Pentagon are in complete control over all war-related information -- not only from the battlefield to the reporter to the newsroom, but from the newsroom to the viewer. Anything that happens outside of this established ecosystem is rendered as suspect, untrustworthy and therefore ignored.

Meanwhile, the FCC is still considering further deregulation. Some argue that the current war will influence both sides of the debate. Those for deregulation will point to the plethora of information sources while those against will site the relatively small spectrum of opinion, the lack of plurality. One thing is certain: the debate will occur behind closed doors, below the radar of public scrutiny, as the watchdogs turn a blind eye to themselves.

Click here to cast your vote now in the national referendum to stop the war in Iraq.