Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Intimidation and Misinformation

Let’s talk intimidation and misinformation for a moment, because a couple of items in today’s New York Times caught my eye. Now, I know my conservative readers out there (well, reader: hi Mom), are saying “if it’s in the New York Times it’s obviously liberally biased so we can ignore it anyway. For those of you who feel that way there’s some really cool news playing over on Fox. Everybody else I want to consider this:

On the front page of today’s Times is an article headlined “Bush Aide Edited Climate Reports.” Apparently some oil industry lobbyist is now advising the president on climate change (big surprise there) and has had the authority to vet and edit scientific documents on climate change. By adding words, cutting paragraphs and changing emphasis, he managed to water down several documents which argued that global warming was, in fact, real. This guy was an economics major. He has no scientific training whatsoever, yet he is editing and changing scientific documents that affect the very industry he came from, to support the position he used to lobby congress over. His objective seems to be to employ the current oil industry tactic of muddying the waters and claiming that there is a controversy over climate change, so we shouldn’t enact any legislation to prevent it.

On the front page of the arts section is a headline “Rejected Radio Spot Raises Eyebrows.” It details how KQED radio in San Francisco and WNYC radio in New York, two of the largest public radio stations in the country, had rejected and underwriting grant from The New Israel Fund, a group that raises money for religious tolerance and civil liberties in the Middle East. The two stations, apparently cowering under pressure from the right, claim to have rejected the grant because it represents the type of advocacy that they do not allow in public broadcasting, but an email message leaked from an advertising executive whose company represents KQED said that the removal of the credit came in response to complaints about Public Radio’s news coverage of the Middle East. The article details some of the recent attempts by the corporation for public broadcasting to supervise content at NPR, especially in their coverage of the Middle East. Much of this criticism has been spearheaded by Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the conservative chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. His position, and that of many conservative critics, is that since CPB distributes taxpayer monies to NPR that there coverage should not be so, well, liberal. They have threatened and intimidated NPR stations, suggesting that unless more conservative programming shows up they will pull the plug.

This is part of a pattern I’ve discussed before (see “The Death of Freedom,” February 4 in the archives). Conservatives use a two pronged attack of intimidation and misinformation to silence their critics, either scaring them into shutting up or else confusing the audience so they will no longer care. The common fight for teaching “intelligent design” is another example. The current conservative battle cry is “teach the controversy” when in fact there *is* no controversy—at least there is no scientific controversy, only a manufactured political one. So too, there is no real scientific controversy over global warming (though I wish they’d explain to me how Greenland could have been warmer in the 13th Century then it is today). The only controversy is that created by the greedy corporate pigs in the oil industry and their political butt boys in the White House in their efforts to protect their profits.

And as for the whole NPR thing, well, maybe they are not balanced, but at the risk of sounding like FOX News for a second, you don’t have to be balanced if you are right. Let’s take a hypothetical example for a second: let’s imagine that it’s say it’s the 1930s. Liberal elements in full control of the government (they have the presidency and both houses of congress) are moving to oppose German expansion in Europe while powerful conservative elements in the US, led by Henry Ford, Charles Lindberg and, significantly the current president’s two grandfathers, Prescot Bush and Herbert Walker, openly supported the Nazis and opposed any involvement in Europe. Arnold Schwarzeneger and Karl rove also have links to the Nazi’s: according to the (admittedly liberally biased) Common Dreams News Center, Rove’s grandfather was a party official who helped build Birkenau, and it is well known that Arnold’s father was an officer in the SA. And we now know about the Pope. But they were Germans and we are talking about Americans now. Lindberg, Ford and the others, bastions of conservativism, made millions doing business with the Nazis and argued until they were blue in the face that we should support Germany and avoid entry into Europe’s war. And they were wrong. There was no controversy other then the one they created by their open support of evil and their attempt to muddy the waters of debate with anti-Semitic hatred in pursuit of profits. There is no controversy when you are right, and right now the right is wrong. Dead wrong. CPB’s McCarthyite tactics are frightening, but they are also to be expected from conservatives in this day and age.

Or not. It’s not a good basis to build an argument on. It would be much better to argue for a free and open debate. But they are not proposing a free and open debate. They are trying to stifle debate through intimidation and misinformation. It would also be better to argue on the values of freedom of the press to determine content, or of freedom of speech, or of academic freedom or checks and balances and all sorts of other things, but that seems to be a lost cause nowadays. The pigs have gone on a total war footing nad are employing scorched earth tactics. Constitutional niceties went out the second the 2004 elections returns were in.

Oh, by the way, linking Tomlinson to McCarthy is not merely rhetoric. It is fact. Check out this article on the web:

…and try googling Bush Rove Nazis and see what comes up. You’ll get a wealth of knowledge.


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