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An Open Letter to CNN

August 10, 2004
by Sheila Samples

Dear CNN,

I don't want you to think I'm picking on you, but ever since 2000, when Texas Governor George W. Bush and Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney ran through the streets screaming that storm clouds were gathering on the dashboard of our republic, you've been furiously raining on the democracy parade.

There's nothing wrong with rain. Truth is - where I come from, rain is quite an event. It's almost an annual thing, like Christmas. When it does show up - usually at night - it comes in blinding sheets, riding the violent wind like a banshee, sometimes ripping roofs from houses with golfball-sized hail.

Floods are sudden; widespread and, the next morning when the sun angrily stomps back into place, there are acres upon cracked acres of wonderfully delicious mud pies to play with - all that remains after the thirsty earth gulps down every drop of moisture.

A brilliant kaliedoscope of wildflowers miraculously pops up out of nowhere and cacti explode in cream and ivory roses. Most will be gone by sunset. No matter. Their loss is a small price to pay for the achingly beautiful panorama that unfolds at the end of each searing, windswept day in spectacular slow-mo across the horizon. All that is important in life - "truth" beyond the perverted reach of man - is contained in the sheer enchantment of a single New Mexico sunset.

The wonderful thing about Truth, and the thing you folks at CNN can't seem to come to grips with, is - the Truth is out there. It's impenetrable; indestructable, and it's not going away. And, don't bother pointing out that CNN's softer-edged barking heads and cackling pundits aren't as bad as Fox News' mean-spirited barking heads and cackling pundits. Is to be a Fox clone really what you want? Do you think this is what Ted Turner had in mind when he built your magnificent empire, brick by ethical brick?

Fox News manipulates the polls in favor of George Bush - so we'll manipulate the polls in favor of George Bush. Fox News screams and spontaneously combusts at the sight and sound of President Bill Clinton - so we'll do the same and throw in the rat-gnawed, demon-encrusted Hillary for extra points. Fox News hangs onto George Bush's every incoherent word. We can do that. And, because Bush is our very own charge to keep, we'll clean up the messes he inevitably leaves in his wake. Hey - least we can do.

I noticed that your boss, Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons is out there saying the Fox News Channel is nothing more than "crazy people exchanging views." Lest anyone get the wrong idea, Parsons was quick to emphasize that CNN was not "liberal." By golly, Parsons bragged modestly, CNN just has a "bias for the truth."

But, hey - there's nothing wrong with being liberal. Every time you make a snide reference to Senator John Kerry being "too liberal," I mutter, "Yes!" and smack my TV screen in a high-five. If you look "liberal" up in the dictionary, you will find a picture of my wild-eyed self, proud to be "free from bigotry, broad-minded, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others."

So, if Parsons is right and you're so biased, why don't you just tell the truth? You can start with the reasons we were snookered into war. It will set you free. Just think how good it will feel to say the president, vice-president, national security adviser, secretary of state, secretary of defense, and all their minions who have not fled the ship of state in revulsion - are liars. Like you, they did not mis-speak. They lied. Like you, they did not misrepresent, nor did they mislead. They lied. Like you, they are continuing to lie - and you continue to broadcast their lies as truth.

Not every American who watches cable television is a bewitched glutton for punishment. Our "emotional ties" are to the U.S. Constitution - specifically to its first Ten Amendments, the Bill of Rights - rather than to what your own Anderson Cooper breathlessly refers to as "raw politics." Why don't you do a little feature on needless, destructive wars of aggression, and tell the truth about how such wars violate that same Constitution, as well as the U.N. Charter and the principles of the Nuremberg Tribunals?

And while you're at it, why not ask yourself why you continue to support a willful, arrogant little man who gives the finger to laws of humanity that exist solely to prevent the maiming and slaughtering of your fellow citizens as well as those of other countries - simply because - well, because there ain't nobody out there big enough to stop him.

You have reached a new low in journalism. You have - with what appears to be malice and forethought - taken a frenzied wrong turn at every journalistic branch in the road. And along the way, you have mastered the art of sneering, condescending questions.

Nobody is better at this than the self-proclaimed "Iron Man of News," Wolf (But-But) Blitzer:

"Why do you think most Americans think Bush is better equipped than Kerry to be president?" Blitzer whines.

"But - but - just because Kerry served in the military doesn't mean he's stronger than Bush..."

"Is it time for Teresa Heinz-Kerry to start biting her tongue?"

"But - but - Senator Kerry, you said there was to be no Bush-bashing. Did Al Sharpton cross the line?"

And the bewildered Judy "What Does All This Mean?" Woodruff, whose questions are generally preceeded with vague non-attribution. "According to those who know," Woodruff recently asked a Kerry aide, "John Kerry has a problem. People don't know him, and those who do don't agree with him. What does this mean for Kerry? Is Kerry in trouble? How are you addressing this?"

Your recent overdosing on unsubstantiated character assassinations fed to CNN by oil-soaked creeps who call themselves "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" is disheartening. To be perfectly fair, Aaron Brown refused to cover the story. Brown did an editorial before his show after a day of blanket CNN coverage and, without mentioning the subject, said he didn't think that a rumor should be put out there to be "judged," even if both sides were represented. "For that reason," Brown said, "I will not be covering a certain story - and you can be the judge of whether I am right or wrong." Oh, that there were more Aaron Browns at CNN.

However, for the rest of you to take a destructive right-wing "advertisement" smearing Senator John Kerry and give it massive "Scott Peterson" coverage goes beyond the pale. Was there not even one CNN operative who would take the time and effort to investigate these shameless allegations before running to the camera, throwing vicious rumors out there, and asking partisan pundits - "What is the truth? Is Kerry really unfit to be president?"

If that is your idea of objectivity and "bias" for the truth, why not toss some rumors about George Bush out there for the idealogues to gnaw on? Since you have no problem going back to the 60's to dig up trash about Senator Kerry, let's see some "coverage" of Bush's cocaine habit, 40 years of being nothing but a falling-down-drunk, abandoning his duty station in time of war, his fraudulent stock dealings. Let's take a look at Bush's refusal to fund his signature Leave No Child Behind program. Let's talk about 37,000 Iraqi civilians splattered across the landscape; nearly 1,100 coalition troops slaughtered - tell us about the investigation you are working feverishly on to discover who is responsible for the war crimes at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons.

Where are you on the treasonous Valerie Plame leak investigation? Did I miss your reporting on Bush reorganizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to undermine that critical agency's effectiveness and limit its authority? Your investigative report on the toxic gases spewing "like a chemaical factory" from the burning ruins of the World Trade Center for at least six weeks after the 9-11 attacks despite government assurances the air was safe got by me somehow. Don't you think Senator Shelby deserves the same amount of air time for leaking classified information as you lavished on Sandy Berger for inadvertently taking copies of classified documents to prepare for a Congressional hearing?

I suspect that not a single CNN employee has bothered to read the entire 9-11 Commission Report. If anyone there has read it, where are the questions that beg to be answered - who ordered NORAD to "stand down" as airliners flew unhindered to their ghoulish destinations? Why do you just stand there, 9-11 report in one fist, pumping your other fist in the air while reporting - "Nobody's to blame. Feel good. Feel damn good...?"

With your round-the-clock, round-the-year obsession with campaigns and elections, why are you not frantically investigating the controversy surrounding touch-screen voting machines? Are you not concerned with the possible irreparable harm to the "fair and balanced" voting process in this great nation? I thought not.

Do you care that in just the first eight days of August, we've had 19 coalition troops killed in Iraq - 18 of them Americans? How many of our citizens have fallen in Afghanistan? Do you even know - or do you, like the regime you serve so patriotically, not do body counts?

Your blatant manipulation of polls to bolster Bush's sagging numbers is embarrassing, as is your damage-control reporting to cover the ass of a man who brags that he doesn't read the news, and whose impulsive "gut" decisions are causing more U.S. citizens to die every day in a war that was based totally on lies.

CNN has finally "outfoxed" Fox. It is no longer "America's Campaign Headquarters." It has worked hard and has earned the right to be called "Bush Campaign Headquarters." Congratulations.

George Orwell wrote in his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, "Political language - and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists - is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

It's time for the rain and the hail and the wind of administration lies to stop. It's time for CNN to salvage its reputation as "the most trusted name in news" and tell the truth. In an interview with mediachannel.org's Rory O'Connor last week, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said a "showdown" in the media is long overdue.

"Can we break the machine that is imposing right-wing radicalism on the United States?" Krugman asked. "The scariest part is that the media is part of that machine. There will have to be some kind of reckoning soon, a possible Watergate moment to come...Things aren't all the way unraveled yet...and alternative scenarios still exist."

It is atrocious that CNN - through laziness, idealogy or sheer incompetence - is withholding the truth from the people who have a right to know: families of those who were incinerated on 9-11, as well as families of all those who have died on Afghanistani and Iraqi battlefields. Atrocious. No other word describes the damage your lack of objective reporting is inflicting upon the people in this country. And the greatest atrocity of all is - you don't care. Not at all.

Perhaps Krugman is right, and it is not yet the "end of the day." If you hurry, there may still be time to unravel the truth of a New Mexico sunset.

Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer who spent the happiest years of her youth on a ranch in New Mexico. She is a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She will accept praise and atta-boys at: rsamples@sirinet.net. Complaints and death threats should be directed to her cousin, Junior Samples, at BR-549.

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