An Open Letter to CNN
August 10, 2004
by Sheila Samples
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
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
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
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Complaints and death threats should be directed to her cousin, Junior
Samples, at BR-549.