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BobcatJH Donating Member (504 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 09:59 AM
Original message
Ted Turner is right
When notable public figures say anything remotely critical of this administration or the Republican Party, the right-wing smear machine swings into action. From Michael Moore to Natalie Maines to Rosie O'Donnell, high-profile, left-leaning individuals who choose to exercise their right to free speech find themselves at the center of a firestorm, their statements misinterpreted and their freedom to speak out questioned. The reaction to the latest example is no different. Speaking Monday, Ted Turner offered his own views on the American flag, what it has come to mean and the president's wartime rhetoric, views that almost instantly inflamed partisan Republicans. But when you look at what Turner actually said, the right's snap interpretation rings hollow. Was Turner simply sticking his foot in his mouth with anti-American rhetoric, as some pundits said? Or was Turner making valid points about a powerful symbol, its misappropriation by a nationalistic Republican Party and the need for nuance in our national debate? The answer to another question - Who's right? - is already known. Ted Turner is right.

When Turner was asked during the question-and-answer portion of Monday's event at the National Press Club about how those who have criticized the Iraq war and the government's actions find their patriotism questioned, he replied, "Well, I don't like to see - you know, there are a lot of things about this war that disturb me. And one of them is the attitude that was well-expressed by our president. He said it very clearly. He said, 'Either you're with us or you're against us.' And I had a problem with that, because I really hadn't made my mind up yet. You know, what if you haven't made your mind up? You know, what if you're thinking about it, doing some studying, and doing some reading? Because it's an important decision to go to war, whether or not to go to war. I mean, 'You're either with us or against us' - that's pretty black and white. And just because you disagree with me about it doesn't mean you're not a patriot, as far as I'm concerned." Making, I think, a related point Monday, Turner said, "I mean, I just really wonder that during the, during the last war, you know, what business did it have in the news sets to have the American flag flying in the background? I mean, it was like the news media covered the Iraq war, at least at the beginning of it, almost as like it was a football game, with us versus them. And I can understand that for the U.S.-based media, uh, to, to, to do that. But, I really, and certainly it was inappropriate, I think, for CNN to do it that way."

I'll start with Turner's first, more inflammatory, opinion. Brit Hume, for instance, misinterpreted Turner's words by assuming the CNN founder was talking about the war on terror, which Turner clearly wasn't. Taking Hume's lead, fellow Fox dissemblers Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity also misread Turner's statements, going so far as to edit his comments to make Turner appear undecided on which side to support in the so-called war on terror. O'Reilly went so far as to ask, "Why do you hate America, Ted? Why do you dislike the system that we have in place so much?" When his guest, Laura Ingraham, said that Turner "has utter disdain for our faith culture," O'Reilly responded, "Yeah, he doesn't like Christians. He doesn't like the Judeo-Christian philosophy." Hannity, meanwhile, lumped Turner into what he considers the "blame America first" or "hate America" left. Like O'Reilly before him, he and his guests misread Turner's comments, also taking them out of context. And when co-host Alan Colmes tried to put things into context, referencing the question that prompted Turner's response, guest Brent Bozell quickly shot him down. Bozell, during the course of the segment, took things to the extreme, singlehandedly proving Turner right. "I think it's time for Democrats to speak up," Bozell said. "Either they support this man or they should condemn him." After continually refusing to acknowledge the true context of the statement, Bozell closed by doing what Turner warned against - questioning his patriotism. "And look," Bozell said, "you show me where Ted Turner has ever rallied American support around the war on terror."

When you do what O'Reilly, Ingraham, Hannity and Bozell didn't - pay close attention to what Turner really said - you realize that what we have here is another example of right-wing misinterpretation and subsequent extreme overreaction. I think Turner was responding to the knee-jerk, gung-ho, let's-get-Saddam attitude that gripped the Republican Party and its partners in the media once hunting down the real man behind September 11, Osama bin Laden, became pass. The same attitude that today allows the right to castigate its opponents, painting them as terrorist-appeasing weaklings who, in Karl Rove's own words, would rather "offer therapy and understanding for our attackers" and, to quote Donald Rumsfeld, "seem not to have learned history's lessons." You know, the attitude that champions the visceral over the intellectual, placing a greater emphasis on one's gut reaction than another's well-thought, researched conclusion. The dirty little secret here being, of course, that the administration's gut reactions have been, time and time again, dead wrong. Turner was reacting to this notion, to the environment fostered by the Bush administration and their accomplices in the media. The environment in which if you don't support everything the Republican Party wants to do, you're the enemy.

As Turner intimated, it's just not that simple. Going to war is an important decision, one that must be arrived at with great care and thought. The world is paying the price for our hasty decision to invade Iraq. At home, we have lost nearly 3,000 of our young men and women, more than 30 this month alone. In Iraq, a new estimate reveals that "655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred." And around the world, our own analysts report that our presence in Iraq has only fueled the growth of global terrorism. Those three items are unforgivable. What's worse, however, is that they were preventable. And while the partisan pundits of the world ask which side Turner is on, painting him as the enemy, they continue to overlook the fact that their president's decision to invade Iraq has been nothing but disastrous and that our reaction, our wishing that the administration would have looked before it lept, is not only just, but it's also patriotic. Dissent, in other words, doesn't make dissenters un-American. It makes us real Americans, which gets us to Turner's second point, about the cheapening of war and the abuse of the American flag. And on that point, like the other, he's right on the money.

I would argue that both the Republican Party and the Beltway-centered media have treated this war as a game. The Republicans, it can be said, treat everything as a game, something people like Ann Coulter prove on a regular basis. But no matter what people like Chris Matthews say about the media during the run-up and early stages of the war, there is no doubt that the media treated the whole thing as a game. The fancy graphics. The original music. The embedded reporters. This was a made-for-television dramatization of what should have been very serious, sobering coverage. Look no further than the media's shameful coverage of the president's declaration of victory in Iraq aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. Chief among the president's fans then was Matthews himself, who said, among other things, "And that's the president looking very much like a jet, you know, a high-flying jet star", praising his "amazing display of leadership". "He won the war," Matthews added, presumably speaking about the very war he now tells us he was against from the start. "He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics." (Including, apparently, Matthews himself.) Saying the president looked like someone who fought in a war, Matthews noted that "We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical ... Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president."

As important as Turner's war-as-game comparison was his discussion of the use of the flag. Since September 11, the Republican Party and its friends at Fox have purposely used the American flag as a weapon. A blunt object representing everything the party stands for, especially the war. In the immediate aftermath of September 11, displaying the flag was shorthand for everyone's pride in being American, our refusal to allow one terrorist attack to destroy the fabric of our nation. Ever since, however, the flag has become shorthand for the Republican Party and its policies. To display the flag, be it by anchors wearing lapel pins, in graphics or elsewhere, has come to mean showing not only your patriotism, but also your at least tacit support for everything this White House is doing under its banner and in your name. To not display the flag, therefore, is, in today's atmosphere, akin to burning the flag, an act of unpatriotic, un-American behavior. A television anchor not wearing the flag stands out like the yellow star-wearing Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe. The flag's meaning has been co-opted, perverted, and now embodies the right's "You're either with us or against us ..." rhetoric. In a few short years, it has gone from standing for everything that made this country great to standing for the behavior of a misguided political party. For waging unjust, pre-emptive war. For widespread human rights violations. For using fear and the threat of imminent attack to deprive Americans of their rights and liberties. For torture.

It shouldn't, but it does, thanks primarily a party and its palace scribes who have confused supporting one's country with supporting this president. And doing so, using the flag - our flag - to represent an extreme fringe's actions, cheapens the Stars & Stripes. It reduces a banner that used to stand for something to yet another campaign-season stage dressing. Just like reducing the political debate to either/or shouting matches and petty accusations cheapens our national discourse. When Turner, who based his answers on a lifetime of experience, spoke out, what happened? His words were twisted. His meaning was misinterpreted. His patriotism was questioned. Three responses common anytime someone outside the extreme right exercises one of our most basic freedoms. And three responses sure to continue as long as the Republican Party remains in power and represses dissent. No matter how long that is, no matter how bad it gets, this much will be true: Ted Turner is right.
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calimary Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 10:14 AM
Response to Original message
1. Amen! And this isn't the only time he's been correct.
Edited on Thu Oct-12-06 10:14 AM by calimary
He's been a staunch environmentalist forever, and an advocate of responsible population control and birth control - worldwide, which includes his pro-choice leanings. He's one of those get-the-government-out-of-our-private-lives guys. He was often referred to, sometimes affectionately, sometimes derisively, as the "Mouth from the South," because he's always been outspoken. And I always liked it because he usually pissed off all the shitty people when he spoke out.

The CNN people used to be VERY attuned to their reputation as an INTERNATIONAL network. It served the world. It covered the world. It wasn't just Americans watching. I guess the jingoism has been allowed to flourish as CNN subdivided - now it has CNN International that has more of a global news focus and less America-only bias.

I, too, an galled by the morphing of news people into cheerleaders. When I was working in the news business, the thing to be was completely impartial and objective. You didn't call the other side names. You treated all views with respect. Probably because, back then, the Fairness Doctrine was still in effect, and if one side spouted off, there HAD TO BE an opposing view given access to airtime also. Thanks to Ronald Reagan, that went bye-bye. In the interest of getting government off the backs of business - and into your mind and your bedroom where it didn't belong. If I want to go to a cheer rally, I'll go watch some sporting event at my kid's high school. I don't want to see it emanating from the news anchor's desk. That's NOT what it's supposed to be about.
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BobcatJH Donating Member (504 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 10:15 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. I agree completely
Great, great points, calimary
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calimary Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 10:30 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. Thanks - I remember covering the news conference when Catherine
Crier came to CNN as an anchor/reporter years ago, fresh from a position as a Texas trial judge. It made lots of news because she was elevated from a different profession, over the heads of many other women in the newsroom(s) who were equally capable. Turns out, of course, she too proved herself equally capable. She made a big point, during her remarks, about how everyone on the air at CNN had to take care to use the word "international" to refer to things outside our borders. It was never "foreign." It was always "international." They never professed to have "foreign correspondents," for example. She said that was a very strictly followed policy at CNN - to underscore the kind of global, universal approach they brought to news coverage. Sure wasn't any "us versus them" back then. Washington was covered that way, too. You checked your partisanship at the door, and you certainly didn't slant your coverage or give short-shrift to one side while highlighting another side nearly nonstop. And you questioned. You asked questions. You were a polite adversary, and you didn't just take the handouts and regurgitate them on the air. You tried to bring some perspective, especially if it was a complicated issue. I mean, here we are now, with the few reporters who've finally awakened, FINALLY asking even a few follow-up questions. And how long has it been since we last saw that? They've been in a collective coma for some six years now - ever since bush came on the national scene.

Dear God, the news has become so bastardized and perverted. What I hate most of all (and it's kinda selfish here, I admit) is how I have become ashamed of my former business. It used to be a point of great pride to be able to say I was a journalist. It's been a long time since I felt that way.
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BobcatJH Donating Member (504 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 10:54 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. No doubt
Crier is great ... a far cry (no pun intended) from her former colleagues, like Bill Hemmer, for instance.
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OzarkDem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 10:56 AM
Response to Original message
5. Good analysis, Bobcat
Ted Turner harks back to memories of when CNN was a respected news organization. I sometimes wonder how much it pains him to see what its turned into.

There's no better person to speak out on the ruination of our news media. He's fearless.
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BobcatJH Donating Member (504 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 12:15 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Probably like Barry Goldwater would feel ...
... if he saw today's Republican Party.
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