“The embodiment of all we hold dear”

davislifeYesterday we met Angela Davis, who in August 1970 supplied guns for a courtroom raid and hostage-taking incident in Marin County, California, that was intended to free her boyfriend, a felon then confined at Soledad State Prison. The incident ended in several deaths, and when the authorities became aware of Davis’s role, she was charged with murder, conspiracy, and kidnapping. Instead of surrendering to the police, Davis – who at the time was an active member of both the Communist Party and Black Panthers – became a fugitive from justice.

During her months underground, the FBI put her on its Ten Most Wanted List. She became a household name. Some American Communist leaders wanted to expel her from the Party and brand her a terrorist; but they lost out to other Party honchos, who decided to give Davis the Party’s full support and publicly identify her as a noble crusader against – and tragic victim of – racist, sexist, and capitalist oppression. 

American activist Angela Davis, shortly after she was fired from her post as philosophy professor at UCLA due to her membership of the Communist Party of America, 27th November 1969. (Photo by Lucas Mendes/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Davis in 1969

Davis was finally tracked down and arrested at a New York motel in October 1970. When she went on trial in February 1972, she was represented by the American Communist Party’s general counsel. At the same time, the Party, in league with its sister parties in the West and under the direction of the Kremlin, spearheaded a high-profile worldwide movement promoting sympathy for her “cause” and calling for her release.

This movement won the support of a number of useful celebrity idiots. The Rolling Stones dedicated a song, “Sweet Black Angel,” to Davis; John Lennon and Yoko Ono also recorded a song about her, “Angela.” (It began: “Angela / They put you in prison / Angela / They shot down your man / Angela / You’re one of the billion political prisoners in the world.”)

Among Davis’s fervent supporters were Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. In the USSR, thousands of people signed petitions demanding her freedom; Soviet children mailed postcards to President Nixon pleading with him to let her go.

In the end, Davis was acquitted, despite mountains of incriminating evidence. Ron Radosh later compared the verdict to that in the O.J. Simpson murder trial; so did Roger Kimball, writing: “How did she get off? In part, for the same reason that O.J. Simpson got off: celebrity, edged with racial grievance mongering.” What’s more, the jury was heavily compromised: one of its members was Mary Timothy, an activist who would later become romantically involved with Communist Party official Bettina Aptheker, a friend of Davis’s and founder of the National United Committee to Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners.

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Davis in Cuba with Fidel Castro

Following her acquittal, Davis flew to Cuba, a country that she hailed as a model of socialism and racial harmony. In 1975, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn criticized her for having refused to speak up for prisoners in Communist countries. In 1977, she expressed enthusiasm for Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple cult in Guyana, over 900 of whose members, in one of the signal events of that decade, would die in a 1979 mass murder-suicide. Also in 1979, Davis went to Moscow to accept the Lenin Peace Prize. Russian writer Vitaly Korotich, who met her there, later said that she was “a useful tool for the Brezhnev government, used to bolster Communist ideals and speak out against the West during the Cold War.”

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Davis in Moscow, 1972

During those years, the media followed Davis everywhere she went and covered her public activities and statements extensively. An opponent of all American military ventures, Davis gave a thumbs-up to the Soviet invasions of both Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. Prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain, she received honorary doctorates from two institutions in Warsaw Pact countries, Lenin University and the University of Leipzig.

davis3In 1980 and 1984, she was the Communist Party’s candidate for Vice President. In the 1980s she taught Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University; she was later hired by the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she was a member of both the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies departments. The current profile of Davis on the website of UC Santa Cruz includes the following sentence: “Professor Davis’s long-standing commitment to prisoners’ rights dates back to her involvement in the campaign to free the Soledad Brothers, which led to her own arrest and imprisonment.” An interesting way of referring to the fact that Davis supplied Jonathan Jackson with those guns. 

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Davis speaking at the Brooklyn Museum

Today, she is hailed as a hero of feminism, of black civil rights, and of social-justice causes generally. In 2012, Ron Radosh noted that the Superior Court building in Washington, D.C., was hosting “a photo exhibit celebrating renowned black women” – and that one of those honored was none other than Angela Davis. Then, in early June of this year, came the news that Davis had won the Sackler Center award, presented to women at the top of their fields. At the ceremony, Elizabeth Sackler, chairwoman of the Brooklyn Museum, said that Davis was “the embodiment of all we hold dear” and that her very name was “synonymous with truth.” In fact, the award was only one more deplorable example of the contemporary elevation to heroic status of enemies of freedom and champions of totalitarianism.

Angela Davis, first in her field

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Angela Davis (center), with Gloria Steinem and Elizabeth Sackler

In early June, the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art –which is named for the historian who is the current president of that museum – presented Angela Davis with the 2016 Sackler Center First Award, which honors “women who are first in their fields.”

Who is Angela Davis? Her name may mean nothing to most younger Americans. To those over a certain age, however, she’s a very familiar figure.

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Davis in her heyday

Born in Alabama in 1944, Davis joined the American Communist Party at an early age. While studying at the University of Frankfurt, she took part in activities sponsored by the radical Socialist German Student Union and attended May Day celebrations in what was then East Berlin. She later joined the Black Panthers and received a doctorate in philosophy from Humboldt University, also in East Berlin. She went on to teach at UCLA, where the regents fired her in 1969 because of her Communist Party membership. Rehired by the university on orders from a judge, she was fired again after using “inflammatory language” (such as calling the police “pigs”) in several speeches.

Then she became world-famous. It happened like this.

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George Jackson

Davis was in love with, and secretly married to, a gangster named George Jackson, who, like her, was a Communist and Black Panther leader. After he committed five armed robberies, he was caught, tried, convicted, and incarcerated at Soledad State Prison in California. The Black Panthers later published a collection of his prison letters; Davis, for her part, spearheaded an effort to secure his release, along with that of two fellow Marxists who were also confined at Soledad. The men were collectively known as the Soledad Brothers. 

On August 7, 1970, Jackson’s 17-year-old brother, Jonathan, entered a Marin County courtroom in which another punk, James McClain, was on trial for murdering a prison guard. Jonathan brought with him plenty of weapons, which he handed to McClain and to two other convicts who were present in the courtroom as witnesses. Jonathan and the three jailbirds then took hostage the presiding judge, Harold Haley, a father of three, along with the prosecutor and three of the jurors. 

- - Group leaves the the Civic Center with a shotgun taped around Judge Harold Haley's neck. The inmate at left, James McClain, was fatally wounded in the van as it attempted escape. (IJ photo/Roger Bockrath)
James McClain (with gun, left), Jonathan Jackson, and comrades leave the the Marin County Civic Center with Judge Haley and other hostages (note the shotgun taped around Haley’s neck)

Jonathan and the convicts took their hostages out of the courthouse and drove off with them in a van. Jonathan’s goal was to hijack a plane, fly the hostages to Cuba, and exchange them for his brother’s freedom. But he didn’t get that far. At a roadblock, he and his pals got into a shootout with police. Jonathan, Judge Haley, and the two convicts were killed; the prosecutor was paralyzed for life; and a juror was injured. It was soon discovered that some of the guns Jonathan had brought into the courtroom had been purchased by Davis only days earlier. Charged with conspiracy, kidnapping, and murder and placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, Davis took it on the lam; after a few months underground, she was tracked down by cops at a Howard Johnson’s motel in Manhattan.

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Davis is taken into custody

Meanwhile George Jackson had died. Using a gun smuggled into his cell (he was now at San Quentin), perhaps by his lawyer, Jackson, in consort with six fellow prisoners, took three guards hostage, bound them, and cut their throats. Jackson was then shot to death trying to make his escape. His comrades in the American Communist Party described it as a “murder.”

As for Angela Davis, she went on trial. Among American Communist leaders, there was disagreement about what position the Party should take on her case. For some, her actions were a bridge too far. For others – well, we’ll get around to that tomorrow.

Shameless: David Sirota

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David Sirota

Yesterday we met David Sirota, an ardent supporter of Hugo Chávez and former spokesman for Bernie Sanders. As of 2013, Sirota was singing hosannas in Salon about what he described as Venezuela’s “economic miracle.” The next year found him working as an editorial staffer for Pando, a new website intended to be “the site of record for Silicon Valley.” In June 2014, however, Sirota and Ted Rall, the far-left cartoonist (who’d been working for the site for less than a month), were both abruptly dismissed without explanation.

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Friend: Bernie Sanders

By July 2015, Sirota was doing political coverage for the International Business Times – and being criticized for his failure to disclose his ties to Sanders, whom he had described on Twitter as a “friend,” even though many of his contributions to IBT were critical of Sanders’s rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton. Sirota, wrote one observer, made “little pretense of either accuracy or objectivity.”

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Target: Chris Christie

For example, a report by Sirota claiming that the U.S. Attorney in Newark was investigating then Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie – a claim that was readily picked up by the AP, ABC News, New York Magazine, and the Rachel Maddow Show blog – proved to be without basis. Sirota’s modus operandi, noted the observer, was to “publish an attack on a Republican, centrist or anyone not following the progressive agenda closely enough, and then create an echo chamber, regardless of the facts. Once the story has begun to take hold – in spite of inaccuracy – the damage is done.”

In other words, the fact that Sirota turns out to have been disastrously wrong about chavista economics hasn’t exactly imbued him with humility. Certainly he hasn’t issued any mea culpas for his inane, know-it-all gushing over the Venezuelan “economic miracle.”

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Marian Tupy

But if he’s tried to drop that chapter of his life down the memory hole, others remember. In May, Marian Tupy of the Foundation for Economic Education noted that thanks to the chavista economics that Sirota was applauding so recently, babies are dying in Venezuelan hospitals. Tupy quoted a recent New York Times account:  

By morning, three newborns were already dead. The day had begun with the usual hazards: chronic shortages of antibiotics, intravenous solutions, even food. Then a blackout swept over the city, shutting down the respirators in the maternity ward. Doctors kept ailing infants alive by pumping air into their lungs by hand for hours. By nightfall, four more newborns had died… The economic crisis in this country has exploded into a public health emergency, claiming the lives of untold numbers of Venezuelans.

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A pediatric ER in Venezuela

Tupy didn’t let Sirota go easily. Remembering Sirota’s snide claim, in his 2013 article, that when socialist countries go belly-up, critics of socialism “laugh [it] off as a harmless and forgettable cautionary tale about the perils of command economics,” Tupy rejected this “glib” view, stating that his response to the Venezuelan crisis was not laughter:

I do not find dying children laughable. But then, I did not laugh when I read about starving Ukrainians eating their children during Stalin’s Holodomor. I did not laugh when I read of Khmer Rouge soldiers shooting infants off their bayonets in communist Cambodia. And I certainly did not laugh when I saw with my own two eyes children reduced to starvation by the Marxist dictator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. In fact, there is nothing laughable about the almost incomprehensible degree of suffering that socialism has heaped upon humanity wherever it’s been tried.

As much as I would like to enjoy rubbing Sirota’s nose in his own mind-bending stupidity, I cannot rejoice for I know that Venezuela’s descent into chaos – hyperinflation, empty shops, out-of-control violence and the collapse of basic public services – will not be the last time we hear of a collapsing socialist economy. Looking into the future, it is safe to predict that more countries will refuse to learn from history and give socialism “a go.” And, I am equally certain that there will be, to use Lenin’s words, “useful idiots,” like David Sirota, who will sing socialism’s praises until the moment when the last light goes out and time comes for them to move on and find something else to write about.

Amen.

David Sirota’s Venezuelan “miracle”

In a recent series of posts, we explored the puzzlement that is Mark Weisbrot, an American economist who – for reasons either ideological or pecuniary, or both – has persisted in lauding the socialist economic policies of Venezuela and Argentina, even as those policies have dragged those countries’ economies into the mire.

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David Sirota

Another commentator who’s taken the same line on the same topics is David Sirota. Who? Born in 1975, Sirota has worked as a left-wing radio host, a contributor to Salon and The Nation, and a political operative for a long list of Democratic politicians, centers, foundations, and the like. Among his career highlights are stints as a spokesman for Bernie Sanders and as a fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-wing spin machine. In 2003, Newsweek described him as “well schooled in the art of Washington warfare.” A New York Times review of his 2006 book Hostile Takeover said Sirota possessed “a take-no-prisoners mind-set” toward Republicans and centrists. Election handicapper Nate Silver has accused Sirota of “playing fast and loose with the truth.”

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The Boston Marathon bombers

In the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, Sirota gained plenty of media attention with a Salon article headlined “Let’s Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber Is a White American.” Why should we have such hopes? Because of “the dynamics of privilege.” Sirota explained: when members of unprivileged religious or ethnic groups commit mass shootings, the groups they belong to are “collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse).” Not so “white dudes,” who, when they commit mass shootings, are treated as “lone wolf” types. The word jihad, of course, did not appear anywhere in Sirota’s article; to recognize that religious identity tends to be a highly relevant detail in acts of terror committed by Muslims is to violate the kind of reality-challenged political correctness for which Sirota (like Salon) stands. Islam expert Robert Spencer called Sirota’s piece “appallingly stupid”; Greg Gutfeld of Fox News wondered aloud if, in hoping that the terrorist attack in Boston had been committed by a white American, Sirota had meant white Americans “like the Occupy Wall Streeters on trial in Cincinnati? Or Bill Ayers, the nutty professor?”

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The late, great caudillo

Sirota is, then, a creep and a clown on a number of fronts. But for now, we’re concerned about his views on Latin American economies. In March 2013, he actually published a piece – once again in Salon – entitled “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle.” Sirota began with a sneer: for a long time, Americans of certain political persuasions had treated Hugo Chávez as “a boogeyman synonymous with extremism,” made him the subject of “over-the-top political rhetoric,” acted as if he was a “radical.” While making the pro forma acknowledgment that “Chavez was no saint,” for example on “human rights and basic democratic freedoms,” Sirota was quick to make the leap into moral equivalency (America, he proposed, had recently been guilty of “drone assaults, civil liberties abuses, and [a] war on voting”) and to accuse Chávez’s critics of hypocrisy (“it is not as if [America’s] political establishment sees an assault on democratic freedoms as deplorable”).

No, Sirota insisted: what made Chávez “the bugaboo of American politics” was not the bad aspects of his record, but the good ones – namely, the “indisputably positive results” of his economic policies, which, for the American establishment, raised uncomfortable questions about, say, the wisdom of nationalization and of aggressive income redistribution. But now that Venezuela’s economic success was so utterly undeniable, America had to stop demonizing “everyone from Martin Luther King to Michael Moore to Oliver Stone to anyone else who dares question neoliberalism and economic imperialism.”

Quick note: MLK has a national bank holiday; Moore and Stone have won Oscars. So much for “demonizing.” Anyway, that was Sirota in 2013. And since? We’ll get to that tomorrow.

CNN vs. Israel

This week we’ve been examining various aspects of CNN’s stoogery – among them its appeasement of dictators in order to maintain access to their countries and its reluctance to call Islamic jihad by its own name. Not unrelated to its delicate concern for Islamic sensibilities is another attribute – namely, its systematic anti-Israel bias.

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Ron Dermer

In August 2014, during that year’s Gaza War, protesters outside CNN’s studios in New York condemned the network’s anti-Israeli slant – and that of many other news operations. Jeremy Dery, a former parliamentary assistant in the Knesset, complained that thanks to the media, the world “believes that Israel targets innocent people.” Journalist Stephen Tebid, who held a poster reading CNN = Crap Not News, charged that coverage of the war didn’t include a single “picture of Hamas shooting a rocket.” That July, Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., chastized CNN, which had shown pictures of children killed in an Israeli strike on a U.N. school but had omitted to mention that Hamas was hiding rockets in those schools – as well as in hospitals and mosques.

In the same month, comedian Joan Rivers – in an impromptu airport interview with the celebrity news website TMZ that went viral immediately – censured CNN and the BBC for their hand-wringing over “civilian deaths” when, in fact, many of the “civilians” in question were actively helping terrorists and storing weapons in their homes.  “The BBC should be ashamed of themselves,” she insisted. “And CNN should be ashamed of themselves!” But far from exhibiting any shame, CNN later ran a report on follow-up remarks by Rivers in which it seriously misrepresented her position – the obvious goal being to make her look bad. 

Like many other news media, CNN frequently reports on terrorist attacks in such a way as to suggest that they were ethically neutral military or civilian conflicts. In November 2014, for instance, two Palestinians were killed committing a terrorist assault on a Jerusalem synagogue that claimed the lives of four Israelis. CNN’s headline read: “4 Israelis, 2 Palestinians dead in Jerusalem.” To compound the outrage, CNN described the atrocity as an “attack on Jerusalem mosque” – allowing viewers to assume that perhaps a gaggle of violent Jews had preyed on a congregation full of innocent praying Muslims. (Le Monde‘s headline about the same incident read “Six killed in Jerusalem.”) CNN later apologized for misrepresenting the facts – but somehow it keeps on doing exactly the same kind of thing.

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Don Melvin

CNN has also routinely passed along fairy tales served up as fact by various pro-Palestinian propaganda outfits or by the official – and famously unreliable – Palestinian Authority “news” agency. A particularly absurd example: in June of last year, CNN ran a story by Don Melvin under the headline “Israeli settlers reportedly chop down 800 Palestinian olive trees.” There was no truth whatsoever to the account – but instead of withdrawing and apologizing for it, Melvin followed up by (believe it or not) pretending that he’d written it on the assumption that readers would realize that the report in question was unreliable. 

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Jim Clancy

Some CNN talking heads, when confronted with Islamic terrorism, instantly head in the opposite direction from moral clarity, rushing to speak up for Islam while at the same time making absolutely no sense. After the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris in January of last year, for example, CNN anchor Jim Clancy tweeted as follows about the satirical magazine’s Muhammed cartoons: “The cartoons NEVER mocked the Prophet. They mocked how the COWARDS tried to distort his word. Pay attention.” What?

This was only the first of a series of tweets – described as “bizarre” by Israel National News – in which Clancy managed to change the subject from Islamic terrorism to alleged Israeli perfidy.  The good news is that Clancy left CNN shortly thereafter; the bad news is that Clancy, by that point, had spent 34 years spreading disinformation at the network.

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Ben Shapiro

Every now and then, the truth about CNN gets out…on CNN itself. In August 2014, a reporter for the network asked Ben Shapiro of the Truth Revolt website: “Has Israel somehow lost more in the eyes of the world than Hamas has?” Shapiro said yes, explaining that while “Hamas is a terrorist group…Israel, thanks to outlets like CNN, has been turned into the villain….If Hamas could have come up with any sort of outlet that could have created more will to kill more Jewish babies and Palestinian babies, CNN would have been it.” Shapiro faulted CNN for failing to inform audiences of the “restrictions that Hamas puts on your reporting inside the Gaza Strip,” of Hamas’s use of children as human shields, and of the Hamas charter’s commitment to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews worldwide.

CNN’s stoogery, continued

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Bell County Sheriff's Department shows Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan. A military jury has sentenced Hasan to death for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood that killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others. (AP Photo/Bell County Sheriff's Department, File)
Nidal Malik Hasan

On the evening of November 5, 2009, the day Nidal Malik Hasan committed the Fort Hood massacre, evidence rapidly mounted that it had been an act of jihad. He’d called himself a “devout Muslim”; he’d been known to wear traditional Muslim clothing; he’d posted a Muslim prayer on his apartment door; he’d spoken approvingly of suicide bombers; just before committing the murders, he’d distributed copies of the Koran to his neighbors.

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Wolf Blitzer

But while at least some other media were quick to report on these facts, CNN either ignored them or did its best to give them short shrift and leave them unexamined. As one observer put it, “the network seemed to be making a masterly effort to avoid giving this data a cold, hard look,” even as it sought to portray Hasan as a case of PTSD or, perhaps, as a good soldier who (for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with Islam) had undergone a psychological break as a result of U.S. actions in Iraq. In an effort to illuminate the massacre, Wolf Blitzer grilled a panel of psychiatrists – not Islam experts.

Then there was CNN’s report, aired last September, on small Yemeni girls who die in childbirth. The reporter said that the practice of taking child brides was common in a certain “tribal region of western Yemen” and referred to the “cultural tradition of child brides.” But she was careful not to mention that this “tradition” can be traced directly to the Prophet Muhammed himself, who wed his wife Aisha when she was six years old and consummated the marriage when she was nine. Imams have preached ever since that any girl of that age is fair game for husbands, however old.

By omitting these facts, and by entirely leaving out the “I” and “M” words, CNN’s reporter was deliberately obscuring the reason why not only Yemen but the Muslim world generally is awash in pregnant little girls, many of whom die in childbirth because they’re too small to deliver a baby.

In May 2014, CNN’s website ran an op-ed that started out by lamenting the phenomenon of honor killing. But instead of acknowledging that this crime occurs almost entirely among Muslims – because it’s consistent with the Koranic view of women as upholders of family honor – the author, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, segued into the entirely unrelated case of Elliot Rodger, the psychologically troubled 22-year-old who murdered six people in Santa Barbara, supposedly out of sexual frustration, before killing himself.

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Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Lemmon’s point was apparently to highlight the universal issue of violence against women – even though four of Rodger’s six victims were men. But to link a lone sicko like Rodger (who would have been hospitalized, or locked up in the slammer, if he hadn’t committed suicide) with perpetrators of honor killing (who are acting in accordance with religious ideology and who often escape punishment because their communities and government authorities actually approve of their actions) is utterly outrageous – a way of removing Islam entirely from the picture when it should, in fact, be front and center.

But then, removing Islam entirely from the picture is one thing at which CNN is absolutely terrific. 

CNN and the jihadist faith whose name it dare not speak

The last couple of days we’ve been contemplating the chronic stoogery of CNN, which has routinely edited the facts in order to preserve friendly relations with dictatorships that have expelled other international media and imprisoned domestic journalists.

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Jim Bitterman

As eager as CNN has been to placate tyrants around the world, it’s been particularly careful to mollify Islamic regimes. Every time Muslim terrorists strike anywhere around the world, CNN can be relied upon to do two things. One, it goes into 24-hour live reporting on the event, knowing that it’s pretty much only when such things happen that it manages to rack up decent ratings. Two, it goes into heavy denial mode, omitting from its coverage, as fully as possible, those two supremely incendiary words, Islam and Muslim.

A recent example: in early May, a man stabbed one person to death and injured three at an S-Bahn station on the outskirts of Munich. Many news media reported that he had shouted “Infidel, you must die!” and “Allahu akbar!” (Allah is the greatest), a strong indication that this was an act of jihad. But CNN scrubbed these details entirely from its reports on the incident, in which the assailant was identified simply as a “27-year-old German man.” The closest CNN came to identifying the man as a jihadist was to say that in the view of police “a political motive could not be ruled out.”

More examples. After a series of terrorist actions in France in December 2014, one blog posted a two-minute You Tube video showing an exchange about the subject between a CNN anchor and Paris correspondent Jim Bitterman. Asked about the perpetrator’s motives, Bitterman said inanely that “those questions are being asked today” but refused to offer anything close to a serious answer. While noting that one killer’s brother had gone off to join ISIS, Bitterman said it was “too early to tell” why that killer might have been motivated to murder. While willing to use the word terrorism, Bitterman delicately avoided the “I” and “M” words throughout.

Some CNN hosts are so eager to distance Islam from terrorism that sometimes they end up saying things that are patently ridiculous. Last December, for instance, in an attempt to paint the GOP as a nest of anti-Muslim bigots, Chris Cuomo (whom we recently saw proudly wearing a shirt Fidel Castro had given to his father, the late New York Governor Mario Cuomo) sneered that sixty percent of Republicans “think all jihadis are Muslim.”

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Chris Cuomo

Of course, all jihadis are Muslim.

Or consider CNN’s live coverage of the July 2015 Chattanooga shooting, during which the network’s “national security analyst” Tom Fuentes played dumb about the name of the shooter, Muhammad Youssed Abdulazeez. In answer to a suggestion that the perpetrator’s name might indicate something about his religion and motives, Fuentes said, absurdly, “We don’t know it’s a Muslim name.”

UPDATE, June 10, 2016: On Wednesday, reporting on a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv that took the lives of four people and injured 16, CNN issued a tweet in which the  word “terrorist” was put in quotation marks. Yesterday, after being widely criticized, the network put out a follow-up tweet that read: “A previous – now removed – tweet appeared to call into question the Tel Aviv attack as an act of terrorism. It undoubtedly was.” Similarly, a story about the attack at CNN’s website stated: “Information about a motive wasn’t immediately available.”   

CNN: “respect” for terrorists

We’ve been pondering CNN’s curious relationship to autocrats around the world. As we’ve seen, the network routinely soft-pedals the perfidies of various countries’ governments in order to keep its reporters from being expelled. In some cases, to be sure, the tendency to whitewash tyranny isn’t just strategic but ideological – for many CNN people, as it happens, actively sympathize with leftist despots.

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Fadlallah

Then again, sometimes a CNN hireling will go too far in expressing that sympathy. In 2010, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah died. Known as the spiritual mentor of Hezbollah and designated a terrorist by President Clinton, Fadlallah advocated the destruction of Israel, cheered on suicide bombers, engaged in Holocaust denial, called for the murder of Jews, applauded the 2008 Mercaz HaRav massacre (in which eight students were killed), celebrated the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing (in which 299 died), approved of the hostage-taking at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and personally had the blood of no fewer than 260 Americans on his hands.

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Octavia Nasr

Among those who mourned Fadlallah’s death was Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, who remembered him as having been “loyal to the path of the Islamic Revolution” and as having “proved this through words and actions throughout the Islamic Republic’s thirty years.” Fadlallah was likewise eulogized by none other than Octavia Nasr, CNN’s senior Middle East editor. On learning of his demise, Nasr tweeted as follows from her official CNN Twitter account: “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

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Shmuley Boteach

Nasr received widespread criticism. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach marveled that for people like Nasr, “an imam like Fadlallah who wants to kill Americans and Israelis but who is unexpectedly nice to women has taken a giant leap forward from the Dark Ages, deserving respect and praise.” Nasr soon removed her tweet and, on a CNN blog, expressed regret for it, saying that the harsh public reaction had taught her “a good lesson on why 140 characters should not be used to comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East.”

This was, note well, not exactly an apology. Nasr went on to describe the tweet as “simplistic” and explained that her “respect” for Fadlallah was based on his “contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on woman’s rights.” Of course, all things are relative; when Nasr spoke of support for women’s rights, she meant that Fadlallah was not a fan of honor killings. In any event, Nasr soon discovered that even by the lax standards of CNN, she had gone too far: her publicly declared “respect” for a mass murderer resulted in her dismissal from the network. It may well be that CNN’s readiness to fire her had less to do with any discomfort over her praise for Fadlallah than with its concern about losing access in Israel.

CNN and tyrants: access at all costs

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Ted Turner

We’ve devoted a good deal of time here at Useful Stooges to Ted Turner, the founder of CNN who’s made billions through capitalism but has a very soft spot for Communism. This is a dude who’s insisted that North Korea is peaceable and called Fidel Castro a “great guy.” He owns over two dozen homes and is America’s second-largest landowner, but he demands that the ordinary proles should tackle global warming by reducing their carbon footprints. As for Islamic terrorism, he’s explained that 9/11 happened “because there are a lot of people living in abject poverty out there who don’t have any hope for a better life.”

He’s often spoken of CNN as if it were his child. Well, in this case, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. The received wisdom is that of the three major cable-news operations, Fox News is conservative and MSNBC liberal, while CNN is in the middle, serving up objective, balanced reporting and treating both sides fairly.

Balderdash.

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Peter Arnett

When it comes to oppressive regimes – the type that shutter opposition media and imprison honest journalists – CNN’s policy has routinely been to retain access at all costs. Back in 1991, during the first Gulf War, CNN’s Peter Arnett was the only Western TV reporter in Baghdad, and, as such, according to Newsweek, provided “rare glimpses from inside Iraq,” even as he “provoked criticism that he and his network [were] being used as a conduit for Iraqi propaganda.” Arnett denied the charges vehemently: “Are we conduits for propaganda? It’s information….[The Iraqis] aren’t requiring me to report information; I’m not told what to write. I feel that what we are doing is giving a view which is not complete but is helpful, hopefully, for Americans and [people] elsewhere.”

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Eason Jordan

CNN’s access-at-any-price policy gained widespread attention again after 9/11, when many critics pointed to CNN’s unique ability to keep its reporters in Baghdad and attributed it – correctly – to the network’s systematic refusal to report on the dark side of Saddam’s regime. In a 2003 New York Times op-ed, “The News We Kept to Ourselves,” CNN news exec Eason Jordan admitted that on 13 trips to Baghdad over the previous dozen years, he’d seen and heard “awful things” that his network hadn’t reported. But instead of acknowledging that CNN had stayed mum to retain access, he took the line that it had stayed silent to protect “the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.”

In the op-ed, Jordan told of an Iraqi CNN cameraman who’d been arrested and tortured by the secret police; he recalled the time Saddam Hussein’s son Uday confided in him plans to kill two of his relatives; and he noted that henchmen had once pulled an aide’s front teeth with pliers just to keep him in line. But CNN reported on none of these things. “I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me,” Jordan claimed. But it was his decision to maintain CNN’s presence in Iraq nonetheless – resulting in reportage that every single day whitewashed the reality of life under Saddam.

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Christiane Amanpour

When the U.S. and its allies did finally invade Iraq, CNN continued to be reluctant to criticize Saddam’s regime – though it didn’t hesitate to go after the American government and military, and (especially) after news operations that weren’t so cozy with Saddam’s regime. The network’s own Christiane Amanpour actually smeared Fox News as being the Bush administration’s “foot soldiers” – in response to which Fox issued the statement saying, “It’s better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda.”

…and on top of everything else, he’s a Castro fan

We’ve spent this week poking through the curious professional history of American economist Mark Weisbrot, who’s been a loyal supporter of the destructive socialist policies of Venezuela and Argentina.

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Francisco Rodríguez

Back in 2008, Francisco Rodríguez, a Venezuelan economist who teaches at Wesleyan University and serves as Chief Andean Economist for Merrill Lynch, called out Weisbrot on his shameless shilling for Venezuela’s then president Hugo Chávez, charging that Weisbrot’s claim that inequality, poverty, and illiteracy had declined dramatically under the caudillo was “based on the use of heavily slanted data and on the misinterpretation of the existing empirical evidence.” We won’t soft-pedal this one: Rodriguez’s paper, which was entitled “How Not to Defend the Revolution: Mark Weisbrot and the Misinterpretation of Venezuelan Evidence,” definitively refuted absolutely everything Weisbrot had written about Venezuela up to that time, and aptly described the approach Weisbrot has followed ever since in his propaganda about the economic policies formulated in Caracas and Buenos Aires.

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Mark Weisbrot

As the whole world now knows, the policies that Venezuela has followed – and that Weisbrot helped formulate – have made Venezuela look increasingly like Castro’s Cuba. And Argentina isn’t so very far behind on the road to disaster. But why should this trouble Weisbrot? By all indications, he’s as much of a fan of Castro as he was of Chávez and Nestor Kirchner. In a December 2014 op-ed, he celebrated President Obama’s new opening to Cuba, triumphantly trumpeting the fact that Fidel Castro had survived “11 U.S. presidents, at least eight CIA plots to assassinate him, and a few premature obituaries,” and had lived “to see the world’s most powerful country finally give in and recognize – in principle, at least – Cuba’s right to national self-determination.”

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Oswaldo Payá

Some of us, of course, might find “national self-determination” an odd phrase to use to describe a country ruled by a dictator – a country whose government denies its citizens basic human rights, imprisons them for criticizing its policies, prevents them from traveling abroad and denies them Internet access. Then there are cases such as that of the heroic democracy activist Oswaldo Payá, who died in a 2012 “car accident” obviously staged by the Castro regime, and whose equally brave daughter Rosa María Payá, when testifying before the U.N. Human Rights Council, has been slammed by Cuba’s representative to that body as a “mercenary.”

But such is the “economics” of Mark Weisbrot. So what if Venezuela and Argentina, by following policies of which he heartily approves, “evolve” (as he would put it) into countries in which the cars will one day be dilapidated old wrecks, the buildings will eventually look like ancient ruins, and the people will be plagued daily by shortages of every imaginable staple? At least they’ll be “free” – like Castro’s Cuba – from the evil stranglehold of American capitalism.