ABC as Gullible as Pakistanis; CNN: No Proof from Taliban or Pentagon; Wallace American First?; Ex-Beatle Scolded Bush-Basher
1) ABC's Jim Wooten looked at how the U.S. is losing the public relations battle in Pakistan because the local press compliantly relays the Taliban's uncorroborated claims about U.S. atrocities. But that's just what ABC News itself has been doing for the past few weeks. Wooten dismissed a Taliban claim of 200 killed in a village, an allegation ABC had relayed, complete with video of a bloody pillow, body parts and dead goats.
2) CNN unable to judge whether Pentagon or Taliban more credible. Reporting on the Pentagon charge that the Taliban may poison U.S. food drops while the Taliban alleges the U.S. is dropping poisoned food, a befuddled Bob Franken concluded: "The U.S. offers no proof of its claims, the Taliban offers no proof of its claim." Jeff Levine was just as unsure: "It's very, very difficult...to assess these charges, to say what is what and what is right."
3) Second thoughts for Mike Wallace? Twelve years ago he declared that if he were traveling with enemy soldiers he would not warn Americans of an ambush. But last week he seemed to backtrack a bit, telling the Wall Street Journal: "You certainly don't want to do any harm to this country [or] to the war effort."
>>> "The Life and Death of The
American Spectator." That's the headline over an article in the
November edition of The Atlantic magazine, written by Byron York, a
Spectator veteran now with National Review, which I think many may find of
interest. York reviews the magazine's history, starting in the late
1960s, its move to the DC area in the mid-'80s and the reasons behind
its rise and fall during the 1990s. He offers a good account of how the
"Arkansas Project" was created and the behind-the-scenes inside
battle over it.
ABC on Thursday night looked at how the U.S. is losing the public relations battle in Pakistan because the local press compliantly relays the Taliban's uncorroborated claims about U.S. atrocities. But that's just what ABC News itself has been doing for the past few weeks.
From Pakistan, reporter Jim Wooten recalled on World News Tonight how, for instance, the Taliban claimed more than 200 civilians were killed by a U.S. bombing of a village, but "days later when reporters visit the site, they find nowhere near that number of casualties, but by then, the story is already out: the Taliban version." Though the Taliban offer "no proof," when "Pakistan's papers hit the streets" they treat the charges as accurate.
Yet, that's just how ABC News has behaved, even on this very same incident. Far from discrediting the Taliban charge of over 200 killed in the village, ABC's David Wright more than once relayed the claim and when he was later allowed to see the sight he did not undermine the allegation. He reported on the October 14 World News Tonight/Sunday: "The Taliban claims some 200 civilians in a village near Jalalabad were killed by a stray U.S. missile. If that's true, it would be the deadliest strike so far in the war. The Islamic militia escorted the press to a residential area littered with shrapnel. Inside one house, a blood-stained pillowcase. Outside another, dozens of dead sheep and goats as well as what appeared to be body parts. Villagers were still digging through the rubble looking for bodies. The air has a rancid stench."
Wooten began his unintentionally ironic
October 25 World News Tonight piece, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad
But how is the Pakistani media any less gullible to Taliban claims than is ABC News?
Back on October 10, from Northern Afghanistan, reporter David Wright adopted the Taliban language as he referred to how the U.S. was killing "innocents." The October 11 CyberAlert reported that Wright relayed how "eight miles east of Kabul a family's home was hit. The target may have been an abandoned fort nearby. 'We were about to get up for morning prayers when the bomb hit our house,' says the owner, whose wife and two children were injured."
Wright explained how many were fleeing into Pakistan before blaming the U.S. for bombing civilians: "Many who are leaving say it would be one thing if the Americans were only bombing the terrorist camps in Afghanistan, but, they say, the killing of innocents is not okay. UN officials today accused the Taliban of attacking innocents as well. The UN says Afghan workers in three cities have been beaten by Taliban authorities and that several truckloads of aid have been confiscated."
On the next day's World News Tonight, the October 12 CyberAlert noted, reporter Bob Woodruff focused on how the "Taliban believes" the U.S. had killed more than 100 civilians. Woodruff highlighted the claims of two men who had just fled Afghanistan as he reported that "the Taliban believes more than a hundred civilians have died in the bombings." They "believe"? That imputes a level of genuine belief beyond just a propaganda point.
From Chaman, Pakistan, just over the border from Afghanistan, Woodruff began his dispatch: "At this chaotic border crossing today, new arrivals, refugees from Kandahar. They say after a few days of bombs falling outside the city, now they are hitting the city center. 'Today a bomb exploded on a house,' this man says. Eight women and their children died on the spot. Two other men told us that same story. There are other stories too. 'I saw civilians die,' he says. 'Yes, this morning I saw 20 or 25 killed myself.' The Taliban believes more than a hundred civilians have died in the bombings, but there's no way to verify any of it."
Friday night, October 12, showed how it was possible to not buy into the Taliban propaganda as CBS did not while ABC did again. "In Kabul, they say, only military targets have been hit," CBS's Jim Axelrod summarized in relaying the view of some refugees he encountered. "'No civilians are killed,' says this man" who suggested "'They say that civilians are killed to stop America's attacks.'" ABC's David Wright, however, highlighted how "the Taliban claim that some 200 civilians lost their lives in the attack on Jalalabad alone." Wright added that the Taliban had "invited some Western journalists in to see for themselves. Well we plan to take them up on that and we hope to have that story in the days to come."
The Taliban had little to fear from Wright's scrutiny. Two nights later, far from discrediting the Taliban claim which Wooten a week and a half later dismissed as inaccurate, Wright seemed to endorse it.
Over matching video of destroyed building,
clumps of clothing and dead animals, on the October 14 World News
Tonight/Sunday, Wright asserted from Jabal Sarazh, Afghanistan:
ABC's eagerness to pass along Taliban claims continued this week, as detailed in the October 24 CyberAlert. Though he conceded "there has been no independent confirmation," ABC's Dan Harris declared on the October 23 World News Tonight: "U.S. attacks on a village near Kandahar killed 93 civilians on Tuesday, including 18 members of one family." Harris highlighted terrible things caused by the U.S. as he relayed how "this boy is one of the injured. His uncle says he had heard American radio broadcasts promising civilians wouldn't be targeted."
Harris prompted a doctor: "How do you feel when you see these kids?" When he replied that he was "angry," Harris helpfully directed him: "Angry at the United States?" After the doctor responded affirmatively, Harris asserted: "Everyone we spoke with at this tiny hospital said the ongoing raids have made the population here and across the border angry at the U.S. and supportive of the Taliban."
For more details and a matching RealPlayer video clip, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011024.asp#1 
What's more believable: That the Taliban would put poison into the food dropped by the U.S. in order to show evil U.S. intentions or that the U.S. would poison the food in order to kill Afghan civilians? If that's not a tough one for you, then you are too jingoistically pro-U.S. to work for CNN where, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd observed, two reporters seemed open on Thursday to either possibility.
"The U.S. offers no proof of its claims, the Taliban offers no proof of its claim," reporter Bob Franken relayed in a judgment free way at a bit past 8am EDT on October 25. Franken's assessment came a few hours after Jeff Levine treated each claim as equally tough to prove or disprove: "Now, overall it's very, very difficult, of course, to assess these charges, to say what is what and what is right and what is wrong."
At about 5:20am EDT from the Pentagon, Levine
checked in: "Well, in the last couple of days, food has surfaced as a
major new weapon in the Afghan war and both sides are hoping to use this
tool to win a kind of propaganda victory. The latest accusation is that
the U.S. has used the humanitarian relief effort to poison the Afghan
people. Now, the Pentagon is heatedly denying that charge."
Levine proceeded to note: "Another situation that comes up is that military equipment is being stored near precious sites, near religious sites. For example, as this picture shows, a helicopter is being parked near a mosque. The idea apparently is to draw fire to the mosque. Now, what happened in this case, says the Pentagon, is that the helicopter was destroyed but the mosque was saved."
But then Levine portrayed the conflicting claims as tough to judge: "Overall it's very, very difficult, of course, to assess these charges, to say what is what and what is right and what is wrong. However, both sides will continue to make these accusations. They're both very, very anxious to win the battle for public opinion."
Three hours later, at about 8:15 EDT, anchor Paula Zahn set up another look at the same story: "What some might call a shocking new revelation from the Pentagon, officials say the Taliban may intend to poison food brought into Afghanistan for humanitarian relief and blame it on Americans. The Taliban denies this, saying they would never poison their own people but Bob Franken is standing by, he of course is on duty at the Pentagon this morning with some reaction to these reports."
Franken treated the claims of both sides as
equally credible: "I think that one of the wars that's going on is
a propaganda war. We've been witnessing for the last several weeks
countering claims about casualties. Taliban making claims about civilian
casualties, the Pentagon very sensitive to that, saying that the Taliban
claims are significantly exaggerated. There is that battle that's been
going on, there's been a battle about bombs and what their purpose
really is, we've been listening to that.
After a soundbite from Stufflebeem, Franken confusingly concluded: "And Paula, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan said that this was just the United States claiming that the Taliban was poisoning the food as it [the United States] poisoned the food so it had somebody to blame and as a result the Afghanistan people had to be wary about poisoned food. Did you follow that?"
Mike Wallace having second thoughts about being a reporter first and an American second?
Last Friday, October 19, on the
"Taste" page of the Wall Street Journal's "Weekend
Journal" section, Eric Gibson picked up on a recent CyberAlert item
which recounted remarks by Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace made during a
1989 PBS show. Gibson wrote of the media's quest to provide interview
forums to killers, such as Osama bin Laden and Ted Kaczynski:
Gibson called Wallace to ask him about his policy and learned: "Now that terror has made landfall in unprecedented ways, Mr. Wallace is rethinking his earlier views. 'Look,' he said on the phone this week, 'if you have an opportunity to talk to someone the world would love to see up close and under genuine scrutiny by a mature reporter, you know your instincts will tell you, 'Let's go.' But 'you certainly don't want to do any harm to this country [or] to the war effort.' In the current climate, he adds, 'you are going to think and think and think before you do that kind of thing.' So where exactly do you draw the line? 'You're asking for a rule of thumb. And I don't think there is one. I really don't.'"
For more on the 1989 PBS panel discussion with Wallace and Jennings, refer back to the October 10 CyberAlert: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011010.asp#4 
Actor Richard Gere was booed by a New York City audience Saturday night for opposing "revenge" against the terrorists as he advocated turning "that energy" into "compassion" and "love."
The booing, from the same Madison Square Garden audience of rescue and police personnel and their families which also booed Senator Hillary Clinton, took place during the "Concert for New York" fundraiser shown for nearly six hours on Saturday night by cable's VH1 channel.
MRC analyst Patrick Gregory took down Gere's poorly received remarks, which FNC's Hannity & Colmes highlighted on Monday night.
Gere complained on stage to a chorus of rising boos: "The horrendous energy that we're all feeling, and the possibility of turning it into more violence, and revenge, we can stop that. We can take that energy and turn it into something else. We can turn it into compassion, and to love, and to understanding."
Gere paused as the booing grew louder, then acknowledged: "That's apparently unpopular right now, but that's alright."
Former Beatle Paul McCartney scolded an acquaintance who complained, just after the terrorist attacks, that "we got this knucklehead for a President," McCartney revealed Wednesday night on CBS's 60 Minutes II.
McCartney, organizer of the October 20
"Concert for New York" fundraiser broadcast by VH1, was profiled
by Dan Rather on the October 24 edition of the CBS magazine show. At one
point, as he and Rather sat in the Ed Sullivan Theater, where the British
group made their U.S. debut in 1964, McCartney explained why he arranged
the concert event. MRC analyst Brian Boyd took down his reasoning:
A reassuring rebuke from someone foreign-born who appreciates the Unites States the role of citizens in a time of war. -- Brent Baker