Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is Charlie Gibson Qualified To Be a Journalist?

Reading through the transcript of Charlie Gibson's September 11 interview with Sarah Palin gives an excellent view of corporate contempt for any form of populism. Rather than practice journalistic impartiality, Gibson prefers to frame questions that he hopes will make Palin look bad. He starts off asking her if she regards herself as truly qualified to be vice-president, and when she replies that she does, he asks her if it didn't take some "hubris" on her part to accept McCain's offer to be his running mate. Gibson could just as easily have asked her if it didn't take some nerve to accept the offer, but this much more common word would not have stood as good a chance of making Palin appear "ignorant," which is what Gibson was eager to do.

Gibson asks Palin if being commander of the Alaskan National Guard and hailing from a state so close to Russia are sufficient "credentials" to be vice-president in "a very dangerous world." He neglects to cite any evidence that support his assumption that "credentials" result in superior political judgment and better foreign policy. The long history of bloody U.S. interventions carried out by U.S. presidents and their cabinet secretaries strongly suggests that there is no positive correlation between establishment credentials and good government, quite the contrary. But Gibson either doesn't know or doesn't care about this. Furthermore, his use of the cliche "dangerous world" shows him to be an eager recipient of ideological hand-me-downs, and his lack of awareness of the massive contribution U.S. foreign policy makes to keeping the world far more dangerous than it needs to be highlights a very bi-partisan ignorance.

Gibson asks Palin if she has ever met a foreign head of state, as though meeting heads of state were a pre-requisite to international understanding, or even just made such understanding more likely. There is no evidence that suggests this would be the case. There are far better questions that Gibson left unasked, such as, "What should our policy be in Palestine?" Why didn't Gibson ask such an obvious question? Osama bin Laden has made it very clear that USrael's conquest of Palestine is a major grievance leading to attacks such as occurred on 911, and the Palin interview was conducted on the anniversary of those attacks, yet Gibson asks nothing about what is widely regarded as the "mother question" in the Middle East. His only interest in Middle East policy is to ask what to do about the allegedly "existential" threat Iran poses to Israel. He cites no evidence that Iran's nuclear program has or intends to produce an atomic bomb, merely assumes we are faced with a "nuclear Iran," with "nuclear" intended to be understood as nuclear weapon, not nuclear electricity. Furthermore, he uses the word terrorist uncritically, offering no definition of the term that would allow us to acquit the Bush Administration of the charge that it is a terrorist government for having killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and invaded a sovereign nation without provocation. In short, Gibson thinks ideologically, which is not what allegedly professional journalists beholden to value-free information gathering techniques are supposed to do.

On Iran, Gibson is completely subservient to the Israel lobby's view of the country. Here is how he asks about what the U.S. response to a nuclear Iran should be: "What if Israel decided it felt threatened and needed to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities?" (italics added)

It is difficult not to be troubled by this response. Just how does one decide to feel something? And since when do feelings dictate bombing raids on foreign nations? Gibson is so intent on revealing Palin to be a moron that he overlooks his own stupidity.

Gibson quotes Palin saying that U.S. leaders are sending soldiers "on a task that is from God" and asks her, "are we fighting a Holy War?" That political leaders regard war as sacred is not exactly news, so what is the point of the question? It can only be to discredit Palin for her strong Christian beliefs. But how are these beliefs any more politically dangerous than the conviction of virtually the entire political class that Israel is a Holy State? In his memoirs Jimmy Carter says Israel was "ordained by God." Nevertheless, Carter is not discredited for having made this claim, but for having pointed out that Israel is an apartheid state (though Carter believes that it is so only in the Occupied Territories). That Israel can torture and murder on a massive scale largely thanks to the "humanitarian" aid flowing by the billions from Washington and the tax exempt contributions of American Jewish donors, ought to be at least as alarming as Palin's belief that U.S. soldiers are on a Divine Mission, but Gibson is entirely unconcerned about it.

After Palin states that she would favor putting Georgia and Ukraine in NATO, Gibson asks whether the U.S. wouldn't then be obligated to intervene militarily to protect Georgia against Russia. His only expressed concern is whether or not such a war would be "worth it" to the United States. The lack of any moral concern in the exercise of force is exactly what allows the Bush neo-cons to masquerade as ethical idealists bringing democracy to a "backward" Middle East (except for Israel), but again, Gibson shows no concern about this, persisting in his "realist" political line. That the U.S. has supported the most reactionary political forces in Central Asia for decades, amassing a staggering civilian death toll, is not mentioned by Gibson, a rather significant omission of essential background information that makes it impossible for viewers to judge the policy question properly. And let us recall the by now classic statement on mass murder of civilians being "worth it" to the United States. Asked in 1996 by Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes whether the economic sanctions on Iraq that killed "more children than died in Hiroshima" was truly worth whatever political gain the policy was alleged to have achieved, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright responded, "we think the price is worth it." This is the realist philosophy that presumes itself qualified to lead us to a bright future.

Furthermore, Gibson's use of the term "existential" to refer to the alleged threat that Iran poses to Israel is itself part of a religious ideology that holds the West possessed of civilized values and the Islamic republics permeated by wickedness that can only be overcome by force. Until this backward Western theology receives the attention it deserves we will all be caught up in Holy Wars that enrich the few and bring anguish to the many.

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