(Copyright 2001 Al Aronowitz)



Subject: Re: [AGALIST] COLUMN 26
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 09:05:15 -0400
From: Danny Schechter <>

SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 16: The E Word and "America Rising"

Danny Schechter

Sunday is a day of prayer, but there was little time for meditation or reflection on the TV channels I hop-scotched through, with the exception of the always excellent CBS SUNDAY MORNING which added sensitivity and insight to the network's problematic "AMERICA RISING" theme. I especially liked the final few moments: shots of flowers of every color to remind us of the importance of beauty and life.

On the political talk shows, the rhetoric was hardened although there was, increasingly, far more acknowledgement of how difficult a war against terrorism will be to wage. I heard it compared to the "War on drugs" or the "War on cancer" which have been fought without any decisive victory for over a decade. The language is moralistic to a fault with President Bush speaking spontaneously to reporters this afternoon, in that down home distinctive lone star state style of his, repeating buzz words and pre-shaped "talking points," while hemming and hawing.


He was proclaiming a jihad of his own. His fatwa is against "barbarians," vowing to cleanse the world of "evil." At BBC radio's makeshift studios in New York---where I took part in a pre-taped conversation with CNN news exec Chis Cramer for the World Service---a staffer said the words sound more and more like they belong in the medieval era of "The Crusades." In a way, the mirror antithesis of his crusade-like rhetoric comes from his apparent adversary, the man who signs his fatwas "Usamah bin Muhammad bin Laden." In them, he denounces his American enemy, lashing out at one US official with his own overheated rhetoric, saying, "An infidel, and enemy of God like you, cannot be in the same hell with his righteous executioner." (On Sunday, Bin Laden denied personal involvement. Bush rejected his claim.)

There seems to plenty of EVIL to go around, and more uses for the "e-word" (evil) every minute. Here is one example which raises anew the deeper dimension to this confrontation which is to be found in the gap in the world between rich and poor. That conflict is barely visible on US TV. Pervez Hoodbhoy reports from Islamabad for ZNET that "Samuel Huntington's evil desire for a clash between civilizations may well come true after Tuesday's terror attacks. The crack that divided Muslims everywhere from the rest of the world is no longer a crack. It is a gulf that if not bridged, will surely destroy both. One would like to dismiss televised images showing Palestinian expressions of joy as unrepresentative, reflective only of the crass political immaturity of a handful. But this may be wishful thinking. Similarly, Pakistan Television, operating under strict control of the government, is attempting to portray a nation united in condemnation of the attack. Here too, the truth lies elsewhere, as I learn from students at my university here in Islamabad, from conversations with people in the streets, and from the Urdu press. A friend tells me that crowds gathered around public TV sets at Islamabad airport had cheered as the WTC came crashing down. It makes one feel sick from inside."


A BBC producer told that the all hell broke loose last week when a show that BBC does called "Question Time" was dominated by questions from people denouncing the United States. A former US Ambassador appearing on the show reportedly was in tears, and the BBC was flooded with letters and calls decrying bias. There have been, I would suspect, few shows broadcast in America that would allow airtime to be given to such contentious points of view. In fact, with the exception of Muslim clergymen, few Arab voices from the Middle East or South Asia have been heard.

When pressed by the BBC as to why CNN and other US networks are carrying on-air banners with US flags flying and language, suggesting support for government policy, CNN's Cramer made reference to public opinion in the US, and that many journalists have been traumatized by what they saw. I am sure Chris, a former BBC exec himself, does not decide personally on all the packaging. The fact is that all of the networks are playing to the public mood, too, with editorializing merging into their reporting. Some media companies are also making generous donations to funds set up to help rebuild.

AOL Time Warner gave $5 milion to charities helping the victims, while Rupert Murdoch gave a million. (In contrast, Daimler Chrysler gave ten million!)

(You can comment to CNN though the CNN home page ( A comment from Bob Zuber was sent to me which advises "scroll down to the Message Board section, and enter your comments. Once you hit the 'submit? button, you may not register right away. You may need to submit more than once." Zuber, an environmental activist, is not happy about he coverage but I think his complaint is with all the networks, not just CNN. He writes: "Not in my recent memory have I witnessed a media frenzy like this one. As a group, with notable exceptions of course, they (TV more than the others) have closed off real discussion more effectively than the national security team could ever have hoped. Especially through the video shots and interviews selected for broadcast, we are being prepared for a war that has not yet been declared, against an "enemy? that has not yet been ascertained, and on behalf of a public that is having its wounds exposed over and over rather than its heads engaged. Do you agree or disagree? Post comments in the forum on as well.")

Only Three Minutes for Osama

Profiles of Bin Laden, who has been described as the "prime suspect" and the personification of evil and barbarism (which he may well be), only rated three minutes of airtime on the half hour nightly news segment of all the non-stop coverage this past week, according to Andrew Tyndall's authoritative report which found this week that the amount of airtime devoted to the coverage of this one story "surpassed any week in the past decade " with 333 minutes. (Yesterday, there was a fine FRONTLINE documentary on public television on Bin Laden as well as an informative discussion with Afghan experts on Jim Lehrer's PBS NewsHour. I saw nothing comparable on the networks.)

Framing the Coverage

Tyndall says "the crucial question now facing journalists is how to frame this story," noting that what is to come is not a traditional conflict since "Afghan-based Saudi exile Osama bin laden leads no nation." One had to turn to the British press, for backgrounders, like Giles Foden's piece in the Guardian, which explained how "US support for the Afghans fighting the Soviets led to support for the man the US is now hunting." It turns out that some of these operations were mounted not that far from the World Trade Center.

He writes, "On American soil, the CIA used Muslim charities and mosque communities as fronts for recruitment of fighters in their secret war against the USSR in the Hindu Kush." As Cooley writes in Unholy Wars: "One was [in] New York's Arab district, in Brooklyn along Atlantic Avenue... Another was a private rifle club in an affluent community of Connecticut."

Bin Laden and a man named Mustafa Chalaby, who ran a jihad refugee centre in Brooklyn, were both prot?g's of Abdullah Azzam, a formative influence on bin Laden.

How's The Media doing where you live?

We get letters and emails about various gaps and omissions. Example: I was told but did not see the Philadelphia Daily News which is said to have devoted its whole front page to the words "BLOOD FOR BLOOD" and then editorialize, "REVENGE. Hold on to that thought. Go to bed thinking it. Wake up chanting it." (See

That chant is being heard across the media, but other voices are not. Like the words of Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez of White Plains New York, whose son Greg worked at Cantor Fitzgerald high up in the Tower of Hell and is missing. They circulated a letter which reads in part: "we read enough of the news to sense that our government is heading in the direction of violent revenge, with the prospect of sons, daughters, parents, friends in distant lands dying, suffering, and nursing further grievances against us. It is not the way to go. It will not avenge our son's death. Not in our son's name."

And finally, there was this letter by an actual Afghan, Tarrim Ansary, a writer, sent to me by several readers. (An essay of his is on His sentiments likewise should be heard. He writes from Los Angeles:

"I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can we do?? Minutes later I heard some TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must be done."

"And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never lost track of what's going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how it all looks from where I'm standing.

"I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something must be done about those monsters.

"But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think 'the people of Afghanistan? think 'the Jews in the concentration camps." It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone would come in there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of international thugs holed up in their country."

When I read that email, one word stood out: "THINK."  

It is something we media people have to start doing more of.  ##

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Subject: My Home
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 23:15:44 -0400
From: Steve Rosenthal <>

The Magic Shop Recording Studio

Good evening.....

Today, although the air is better, the dust cloud still rises from the remains of the Two Towers...we have all come to work to try and act normal..... As i?m sure many of you know, The Magic Shop is 10 blocks from the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan . These past 6 days have been disturbing, frightening, and revealing...Before the networks turn my city into a 12 part made for TV miniseries 'the War Between The Oceans?, i thought i might share some thoughts with you about what it's been like here, and what is to come..... 

Firstly, my thoughts and the rest of my staff's go out to Derek McCrann, one of our staff whose father is among the missing from the bombing...His dad was on one of the top floors of the WTC, and even though it's 6 days later we all still hold out hope that he will be discovered.. Matt Barchetto, our studio manager, has 2 friends from home who worked at Cantor and Fitzgerald who are also among the missing. On a better note, i?m happy to report that Nat Priest, one of our technical gurus, emerged dusty but alive from his loft across the street from the Towers..He and his girlfriend Gail had an unbelievably harrowing day living thru the bombing and the collapse of the Towers onto his (thankfully) pre-war apartment house.....

When i came to the studio last week, the area was deserted, and under armed guard. I needed ID to get past the police and soldiers.. Most people walking the streets were wearing masks to protect them from the dust and debris still coming from the Towers.. It was like a ghost city.... Through it all, late last week John Agnello was here braving the dust and the chaos, mixing his new project "34 Satellite"....i will always admire his courage and determination, not to be pushed away from what he needed to do... 

My family and extended family have been donating medical supplies, food, clothes to the various sites around the city...My 14 year old daughter, Tracy, and I went on Thursday to the relief checkpoint at 14th street and the river to bring supplies and yesterday we delivered candy and even a giant bag of dog food for the dogs who are searching for survivors, courtesy of the Gilson family. Last nite we had a benefit show at the Living Room arranged by Jenifer Jackson for the Red Cross, and on Sat. afternoon twenty Living Room artists came together courtesy of Leslie Nuchow, and sang songs at all of the various important recovery and hospital sites around the city.

Today, although the air is better, the dust cloud still rises from the remains of the Two Towers.....we have all come to work to try and act normal....My admiration for the British public grows with each day as i consider that they were bombed for almost 60 days straight during the last world war, and still they managed to get up every day and live their lives...We hope to learn from their example......

As for the mood here, it is one of quiet determination and disbelief. There are candles outside the door of the studio and photos on the walls of the subways ....people hoping and searching against all reason, for their loved ones to reappear....If you watch TV you would think all Manhattanites were ready to march off to war, however we realize that the front lines for these upcoming battles won't be Jerusalem or Paris, but Broadway and Fifth Ave., so our patriotism is tempered by the reality of death and destruction ..... Common sense says we need to retaliate, but modern sense says war won't be enough.....

Of course it had to happen here..... NYC is the great experiment ... It is the great experiment in international living and social contract... On the subway today there were Asians, Africans, Muslims, Jews, Europeans, New Yorkers and even a Canadian or two.... Everyday we live the experiment, and try not to be frightened by those who don't look like us and don't agree with us, and somehow for the most part we succeed....

We are here and ready to work, not for the president, not for the economy, but for our own city..... The place we call home  

Steve Rosenthal
Sept.17, 2001  ##



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