Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Good Night and Good Luck

The Green-Dog Democrat*
"A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves."
Edward R. Murrow

 

November 29, 2005 -- In the wake of Good Night and Good Luck

Hello from the Green Dog --

Have you seen George Clooney's tribute to the late broadcast newsman Edward R. Morrow -- Good Night and Good Luck -- a movie about a period of the 1950s that eerily echoes the past three years or so? [1]

Through the Thanksgiving, 2005 weekend, the movie had been shown in something over 800 theaters (as compared to 3,858 for the latest Harry Potter flick) but in eight weeks had taken in some $19.6 million, a ticket-sales rate that would (unrealistically) extrapolate to over $100 million if it had been in as many theaters as Harry and the Hogwarts gang.  Still, as its release has broadened, a steadily increasing number of people have been going to see an excellent movie that has been denigrated by right-wing pundits, in part because of what film critic Roger Ebert wrote in the last paragraph of his review of Good Night and Good Luck --

(Director Nick) "Clooney's message is clear: Character assassination is wrong, (Sen. Joseph) McCarthy was a bully and a liar, and we must be vigilant when the emperor has no clothes and wraps himself in the flag. It was Dr. (Samuel) Johnson who said, 'Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.' That was more than 200 years ago. The movie quotes a more recent authority, Dwight Eisenhower, who is seen on TV defending the basic American right of habeas corpus. How many Americans know what habeas corpus means, or why people are still talking about it on TV?" [2]

That clear message has led several columnists and editorialists to their commenting on contemporary events and issues in light of and in the wake of Good Night and Good Luck and its echoes of the past three years or so.  This Green Dog has five of those commentaries, plus a Mother Jones interview with Clooney in which he said this about his movie and why he made it:

"We’re in an awkward period in this country where, as an actor or a storyteller, you’re not really allowed to take on contemporary issues anymore because they’ve found a way to marginalize you if you do. So the trick was to keep the issues in a historical context. The more footage of McCarthy and Murrow we pulled, the more we realized how prescient this material appears — not just in terms of the government, but the Fourth Estate, too."

The movie's parallels to today's political environment are frightening. According to the red-baiters of the 1950s, if you didn't support McCarthy's crusade, you were a communist or communist sympathizer. Today, if you don't support George Bush's vision of the "war on terror" and with it the war in Iraq, then you are unpatriotic or a supporter of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Some reviewers have criticized Clooney for his movie not maintaining complete historical accuracy, claiming that he lionizes Murrow and inflates the newsman's role in helping take down McCarthy. But the movie is about a broader issue -- finding the courage to speak the truth in the face of power and possible personal ruin.

If you have an interest in learning more about Murrow and his life and times, don't miss the links in the Postscript.  You will discover that one of America's first big television-news stars was not a communist sympathizer, as was recently suggested [3] by Anne Coulter [4]. Coulter's ranting was no doubt as part of an organized right-wing effort to denigrate Good Night and Good Luck and its message that reflects badly on the current president and his presidency -- as well as to denigrate George Clooney, who ain't exactly a favorite of the folks on the far right.

Please be sure to delete the to from/to/sent/subject block from this Green Dog when you forward it.  It would seem that any thinking person, no matter which direction he or she leans politically, would be interested in what's here.  Thanks.

The Green-Dog Democrat

[1] -- The movie's official website is at http://wip.warnerbros.com/goodnightgoodluck/ -- GDD

[2] -- The complete Ebert review is at http://tinyurl.com/c9zce -- GDD

[4] -- Vintage Coulter venom is at http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=47437 -- GDD

[3] -- Media Matters on Coulter is at http://mediamatters.org/items/200511290009 -- GDD

 

Good night, and good luck

POINT OF VIEW by Harold Evans
BBC News Magazine
October 17, 2005

In his weekly opinion column, Harold Evans looks at the state of television in the U.S., and doesn't like what he sees.

"THIS . . . is London."

Ed Murrow of America's CBS Network Radio always opened his World War II broadcasts with that purposeful hesitation. There was nothing hesitant, though, about his journalism as movie audiences will see . . . in the . . . George Clooney movie, Good Night and Good Luck.

At one level, the film is a melodrama about Murrow's use of the new medium of television against Senator Joe McCarthy's anti-Communist witch hunts in the '50s.

At another, it's an indictment of what network television in America has become, since it uses Murrow's own words to accuse the country's TV networks of deserting the civic values of its greatest broadcaster. The spectacle of Hollywood pummelling the commercial networks for becoming merely a money machine is richly ironic, even hypocritical if you like, but Good Night and Good Luck is a movie made for only $8m, nothing by Hollywood standards.

The first question of many this movie raises is how Murrow the journalist became powerful enough to help bring down the most feared man in America at a time when all other broadcasters and most of the newspapers, were hiding under the bed - just as they were unquestioning, unsceptical, indeed gullible, in the run-up to our invasion of Iraq.

The answer begins in another war -- the London blitz. As the resident correspondent for CBS Radio, Murrow was determined to report live on Britain's ordeal.

Critical Moment in History

It was a critical moment in history. France had fallen. Britain stood alone. America was still neutral, locked in argument about how far to help Britain. Thanks to Murrow's enterprise and empathy, standing on a rooftop as the bombs fell, the war entered the homes of millions of Americans in the sound of sirens, the drone of aircraft, the footfalls of people hurrying for shelter, the crack of anti-aircraft fire, the thunder of bomb bursts. He evoked admiration for Britain among millions of Americans.

Nothing in radio journalism ever before had had the same effect. At war's end, Murrow was a hero to both Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. He had also dazzled his friend Bill Paley, the founding boss of CBS .

It is Paley, a one-time cigar manufacturer, who after the war valiantly absorbs the initial financial losses when Murrow decides to try the new medium of television that he has affected to despise. Yet TV came of age with a Murrow show, a documentary series called "See It Now." It made its debut in November 1951.

It was the product of a partnership of paradoxes. The tightly controlled sardonic Murrow, of Savile row suits and patrician style, paired himself with a street-style producer whom I knew well. This was Fred Friendly, a huge whirling creative cyclone of a man wh,o alas, is played in Clooney's movie as a bit of a 30-watt bulb.

A Free Hand in Programming

Paley gave Murrow and Friendly pretty much of a free hand. Murrow insisted that no sponsor could interfere in any way with his programming and Paley backed him. And Paley kept his nerve even when Murrow unmasked the, by then, notoriously lethal Republican Senator Joe McCarthy.

Murrow did it by juxtaposing images proving McCarthy's uncertain grasp of truth. Murrow added only the fewest words of commentary, coolly appealing at the end to America's better self: "Cassius was right," he said, gravely voiced and sternly, and straight to camera. "The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, but ourselves".

There was a chorus of critical acclaim, yet a few years later, in the spirit of Monty Python, Paley and his CBS Network opted for something completely different: the $64,000 quiz . Its immediate success produced a tectonic shift in America's TV culture as commercial rivals copied. Paley first shunted "See It Now" to an unfavourable time slot, and then killed it altogether. The golden era of documentary television was over.

I remember years later asking Fred Friendly about it. "Here's the answer," he roared, his big hand gripping my shoulder: "Television makes so much money doing its worst it can't afford to do its best."

Tyranny of Numbers

Murrow nursed his wounds at CBS until a memorable banquet in Chicago in the spring of 1958. The film pointedly opens not with a McCarthy scene but Murrow on stage telling television's merchant princes that they had they had given over their medium to "decadence, escapism and insulation."

Today in America newspaper television critics regularly take up Murrow's theme of collapsing standards, adopting his mordant style, but most of television reporters, like the TV bosses themselves, succumb to the tyranny of numbers. Murrow would find it depressing and incomprehensible the way they have come to cover TV like accountants, ever obsessed by ratings and profits rather than content. .

The CBS boss Paley in his earlier more reflective days told Friendly that much would be lost if news ever became a profit centre in network television. He was right. News did become a profit centre with particularly bad consequences for America's understanding of the world.

The eye on the short-run bottom line led to the closing of foreign bureaus, a decline of investigation, the rise of infotainment. The American public, getting most of its news from network television, came to have little sustained quality reporting to feed on. So by 2001, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the consequences of the Taleban's capture of Afghanistan, the insidious growth of global anti-Americanism, came as terrible shock to its insulated world. Murrow had warned it would happen: "If we go on as we are then history will take its revenge and retribution will not be limp in catching up with us."

Infotainment

Today four multi-billion dollar entertainment conglomerates control network television in America. It is open to doubt whether Ed Murrow could long survive in the blandness that has enveloped so much of the country's programming.

In my view, the safe "he-said, she-said, on-the-one-hand, on-the-other " style of journalism is an abdication of the journalist's responsibility to pin down the truth.

More concerned with advertising demographics than a functioning democracy, the networks blur the line between news and entertainment. Any time there's a celebrity crime or a missing blonde in California, the rest of America -- the rest of the world -- vanishes from the screens. Les Moonves, the current head of Murrow's old network, CBS, has let it be known that he hankers to do the news "MTV-style."

Ruminating on how he might revamp the main CBS evening bulletin, he refers to a cable news program: "I saw a clip of Naked News," he told The New York Times, "where a woman gives the news as she is getting undressed." Alternatively, he went on, "you could have two boring people behind a desk. Our newscast has to be somewhere in between."

On the other hand, Mr Moonves, you could have television on television. One of the extraordinary things about network TV is how little news video they show, cutting back to cotton wool commentary.

Of course, real news is expensive, but the consequences of letting this country, any country, fly blind are even more expensive -- for the public. Let Murrow himself have the last word: "The instrument can teach, it can illuminate, yes and it can even inspire. But it can only do so to the extent that humans are determined to use it those ends. Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box."

"Good night . . . and good luck."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4343006.stm

 

Editorial: McCarthyism then and now

Editorial
The (Madison, Wisc.)
Capital Times
November 2, 2005

JOE McCARTHY hated The Capital Times and The Capital Times hated Joe McCarthy.

The red-baiting Republican senator from Wisconsin used to refer to this newspaper as "the Pravda of the Prairie" -- and in the Cold War era when he was running roughshod over civil liberties, McCarthy's attempts to portray this newspaper as a tool of the Soviet Union were dangerous accusations indeed. They were, as well, untrue. The man who ran The Capital Times during the McCarthy era, William T. Evjue, was not "the red editor" that the senator so feverishly denounced.

Rather, Evjue was a journalist in the mold that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison intended when they wrote that "freedom of the press" protection into the Bill of Rights. The wisest of the founders of this country recognized that, for the American democratic experiment to succeed, leaders would need to be held accountable. They did not trust opposition parties to always do the job, so they empowered the press to strike blows against those who were corrupted by power.

Unfortunately, in McCarthy's time -- as in the current era -- the men who ran the media were, generally, lacking in courage.

Tonight, with a free showing of actor George Clooney's new film, Good Night, and Good Luck, we will recall the fight against McCarthy and McCarthyism by celebrating the challenge that CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow posed to McCarthy in a 1954 national television broadcast.

Accomplices to Terrorism

In a speech to the CBS staff before that broadcast, Murrow said to his fellow journalists, "No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices." He was right, and there is no question that Murrow's blunt criticism of McCarthy's dishonest attacks on loyal Americans who did not share his right-wing views regarding foreign policy played a critical role in bringing down the man who used his Senate seat to destroy people's careers and silence dissent.

But it is important to remember that Murrow's challenge came not at the beginning of the McCarthy era but in the midst of "the red scare." The veteran journalist was breaking ranks with the national media elites who had for the better part of a decade been accomplices to McCarthy's reign of terror.

Even in Wisconsin, where there was broad popular opposition to McCarthy, most of the media backed the senator. He was a favorite of the Milwaukee Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal. And media outlets, including The Capital Times and The Progressive, that challenged his lies -- beginning with Capital Times editorials published in 1946 -- were condemned for their "disloyalty."

Only over time did it become clear that the critics of McCarthy were the patriots.

An Important Contemporary Lesson

There is an important lesson here for the contemporary moment. The Capital Times and a handful of other publications -- including The Progressive and The Nation -- were called disloyal in 2002 when they revealed that the Bush administration's "case" for war with Iraq was based on lies. Now, as the White House scrambles to manage a scandal that evolved from the attempt of Vice President Dick Cheney's office to defend those lies, many in the media are criticizing the administration.

It is good that they are doing so. But, as Clooney pointed out when he explained why he made Good Night, and Good Luck, it is essential that the media challenge those in power not just when they have stumbled but also when they are strong. For the most part, American media failed to mount that challenge when the Bush administration was steering this country into the quagmire that is Iraq.

And we are still looking for the Edward R. Murrow of today -- the national broadcast journalist who will pierce the bodyguard of lies and tell the people that this administration has attacked not just Iraq but America.

Copyright 2005 The Capital Times

http://www.madison.com/tct/opinion/editorial/index.php?ntid=60075&ntpid=2

 

A call to censure George Bush

By Martin Halpern
CommonDreams.org
November 12, 2005

GEORGE BUSH used the occasion of Veteran's Day to attack critics of the Iraq war as unpatriotic. In the face of the overwhelming evidence that the war was started on false premises, the president has the audacity to state that anyone who raises questions about the origins of the war are hurting our soldiers and giving aid and comfort to our enemies. The president makes no sense and has no shame.

Bush makes no sense because he pulled a bait and switch and asks us not to notice. He asked Congress for a blank check to use force if necessary against the government of Saddam Hussein because they supposedly had weapons of mass destruction which they might use against us. Since this was false, we had no reason to attack Iraq. Indeed, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has pointed out that the war was illegal.

The original bait was false, but the switch is equally outrageous. What is the mission now? Hussein is in jail so we are no longer there to fight him. Bush is acting like a drunk who stumbles into the wrong house in the subdivision and then pulls out his gun and starts shooting when the homeowners start bickering among themselves about the best way try to drive him out. Why not just leave and let everyone live a little longer?

Of course, Bush is not himself bearing arms. It is our young men and women who are doing so. It is Bush who has cavalierly sent our volunteer soldiers, overwhelmingly working class, into harm's way on false pretenses and keeps them there without justification. He demands the rest of us cheer on this misuse of our own sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, friends and neighbors. But the truly moral thing to do is to stand up and speak truth to power, insist that our young not be sacrificed to an ignoble cause in which torture becomes as routine as drinking a few beers on Saturday night.

Fulbright and Vietnam

Bush calls out Senator John Kerry by name because he was one of those who voted to give him a blank check and now criticizes the war. But John Kerry is following the fine example of Senator J. William Fulbright, who shepherded the Tonkin Gulf resolution through Congress and then led in criticizing the Vietnam War and the false pretenses that President Lyndon Johnson used to escalate it.

The Vietnam analogy is apt because in both this war and the war of the last generation the country initially gave strong support and then came to see it was misled and wanted an end to the conflicts. The Vietnam war analogy is apt in another way: it provides a window on the character of George Bush.

What did you do in the Vietnam War, Mr. Bush? Was Mr. Bush asked that question in the presidential debates? It was an appropriate question to ask in 2004 because Bush was sending young people into harm's way and when he had the chance to serve for a cause he believed in during a time when we had a draft, he avoided service. Despite his affectation of a down home demeanor, Bush exhibits the sick arrogance of the bad rich boy who never did a lick of work but feels entitled to look down on working people as dumb oxen.

The popularity of the film Good Night and Good Luck about Edward R. Murrow's challenge to Senator Joseph McCarthy should remind us of the importance of speaking truth to power. McCarthy had intimidated most politicians and millions of Americans but Murrow called him out. The Senate eventually censured McCarthy.

Working Class Youth in Harm's Way

George Bush has no shame. As an arrogant party boy in his youth, he maneuvered his way out of serving in a war that he thought was a good cause so that working class youths could fight and die in his stead. As president he sent working class youth off to fight and die for a false cause, getting rid of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and continues to keep them in harm's way with no end in sight for a purpose that's supposedly about creating a democratic government but is really about opening up the Iraqi economy, particularly oil, to exploitation by a few big corporations.

While speaking falsely about creating democracy in Iraq, Bush shamelessly seeks to undermine democracy at home by branding his critics as virtual traitors.

It is time to follow the example of Joseph Welch and ask George Bush, "Have you no shame?" It is time for the Senate and the House of Representatives to follow the example of the Senate against McCarthy and to censure George Bush for lying to the Congress and the American people to launch a war on false pretenses, for continuing a war on false premises, and for undermining the rule of law and democracy at home by authorizing torture and seeking to silence his critics.

It is time to follow the example of Edward R. Murrow, who declared in his broadcast critique of McCarthy, "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason . . . " At stake are the well-being of our soldiers in Iraq, the moral character of our nation in the eyes of the world, and the democratic system at home. We have only our fear to lose. It's time to act.

Martin Halpern is a professor of history at Henderson State University in Arkansas. He is the author of two books, UAW Politics in the Cold War Era (1988) and Unions, Radicals, and Democratic Presidents: Seeking Social Change in the Twentieth Century (2003) and of numerous op ed pieces, particularly for the History News Network. In the 1960s and 1970s, Halpern participated in the movement against the Vietnam War, served as a civil rights worker in Tennessee, and was an organizer in the Black Action Movement and Graduate Employees Organization strikes at the University of Michigan. He has been an active opponent of the Iraq.

http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views05/1112-28.htm

 

Democracy went AWOL pre-invasion

By Randy Shultz
Editor of the Editorial Page
Palm Beach Post
November 13, 2005

IT WAS HALF a century and another "ism" ago, but we have heard the echoes for the past three years.

In the 1950s, it was Communism. Today, it's terrorism. Now, as then, journalists become demagogues. A television network appeals for viewers by showing an American flag at the corner of its screen. Commentators for that network imply that political dissidents are traitors; one calls them "enemies of the state." Now, as then, politicians exploit fear of an enemy, attempting to cow their opponents.

I didn't need to see George Clooney's new movie, Good Night and Good Luck, to learn about radio and television journalist Edward R. Murrow and his exposing for a national audience the thuggery of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. I've read much about Mr. Murrow, and I've seen tapes of his most famous broadcasts, including "Harvest of Shame."  On the day after Thanksgiving in 1960, Mr. Murrow took well-fed Americans to Belle Glade so they could meet the poor, migrant farm workers who made the holiday feast possible.

Six years earlier, Mr. Murrow had used the new medium of television to help take down Sen. McCarthy. If Mr. Clooney, who directed Good Night and Good Luck, intended to show similarities between the tactics of that time and now, he succeeded.

Phony Charges, 50 Years Apart

In just four years, Sen. McCarthy had risen from back-bench obscurity to national prominence by proclaiming that Communists had infiltrated the highest levels of government. Honest, ethical people were working to catch spies. Sen. McCarthy was neither honest nor ethical. But he scared lots of people, ruined some and cast any critic as un-American.

Sound familiar? Think of what the Bush administration has done since mid-2002. It invented a link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda that was as phony as Sen. McCarthy's charge that Communists had taken over the State Department. To head off questions about Iraq's capabilities, the president and his national security adviser warned the country not to wait until the "smoking gun" became a "mushroom cloud." To any critic, the White House had the same answer: 9/11.

Among the first to be intimidated were members of the Washington press corps, who dropped healthy skepticism so as not to seem soft on terrorism. Next came Senate Democrats. Minority Leader Tom Daschle told his party not to get hung up on debating the president for fear of looking unpopular before the midterm elections.

Then-Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., voted for the Iraq war resolution and to create a Department of Homeland Security, which the president didn't support until the public demanded it. That didn't stop the White House from backing an opponent who had ducked the draft because of a bad knee but accused Sen. Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, of "breaking his oath to protect and defend the Constitution" because of an earlier vote on a chemical weapons treaty.

Using 9/11 to Sell Unsellable Policy

With events having disproved every claim the White House made before invading Iraq, it is easier and more fashionable to criticize the war. But the test of democracy is how it functions when emotions are high, the going is hard and the issue is in doubt.

By that standard, democracy failed in the months before the invasion. A few people in the Bush administration were able to use a national tragedy to carry out a policy they could not have sold on its own terms. President Bush said Friday that some members of Congress "didn't support the liberation of Iraq." In fact, no member of Congress voted for the liberation of Iraq. The word "liberation" does not appear in the congressional resolution. Congress supported the use of force to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq."

In his closing to the 1954 McCarthy broadcast, Mr. Murrow said, "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty." Yet that is how Mr. Bush and his aides have treated dissent on Iraq, even within their own administration. Mr. Murrow also said, "We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home." That includes the freedom to be unpopular, even within your own administration.

The president spoke Friday of what he calls progress toward democracy in Iraq. His anemic poll numbers show that there's some progress on democracy in the United States.

Copyright © 2005, The Palm Beach Post.

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/opinion/content/opinion/epaper/2005/11/13/a1e_schultzcol_1113.html

 

Calling for truth and dignity in the nation's conduct

By Floyd J. McKay, guest columnist
The Seattle Times
November 16, 2005

NEAR THE END of the Edward R. Murrow movie, Good Night, and Good Luck, Sen. Joseph McCarthy is confronted by Joseph Welch, civilian counsel for the U.S. Army. McCarthy's personal abuse of opponents had reached a peak in the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954.

In his rumbling voice, Welch intoned, "You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

Where is Welch when we need him? (Or Murrow, for that matter?)

And where is the decency of this nation?

Who built the moral cesspool into which this nation has sunk with its secret prisons and secret prisoners, legalized torture, indefinite imprisonment without trial or counsel?

Is it Vice President Dick Cheney, pleading a CIA exemption from the torture ban that passed the Senate with 90 votes?

Is it Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert who, upon hearing leaked intelligence that the CIA is using secret prisons in other countries, beyond the reach of American torture laws, decided to investigate the leak — but not the prisons?

Is it the military commanders who have escaped reprimand while a series of low-level soldiers take the blame for abuses at Abu Ghraib and in Afghanistan? Or the White House and Justice Department lawyers who drafted the "soft torture" rules?

Is it the president of the United States, who never seems to take responsibility for anything, doggedly plunging ahead, "working hard" and "doing my job"? Who is in charge here? Is it really Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a corps of hard-core neoconservatives in the Department of Defense and Cheney's office who run the foreign policy of this country?

How are we to find the truth?

"Good Night and Good Luck"

We are reminded in the movie Good Night, and Good Luck that the combination of a powerful new medium, television, and a powerful old institution, the U.S. Senate, finished McCarthy, although it did not end McCarthyism.

We are reminded that the Senate was Republican at that time — thanks in no small measure to McCarthy's "bad cop" while Dwight D.Eisenhower played "good cop" in the 1952 elections. But Eisenhower and the Senate finally got up the gumption to challenge the bully.

Where is the Senate today? Where are the hearings on failed intelligence and failed decisions of the Iraq war? Where are the hearings on secret prisons and the use of torture?

It is mighty hard to investigate your own party's leadership. Ask the Senate of 1966 and Sen. J. William Fulbright how easy it was to haul President Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam War into televised hearings that lasted six days and began the unraveling of the Johnson presidency.

Where are Republicans of the stature of the late Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and Fulbright? House bully-boy Tom DeLay is under indictment; Frist is being investigated for insider trading.

What independence the party shows seems limited to Sen. John McCain and a handful of back-benchers willing to oppose the leadership on rare occasions.

A Parliamentary System?

Bush has had a free run with Congress for five years. We seem to have adopted a parliamentary system of government, where party affiliation is more important than common sense. For the first time since 1881, a president went a full term without casting a veto. Will Bush exercise his first veto on the bill outlawing torture — if so, what does that say about the moralistic White House?

Or will the Congress once again roll over and cave in to Cheney and Bush and the weary old cries of using whatever tactics it takes to defeat our enemies, regardless of what it does to our moral standing at home and abroad?

If this is, indeed, a new form of parliamentary government, where is the "loyal opposition"? Can we find Democrats who have the courage to stand up and shout that the emperor has no clothes, or will they continue to cower for fear of being declared unpatriotic by the virulent voices of talk radio?

What, exactly, is patriotism? Is it a yellow car ribbon or is it calling for truth and dignity in the conduct of this nation?

And, finally, who is ultimately to blame for this mess? Could it be that the answer, again, is found in "Good Night, and Good Luck," in Murrow's closing lines as he exposed McCarthy:

"(McCarthy) didn't create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it and rather successfully. Cassius was right. 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.' Good night, and good luck."

Floyd J. McKay, a journalism professor emeritus at Western Washington University, is a regular contributor to Times editorial pages. E-mail him at floydmckay@yahoo.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2002625932_floyd16.html

 

Bush confuses dissent with disloyalty

By Jim Kiser
(Tucson) Arizona Daily Star
November 16, 2005

BY HAPPENSTANCE, on the same day that newspapers carried stories of George Bush's lashing out at critics of the Iraq war, I saw George Clooney's compelling movie about Edward R. Murrow's 1954 confrontation with Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

McCarthy led the nation through four years of destructive anti-communist witch-hunts. It was a jarring intertwining of two periods in American life, 50 years apart.

In his Veterans Day speech at a Pennsylvania Army depot, Bush called criticisms that he misled the nation about the threat of Iraq's weapons "deeply irresponsible." He repeated those statements Monday.

"The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges," the president said.

"These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them."

Bush stopped just short of questioning his critics' patriotism. But his statements clearly implied that by criticizing him, his critics were abandoning the American troops.

Anti-Communist Hysteria

Such comments contain echoes of American history, particularly from the 1940s and 1950s, when the country was gripped by an anti-communist hysteria.

On Feb. 9, 1950, Joseph McCarthy, a previously obscure senator from Wisconsin, claimed in a speech to have a list of 205 people in the State Department who were members of the Communist Party.

"The reason why we find ourselves in a sense of impotency," McCarthy said, "is not because the enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on Earth has had to offer -- the finest homes, the finest college educations and the finest jobs in government we can give."

McCarthy's unsubstantiated allegations fed a national fear as he used his Senate position to investigate suspected communists in government departments and the military.

During his years of anti-communist demagoguery, McCarthy contributed to costing perhaps 10,000 people their jobs and some, who were devastated by unfair charges, their lives. To criticize him was to be branded a communist or a sympathizer. For a politician, criticizing McCarthy was almost certainly political suicide.

McCarthy's bullying tactics came to an end in 1954, not the least because respected radio and television newsman Edward R. Murrow used his weekly television program, See It Now, to speak out against McCarthy and his methods.

"His primary achievement," Murrow said of McCarthy, "has been in confusing the public mind between the internal and external threat of communism.

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes which were for the moment unpopular. … We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."

Comparison of Bush to McCarthy?

There will be some readers who believe that in this column I am comparing George Bush to Joseph McCarthy, and to an extent, I am.

No, Bush has not called his critics traitors. No, he has not led the nation through a destructive witch hunt, ruining thousands of careers with unproved allegations.

But what he does do is raise questions about his critics' loyalty and challenge their support of American troops.

In this respect, what separates Bush from McCarthy is a matter of degree, not principle.

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty," Murrow rightly said. But in his Veterans Day speech and his additional statements Monday, that is precisely what Bush did.

Editorial columnist Jim Kiser appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at jkiser@azstarnet.com.

Copyright © 2005

http://www.azstarnet.com/altsn/snredesign/relatedarticles/102705

 

Harvest of fame
George Clooney, actor and director, on his new movie about Edward E. Murrow, McCarthyism, and fear in America.

George Clooney
Interviewed By Rob Nelson
Mother Jones
November/December, 2005 Issue

GEORGE CLOONEY likes the story of a television figure who uses his celebrity to make a positive impact on American culture. It isn’t hard to see why. Son of the longtime news anchor Nick Clooney, the former ER heartthrob grew up believing in the power of TV to make a difference. Now, at age 44, he has directed his second big-screen work on the subject.

Where Clooney’s underrated Confessions of a Dangerous Mind picked the febrile brain of The Gong Show host Chuck Barris, his new Good Night, and Good Luck salutes TV-news pioneer Edward R. Murrow, whose on-air battles with Red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy helped make the country safe for free speech — at least temporarily. (Also see a review of The Edward R. Murrow Collection [1] ).  Albeit set in the ’50s, Good Night is hardly yesterday’s news: The movie completed production not long before The New York Times broke the story that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting had hired a researcher to investigate the "political leanings" (read: liberal bias) of commentators such as PBS’s own Bill Moyers.

Clooney’s uncanny timing extends to his telephoning Mother Jones just two days before the death of anchorman Peter Jennings — a news event that would compel Big Media to wonder aloud whether Murrow’s legacy had died, too.

Mother Jones: Let’s start with the devil’s advocate question: At a time when the world is on fire, why make a black-and-white period piece about a TV journalist who did his greatest work some 50 years ago?

George Clooney: We’re in an awkward period in this country where, as an actor or a storyteller, you’re not really allowed to take on contemporary issues anymore because they’ve found a way to marginalize you if you do. So the trick was to keep the issues in a historical context. The more footage of McCarthy and Murrow we pulled, the more we realized how prescient this material appears — not just in terms of the government, but the Fourth Estate, too. In 1958, Murrow was talking about how television is a wasteland, how we’re all fat and wealthy and terrified of addressing the things that disturb us. He actually advised taking an hour away from The Ed Sullivan Show and devoting it to a thoroughgoing study of problems in the Middle East. In 1958! That shows you how American history is cyclical.

MJ: You see the current era as a reprise, then?

GC: It’s similar. I don’t find that the government today is quite as intrusive as it was in 1953 — although the new Patriot Act is a bit of a concern. [Laughs.] When an FBI agent can get information from your doctor, without a subpoena, that your doctor isn’t even allowed to give you, that’s worrisome.

MJ: Fear is the common denominator in these two periods, right?

GC: Right — and how fear and paranoia breed the ability to attack civil liberties. The rationale is that to preserve the union, it’s safer if we take these Guantanamo Bay kids and rescind their right to a speedy trial. It’s safer not to call them "prisoners of war" because then we don’t have to follow the Geneva Convention. You look at it and you go, "Wait a minute — what union are we protecting?" In the McCarthy era, there was fear of the bomb going off, fear of your neighbor being a communist, fear of being labeled a communist yourself and losing your job. When you listen to Murrow saying that McCarthy didn’t create this climate of fear, that he just exploited it rather successfully, you go, "Oh, wow." I tell you, if any candidate in 2004 had given one of these speeches that Murrow gave on his show, he’d be president today. You hear Murrow say, "Remember that we are not descended from fearful men," and you just go, "Goddammit, where is that guy?"

MJ: How did he come to take on McCarthy?

GC: Murrow didn’t necessarily want to go to war with McCarthy. But after his show about Milo Radulovich — the kid who got kicked out of the Air Force because his sister and father might have gone to some Communist Party meetings — a guy who worked for both Hoover and McCarthy gave a reporter information that he said would prove Murrow had worked for the IWW, that he was a communist sympathizer since 1934. The minute that happened, Murrow knew he had to hit McCarthy before McCarthy hit him. So he went after him head-on, using his own words — which was a brilliant strategy, because how are you going to rebut your own words?

MJ: A good strategy, but he made it artful, too, wouldn’t you say?

GC: It was a stunning show, made beautiful by the end speech, where Murrow says, "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty; we must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law." It’s an astonishing moment. But the funny thing is, that’s not what brought McCarthy down — it was his rebuttal, in which he spent half an hour trying to prove Murrow was a communist. Everyone knew that wasn’t true, because they had listened to him on the radio reporting the bombing of London and they knew he was a hero.

MJ: I imagine you must have read the books that argue that Murrow is overrated, that he’s highly flawed as a reporter, and so on.

GC: Sure. We put some of those arguments in the film. We had [the character of CBS chairman William] Paley take up some of those fights — like the idea that Murrow introduced editorializing to television, that he opened the door for Fox News. Murrow was cranky and he drank too much and he obviously smoked too much. But there isn’t one misstep that he makes at any point in that whole McCarthy period. Murrow understood that if he didn’t play it exactly right, the country was going to be saddled with McCarthy for another 10 years. Murrow became tough to be around. He was uncompromising. But in a way, we need that every once in a while. I miss that.

MJ: Your view of American history as cyclical assumes that if we were to look into the future, we’d see that the tide is going to turn. What do you think it’s going to take?

GC: Well, at some point it’s going to require a public outcry — which you can already see happening. For a while, everyone was afraid to ask questions because it was too soon after 9/11 and they would be called "unpatriotic." White House reporters were afraid of getting pushed to the back during one of the president’s very rare press conferences. Now they’re laying into him more. They’re going after the Karl Rove thing pretty hard. They’re not going to get much — perhaps a cover-up charge. But the point is, you’re starting to see an element that’s saying, "Where’s the evidence? Where’s the proof? You can’t just dismiss us."

MJ: Have the movies played a strong enough role in that tug-of-war?

GC: They haven’t. But I’ll tell you who really doesn’t speak out often enough: musicians. In the ’60s, when I was growing up, one of the great elements of American culture was the protest song. There were songs about the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement, the antiwar movement. It wasn’t just Bob Dylan, it was everybody at the time. Now you can find only two or three bands that’ll do that. I think it’s just part of the corporate world: The more big corporations own music and movie companies, it becomes harder for artists. But you know what? We’ve got Syriana [based on the book See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism] coming out and that’s a balls-out film. We got Three Kings made. It can happen. It just takes stick-to-it-ness.

© 2005 The Foundation for National Progress

http://www.motherjones.com/arts/qa/2005/11/Harvest_of_Fame.html

[1] -- Review of The Edward R. Murrow (DVD) Collection is at http://www.motherjones.com/arts/film/2005/11/murrow.html.  Sources for the collection are in the Postscript below. -- GDD

 

Postscript

The voice of Murrow
To listen to Murrow on the McCarthy hearings on RealPlayer, click on the underlined phrase to the left.
 
A brief but good bio of Murrow
A good, but by no means complete, biography of Edward R. Murrow by Bob Edwards, the former host of NPR's "Morning Edition," is entitled Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism.   It was published in 2004. It is a good book for those who want a quick review of the life and work of Murrow. Prices of and sources for the good skeletal outline of the great newsman's life are at http://tinyurl.com/8valf.
 
A long and better bio of Murrow
Probably the best biography of Edward R. Murrow is A. M. Sperber's Murrow: His Life and Times, first published in 1986, a time in many ways a world apart from today.  In heft and scope, Sperber's intensively researched work is enormous and is very much the definitive biography.  For prices and sources, go to http://tinyurl.com/c532v
 
Murrow on DVD
"The Edward R. Murrow Collection" is a four-disk DVD set that begins with a number of Murrow's modern-day peers who offer testimonials to him. Ted Koppel, the late Peter Jennings, and Barbara Walters discuss Murrow's life and career. Next is a compilation of clips from the TV series See It Now, Murrow's documentary show on important current issues. The third part covers the McCarthy era, showing how Murrow challenged the senator. Last is the Murrow documentary, "Harvest of Shame," which was about the tribulations of migrant farmworkers and which resulted in a major changes in laws affecting them.  Sources and various prices for the DVD set are at http://tinyurl.com/dlava.

 

Past "issues" of The Green-Dog Democrat from June, 2004 through recent are posted at the highly informative website Eurolegal Services at http://www.eurolegal.org/greendogdem/greendogdem.htmFrom the site's home page, one can explore much information posted on British, American, and other international politics and public affairs; international terrorism; and more.

 ___________________________________________________________________

*The Green-Dog Democrat

This modest op-ed newsletter is sent by e-mail at no charge to those who request it. Each of the average two or three newsletters weekly is designed to call attention to well-written and -presented ideas and information that in combination present a moderately progressive point of view about a current topic or issue. Recipients are asked to forward it to other people to increase the reach and influence of its contents.

WHAT IS A GREEN-DOG DEMOCRAT? This kind of Green-Dog Democrat is a cross between a yellow-dog Democrat and a blue-dog Democrat -- a moderately progressive, thinking Democrat who is liberal on some issues, moderate on some, a little conservative on some, ambivalent on some. This Green-Dog Democrat is a retired public relations/marketing communications practitioner who lives in Kentucky. He is a product of small-town western Kentucky and the extended-family influence of kind, honest, God-fearing, hard-working farmers, timber broker, coal miners, church custodian, store clerks, oil-field-equipment supplier, carpenter, grocers, courthouse lawyers, auto mechanic, career soldier, school teachers, factory worker, watchmaker and jeweler, and housewives, some of whom worked outside the home, some of whom didn't. Most were Democrats of varying stripe, a few were liberal/moderate Republicans. Most liked to go fishing, and most have gone to their final reward.

This Green-Dog Democrat is a grandfather, former U.S. Navy lieutenant -- Vietnam era -- and an admirer of (random order) Truman, Ike, Jefferson, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, Lyndon Johnson, Lincoln, Hubert Humphrey, John Sherman Cooper, Henry Clay, Adlai Stevenson, and Nelson Rockefeller. He thinks that Sam Ervin, Martin Luther King Jr., Will Rogers, Edward R. Murrow, Red Skelton, Mark Twain, and Henry Burgess ( http://www.wwiimemorial.com/default.asp?page=registry.asp&subpage=search -- type in Burgess, Henry; choose Kentucky ) were great American heroes. He is secretly (not to upset his wife of 40 years) in love with syndicated columnists Molly Ivins, Georgie Anne Geyer, Arianna Huffington, and Maureen Dowd and web-site commentator Sheila Samples, all of whom are splendid writers and wonderful thinkers.

As a thinking American, this Green-Dog Democrat has real, serious problems with the neo-John Birchers, neo-Gilded Agers, neo-Robber Barons, and new-world-order ideologues who occupy the White House and much of Congress as heirs to the Newt Gingrich revolution. He is absolutely certain that George W. Bush is not one IQ point smarter than he was before September 11, 2001. ("In America anyone can become president. That's just one of the risks you take." -- Adlai Stevenson)

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