by Pat Holt
Friday, September 21, 2001
MORE ALTERNATE NEWS SITES
Thank heaven for the Internet and its vast array of different perspectives. A few news websites were mentioned in #264, and more are offered here as examples of alternate sources. I vouch for none of them; some are intriguing, some disturbing, but all provide angles on stories - particularly those involving the attacks of September 11 - that I've found missing in mainstream media.
ALTERNET - Rapidly becoming the granddaddy of alternate news sites, this all-in-one service gathers provocative and original articles like a house afire from such sites as Tom Paine, Working for Change, The Guardian, Pacific News Service and many others. Its free email version offers an at-a-glance summary of most timely articles, with links to the full text, from the alternative press. You can sign up for the weekly email by sending a message to email@example.com, or by registering when you browse the site at http://www.alternet.org.
COMMON DREAMS NEWS CENTER - Like AlterNet, this service at http://www.commondreams.org gathers news stories for progressive readers, but since it was founded by Craig Brown, once chief-of-staff to a member of Congress, it draws from a number of think tanks, public service agencies and academic institutes as well as media. Yesterday's sources, for example, included the Center for Constitutional Rights, East Timor Action Network, Green Party of the United States, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Amnesty International and many others.
GLOBAL EXCHANGE - This human rights organization provides exchange programs to and from Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, Palestine and Colombia and ain't happy with the Bush administration's policies in most of them. Its "Recent News Updates" page at http://www.globalexchange.org/update offers a calendar of news stories that can be quite an eye-opener if you missed the Fresno Alliance's story (8/12) on activists protesting GAP sweatshops or the New York Times article (8/22) about a United Steelworkers lawsuit accusing Coca-Cola of hiring thugs in Colombia to intimidate and kill labor organizers. The articles shift in urgency after 9/11 and offer links to such little-known (to me) sources as The Chief Suspect, where we find Robert Fisk's now-famous article about Osama bin Laden, whom he interviewed in Sudan and in the Afghan mountains.
MEDIA MONITORS NETWORK - This attempt to build a "non-profit, non-biased and non-political platform" of contributed articles getting at "the whole truth" at http://www.mediamonitors.net sometimes sounds like a glorified chat room, but it's worth plowing through raw opinion for insightful commentary. Mohamed Khodr, an American Muslim physician, questions what would have happened if Timothy McVeigh had been Muslim (would "60 Minutes" have been so polite?), Palestinian Edna Yaghi writes a furious essay on reckless soldiers (many of them American) killing children in Palestine in "You Have Made Me Your Human Bomb," twice as chilling for its publication (8/27) before the attacks of 9/11. Arab reporters and commentators write long, detailed and hyperlink-footnoted articles in which neglected facts come up - I didn't know until reading Nafeez Ahmed's history of the Taliban, for example, that the United States had an armed presence in Afghanistan before the Soviets did, or that (from another article) Madeleine Albright said on 5/12/96, "to comments by Lesley Stahl of CBS that 500,000 Iraqi children were killed by US sanctions in an attempt to get Saddam Hussein: 'We think the price is worth it,' " although the attempt failed.
STRATFOR - A think tank founded in 1995 by professors from Stanford University and Dickinson College, this Austin, Texas-based group of 40 at http://www.stratfor.com/ calls itself "a provider of intelligence" to corporations, governments and media. Its analysts were among the first to suspect the "astonishing amount of clues" left by otherwise sophisticated hijackers as a way to "divert the FBI's attention" from terrorists who were leaving the country or going underground. Yesterday the group stated that because Bush now believes attacking Afghanistan would be futile, "leaks from inside the intelligence community have shifted the focus away from Afghanistan, to some degree, and toward Iraq."
THE GUARDIAN - This British site offers an exhaustive but accessible Special Report on "Terrorism in the United States" at http://www.guardian.co.uk/wtccrash/0,1300,550197,00.html. Here we find topics ranging from "airlines in crisis" to the economic impact of the 9/11 attack, the ongoing U.S. investigation, points of view from foreign countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel), reports by foreign correspondents from Italy, France, Canada, Japan and East Asia, and a few surprises at the WTC site in New York: "Even the Mafia has joined the rescue effort," the Guardian reports. "According to the Daily News, Carmine Agnello, jailed son-in-law of Mafia chief John Gotti, has offered his $6m shredding machine, which can chew up steel beams." Attaboy, son!
THE HERALD - Always inquisitive and feisty (one of the first newspapers to report on plans by Borders Books & Music to use surveillance cameras for checking customers' faces against police data), this Glasgow-based site at http://www.theherald.co.uk ran articles soon after the 9/11 attack about British and American operations in the Mideast "that never touched public consciousness in the west." For example, John Pilger wrote that two days before the attacks on September 11, "eight people were killed in southern Iraq when British and American planes bombed civilian areas. To my knowledge," wrote Pilger, "not a word appeared in the mainstream media in Britain."
BBC - The British Broadcasting Company's website settles a bit too comfortably in mainstream passivity, but with its across-the-Atlantic focus and international outlook, the BBC often provides international news (such as the Pakistan riots yesterday) faster than many media sites in the United States. Its very British headlines (on the effect of the 9/11 attacks: "Tourism Shocked to the Core") proves the old New Yorker adage that "there will always be an England" at http://www.bbc.com.
THE ELECTRONIC INTIFADA - Of course this "resource for countering myth, distortion and spin from the Israeli media war machine" is going to have a pro-Palestinian spin of its own, but because of that, http://www.electronicintifada.com is a site to check on Arab American reactions to the 9/11 attacks, violence against Arab Americans and Arab and Muslim-owned buildings, and answers to such rumors as those alleging that the Reuters footage of celebrating Palestinians after the 9/11 attacks was old film from a different event (it wasn't, say the editors, but why didn't American media also show the one million Palestinian school children who observed a minute of silence in support and sympathy for American victims?)
INDEPENDENT MEDIA CENTER - I'm watching this collective of journalists and "independent media organizations" at http://www.indymedia.org to see how fast anti-war activism is spreading at the grass roots level. For example, yesterday the IMC reported, "thousands march against war in Berkeley," a puzzler because I had heard on commercial radio that the marchers numbered in the hundreds. Well, here we go again - the size and power of antiwar marches in the '60s and '70s were always underestimated by mainstream media and overestimated in the alternative press. So at least we know what to expect.
INTERNATIONAL ACTION CENTER - Here's another site to watch as the resistance movement spreads. Founded by Ramsay Clark, former U.S. Attorney General, this site seeks to mobilize protesters on a national level for the September 29 March on Washington and the creation of a new international anti-war coalition called ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) at http://www.iacenter.org/.
FAIR - Now a famous media watchdog (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) at http://www.fair.org, FAIR was one of the first sites to comment on "how little mainstream media have discussed relying on the rule of law - international law - to pursue the foreign terrorists." Founder Jeff Cohen noted "few news reports have pointed out that there is one body under international law that can authorize military action: the United Nations Security Council." It's appalling, says FAIR that if the United States were to uphold international law, the news media would trash the U.S. "as preposterous, un-American and weak." FAIR criticized Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post and cable TV ranter Bill O'Reilly but held back on Fox News Channel (ordinarily "the most biased [right-wing] name in news") in tough but level-headed reports. FAIR can sometimes swagger around in its name-calling role, but when it comes to documenting accusations, few are as disciplined or thorough.
Don't forget sites mentioned in #264 - tompaine.com and workingforchange.com especially. Thanks to the many readers who contributed their favorites, and do send more. Others will be added in future columns
NOTE: Once again a flood of email letters, most of them positive, has poured in regarding both #264 and #265. But again I'm publishing more unfavorable letters because to me they reveal so much about the current temperament in the United States.
Dear Holt Uncensored:
As a courtesy, the following is a excerpt from OUR newsletter.
Jerry Peacock, President
One of the "journalists" quoted in Holt Uncensored also said (and not quoted by Holt) on the subject of reopening the stock market: "I only hope the stench of the rotting bodies of their former employees will haunt them for the rest of the day..." This same paragon of alternative journalistic expertise also lamented the terrorists didn't target an area heavier in Republicans.
In our view, that sort of reporting (or re-reporting) has no place in a newsletter devoted to the book industry (nor civilized society for that matter). If the editor of "Holt Uncensored" wants to remake the world in a more progressive shape, the editor should join the staff of the American Booksellers Association.
Holt responds: Well, I've never been accused of being as radical as the American Booksellers Association before, but that goes to show you how many different opinions there are in the world. Just so you know, Holt Uncensored is about the book industry, literature and censorship, the latter having seeped into the media to such an extent, I fear, that open debate and critical commentary have almost disappeared. So I called for and quoted other sources than we usually see. It does distress me that one of the journalists I quoted was capable of the remarks you mention. Can you tell me who this is and where I can find these quotes?
Jerry Peacock responds: It was Michael Moore. The bile is now gone from his web site (how's that for revising history?), but the invective was noted by the Wall Street Journal [as follows]:
"The Ugliest Man in America
Holt responds: Ah, well, now I feel better. Believe it or not, spouting off against capitalism at the worst possible time and offering tasteless and offensive satire is, to Moore, being patriotic.
Dear Holt Uncensored:
Unfortunately, we have a whole lot of seemingly intelligent people in this world who are given credence as a result of their backgrounds, but in reality, the messages that they convey are often inaccurate.
Mr. Tamim Ansary wrote:
"Let's pull our heads out of the sand. What's actually on the table is Americans dying. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that folks. Because to get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. We're flirting with a world war between Islam and the West."
Shortly thereafter, Pakistan agreed to virtually every US request, and "Muslim nations" began condemning this terrorist act and offering the US and its allies support. What happened to the world war between Islam and the west that we were just flirting with ... "the war (that) would last for years and (in which) millions would die"?
Thanks for the warning, Mr. Ansary, but it doesn't really seem as if you truly have your finger on the pulse of the region.
Holt responds: I ran Tamim Ansary's letter because it is worth thinking about, not to argue with him when events seem to change the context of his remarks. Just as he says the Taliban is not the government or the people of Afghanistan, so do his words caution us not to think that the "five guys with guns" who rule in Pakistan speak for all Pakistani people.
Dear Holt Uncensored:
Thanks for publishing Tamim Ansary -- I found his piece a couple of days ago and have been forwarding it everywhere. The responses you published today to last week's column are deeply depressing. They reveal how little we are willing to understand violence and its perpetuation. The reference to Hitler is telling --- Popular American history has always favored the lone madman theory of the holocaust. How all of those everyday, family-next-door Germans were persuaded to carry out mass death and destruction is a an off-limits question. Likewise, we will focus on bin Laden and his minions, while ignoring the context that gave rise to his power.
Dear Holt Uncensored:
I eagerly read Mr. Ansary's piece on the state of Afghanistan. I was struck by what he stated as fact - that neither the Taliban nor bin Laden are Afghan. I knew bin Laden was from Saudi Arabia, but was surprised to learn about the others. So surprised, that I looked up their origins as a group. The Taliban (which means "Seekers") was formed by Afghan students who were attending schools on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. My sources are the BBC and the Washington Post. Before finding out this additional piece of info', I sent a copy of his essay to a friend in California. Here is her response:
THIS IS PUT OUT BY A CHAIN OF AFGANS, IRANIANS, ETC, IT IS BEING SENT WITH SLIGHT VARIATIONS AND DIFFERENT SIGNATURES. THIS IS MY THIRD ONE WITH A 3RD NAME.... VERY CLEVER OF THEM ISN'T IT.... TYPICAL OF THE WAY THEY OPERATE..... AG
So, who is telling the truth? I consider you to be a reliable resource and during this time of great uncertainty, would appreciate corroboration of Mr. Ansary's message.
Holt responds: Since I interviewed Tamim Ansary I can vouch for his existence, and for his credentials as an Afghan American writer. His biography is printed in many of the books he's published, so there is verification there as well. As to your question about the origin of the Taliban, when Tamim Ansary says, "the Taliban and bin Laden are not Afghanistan," he means they aren't the country of Afghanistan; they don't represent the people of Afghanistan. He doesn't mean the Taliban were born elsewhere.
Dear Holt Uncensored:
I am moved to add a bit to your reply to Warren Adler, who wrote that your prior column "suggests that you might have been one of those who would have urged us to understand Hitler, understand his anger and hostility to the civilized world and through reaching out to him find some common bond of brotherhood."
Mr. Adler would do well to review his 20th century history. Hitler's rise to power was facilitated by the onerous conditions the allies imposed on Germany after World War I--conditions that left that nation in a state of humiliation and economic collapse. Hitler's evil may be incomprehensible, but the conditions that made his xenophobic, scapegoating politics appealing are quite easy to understand.
Sadly, U.S. policies have contributed to a couple billion people around the world feeling similar feelings of desperation, and it is from such desperate populations that demagogues like Bin Laden are able to recruit. Condemning such leaders as evil (as Dan Rather did on David Letterman's show Monday night) may be both true and irrelevant if we fail to understand how we've contributed to their popularity. We ignore such connections at our own peril.
Alas, Mr. Adler's sentiments seem to be in the majority currently. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Bruce Mirken
Dear Holt Uncensored:
Sandy DeWine wrote: Chain bookstores such as B. Dalton in Union Station, across from the Capitol, and Borders at 18th & L were closed Wednesday, while indies such as Kramerbooks and Lambda Rising were open. At a time when newspapers were sold out, it said something about community service.
I'm trying not to interpret this remark too critically, but I don't see anything wrong with a company, especially one headquartered in New York, shutting its doors to help its employees cope both regionally and nationally. Starbucks was shut down for the day, also, and I think it's a brave decision for outfits dedicated to commerce to say, wait, we need a day to catch our breath and let our employees sort themselves out before we face the public again.
Because we live in a wonderful free-market world, some independent coffee shops and independent bookstores decided for their own legitimate purposes to be open. We thrive on this difference. But I might quote "Death of a Salesman" and say you dasn't criticize B. Dalton and Borders for allowing their employees to mourn.
Holt responds: Hmm. Do you think that's the reason they closed?
Dear Holt Uncensored:
I read the article, NEW VOICE FROM THE INTERNET: TAMIM ANSARY and have an entirely different attitude toward all of what has happened over the last week because of it.
You see, I'm a retired Army Non-Commissioned Officer and my first thoughts were to go in there and bomb them off the face of the Earth. That was my first and totally wrong reaction on September 11th. Since that time, I've realized that it is not the right thing to do, but if our government did bomb, then some innocents would have to be sacrificed. But now, because of this article, I am going to do more research on this country I know little about. Because if Tamim is correct, then this is not the right approach either.
I recently set up a web site called PatrioticMom.com. It will go live on Friday the 21st, and I plan to use this article on the site.
Dear Holt Uncensored:
I've posted two distinctly different versions of Tamim Ansary's letter here, if it is of interest to see how it has evolved:
Holt responds: These two versions show a certain fiddling with the text that reveal someone's political agenda. I guess that's the message from cyberspace - the Internet giveth, and the Internet fooleth around - which means everything on it should be read with caution.
Dear Holt Uncensored:
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.......another poor oppressed nation story and the USA is the bad guy. I am tired of reading this garbage, especially as our nation mourns over 6,000 dead. Where does Ansary's loyalty reside? May I suggest Tamin Ansary sell this to the victims' families of WTC? I am sorry to hear that the people of Afghanistan are too weak or too damn dumb to stand up to a ruling minority regime. Great people stand up for themselves even if they are considered weaker. After all, isn't this how America was formed after defeating the British? If they really wanted to get out of oppression, they would align with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to overthrow the Talibans and hand over Bin Ladin.
The fact is there are over 6,000 dead in America and it is our weakness as a nation for not standing up to terrorists in the past that has created the most recent atrocity in NYC. When WTC was bombed in 1993, we did nothing. When our embassies were bombed, we did nothing. When the US Cole was bombed and our sailors killed, we did nothing. If we do nothing again, God help us live through what act may be next.
This is a time to exhibit strength, not weakness as Ansary wants. If this means bombing whatever infrastructure is left that allows the Taliban to rule or any other terrorist nation, so be it! The choice is going to have to be given. You either harbor these guys or you don't. If you don't want them there, you take them out yourselves, or you'll get our assistance to take them out. If you don't take them out, we're going to take them out for you. It's that simple!
Holt responds: I'm running this argumentative email because a lot of people have written letters like this, and because it amazes me how easy it is to fall into the language of war. Here already is a litany of battle cries ("Great people stand up for themselves," "Isn't this how America was formed," "This is a time to exhibit strength," "If you don't take them out, we're going to take them out for you") meant to arouse and galvanize so that complexity won't slow us down.
Dear Holt Uncensored:
You are as upset by the recent tragedy as the rest of us. This is clear. Your position is as media critic, so you must develop a point of view that embraces you position, yet you are as guilty of media misperceptions as those you contend to accuse.
You wrote in #264: "It was nice to be reminded early on, thanks to independent journalist Michael Moore ("Roger and Me") at http://www.alternet.com, that our very own CIA runs terrorism camps throughout the world and was responsible for the of the prime suspect, Osama Bin Laden, during the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union (he was 22)."
This is not quite true. According to Last Sunday's feature article in London's, The Independent, (a possibly more substantiated source than Michael Moore), it was the CIA that trained Muhajadeen during the Afghan war with the Soviets. They were not trained to be terrorists. They were trained to fight a conventional war. There is a difference, but Moore types love to find irony in everything.
According to this article, which was written by the last westerner to interview Bin Laden, he was never formally trained by the Muhajadeen, nor the CIA, though he did fight in the Afghan war.
One can easily bend hindsight into criticism. Do we really believe the CIA trained the Afghanis to become terrorists only to help blow us up twenty years later? Or more reasonably were we, (rightly or wrongly) attempting to help thwart Soviet expansion into the Asian subcontinent?
Even if it were true that we had trained Bin Laden, what difference does it make at this point except to inflame? Not that the CIA have been this lily-white organization, they most certainly haven't. But isn't it possible that part of the lapse in intelligence over the recent years is a result of the constant media criticism of its past actions? They have been underfunded as a result of Congress' hesitancy to secure a reasonable operating budget. Currently there are roughly 800 spies in the CIA. Of that, 700 work in an administrative capacity, the other hundred are of the trench coat type, actually doing the spying. It is the rhetoric, such as the Bin Laden training myth that keeps Congress from apportioning more.
So which way do you want it, Pat? Are you critical of the CIA for doing its job, or are you critical of the CIA for not doing its job? Are you critical of the media for not reporting on the CIA, or are you critical of the media for reporting on the CIA?
You wrote: "In 'Did We See It Coming?' Alexander Cockburn at Creators Syndicate (writing for http://www.workingforchange.com ) reveals that only three weeks ago, bin Laden told the editor of the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper that he planned 'very, very big attacks against American interests.' "
This is either uninformed, or fact twisting. I saw the interview with the editor of that newspaper. Three times; twice on CNN, and once on BBC 1. This took place on Tuesday, the same day as the disaster. This editor had conveniently neglected to publish any such conversation with Bin Laden. He also conveniently neglected to advise any authority of this purported conversation. When pressed, he said he felt there was "no reason to believe Bin Laden at the time." Though he did, within the same newsbite, interject a bit of Palestinian rhetoric within the interview. Alluding to the cause of attack as a response to recent actions of the Israelis and America's support of the conflict there. This of course was before he, or anyone else realized that the planning of these highjackings was years in the making. Well before the current intifada.
It also seems a bit far fetched to believe that this guy is in contact with Bin Laden. Does Bin Laden just ring him up on the Satellite phone and warn him of impending attacks? As I saw it, the interview with this guy was a heavy handed attempt to use the event as an agenda soapbox for other interests. Had he actually been contacted by Bin Laden, we'd be seeing this guy on the news every day--for all the expected reasons. This story floated to the surface and died, like the dead fish it was.
> >Cockburn writes, "Here is bin Laden, probably the most notorious Islamic foe of America on the planet, originally trained by the CIA, planner of other successful attacks on US installations such as the embassies in East Africa, carrying a $5 million FBI bounty on his head proclaiming the imminence of another assault, and US intelligence was impotent.>>
There is no such information that Bin Laden had warned anyone of last Tuesday's assault. Again, you are critical of the CIA for not doing its job, and as indicated above you are critical of the CIA for doing its job. Which is it?
You wrote: "Let's say the government had reason NOT to believe Osama bin Laden's threats. That means journalists were right to believe that the United States was 'taken completely by surprise,' yes? No, says Ariana Huffington at http://overthrowthegov.com . Huffington reminds us that seven months ago, the U.S. Commission on National Security, headed by former senators Warren Rudman and Gary Hart, 'released a prophetic report predicting this kind of terrorist assault on U.S. soil....The sad fact is that the media should have known what the real danger was and should have told us.' "
Hindsight monitor says, foul! We have had information on terrorist assaults for years. Last year a US immigration official, acting on a memo released by whomever releases these memos, caught one of these guys leaving the Canadian border with all sorts of explosive timing devises and other bomb making stuff. He was headed for LA. Is the media supposed to report on every guy and every threat?
Certainly the media do more, but information is not news. News is news. You know this. You yourself understand how to turn information into news. You've done it in this article.
Furthermore, quoting Arrianna Huffington, is not the most buttressed of positions;
You wrote: "That function - the drudgery of sorting through the many to find the newsworthy few - is the job of the American press, she says. 'Forewarned is forearmed. And there is no doubt that we all would have been better prepared if the media had focused 10% of the energy and resources it spent obsessing about Gary Condit on talking about the findings of the National Security Commission.' "
Has anyone, ever once seen her, with the dozens of on screen opportunities during the Monica scandal or the recent Condit event, interrupt the moderator and bring up the findings of the NSC? She more than most has had ample opportunity. She is guilty of her own accusations. By using her as a bulwark for your criticism of the media, you undermine your logic.
You wrote: "It probably would be unAmerican for the traditional press to invite spiritual leaders to comment on this way of thinking, but why not? Why don't we encourage every point of view possible when we teeter on the brink of World War III? Tony Miksak, owner of the Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, California, is also a commentator for KZYX FM, and this week quoted the Dalai Lama - 'though anger brings us more energy, that energy is essentially a blind one. There is no guarantee that the anger and energy will not become destructive to our own interests.' "
Can't disagree on anything the Dalai Lama says. However, quoting him,in this context, by some owner of a bookshop in Mendocino is hardly reasonable. It is insulting to consider a spiritual alternative in eliminating the present danger of further attacks. Ask Tony Miksak if he were on a plane being hijacked if he would prefer a spiritual alternative to a violent one in subduing the hijacker.
You wrote: "Authors of books on spirituality are at least present in our consciousness to cool hotheadedness and hatred."
A load of crap. This statement is presumptive and pejorative to the general American public. 70% of the American public are willing to wait for answers and the appropriate response. You are guilty here of creating news and fostering the very perceptions that you accuse. And you are transparent by the way.
You say that author Gary Zukav "('Dancing Wu Li Masters') challenges accepted thinking in an essay called 'Compassion and Revenge,' which he sent out to readers and can be found at his website, http://www.zukav.com . Zukav points out the neglected fact that the terrorists "who committed these acts of violence were in extreme pain themselves," and that in the act of attacking American buildings, "they were fueled by the violent parts of ourselves - the parts that judge without mercy, strike in anger, and rejoice in the suffering of others. They were our proxy representatives. If you can look with compassion upon those who have suffered and those who have committed acts of cruelty alike, then you will see that all are suffering. The remedy for suffering is not to inflict more suffering."
No argument from me here. However the "sufferers" who committed last week's atrocities are large in number. One has to consider their ideologies and weigh them against the practical considerations of our own. One could reasonably argue that the network of these guys is fairly sound, and the beliefs to which they adhere are not easily swayed. In a grand scale it would be ideal to turn the other cheek. In the immediate, however, isn't it prudent to eliminate the current problem rather than hugging it? Or Dancing Wu Li-ing it? We can start afresh later.
I don't know, but it seems that you live somewhere other than in Manhattan. Clearly you have not seen the hundreds of missing persons posters, you have not seen the deadened glare of firefighters, you have not seen the relatives of those gone, openly grieving in the streets. You would have otherwise waited to jump on the hindsight irony bandwagon. This is not a time to point fingers or make otherwise uninformed tattletale-like schoolyard accusations. You maintain a position of responsibility in the media. As such you should temper your rhetoric with a bit of calm reflection and sympathy for the dead and the bereaving.
Anger and accusation are the easy way out in such times. Why not just be sad for a while and share that with your readers, before you work them into a strident frenzy of suspicion, fear and resentment.
Holt responds: Well, I called for open debate, and you certainly have supplied it!
Just so you know, this column is about the book business, the state of literature and the threat of censorship, the latter being the theme of #264. I felt that the voices I quoted were not being heard, and it was because of the people who perished so tragically on 9/11 that Americans couldn't wait - we must always have a diversity of opinion and comment, even when it's painful to insist on it, or the democratic model is sorely weakened.
Of course, I disagree with you on just about every point you make. These are responsible journalists I quoted, and whether you agree with them or not, they bring up important issues that must be faced.
Michael Moore, for example, is one of many journalists who says the CIA is running training camps for terrorists, and that terrorism was part of Osama bin Laden's training. Dismissing these writers as "Moore types" just closes up the debate again. What you see as "inflammatory" about raising the issue of the CIA training bin Laden, I see as responsible. It's not media criticism that forced the CIA underground; their role is founded in secrecy, with little oversight from Congress. If they are underfunded, it's because Congress grew lax when the Cold War appeared to end, not because they were criticized by the media (gad, when DID that happen?).
The threat made by bin Laden I quoted was one of many threats he's made about the U.S. If you don't like Cockburn's quote, you can find many more. The point is that he has been a known anti-U.S. terrorist whose threats have been so public we didn't need the CIA or other intelligence agency to uncover them. What we did need was an analysis of bin Laden's increasingly aggressive remarks by the American press, and we needed that analysis from many different points of view.
The same goes for the CIA and other U.S. agencies whose operations are known yet rarely covered in the news. Please don't ask me what I think the CIA should do - that kind of question loses sight of the larger picture. Better to ask what the CIA and other government agencies have done, so that when President Bush says he United States is going to war because we are "innocent" we'll know how to judge his meaning.
The Hart-Rudman study WAS news; and it's hardly hindsight to say so. The fact is, the press missed it. Arianna Huffington despite her gadfly background is turning out to be one of the more professional and outspoken journalists in the U.S. and is even moreso by calling attention to the Hart-Rudman study if she was also one of the journalists who missed it.
Asking Tony Miksak how he would respond in self-defense would have been a more appropriate question (and please don't refer to him as "some owner of a bookshop from California" - his broadcast and column have run for a long time, during which he has built a reputation for level-headed commentary).
You jump the gun thinking Gary Zukav is talking about turning the other cheek. He is asking us to think more deeply than we have been about the sources of violence in ourselves and our adversaries. This is more important to him than thinking there is a magic bullet, as you seem to contend. There is no way we can "eliminate the current problem" and "start afresh later." We have to deal with all of it - emotional, economical, spiritual, social and military - right now.
Finally, I'm not sure why you think any of my comments somehow mean I don't feel this tragedy as deeply as you or others do. My reason for writing #264 is simple: I don't want a press that decides for us when to be "sad" and when to "wait." I want a press that reports all sides, all angles, and lets people decide for themselves.
Remembering the horror that the victims and their families have suffered, how can we ask for anything less?
Holt Uncensored provides this forum for the free and uncensored exchange of thoughts and ideas from writers of all callings. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Pat Holt or the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.
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