Author Archive | Danny Schechter

We Steal Secrets – The New Movie About WikiLeaks – Infuriates WikiLeaks

We_Steal_Secrets_-_The_Story_of_WikiLeaksEvery documentary filmmaker begins with deciding on the story to be told, and, then, how to sustain audience interest.

If your goal is to inform the public or take a stand on an important issue by explaining its origins and exposing wrong doers then you go one way. If your goal is to entertain and shroud your motives by exploring murky personality contradictions, you go another.

We Steal Secrets, Alex Gibney’s latest documentary (or is it a docudrama?), skillfully made with the backing of major media company tries to do both.

Ironically, that company, Comcast-Universal, owners of NBC, is at the same time having a major success with another movie, Fast and Furious6, glamorizing a criminal gang that relies on speedy cars.

You could say that Wikileaks, the subject of We Steal Secrets also began with a fury – a fury against war and secrecy, and was moving as fast as it could to challenge media complacency in the digital realm.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

Does Making Films Help Make Change?

President Obama on The Daily Show closeThere has been a major shift in media culture as most TV networks have abandoned long-form information programming. In these times, with Twitter playing a big part in disseminating news, TV has to be punchy, quick and visual. The age of media mergers has seen showbiz merging with news biz, and soundbites have become shorter as the newscast story count rises.

Significantly, the best TV criticism of these trends in the US appears in a nightly program on the Comedy Central channel. But ultimately, there is nothing funny about the way a media system – intended to bolster a democratic discourse – contributes to its decline.

News is increasingly becoming more about the image than the information – an approach to “coverage” that is at its core tabloid in its sensibilities, often intended for a memorable emotional impact that will boost media ratings and revenues. The race for “breaking news” is breaking our ability to understand the context of events.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

The News That Isn’t: How We Are Fed False Stories Driven By Missing Information

300px-IRSThe news is coming to us hot and heavy these days. There is scandal after scandal, outrage after outrage. The media playbook treats it all as a way to build audience,  and raise ratings (and revenue) by polarizing opinion.

Conflict sells.

Here’s what the Republicans say; here’s how the Democrats respond.  Obama is good; Obama is bad. So and so says this; so and so fires back Its mostly heat, not light.

There are rarely any other views, or ways of understanding events presented.

News programs are the new wrestling shows, a noisy battleground, in the morning, on the Sunday shows, and all day long on cable networks. The goal is not to explain, probe, or ask questions.

No, its to squeeze a repetitive and narrow narratives into a morality play that provokes as much emotion as possible.

Its been said we live in an era of “missing information” and the news is the best arena that defines it—not by what’s being reported, but how its being reported, and mostly by what’s not being reported.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

The “Rot” Rots On

Titan II MissileAt what point does an organization “rot?”

“Rot” seems to be a new phrase du jour being used by the military in the case of several offices charged with mishandling the highly sensitive and uber-responsible job of operating our top-secret nuclear weapons systems. They are the people who literally have their fingers on the big boom button.

According to a Guardian report, here’s how this rot came to public attention.

“The US Air Force has stripped an unprecedented 17 officers of their authority to oversee nuclear missiles, after a string of failings that the group’s deputy commander said stemmed from ‘rot’ within the ranks.”

“Rot within the ranks!”  That’s a neat way of putting it. Is that rot just confined to the underground silos on the lonely plains below their “amber waves of grain?”

Could there be mental “rot” in the intelligence world that we know is usually anything but intelligent?… Read the rest

Continue Reading

How “Israel Bombs Syria” becomes “Israel Is Only Defending Itself”

Syria-from-Golan-Heights

Photos8.com (CC)

An Israeli plane bombs a target in Syria. The news is passed along first to Fox News, (huh?) by someone in the Administration.. It happened on a Thursday, but we find out about it  late on Friday. The New York Times assigns three reporter to cover the story that goes up on the website in the middle of the morning on Saturday.

Earlier that day, President Obama, speaking in Costa Rica, said there will be no US ground troops on the ground in Syria.  Now, the Administration says it is considering “military options.”

Saturday’s New York Times choses this story for the first page:

ISRAEL TIGHTENS BORDER DEFENSE AS SYRIA ERUPTS.”

And so, the story is reframed with Israel the defender, not the aggressor. The bombing makes it into the third paragraph  on page 1 but refers only to the bombing of  “a target.”

The earlier story has now ben moved  by the Times to the bottom of page 10:

“ISRAEL BOMBS SYRIA as the UNS Considers Its Own Military Options.”

“American officials did not provide details on the target but, instead, referenced an earlier attack attacking a Syrian military supply effort to Hezbollah.”

Unmentioned is that the original report understated the extent of the damage caused by the bombing.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

Debating The Global Media—in Kazakhstan

Sun and EagleAstana, Kazakhstan: Most people wouldn’t bother going half way around the world for their fifteen seconds of fame.  Ok, so maybe there was little fame to be found but, it was still worthwhile to spend two days flying back and forth to attend the two-day annual Eurasian Media Forum in Kazakhstan, a Central Asian nation that is actually the 9th largest country in the world, with ultra wealthy oil and gas fields.

It was also one of the few countries in the world that gave up its nuclear weapons. South Africa is another one.

Kazakhstan flickered briefly in our popular culture when the film Borat made fun of the place—it was shot in Romania, not there—and more recently, figured in the investigation into the terrifying actions of the Tsarnaev ‘Bomb Brothers’ in Boston responsible for doing so much vicious damage at the Marathon. It was reported that they had also lived here although local media disputes it.  (Two Kazakh kids are said to be in jail now in the US for visa violations although it’s not clear how or if they are linked.)

The forum here deals with political and media issues and attracts top journalists and policymakers to hold forth on panels.  I was on one with none other than Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

Beyond the Marathon Massacre: Questions, Questions, and Questions

Two_suspects_wanted_by_the_FBI_for_the_bombingI started writing on Patriots day in Massachusetts, the State holiday commemorating America’s revolutionary war in one of the cities in which it began. It was also the anniversary of the Waco FBI massacre aimed at right-wing fanatics and the demolition of the Murrah federal office building in Oklahoma City by right-wing fanatics.

But I was writing about the events in Boston with the bomb attacks on the Marathon, and the manhunt that locked the city down in a military maneuver.

I worked in Boston media for 12 years, many of them at WBCN when it was located in the Prudential Center, for many years the destination of the race. I also lived on Norfolk Street in Cambridge where the two men alleged to have of triggered the bloody mayhem were said to be living. I took my daughter to the Cambridge Hospital where the other “suspect, “ Dzhokhar Tsarnaev  may or may not recover.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

Thatcher And Kissinger United Again: One Died, The Other’s Documents Were Dumped

Reagan ThatcherThe past fired back today–with two barrels.

Margaret Thatcher’s death at age 87 ushered in a non-stop sycophantic display of adulation across all the television networks, that, we need to recall, used the same playbook when her ideological kith and kin, Ronald Reagan, also suffering from dementia, departed this mortal coil

Then, there was a six-day televised praise poem between his death and what amounted to a state funeral with an unending orgy of uncritical commentary,  as if the media had fallen down the amnesia hole and forgotten that the great communicator was not that good a communicator and often an embarrassment, not to mention a political fraud.

Now it’s Maggie’s turn, with acres of sound bites stressing that “we should never forget” how tough the “Iron Lady” was.  Baroness “Lady Thatcher” was spoken of reverentially as royalty by the high and mighty who treated her as a divine figure.

In life her role was debated; in death, she was consecrated as a goddess.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

TV Network Prematurely Reports Nelson Mandela Died – Do Some Want Him Gone?

A South African media outlet, no doubt eager to be first, aired a TV obituary of Nelson Mandela. It was very positive and respectful, except for the fact he hadn’t died.

It brought back memories of writer Mark Twain’s famous observation when the same thing happened to him. His comment: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

When someone turns 94, medical risks are hardly an exaggeration, and its good to know that Mandela has just been released from hospital again. I was told that he told family members he intends to live to l00.

The sad truth is that there are some in South Africa who are distressed that his health seems to be the only news from South Africa that routinely attracts world attention and social concern. Perhaps that’s because so many  other stories have been grim—often about corruption of public officials or the case of the famous disabled runner who allegedly murdered his girlfriend.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

The New ‘Argo’ – Evil North Koreans Trash the White House In Latest Hollywood Fear Vehicle

The trend towards movies ripped from the news, or perhaps ripping off the news continues.

Olympus Has Fallen is the latest in the popular  “learn to fear thy enemy even more than you did before” category, as director Antoine Fuqua visualizes a story that can’t be more topical with the White House (Secret Service Code: “Olympus”) occupied by a North Korean terrorist fanatic and his barbaric followers.

The President is held hostage, the building is trashed, and its defenses shredded while our hero, a disgraced former Presidential guard, becomes the savior despite the mounting body count including a massacre of civilians and military responders as well as the near capture of top secret nuclear codes.

Of course, at the last moment, Mr. America fights off the incompetent Pentagon bureaucracy, repels the invaders and singlehandedly saves the President’s son, before rescuing the commander in chief and averting the war to end all wars.… Read the rest

Continue Reading