Comments on

Movie Review: Control Room

Original entry posted: Wed Jul 27 05:17:03 2005

Kalroy @ Thu Jul 21 00:38:12 2005 EST

"In the end, Control Room should give both journalists and ordinary citizens a lot to think about. Unlike Outfoxed or Farenheit 9/11, it doesn't shout a message, but it is no less incendiary"

Big difference. Outfoxed and Farenheit were made by people hostile to their subject. Control Room was made by former Al-Jazeera employees whose stated goal was to show that Al-Jazeera was a westernized news outlet with western values.

In other words, it is pro al-jazeera propaganda made by pro al-jazeera people in an attempt to manipulate Westerners into ignoring al-jazeera's reporting, staging photographs negative to the US, allegedly collecting intelligence for terrorists, and filming terrorist attacks after being notified by the terrorists on where and when to be.

Funny that you of all people would be suckered in by such an obvious propaganda move by al-jazeera.

As to the military's hostility to the media, it's with good reason. The media was snookered by the military during the Vietnam war, and they have held that grudge long after those responsible have left the military. What you have today are a group of Americans who have been constantly attacked and vilified by a group that has no legitimate grudge against them and they respond to such hostility, condescension and contempt. That is human nature, made more powerful considering the players.

Even today there is a horrible ignorance of the military by the media and when in doubt they tend to report the negative. If there are two accounts of an incident they will tend to report the account given by America's enemies without fact-checking and they will report the account given to them by Americans with open contempt and doubt. We saw it often. Given a choice between Baghdad Bob, and Americans on the ground....

It's no wonder those who serve or have serve have a tendency to consider the liberal media to be hostile (and I have heard GIs and vets respond with far harsher words), disrespectful, ungrateful, and hateful towards them.


Thomas @ Thu Jul 21 08:23:07 2005 EST

There is no liberal media.

Can you prove your allegations regarding Al Jazeera? Because I've seen no credible evidence to that effect, and I am not completely ignorant of Arabic and Arabic-language media.

Kalroy @ Sat Jul 23 04:00:37 2005 EST

I watched an interview on Fox News with two of the producers, a young woman and an older man. They stated what their goal was (to show a balanced view of Al-Jazeera and to show it as an ideology free western type news organization). The older man admitted he was a former employee at Al-jazeera, the woman didn't, but she wasn't asked.

Did a quick Google search (busy weekend, don't have time for an exhaustive search). Filmaker (an independant film magazine) says it was a "collaborative effort among Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim (, Al-Jazeera producers, and a U.S. scholar teaching in Cairo has resulted in a documentary"

Consider this. If you made propaganda movies and you wanted your propaganda spread in its most uncorrupted form would you send it to the enemy news stations or to the one most sympathetic to your clause?

We do know that they, like noted Saddam Hussein propagandist channel CNN, reported Iraqi propaganda as fact while questioning the veracity of American reports.

And yes, CNN was spreading propaganda for Hussein and they did admit that they reported approved news in exchange for "access." I'm sure you've read that account and Eason Jordan's admission on that account. So consider that the bribes and betrayal of journalistic integrity that CNN used to buy access, and ask yourself if Al-Jazeera got far more access just because Saddam was a nice guy, or was it because they were sympathetic and useful.

Also recall that Iraq kicked Al-Jazeera out of Iraq not simply because they were unsympathetic to a democratic Iraq, but because they were propagandists for the Sunni insurgency and foreign terrorist forces (according to the provisional Iraqi government and not the American provisional government).

Sure it could all be coincidence. Sure terrorist may choose Al-Jazeera as their primary broadcasters because they flipped a coin and came up heads. Sure they may have kept access to Hussein's regime because he was a nice guy.

But I doubt it.


Oh yeah, and the director's interviews on the BBC make it clear that it is an attempt to show Al-Jazeera in a positive western light.

Thomas @ Sun Jul 24 15:57:03 2005 EST

Your first error is assuming that I will believe anything you say after the words "Fox News" regarding propaganda stations.

The producer may have wanted to make it clear that this was a positive portrayal simply because Fox makes such an effort to frame Al Jazeera as a propaganda station. Consider your source.

The female who made this film also directed the documentary She's well known for a realist style.

What I read of Eason Jordon's statements came no-where close to admitting that CNN was shilling for Hussein. But let me get this straight: Al Jazeera is on the side of Iraq and the insurgency, even after the country kicks them out for reporting opposing propaganda? Does that make any sense at all?

I submit to you that the answer is no. I humbly suggest that the reason these filmmakers may have aimed for a balanced western perspective is because, in fact, Al Jazeera is a western-style network. That's an image that the Republican party has repeatedly tried to deny, the same way that they now try to cast Amnesty International and other international organizations as tools of the devil simply because they will not keep up with the party line.

But fear not, comrade! Party media state is soon to arrive, and then dissident other-think will be banned! Only words of Comrade Bush and his loyal apparatchiks will be spread by true countrymen!


Thomas @ Sun Jul 24 16:43:18 2005 EST

Oh, by the way: before you comment, it looks like I misread what you were trying to say, and that the new improved Iraq (as our 51st state) is what has banned Al Jazeera, not Hussein. Cute. But perhaps you'd like to read up on a station called Al Hurra, and then comment on who is engaging in propaganda. And perhaps you'd actually like to watch the movie before you make these accusations. Because frankly, your views on journalism so far are simplistic at best, and delusional at worst.

The broadcast of views that do not agree with yours is not equivalent to treason. It's called journalism. You may be content to remain in a fantasy world where the military is perfect, Iraq is a peaceful place filled with freshly painted schools, and insurgents really do hate freedom. Do not ask the rest of us to subscribe to your ill-informed opinions simply because you can't imagine a world that's not dictated by Our Great Leader.

Kalroy @ Wed Jul 27 01:17:03 2005 EST

Perhaps we can simply agree that both sides practice propaganda.

What bites my ass is when people who are supposed to be on our side practice propaganda for the enemy.

CNN did report Iraqi propaganda as fact, and did attempt to keep access by bribing officials (not a big deal to me compared to) and reporting Iraqi propaganda without due diligence. That is not not the same as broadcasting views that don't agree with mine. During wars it's called treason. Journalism would have questioned the veracity of the Iraqi Ministry of Information, considering that the constant lying and misinformation that came out of that place. Failure to question Baghdad Bob, but constantly questioning the Defense Department and American military personnel is journalism, but it is biased and shows favoritism towards America's enemies.

Oddly enough your characterization of my beliefs is incredibly wrong. I don't believe the military is perfect, I do believe in the decency of most GI's. I've seen, personally, more decency in them than I have at Cal-State. I don't think that Iraq is a peaceful place filled with freshly painted schools, and have no idea why you would so badly mis-read any of my comments in that way. I do know that it is in better shape than you probably know, but only because my sources are closer to the situation than yours, though you could remedy that by giving some credence to America's military personnel and trying to find out their side of the story. Consider that in matters military they have far more reliability, knowledge and credence than journalists who have zero experience in the subject and routinely get simple matters wrong.

It's part of the reason so many GI's refuse to watch CNN, have contempt for the New York Times, et al. You are entitled to your own opinion on this particular matter, but in the same way that the majority opinion of astronautical engineers is more valid and accurate than your (or my) opinion on spaceflight, veteran and AD GI opinion is far more valid and accurate regarding the reporting of military matters and topics in the press.

"Our Great Leader" as you call him has failed this country on many subjects, but he is a better wartime leader than the alternative was. Liberal opinion of him tends to be rather hateful, and yet he generates more respect and loyalty from those troops who are in harms way than Bill Clinton did, and even Bill Clinton didn't generate the disdain and disgust that most veterans and AD GI's felt for John Kerry.

As to my views on Journalism being simplistic, you are entirely correct. Journalism is not rocket science. It is far simpler to report the news without impugning our country or the military who fight for it than it is to machine a bushing. They are, however, not delusional. A majority of Americans feel that the media is biased, and an overwhelming majority of veterans and GIs have felt that way for some time. So much so that in some places the common GI will not watch the BBC or CNN because of how biased they are perceived.

Incidentally, the ad hominem attacks and insults are uncalled for. At no time have I impugned your intelligence, critical thinking or character, and yet you saw fit to attack mine. I understand that you are passionate about this matter, but that does not justify such hateful behavior.

Best Regards,

Kalroy @ Wed Jul 27 01:31:33 2005 EST

Incidentally, the Republicans did not put a gun to Amnesty International and force them to refer to Guantanamo Bay as the "gulag of our time." You're intelligent and reasonably educated so you know exactly what the gulags were (and the lao gai in China) and how many millions died there as political prisoners. You also know that the characterization has zero parrallel to Gitmo, is inaccurate, and so the motives of AI are easily called into question. Many people who aren't Republicans feel that AI used the reference to former Soviet Gulags as an emotional attack on America's military.

As to the rest of that particular post, I'll remind you that your "accent" is liberal/left wing. The proper "bushitler/chimpy McHalliburton" accent is, "Javolt, fear not mein national socialist bruder. Party media state ist soon to arrive, und den de dissedent other-think vill be banned. Only der vords of herr fuhrer Bush und his loyal National Socialist party members vill be spread thru der vaterland."

As I recall, on the left, Soviet Socialists good, German Socialists bad, and Itallian Socialists are...well, kinda just ignored


Thomas @ Wed Jul 27 09:13:28 2005 EST

Socialism == good.

Soviet Socialism == not good.

Nazi comparisons are so last year.

I propose that while your contacts in the military agree with you, that's more due to your own personal political biases than the actual situation. There is no shortage of liberal military commentators, like Maj. Bateman over at Altercation. It is not a homogeneous force, and I do not accept your statement that Bush inspires more respect and loyalty unless you plan to back that up with research.

In the meantime, your evidence regarding CNN and Al Jazeera remains either unsourced or anecdotal, and your accusation of treason is laughable. Conservatives keep using this word, but I do not think it means what you think it means.

But by all means, bring someone up on that charge. Because if we're going to start discussing Iraqi lies, misinformation, and collusion in a courtroom, we're going to need a warrant for Mssrs Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush while we're at it.

Thomas @ Wed Jul 27 13:34:40 2005 EST

As for the "liberal" media and accusations, millions of Americans also believe that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They believe in a magical sky fairy that invented the earth in seven days and works through Fallwell and Dobson. They believe that autism is caused by vaccinations.

In short, people are stupid or misinformed, and I don't much have the patience to figure out which it is anymore. Appeals to the masses for your argument are all well and good, but they're not any kind of actual evidence. There has been, in point of fact, no credible argument for a liberal media bias (although there is evidence, I would say, for a corporate bias).

On the other hand, I can find credible studies that show a pattern of misinformation for Fox News viewers. I can point you toward a whole catalogue of eliminationist rhetoric from the punditry on the Right, but not from the left. And I can trace media ownership in this country to a few, select corporations who care less for politics or the American people and more for their bottom line.

You were doing so well with the simplicity of journalism until you started using the phrase "our side." That's what invalidates your opinions here, Kalroy. As far as I can tell, you're all for honest reporting as long as it is never critical of the US or its actions--and that's a contradiction in terms. There is no side in journalism. We, as journalists, are not here to be your cheerleaders and to fight the bad guys. We're here to tell you the truth. I'm perfectly happy to debate whether the media has done so, and I'll certainly condemn cases where the media has lied or performed poorly. But the tired canards about how the bad ol' liberal reporters Hate Freedom have got to go. If the facts offend you, just say so. Don't shoot the messenger.

Kalroy @ Wed Jul 27 22:30:50 2005 EST

"There is no shortage of liberal military commentators, "

Actually there is. They are a distinct minority in the military. I'm not sure why, but he is more than simply outnumbered by the more conservative mil-bloggers. You know this.

"It is not a homogeneous force, and I do not accept your statement that Bush inspires more respect and loyalty unless you plan to back that up with research."

I agree it isn't a homogenous force, but it is mostly Republican and conservative. This is from empirical observation of my nine years of service, and having worked with the military since those days. Shared a smoke with an E-8, an E-5, and an E-3 today. The Stars and Stripes informal poll shows that 70% military identify as Republican, 13% Democrat, 10% Independent, and the remainder as other. So take my word for it, or stubbornly refuse to simply because it refutes your assertions. I've commented before on your blog and you're smart enough to realize that while I may sometimes be wrong, and sometimes disagree with you, I don't lie, and insulting that you insinuate that I do. By the way, the majority of the GIs I know, which a very sizable number, DO respect and like both Bush and Rumsfeld more than Clinton. They are intelligent and informed. They are also observant and rely more on a person's actions than their platitudes.

"In the meantime, your evidence regarding CNN and Al Jazeera remains either unsourced or anecdotal, and your accusation of treason is laughable."

Okay. Your opinion that aiding the enemy is not treason disagrees with both my opinion and the definition of the word, but you're entitled to your opinion regarding CNN shilling for Saddam.

"I can find credible studies that show a pattern of misinformation for Fox News viewers. I can point you toward a whole catalogue of eliminationist rhetoric from the punditry on the Right, but not from the left."

Then do so. As I recall there are numerous sites that record bias from the left media (which vastly outnumbers the right). From Smartertimes, to Oh That Liberal Media, Honest Reporting, Times Watch, Chron Watch. Not to mention my own observations having read the Balitmore Sun, NY Times, LA Times, SF Chronicle, and Seattle PI. Though you seem to lend little credence to a persons (or perhaps simply my) personal observations.

"You were doing so well with the simplicity of journalism until you started using the phrase "our side." That's what invalidates your opinions here, Kalroy."

There are sides. Should an American reporter take the side of terrorists or the side of America? History shows that their are sides in Journalism, journalists have taken sides, and continue to do so today. They are human and can't help it. I reccomend to you the North Kosan episode that shows journalists who would allow American GIs to die when they had the power to prevent it, just for a story, and to remain "neutral." I say that is a morally bankrupt point of view. To purposefully allow your own countrymen to die for the artificial neutrality that is a very recent construct in journalism.

Oh, and you're wrong. I'm for honest journalism. I'm for patriotism. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive despite the modern practice of trying to keep a wall between the two.

"But the tired canards about how the bad ol' liberal reporters Hate Freedom have got to go. "

I agree. But then I never said that so you're addressing that to someone else.

" If the facts offend you, just say so. Don't shoot the messenger."

What if the messenger gets their facts wrong because they can't be bothered to check them? What if they rush to report "facts" that hurt the country, and when it turns out they're wrong either change their website surreptitiously, ignore the problem, pretend they are right anyway, or simply print a retract in the back where no one will notice and where all the damage they did goes unnoticed.

What if the messenger knows about an attack and chooses not to tell those about to die? Whose side does that place the reporter on? Does "neutral" journalism demand abetting terrorism for the sake of ratings? Is not the moral and ethical course for the journalist to try to save lives (if within their power or cell phone range) and forgo future exclusive interviews with the terrorists or exclusive tip-offs of IED attacks?


Thomas @ Thu Jul 28 09:01:25 2005 EST

Treason is a serious accusation. As you say, it requires "aiding the enemy." The problem with the blanket accusations of treason that fly hard and fast from the Right is that their definition of "aid" is vague and nebulous as to be fascist. I've seen people who speak out against the war defined as treasonous, and I consider that just a few steps away from jackbooted thuggery. Like it or not, the word has become a mockery for people on the Left, because we're accused of it just by virtue of being Democrats.

So I've gone and looked up your North Kosan example, because I'd never heard of the damn thing before. Assuming that the article I've found is accurate (and the excerpt from a work by James Fallows is the only mention Google can even find), we'll agree that Wallace, and unfortunately by extension Jennings, were incorrect in what they should have done. To his credit, Jennings has the correct response from the beginning, and it looks like he gets sideswiped by Wallace.

But so what? You're pointing to a hypothetical situation and claiming that it shows some sort of profound hatred by the press in general, when it reads like one jackass and one very confused TV personality. Where is the actual incident? And how do you prove that it shows bias?

Now TimesWatch (etcetera), I'm sorry, but that's pretty laughable. It's the equivalent of Brent Bozell but without the fun of making Planet of the Apes jokes. For example, in an article on the Estate Tax:

Stolberg highlights Republican machinations, as if such lobbying is somehow unique in politics: "Disparaged by Republicans as the 'death tax,' the tax currently affects estates worth more than $1.5 million, less than 10 percent of all estates. But the issue has enormous political resonance, thanks in large part to campaigns over the past 20 years by small-business owners, big-business lobbyists, farmers and grass-roots organizations financed by some of the nation's richest families."

First, has TimesWatch shown that similar lines do not occur with regards to liberal causes? Second, isn't this the case? A recent report on Marketplace, not exactly a bastion of socialism, did in fact cover how the Estate Tax debate was spawned through a wealthy retiree and his patronage of the Heritage Foundation, which wrote the original reform paper. Before that it was a non-issue. So the assertion that the debate has reached a level of resonance due to lobbying by the rich is, in fact, true. Third, TimesWatch actually calls the numerical evaluation of the tax a "liberal take," but does it actually question the numbers?

See, I'm not always in agreement with liberal equivalents of these sites, like The Daily Howler, but typically the Howler will at least try to find some evidence or dig up the numbers on this type of article. Combined with assertions from actual conservatives like Bill Kristol that the "liberal media" is just a way of working the refs (see the intro for Alterman's What Liberal Media?), I have to ask where the real evidence is for this myth, and I have yet to see anything convincing.

Both the Left and the Right complain about the tone of the media. Don't believe me? Seriously, just surf some of the political links on the right side of the page, or check The Daily Howler, Media Matters, and Altercation. We bitch about it all the time here in Socialist Central. We weren't thrilled about Baghdad Bob, either. I think you're right that the media is often lazy--but that cuts both ways. Among my side of the political spectrum, we think that the media doesn't do enough investigation of the White House's claims for war and economics, instead simply letting the lies go.

In the meantime, tossing off accusations of treason like they're going out of style doesn't do anyone any good. If the messenger knows about an attack, and does not report it, resulting in the deaths of troops, then yes, that's a problem. But as far as I understand from my media contacts, it simply doesn't work that way--in the least because reporters aren't ever leaving the Green Zone, unless they're under heavy military escort. Instead, they're forced to rely on Iraqi stringers. Take a look at WaPo coverage sometime, and note the "special correspondents" with Arabic names on many of the Iraqi dispatches. That's one reason why, if you can disprove Al Jazeera's claims, I'd like to hear it, because as far as I know they are the only media source that's consistently out in Iraq, not holed up in a hotel somewhere.

In the meantime, this PIPA study would seem to indicate that Fox News viewers are far more likely to simply be wrong on factual issues about the Iraqi war. Their other reports indicate that those viewpoints are largely held by Republicans. The Right tends to represent itself as profoundly anti-Science, rejecting proven studies like evolution and global warming. I think the philosophical justification for a number of other views is sketchy at best, seeing as how so many of them are religious or emotional in appeal (Terry Schaivo, anyone?). Is it any wonder that I, an intelligent atheist, tend to view your opinions with skepticism?

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