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Inky Notes, April 23: Paying Santorum Well; Inky Loves John Yoo; Supports Rightwing Attack on Free Speech; Tea-Baggers

By Edward S. Herman  Posted by Cyril Mychalejko (about the submitter)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 2 pages)
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Publisher Brian Tierney claims that it is important that he and his group maintain control of the Inky because they represent a local interest. But he represents a local special interest, and certainly not local majority interest. Thus he has pushed the paper to the right on issues well beyond the local but impinging on the city in negative ways. His strong support of Bush and the Republicans, for example, was hostile to the interests of Philadelphia, as the Bush-Cheney tax cuts-for-the-rich and war policies and neglect of infrastructure and the economic well-being of poor and middle class people hurt local interests.

It has recently been disclosed that Tierney is paying Rick Santorum $1,750 per biweekly column, or over $40,000 per year for writing that ranges from the trite to the silly to the outrageous. Santorum got only 16 percent of the vote in Philadelphia in his crushing repudiation in 2006, and he was also badly discredited by his role in the K-Street corruption scandal. (This great moralist is worried about "Removing ethical restraint,"- namely, Obama;s stem cell ruling that "leaves us less well protected against the tyranny of science,"- March 12, 2009). He is also neither local nor competent. So the only reason for his employment by Brian Tierney is that he is a political reactionary. David Sirota points out that here is a newspaper in financial trouble, having to cut back on local news, but spending big bucks on a political hack and has-been whose troglodyte views apparently please the local owner.

John Yoo As An Inky Regular

A New York Times editorial describes the four recently released legal justifications for torture written by Roger Bybee, John Yoo and company as "a journey into depravity."- A substantial body of legal opinion believes that John Yoo is prosecutable as a war criminal. This depravity and role in the commission of war crimes does not bother Tierney and the editors of the Inky, who have just published their fifth Commentary column by John Yoo this past Sunday ("Next fight in war on terrorism,"- April 19). This is the moral equivalent of giving a regular column to David Duke, tolerable in a moral environment in which torture apologetics and management and torture itself is not beyond the pale, but where open racist bias is. This is newspaper depravity.

Yoo's April 19th column on the war on terrorism is partnered with an article on the same subject by Michael Smerconish, another product of Tierney rule, and another reactionary, who has bragged about his close relations with Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly. More Inky editorial "Insights"---and "balance."-

The Inky editors did note, in an editorial on "Bush Policies: Handling the truth"- (March 8, 2009), that Bush had been advised by his lawyers that he could muzzle free press rights given "the overriding need to wage war successfully"-. They went on to say "-An irony to this last item is that the memo's author was John C. Yoo, now a law professor who writes commentaries for newspapers, including the Inquirer)."- But the editors didn't bother to explain why a man with such views is chosen, repeatedly, to publish those views in the Inquirer. Why not the "irony"- of publishing David Duke? Are John Yoo's views more enlightening than those of excluded authors like Robert Scheer, Dahr Jamail, Patrick Cockburn, Chalmers Johnson, Gideon Levy, Amira Hass, or Noam Chomsky, whose modes of thought are never seen in the paper? Could it be that enlightenment has nothing to do with the case?

The Inky Lets The Right Attack Free Speech Without Rebuttal

I had a recent experience with the Inky that displays well its bias toward the right and its lack of fairness. The paper ran a Commentary column on March 23rd by one Charles Mitchell, that purported to show how it would be possible to combine fairness and control of extremism with free speech ("Colleges can handle controversy without squelching free speech"-). Mitchell is head of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, an organization that came into existence in November 2001, following 9/11, to urge trustees and alumni to intervene more aggressively in university affairs to fight against anti-Americanisms like "Ignorance breeds hate,"- one of many statements quoted in their initial report on "Defending Civilization,"- which listed and quoted 117 faculty members and students guilty of using disapproved language. This was a clear attack on free speech, calling for outside intervention in university affairs, and offering what is essentially a black list. The Inky has never discussed this background of Mitchell's organization and doesn't clarify it here.

In his column Mitchell suggests that problems such as the protests against William Ayres speaking at Millersville and Ward Churchill at Indiana University in Pennsylvania could be eased, consistently with free speech, by compelling students and faculty to provide advance lists of speakers, which allegedly "poses no threat to academic freedom."- This might allow planning of a critical panel the next night, on say plagiarism (Churchill was allegedly fired for plagiarism).

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But putting up such lists would be an invitation to small aggressive outsider pressure groups to make noisy objections and it would make effective the kind of black list that Mitchell's group has supported since 2001. Mitchell says now that with the announcement of the invitation to Ayres at Millersville the school was "inundated with outrage from the local community."- This is not true: local organized rightwingers did complain, but they were not numerous, and when Ayres gave his lecture they never appeared and his talk (on education policy) was well received. (Cindy Stauffer, "Ayres draws few protesters, sticks to education,"- Lancaster New Era, March 20, 2009). But Millersville authorities may be more cautious in the future about invitations to people that outside pressure groups might protest, and Mitchell-type lists would give those outsiders excellent anti-free speech ammunition.

Mitchell is very righteous about bad Ward Churchill having been fired for "repeated and serious plagiarism." But it is well known that this excuse for firing him was dredged up by the University of Colorado administration long after he had been chastised and demonized for a statement about the victims of 9/11 representing "chickens come home to roost."- But a much clearer and more definitive case of plagiarism involved Alan Dershowitz--a long and detailed Appendix in Norman Finkelstein's book Beyond Chutzpah documents Dershowitz's plagiarism, and has never been rebutted. On Mitchell principles, if Dershowitz ever gets a speech invitation, there should certainly be a followup "faculty panel on academic integrity," but somehow I don't think Mitchell would agree. Nor would he agree that an invitation to himself, or Joseph Lieberman (one of the founders of his organization), or David Horowitz, an ex-radical like Ayres but one who is now an aggressive neo-con, should be listed and questions raised about their suitability, without balance.

In short, Charles Mitchell's proposal would help squelch free speech, and represents a continuing effort by U.S. neo-cons to reshape American universities to meet their own ideological preferences. But the Inky never published my letter, nor any other criticism of Mitchell, nor did they provide a Commentary with an alternative view. This is another profile in cowardice, and calls into question the editorial commitment to something as elementary as free speech.

The Inky on the Tea-Baggers

At the time of one of the major cutbacks of Inky personnel, then editor Amanda Bennett claimed that these wouldn't affect Inky news quality; instead, we could expect more depth and context in the news articles themselves. This was, of course, implausible, and hasn't happened: On issue after issue the Inky offers A.P. or New York Times pieces, often cut, and articles by Inky staff that are rarely beyond the very superficial.

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Among many illustrations, consider the Inky's coverage of the tax-day tea bag campaign, in which across the country there were "tea parties"--supposedly imitating the Boston tea party of the 18th century that protested British tea taxes. The Inky news article, "Protesters hold 'tea party' at LOVE Park" (April 16, 2009), by Peter Mucha and Robert Moran," provides almost zero context. While mentioning the importance of Republicans and Fox News in pushing this event, most of the article consists of quotes from the folks at Love Park on their victimization in falling retirement investments, and their fear of federal debt inflation and an all-powerful government.

At no point do the authors mention that the debt had increased hugely under Bush; that the stock and housing market bubble had grown under his administration; that Bush and Republican-supported financial deregulation had something to do with it; and that the Bush wars did also. The authors never ask the tea-baggers why they didn't protest Big Government and a huge growth in the national debt when Bush ruled. They quote CNBC's Rick Santelli on his unwillingness to subsidize "the losers' mortgages," but they never ask him or the Love Park protesters about the virtues of subsidizing the banks.

On the origin of the tea-bag campaign, Mucha and Harmon never mention the role of Dick Armey and FreedomWorks, the rightwing organization formed by Dick Armey in 2004 and specializing in creating "astro-turf" protests against anything its funders (Citibank, GE, et al.) find in their interest (they protested Democratic opposition to Bush's plan for privatizing Social Security). As Mark Ames, Yasha Levine and Alexander Zaitchik point out, "The Tea Parties were never about the little guy's fight against big government or Wall Street. FreedomWorks did not uncork Santelli while the government was bailing out the banks. The FreedomWorks machine was idle while Citibank and GE pocketed their billions. (The latter, incidentally, is a big donor to FreedomWorks). Freedomworks kicked off its anti-tax, anti-spending movement only when the government announced it would give money to regular Americans to help avoid a wave of housing foreclosures."- (See also Phil Wilayto, "An Expose of the April 15 "-Tax Day Tea Party Rallies'"- ) In short, this is a news article that is worse than misleading--it actually services a rightwing astro-turf propaganda campaign. And the Inky offers nothing to balance it off.

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