Al Jazeera -- one of the best cable news networks in the world -- has always had a tough time here in the U.S. It's been derided as a "terror network" and propaganda organ. It's been denounced by publicity-seeking politicians for airing messages from Al Qaeda. Its reporters have beenimprisoned in the Guantanamo gulag for years before being released after having never been tried or convicted of any terrorist ties. Others have been targeted by U.S. forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq, shot at, had missiles fired at them, and even killed.
I first met Jose Antonio Vargas in the fall of 2008, in the midst of the historic Obama campaign for the presidency. At the time, I was a fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where I was researching the impact of the then-emerging social media on older legacy forms of journalism, such as newspapers.
A unique husband and wife team, Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould have reported for decades on the issues and conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the spring of 1981 they received the first visas to enter Afghanistan granted to an American TV crew and produced an exclusive news story for the CBS Evening News. They also produced a documentary for PBS, returned in 1983 for ABC Nightline, and later worked under contract to Oliver Stone on a film version of their experience.
I often go to media conferences – such as this week’s National Conference on Media Reform in Boston, where I’ll finally have an opportunity to speak out about hate speech in the media, after years of proposing such a panel – but few media chatfests are as valuable as the regular We Media gatherings. The annual affair features people and ideas shaping media, technology and society – and this year’s one-day event was as usual “filled with must-have intelligence, inspired ideas and brilliant people looking ahead to what’s next and what to do about it,” as conference organizers Andrew Nachison and Dale Peskin put it.
Are you as shocked as I am that even Donald Rumsfeld turns out to be a better supporter of free speech than Hillary Clinton? At least the lying SOB former Secretary of Defense didn’t stand by and do nothing as his critics were beaten, arrested and taken away in chains!
What do Richard Nixon, recent Nobel prize winner Liu Xiaobo and Julian Assange have in common?
“Moon looked on the media as almost the nervous system for a global empire. Moon was the brain, and the media are to be, or were to be, the communications vehicle for his body politic surrounding the globe.”
Why was it left to the National Freakin' Football League -- hardly a bastion of liberal thought -- to call out bombastic shock jock Rush Limbaugh for his puerile racism and incessant bigotry? And why do NFL owners hold themselves to a higher standard thanthe rest of us?
Limbaugh made headlines again this week - an annoyingly regular occurrence -- when it was reported that he was part of a group attempting to buy a piece of his hometown football team, the St. Louis Rams. As is usual with All Things Rush, controversy erupted immediately.
This should have come as a surprise to no one, since the Rams play in a league where two-thirds of the players are black. Current and retired players, several owners, the head of the players union and of course professional gadflies like the omnipresent Reverend Sharpton all made it immediately and abundantly clear that Limbaugh's bid would be met with fierce opposition.
Soon National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly called out Limbaugh for making -- here's another surprise! -- "divisive comments," and it became obvious that El Rushbo was a dead man talking -at least as far as the NFL bid was concerned.
As Goodell told the New York Times, NFL owners are "held to a high standard," and "I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the N.F.L. -- absolutely not."
Although he may actually have taken a principled stand, it's more likely that Goodell was simply recognizing reality. A successful ownership bid by Limbaugh & Co. was never really in the cards. For one thing, despite Rush's recent $400 million dollar contract extension, there might not have been enough money on the table to ensure a successful bid. But the real reason is that NFL owners were rightly worried that letting Limbaugh join their exclusive club would be akin to asking for a stink bomb to explode in their clubhouse.
After all, The Grand Poobah's previous NFL foray was a public relations fiasco. While he was employed by ESPN as a commentator, Limbaugh announced on air that Eagles star Donovan McNabb was consistently overrated by a news media anxious to see a black quarterback succeed. "They are polarizing comments that we don't think reflect accurately on the N.F.L. or our players," Goodell said. "I obviously do not believe that those comments are positive and they are divisive. That's a negative thing for us."
Given the overwhelming likelihood that Limbaugh would fail to pass muster as an NFL owner - something he surely anticipated -- the uninitiated might well wonder why he even entered into the futile exercise in the first place Well, wonder no more It's long been apparent that Limbaugh likes nothing more than to drive the mainstream media agenda -- something he is quite adept at. As he told NBC's Jamie Gangel on the Today show, "I know how to yank their chain. I know how to send them into insanity. I know how to make them spend the next two days talking about me."
Limbaugh said he anticipated the media frenzy over his bid to buy the Rams. "They're just gonna go nuts," he said. "This is the kind of stuff they've been trying to make sure doesn't happen with me. All this stuff is the mainstreaming of Rush Limbaugh from off this far-right fringe they've tried to put me. I just keep tiptoeing into the mainstream. And it just irritates them."
Most of my critics don't even listen to me; they are clueless," Limbaugh continued. "They just go to Web sites that report what I say out of context. I'm amazed at the Democrats and the media who do not know what's going on in my world. I know what's going on in theirs. I study 'em. I watch 'em every day."
Here's one member of the media who has studied and listened to Limbaugh for years- in fact I wrote an entire book about him and his fellow hate talkers, detailing the evil things they say for profit. Consider, for example, this instant replay of Limbaugh's most vicious racist hits over the years, as compiled recently by Nation sports editor Dave Zirin:
Remember that catchy pop tune from twenty years ago, courtesy of Timbuk 3? You know, the one with the catchy chorus: "The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades?"
Editor's Note: This article combines two interviews by Rory O' Connor with the CEO of Facebook and the Co-Founder of Twitter.