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Van Jones Resigns. Glenn Beck, You've Done the Country a Disservice

I may get smeared for this as Van Jones was, but let me say that I find it disgraceful that Van Jones was the target of a smear campaign and was forced out as Obama’s Green jobs person. He was one of the few genuine progressive voices in a sea of “moderate-centrists” who would have been considered quite far to the right a few decades back.

What were Jones’ “crimes”?

* He called for an investigation into possible government foreknowledge about 9/11. It’s pretty clear that elements within the U.S. government had advance knowledge that something was brewing (even George W. Bush was briefed on this the month before the attack, as Condoleezza Rice admitted in her May 19, 2004 testimony in front of the 9/11 investigation commission), and many respected scholars such as David Ray Griffin have widely circulated hypotheses of U.S. government involvement. My own view is that the U.S. saw the attack coming and decided for its own purposes to let the attack occur (our Reichstag fire, if you will)–but were not directly involved. Why is it unreasonable to ask for an investigation?

* He used an unfortunate metaphor to describe his radicalization in the aftermath of the acquittal verdict in the Rodney King beating case:

By August, I was a Communist,” he says in the article, describing his sense of radicalization at the time.

* He said that Republican strong-arm legislators who managed to force through legislation even when short of a super-majority in the Senate were “assholes.” How is this any worse than commentator Glenn Beck, who led the charge against Jones, calling Obama a racist, or
George W. Bush, when he was Governor of Texas, threatening a legislator with “I’m going to kick your butt if you don’t go along with me.”. And if you listen to it in context, the subtext was that Democrats are too gentlemanly to play this kind of hardball, and that’s why they can’t get their agenda enacted. This, unfortunately, is patently obvious to observers of the current political scene.

Glenn Beck, this is the latest in a long line of despicable things you’ve done. You may feel smug now, but you’re the one whose conscience will bother you–not Van Jones.

Criminal Activity Disguised as Public Relations

What an outrage! If there is a PR equivalent of disbarment, Bonner & Associates would be a candidate.

As U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello was considering how to vote on an important piece of climate change legislation in June, the freshman congressman’s office received at least six letters from two Charlottesville-based minority organizations voicing opposition to the measure.

The letters, as it turns out, were forgeries.

“They stole our name. They stole our logo. They created a position title and made up the name of someone to fill it. They forged a letter and sent it to our congressman without our authorization,” said Tim Freilich, who sits on the executive committee of Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit network that tackles issues related to Charlottesville’s Hispanic community. “It’s this type of activity that undermines Americans’ faith in democracy.”

You can read the newspaper article here If you prefer audio. Democracy Now covered this today (briefly) as well.

I make a good part of my living as a Pr copywritier and marketing strategist, and I’m totally appalled. I also note that all the press coverage I’ve seen points out that this particular firm has a long history of “astroturfing,” which casts suspicion on the claim that this was an accident. I don’t know how you forge a letter from an imaginary person on someone else’s official letterhead—twice!—and call it an accident. I also don’t know how you can run a PR agency for decades for 25 years and not think that the Public Relations Society of America Code of Ethics has any relevance to you.

What Was the Washington Post Thinking to Even CONSIDER This?

Yikes! Somebody at the storied Washington Post–nobody’s admitting who–came up with the no-so-bright idea to have a gala event at the publisher’s house, provide attendees with access both to news staff (who would not be allowed to ask tough questions or use material on the record) and Obama administration staffers–and charge a quarter-million a pop to attend.

Yeah, newspapers have a financial crisis AND great connections–but when you build a brand based on journalistic integrity, this isn’t going to fly very prettily. Both the publisher and key newsroom folks are saying nobody ran this by them first, and the event is canceled. Guess we’ll have to take them at their word about that. Good thing they caught it and snuffed it before it went too far, or the organization that uncovered Watergate and the Pentagon Papers might have been caught on the hinges of “WashPoGate.”

Shel Horowitz’s award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, spends a lot of time examining how to incorporate integrity into your business, and how to leverage that commitment for success.

Is Merck on a Silencing Campaign to Neutralize Its Critics?

Very disturbing article on Total Health Breakthroughs about a deliberate campaign by Merck to intimidate, defund ,and otherwise make life miserable for doctors who dared to speak out about the nasty and sometimes-lethal side effects of Vioxx.

I am not in a position to evaluate the claims this article makes, but if there’s any truth to it at all, we’ve got yet another very serious problem in our health care system.

Isn’t it time we put actual healing in front of corporate profits? And isn’t it time that drug companies and others are held responsible for the consequences of their products–and their strategies?

If you’re in the US, tell your representative in Congress to support HR 676, the Medicare for All bill.

Recent News and Commentary: Health Reform, Corruption–and Mustard

Been spending some time on Huffington Post this morning, always a fascinating place. Here’s some of what I’ve been reading:

Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley on Republican strategist Frank Luntz’s plan to derail health reform. What he doesn’t talk about is single-payer, which I believe could engage the strong support of the American people and roll right over all the roadblocks put there by industry lobbyists–while piecemeal “reform” would gain no such support. I do not understand why mainstream Democrats aren’t pushing this issue. It’s key to a raft of economic boosts that would help, for instance, both US automakers and labor. It’s little-talked-about that because most governments around the world, at least in developed nations, provide a real health care service, foreign competitors to GM, Ford, and Chrysler aren’t stuck with that enormous cost.

Robert Borosage on the general climate of business corruption in Washington. And on how that corruption has caused us to fail in such areas as mandatory sick leave, which then in turn makes the “stay home” response to swine flu impractical for those at the bottom of the ladder, who might lose their jobs and would certainly lose their pay.

Apparently some right-wing pundits have nothing better to do than attack Obama as elitist because–are you sitting down?–he likes Grey Poupon or Dijon mustard on his burgers! Give me a break! You can buy the stuff for two dollars a bottle at a discount store, and it sure does taste a lot better than the yellow glop that’s largely turmeric. I say unto them: get a life!

Stephen Colbert’s very funny video spoofing the big too-big-to-fail bailouts; no commentary necessary from me

Bloggers to Moyers: Progressive Views Too Disruptive to Air

Want to know why right-wing pundits far outnumber those on the left in mainstream US TV? Bloggers Jay Rosen and Glenn Greenwald shared a theory on Bill Moyers Journal: having someone like Amy Goodman of Democracy Now would interfere too much with the construct disseminated by US mainstream media that the US government and major corporations are our benevolent friends, and they don’t want to air views that might help explain why the US has enemies abroad.

Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter, those preachers of hate, are OK in their view because they are simply putting out a more vitriolic version of the Reaganite “mainstream.” But the soft-spoken, highly articulate and very well informed Goodman (who I consider one of the best interviewers in contemporary journalism) is considered a threat!

Of course, this doesn’t explain how another articulate and well-informed progressive,
Rachel Maddow, gets air. But it says a lot about the nature of today’s corporate media.

In the “know your enemies” department, fans of intelligent TV must read this brief transcript or watch the video. It’s a shocker.

Palin & Email: Ethics Conundrums on Both Sides

A certain popular website, that I will not name or link to, posted a bunch of Sarah Palin’s government-related e-mails posted through private, non-government, non-archived accounts.

This is, to put it mildly, not according to Hoyle, and especially because there was even a conversation about how to keep prying eyes away from these posts by using “private” email.

Of course, as Palin found out, e-mail is never really private. It’s not a secure medium. It’s also not particularly reliable. and you shouldn’t expect to have any privacy.

However…while Palin had absolutely no right to conduct state business over non-government e-mail–and certainly no right to delete the emails and the account and thus destroy evidence of possible wrongdoing in the Troopergate scandal, I have just as big an ethical bone to pick with the site that unmasked her.: it listed the emails of her correspondents, in big print, and in hackable form.

I’m sorry, but it is not anybody’s right to have the personal e-mails of her kids and others who corresponded with Sarah Palin. These people will have to go through a lot of time and trouble to change their addresses, notify correspondents, etc.

Palin was wrong. But so was this website.

CIA Openly Recruits Journalists at Journos of Color Conference

These people have no shame! The Central Intelligence Agency actually had a table on the exhibition floor of Unity ’08, the conference for journalists of color organized jointly by (in alphabetical order) the Asian-American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Native-American Journalists Association!

As the article points out, this is not an appropriate place for journalists to work. Here are two of the people interviewed on the segment:

JOE DAVIDSON: I don’t think that the CIA should recruit at conventions for journalists. I think that CIA members have pretended to be journalists in years past. They might still be doing it, I don’t know, but they certainly have done it previously. And I think that the knowledge that CIA agents have used journalism as a cover puts legitimate journalists in danger.

It’s certainly known that in other countries, journalists will report to their governments. That certainly is not the case, or certainly generally has not been the case, for American journalists. But we don’t want that perception. I think there really has to be a long distance between the role of a spy, even someone who does research in Langley, Virginia, and a journalist.

and

DENNIS MOYNIHAN: You know, in a climate where journalists are being laid of en masse by the media corporations, I think it’s unfortunate that an agency like the CIA can prey upon people. I mean, what are they going to be doing? Of course, they’re talking about open source intelligence gathering.

Well, that’s exactly how they gather names of alleged socialists or labor sympathizers in Indonesia, by forming lists. They’re going to be reading other reporters’ work and identifying subjects of interest to the U.S. security apparatus. I don’t think it’s good work for a journalist. There’s just a massive abuse of data collection that’s happening by the United States, principally.

The ACLU released a press report, a press release about waterboarding and CIA’s involvement in authorizing and coaching waterboarding. You know, why isn’t this guy being asked about it? I think some journalists here actually have confronted this recruiter, but this is one of the most controversial agencies functioning on the planet today, and it’s shocking that here, with between five and ten thousand journalists, and the guy isn’t getting grilled continually.

Several other attenders also comment. Go read or listen to the whole segment.

Does Fox's Acceptance of Paid Product Placement Slant News Coverage?

Oy! This little squib from the Weekly Spin (as reprinted in the Las Vegas Sun) opens all sorts of ethics questions: product placement on newscasts = censorship of news? Maybe it would be better if we simply banned product placement on “objective” newscasts.

And look, the broadcaster is that champion of “fair and balanced” reporting, Fox News. Why am I not surprised?

“Two cups of McDonald’s iced coffee (BUY!) sit on the Fox 5 TV news desk” during Las Vegas station KVVU’s morning news show, writes Abigail Goldman. It’s a “punch-you-in-the-face product placement” that will last six months. KVVU’s news director says the “nontraditional revenue source” won’t impact his station’s reporting. But an executive with the marketing firm that negotiated the deal, Omnicom’s Karsh/Hagan, said “the coffee cups would most likely be whisked away if KVVU chooses to report a negative story about McDonald’s,” reports the New York Times. McDonald’s has similar product placement arrangements with “WFLD in Chicago, which is owned and operated by Fox; on KCPQ in Seattle, a Fox affiliate owned by the Tribune Company; and on Univision 41 in New York City.” Other stations owned by KVVU parent Meredith Corporation, “including WFSB, the CBS affiliate in Hartford, Conn., and WGCL, the CBS affiliate in Atlanta — are also accepting product placements on their morning shows.” The Writers Guild of America West recently urged the Federal Communications Commission to require “real-time disclosure” of product placements and to ban video news releases, calling VNRs “an attempt to trick the viewer to think that a paid advertisement is actually news.”

Godin and Garfinkel Take On the Press

By some weird coincidence, both Seth Godin and David Garfinkel (names well known to any student of modern marketing) went after the media for distorting the news to artificially create drama this week.

Godin, posting today, looked at CNN’s report on yesterday’s Indiana and North Carolina primaries, and found the headline and focus only told one part of the story. While accurate on its face, the headline, “Clinton ‘full speed ahead’ After Indian Nail-biter”, was misleading.

A more appropriate but less dramatic rendition of the results, he says, would have conveyed a very different story.

The page would have been more accurate if it had said things like, “Obama gains more than 200,000 votes over Clinton” or “Obama campaign further extends delegate lead, picking up 12 more delegates” or even “Obama pummels Clinton in the bigger state.”

That’s not dramatic, though, and as William Randolph Hearst taught us a long time ago, the goal is to sell newspapers, not to report the news.

A day earlier, Garfinkel attacked the San Francisco Chronicle for similar manipulation on a totally different topic: “Is Any Web site Safe? No Way to be Sure.”

First, Garfinkel points out that the paper is using a technique for which journalists often diss marketers:

The headline is bad enough — but we all know that fear sells, and it certainly sells newspapers. (Don’t think I’m going to take it lightly though the next time I see or hear a journalist taking a swipe at an ad because it preys on people’s fears.)

And then he points out the neurolinguistic programming (NLP) implications of a headline that could be read several different ways.

This intersection of the journalist mind and the marketer mind is a stream where I swim regularly, and I think both of these guys are right. What do you think?

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