Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hack journalism at its worst

A follow-up to the earlier Olbermann/Hersh "Cheney Assassination Ring" post.

Looking at this a little bit closer, this is an extraordinary example - even by Keith Olbermann's standards - of his penchant for substituting reporting with paranoid fantasizing. It also raises serious questions about Sy Hersh's standing as a credible journalist.

First, here's a link to the transcript of Olbermann's show in which the segment appeared. And here's a link to the article he mentions.

The MinnPost article covers a "Great Conversations" speaking event at the University of Minnesota on 10 March with Sy Hersh and Walter Mondale. The article focuses on two separate allegations by Hersh: that CIA engaged in domestic spying during the Bush years, and that Dick Cheney had his own "executive assassination ring" called "Joint Special Operations Command" which reported directly to him and nobody else.

We've already established that JSOC has been in existence for nearly 30 years and that they're a publicly-known military organization subordinate to US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), making Hersh's allegations absurd on the face. (But not to worry...Hersh says he'll get around to providing actual evidence of his charges in a year or two.)

During his talk, Hersh mentions this New York Times article by saying:
"Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command -- JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. ...
OK, now here's what the NYT article, which reports on a stand-down in special ops raids in Afghanistan, said about JSOC:
According to senior military officials, the stand-down was ordered by Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, the head of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees the secret commando units.
You don't actually have to read the NYT article all that carefully. JSOC is there in black and white in the context of special operations conducted in Afghanistan. Nothing unusual there, because that's what JSOC does.

Now, here's a snippet from Olbermann's show transcript in which he and fellow batshit-crazy conspiracy theorist Howard Fineman discuss the dire implications of Cheney's death squads:
OLBERMANN: If Sy Hersh alleges here, the vice president, the former vice president and a covert assassination ring operated without talking to the CIA, how exactly would the CIA be in the position to call Mr. Hersh‘s reporting “utter nonsense”?

FINEMAN: Well, moreover, Keith, if there a—if there in fact is such a thing as Seymour Hersh‘s reporting seems to indicate and the CIA was kept in the dark about it, the last thing they would want to do right now is admit it. So, either way, they don‘t have an interest in confirming no matter what they know at this point.
There's a bit of a problem here, though. Remember that Hersh was talking about two separate fantasies: domestic CIA spying and Cheney's hit men operating overseas. Here's another MinnPost link in which CIA spokesman George Little responds to the domestic operations charge, and a snippet from that article:
He doesn't know what Hersh claims, but any claim that the CIA has engaged in domestic spying is "complete and utter nonsense," saith Little on behalf of the CIA.
So MSNBC's Olbermann and Fineman conflated two separate items either by accident due to lazy, sloppy journalism, or by design in order to spin the worst possible (and least accurate) fairy tale.

And it gets worse. Back to the first MinnPost article, in which Hersh is quoted as saying:
"Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.

"Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.
What Hersh describes is what special operations teams do. Nowhere does Hersh allege that JSOC is going out and hitting political leaders. But Olbermann seizes on Hersh's term "executive assassination ring" to make that mental leap.

It's said on many right-wing blogs that journalism died in 2008. It's time to get rid of the stinking, rotting corpse.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When your dead last in every single TV Pundit poll. When even the person you got hired for her own show(Maddow) is ahead of you in the ratings. When you are nearly as narcissistic as the POTUS. When your "Bathtub Boy" image interferes in your ability to have meaningful relationships. When your education is proven to be other than stated. When even the nutroots realize you are not credible. You figuratively and literally lose it. The final stages of selective logic disease is not pretty, however, no sympathy from me Keith. You have to give to get and that is an unfamiliar concept to you. Karma dude!