October 05, 2007

Commercially Insane

Feminist author and progressive political activist Naomi Wolf has had some rather interesting statements published in the Huffington Post recently, from her April insistence that the Bush Administration is on a ten-step program to launch a military coup, to her more recent outburst/description of "Don't tase me, Bro" boy's experience as the "iconic turning point and it will be remembered as the moment at which America either fought back or yielded."

Or remixed.

Her Sept. 24 Huffington Post blog entry insists that the Senate's toothless resolution condemning MoveOn.Org's "General Betray Us?" ad is evidence of the current Presidential administration's ever-starting transformation to a dictator reminiscent of Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, or perhaps even Genghis Khan.

All of Wolf's cries on The Huffington Post over the past year have been erratic, and to all but the most dedicated partisan, are immediately dismissed as increasingly bizarre tropes of someone who seems to be afflicted with a regrettable degree of paranoia.

Or is Wolf just "cashing in" on crazy?

She continues down the path of perpetual paranoia today with Blackwater: "Newly Created Thug Caste," where she appeals to the readers of firedoglake (home of manbearpig?), a group that once indulged in a community-based fantasy that believed putting a Jew in blackface would win an election for a WASP.

In this latest post--which, imagine that, links to her new book--Wolf whips up the Folsomesque masses further.

But how much of what Wolf says is true, and how much of it is the most dishonest sort of stem-winding (and cash-flow generating) propaganda?

In her latest dark fantasy in the Huffington Post, Wolf penned such an insulting falsehood that it warrants a direct response instead of the usual head-shaking dismissal.

Wolf stated:

Joseph Goebbels pioneered the 'embedding' of reporters with military troops as a way to support favorable coverage; William Shirer was embedded with German troops in the invasion of France and Nazi filmmaker Leni von Riefenstahl was embedded with German troops in Poland.

This claim is made by a blinded partisan who is only capable of seeing history as it can be molded to suit her desire to link infamous totalitarians of the past with our present (and lest she forget, popularly elected) president.

Reality, of course, is something quite different.

Whether she is talking about the term "embedded reporter," or the practical application of them, Wolf is hopelessly and laughably wrong when stating Goebbels or the Nazis had anything to do with them.

The modern term "embedded reporter" came about not in Hilter's Germany in the 1930s, but in a direct and new partnership between literally dozens of news organizations and the U.S. Department of Defense in 2003.

It isn't a perfect arrangement; the unprecedented media access to war comes at the risk of a lack of objective distance between the reporter and the reporting of the war. That said, the 2003 invasion of Iraq was the most well-documented invasion in human history, with no less than 257 journalists from a multitude of news organizations embedded directly with coalition military forces.

Further, Wolf was wrong and perhaps purposefully duplicitous, in attempting to link CBS' William Shirer with Leni von Riefenstahl's blatant propaganda efforts.

Shirer did travel with German troops to Paris, and he broke the story of the 1940 armistice between Germany and France, but Wolf refused to mention that Shirer wrote to CBS and complained about German attempts at censorship, and that he fled a building Gestapo case against him in December of 1940 as a result of failing to play by their rules.

Shirer's impression of Goebbels' pronouncements, "invariably banal, the product of a mind that though nimble was fundamentally mediocre," are not those of a fan.

Unlike Shirer, Leni von Riefenstahl wasn’t anything remotely like a journalist, another important distinction a duplicitous Wolf tries to smear over. A dancer, actress, and eventually a director, this personal friend of Joseph Goebbels and acquaintance of Adolph Hitler created a film, Triumph of the Will, that became known as one of the most effective propaganda films in history.

It is a slap in the face of today's embedded journalists that Wolf would compare them to a blatant propagandist like von Riefenstahl. ABC News co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt, who are still recovering from wounds suffered in an IED blast in January of 2006, are journalists. Likewise, Wolf smears experienced Russian photojournalist Dmitry Chebotayev a veteran of conflicts in Chechnya, Lebanon, the Golan Heights, and Iraq. killed with American soldiers by another IED just this year.

Perhaps Wolf does not like the mixed reviews of some embedded journalists in Iraq and certainly loathes stories filed by others, but that does not make them propagandists. It makes them human, reporting what they find, when they find it.

There is no legitimate way to compare today's embedded journalists to Goebbels' propagandist, no way to compare Shire to Hitler’s filmmaker von Riefenstahl, no honest way of linking von Riefenstahl to Bob Woodruff.

There are indeed propagandists at work. Wolf herself has become one, not to peddle her philosophy, but to pad her coffers.

Returning once again to her post today at FiredogLake, Wolf once again traffics in her own "big lies," as she attacks North Carolina security company Blackwater USA. In this post, she calls these military contractors a "thug caste" and compares with the Blackshirts:

Congress doesn’t get who Blackwater contractors are. Prince likes to wrap his people in the flag and say they are facing `bad guys.’ Prince actually systematically recruits the baddest of the `bad guys’: Jeremy Scahill reports that Blackwater intentionally recruits former military and paramilitary personnel from regimes that specialize in neofascist repression of their own populations and who train their paramilitary and military in the torture and subjugation of their own critics, journalists, political leaders and other civil society figures: Ecuadorans, Nigerians, Chileans, Syrians. That is who we can find ourselves facing in the streets of New York — or Kansas City — tomorrow unless Congress rolls back the horrific laws that gave the President and Prince these dark-side powers.

My God! Blackwater is infiltrated with neofascist foreigners looking to take over and torture Kansas City! Only, this isn't the truth... in fact, it isn't remotely close to being true.

Blackwater does hire foreign contractors in a subsidiary called Greystone Limited, but these contractors are hired for general duties (such as convoy escort) in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are not deployed within the United States.

There are no armed Nigerian mercenaries plotting to take over Los Angeles, or contract death squads of Syrians to repress citizens in Sacremento, unless they wandered up from San Diego on their own over a virtually undefended border .

As a matter of real facts, a condition of general contract requirements at Blackwater is that an applicant must be a U.S. Citizen and proof of citizenship is required. Further, potential contracting employees must be honorably discharged from the military, and have no felony, violent crimes, spouse or child abuse convictions.

But this is reality, and reality doesn't excite those who the author would convince into buying her book. Wolf is trying to make a living by pandering to the paranoids, the black helicopter sect of the fringe left, in order to profit from their distrust of President Bush.

I wish her the best in profiting from her peddling of snake oil over the next 473 days. Her readers however, are likely to feel very betrayed on January 20, 2009.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at October 5, 2007 03:12 PM

Aren't some of her fantasies about taking over "Kansas City" from Jericho.

Posted by: kat-missouri at October 5, 2007 04:24 PM

Isn't this the woman who as an Al Gore adviser told him he should dress in "earth tones" to reduce the alpha-male gap between him and Dubya? Her father Leonard is a nutcase too. You could look him up.

Posted by: Banjo at October 5, 2007 05:04 PM

My God! Blackwater is infiltrated with neofascist foreigners looking to take over and torture Kansas City!

Actually Blackwater provided "security operatives" for New Orleans right after Katrina... but don't let that stop you from being obtuse about all of the other things that Wolf wrote.

Posted by: tbogg at October 5, 2007 05:13 PM

Another graduate of the Beauchamp School of Journalism, I see.

Posted by: C-C-G at October 5, 2007 07:21 PM

tbogg, I know you've never been cited as a leading intellectual by anyone on your side of the aisle, but surely, even you can tell the difference between security personnel who provided a service during a time of lawlesness after a major natural disaster, and an armed coup.

Or maybe you can't, in which case I was giving you far too much credit.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at October 5, 2007 07:34 PM

Genuine insanity is a terrible thing. This woman is insane and I feel bad for her.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at October 5, 2007 07:38 PM

Great post. Her rant was ignorant and childish! She left a little tidbit out on Betsy DeVos..Her sister-in-law..Pamella DeVos, is also known as the up and coming designer Pamella Rowland...maybe we can blame Bush for her success?!?!?

Is she aware that we have employed companies just like Blackwater for at least 30 years?

tbogg, didn't they have to do that because the police force deserted and Blanco was a bit overwhelmed?

Posted by: Pam at October 5, 2007 09:26 PM

"This woman is insane and I feel bad for her."

What? Insane? But tbogg thinks she's the greatest! Puts a new light on tbogg now doesn't it?

Posted by: SShiell at October 5, 2007 09:26 PM

One minor quibble. Embedding reporters started under Reagan's Administration with the invasion of Grenada.

Other than that, excellent post.


Posted by: RT at October 5, 2007 11:44 PM

Am I still banned?

Posted by: Voice of Reason at October 6, 2007 12:30 AM

Should you be, VoR?

Posted by: C-C-G at October 6, 2007 10:22 AM

The hysteria over Blackwater obscures the fact that they're currently in Iraq because we don't have enough troops to pacify terror cells, protect neighborhoods, and provide security for convoys. As long as they're needed, they'll be around in one capacity or another. No amount of foaming at the mouth from Naomi Wolf is going to change that.

Posted by: Nathan Tabor at October 6, 2007 02:21 PM

I saw that her mention Shirer and Riefenstahl in the same context and thought I had crossed into the Looking Glass

Posted by: baldilocks at October 6, 2007 05:50 PM

Reading insane nonsense like Wolf's reminds me of listening to J Z Knight (also known as the mouthpiece for Ramtha, a 35,000 year old warrior who seems to require lots of money for Knight) in "What the Bleep" (I ex-wife drug me there). All the words were english and seemed to be strung together in grammatically correct fashion, but no matter how I parsed it nothing made any sense at all. It clearly is the same with Ms. Wolf (who may or may not have been channelling an adolescent--and drunk--male when she scribed the above).

Just stitch together the words Bush, Nazi, Riefenstahl, Shirer, Stalin, with a few verbs and adjectives and voila! We have a new trope. Not an understandable one, mind you, but that never has stopped the goofy left so far.

Posted by: iconoclast at October 6, 2007 08:22 PM

I think we're gonna see a LOT of this type of thing over the next year. Wolf is working up the troops, the Democrat core constituents, with tales of "fascism" and paranoia.

Posted by: Rob Crawford at October 6, 2007 09:12 PM
I think we're gonna see a LOT of this type of thing over the next year. Wolf is working up the troops, the Democrat core constituents, with tales of "fascism" and paranoia.

I sure hope so.

Every time some of this gets made public, it pushes John Q. Voter further from the Party of the Donkey.

Posted by: C-C-G at October 6, 2007 09:33 PM