Saturday, November 14, 2009

American Hero

posted by Armadillo Joe

This woman is an American hero.  I put her on the same pedestal as the Dixie Chicks as someone incredibly brave, who had the courage to speak her convictions at great risk to her personal well-being at a time when people were routinely punished severely for speaking out.
Recall, if you will, the dark days of early 2003.  We were ramping up to W-A-R (shock and awe) and the retarded chimpanzee in the White House along with his Evil Uncle Dick(head) had so twisted the public's imagination into pretzel knots of illogic and abject fear -- hellbent as they were on some good old-fashioned 'Murrican score settlin' against some random brown-skinned folks to hit the four-for-the-price-of-one bonus of 1.) gettin' even for our most holy of holies 9/11 (Ah-men) 2.) settling a blood-feud between the Bush and Hussein clans with American taxpayer-funded blood and iron 3.) making an example of some ragheads before the rest of them get anymore uppity ideas (I'm looking at you Tom "Suck on this" Friedman) and 4.) making up for having skipped Vietnam by collecting machismo points by proxy via the deaths of other people's sons and daughters -- that anyone anywhere at any time who ever whispered the slightest hint of dissent that maybe, perhaps just maybe, our glorious war in the Middle East wasn't quite the photogenic Greatest Clash of Civilizations since Cecil B. DeMille shod a cast of 10,000 extras in swords and sandals... was roundly persecuted, punished and plowed-under.
I was already living in the sodom of New York City during that time -- easily the place in America most immune to Mr. Bush's "charms" and machinations, amid the assorted degenerates and pinko-lib'ruhl-islamo-fascist-America-hating Lefty terrorist-sympathizers of the entertainment industry -- and even correcting for the emotional distortion field surrounding the smoldering pit at the southern end of Manhattan island, working as I did in the so-called "red zone" below 14th Street hardly ten blocks from Ground Zero, we spoke in dissenting voices rarely and even then in the hushed tones usually reserved for snarky comments during church.
It was a dark time, indeed.  And, other than social ostracization, we actually had very little to fear from saying something negative about the general drift of current events.  Imagine someone who did, who understood that they had a great deal to lose, and spoke anyway.
Ashleigh Banfield is that person.  I used to just think of her (when I thought of her at all) as just another vapid, pretty "news" model -- more famous for her stylish choices of eyewear than anything she might have accomplished as a journalist -- and when she disappeared from the Tee-Vee in early 2003, I hadn't even noticed.  It wasn't until her story finally came out in 2005 that I understood what became of her.  The ramifications of it break my heart in empathy for her struggle and in sadness for what America became, or was revealed to have already become, in the events of the first four years of the Cheney Administration.
She gave a speech to some journalism students at Kansas State University on April 24th, 2003 where she said stuff like this:
You didn't see where those bullets landed. You didn't see what happened when the mortar landed. A puff of smoke is not what a mortar looks like when it explodes, believe me. There are horrors that were completely left out of this war. So was this journalism or was this coverage? There is a grand difference between journalism and coverage, and getting access does not mean you're getting the story, it just means you're getting one more arm or leg of the story. And that's what we got, and it was a glorious, wonderful picture that had a lot of people watching and a lot of advertisers excited about cable news. But it wasn't journalism, because I'm not so sure that we in America are hesitant to do this again, to fight another war, because it looked like a glorious and courageous and so successful terrific endeavor, and we got rid of a horrible leader: We got rid of a dictator, we got rid of a monster, but we didn't see what it took to do that.
the message before we went in was actually weapons of mass destruction and eliminating the weapons of mass destruction from this regime and eliminating this regime. Conveniently in the week or two that we were in there it became very strongly a message of freeing the Iraqi people.
If we had paid more attention to Afghanistan in the '80s we might not have had 9-11. If we hadn't left it in such a mess, we might not have had 9-11 and three thousand people would be alive to talk to you today.
This TV show (the Iraq War - ed.) that we just gave you was extraordinarily entertaining, and I really hope that the legacy that it leaves behind is not one that shows war as glorious, because there's nothing more dangerous than a democracy that thinks this is a glorious thing to do.

War is ugly and it's dangerous, and in this world the way we are discussed on the Arab street, it feeds and fuels their hatred and their desire to kill themselves to take out Americans. It's a dangerous thing to propagate.

the Fox effect, the Fox news effect. I know everyone of you has watched it. It's not a dirty little secret. A lot of people describe Fox as having streamers and banners coming out of the television as you're watching it cover a war. But the Fox effect is very concerning to me.

I'm a journalist and I like to be able to tell the story as I see it, and I hate it when someone tells me I'm one-sided. It's the worst I can hear. Fox has taken so many viewers away from CNN and MSNBC because of their agenda and because of their targeting the market of cable news viewership, that I'm afraid there's not a really big place in cable for news. Cable is for entertainment, as it's turning out, but not news.

I'm hoping that I will have a future in news in cable, but not the way some cable news operators wrap themselves in the American flag and patriotism and go after a certain target demographic, which is very lucrative. You can already see the effects, you can already see the big hires on other networks, right wing hires to chase after this effect, and you can already see that flag waving in the corners of those cable news stations where they have exciting American music to go along with their war coverage.

And when her corporate masters at MSNBC found out, they did this to her:
I was office-less for ten months....No phone, no computer. For ten months I had to report to work every day and ask where I could sit. If somebody was away I could use their desk. Eventually, after ten months of this, I was given an office that was a tape closet. They cleared the tapes out and put a desk and a TV in there, and a computer and phone. It was pretty blatant. The message was crystal clear. Yet they wouldn't let me leave. I begged for seventeen months to be let out of my contract. If they had no use for me, let's just part ways amicably -- no need for payouts, just a clean break. And [NBC News President Neal Shapiro] wouldn't allow it. I don't know what his rationale was -- perhaps he thought I would take what I felt was a very strong brand, and others felt was a very strong brand, to another network and make a success of it. Maybe that's why he chose to keep me in a warehouse. I will never forgive him for his cruelty and the manner in which he decided to dispose of me.
But "Bloody Bill" Kristol, Tom Friedman and a slew of other Big Media war cheerleaders were all richly rewarded for advocating Bush's Folly, while Ms. Banfield, after her contract finally, mercifully expired, was banished to the hinterlands of cable news on Court TV for having the courage of her convictions.
A promising career stopped dead in its tracks.
Until now.  She has been hired by ABC News.  I hope this is a new beginning for her.  I celebrate it and even sent her a congratulatory note. You should, too, at this link:
But first, you should go read her entire speech.


vyccan said...

An eye-opening piece (for me). Sure hope Ms Banfeld has not lost her objectivity over the years, as a result of this experience.

vyccan said...

I certainly wish her success.

willis said...

Very cool. I wonder how many more are out there like her?

NowhereMan said...

Lets also not forget Phil Donahue who was the lone anti Iraq war voice at MSNBC before they fired him.His producer has said MSNBC suits instructed them to have two pro invasion commentators on for every anti invasion commentator during the run up to the war.Of course we all know what happened to Phil.
That was one of the most darkest and shameful times in this countries history.It was McCarthyism all over again.You were either pro war or were considered anti American.The biggest scumbags after Bush and Cheney was Fox news when their reporters started wearing the now famous flag lapel pin that most politicians wear.I couldn't believe reporters who are suppose to be unbiased, were now allowed to freely express whose side they were on!It was so obvious the way their reports were slanted that journalism died.
I vividly remember Lou Young a WCBS tv reporter went out "Gotcha" style confronting businesses about their patriotism who had old or tattered american flags flying!I couldn't believe what had happened to America!The patriot police are coming!
You can trace back the death of so many newspapers to the Iraq war.Other than McClatchy,no paper dare to do its job and investigate whether this war was really necessary.The internet no doubt has also contributed greatly to their demise but it started when they failed question the government instead of becoming their lemmings.The people said "we dont trust you either".They became Bushs'pr machine.