Sunday, June 19, 2005

General Commentary on Durbin and the Media

Blogpulse informs us that the "burstiest" person this week is the Honorable Richard Durbin.  It appears that the conservative hemiblogosphere is jumping all over his case, for comments he made about Guantanamo.  This impresses me as manufactured rage.  He did not say anything that hasn't been said before.  To use a favorite McClellanism, it is old news. And if you read the full text (PDF file hosted on TalkLeft) of what he said, you see that he was not condemning our military personnel categorically, as so many have implied.  His speech was carefully written; the wording is sufficiently precise to make a clear distinction between those who participated in the abuses cited in the FBI memos, and the rest of the military.  He was not "slandering his own country" as stated on Powerline.

Here is the purportedly offensive text:
When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here -- I almost hesitate to put them in the record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.
This is not a condemnation of his country, or of the military in general; rather, it is absolutely clear that he is condemning specific actions undertaken by specific persons.  

So don't go calling him a traitor, or saying that he has slandered our military.  He is not.  He did not.  He did not even say that the United States of America is as bad as those other regimes, just that the behaviors described in that one excerpt are so bad that one ordinarily would assume that they had not been done by Americans.

There is an important subtext here.  By deliberately using inflammatory comparisons, he put the Administration on the defensive.  This is a necessary step to taking control of the agenda of the mainstream media.  He provoked an reaction, such that his opponents are overstating their case, thus diminishing their credibility.  

Of course, it is not enough to wrest the control of the MSM agenda.  One must have something to offer to make use of that agenda.  In other words, once you get the spotlight to shine on you, you better have a dance to do.  

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Notice that remains a big topic.  But spiking right along with it is that nasty word, .  Even gentle souls, such as ornithologists, are using it.  There is even a Technorati tag for it already!

I propose that impeachment should be the next topic for the media frenzy, and it appears that others do, too.  All the noise about Durbin is an attempt to keep the attention of the media away from a topic that could have serious repercussions.

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Steve Wild
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