Can a news agency such as CBS become a propaganda organ for U.S. policy?  Can it become so arrogant and righteous that it assumes the American and world public cannot make up its mind about Saddam Hussein?   Last night CBS aired Saddam Hussein's first speech in 12 years to a Western journalist.  In the process, it became the Beast of Terror it reported on.   Find out why the stench of CBS's Beast of Journalistic Terror still lingers in the air.


Thursday--February 6, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 512
 The Stench of CBS's
Beast of Terror Lingers

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, Feb. 6--I wanted to smash my television screen last night.   CBS had become the worst of Terrorists.  It duped me.  It stole my time.  It broke its pact of Vigilance.  It was the worst piece of journalism I had ever seen a network present.

Bob Simon, CBS 60 Minutes II

      It was 60 Minutes II, hosted by Bob Simon.   All day the network promoted it would air the interview with Saddam Hussein, the first ever given to a Western journalist in a dozen years.
      I was eager to watch it.   Daily, I scour the news not only in America but from throughout the world.  I read Pravda, the Arabic News, North Korea's state publications, Europe's take on issues and, of course, the New York Times and Christian Science Monitor.   I try to get a balance, from the wild rhetoric of communist state party lines, to anti-American blasts, and to Grand Ole Flag Waving "don't tread one me" American points of view.
      As a journalist, I was trained to present both sides of the information, good and bad, right and wrong, tasteful and distasteful, on the assumption the reader had the right to make up his or her mind.  I was not to play God.  I was not to inject my prejudice or bigotry into the news; that was reserved, I was instructed, for the editorial page.

          The night before the CBS fiasco showing of Saddam Hussein's speech, I had spun the dial on the t.v. and zeroed in on Walter Cronkite's history of reporting the Vietnam war.  As a former U.S. Marine Combat Correspondent who landed with the 1st Marine Division and was trained to "fight first and write second," I hold a unique position as a war correspondent.  I know how to look down the barrel of a rifle at the enemy and squeeze the trigger, then, when the smoke clears, look down the barrel of a pencil and write not just the glory of war, but its pain and anguish as well.
        I cherish bi-partisanship when it comes to "pure journalism," for it is the hardest of all things to bring to bear upon one's words those things one personally detests.   To report fairly, one must see clearly each side, must walk in the other's moccasins as well as his or her own, and tell the world what it feels like to be on both sides.

  Vigilant Reporter Walter Cronkite: "If you're doing your job right, both sides will be shooting at you."

       Walter Cronkite put is so well in his documentary.  He said about reporting balance:  "If you're doing your job right, both sides will be shooting at you."
        I've found that to be absolutely true in all aspects of life.  No matter how much I want to be right, I have to give the other person the right to be right too.  I can't deny that person his or her opinion, no matter how much I might personally despise it.  If I deny that right, I become a Terrorist with Words.  I become a propagandist, just another hack with a pen sating the appetite of my editors who steer me to the editorial board's viewpoint, or, pressure me to shave points here and there so the advertisers won't get pissed, or readers who feed on staples of the same ideology won't run away screaming their pabulum has salt on it.
        To be Vigilant, I have to respect the other point of view--I have to respect Terrorism.
        My take on Vigilance is that it is One Percent more powerful than Terrorism, and that the difference between being a Sentinel of Vigilance or a Beast of Terror can be finitely measured by that One Percent Differential.
        It's like believing in God.  I don't have to have 100 percent belief to believe in Good versus Bad, Right versus Wrong, or that a Higher Power rules over a Lower Power.   All I have to do is have 51 percent more belief in the good than I do the bad--in myself, in life as it is, and in the future.
        The further I climb the "I'm-right-you're-wrong" ladder, the closer I come to becoming the Beast of Terror.  I begin at that point to see the world as a nail, and my viewpoint as the hammer.   I leave no room for critics.  I leave no room for redemption.   I leave no room for me to be wrong, to learn from my mistakes, to evolve.
        Right Wingers and Left Wingers, those who stand at the extremes of everything, are brothers and sisters, Caine and Able, Yin and Yang.   They become so right and so wrong that no one listens to them, for they spew out venom not purpose.  

          It would be easy for me to flog France and Germany for turning their backs on supporting the war against Saddam Hussein--if and when that happens.   But, if I wear those nation's shoes, and walk the walk they walk, I see differently.    I realize those nations are sick of war and have their reasons to be resentful of the U.S. taking a unilateral stand and assuming "moral policeman" of the world.  
        Just as I hate the idea of allowing someone like Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong Il to swagger about at will with a strategic plan designed to stomp on all the fundamental freedoms I cherish as an American, I have to back off and study their motives from their point of view.  I have to wonder why their people haven't revolted internally against such despotic leaders.  I have to wonder if perhaps those nations and those people might prefer to march to their own drummer and refute anyone making music for them--especially the West for whom both the Far East and Middle East holds in contempt.
        For some reason, the citizens of nations held captive by what we call Terrorist Leaders have accepted their rulers and may have a plan for their destiny that is far more reaching than any I might want to inject on the grounds "I know better than they know what's good for them."
       When I start this kind of thinking, I become a Terrorist.  I start to turn against my own Principles of Vigilance which assume that each Parent of Vigilance holds the future of his or her children more important than any political, social, religious or economic factor.  I have to go back to the pages of human history and remind myself that nations of the world that seem to be under the thumbscrew of despots were once great lands, holding great powers and enjoying wondrous prosperity.
       I have to back to what is called the Empirical Curve, a record of how nations over thousands of years rise and fall like stocks, holding to their breast great powers in one era and losing that power in others.   I have to remember that America is on the rise or decline of its Empirical Curve, and that it has some, not all the answers to the future prosperity of the world.

       This means I force myself to look at both sides of the coin.  Vigilance reminds me that Courage comes from Fear, and Conviction is born out of Intimidation, and that Right Actions to the benefit of the Children's Children's Children finds its fuel at the dangling end of Complacency's noose.
         I have to remember that it takes a "plus charge" and a "minus charge" for matter to exist, for it is through the push and pull of atoms, the tension between opposing forces, that creates life and universes.   If everything was only "plus" and there was no "minus" the world would stop.   Nothing would exist for gravity, the sum of the pluses and minuses, would evaporate.   
        The same holds true if everything were negatively charged.   The absence of opposition would expire gravity, all things would fly apart into nothingness.
        That's why no one can be one-hundred percent correct except for one issue.  And that issue is that all of us, despite our differences, owe the Children, and their Children's Children's Children the right to evolve and grow.
         In the ultimate sense, we have a moral and genetic duty to our offspring to provide them with the highest and best use of the world into which they are born.    We have an obligation to teach them how to think and how to act, and that they must live with consequences of their actions, but if those actions are targeted to the benefit of the Children's Children's Children, they will make the best possible decisions for both the present and the future, and not just for themselves, but for the world.
          Our goal, I believe, is to teach a child to make up his or her own mind after thoroughly studying both sides of the coin, including the courage to shift and change his or her opinion as the data or knowledge or wisdom he or she collects changes.
           As an older man, I am not the man I was years ago.  I have much more knowledge today, much more wisdom.  I earned it all by making many mistakes.  I earned wisdom by error, and only know I have wisdom because I have the right to be wrong.  And I keep the door open to the fact I can be wrong, that I don't know everything so that I can change and evolve, and thus grow as the "pluses" and "minuses" of life change around me.

        But CBS last night threw all Vigilance out the window.  It crushed its stature as a news organization, and became a righteously indignant mouthpiece, spewing out urine on the Saddam Hussein speech as though it had become God condemning and evicting any words issued as thought they were garbage.
           It all happened so fast I was stunned.
           I sat down eager to listen to Saddam Hussein speak for the first time in 12 years to a Westerner.   Of course I knew the interviewer was leftist from Britain, an ally of a certain point of view I personally consider faddic at the best.   Tony Benn was in charge of the interview

Tony Benn portrait

            Tony Benn was born in London in 1925.  He retired from the House of Commons in May 2001 to 'devote more time to politics' after fifty years in Parliament, the longest serving Labour MP in the history of the party, which he joined in 1942. So, despite his CBS critics, he's no slouch.   Agree with him or not, he has made a impact in his sector of the world.  He is as far left as those who roost highest on the hawk stoops.  He is as liberal as those extreme conservatives, and as prolific in his blind-eyed search for universal peace as the squinty-eyed hawks are to kill all right wingers who oppose the hard line.
            So what does CBS do with the interview?
            After it opens up for a couple of minutes, the interview is cut.   Instead of seeing Tony Benn suck up to Saddam Hussein with softball questions and promotional left-wing agendas, CBS falls into the soup with Benn, acting with the same foolish extremism that Benn does by not pressing Saddam Hussein to the wall with penetrating questions that would force the Iraqi leader to squirm in his chair.
            CBS brings on camera this scraggly-haired media consultant they have on tap--Fouad Ajami, professor of Middle Eastern Studies at John Hopkins University to berate Benn as the interview is playing.   We don't hear the interview, we hear Ajami railing on about what a smuck Benn is.

 Fouad Ajami insulted  Sixty Minutes II viewers

            I don't think I've ever seen anything in recent times that made me so angry.
            Instead of being able to hear the interview and study both the questions and answers, all I got was Ajami's points of view.  I found myself watching not an interview with Saddam Hussein, but a critique of it by some guy I don't know, whose claim to fame is he needs a haircut and a shave.
             It was insulting.
             But worse, it denied CBS of any respect, for it was CBS not Ajami that was at fault.   CBS sanctioned the selling of a product it didn't deliver, and instead of letting the people make up their own minds, preempted the interview with Saddam for senseless diatribe by Ajami about "what he thought."
             Hello?  Is anyone in the gray matter of CBS?
             It was over before it started.  Viewers were treated to a few clips of Saddam, and a whole lot of swipes at the interviewer and interviewee.   That was it.
             I cursed.  I ranted.  My wife joined me.   We had given up West Wing to see this piece of crap.
             How insulting, not only to us, the viewers, but to the institution of the news.
             Earlier, I had watched Colin Powell give his evidence to the Security Council on why we should attack Iraq.  No one tried to tell me what he was saying as he was saying it.  I listened in the privacy of my own thoughts, choosing to agree here, disagree there with the points he was making.
            When it was over, I turned off the television. I didn't need to hear the news pundits tell me what I saw, or suggest I think this about that.   I wanted to savor his presentation and then decide what it meant to ME, to my family, to my children's children's children.  

Collin Powell presents his case against Iraq

            I wanted to stand in the center of the road and let Mr. Powell's words sink in, measure the look in his eyes, the nods of his heads, the stammers he made trying to be exact in his wording, to seek out the flaws and strengths on my own watch.  I didn't need analysis spoon fed to me.
             This morning I dialed up Pravda and read the Russian's take on Colin Powell's speech.  It wasn't favorable.  I went to Arabic News and to North Korea's state paper to see what they had to say.   In the Pyongyang Times this morning (link one of its articles stated in response to what North Korea consider threatening U.S. policy: 
The people are led by the WPK's army-based politics, a political mode most powerful in the 21st century, and boast single-hearted unity that is more powerful than nuclear weapons, which are the secret of all the successes achieved by the Korean people. 
           Even though the government of Kim Jong Il controls the news, there was a powerful respect played out in the news regarding the will of the people of North Korea.   Whether valid or not, I do not know.  But I do know that "single-hearted unity" is indeed more powerful than nuclear weapons.  I know that if the people of America were to become Parents of Vigilance, if they signed the Pledge of Vigilance and lived by the Principles of Vigilance, and taught their children to use the Shield and Sword of Vigilance to ward off the Beast of Terror, that single-hearted unity would rise above all military might.   I know it would spread from parent to parent, nation to nation, for Vigilance is not about war, it is about peace and prosperity for our children--of all sizes and shapes and cultures.
            CBS failed last night to show single-hearted unity.  It divided and destroyed its role as an independent news source--at least in that program.  It became like the Pyongyang Times, a Voice of one, not a mirror for many.

            The network suggested we should tell our children what to think before they have the chance to make up their own minds, because it treated the viewers like children, incapable of arriving at their own conclusions.  CBS wanted us to swallow its thinking, not for us to think for ourselves.  
            Vigilance all begins by recognizing Terrorism.   To recognize it, one only needs to ask:  "Are they trying to get me to think their way?"  If a person, a group, a government, a news organization begins to believe it has the answers, that it is without fault, that it can presume and assume better than those around them, then they are Beasts of Terror, employing Intimidation and Complacency upon others to achieve their goals.
            CBS roared last night, but not like a lion of Courage, but rather like a Beast of Terror.
            The stench still hangs in the air.

Feb 5.--Terrorism Stalks NYC's Dog Runs

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