'We Lie. We Decide.'

By Alterman, Eric | The Nation, September 20, 2004 | Go to article overview

'We Lie. We Decide.'


Alterman, Eric, The Nation


TIM RUSSERT: But, Senator, when you testified before the Senate, you talked about some of the hearings you had observed at the Winter Soldiers meeting, and you said that people had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and on and on. A lot of those stories have been discredited, and in hindsight was your testimony ...

JOHN KERRY: Actually, a lot of them have been documented.

TIM RUSSERT: So you stand by that?

--NBC's Meet the Press, April 18

Take a look at the exchange above and see if you can figure out what the hell is going on. Tim Russert is questioning John Kerry about his 1971 Senate testimony, in which Kerry recounted testimony he had heard of war crimes committed in Vietnam by US troops at the so-called Winter Soldier Investigation in January/February of that year. The fact that such crimes were committed by US troops is indisputable. My Lai happened. The Toledo Blade ran a Pulitzer Prize-winning expose of the "Tiger Force" murders just days before Russert asked his question. As even Gen. Tommy Franks told an unhappy Sean Hannity, the "things Kerry said are undeniable." Indeed, Russert's question itself admitted this. For if only "a lot" of the atrocity stories were discredited, according to Russert, then at least some of them must be true. The entire exchange is therefore purposely pointless--both gratuitous and nonsensical--except as a means to try to embarrass Kerry for having had the courage to testify to uncomfortable truth more than thirty years earlier.

The exchange flashed again into my mind as I read that Russert--who, lest we forget, is one of the two or three most influential and respected journalists on network television--had reportedly told viewers that the dishonest and morally disgusting Swift Boat Veterans for Truth advertisements that have now been fully discredited had "scored a direct hit on one of the main bases for the Kerry campaign, his war record." It did not matter to this grand pooh-bah of the punditocracy that the ads were pure mendacity from start to finish. What mattered is that they were "effective." But why were they effective? Because Russert and his colleagues had not the wherewithal to point out that they were lies. "We are not judging the credibility of Kerry or the [Swift Boat] Veterans, we just print the facts," Washington Post executive editor Len Downie explains.

The group of liars and miscreants who make up Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were able to dominate the news and possibly turn the tide of the election despite offering false information against a decorated war hero, to support two war-avoiders who let others fight and die for a cause they professed to support, for two reasons. The first is the existence of an ideological movement that masquerades as a respectable segment of the media. This mass movement is dedicated to preserving power for the combination of wealthy corporate executives, religious fundamentalists and neoconservative ideologues who make up the Bush Administration's base, with little, if any, regard for the truth of its arguments. …

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