Cable Monopoly’s Gain Is Community Media’s Loss: Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger threatens local voices
The below is an excerpt from and article by Network Coordinator Betty Yu, featured on Fair.org.
In February, Comcast announced its proposal to merge with Time Warner Cable in a $45 billion deal between the top two US cable companies. If approved, this unified media company would control a massive television and Internet market of more than 30 million subscribers across the US’s largest media markets, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. This merger would lead to a single company controlling roughly two-thirds of the cable market, and broadband access for more than one-third of US consumers.
Critics have rightly argued (Bloomberg View, 1/27/14) that if the merger is approved, customers will experience less choice and higher cable bills as a result of increasing media monopolization. What tends to fly under the radar in this debate are further dangers that disproportionately impact underserved communities: the merger’s likely impact on media diversity and community-based media infrastructures, and Comcast’s ongoing attack on organized labor (IBEW, 12/5/13).
Media consolidation has narrowed the already limited access to the airwaves for women and communities of color. Women own less than 7 percent of all TV and radio station licenses despite being half of the US population. People of color make up over 36 percent of the population but own just over 7 percent of radio licenses and 3 percent of TV licenses (Free Press, 9/06). This affects how the issues that we care about—labor, education, housing, immigration, healthcare, the environment—are covered.
Despite what a new study says, it really depends on how you look at it.
Mark Zuckerberg is making you feel fat – at least, that's what recent headlines about a new study would have you believe. The research itself is fairly straightforward: women who said they wanted to lose weight – a full 86% of the participants – and spent the most time on Facebook were likelier to report negative feelings about their body, and to become more conscious of their own physical appearance, than women who browsed Facebook less.
The findings, to be presented at next month's conference of the International Communication Association, are widely being reported as showing a direct, causal relationship – that Facebook makes you feel bad about yourself. But its lead author, Petya Eckler of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, tells me that's not the case: "There probably is a relationship between Facebook and body image, but it's not straightforward." Indeed, women in her study who said they were satisfied with their current weight showed no connection between Facebook browsing time and negative feelings about their bodies. Alas, it may be that women who are more self-conscious about their figure are more drawn to the social network in the first place.
So, no, Facebook isn't making you hate your thighs.
The implications, though – that your body image might be better off if you log off, or vice versa – may say more about our approach to social media than it says about any misplaced urges to buy a skirted swimsuit this month. According to research published in The Journal of Research in Personality, there are two primary ways we respond to images of other people: comparison and identification. If you're a comparison type, you might look at a picture of a stunning woman on a billboard and think, I'll never look like her. Similarly, you might look at a photo of an unfortunate-looking soul and think, Whew! At least I don't look like her. But if you're an identification sort, your response may be to conflate the image you're looking at with your own self-image. Look at the billboard, and you picture yourself there in the model's stead; look at a photo of a homely woman, and your self-image plummets.
Most of this criticism of idealized images focuses solely on comparison: we're surrounded by perfected photos of perfected people, making us covet Scarlett Johansson's hair and Megan Fox's face, according to another recent study that's been widely reported but imperfectly understood. The result, the thinking goes, is that the non-perfect women absorbing these images can't help but feel subpar.
Enter Facebook. Here we have a stream of images of people we've personally selected – people we know aren't perfect, aren't impeccably polished, aren't so removed from our own sphere. (Friends! They're just like us!) And yet, according to Eckler's research, we treat them as points of comparison, not identification. These are the people whose images should logically be inducing a mind-set of identification, not comparison. Instead, we're doing the opposite. "You're immediately forced into comparison mode on Facebook," Eckler says. "It's almost automatic – first you look at pictures, and second, you're thinking how you'd score those pictures."
We've mentally turned the Facebook News Feed into Hot Or Not.
In a country as individualistic as the US, it makes sense that we'd intuitively treat Facebook as a miniature rat race, one in which we're constantly checking our ranking. Who hasn't done a quiet audit of high school classmates? But doing so flies in the face of the possibilities social media offers: we choose these people as our community, after all. Our friends should be those with whom we're most likely to identify, not those who drive us to comparison. Trouble is, the tendency is to regard Facebook as a collection not of friends but of "Friends" – the fellow you met at a party in 2009, your sister's ex, a friend who was dear years ago but no longer – people who, in their proximity to our actual lives, resemble small-scale celebrities more than they do the folks with whom we can actually identify.
When it comes to something as fundamental as body image, this tendency veers from problematic to unhealthy. Perhaps the key lies in adopting a different perspective on imagery: fantasy. In research from University of Lancashire, women who were prompted to see idealized photographs as fantasy – rather than examples of how to live – came away from the study with a higher regard for their own appearance. Meanwhile, women prompted to take in the same images as social comparison reported the opposite.
The share-all nature of Facebook and its ilk makes it easy to forget one of its core truths: social media is about as "real" as reality television. Whether we're talking about retouched profile photos or discreet de-tagging of unflattering snapshots, Facebook is a form of fantasy, and we'd do well to remember that. "There is research showing that women try to represent their best self on Facebook, not necessarily their true self," Eckler says. "You need to take it with a pinch of salt."
Another argument that athletes need a better education.
In an otherwise just plain fun interview in the latest issue of Rolling Stone, NBA superstar and pretty funny guy Blake Griffin reveals an unfortunate blind spot. Turns out he is a creationist. A young earth creationist. Amongst the questions about rumors of punching Justin Bieber and appearing in Sacha Baron Cohen's movie, The Dictator, the interviewer mentions the fact that Griffin was home-schooled as a child. He then asks Griffin if he plays on "Team Creationism" or "Team Evolution."
Griffin is not playing when he answers: "I was raised in a Christian household and went to a Christian high school, so I believe in creationism, for sure."
The interviewer presses a little further, asking the L.A. Clippers star if he is the sort of creationist who believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old, which, of course, would mean that dinosaurs and people had to have over-lapped.
Griffin answers: "I don't want to do the math, but somewhere around there."
Might this be an opportune time to point out that, despite the deficiencies in his earlier education, Griffin did attend the University of Oklahoma for two years. Of course, he was there to play basketball, so who knows how many classes he actually attended? Note to self: before sending sons or daughters to Univerity of Oklahoma, make sure the science department plays on Team Evolution.
Then it was off to the races to the NBA where he was named one of the Greatest Rookies of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
The 25-year-old still has time to get his math and his science up to speed with his dunks, field goals and tenacious D.
The less-than-candid 'Today' show host lets her real right-wing flag fly on her podcast.
“Today” personality Kathie Lee Gifford was recently admonished by NBC higher-ups for promoting her line of wines, the punnily named Gifft, on-air. The idea, in part, is that “Today” is to some degree a news program, one that ought to be held to a higher standard than a regular chatfest.
Fortunately Gifford has a podcast, where she has for months been endorsing personal causes, from her wine to right-wing politics. It turns out that Gifford is something of a Trojan horse for conservatism, presenting for an hour a day the banal niceties that get viewers through the morning–then putting out a weekly podcast that’s one long dog whistle with occasional wine plugs.
There’s nothing wrong with this, of course — Gifford’s entitled to her opinions. But the success of her TV persona has rested upon the perception of Gifford as a freewheeling truth-teller who will say anything on camera. As it so happens, this whole time she’s been holding back more than a few opinions.
On a recent podcast episode, for instance, Gifford interviewed Cal Thomas, a Fox News commentator who has said that no new mosques should be allowed to be built in the U.S. and has been outspoken against acceptance of homosexuality. Oddly, Gifford consistently represented Thomas as a nonpartisan figure striving only to find solutions to unnamed crises. “There’s no hidden agenda with you, is there? You just love this country and want it to be great.” The pair went on to discuss the necessity of Congressional term limits (because, in Gifford’s telling, the human heart is twisted and dark) and the so-called “Age of Entitlement.” Gifford told a stem-winder about how she once confronted Hillary Clinton and asked her when rich people “became the enemy.” (The social safety net, in Gifford’s telling, “destroys lives” because dreams of growing rich are what make life worth living.)
Gifford and Thomas agree on just about everything — for much of the interview, neither will mention President Obama at all, but they shame the listeners for not voting, or for not paying attention to the consequences of how they voted. (The idea that those who vote for Democrats were somehow tricked into it and not thinking is an old conservative canard that Obama’s popularity at election time has brought roaring back.) When Obama finally came up explicitly, it was in Gifford’s allegation that his administration is not telling the truth over Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers: “I don’t know that there’s a person on the planet who believes those numbers are true.” Thomas said those who did were “drinking the Kool-Aid.”
And so it is with Gifford — without a TV production team holding her back, she’s considerably more loose-lipped than she is on “Today.” Her interviews (all available here) had, for a long time, been focused on either generic show business gab or Gifford’s brand of evangelical Christianity (viz. interviews with the cast of the film “Son of God” or with, say, Glenn Beck). The political turn has been a more recent development, with Candace Cameron Bure using the show as a platform to defend her claims that wives should be “submissive” to their husbands, or with Donald Trump stopping by after CPAC. Gifford joked that Trump “didn’t need a TelePrompTer” — a random reference to year-2008 critiques of Obama — and said that those who believe the Tea Party has any position on social issues are confused. “It’s not the social issues — they keep combining the social issues. The Tea Party, as I understand it, was low taxation, small government, and fiscal responsibility. By that definition, that’s me!”
And why not? Gifford has, through her career, been outspoken not about politics but about religious belief, from her advocacy work for children to her Broadway musical about Charismatic Christian Aimee Semple McPherson. But it’s not shocking that she, a wealthy woman of faith, would hold conservative beliefs. It is a little shocking, though, that she expresses them so freely as someone in the employ of a network news program — would she be as easily able to allege, on “Today,” that the president were lying about Obamacare enrollment? Or to put out nebulous language about the war on the wealthy? We have no idea what Gifford’s “Today” cohort believes politically — if Matt Lauer voted at all, no one’s heard about it. But “Today” is ostensibly, at least in part, a news show, if a softball one. And Gifford’s insistence that people need to wake up and see it her way is the nastiest side of conservatism: the belief that the baseline human should see this worldview as the common-sense solution, and that other outcomes are the result of weird subterfuge. That’s how Cal Thomas becomes a figure who, very simply, just wants America to be great.
Gifford’s podcast is compulsively listenable for the new insight it offers into the brain of a person whose life has been up for public consumption since the early nineties. That said individual is really, really interested in conservative talking points is not troubling in and of itself. At least, if one presumes that a deep-seated belief that a massive swath of the country has been tricked into hating the rich has as little bearing over one’s ability to cover the news objectively as does a new line of novelty wines–and that both can be easily put aside.Related Stories
In apparent effort to counter non-existent "liberal media bias," here's what ABC News will get from Laura Ingraham.
It was once an article of faith among many Americans, including many members of the press, that the news media was a hotbed of left wing propaganda, so filled with liberal bias that one had to use a decoder ring to get the truth. There may have been a grain of truth in it during the early days of Camelot and perhaps in the immediate aftermath of Watergate, but for the most part the media has always shown a bias toward the establishment, regardless of which party or ideology is dominant at a particular time.
However, the modern conservative movement, believing as it does in the All American capitalist maxim “there’s a sucker born every minute” used this perceived bias as a political tactic, what wags called “working the refs,” wherein they would accuse the press of being liberal so often that reporters would second-guess themselves and bend over backwards to accommodate a more conservative viewpoint. Despite the rise of FOX News and hundreds of right wing talk show hosts dominating much of the airwaves, they are still able to convince mainstream news organizations that they are biased and lacking in authentic conservative voices. Recall a few years back when even the New York Times ostentatiously declared that it planned to devote significant resources to covering “the conservative beat” (which might have been just a bit more understandable if it hadn’t come immediately in the wake of its credulous reporting on the Bush administration’s push for war with Iraq.)
Nobody has been more of a vociferous critic of the news media’s alleged liberal bias than talk radio host and conservative commentator Laura Ingraham. Going all the way back to her years as a notorious campus activist making her name as a vicious homophobe (since partially recanted,) she has been hitting the mainstream media for its so-called liberal bias. This “Reliable Sources” exchange with E.J. Dionne from early 2003 is an amusing example of how the best of them get the job done:
KURTZ: Let’s turn now to media bias. E.J. Dionne, you wrote a column recently saying there is no longer any such thing as the big, liberal media. Is this a fantasy we’ve been talking about for some years now? … You’re saying that the “New York Times” and the “L.A. Times” and “The Washington Post” and the networks and magazines have been intimidated and they’re cowering and they can’t do their jobs anymore?
INGRAHAM: I must have missed that.
DIONNE: That’s not what I said…
INGRAHAM: When they cover a Bush press conference, how is it covered? Is it covered in a fair and balanced way…
DIONNE: Bush has gotten an extraordinarily good press. I challenge you to compare…
INGRAHAM: He’s been an extraordinarily good president, much to the media’s chagrin.
You see, when a Republican president gets bad coverage it’s because the press has a liberal bias. When he gets good coverage it’s because he’s so good.
Ingraham must be feeling some sort of vindication today. ABC News has announced that she is their newest contributor. And she’ll be allowed to keep her job at Fox News subbing for Bill O’Reilly and also her daily radio show. Perhaps conservatives can finally relax a little bit about being so marginalized. It would appear we won’t be able to escape them.
One hopes that Ingraham will get along better with ABC than she did with FOX in the early days when Harry Shearer’s My Damn Channel posted behind the scenes footage of her frustration with the staff of her soon to be cancelled show, (especially a mysterious “Hispanic man” who kept spontaneously appearing in her teleprompter.) It occasioned James Walcott to comment:
Ingraham sounds like a U-Boat commander just before everything goes pitch-black and desperate cries compete with the ominous clanging of pipes. The point is, it’s not her fault the ship’s about to spend eternity as a steel turd on the ocean floor.
ABC undoubtedly hopes such a fate does not await any shows on which she will appear in the future. And anyway, it was a few years ago. Surely she’s mellowed by now, right? Well, I suppose it depends on what the meaning of “vile anti-immigrant zealot” is. She may have softened her stance on gays, but she has transferred all of that hatred on to undocumented workers.
Here are a few of her most disgraceful immigration comments from just the last year:
Ingraham Repeatedly Mocked An Immigration Protestor For Speaking English With An Accent. In November 2013, Ingraham repeatedly mocked a woman who was protesting the Obama administration’s record number of deportations, saying, “Wait, what did she say at the end? I can’t — I need a translator. I speak Spanish too. I’d rather have her just speak Spanish, at least I’d understand that.” She then went on to affect the woman’s accent, stating, No want more amnesty. No want more lies. No want more phony promises. No want more people coming into the country, filling up our schools and our emergency rooms, having anchor babies and then blaming us for it. No want more that.“
The Associated Press reported that if Snyder’s plan is approved, “Detroit would be allocated 5,000 visas in the first year, 10,000 each of the next three years and 15,000 in the fifth year.” Immigrants would be allowed to live and work in the city for five years, but could apply for a green card after that time.
On her Tuesday radio show, Ingraham said the idea was “the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of. The people of this country, they’re smart enough to know that they don’t want to go anywhere near Detroit. Right?” she explained. “But we need to get these people from other countries to live and work in Detroit to save us because we can then wall off Detroit, apparently, so they can’t then move to other parts of the country.”
“Is that what Rick Snyder is gonna do?” Ingraham asked. “Is there gonna be, you know, is there gonna be finally a border enforced in our country? Except it’s going to be around Detroit.”
Ingraham used a May 2013 hearing on immigration reform to claim that immigration from Mexico would create a “hellhole” and a “mini-Mexico,” saying, “I think a lot of you look around at this culture of ours, and some of it is our own fault, but we see America disappearing. I’m not even talking about demographics, I’m talking about our culture.”
Ingraham’s attacks against pro-immigration reform Republican politicians were accompanied by numerous smears against immigrants and Latinos, including referring to the American children of undocumented immigrants as “anchor fetuses” during a discussion about Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) “embrace of the path to citizenship” in May 2013.
As you can imagine, Ingraham isn’t one of those squishy conservatives who thinks that calling illegal immigration “an act of love” will bring some Latinos over to their side. She doesn’t want them:
“If the reaction to the election is let’s dig into our core principles and try to remake them, I think the GOP will lose even more seats in 2014,” Ingraham told Fox News host Chris Wallace. “If it becomes a bidding war with Republicans in either this group or that group — whether it’s Latinos or women — we’re going to give you more stuff or we’re going to do amnesty plus… it’s not going to work.”
“The Republicans have to take a lesson from — and I hate to bring up Reagan again — when Goldwater got shellacked in ’64, Bill Buckley and Brent Bozell Sr. and all these conservatives got together and they said, we’re going to figure out how to sell this idea of economic conservatism and the conservative framework to new voters. And they went into the South and they transformed Mississippi and Alabama, all these places where people had never voted Republican before.”
Apparently, ABC News doesn’t care to have Latinos as part of their audience. If they did, they wouldn’t hire someone with the kind of noxious anti-immigrant views that one would never expect to see outside the hardcore right wing media. And I certainly hope they don’t expect this hire to allay the complaints that they have a liberal bias. Way too many people make a very good profit from such absurd claims, including Laura Ingraham. It’s quite a coup that she’s conned them into paying her for the privilege.Related Stories
Police Charge High School Student with Disorderly Conduct for Using an iPad to Prove He's Being Bullied
The teen sought proof that school administrators were ignoring his plight. So they had him arrested.
Trigger-warning if you hate incompetent bureaucrats and the abuse of power.
Photography Is Not A Crime has flagged a story out of McDonald, Pennsylvania about a high school student whose attempts to prove he was the victim of bullying ended up landing him in front of a judge and charged with disorderly conduct.
According to reports, a high school sophomore at South Fayette High School had grown so sick of having teachers and administrators look the other way whenever he was being bullied that he decided to record some of the routine abuse with his iPad. When school administrators found this out, they took swift action — against him, not his bullies.
Officials at South Fayette High School allegedly told the student to delete the recording and threatened to have him arrested on charges of felony wiretapping. By the time the police arrived at the school, however, the student had already deleted the file.
But rather than leave it there, the police chose to charge the student for disorderly conduct. About a month later, a judge convicted him. No disciplinary actions have been taken against either the administrators and teachers who ignored the bullying or the bullies themselves.
In her remarks defending her decision to convict the bullied child, Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet claimed that the student’s recording of his abusers’ taunts was an “extreme” move. It would’ve been better, the judge said, if the child had opted to “let the school handle it” instead.
Here’s her full statement, which Photography Is Not A Crime describes as “almost incoherent”:Normally, if there is — I certainly have a big problem with any kind of bullying at school. But normally, you know, I would expect a parent would let the school know about it, because it’s not tolerated. I know that, and that you guys [school administrators] would handle that, you know. To go to this extreme, you know, it was the only alternative or something like that, but you weren’t made aware of that and that was kind of what I was curious about. Because it’s not tolerated, but you need to go through — let the school handle it. And I know from experience with South Fayette School that, you know, it always is. And if there is a problem and it continues, then it is usually brought in front of me.
Photography Is Not A Crime also notes that the judge is herself the daughter of a judge, a family relationship which likely helped secure her own election to the bench.
Was Hillary Clinton really ducking that shoe, or just trying to appear presidential?
Hillary Clinton has been accused of many things: faking a blood clot in her brain, killing Vincent Foster, having a marriage of convenience. But arranging to have a shoe thrown at her in order to appear more presidential just has to go down as one of the idiotic claims the right has manufactured to date. We realize that times are getting desperate, what with some right-wing pundits breaking ranks on the nonsensical Benghazi so-called scandal and others saying enough of the endlessly dragged out IRS investigation. And they desperately need something new to obsess about. But shoe-gate? This strikes us as clutching at an awfully short straw.
And it is gaining momentum. Initially, the criticism from the right was that Clinton did not duck the shoe nearly as skillfully as George Bush had ducked the shoe hurled at him by an Iraqi journalist during Bush's presidency. But then a more sinister conspiracy theory formed in the addled brain of Fox News contributor Bernard Goldberg—Clinton and her handlers staged the incident during a speech in Las Vegas last Thursday precisely because shoe projectile ducking is the very definition of appearing presidential.
Suddenly, nothing about the incident rang true to right-wing commentators. Not Clinton's girlish wince when a (supposedly unidentified) object whizzed by her head. Not the fact that Clinton wondered aloud whether it had been a bat (which strikes us as a pretty normal immediate reaction to having a dark object suddenly fly over your head.) Not the fact that the alleged thrower, Alison Michelle Ernst, just put her hands up and was simply arrested and booked by the authorities, without being "pounded to a pulp by Hillary's bodyguards," wrote Arthur Louis at Goldberg's site, "and why she seems on the verge of getting off scot free. Don’t be too surprised," he continued, "the next time you visit Phoenix, if you see her sitting at a table in a downtown Hillary for President store front, stuffing and sealing envelopes."
Oh, the conniving.
Rush Limbaugh jumped on board the crazy train Monday, telling listeners that he can "totally relate" to those who believe that "everything the Clintons do is staged or choreographed." While he has not studied the incident in detail, he believes what people told him about Clinton's reaction not being "natural."
"I'm sorry, I'm ill-equipped to comment," Limbaugh said, proceding, of course to comment at some length. "Maybe it's because, in my subconscious, I think it was staged, or set up, or whatever. ... I don't know why anybody would be throwing a shoe at Hillary unless -- maybe it's an attempt to make the Benghazi people look like nuts and lunatics and wackos."
Note to Rush: The Benghazi people already look like nuts and lunatics and wackos. There is no need to make them look that way.
But If you'd like to hear more of Rush's not commenting, here it is at Media Matters.
We are just wondering what other presidential moments Clinton and her handlers are dreaming up. Might we suggest having her slumped on the couch after choking on a pretzel?
Read an excerpt of "The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap," by Matt Taibbi, who will join us Tuesday to discuss his new book that "lays bare one of the greatest challenges we face in contemporary American life: surviving a system that devours the lives of the poor, turns a blind eye to the destructive crimes of the wealthy, and implicates us all."
Taibbi is a former contributing editor for Rolling Stone and recently joined First Look, the news company that is home to Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept. See all of Taibbi's interviews on Democracy Now!
Excerpted from THE DIVIDE: AMERICAN INJUSTICE IN THE AGE OF THE WEALTH GAP by Matt Taibbi. Copyright © 2014 by Matt Taibbi. Used by permission of Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House. All rights reserved.
CBS host Bob Schieffer wanted an expert on Ukraine, so he woke up John McCain.
A merger of two massive media companies--which raises some fundamental questions about one corporation holding enormous power over cable, broadband and programming--isn't generating any interest over at MSNBC.
When Netflix agreed in February to pay Comcast more money to ensure its movies and TV shows stream more quickly, it raised plenty of eyebrows. Now it looks like the Department of Justice plans to investigate the potentially anticompetitive nature of the agreement.
The deal was announced after reports that millions of Comcast customers trying to access Netflix faced severely slow streaming speeds and service interruptions. No explanation was given at the time and other content providers like Amazon Prime Instant Video were unaffected.
The deal raises serious concerns about Comcast’s ability to affect the prices and quality it offers consumers and the troubling precedent that could set for the entire marketplace, especially for content providers with less financial resources as Netflix. Indeed, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings later remarked that “If this kind of leverage is effective against Netflix, which is pretty large, imagine the plight of smaller services today and in the future.”
At the time, Consumers Union sent letters to both the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice urging them to investigate whether the deal violated Comcast’s agreement to abide by net neutrality rules under it previous merger with NBC Universal.
Late last week, we received a letter from the Department of Justice indicating that it was aware of the deal between Comcast and Netflix and “will investigate thoroughly any potentially anticompetitive conduct and take whatever action is appropriate under the antitrust laws.” But the Justice Department said that it would be up to the FCC to determine whether Comcast was abiding by the commitments it made under the merger with NBC Universal.
Comcast’s tremendous gatekeeper power over the content its customers have access to is a critical issue in the debate over its plans to merge with Time Warner Cable. That’s especially true given the huge assortment of content and television channels it owns through its merger with NBC. Our concern is that it could use that power to slow down access to content offered by rivals in an effort to favor its own content.
That’s just one of the reasons why this merger is a bad deal for consumers and why it’s so important for citizens to voice their opposition. You can join our campaign by signing our petition today. Tell the FCC and DOJ to stop this mega merger!
Time's Jon Meacham is, once again, telling readers to think differently about the Bush family.
Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was a guest Saturday on MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry," where she joined a panel discussion on voter rights, civil rights and immigrant rights under President Obama. Watch her appearance below.
Apoplexy after Stephen Colbert takes CBS late-night reins from Letterman.
1. Various conservative clowns: Stephen Colbert will single-handedly destroy America.
The hysteria on the right about Stephen Colbert’s elevation to CBS’s Late Night post has been nothing short of hilarious. Even before news hit that Colbert would replace David Letterman when he retires, Bill O’Reilly frantically declared that Colbert is responsible for the “destruction of America.” That’s quite a distinction, when there are so many other things vying for the title of “America’s Top Destroyer.” (Wait, reality contest show idea: "Who will be America’s Next Top Destroyer?")
More than failing infrastructure, abject refusal to deal with the coming climate catastrophe, rampant, spiraling inequality to rival the Gilded Age, near daily mass shootings, the criminalization of poverty; or deportation of millions of legions of innocent undocumented immigrants [insert your favorite scourge here], it is Stephen Colbert who is ushering in the decline of this great nation. In addition, O’Reilly also said, Colbert is an “ideological fanatic,” a “deceiver” and responsible for the mayhem following UConn’s March Madness win.
No, we don't really get that last one either.
Rush Limbaugh sputtered that Colbert’s promotion was “an assault on the heartland of America,” prompting millions of heartlanders to scurry to their bomb shelters with multiple firearms, canned goods and bottled water. He also said it represented a "redefinition of comedy," a "redefinition of what's funny." This is true, Rush. Comedy has been redefined to mean something that makes actual people laugh.
And, after numerous attempts to identify the full extent of the outrage, Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro finally landed on this metaphor: In making a career out of pitch-perfect conservative pundit mockery, Stephen Colbert was guilty of no less than the moral equivalent of “vile political blackface.” Clever wordsmith Shapiro called this “Conservativeface,” a neologism that seems destined to catch on.
No word on whether Colbert is the Anti-Christ.Although a few years back a little outfit called Christfire implied as much, calling Colbert Stalinesque, Hitleresque and a bigger threat to America than Islamic terrorism.
All right ye liberals! You’ve been warned! Laugh your way straight into Satan’s clutches.
2. Advisor to Texas GOP gubernatorial hopeful: (OK, it’s Charles Murray): There’s no evidence women are significant thinkers.
It’s pretty well known that American Enterprise Institute “scholar” Charles Murray is a colossally dishonest thinker who shrouds claims of white intellectual superiority in pseudo-science. But he has proven himself offensive and wrongheaded on other topics as well. This week at a talk at University of Texas, he stood by his claim that women have not contributed much significant thought to the field of philosophy. But don’t feel too bad, gals, because Murray did allow that some of you are very good in literature.
Murray’s enlightened views on women naturally include his oppositions to equal pay laws. He argues that such laws would hurt women by discouraging companies from hiring them, and anyway he doesn’t even believe in pay discrimination—it’s a myth invented by liberals. “Women prefer to stay home with their children,” he says. And they also choose lower-paying jobs.
Who cares what Charles Murray says, you ask? Well, Texas GOP hopeful Gregg Abbott does. He takes some of his cues on education from Murray and specifically cited Murray’s work in his argument against universal pre-K. Of course, Abbott keeps some pretty questionable company in general. He’s also appeared with Ted Nugent, whose enlightened views on women and blacks are fairly well known.
3. Virginia GOP candidate Bob Marshall: No incest exception for abortion because sometimes people want to have incest.
The good people of Virginia have themselves a real prize in Republican Bob Marshall, who is running to represent them in Congress. In fact, his views are so extreme on things like abortion and same-sex marriage that even his fellow Virginia Republicans can’t stand him. And that is saying something. He’s the one who introduced the bill requiring women who want abortions to have an ultrasound first, which helped make Virginia the butt of late-night jokes.
Still, he does have a following among other crazy social conservatives who could carry him to a congressional seat, where he could continue to embarrass his state. Marshall is anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage and anti-Planned Parenthood. He has some pretty bizarre religious ideas, too. Remarks of his that came to light this week include his opposition to abortions even in the case of incest, because, “How do you know it’s not voluntary? Sometimes it is.”
He has also said that disabled children are punishment for women having abortions. Here is his very science-based assertion: “The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion who have handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the firstborn of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” he said.
No clue as to what his source for this bizarre claim is. Voices in his head, perhaps.
4. Reince Priebus: There should be no caps on campaign donations at all!
The chairman of the Republican National Party, Reince Priebus, echoed the words of his master Charles Koch this week when he came out for removing all caps on campaign donations. He also suggested that donors should not even have to be disclosed. Well, theoretically, he thinks disclosure might be okay, but....
"I mean, you want to be for disclosure," Preibus said. "But when you start to see some of the cases out there where people are targeted, and businesses are targeted and picketed and threatened for political contributions, then now you’re suppressing free speech through disclosure. So I mean, even things that I want to agree with are getting to be very difficult."
So to summarize, money is speech and should therefore not be limited in any way (particularly when it is flowing into Republican coffers). But unlike actual speech, money should be spoken in secret and not be open to scrutiny or criticism.
Because that hurts money’s feelings.
5. Detroit columnist Nolan Finley: Woman candidate is “milking the vagina business.”
Detroit News’ editorial page editor and columnist Nolan Finley displayed his ability to keep it real classy this week. Notoriously anti-Democratic and pro-corporate, he has long been using his perch to rabidly oppose the candidacy of Democrats, most recently Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer and his running mate, Lisa Brown. This week Finley wrote:
[Brown’s] confrontational style will give the ticket the spunk the colorless Schauer lacks, but won’t broaden his appeal. Brown could help bring in campaign cash, however. She’s still milking the vagina business, and is a minor celebrity among feminists.
Wait, there’s a vagina business that can be milked? How come we did not know that?
What that curious term means to Finley is that Lisa Brown favors reproductive rights for women, which in his world (roughly the 1950s) makes her an extreme left-wing liberal.
Milking the vagina business.
What will the Republican woman haters club come up with next?
6. Minnesota GOPer: I'm running for Congress because no child should be exposed to science.
Aaron Miller loves to tell the story of how his daughter came home in tears from school on the day when she learned about evolution. That’s not what her daddy taught her. Determined that his daughter and other innocent children should never again be exposed to science that might be upsetting to them, Miller was galvanized to run for Congress. The government has obviously declared “war on our values,” he thought. Well, he was just going to declare war right back at them.
Miller has already gotten endorsements from other creationists in government, like Minnesota State Rep. Allen Quist, who has argued that it is only reasonable people and dinosaurs coexisted and that the Book of Job offers science lessons.
He also joins a GOP field full of anti-science deep thinkers, like Paul Broun of Georgia who knows that evolution is a lie straight from the pit of hell.” In Texas, all four GOP candidates competing for the lieutenant governorship in Texas are pushing to teach creationism in public schools. Even more plentiful are the climate science deniers. They even get to head up congressional science committees.
Because the GOP is determined that every child should grow up in blissful ignorance.
7. Florida Rep: Floridians can't vote on solar ballot measure.
Solar energy is increasingly popular among Floridians, which is why a Republican representative is hellbent on keeping the issue out of the polls. As we all learned in high school civics class, democracy means not letting people vote on things you don’t want them to vote on. A Senate committee in the Sunshine State approved an amendment for the November ballot that would give tax breaks to businesses that install solar panels. But Ritch Workman is using his power as the chairman of the House Finance and Tax Committee to prevent that from happening. His lame excuse?
“I just don’t see the need to continue to expand the incentives and underwriting of solar,’’ Workman said. “Solar is coming a long way and eventually it’s going to be able to stand on its own two feet. But right now it doesn’t.”
More likely, say proponents of the bill, Workman is under the sway of Florida’s electric utilities, which adamantly oppose rooftop solar energy because it will end their monopoly.
Ah well, it’s not as if there’s some big hurry to convert to clean energy or anything. It’s not as if climate change and global warming are some big urgent problem that the whole country needs to immediately address in no uncertain terms in order to avert what is certain to be catastrophic climate events, the likes of which we are only just beginning to see. No, no, no.
Anyway, we all know the sun is for frying your skin, not heating your home or running your appliances. Silly.Related Stories
Knox shows herself to be a teenager with more nuanced social concerns and a greater depth of human understanding than many of the more mature adults around her.
Since the last time I wrote about Belle Knox,Duke University’s rising porn starlet, she’s claimed her throne as belle of the ball in the New York media circuit, gracing the full spectrum of talk shows, and receiving the full spectrum of responses from their hosts. While Knox’s interview with Ricky Camilleri had all the elegance and in-depth, thoughtful interviewing you’d expect from Huffpost Live, Dr. Drew used his airtime with the porn star to prove that not every host can be the class-act that Artie Lange or Howard Stern showed themselves to be—both of whom gave respectful interviews and covered the issues at stake through entertaining, non-judgmental open dialog.
Sadly, Dr. Drew was not the only purveyor of foot-in-mouth moments. Here are a few selections from Knox’s media tour.
Knox on The View
The first stop on Knox’s media tour was ABC’s The View, where the 18 year-old left many bunched panties in her wake. If it were only a matter of former Playmate of the Year Jenny McCarthy asking, “What happened?” (i.e. that turned you to porn), it wouldn’t even have been all that weird.
But when Knox mentioned that she began watching porn at age 12, and Barbara Walters asked if she did so with her parents (assuming abuse?), and everybody (quite naturally) laughed at the absurdity of it all — that’s when things get really weird. As Knox rather sweetly put it later in her interview with Howard Stern: “She (Barbara) didn’t know what was going on.” It’s the Internet where tweens are watching porn these days…without their parents.
But you kind of have to give Barbara Walters the benefit of the doubt, even when she asked wince-worthy things like, “I just wondered if you have other ambitions?” 1) because she’s endearingly bewildered and sort of sweet about it; 2) because she’s from a completely different generation; and 3) because it’s nothing compared to what Sherri Shepherd had in store.
It was as though the sole purpose of inviting Knox on The View was to give Sherri Shepherd an opportunity to demonstrate what a caring person she is. “My heart breaks,” she admitted in refrain, and suddenly the show was thrown from its orbit by the gravitational pull of Sherri’s broken heart. All this after telling Knox, “It sounds like you have something completely memorized that you are saying.”
Funny, because the only thing that sounded scripted from the other side of the camera was Sherri’s heartbreak. I, for one, think a few crocodile tears might have made the performance more sincere. Even my mom found it nauseating. Even my mom said, “Well if your heart is breaking so much, why don’t you go ahead and pay this girl’s college tuition?” You can imagine the laugh I had when I heard Knox say the same thing on the Opie & Anthony Show.
Through all this, Whoopie Goldberg’s panties remained the only un-bunched pair in the house. Knox managed the interview like a pro, always turning the conversation back to the two main issues — college tuition costs and women’s sexual empowerment. Whoopie took the lead and redirected the conversation to questions that are relevant to these issues, giving Knox the opportunity to describe her personal experience of empowerment:
"I’d like to first clarify that the idea of empowerment and degradation is completely subjective. And for me, I feel that, in this backdrop of our society where women are so often robbed of their sexual autonomy and are subjected to sexual violence — in this backdrop of, you know, misogyny against women, it’s incredibly freeing and liberating to have that choice, to make decisions about my own body. And in porn, I’m in a safe, controlled environment where I set the boundaries, I set the rules."
Whoopie also gave a whole-hearted and well-deserved “Right on” when Knox said, “For centuries sex workers have been the untouchables of society and I’m done. I’m sick of it.”
And with that, Knox showed herself to be a teenager with more nuanced social concerns and a greater depth of human understanding than any of the more mature adults on the panel (Whoopie excluded).
Knox on Dr. Drew On Call
Unfortunately, oppressive viewpoints and awkward moments weren’t a View exclusive. When it comes to prescribing heavy doses of creepiness, Dr. Drew is apparently as liberal as they come. Much of the controversy surrounding Knox’s Dr. Drew On Call appearance centered around one quote in particular: “If I were your dad I’d be chomping down on a cyanide capsule right now.”
Dr. Drew smiled. Segun Oduolowu laughed. Why does this sound like it could be a quote from one of those frat-boy-forum-trolls who suggested Knox kill herself? These words were pretty disturbing, not to mention irresponsible, coming from a guy whose name begins with the title “Dr.”
Knox, amazingly, responded with composure, simply stating, “I’m so glad you laughed at that because that’s just hilarious. But I mean, my family supports me in what I choose to do.”
Yes, Dr. Drew and Co: you’ve been out-classed by a teenager.
Following a commercial break, Dr. Drew trots out one of his reality TV success stories, former porn star Jennie Ketcham from Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew. Ketcham started out by congratulating Knox on getting the media attention she’d hoped to get for her own porn career—the implication being that Knox’s main concern is the same as Ketcham’s was (and perhaps still is?): to garner media attention.
That was only the beginning of Ketcham’s assumption that all women think the way she does. She went on to suggest that Knox “bring light to the things that are really important to women in the nation” as though Knox weren’t doing this already, highlighting issues like outrageous college tuition costs and the wrongful discrimination porn actors experience for participating in a fully legal profession. It only takes a Google search to know that there’s no shortage of women who care about these issues, and plenty who share Knox’s perspectives on them.
Knox was quick to point out that she was talking about issues that are important to sex workers, a whole group of people who shouldn’t be marginalized. But that being said, of all the Knox interviews I’ve read, heard and watched (many!), she has only ever discussed empowerment in terms of her own personal experience of it.
So when Ketcham stated, “to suggest that sex work is empowering grossly oversimplifies the process of empowerment,” it was a rather mystifying statement because in this case, empowerment couldn’t be simpler to understand: if Knox feels empowered, then Knox is empowered. It’s not her job to dim the light of her own personal empowerment to suit the women who don’t share her empowered feelings regarding sex work. There are many sex workers who do feel empowered in their work and deserve to finally hear that perspective given a highly intelligent voice within the context of major media.
Knox’s brand of empowerment doesn’t need to fit the lives of the “30 percent of single mothers living in poverty” that Ketcham mentioned in her argument. It is reductive to think that all women could possibly be satisfied by a single flavor of empowerment. Such thinking grossly oversimplifies women and empowerment. Moreover, to suggest that sex work can’t be empowering grossly oversimplifies the human psyche.
At the end of the day, Knox’s empowerment is hers to feel and enjoy and discuss as much as she’d like to. And I don’t see any shortage of listeners.
Knox on Bethenny
Knox’s Bethenny show appearance was the last on her media tour to air. Oddly enough, Jennie Ketcham also appeared as a guest on the very same episode, but was suspiciously relegated to a different segment of the show. It’s purely speculation, but it seems likely that Knox refused to stay if Ketcham was to appear on the show with her—a smart move if her priority was focusing on the important issues rather than simply generating enough controversy to keep her name in the press.
What did happen is that Knox fully maintained her assertive cool under fire. At one point, Bethenny asked if Knox feels she’s being harassed, and Knox responded, “I don’t feel I’m being harassed, I am being harassed.” There’s nothing particularly subjective about receiving death threats.
But the main issue Bethenny couldn’t seem to let go of is why Knox bought into an expensive education to begin with. “If you want to be a porn star… why are you going to Duke?” she asked.
Knox then discussed her future aspirations of becoming a civil rights lawyer. Bethenny responded: “Those are two very different brands: being a civil rights lawyer and being a porn star.” Knox brought up some parallels between the two professions, including First Amendment rights and women’s rights advocacy. But she really won audience support and applause when she said:
"You know there are absolutely employers who wouldn’t hire even a gay person to work for them. And why would I want to work for anybody who would discriminate against somebody who’s doing a perfectly legal, regulated profession. I would never want to work for somebody like that."
But this didn't stop Bethenny from going right back to a rather classist read on education. Discussing the fact that the trend in the current economic climate is to avoid buying things you can’t afford, Bethenny asked her audience why college should be any different. Sounds simple enough, but what it actually says is that enrollment at an elite school should be reserved for those who can afford it rather than those who possess the merit to deserve it. For those who are tempted to argue that Knox could get a fine education at a less expensive school, let’s not forget what the Duke brand can do for its graduates.
Plus, Knox wouldn’t have enough of a story to be on this media tour to begin with had she attended a lesser school. Robin Quivers layed it all out in perfect simplicity during Knox’s Howard Stern interview, when she asked, “Why would you not want to go to the best school you can go to?”
Toward the end of the segment, a young African American woman in the studio audience spoke up in support and total understanding of Knox’s decision to do porn, describing loan collectors calling her up at work, and confirming that, “Sallie Mae is a totally different bully than you can ever imagine.” After withstanding the push of so many TV and media bullies, it’s almost reassuring to think that at least there’s one bully Knox won’t have to face.
Knox Answers Back
Watching these hosts respond to Knox with their varying degrees of negativity makes me wonder: what would be the loss if all her schooling went as planned and she became a great success? Would it be anything more than a gentle laying to rest of some old ideas about lifestyle that have served their purpose and can now be released?
What makes Knox and her self-proclaimed empowerment so painfully disquieting to some is that she just plain refuses to be the alienated archetype of a laborer that can be projected upon as a victim of exploitation, or a pawn of the patriarchy, or anything else. She keeps showing up to say she’s still smart, she wasn’t abused, and damn it, she gets off on being the sub who gets face fucked.
In truth, we’d all rather believe that the things we love exist independent of human agency. We don’t want to know about the sweatshop workers who may be responsible for assembling our garments, and we certainly don’t want to think about who might be babysitting a porn actress’s kid while we’re trying to get off. As much as possible, the magic of the commodity fetish is that it wants to vanish the social relations of labor. And in terms of pornography, we expect to reduce actual human beings to abstract porn stars, on which we may hang our fantasies of sexual encounters and theories of objectification alike.
These moving human images are able containers for all of our diverse projections… until they show up on The View and can answer back. Knox comes along and shatters the projections in the laser-light of her genuine enthusiasm for her work and for the causes she has been championing. Her detractors will always ask for proof that her empowerment is actual, when all the proof you could need is in the light of this girl’s eyes when she’s doing exactly what she came to do. How do you prove empowerment anyway? To this, I say exactly what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said regarding the characterization of pornography, “I know it when I see it.”Related Stories
Journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill hold a press conference in New York after winning a Polk Award for their reporting on Edward Snowden and the NSA. Greenwald and Poitras arrived in New York earlier today. It is their first time in the United States since breaking the Snowden story.
REPORTER: Glenn, were you worried you were going to get arrested when you came into the United States?
GLENN GREENWALD: We weren't so worried that we weren't willing to get on the plane. I mean, if we were really worried, we wouldn't have come. There was no need for us to come. But we knew, certainly, that it was a risk.
I mean, I think the important thing to realize about this is that American national security officials and other officials in the government have deliberately created an environment where they wanted us to think there was a risk. They have very deliberately and publicly suggested that the journalism we were doing was a crime. They have advocated that we be arrested. They have had their favorite media figures openly speculate about the possibility that we would be. They detained my partner for nine hours. They announced that there was a terrorism investigation pending in the U.K., and they refused to give my lawyers any information at all about whether there was a grand jury investigation, whether there was an indictment under seal—very unusual behavior when dealing with these lawyers, in particular, who say that they can always get at least something.
So they wanted us to have this kind of uncertainty about whether or not they would take action upon our return to the U.S. That's very clear. And it's easy, I guess, to say it doesn't seem likely that it will happen, but when those threats are being directed at you, you take them seriously. And so we did, but then, obviously, assessed that the risk was low enough, mostly because we didn't think that they would be so counterproductive or self-destructive to do it, and were willing, therefore, to get on a plane and come back.
REPORTER: And those conversations about the indictment, how long—or if there was an indictment or grand jury out, how long did those conversations go on?
GLENN GREENWALD: We've been trying to get information from the government about whether or not we could safely return to the U.S. for at least four to five months. And originally, the government said that they were willing to have conversations about what that might entail, and then, ultimately, I guess, decided that they weren't willing to have those conversations, because they just stopped returning calls and stopped giving any information. And so, they just expressly refused to say whether or not there were—whether there was a pending indictment under seal or whether or not we were the targets of a grand jury investigation.
AMY GOODMAN: Your trip isn't over. It doesn't just have to happen at the airport. What are you concerned about, for both Glenn and Laura? And, Laura, if you could describe how your experience coming through the airport today compared with your previous experiences?
LAURA POITRAS: Sure. I mean, you know, the other risk that I think that we face as journalists right now are the risk of subpoena, where the government subpoenas our material to try to get information about our source. And we know that the government has been using the border as a sort of legal no man's land to get access to journalists' materials. I mean, I've experienced that for six years, where I've been detained, interrogated and had equipment seized at the border, and never told, you know, for what reason that's happening. So—
AMY GOODMAN: How many times have you been stopped?
LAURA POITRAS: You know, I've asked the government to answer that question, and they won't tell me. I think close to 40 or more. I've got FOIAs out, and soon as I can get a precise count, I'll certainly publish it. So, I mean, the risks of subpoena are very real. And as—you know, as you indicate, I mean, the fact that we're here is not an indication that there isn't a threat. We know there's a threat. We know there's a threat from what the government is saying in terms how they're talking about this journalism, the journalism that we're doing. And, I mean, the reason we're here is because we're not going to, you know, succumb to those threats.
REPORTER: You're not covered by the First Amendment of the United States. What kind of fears do you have in England when you travel and when you come home at night?
EWEN MacAKSILL: I mean, I was the first one back from Hong Kong, and I was a sort of test case. And I sort of wondered if we would be—if I would be stopped on the way in—
GLENN GREENWALD: The guinea pig, we called you.
EWEN MacAKSILL: Yeah, the guinea pig. And I wasn't stopped. Then The Guardian lawyers briefed me on how to deal with a grand jury. So, second time in, I thought maybe I would get stopped, but I haven't been. I do get stopped on the way into Britain, which is kind of perverse, normally just for about 20 minutes. And they send me to a sort of [inaudible] check for passport details and then say, "Your passport's been reported stolen or missing." Well, the only person that reported it stolen or missing is me. I put in a formal complaint last month, and we'll see what happens.
And there is a—we have not been told this officially, but there is a criminal investigation underway in Britain into The Guardian, so theoretically Alan and myself and others could end up in jail. But our feeling is that the British government will probably back away from that. The last thing they need is a two- or three-year fight in the courts over press freedom. So I think if it ever goes to the director of public prosecutions, they probably won't do it. But we can't be sure.
LAURA POITRAS: I mean, and I have to say, on a personal note, I do not plan to travel the United Kingdom anytime soon, given—after the experience that David had at the border, at the lack of press freedoms that they have in that country. So, it's—which is not a good indication for a democratic society.
AMY GOODMAN: What are your plans for the United States? Will you be staying here long? Glenn, will you be moving back? Laura, will you be moving back?
GLENN GREENWALD: I mean, I think—you know, I think that this first step—I mean, since we didn't know what today held, we haven't been doing a lot of long-term thinking, because we had no idea what the outcome would be of our deplaning. But I think that once we got on the airplane this morning, it was a commitment not just to come back for this one time, but to come back whenever we want, which is our prerogative as American citizens. And it ought to be our right, not just to come back, but to come back without fear of that kind of harassment, to even have that enter our thought process.
So I don't know what Laura's long-term plans are, I mean, but for me, you know, I have a book coming out next month, and I want to be able to come to the U.S. to talk about the issues that it raises. I have a lot of journalistic colleagues here with whom I'm working. I want to be able to freely travel to work with them and work on stories in the United States and to talk about the things I think we need to be talking about. So I do think this sort of presages more visits to the U.S. for me.
LAURA POITRAS: I mean, I started working outside of the United States and setting up my edit studio in Berlin before I was contacted by Snowden, and because of the sort of repeated targeting that I had at the border, and so this was the decision I had made before working on the NSA material. And for me, the decision is: I don't feel confident I can protect source material in the United States right now. I mean, it's just—I certainly can't cross a border with it or with my equipment or anything that I consider to be sensitive. And so, my plan is to finish editing and then return. I mean, I absolutely plan to return.
REPORTER: Ms. Poitras, you guys have just come from Berlin.
LAURA POITRAS: Yeah.
REPORTER: I'm from the German division.
LAURA POITRAS: Yeah.
REPORTER: And I would like to know—I already asked Mr. Greenwald his opinion this morning, the hearing of Snowden—
LAURA POITRAS: Sure.
REPORTER: —in the NSA commission. So, if they would hear Snowden, what do you think would that mean for Germany, for U.S., and maybe the relationship?
LAURA POITRAS: I mean, I don't—what I would say is that what's happening in Germany isn't—I mean, what they're referring to it is a Church-like commission hearing and it happening in Germany, looking at the implications and the dangers of surveillance, and that this would probably be going on for, I think they say, at least a year. And so, it's a significant parliamentary inquiry into what's happening. We don't know yet what impact it will have. And there certainly are people who are calling for Snowden to testify. And I think that's going to be very difficult to—given the making of the committee, that I think he will be invited to testify. And I think that would be—I mean, as well they should, because he is a witness who can answer the questions that they're seeking to understand.
REPORTER: What worries each of you the most about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, what worries me is the fact that it doesn't have any of the attributes that we're taught as first-year law students, or even as American citizens, make a court an actual court. It operates in complete secrecy. There's only one side allowed to be heard, which is the government. And it even for a long time was housed in the Justice Department, indicating what its real purpose is, which is not to be an outside body exerting oversight, but to be an enabler of what the executive branch wants to do. And the proof is in the pudding, in that there's been 30 years of FISA court decisions and an infinitesimal, humiliatingly small number of demands by the U.S. government to surveil that have been even modified, let alone rejected, by that court. So it's purely fictitious, the idea that it exerts any real oversight over the surveillance regime.
REPORTER: Laura, I didn't hear your answer to Amy's question about whether—what was experience with Laura like now versus pre-Snowden, and I'm wondering whether this whole experience of seeing the support from other journalists gives you more confidence that maybe your actual status will be better now because of Snowden. Is that how you see it?
LAURA POITRAS: Well, I mean, the status—what you actually can witness with your own eyes and what is actually happening, I mean, these are different things, so I don't know that my status is better. No, I mean, what happened to me before is that I would be detained while I was getting off the airplane, and I'd be escorted into a secondary room and interrogated. And sometimes—
REPORTER: This time?
LAURA POITRAS: No, not this time, so previously. And so, I have notes photocopied and equipment, on some cases, taken. And in this time, yeah, there's a lot of—there are a lot more, you know, people paying attention, and I think that—you know, that—I don't think that that is an indication that we shouldn't be concerned, that there are not people who are looking into and there are grand juries going on. We just don't have evidence of them yet. But I had no problems coming home this time.
AMY GOODMAN: What has been your latest communication with Edward Snowden? What is he—what are his concerns now and where he stands in Russia?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, I mean, you know, I don't think it's any secret that I talk to him regularly. And, you know, I feel like a lot of what we do has an impact on him, because things—just choices that we make can have an influence on how he's perceived or even what his legal situation is. So, you know, we certainly talked about our plans to come back, and he was very supportive of that.
And, you know, I think that his situation in Russia is what it's basically been for the last eight months, which is that he's in a country that he didn't choose to be in, that he was forced to remain in by the United States revoking his passport and then threatening other countries not to allow him safe transit. But at the same time, that alternative, as imperfect as it might be, is certainly preferable to the alternative of not being in Russia, which is being put into a supermax prison in the United States for the next 30 years, if not the rest of his life. And so, given how likely of an outcome that was, and he knew that was when he made his choice, I think he's very happy with his current situation.
REPORTER: Do you know what kind of—whether he's still—whether he's actively being pursued now? It seems like recently he's been speaking a lot, speaking out a lot more, like giving telepresence talks. Does he feel safer?
GLENN GREENWALD: I mean, you know, I think his—I mean, it's really kind of an extraordinary thing that's sort of been underappreciated, the fact that he made the choice to go before the world and say that this leak, which is the largest national security leak in American history, the one that has made the American national security state angrier than any other, "is something that I did. And I'm not only saying that I did it, but I want to tell you my rationale for why I did it, and I'm proud of it." And, you know, eight months later, he is further away from the grasp of the United States than he has ever been. And, you know, I think that he feels not just a duty, but a sort of a responsibility, to participate in the debate that he helped to trigger around the world. And the fact that he's able to do that is one of the reasons why I think it's so important that he hasn't been in prison. I don't think he's ever going to feel safe, but I think he feels confident enough to be speaking out, and especially because he feels like the focus will remain on the revelations and not on him personally.
REPORTER: And it doesn't sound—sorry, just to follow up, it doesn't sound like there's any pressure on you to get—to, like, use you to get to him at this point.
GLENN GREENWALD: I'm not—yeah, I don't think we've been—I mean, I don't know. I don't think we could help the U.S. government get to him in Russia. So I think, you know, he feels like he's been given asylum under the law. It's recognized by most countries around the world. And I think he feels reasonably confident that the U.S. government can't reach through that asylum and get him.
REPORTER: What's the most important revelation, do you think, that came from all the documents that were released because of Edward Snowden?
GLENN GREENWALD: For me, the most significant revelation is the ambition of the United States government and its four English-speaking allies to literally eliminate privacy worldwide, which is not hyperbole. The goal of the United States government is to collect and store every single form of electronic communication that human beings have with one another and give themselves the capacity to monitor and analyze those communications. So, even though I've been warning for a long time about this being an out-of-control, rogue surveillance state, long before I ever heard the name Edward Snowden, to see in the documents that that not only is their ambition, but something that they're increasingly close to achieving, was, to me, by far the most significant goal, something that I don't think anyone in the world knew or understood. And every other revelation is really just a subset of that one.
REPORTER: And just to follow up, do you think that nuclear terrorism or any of the threats against the United States would justify that kind of searching of the world? I mean, would we want a nuclear terrorist to go off in New York?
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, I mean, I don't—no, I don't think that the desire to detect what a small number of people are doing justifies ubiquitous, mass, suspicionless surveillance. And I actually think that the system that says collect everything makes it actually harder to find the things that they claim they're looking for, because when you collect so much, it's really impossible almost to find the Boston Marathon attack or the attempted detonation of a bomb in Times Square, any of the other things that the surveillance state, as ubiquitous as it is, failed to detect.
REPORTER: The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other administrations combined. What is the future of whistleblowing?
GLENN GREENWALD: Do you want to—
LAURA POITRAS: Well, I mean, I think—I'm not going to go into too many details, but I think what we're seeing is actually more people coming forward, you know, more people realizing that they—that their conscience is telling them that there are things that they know of that should be public. And I can't go into lots of details. I mean, one that is—actually has been reported was a story that Glenn did with Jeremy Scahill, which was on the targeted killing program and how they're using metadata to assassinate people without actually knowing the identities of the people. And that came—that information was—that was a source that came forward. So I think, you know, we're—I mean, I think, you know, in this sort of post-9/11 era, I think there are a lot of people who have sort of a heavy conscience over what has happened and who have a lot of information. And I think that maybe the risk that Snowden has taken opens up a space where people will maybe feel that now is the time to come forward.
MIKE BURKE: What tips do you have for journalists working in the United States regarding securing their data and communications with sources?
LAURA POITRAS: OK, so—and you're talking about people who are doing like national security reporting? So, I'm on—Glenn and I are both on the board of an organization called the Freedom of the Press Foundation. We just published a blog about a tool that's called Tails, which is a operating system that runs on a—either USB stick or SD disc, that is a sort of all-in-one encryption tool that you can use for PGP and encryption [inaudible]. And it's just quite—it's just really secure. And we are—we didn't talk about it for a long time, because we didn't necessarily want to draw attention to it, so that it would be—avoid being targeted. But we figured, by now, the intelligence agencies who are paying attention would sort of—it would be on their radar. So, it's actually—it's a really important tool for journalists.
And I think there are huge concerns for international journalists and their communications and how they protect sources, and that these revelations have exposed. So, for instance, information that's foreign information that's transited to the United States gets sucked up, and so how are you going to protect your sources? And how do intelligence agencies behind the scenes share information? And those are all the—these are all things that I think will continue to come forward as more sources come forward and more reporting is done. And, yeah.
REPORTER: Glenn, could you speak to persecution of Barrett Brown for his sources?
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, I mean, I've written a lot about that story. So, I don't know how many people know the background. But, you know, I think there are a lot of cases over the last five years of people being persecuted illegally and in other ways for their journalism. They don't all get the visibility that the NSA story has gotten. But, you know, I think that's really the critical thing, is I think sometimes people look at other countries where journalists are thrown in prison and think, "Well, if that's not happening here, then it means that we have a free press." But one of the ways that freedom of press is eroded is through continuously threatening journalists. James Risen is here. He actually faces the threat of prison from the Justice Department if he doesn't reveal his sources. And then there are cases like Barrett's and others where people who have a lot less visibility are actually being prosecuted and threatened with prosecution for doing journalism that the state dislikes.
REPORTER: After the fact, they were trying to say that he was aiding and abetting this source, who they still apparently haven't determined was Jeremy Hammond. And I don't know—I don't know if you know, if you've seen that lately, but I—
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, the superseding indictment with that source. I mean, the reason why I think that the most significant episode of the last five years when it comes to press freedom was the characterizing formally of James Risen of Fox News as a co-conspirator with his source was because that really would enable the government to criminalize all forms of journalism. It's virtually impossible to work with a source in a way that would immunize yourself from those kind of allegations. And so, I think that indictment is, again, an example of that theory being implemented, although with a lot less attention because he's Barrett Brown and not, you know, the Washington bureau chief of Fox News, but just as dangerous in terms of the precedence of it.
REPORTER: How many days', months' or years' worth of stories are left in the Edward Snowden documents?
GLENN GREENWALD: You know, I hope—I mean, I think about how many days and months and years are left for me. And so, I am hoping that the number is relatively short, but whatever it is, that number is probably a lot shorter than the overall amount of time that needs to happen for there to be reporting. It's an extraordinarily deep and profound set of materials that he furnished, and, you know, I think that it's critical that all of the newsworthy items get published that should be published, within the journalistic formula that we've been using, even if we're not the ones who do it. And even if it doesn't create huge public attention because they feel like they're inured to it or heard it all, I think the obligation journalistically is to make sure that all of that material that should come out is. And so, you know, I think there will come some point when we all start thinking about other ways for that to happen.
REPORTER: Maybe I missed you talking about this before, but how do you feel the U.S. public has reacted? And do you feel like there's been a sufficient amount of reaction from the U.S. public?
GLENN GREENWALD: I mean, I think the number of people in this room, 10 months after we first did our reporting, is a testament to how much the story has resonated. And, you know, because I live outside the United States, I think I'm probably a little bit more attentive to how it has resonated internationally, which sometimes I think gets lost in the debate in the United States. But really, I mean, literally around the globe, people think not only about surveillance, but about individual privacy in a digital age and the trustworthiness of government officials to exercise power in the dark and the proper role of journalism vis-à-vis the state, and a whole variety of other topics, including the role that the United States government is playing in the world, in a radically different light than they did prior to this reporting. And I—you know, I see the impact when I go other places and talk about the story, how much it continues to resonate.
And I know I've said this before over many months, many times, and there's a little bit of skepticism when I say it in some circles, but I say it because it really is true: In my opinion, the stories that are the most significant and that are the most shocking and that will have the broadest and most enduring implications are the ones that we're currently working on and have not yet been reported. And so, I think it's really hard to assess while we're still in the middle of the story, which is really where we are, what the ultimate consequences will be. I don't think we know. But, for me, of course, there's some indifference or some apathy. There's some jaded, you know, sort of cynicism. But in general, the public reaction has been, speaking for myself, just vastly larger and more consequential than even in my wildest dreams I imagined could happen when I started working on the story.
AMY GOODMAN: Edward Snowden just warned that the U.S. government is surveilling human rights groups in the United States. Can you, any of you, address this, what you know about this, from the documents, and to U.S. just refusing to give Chancellor Merkel her NSA file, this latest news that just came out, or answer any questions from Germany about U.S. surveillance [inaudible]—
LAURA POITRAS: Where is that—where is that published?
AMY GOODMAN: The information was revealed when a German Parliament member queried the German government about steps it had taken after reports the NSA spied on Merkel's phone calls. The NSA reportedly instituted a blanket policy of withholding records from people who want to know if the agency has spied on them. Any response to that, and also this issue of nonprofits being spied on here?
GLENN GREENWALD: I mean, it's—I'll only break news on Democracy Now!, as you know, but not at press conferences. But, no, I mean, you know, as I said, I mean, I think some of the most significant stories are left to come, and it's hard to preview them when they haven't gone through the journalistic process and to talk about ones that we haven't published. But obviously, Edward Snowden is aware of what's in the material that he gave us. And so, when he describes what the surveillance state is doing, I think it should be deemed pretty reliable, since everything else that he said about that has proven to be true. And I believe that will, as well, without sort of talking about the reporting that we're doing.
LAURA POITRAS: I mean, working in Germany, I mean, as we all know, the history of the Stasi in Germany makes this country very, very sensitive to these kinds of invasions of privacy and very aware of their corrosive and pernicious effects when you have governments that surveil their own populations. And so, you have that, and then you're also balancing the sort of global politics of allies and how—I mean, the government there, I think, is deeply, deeply, deeply concerned about the spying that's happening there, and they're trying to, you know, really, I think, investigate that. And I also think, though, there are a lot of things in which the BND is working with the NSA. And so, I think it's too soon to say what's going to happen there.
REPORTER: How much of every day does Edward Snowden spend going over the stuff that he got, since he got so much that he must not have known everything that was in it in the first place?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, first of all, I don't think the premise of your question is true at all. You know, I mean, if you go talk to a second- or third-year litigator at a law firm who basically spends all of their time sitting in conference rooms with documents full of—you know, boxes full of documents, and have to go through them all in a one-week period or a two-week period, and you develop systems for being able to review thousands and thousands of documents a day or a week, and being able to appreciate what their contents are and make assessments about whether or not they should be sent to the adversary counsel. There are all sorts of ways to review large amounts of material. And, you know, he was a—he has worked in the intelligence community for a long time, and so I don't think this assumption that he didn't know what was in the documents is valid or warranted at all. And I've talked about before that—
REPORTER: Let me amend that: He didn't know everything.
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, I mean, I think—
REPORTER: In other words, there must be surprises even for him.
GLENN GREENWALD: I mean, as he said, you know, he—part of what he did that I think merits a lot of appreciation is he didn't take it upon himself to decide what ought to be published and what didn't, but came to established and well-regarded media outlets and asked them to engage in that process, so that he wasn't just being the sole arbiter or decision maker about what it was that was being known. And so, I think that process of him vetting the material and then asking us as journalists to vet the material, within a context of very experienced editors and other media outlets, has resulted in the best possible means of publishing these materials. I mean, I'm sure there's stuff that we report, because part of the reporting we do isn't just reading the documents, but going and piecing other things together that, you know, he probably didn't know before. But clearly, you know, I know for a fact that he's extremely familiar with the materials that he gave us.
REPORTER: Can you describe that process? You have this big cache of documents that's—theoretically, as far as I know, Edward Snowden actually doesn't have that cache of documents, but it is held among several different people. How is that then brought out into the public? And corollary to that, why isn't it just released to the public sort of in a much more open manner, rather than through journalist outlets?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, if we decided just to release it all, then all of the questions would be: Why did you so recklessly upload to the Internet all of these materials without first vetting them? Why did you expose the identity of this person or blow this program? Or did—why weren't you more careful? And when Snowden came to us, he had a very clear idea about how he wanted the materials to be reported. If he just wanted it all released to the public, he could have just done that himself. He knows how the Internet works. He wouldn't have needed us. That's exactly what he didn't want, and demanded that we make an agreement with him that that wasn't how we were going to publish these materials. He knew that in order for this debate that he wanted to be triggered to happen, it needed to be done in a way that the focus wouldn't be on "Why are you reckless, and why are you helping the terrorists, and why did you expose the identity of this person," and instead have it be on what the NSA is doing. And I think that choice of his was vindicated, and that's why we've adhered to the agreement we've done.
And as far as the method, I mean, we go through the documents. We find the ones that we think are most newsworthy. We do the reporting necessary for us to complete the picture. We consult with experts. We work with editors. And then, the minute the story is ready for publication, we publish it. And all of us have been working without stop for 10 straight months doing that. And I think you can look at it in one way and say there's a lot of documents that haven't been published, but I think the better way and more accurately way to look at it is to say that in the 10-month period since we've gotten the documents, there's an extraordinary number of documents that have been released. There have been hundreds of articles written about very complicated material, almost all of which have been completely shielded from any serious questioning in terms of their accuracy or their reliability. And I think that's inspired confidence in the readership and in the public that what it is that we're reporting is solid and accurate. And ultimately, I think that was the most important thing for having the debate proceed in a meaningful and constructive way.
REPORTER: Is there anything about the Heartbleed bug in the documents you have, or have you checked? The Heartbleed—
GLENN GREENWALD: Laura?
LAURA POITRAS: I—in terms of the time frame, I actually haven't done the research, because I was preparing to travel, so—since it broke.
REPORTER: So, maybe?
LAURA POITRAS: I'm saying I don't know.
SAM ALCOFF: A lot of the focus has been on the government and the NSA. Would Booz Allen Hamilton, as private clients—is there any reason to believe that they shared any of the vast troves of information they had with private clients?
GLENN GREENWALD: I mean, it's—you know, I think it's hard for us to talk about things that we haven't actually reported, because it just wouldn't be a meaningful way to talk about it, because the reporting that we do—oftentimes you read a document, and you think you know the meaning of it, and then you go and do your research and read other documents and consult with experts, and it turns out that the understanding that you had of it originally isn't the accurate understanding. So I try really hard not just to spout off about things that we haven't gone through the process of reporting.
Having said that, I will just say that in general the—there almost is no division between the private sector and the NSA, or the private sector and the Pentagon, when it comes to the American national security state. They really are essentially one. And so, to talk about whether or not there are protections on how Booz Allen uses the material versus how the NSA uses it almost assumes, falsely, that there is this really strict separation. They call each other partners because that's what they are. And they're indispensable in every way to the national security state, which is why Edward Snowden had access to all these materials, not as an NSA employee, but as a Booz Allen employee. Anything else?
REPORTER: Any regrets on what you've done so far?
GLENN GREENWALD: No, I have none at all. I doubt they do, either. But—
REPORTER: What are your hopes for actual reform in—U.S. surveillance reform, in general?
GLENN GREENWALD: I mean, speaking for myself, I would like to see the debate be about not whether the U.S. should be collecting metadata under a specific provision of the PATRIOT Act, 215, but the broader question of whether or not we want to empower the government to monitor and surveil people who are suspected of absolutely no wrongdoing whatsoever, essentially to engage in mass surveillance. Is that really a proper function of the state? And even beyond just domestically, why should one government, in particular, turn the Internet from what it was intended to be, and its greatest promise, which is a tool of freedom and human exploration and liberation, into the most oppressive tool of human control and surveillance ever known in history?
And so, I don't think anybody thinks that there's no legitimate form of surveillance. I think that it's perfectly legitimate for the government to surveil people about whom there's evidence, real evidence, to believe and convince a court to believe that they're engaged in actual wrongdoing, a targeted surveillance of people for whom there's probable cause or some similar standard. But mass surveillance, suspicionless surveillance, of our private communications, I think, is without any justification whatsoever. And I think the national security state ought to be reined in and converted from a system of mass surveillance into one of targeted surveillance.
REPORTER: Glenn, [inaudible] if you would describe the process of bringing a story to air or to the site as researching it, understanding it, and then, when we're ready, putting it on the site? Do you still reach out to the NSA, White House or DNI to say, "Here's what we're about to go with," and give them the opportunity to say, "Please, not that part," or do you cut that out?
GLENN GREENWALD: No, in every single story that we've published—every single story that we've published—and by "we," I mean just any media organization with which I have worked, and I think with which everybody has worked, on these stories—we have gone to all of the people who might have information to give us to enable our reporting to be better, including the NSA and the GCHQ. And we not only ask for their comment, but give them an opportunity to argue why certain information shouldn't be published. In the overwhelming majority of cases, their arguments about why we shouldn't publish end up being rejected, because they're usually just vague invocations of national security clichés and not anything specific. But in a couple of cases, they have identified specific harms that they thought would accrue, and we thought the information wasn't particularly useful anyway, and so we ended up being convinced on our own accord not to publish it. But yeah, I think it would be irresponsible not to let them tell you what they want to tell you about the stories, just like you go to anybody before you report on them.
EWEN MacASKILL: Can I just add to that? When we reported WikiLeaks, the information was written by diplomats, and it was easily comprehensible. Some people in the NSA have said that we've deliberately been drip-feeding the story, holding back material and—Michael Hayden said that we're publishing every sort of 10 days, as if this was some sort of deliberate policy. Unlike WikiLeaks, these are very technical documents. You can read them and not realize there's a story there. As Glenn said, you have to piece the pieces together. You have to speak to people to try and establish what the story is, and it's very time-consuming. And that's why we're doing it this way. We do speak to the agencies, and it's helpful. Sometimes they say, "We'd like you to redact this particular name," and quite often we'll do that. Sometimes they'll say, "You've misunderstood this document," and then, when we think about it, we think, "Well, maybe they have got a point." And so it's a two-way process. And I think it is, as Glenn says, responsible journalism to speak to them.
REPORTER: Have you yet seen any evidence that other countries have regarded these revelations as "we better up our game"?
GLENN GREENWALD: No. Actually, I think that's an interesting point, as a matter of fact, is I don't think any countries—you know, I can't talk to closed societies like China. I don't know what, you know, their reactions have been. But I think open governments, open countries, their reaction has not been, "Let's pull our resources to match and replicate the capabilities of the United States." Instead—it is, instead, "Let's figure out how to defend ourselves from what essentially is this digital invasion of the privacy of our citizens and our elected leaders." And I know in Brazil, for example, and in Germany, the two countries that probably have been the most affected by the revelations and where the reaction has been most intense, there has been very serious debate and resources devoted to figuring out how to build defenses to protect the sanctity of the privacy of their communications.
AMY GOODMAN: Quickly, your—President Obama renewing the bulk phone record data collection despite calling for some reforms, your response to it?
GLENN GREENWALD: I mean, you know, I think that it's—you know, President Obama likes to parade around as some sort of, you know, King Solomon figure in between the excesses of the NSA and those who are raising concerns about it, and trying to balance it and come up with some reasonable centrist approach. I mean, that's generally his political brand. The reality is, is that he's presided over this out-of-control system for five years and has never expressed a single inclination to rein it in in any way. So the fact that he's continuing it for as long as he can, I think, is the opposite of surprising. I mean, he is an advocate of this system over which he presided for so many years. I mean, I think he's one of the obstacles to reform, not a vehicle for it.
All right, thank you very much, guys. Appreciate it.
Why, exactly, is all of late night still geared only to satisfy the tastes of my Uncle Jack?
As a child, I would have told you that by 2014 we'd definitely have jet boots, pills for food and a woman hosting a late-night talk show. Instead we have selfies, Xanax and a bunch of white guys.
When it was announced Thursday that Stephen Colbert was set to replace David Letterman, my first reaction was, well, that's a safe choice. I would have thrown a parade if CBS had cast – or even considered – a woman.
I read so many articles and lists all about different hilarious woman whoshould be up for a late-night TV job – myself being on one of them, I'm happy to say, in a story that I posted to Twitter, of course, to which a follower responded, "Not gonna happen". Can you please unfollow me? I don't need that kind of reality check from someone who volunteered to be my fan.
But I understood what my fan meant: with all of the chatter over the last week since Letterman announced his retirement, even after all the short-lists and opinions, it never seemed like a female comedian was really in the running to be the next host of the Late Show anyway.
Why, exactly, is all of late night still geared only to satisfy the tastes of my Uncle Jack?
Clearly, someone out there thinks that it's just too risky to put a woman behind that desk, that we're not ready yet. I'm not sure who that someone is, because I think the audience is there, so it must be someone powerful – an old-school executive, a nervous sponsor, a lazy senior makeup artist. Or maybe that someone just doesn't want to pay to remodel the host's bathroom.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize CBS is taking a big risk with Stephen Colbert. I know what my Uncle Jack will say when he hears the news: he'll say, "Who?" And it will be tough for me to explain. The only reassuring thing I could tell him is, "He looks like someone you're going to like. It'll seem familiar."
And that's the big headline: Stephen Colbert finally gets to be himself! It almost sounds like the Letterman position is a gift after years of therapy. I have no doubt Colbert has the comedy chops; I just don't have the faintest clue who we're getting.
I've been indulging in this fantasy pitch session, where some bearded young intern rushes into the CBS boardroom and tells the producers he knows just the man for Letterman's job:
He's this guy who hosts a talk show on Comedy Central – no, not Tosh, he already declined. And get this: the man for the job does it as this blowhard-conservative character, like a parody of Bill O'Reilly – he makes fun of the right wing, calls himself factose intolerant, and "willfully ignorant". Sure, his comedy has been described as quirky, odd, New York-y, but he'll appeal to the masses. Yes, he isthe guy who infamously shot down everyone at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner and told President George W Bush not to worry about his low approval rating: "polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in reality." The guy has guts! And he should replace David Letterman! But not as that super popular character - as himself!
News sites have been on a treasure hunt, cobbling together short, three- to four-minute interviews of Colbert through the years as they, too, try to crack the code of what's to come. Will the real Colbert be snarky? Will he be a more cerebral Jimmy Fallon? Will he dance? Will he make it known if he doesn't like a celebrity guest? (God, I hope so.) Will there be a political edge? Will he have to dumb down his name to Stephen Col-burt?
We just have no idea, and, frankly, that is so exciting! CBS is taking one hell of a gamble. Apparently, they are hiring someone who they don't even know! If I were that someone in the boardroom, I would have made a safer choice and hired a woman.
Even if Colbert nails the job and brings his younger audience with him, he too will retire in roughly 15 years. Maybe, by that time, America will be deemed ready for a woman to host its late-night primetime television. And by then, I will have a serious shot. Because I will have grown into a middle-aged man.Related Stories
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Ten months ago, Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong to meet National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. They soon began exposing a trove of secrets about the NSA and the national surveillance state. They didn't enter the United States again—until today. In this exclusive video, you can watch Poitras and Greenwald speaking for the first time since their return to the country, on Friday afternoon at the George Polk Awards in New York City. They were joined by their colleagues Ewen MacAskill of The Guardian and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post, who shared with them the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting.
LAURA POITRAS: So, I'm really incredibly honored to be here and thankful to the Polk committee for giving me a really good excuse to come home. This is the first time I've been home since I boarded a plane with Glenn and Ewen to go to Hong Kong, and so it's really spectacular to be here. And it's also quite disorienting. Last May, you know, the field, what we looked at, was a lot of uncertainty, risk, concern for everyone, and so it's really extraordinary to be here and receive this award. But I think that it's important also that we remember that when we actually do this reporting, the enormous risks that journalists take on and especially that sources take on, and in the case of Snowden, putting his life on the line, literally, to share this information to the public, not just the American public, but to the public internationally.
And we—I want to say something about working with Glenn and Ewen. People—you don't really know how people will respond to risk, until you're confronted with it. You know, you hope that you'll stand up and that you'll have each other's back, and that those will be the people who will protect you and get you home safely. And I just want to say that this award would not be possible without their courage and bravery and fierce reporting every step of the way. And we were, as Ewen said, untested working together. We had each had our areas of expertise, but we got on the plane having never worked together and did something and worked together in a way that was really extraordinary, and I'll forever be bound to them.
None of us would be here—Bart, Ewen, Glenn, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The New York Times, all the people who are being offered these awards—without the fact that someone decided to sacrifice their life to make this information available. He's not the first person who's sacrificed their life, but he came forward with information that allows us to know what's actually happening. And so this award is really for Edward Snowden. Thank you.
GLENN GREENWALD: First of all, thank you so much to the Polk committee and Long Island University for this award. The reporting that we've done has received a lot of support and a lot of praise and the like, but it's also received some very intense criticism, primarily in the United States and the U.K. And so, to be honored and recognized by our journalistic colleagues this way—speaking for myself, at least—means a great deal. I'm also really honored to be able to share the award with the people that I call my journalistic colleagues, who are on stage here with me, the people that James Clapper calls "accomplices." You know, it really is true that the story could not have been told without numerous people, committed to telling it, involved every step of the way.
And I'm finally really happy to see a table full of Guardian editors and journalists whose role in this story was much more integral than the publicity generally recognizes. I mean, I think it's easy to look back now and think this is so obviously such an incredibly important journalistic story and to think that any editor or newspaper would simply dive right in and want to aggressively tell the story, but it really wasn't true. Back in those early days of Hong Kong, there were all kinds of very grave question marks hanging over the source, the material, the legal liability, the political reaction. And I'm so happy that I was part of an institution at The Guardian staffed with incredibly intrepid editors and reporters. Ewen named a few of them—many of them, but certainly leading the list is Janine Gibson and Stuart Millar and Alan Rusbridger, who really never flinched in not only allowing us, but pushing us and encouraging us to pursue the story as fearlessly and aggressively as possible. And I really believe that the reporting could not have happened, the way that at least I thought that it should happen, had it not been for The Guardian. So I certainly consider them an integral part of this award.
Just one final point, which is that when we were in Hong Kong, we actually spent, obviously, a great deal of time talking about surveillance policies and the documents and the like, but we also spent at least as much time, if not more so, talking about issues of media and journalism. And in part, that was because we knew that how the media treated this story would be a major part of how—of what the impact was; in part, we knew that it was because the debate that we hoped to trigger was not just one about surveillance, but about the proper role of journalism and the relationship between the media and the government or other factions that wield great power. But we also knew that we were doing this reporting in the context of what already was some pretty grave threats to the news-gathering process, in terms of the unprecedented attacks on whistleblowers by the Obama administration, as well as the controversy that had happened literally weeks before we began publishing, which was the trolling through AP and phone—emails and phone records of AP reporters and editors, and then formally declaring James Rosen of Fox News a, quote, "co-conspirator" for having done what journalists do every single day, which is work with their source to gather information that the public should know. And I think it's important to recognize how intensified those threats became over the last nine or 10 months.
There are ways to intimidate journalists. You can imprison them en masse, but there are other ways to do it. And calling journalists working on stories "accomplices," or having powerful chairmen of committees specifically accuse journalists of being criminals and advocating for their prosecution, or having major media figures openly debate whether we ought to be prosecuted is a way to intensify that climate of fear, as is detaining my partner or marching into The Guardian's newsroom and forcing them to destroy those laptops. And I think, ultimately, the only way to deal with those kind of threats is to just do the reporting as aggressively, if not more so, than you would have absent those threats. And I feel like all of the journalists involved in this story have done that, and I'm really proud to have worked with so many who did.
And then, finally, you know, I think journalism in general is impossible without brave sources. I know our journalism, in particular, would have been impossible without the incredible courage of Edward Snowden. And it's really remarkable that the reporting that we've done has won all sorts of awards, not just in the United States, but around the world, and he, in particular, has received immense support, incredible amounts of praise from countries all over the world and all sorts of awards, and the fact that for the act of bringing to the world's attention this system of mass surveillance that had been constructed in the dark, he's now threatened with literally decades in prison, probably the rest of his life, as a result of what the United States government is doing, I think, is really odious and unacceptable. And I hope that, as journalists, we realize how important it is not only to defend our own rights, but also those of our sources like Edward Snowden. And I think each one of these awards just provides further vindication that what he did in coming forward was absolutely the right thing to do and merits gratitude, and not indictments and decades in prison. Thanks very much.