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"Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda."
September 15, 2003 11:25 AM   Subscribe

"Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda." This quote, captured in a USA Today article, came from Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti in response to allegations that CNN "was intimidated" by the Bush administration and Fox News, which "put a climate of fear and self-censorship."
posted by FormlessOne (37 comments total)

 
How muich time to figure out our answers? Got to be one of the dumbest statements I have come across since my divorce attorney said he would get me a good settlement.
posted by Postroad at 11:35 AM on September 15, 2003


"Given the choice..... What a load of crap. It's all a titanic struggle between the armies of absolute good and the swarming legions of Hell, eh? Well then, I guess we'd better just fire all the diplomats and launch a preemptive nuclear strike.
posted by troutfishing at 11:40 AM on September 15, 2003


Oh, wo is me and my tear filled eyes over the dreadful lot dealt to Ms. Amanpour.

Whinny-arse crybaby biatch.
posted by HTuttle at 11:45 AM on September 15, 2003


Well, they're just parroting their President's enlightened "you're either with us or against us" thing. This is one of the great many Democracy crushing acts of Dubya that Republicans need to keep in mind when they head for the voting booths next time around...
posted by badstone at 11:48 AM on September 15, 2003


HTuttle: Man, did the point fly way, way the hell over your head.

The issue is that the supposedly "fair and balanced" Fox News believes that if you're not for Bush then you must be for al-Qaeda. Fair? No. Balanced? Certainly not.

Can you trademark "subjective and polarized"?
posted by FormlessOne at 11:49 AM on September 15, 2003


False dilemma!!!
posted by billsaysthis at 11:54 AM on September 15, 2003


The issue is that the supposedly "fair and balanced" Fox News believes that if you're not for Bush then you must be for al-Qaeda. Fair? No. Balanced? Certainly not.

No, the real issue is that Amanpour is a big, fat pussy. Does FOX News shame to word "journalism?" Yes. But what that has to do with the decisions of CNN reporters I don't know. One approach proving "successful" is hardly the same as intimidation. She would have a lot more credibility in this matter if she had spoken out when the alleged intimidation took place, instead of coming out exactly when public opinion has turned the other way. Amanpour is a spineless pathetic excuse for a journalist, and FOX is a separate issue.

Maybe she should be calling out her own higher-ups at CNN or something, but FOX never forced their bullshit business model onto anyone else.

Coming soon:
Burger King employees said intimidated by McDonalds.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:10 PM on September 15, 2003


Yeah, false dilemma and hateful with-us-or-against-us rhetoric, but HTuttle has half a point: why did Ms. Amanpour not speak out sooner? Most of us knew all along that the American mainstream media had been reduced to a propaganda tool -- why didn't she say anything when it mattered most?

Or, what IJR said.
posted by muckster at 12:11 PM on September 15, 2003


After reading through it again, maybe I shouldn't have been so harsh, but unless she is crying and begging for fogiveness, I think she needs a new line of work. If you don't tell the whole truth as you know it, you are a failure as a reporter, regardless of any perceived pressures.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:12 PM on September 15, 2003


If you don't tell the whole truth as you know it, you are a failure as a reporter, regardless of any perceived pressures.

Given that she's a high-profile reporter with lots of choices, surely her best option would be to leave CNN and join an organization less driven by ratings, like NPR for instance. She wouldn't make as much money, but maybe she'd sleep better at night.

As for the Fox reporter comment, it's hardly shocking that a news network aimed at morons also hires morons.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:21 PM on September 15, 2003


Irena Briganti is a fine example of a clear-eyed conservative realist.
posted by homunculus at 12:22 PM on September 15, 2003


"It's not a question of couldn't do it, it's a question of tone," Amanpour said. "It's a question of being rigorous. It's really a question of really asking the questions. All of the entire body politic in my view, whether it's the administration, the intelligence, the journalists, whoever, did not ask enough questions, for instance, about weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it looks like this was disinformation at the highest levels."

It's as if she wasn't there! She somehow expects to be free of culpability because she is the one pointing it out. Is she a reporter or an elementary-school student? Sorry for the flurry of comments, but people like Amanpour chap my hide to no end.

Given that she's a high-profile reporter with lots of choices, surely her best option would be to leave CNN and join an organization less driven by ratings, like NPR for instance.

NPR has real reporters. Amanpour actually belongs with such an unprincipled and marketing-driven organization as CNN, she just has too high an opinion of herself to know that.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:23 PM on September 15, 2003


I don't know. I think it takes at least a little chutzpah to come forward with a statement like that. Of course, it's a total cop out to blame Fox, but at least someone in the mainstream media is admitting they dropped the ball.
posted by jpoulos at 12:26 PM on September 15, 2003


Actually, I suppose she isn't admitting she dropped the ball. She's admitting that "balls were dropped".
posted by jpoulos at 12:28 PM on September 15, 2003


In reference to Ignatius J. Reilly calling Amanpour "a big fat pussy."

Ah. Calling Ms. Amanpour names. The sure sign of an intelligent and thought provoking discussion. I bow at your obviously superior debating skill and righteous position, for yours is truly a place where no god dare desecrate. I certainly would never have found Amanpour's similarity to the feline species to have had such profound relevance to these proceedings. Let us all just fall silent and mull over the wisdom Reilly has graced upon our woeful and undeserving existences.

To be blunt: Amanpour has infinitely more credit than you, for she'd never resort to comparing your body parts to cow udders or female canines. At least not in a public forum. She would instead rip holes through your arguments and tar & feather your opinion until you were a shell of the person you are. She has over the years shown more talent, integrity and chutzpah than anyone in this thread. If the woman said Fox News and the Bush administration adversely affected the journalistic atmosphere, she's one of the few people on this planet with the most certain vantage point to see it.

Reilly, your insinuation that she can't see from where she stands is akin to being in the nosebleed bleachers complaining that the umpire couldn't see that ball was a strike. You're being an armchair quarterback and not a very good one. Spend a couple decades out on the field getting shot at and having death threats thrown your way, then get back to us about namecalling Ms. Amanpour. Right now you're not in a position to be her peer, much less her critic.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:33 PM on September 15, 2003


Balls were dropped, mistakes were made, fingers were pointed, the passive voice was used.... all that doesn't matter now....
posted by namespan at 12:34 PM on September 15, 2003


Television news being disingenuous?

No!!!
posted by xmutex at 12:49 PM on September 15, 2003


why did Ms. Amanpour not speak out sooner?

A fair question, but I think what's really at issue is past Amanpour's statement, and into what the role of a journalist should be, and what should that role be as an "embed" during a conflict?

It's not an easy answer, as the case can be made for both sides of the issue: That of a loyal servant of the administration, or as a questioning observer, ready to point out the worst of the situation at hand.

So from there, the idea that one network can attach itself to the political message while another can not proves that there's two different answers (at least, actually the answer run along a continuum when you think about it) to the question.

I know we like to hold up journalism as this fixed "thing," but I don't think that's fair. It, like the society's is serves, is a changing, malleable, thing.

Hence waiting 'til now for Amanpour to speak out: If she'd asked this same question during the conflict proper, it could have made things worse. Granted, it could've made things better, but if worse, it would've been a terrible statement to make.

Better to keep her own counsel until the coast was clear and we could talk about this without fear of repercussions.
posted by Elvis at 12:55 PM on September 15, 2003


Yeah, I mean, the point of this whole thing is simple-- and I agree with FormlessOne here. The third choice, and the one news media is supposed to represent, is REPORTING THE NEWS ACCURATELY.

I give Amanpour some credit for calling this out, despite late days and short dollars. I mean, this could be one of those better-late-than-never situations, and maybe people will catch on that the major news media spoonfeeds them bullshit.

Or am I just too optimistic?
posted by nath at 12:56 PM on September 15, 2003


Those saying this statement by fox news is dumb are missing the point. It is not to appeal to any media intellectuals. It's not supposed to make sense to MeFi readers. Rather, the Fox News fans at home are supposed to hear something like this and say, "whoo-hoo! damn, that amanpour woman was cracked on! you tell 'em! go Fox!"

That reminds me, where's quonsar and 111?
posted by deanc at 1:04 PM on September 15, 2003


I'm glad you're all willing to jump all over Amanpour for not being the utter, uncompromising pinnacle of selfless virtue you'd all assuredly be if you were in her shoes. It's oh, so easy for you all to sit at your computers and judge- how many of you have actually faced a similar situation?

If she had spoken up about this six months ago, she would have been tarred and feathered as a Saddam Sympathizer. It's also not as if she were personally rallying the country about Bush's policies. She is, ultimately, a cog in the machine. Good for her for speaking up.
posted by mkultra at 1:11 PM on September 15, 2003


Oh, and that's the other thing, as Atrios points out: Amanpour wasn't talking about al-Qaeda; she was talking about Iraq. Big difference.

I mean, big difference if you're paying attention at all.
posted by nath at 1:14 PM on September 15, 2003


Y'all can call Ms. Amanpour names all you want, but she's got the courage of her convictions. Sounds like she looked back on the work of her own organization in the war and found it, in retrospect, lacking.

She's a journalist, and credibility is her stock in trade. For her to volunteer a public mea culpa takes a great deal of guts.

Tell me what your bosses would do to you if you stepped in front of the camera and said your organization, including you, screwed the pooch in a high-profile situation.
posted by sacre_bleu at 1:16 PM on September 15, 2003


Right now you're not in a position to be her peer, much less her critic.

I have little doubt that I am not Amanpour's peer. I made no claim to be such, and believe me, I don't pooh-pooh the role of journalists in society. But can I not critique her? Maybe you're right, but if the role of the media is to inform the populace, then certainly criticism from lay corners is legit.

As for:
Amanpour has infinitely more credit than you, for she'd never resort to comparing your body parts to cow udders or female canines.

I didn't compare her body parts to anything. To call someone a "pussy" is to call them a coward or a wimp. I will gladly change the term I use, but to suggest that this has anything to do with her or my body is a little goofy, isn't it? Henceforth, I apologize for saying the "p-word," retract that statement entirely, and re-issue it with the word "wimp."

So I totally get that you think it is silly to call someone a "pussy," or a "wimp," but do you actually dispute that Amanpour's courage was in definite short supply when she failed to make these allegations when they were timely? You certainly didn't do so above. You talk about her credentials and experience, which I don't refute, but could it be any more obvious that the courage to speak truth to power--extremely important for a journalist--is more than just a function of accumulated experience? By that standad, Andy Rooney would be infallible.

If your point is that calling her names is pointless, then I suppose I agree (though it is also pointless to intentionally misunderstand what a very commin insult means). But for all your talk of my being just some blowhard know-nothing "armchair quarterback," I have to wonder what good it would do anyone to be otherwise. Amanpour brings to the table all of the experience and chops that I so completely lack, and what good did it to her? She still admittedly backed off of stories and "tones" which she believed to be solid and well-grounded because she was afraid of backlash from a competitor. And now she is blaming her own decisions on FOX News, and only even doing after the tide of public opinion has made the backlash much less likely. Now I may just be a lowbrow amateur, but that sounds pretty fucking weak to me.

It's oh, so easy for you all to sit at your computers and judge- how many of you have actually faced a similar situation?

I'm not a journalist, but it's not as if "regular" people--and since when are reporters some super race?--don't have trials of integrity. I have had many. I have passed most, I have failed some, and I have blamed FOX News for none of them. Amanpour is surely not the only reporter who was cowed by FOX--and I wouldn't doubt that they would put pressure on people--but she is the only one so far that I have seen go public in such a manner as to cloak her own compromised ethical decision in such flimsy victimhood.

The bottom line is that she made a bad decision. It was not made in a vacuum, and there were mitigating factors, but even Amanpour seems to agree that it was a bad idea to refrain from being truthful and forthcoming at the time. She is now trying to not only skirt blame for compromising her ethics (and you may all be correct when you say it was understandable, but wouldn't that make it easier to admit she'd made a mistake?), but to actually come out of this looking like she is speaking truth to power, a supreme and dirty irony from which her career and professional stock would greatly benefit.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:22 PM on September 15, 2003


Sounds like she looked back on the work of her own organization in the war and found it, in retrospect, lacking.

I don't think that's exactly right. You speak as if her role at the time was perfectly passive, as if she were an observer. She knew they were "lacking" at the time, and she is only saying anything about it now. Does she have more relative integrity than the rest of CNN and FOX? Sure. But she still acquiesced to the pooch-screwing. I guess it's cool that she knows it was a bad decision, but integrity can function in real-time as well.

Oh, and if I'm reading this all wrong and this really is an entirely retrospective thing, and she stood up for herself during the war rather than going along and waiting to speak up later, than boy will my face turn red. But I read the link, and I've found what little background I can, and it looks like Amanpour herself was "intimidated," and altered content as a response to pressure. Unless that is not the case, the appropriate time to assert her rights and duties as a journalist would have been when the coercion was taking place.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:30 PM on September 15, 2003


Lets not forget that just this April, CNN was admitted to not reporting atrocity stories about Iraq. This doesn't seem to be a case of CNN being pressured or bullied by FOX and the US Govt, it seems to be the case of a network that takes the path of least resistance, nevermind the facts.
posted by schlyer at 1:32 PM on September 15, 2003


The bottom line is that CNN's primary job is to sell stuff - journalism is their means to that end and as the means, not the end, journalism is where they will do their compromising. CNN risked the possibility of looking like an "Enemy of the State" if they reported the truth in today's clamped down climate, especially with Fox News there to set the example of how to play ball with the administration. Who's going to go to an Enemy of the State to sell their soda pop and salted snack chips when they can go to Fox and be Patriotic?

It's silly to try to apply morals and/or ethical charges to people whose job it is to sell you stuff for a living. The American way of business is to get away with whatever you legally or quasi-legally can, and that's all they're doing.

If you want journalism go to NPR. If you want some Popular Sugar Drink go to CNN.
posted by badstone at 1:39 PM on September 15, 2003


Badstone: Agreed. I don't think FOX bullied CNN into mis-reporting the news. I think CNN made a calculated marketing decision which may have been based on the ratings success of FOX. Of course, I'm cycnical.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:16 PM on September 15, 2003


but wait, what does al-Qaeda have to do with Iraq?
posted by mcsweetie at 2:49 PM on September 15, 2003


what's really at issue is past Amanpour's statement, and into what the role of a journalist should be, and what should that role be as an "embed" during a conflict?

C-span had embedded photographers & journalist discussing this issue several weeks ago. Noticing this "topic" is being brought up more lately.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:17 PM on September 15, 2003


This is what happened. In an unprecedented display of "hey dis is gonna be kewl" ness, the U.S. military set up parameters to allow journalists to join the military on the front lines of the Iraq war. The journalists, not looking a gift horse in the mouth, took the opportunity and with it all the pretensions and fallacies that were gonna go with it. Would the journalists be 'mama's babies' and kiss butt, or would the journalists call it as they saw it through the campaign? I think attempts were made to do a bit of both.

For the most part, the journalists observed and reported and learned as they went along. DURING the invasion it would have been improper for Amanpour to make the statement she has, and it would have been premature. NOW, after experiencing the veritable meal the military offered the eyes and minds and cameras of the news media, and with several months to digest all that has happened, journalists can look at what transpired with an experienced and objective eye.

The obvious response of course to what they've been through, is "WTF???" and that is to be expected.
* Is this honestly how the U.S. military operates? Well. Yeah.
* Do we now understand why they normally operate without embedded journalists? Well. Yeah.
* Would the U.S. military be doing its job if it DIDN'T intimidate the news media? Well. No.
* Would the world news media be doing their job if they tolerated such intimidation? Well. No.

Actually, from where I sit, everybody's behaving exactly as they're supposed to behave. Like a bunch of snot nosed preschoolers and there's only one swing.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:36 PM on September 15, 2003


Y'all can call Ms. Amanpour names all you want, but she's got the courage of her convictions.

Uh, actually, it seems that she DOESN'T (or DIDN'T) have the courage of her convictions when she thought that it mattered.
posted by davidmsc at 5:28 PM on September 15, 2003


I'm a card-carrying liberal, but the Briganti quote is setting of the bullshit detector, if only because it's completely decontextualized -- she could have said something like "I agree, Christiane; this is a climate of intimidation and mindless jingoism. Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda." I mean, she didn't, but the phrase in context might not be as ear-splittingly stupid as it sounds at the top of this page.
posted by Tlogmer at 6:56 PM on September 15, 2003


"Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda."

Ah, Fox NotNews: If Father Coughlin and Joe McCarthy were around, they'd have their own primetime shows there.

"Tell me what your bosses would do to you if you stepped in front of the camera and said your organization, including you, screwed the pooch in a high-profile situation."

Oh, honey, I've been fired more than once for pointing out that the Emperor was deshabille. But in Armanpour's case, if she's canned, she'll just end up at one of the other news clones.

So let me inquire as to this thread's point: Do you think Armanpour's statement is significant because she's one of the more "respected" TV journalists (as if that phrase itself hasn't already become an oxymoron)?

Because what she's saying isn't "news" at all. Anyone in the U.S. with access to the Internet knew from the start there was a completely different war going on than the one presented by GEAOLTimeWarnerMurdochWolfyRoveRummy.

So, will these minor self-flagellations by journalists change the major news organizations - even as they continue to be run by conservative conglomerates that favor the lowest common denominator over thoughtful, unbiased substance?

Or is the self-doubt itself just same old same? The networks are now just playing to the new mood of discontent like they played to the old rah-rah patriotic schtick.

Kind of like the mealy-mouthed Dems who couldn't come up with a set of stones between them pre-war, but are now very belatedly making occasional peeps of protests.
posted by NorthernLite at 8:13 PM on September 15, 2003


NorthernLite has a point. The best thing about retrospective self-flagellation and blame-throwing is that you get to feel all of the moral satisfaction without any of the discomfort and/or danger of actually taking a stand when the shit is hitting the fan.

It does seem to be the Great American Pastime these days, having outpaced adultery, tax fraud, and baseball by a country mile.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:36 PM on September 15, 2003


I'm with NorthernLite on this one. Well said.
posted by nofundy at 6:12 AM on September 16, 2003


Weren't all the journalists permitted to go into Iraq subject to vetting by the Bush administration before they were allowed in? This being the case, isn't is possible that Ms. Amanpour did the best she could at the time, given the limits placed upon her by this...dare I say it..."President"?
posted by Beansidhe at 8:19 AM on September 16, 2003


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