Welcome Breath of the Beast: The Second Draft Enters its Second Phase

When I first launched Second Draft, I wanted something that could accommodate a great deal more than just Pallywood (no matter how “big” I thought that issue was). But undertaking such a task was well beyond my capacities. Now I am pleased to announce that I have the partnership of a blogger whose work has, from his first post, pushed the envelope of deep and pertinent thinking in the blogosphere, Yaakov ben Moshe of Breath of the Beast.

He has posted on this at his own blog, and we are cross-posting a variant here.

The announcement.

I have, over the past four months or so, been talking about forming a new non-profit organization with a fellow blogger. Richard Landes of Augean Stables and Second Draft. Richard is not only a blogger, he is also a professor of history at Boston University. We began working together in earnest when I helped him pull together the petition initiative to support Philipe Karsenty. Karsenty was found guilty of libeling France2 and Charles Enderlin by pointing out that the televised report of what Enderlin claimed to be the killing of 12-year-old Mohammed al Durah by Israeli gunfire really appeared to have been a staged scene in which nobody died.

Rather than admit that his report — which slandered the Israel and its Jewish supporters the world over, and provoked a wave of violence, anti-Semitism and terror that continues to propagate today — was either a grotesque mistake or an obvious fake, Enderlin and France2 sued Kasenty.

Landes, has, for the last four years, (summary of activity here) been a lonely voice in exposing this blood libel and showing how destructive and pervasive this sort of manipulation is, whereby anti-western and anti-Semitic Islamists of manipulate a compliant mass media. Even more importantly, he has been able, in a scholarly and non-politicized way, to show that one of the best defenses for Israel, The United States of America and (by extension) Western Civilization, lies in first identifying and then figuring constructive ways to deal with media’s susceptibility to this kind of manipulation.

We will be combining our efforts under the banner of a new non-profit organization which is now filed for under the U.S. tax code. The name of our new organization, Second Draft (shared by one of Landes’ pre-established websites) plays upon the adage that Journalism is the first draft of history. Second Draft will undertake to study the media, its behavior and its power.

We take a different approach to producing our second draft of history. We will go deeper than the usual correction of individual inaccuracies and sorting out the bias in various of stories. Our ultimate goal will be to use certain key dossiers (like the one already compiled on the al Durah Affair) at once to illuminate a particular case, and permit an exploration of the deeper questions about why our media exhibits such vulnerability to manipulation and so often adopts inappropriately anti-Western positions which undermine the very culture of freedom upon which the media depend.

Effectively, under current conditions, the media offer a rich terrain for the warriors on the weaker side of an asymmetrical war to operate for recruitment, disguise, and assault. At least as much as the war in Iraq, our MSM have contributed to the success of the global Jihad of Caliphate Islam in the 21st century. We therefore consider it one of our tasks at Second Draft to launch a discussion of how to get the MSM to clean up their stables encrusted with bad habits, venal and ideological, and serve the civic public to whom they owe their primary allegiance and who in turn allow to the MSM their remarkable freedom: informing them accurately and relevantly, and allowing the public to make its own choices.

Permit me give you an analogy that comes out of my recent contemplations. As I mentioned below, my dad was a shipboard radio operator during WWII. His telegraph key was the conduit for the information that animated his whole ship and kept it safe within the convoy. He had to be careful that the information he decoded from his telegraph key was both accurate and complete and that the source of it was authentic and secure. If an enemy had been able to infiltrate bad information, or even to limit the use of some important information, it would have been very dangerous indeed.

Until very recently, our mass media have, like that old telegraph operator with his trusty key on the ship, been our only source of information about the world. It was not up to him to decide not to decode and pass on warnings of a submarine wolf pack operating nearby because that would be bad for morale (as the MSM did by not reporting on the the threat of Islamic extremists — until 09/11)… or were he to fail to inform the captain of a planned convoy maneuver because he didn’t think it was important (as the MSM often do when they use euphemisms like “youth” or “structured groups” when reporting about largely Muslim violence)… or if he decided to make up reports about things that did not happen because he felt that such manipulations were so true to life that even if they are not true they are an accurate representation of things that happen “all the time” (which is what Enderlin and his supporters have said about the al Durah affair).

The internet (especially, the “blogosphere”) has begun to eat away at the hegemony of the main stream media. Through the blogosphere, critical omissions and misrepresentations have been exposed. And this role of corrective for (by now habitual) MSM errors will only grow in the years and decades to come. The blogosphere is to the MSM in the 21st century, what print was to manuscript culture in the 16th century. Properly channeled, the blogosphere is that river that Herakles used to clean out the Augean Stables.

Richard Landes recognized the power of the blogosphere to transform the scene when, after a year of fruitlessly knocking at the door of the MSM with material on Pallywood and the al Durah affair, he witnessed Rathergate, that “Gutenberg moment” when a new medium of communication crashed the party despite the efforts of the older media, gate keepers of the public sphere.

Landes’ work on the al Durah affair has exposed a critical flaw in the information pipeline. It has become obvious that much of the mainstream media is subject to either not reporting aspects of the world that they find politically incorrect or accepting bad information uncritically or passing it along to an unsuspecting public as “News”.

In a ground-breaking book on the media’s ignoble role in the tragedy of the Yugoslavia, Media Cleansing: Dirty Reporting, Peter Brock quoted a long section of an article from The New Republic in which Tom Rosenstiel pointed out that the major news outlets and agencies (with CNN leading the way) have reduced their correspondents and staffs to such a degree that in order to find enough content to fill the existing news paper, glossy magazine stock and broadcast time, they resort to buying prepackaged reports. This means that much of the information we wind up with as news (and most background), is public relations materials and propaganda that have been supplied to our networks by national news agencies from around the world that are really nothing more than extensions of the foreign ministries of the governments many of which are often very hostile to U.S. and Western interests.

Central to our reasons for starting Second Draft is a belief that even if the media cannot be “objective”, journalists nonetheless have ethical standards that make the practice of reporting news a vocation, and that journalists must exercise judgment and strive for honesty. Their core vocation consists of reporting as accurately and relevantly as possible. Which means that even as they have the power and privilege of publicly criticizing the powerful, they must submit to public criticism.

Alone an alert and educated public constitutes the ultimate protection from the natural tendency of the MSM — like all other “estates” and powers in a society — to become corrupt, to protect members of the guild with omerta, to cut corners and pursue agendas that conflict with professional procedures. We consider raising the awareness and sharpening the powers of discrimination in the public our main vehicle to MSM reform. We have great plans. We hope to run conferences, sponsor research, make more films, and creating some exciting web initiatives.

Through it all I’ll still be posting here on Breath of the Beast — we are commited to our “web roots”.

The blogosphere is a new and valuable way to keep a running monitor on how well the media supports all of these requirements. It has awakened millions to the problem and the awakening is spreading. What directions it takes — the printing press produced not only scientific thinking, but new religious movements, apocalyptic prophecies, conspiracy theories, and newspapers — is, to some extent up to us. The 21st century has begun badly for civil society and a peaceful globalization, but the very failures offer lessons to learn and correctives to take.

The Awakening

This awakening reminds me of a dream I have had a couple of times in the past year.

In the dream I am walking alone, as night is beginning to fall, in a tropical forest. A feeling of disembodied dread fills me as I shoulder my way through a profusion of underbrush under a high canopy of palms. The sun is low in the sky still and the evening air is still bright- but just beginning to lose the daytime heat.. As I come to a break in a wall of vegetation, I see that I am on the edge of someone’s manicured backyard. There are two chaises lounge lawn chairs side by side with a man sleeping on one and a woman on the other. My feelings of foreboding continue to build.

As I watch, they begin to stir and rub their eyes. They look around with a vague air of alarm. Suddenly he points to the horizon. There is a great fire raging just over the horizon. It has made no noise and the heat from it was easy enough to ignore during the tropical day. You would never know it was there if you didn’t look right at it. Its glow suffuses that quarter of the sky with an angry red glow and a great plume of black smoke is rising above it.

The riots in the streets of Europe, the bloodthirsty beheading of Daniel Pearl, the Beslan massacre, the constant bombardment of Israel by Arab and Iranian client terror groups, the Iranian atomic threat, and, of course, 9/11 have merely been a silent fire just over the horizon for most of us, not because it is harmless but because the media has not been doing an honest job of informing us of the common aspects of those crimes. An honest MSM needs to stick to its task even as the information they transmit does not please them: journalists may not be capable of “objectivity,” indeed some may revel in their “subjectivity.” But they must discipline that subjectivity, and commit to the demands of empirical observation, rather than report “what must be true.”

Commercial:

Second Draft is in its infancy, we have secured a small start-up stake of funding but we need all the help you can spare for this crucial effort. If you would like to help us with your donation (we have filed for tax-free status!), you can click on the donation page here at Breath of the Beast or send a check to:
Second Draft
P.O. Box 590591
Newton Centre, MA 02459
All gifts will be gratefully acknowledged.

6 Responses to Welcome Breath of the Beast: The Second Draft Enters its Second Phase

  1. fp says:

    i of course wish you success, but as you may guess, I am skeptical of how effective this will be to change either how the MSM operates, or public opinion about it, its output, and reality.

    that’s because the media’s behavior is but one aspect of the decay and decline of western society, which is multi-faceted and accelerating beyond any ability to reverse it.

    thus, even if you are effective with respect with the MSM, the sickness goes much beyond it and nobody can treat that. it’s too far gone.

    but, as i always say, I will be delighted if you prove me wrong. unfortunately, I seldom am.

    i do understand, however, the urge not to give in and to do something — I only lost it a short while ago myself. in the current circumstances I would call that expressive, not instrumental behavior.

    fp
    http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

  2. Eliyahu says:

    The MSM are superb at distorting an event, at spinning it around so that their side always comes up smelling sweet. The BBC may be the champ in this regard. Yet, what a real effort to demonstrate the flaws in the MSM should also do is to expose how the msm omit important news. For instance, augean stables has pointed out how news about the 2006 and 2007 France2/Karsenty trials were “overlooked” by the msm. I have another important piece of news that was deliberately disregarded.

    While ahmadinajad was in New York getting so much publicity for his mendacious UN speech and his Columbia U performance and bollinger’s supposed opposition to him, another aspect of Iranian policy was challenged at the UN by an unlikely actor in this regard, if we believe in the msm’s simplicities. Yet this other story, also connected to A-jad –which should have made it a hot item– was deliberately disregarded. I refer to the speech at the UN by Nestor Kirchner of Argentina. Now Argentina has a population of 37 million [est. in 2000], which makes it a fairly sizable country. Yet Kirchner’s General Assembly speech, in which he asked Iran to honor the international arrest warrants initiated by Argentina for 5 Iranians and one Lebanese wanted for involvement in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, was largely ignored in the American and British msm. Tell me if I’m wrong. By the way, one those for whom a warrant was issued was former president rafsanjani.

    The BBC reported the story in its Spanish service but not in its English broadcasts or its English website. After all, if bbc had overlooked the story on its Spanish-language broadcasts and website, it would have lost credibility among Spanish-speaking people who already knew about the story anyway from other Spanish-language sources and news outlets. But they didn’t need to report the story in English since it was so generally blacked out in the American and British msm. See link:
    http://ziontruth.blogspot.com/2007/09/important-story-hardly-reported.html

    The story is important but undesirable since it shows a supposedly “third world” country [whatever that means] like Argentina complaining about Iran, whereas Chavez of Venezuela has allied with Iran. It also indicates another country –besides Israel or the US– calling for justice in a crime committed against Jews in that country. In other words, it shows that the Jews are not entirely isolated, which is a message that much or most or all of the English-language msm do not want their audiences to receive. Kirchner’s speech does not fit the msm’s narrative about Iran as a leader of the 3rd World. So it must be left out.

    So you see that much important news is omitted or minimized by the msm. You can never believe that the US or UK msm have given you the story about any event.

  3. Lorenz Gude says:

    Wonderful to see another individual effort coalesce into a joint effort. The new institutions of the Internet are forming before out eyes. The shift in consciousness caused by the Internet is so big that even knowing McLuhan we can only guess at its extent. Linux is about 10 yeas older than the blogosphere and Eric S Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar has a lot to say about the unanticipated dynamics of the Internet. As a good McLuhanite I believe that the form itself is the unremarked ‘message’ even though the content – computer programing – is radically different than the cultural and political interchange that is the content of the blogosphere.

  4. fp says:

    lorenz,

    don’t set your expectations too high. the blogosphere is also largely made up of those with the same profile as MSM, the elites and the public. it’s not just RL and others like him.

    eliyahu,

    one of the biggest flaw of the MSM is the inability to put anything in context, which is due to ignorance and inability to reason, which is due to collapse of education.

    that’s why what you get is superficial “he says, she says” stuff without any awareness of the history, economics, politics, ideology, religion context, and no distinction between propaganda and reality, facts and lies. they regurgitate things rather than assess them.

    the closest term i know to decsribe it is crap.

  5. Eliyahu says:

    yes, fp, it’s crap. But what makes you think that no one in the MSM has a grip on reality and fact, even on history? The walt-mearsheimer tract is full of lies [see:
    http://ziontruth.blogspot.com/2007/10/gem-of-absurdity-from-walt-mearsheimer.html
    http://ziontruth.blogspot.com/2007/10/star-british-journalist-adores-walt.html%5D
    but does that mean that w-m don’t know that they are lying? Try out the link a few lines above for what I call a gem of absurdity from walt-mearsheimer. Could anyone but a conscious propagandist write such drivel? Now, I do agree with you that much or most of the public is nearly totally ignorant. That allows crooks like w-m to spread their lies. But there are those who know the truth and consciously lie.

  6. fp says:

    eliyahu,

    1st, I was referring to MSM, not so-called academics.

    2nd, I spent more than 15 years in academia and it’s full of people who either don’t know much, or don’t understand much, or both. that’s one reason I left.

    3rd, I am not sure that if W&M KNEW these to be absurdities, they would publish them. the risk would be too great that they would be exposed.

    I think the problem is that these days reputation is not derived from one’s work quality, but one’s work quality is derived from one’s reputation. Until this particular work I never heard of these two. I don’t doubt that they’ve been around the block a few times and they are known in the IR circles, but they are much like most academics, obscure and unimpressive, and read only by each other.

    I have heard Mearsheimer a few times and I found him sinuous and spitting crap by the ton. I do not doubt that most of what he’s done and doing is to attract attention rather than die in obscurity, but he is not even smart enough to do it in a way that obscures the crap — it is too damn obvious. And there is too much inconsistency and appearance of ignorance.

    So to your question, I am willing to bet that they know and understand much, much less than what you give them credit for, which does not mean they don’t lie.

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