Skip to comments.FISHY IN A BARREL (background on the Bush-dissing 9-11 widows...)
Posted on 04/09/2004 6:56:32 AM PDT by veronica
There are a lot of stories around right now, about how surviving relatives of 9/11 victims are complaining about Bush's first round of campaign ads, featuring 9/11-related footage. As it turns out, this is a fun game for warbloggers. First you find one of these stories. Then you google each interviewee, and almost invariably it turns out to be a serious activist or political foot-soldier.
Of course, there's no reason why the relatives of 9/11 victims should refrain from political activism. They have opinions, and as they stand metaphorically on the front line of our war, they deserve a hearing. The problem, as usual, is with the journalistic profession, which grossly misrepresents the story, and lazily pumps sources from the same few fringe organizations.
Citizen Smash linked a story by the New York Daily News. Smash noted that one of the interviewees, quoted at length, had previously slammed Bush in a Salon article; another interviewee had written a letter to the editor of the New York Times, scathingly critical of the Administration.
It turns out, Smash barely scratched the surface. Both the interviewees he checked out, as well as a third interviewee, Mindy Kleinberg, are members of the self-appointed Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission. These people are hardcore conspirazoids; they want to know whether Bush permitted the 9/11 attacks so his cronies could build an oil pipeline in Afghanistan. 9/11 widows in Ted Rall territory - it doesn't get any more ironic than that.
Another interviewee, Tom Roger, is president of Families of September 11. Roger's website links prominently to the Family Steering Committee as an information resource.
Only one of the New York Daily's Bush-dissing sources doesn't have a national organization with an anti-Bush agenda and a slick website: firefighter Tommy Fee.
John Hawkins at Right Wing News deconstructed an AP story headlined, "9/11 Victims' Kin Angered by Bush Ads". Again, out of six interviewees, only one wasn't a prominent member of some anti-Bush activist or political organization. Of the remainder, one is a Family Steering Council member and two were members of September Eleventh Families For Peaceful Tomorrows (more on that later). The other two were touted as firefighters, but they happen to be firefighters' union bosses, and one of them stumped for John Kerry in New Hampshire.
You see how easy this is? It's a wonder journalists can't do it.
CNN ran roundups of Bush-ads brouhaha at top-center on the main page and the politics page on Wednesday:
"When I look at the ads and I see Bush speaking over the pictures of Ground Zero, I know in my heart that President Bush failed the 3,000 Americans that died there on that day," Patty Casazza, whose husband died in the attacks, told CNN. Patty Casazza is a member of, you guessed it, the Family Steering Committee. Next!
"Bush is calling on the biggest disaster in our country's history, and indeed in the history of the fire service, to win sympathy for his campaign," said Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters. That union is backing Sen. John Kerry's bid for the presidency. Credit where credit's due: CNN reported Schaitberger's affiliation. CNN then ran another roundup on Friday, with all new sources:
In a news conference organized by the advocacy group September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, two family members of victims and a retired firefighter assailed the president for the ads Friday. "It upsets me tremendously that Bobby, my son, could be used as a political pawn to be manipulated and at times abused -- it truly makes me sick," said Bob McIlvaine, who lost his 26-year-old son in the World Trade Center attacks.
Rita Lasar, who lost a brother on 9/11, said, "President Bush promised in a speech he gave in 2002 that he would not use the site for political reasons. We believed him; we trusted him. He has broken his promise to us.
"To say that we're outraged is the truth, but it's more than outrage. It's a deep hurt and sorrow that any politician, Democrat or Republican, would seek to gain advantage by using that site."
At least CNN reports that Bob and Rita are from Peaceful Tommorrows. But that's not much of a hint. These people are fiercely dedicated activists, successful self-promoters, and radical in their politics. (There's also a credible rumor that they're heavily funded by taxpayers and from endowments chaired by Teresa Heinz, John Kerry's wife.)
Here's the Google cache of a defunct web log by one Bob McIlvaine, where he refers to Noam Chomsky and Edward Said as "leading intellectuals". Maybe it's not the same Bob. But this is definitely the right Bob, holding forth on Pacifica Radio back in April 2003 (he kicks in at about 1:20). Bob had his mind made up about George Bush a long time before these campaign ads came out.
Rita is the heavy hitter, though. Here she is getting arrested at an anti-war demonstration. Here, she invokes a litany of internationalist complaints about the Bush Administration, ranging from the International Criminal Court to the Landmine Ban. Here she is on The Donahue Show, testifying to her peacenik agenda. And Here we learn that she went to Afghanistan to publicize the plight of Afghan victims of American warmaking.
In the same story, CNN talked to a New York firefighter:
Retired firefighter Tom Ryan said, "They've deemed it that we're not allowed to see our heroic dead coming back from Iraq, but there, in a commercial to re-elect the president, they're using a dead firefighter to re-elect the president." Tom Ryan is the president of Fire-FLAG/EMS, the nationwide support group for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered firefighters. His politics fit the stereotype:
Ryan...is an out gay firefighter and professed liberal. "I'd like to see Hillary Clinton become the first female president. She's just so smart," he assessed. There's nothing wrong with being a gay activist. And radical pacifists, union bosses and conspiracy freaks are at least entitled to their opinions. Thing is, all these people can be pretty well counted on to oppose Bush politically and to find his marketing offensive. The headline should properly have been, "Bush Campaign Ads Anger Anti-Bush Activists, Democrat Stalwarts, And People Who Blame Bush For 9/11". But that's not exactly news. Might as well run the story, "Water Is Wet".
At that, CNN was by no means the worst offender. Salon, as usual, went for Bush's jugular with a red-hot scalpel: Has Bush No Shame?
Andrew Rice, Hold it right there. Let's see...a-yup:
Rice serves on the board of directors for Sept. 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, an organization made up of and founded by family members of victims of the terrorist attacks. He has traveled the country promoting Peaceful Tomorrows' stance that America's response to terrorism should be nonviolent. Interestingly, Salon quotes Rice at length, and quotes a Peaceful Tomorrows spokesperson at length, but doesn't give the slightest hint as to Rice's affiliation with the group. For his part, Rice is obnoxious:
Rice fears that many voters in Oklahoma, where he lives, will approve. "I'm not critical of people who live in the middle of the country. They work hard all day, come home, but they don't come home and get on the Internet and educate themselves on issues," he said. Not critical, just contemptuous.
Salon really grinds into Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes:
Hughes told Rice and other family members on Thursday that they are plain wrong to be incensed...those who disagree with her and the White House clearly have an agenda, Hughes says. They must be partisan. They must be Democrats.
Not all of the 9/11 families who oppose Bush's use of their greatest personal tragedy to win votes are Democrats, of course, although many will likely choose not to vote for Bush in the fall if he keeps this up.
Wright Salisbury of Boston, whose son-in-law Ted Hennessey was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11, called Hughes' comments that it's Democrats opposing the ads "a load of baloney."
"I have no idea what the political affiliation is of people I've been talking to," he said in an interview Thursday. "I was a Republican up until I voted for Bush. I will still vote for a good Republican, but not for Bush. To say this is Democrats doing this is another damn lie."
Someone by the name of Wright Salisbury had grandiose political goals last October:
I can create a computer network of interfaith and peace-advocacy people and organizations nationwide, which would be a fertile source of support for General Clark. A Clark-o-phile, eh? Interesting. But is it the same guy? Oh, yup, it is. Cripes, he has a deluxe web site, complete with Flash. Not exactly an amateur. True to form, he links to Peaceful Tomorrows.
Salon interviewed some other people, all of whom you've met already. They also ran an open letter from a 9/11 widow named A. R. Torres ("torres", incidentally, means "towers"):
I didn't think that co-opting 9/11 with such disregard for those of us who have been affected by this tragedy would anger me so much. I hope that John Kerry doesn't use 9/11 to strengthen his own candidacy . But so many 9/11 families are sick at your use of our sadness ... I can't imagine it being any worse than where you have already led us. Torres has written for Salon before, always in connection with 9/11. Her earlier writings are here and here. She excoriated Ted Rall for his 9/11 widows cartoon. Another Salon article was also posted at Why War?
Torres teaches Grief Writing at New York University, where she earned her Ph.D. And, as we learn from her byline at Salon, she's working on a graphic novel about her loss and post-9/11 experiences.
LIKE INCOHERENT TO STUPID One more widow-hunting post, and then I'll talk about something else for a while. Oliver Willis:
No wonder they call him The Blogfather. Only insty could concoct and disseminate a narrative as paranoid as this one. Oliver, paranoia is when you apprehend patterns that aren't there, whereas it's now a matter of record that the media frontloaded a gaggle of loons and stooges to blast the President's campaign. This "narrative" is being disseminated by the New York Post.
Somehow, the families of September 11th victims are only fit for scorn when their beliefs don't jibe with the right's agenda. These particular people's beliefs are fit for scorn, Oliver. I mean, even you thought we should invade Afghanistan, right? Well, Peaceful Tomorrows thinks you're a bloodthirsty zombie with a chip in your head. And do you actually think George Bush was in on the 9/11 conspiracy? Some of his recent detractors do. Talk about a paranoid narrative...
Where was this disdain for them, screaming in their faces that September 11 belongs to "all" of us and not just them, when their relatives were being used as an argument for the invasion of Iraq? Whutchoo talkin'bout, Willis?
Seriously. Screaming in their faces?
In the runup to Iraq, nobody was claiming exclusive rights to talk about 9/11. Now, if you buy this notion that 9/11 is the sole property of Victims' Families Against Bush, Inc., then you can't talk about it either.
The fact is, George Bush felt he could use 9.11 Hands off, bitch!
as his campaign platform - not the ongoing war on terrorism which is fair game for politics and debate, but the worst tragedy on American soil. 9/11 is inseparable from the so-called "war on terrorism". It is the emblem, the lynchpin of the war. If you think it's not fair game for politics and debate, notify the Family Steering Committee.
It's backfiring. And now the backfiring is backfiring.
People think its crass, and wrong. People think Janet Reno is sexy.
We expect better from the President of the United States. The president's supporters know this. They overreached and went too far, now they're paying the price and spinnning as fast as possible. We're spinning because we grabbed hold of CNN, Salon et.al. on this thing, and the angular momentum took us off our feet. You can bet my head was spinning when the links to the interviewees' national organizations started popping up.
If I were Bush, I'd work 9/11 day and night. This "backlash" can only fool people for so long, before it does major damage to Democrat and media credibility.
Posted by dipnut, on 03/12/2004, at 21:52:54.
KING OF THE WIDOW HUNTERS That's me. Mike says so. In the post immediately previous, I characterized widow-hunting as "aiding the efforts of certain people to publicize their political beliefs". That's a bit ironic, of course. I didn't treat the subject very seriously because I was responding to Tooney, and Tooney is not a serious person.
By "aiding the efforts of 9/11 widows to publicize their beliefs", I mean I exposed political affiliations which they must have preferred to keep out of print. I scorned their beliefs, and reviled the lazy-ass reporters who interviewed them. And I did refer to some of the widows as conspirazoids and peaceniks.
Which is exactly what they are.
Here's the deal: if you get into the public-policy game as a politician or activist, if you write a web log, if you carry a sign or put on a bumper sticker or bloviate into a reporter's microphone, then what you say is subject to discussion, contention, and ridicule. There can be no exemption for 9/11 widows.
Of course, some things are still off limits. Only a sociopath or callous partisan would willingly slander the widows, belittle their grief, or make cruel personal jokes. Contra Tooney, I have no desire to urinate on anyone's coffee table. And, out of simple decorum, we should listen to 9/11 widows with a small extra measure of respect (which I said in my original post). But this idea that we must not challenge or question anything they say, especially when they are holding forth on matters of policy, is absurd. If their grief has left them in such a tender state of mind that it would be cruel to disagree with them, then they are not fit to participate in the civic discussion.
As a corollary, a 9/11 widow's endorsement is not an argument in and of itself. You can probably find support for any given assertion with some 9/11 family member or other. It's inevitable that among the bereaved of 9/11 are at least one Holocaust denier, one UFO believer, one flat-Earther, one paranoid schizophrenic. This is a large and fractious population, not a voting bloc or political chit.
A sentiment I've seen bandied about in comment threads is the idea that we shouldn't "question the widows' motivations", or that we should give them the "benefit of doubt". This is weird, because there is no question or doubt. I assume they are sincere in their dislike of George Bush (and I would loathe them if I doubted their sincerity). Fair enough; I take them at their word.
Now suppose Bush had got his campaign well under way, and never mentioned 9/11 or showed any footage from the scene. The Family Steering Committee, you may recall, is open to the proposition that Bush was in on the 9/11 conspiracy. They could say: The President is trying to gloss over this terrible atrocity! He wants America to forget! He is guilty! They could say these things, and they would.
On to the complaints about "politicizing" 9/11, as though this is a bad thing; as though it were possible to de-politicize 9/11. There is no way to say anything substantive about it without making a political statement. Depending whom you ask, it was an Act Of War, a Crime, a Tragedy, an Act Of Treason, a Work Of Art. All these labels are inextricable from their various political views and policy implications. What happened on Sept. 11, 2001?
Three airplanes flew into three buildings. Two of the buildings collapsed as a result. A fourth airplane crashed in a field. Who flew the airplanes: Arabs, Muslims, Cultists, Fascists? Why? The politics is inescapable. And there is no agreement about the politics, which brings some of us to the question of ownership. Who owns 9/11; who decides what it means?
For the bereaved, 9/11 means the loss of a loved one. That's a personal meaning which the rest of us cannot take in. But 9/11 is profoundly meaningful to us nonetheless. I, and many others, have pondered the implications of that fateful morning every day for two and a half years. 9/11 was, is, a turning point in the history of America and the world. Everybody owns it, and if we can't agree on its meaning, then there is no definitive meaning.
This hasn't stopped some people from taking a proprietary stance regarding 9/11. From the Salon article I linked before:
[Wright] Salisbury [website], for one, vows to march on New York if Bush dares to appear at ground zero during the GOP Convention. "If he does anything like show up at the World Trade Center, if he even shows his face, he will enrage every family member of the victims, whether a Republican or a Democrat. I'm not a marcher, but I will march if that happens. If he threatens to appear at the World Trade Center, I'll go down and be one more face in the crowd." It's hard to say which is more gross: Salisbury presuming to speak for "every family member of the victims, whether a Republican or a Democrat", or this idea that the President would "threaten" to appear at the World Trade Center. Ground Zero is not some disputed land that George Bush would subdue by force. It is part of America. Bush is an American citizen. It is absolutely his right to go there, as it is mine and yours. It is his right to campaign there, and frankly I hope he does. You don't like it? Vote against him.
A. R. Torres also claims controlling interest:
I didn't think that co-opting 9/11 with such disregard for those of us who have been affected by this tragedy would anger me so much. I hope that John Kerry doesn't use 9/11 to strengthen his own candidacy . But so many 9/11 families are sick at your use of our sadness ... I can't imagine it being any worse than where you have already led us. One of Torres's essays was posted at Why War?, a website radical enough to sport a picture of Rachel Corrie on the front page. Torres's politics falls short of their radical standards, though; the essay contains only the vaguest hint of blaming Bush for 9/11. Indeed, Why War? probably pirated it from Salon.
The thing about Torres is, she's a professional 9/11 widow. She has a semi-regular gig with Salon, writing exclusively with regard to her loss. She teaches Grief Writing at NYU. And she's working on a graphic novel about her 9/11 experience. Certainly she has no qualms about cashing in on the meaning of 9/11. Nor should she; she owns her experiences, she can tell her story, and more power to her if she can get paid for it. I don't doubt for a second she would give it all up, if only she could have her husband back.
But Torres doesn't have exclusive rights to 9/11 either. "Those of us who have been affected by this tragedy" equals "all of us".
Posted by dipnut, on 03/12/2004, at 19:01:47.
CANNED TOONEY Some dyspeptic bong-hog is on my case:
This miserable shithead thinks widow-hunting is a "fun game." It's like shooting fish in a barrel, I tell ya! Too bad he couldn't have been there when they found out their "loved ones" were "killed" so he could have pissed on their coffee tables and planted a flag in the middle of them. Awh, he's so cute! Can I keep him?
No, but really, what did I do to deserve this? Why, I aided the efforts of certain people, to publicize their political beliefs:
9/11 Widow X: As a matter of public record, I believe such-and-such!
Dipnut: As a matter of public record, Widow X believes such-and-such. And incidentally, CNN sucks.
Tooney: Dipnut is attacking Widow X!
If that's not silly enough, Tooney does the odd bit of widow-hunting himself. Just for that, I'm not going to tell him what to do about his cold knee. You're on your own, Tooney!
I should have come up with a better title for that post, though. I was in a hurry; you could probably tell. I should have titled it, "Want To Bash Bush? Talk To The Pros", or "Make It Look Like An Accident", or maybe "Google Eye Beats Eagle Eye".
Tooney goes on:
And I'm just curious, where are all of the legions of pro-Bush 9/11 families the right keeps conjuring up? Probably minding their own business.
...I've only seen two other family members come out in support of the ads and, believe me, I've looked. I'm one of those "bloggers with Google" that Reynolds keeps crowing about. I can clear up your confusion, Tooney: you're actually a "booger with goggles", and you can't find people by looking at a globe.
It's obvious Tooney didn't even read my post; I linked four stories where 9/11 relatives spoke in defense of Bush's ads. For instance:
...Jennie Farrell, who lost her brother, electrician James Cartier, called the ad "tastefully done," adding: "It speaks to the truth of the times. Sept. 11 ... was something beyond the realm of imagination, and George Bush ... led us through one of the darkest moments in history." It took me two seconds to find this: Jennie Farrell is active with Give Your Voice For WTC Victims' Families. They're not obviously partisan, but maybe Tooney can dig up some dirt on them.
Then there's this:
Patricia Riley of Staten Island, N.Y., who lost her sister in the attack, said: "The president has every right to point to his leadership during that time." Ms. Riley has publicly opposed building commmercial structures at Ground Zero; she must be in on some Republican plot to drive up real estate prices in Manhattan, or something. Right, Tooney?
And there's this:
Deena Burnett, whose husband died in the crash of United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, told CNN the ads were appropriate. "I'm glad he's using them," Burnett said. "I think it serves as a reminder of the lives that were lost on September 11th."
Once again, I'll do the legwork for Tooney: Deena Burnett is founder of the Tom Burnett Foundation, a grantee of the sinister Moyer Foundation, which gets funding from evil corporations such as Zeeks Pizza.
Hey, this is a fun game!
Finally there's this:
"It shows you firefighters carrying a brother out, and it shows you the American flag waving over the trade center," said Joe Esposito, a firefighter who lost a brother and a cousin in the attacks. "I have no problem with that." Joe Esposito is a Chief of Department, and as such he has actually met President Bush. Perhaps the experience went to his head.
It took me five minutes to double Goggle-boy's score!
As I mentioned previously, out of the dozen or so Bush-bashing interviewees for these stories, only one didn't have an axe to grind, and a national organization to turn the wheel. One. That's not square with the idea that the ads are innately offensive to any reasonable person. So far, Bush's defenders have at most a small fraction of the partisan baggage of Peaceful Tomorrows or the Family Steering Committee.
As for widow-hunting, I hope that term gets into the lexicon. I offer the following definition:
Widow-hunting: research in public documents, aimed at discovering relevant information about a news source who seems "too good to be true". I just recently read a quote by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert: "If it weren't for lack of context, there would be no news". That's very nearly true. Widow-hunting is one way to provide the context that reporters leave out, and show how empty is the loudest drum. Widow-hunting turns news into not-news.
I'll be doing more of this in the future.
Let the liberals cling to their myths of Camelot:
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They're all activists...and partisan.
(a) grew up, accepted reality, and blamed the terrorists for their husband's deaths;
(b) stopped blaming Bush, the only president with the st*nes to go after their husbands' murderers; and
(c) stopped being media hogs.
I'll bet there are children at home who are suffering from their mothers' addiction to media attention. It takes a lot of time to travel to TV studios, get coiffed and made up, and sit around chewing the fat with Chrissy Matthews and perky Katie for hours.
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