Our 911TruthStore is closing soon. Please have a look at what’s left in inventory, and if you are interested in any of these items and wish to give them as gifts or share with family at the holidays, order right away.The deadline for pre-Christmas delivery is 12/16 if you wish to use Priority Mail; 12/23 if you pay for USPS overnight shipping.
There is one more item available, in addition to what’s at the store … we have just received a few brand new copies of Kristina Borjesson’s excellent 2004 book, “Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press”. Although I’ve not yet added it to the store website, they are available. Please email me to order, with BOOK ORDER in the subject line. If you’re wondering why we can’t “break through” the corporate media, you’ll understand clearly after reading this expose! The book description follows below.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
Editor’s (Borjesson) Note: While working in what has been, arguably, the most difficult reporting environment in recent times, CBS’s Dan Rather chose to speak out frankly to BBC Newsnight correspondent Madeleine Holt about the serious and dangerous constraints that he and his colleagues have experienced in the post-9/11 era. I know of no other working broadcast journalist of Rather’s long experience and stature who has been willing to go on the record in such a significant way about these matters.
BBC NEWSNIGHT, MAY 16, 2002
Holt: How much of a challenge professionally has covering September 11 been and the implications of September 11?
Rather: I don’t know of any American journalist who doesn’t believe that September 11 and what has followed represented the greatest challenge of our journalistic lifetimes. It’s certainly true of myself. I’ve been very lucky and very blessed over the years as a journalist to cover what – I will say and I hope in no self-serving way — is my fair share of these stories, but nothing, nothing, compares with September 11 and what’s happened in the wake of it.
Contributors include Dan Rather, Charles Reina, Ashleigh Banfield, Charlotte Dennett, Gerard Colby, John Kelly, Gary Webb, Michael Levine, Greg Palast, Jane Akre, J. Robert Port, Monika Jensen-Stevenson, Kristina Borjesson, David E. Hendrix, Philip Weiss, Helen Malmgren, Maurice Murad, Carl Jensen and Robert McChesney, with Foreword by Gore Vidal.
From Publishers Weekly In this uneven yet illuminating anthology, editor Borjesson succinctly explains the journalist’s predicament: “The buzzsaw is what can rip through you when you try to investigate or expose anything this country’s large institutions be they corporate or government want kept under wraps.” Indeed, if members of the general public read this book, or even portions of it, they will be appalled. To the uninitiated reader, the accounts of what goes on behind the scenes at major news organizations are shocking. Executives regularly squelch legitimate stories that will lower their ratings, upset their advertisers or miff their investors. Unfortunately, this dirt is unlikely to reach unknowing news audiences, as this volume’s likely readership is already familiar with the current state of journalism. Here, Murrow Award-winning reporter Borjesson edits essays by journalists from the Associated Press to CBS News to the New York Times. Each tells of their difficulties with news higher-ups as they tried to publish or air controversial stories relating to everything from toxic dump sites and civilian casualties to police brutality and dangerous hospitals. Some, like BBC reporter Greg Palast’s, are merely rants against “corporate” journalism, but others, like New York Observer columnist Philip Weiss’s, will serve as meaningful lessons to nascent and veteran writers alike. Most of the sentiments here are especially relevant given the current reports of the war in Afghanistan and questions of their validity, making this timely and essential reading for students and scholars of journalism. (Mar.)Forecast: With Bernard Goldberg’s Bias riding high on bestseller lists, Borjesson’s offering on news media manipulation is bound to attract serious attention and sales. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From School Library Journal Adult/High School – For this edition, three of the original essays were removed and four new ones added. Many others have been updated, making the book even more pertinent and timely, notably with Michael Levine’s contribution on the nation’s drug war and Jane Akre’s account of her legal battle with Rupert Murdoch over the broadcast of her story on Monsanto’s bovine hormone. Each of the new chapters documents how journalists have experienced increased censorship in the aftermath of September 11th: Dan Rather speaks frankly of the pressure to report “friendly” news or risk being labeled unpatriotic; Charles Reina, formerly of Fox News, reveals the existence of “The Memo,” a daily Bush-era e-mail “addressing what stories [would] be covered” and how; and MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield relates how her candid, extemporaneous personal observations on media coverage of the Middle East (given in a lecture at Kansas State University) drew the ire of corporate executives. Most disturbing is Charlotte Dennett’s analysis of how the media “missed the context” between the Bush administration’s war on terror and “the Great Game for oil.” In her new introduction, Borjesson notes that the current state of American journalism makes it even more important that the work of investigative journalists and media critics be unreservedly and widely disseminated. As before, Buzzsawprovides a vital perspective on the First Amendment right to a free press and its endangered status today. – Dori DeSpain, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
* Paperback: 462 pages * Publisher: Prometheus Books; Rev Exp edition (October 2004) * Language: English
Into The Buzzsaw: 18 Tales Of Media Censorship
A review by Michelle Goldberg http://www.freedomofthepress.net/intothebuzzsaw.htm
Audio: Kristina Borjesson interview (Interview starts just after 1:00:00, after the 1st hour)
Between them, the authors of the incendiary new book “Into the Buzzsaw,” out this month from Prometheus, have won nearly every award journalism has to give — a Pulitzer, several Emmys, a Peabody, a prize from Investigative Reporters and Editor, an Edward R. Murrorw and several accolades from the Society of Professional Journalists. One is veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration and a best-selling author, another is a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.
And most of them are considered, at best, marginal by the mainstream media. At worst, they’ve been deemed incompetent and crazy for having the audacity to uncover evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors committed by government agencies and corporate octopi.
Edited by ex-CBS producer Kristina Borjesson, “Into the Buzzsaw” is a collection of essays, mostly by serious journalists excommunicated from the media establishment for tackling subjects like the CIA’s role in drug smuggling, lies perpetuated by the investigators of TWA flight 800, POWs rotting in Vietnam, a Korean war massacre, the disenfranchisement of black voters in Bush’s election, bovine growth hormone’s dangers and a host of other unpopular issues.
Borjesson describes “the buzzsaw” as “what can rip through you when you try to investigate or expose anything this country’s large institutions — be they corporate or government — want to keep under wraps. The system fights back with official lies, disinformation, and stonewalling.
Your phone starts acting funny. Strange people call you at strange hours to give you strange information. The FBI calls you. Your car is broken into and the thief takes your computer and your reporter’s notebook and leaves everything else behind … The sense of fear and paranoia is, at times, overwhelming.”
The majority of the eighteen pieces in Borjesson’s book are about hard-working mainstream journalists, dedicated to the ideals of their profession, who stumble into the buzzsaw and have their careers and reputations eviscerated. Though the subjects and personalities involved are wildly diverse, the stories echo each other in disturbing ways. Journalists are sent by their bosses to do their jobs — in the case of Borjesson, to investigate the crash of TWA Fight 800 as a producer for CBS news. Sometimes what they find is impolitic, other times it brings threats of corporate lawsuits. Suddenly, editors kill the story, or demand changes. In some instances, like that of TV reporter Jane Akre, who was investigating the use of Monsanto’s Bovine Growth Hormone, reporters are ordered to insert outright lies in their pieces or face firing. Other times, like with Gerard Colby’s book about the Du Pont family and Gary Webb’s San Jose Mercury News series about the CIA’s role in the crack epidemic, the bosses are spooked after the fact and withdraw their support from work already published, hanging reporters out to dry.
In the aftermath of Enron, plenty of journalists came forward to publicly wring their hands about the press’s failure to catch the story before it destroyed the life savings of thousands. Since then, though, there’s been little sign of renewed vigilance towards malfeasance at other companies, even though many have written that Enron’s business practices weren’t particularly unusual. Without addressing Enron directly, “Into the Buzzsaw” makes it pretty clear why this is by showing how journalists who took on companies like Monsanto and Du Pont were abandoned by their own editors and publishers and embroiled in lawsuits.
When they speak out, buzzsaw victims are usually treated as paranoid conspiracy theorists. Competing outlets valiantly defend the status quo –The New York Times, The Washington Post and the LA Times launched concurrent attacks on Gary Webb’s series, eventually derailing his career and causing his paper to print a retraction (though not of any specific facts mentioned in the story). Writing of this episode in is book “Whiteout,” Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair said, “From the savage assaults on Webb by other members of his profession, those unfamiliar with the series might have assumed that Webb had made a series of wild and unsubstantiated charges, long on dramatic speculation and short of specific data or sourcing. In fact, Webb’s series was succinct and narrowly focused.”
Borjesson was subject to similar attempts at character assassination by her former peers. After Borjesson was fired from CBS, she was asked to develop a pilot for a new investigative series to be overseen by Oliver Stone. She gathered over thirty eyewitnesses who disputed the official government story, but before production even started, other journalists started sneering at the project. Newsweek called Stone the “latest conspiracy crank to delve into the mysterious crash.” Time Magazine chimed in with an article headlined “The Conspiracy Channel?” The New York Times dismissed Borjesson’s reporting simply because government agencies denied its truth (never mind they were the very agencies Borjesson was investigating).
There’s something of an X-Files feel to a lot of these stories, though not in the way that condescending guardians of official truth think. Rather, their surreal feeling comes from the first-person experiences of people finding the institutions they’ve served all their lives suddenly turning on them. As Borjesson writes, “Walk into the buzzsaw and you’ll cut right to this layer of reality. You will feel a deep sense of loss and betrayal. A shocking shift in paradigm. Anyone who hasn’t experienced it will call you crazy. Those who don’t know the truth, or are covering it up, will call you a conspiracy nut.”
In fact, that’s just what a lot of these writers have been called. Once a journalist has been tossed out of the inner circle, anything they write can be smeared as sour grapes or mere ranting. The media has already branded them unreliable, so their charges are extremely unlikely to be taken seriously.
A similar thing happens to other progressive media critics. It’s not that the media isn’t interested in media stories — see the blanket coverage of Tina Brown’s foibles at Talk. It’s just that few are interested in critiques that challenge the very essence of journalists’ romantic dreams of themselves as Robert Redford playing Bob Woodward in “All the Presidents Men.” Right-wingers like “Bias” author Bernard Goldberg tend to get much more attention, perhaps because their insights don’t threaten most journalists’ cherished self-conceptions.
While most alternative press readers are familiar with Noam Chomsky’s scrupulous documentation of the way government lies become the media’s conventional wisdom and with Robert McChesney (who wrote Buzzsaw’s conclusion) and Mark Crispin Millers’ analysis of corporate consolidation, they are routinely written off by those policing the perimeters of acceptable debate. They hardly ever appear in major newspapers or on network TV. While not quibbling with their facts, most media people tar them as alarmists or unrealistic utopians.
Indeed, some of the writers in Buzzsaw say that, before their own experiences, they were among the scoffers. Webb writes, “If we had met five years ago, you wouldn’t have found a more staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me … I was winning awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests. So how could I possibly agree with people like Noam Chomsky and Ben Bagdikian, who were claiming the system didn’t work, that it was steered by powerful special interests and corporations, and existed to protect the power elite?”
But, like most of the contributors to “Into the Buzzsaw,” he did his job too well and the powers that be hurled him onto the other side of the looking glass. “And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been,” he writes. “The reason I’d enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn’t been, as I’d assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job … The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn’t written anything important enough to suppress.”
The routine maginalizing of media critics is one reason “Into the Buzzsaw” is so important. It might be possible to discredit one erstwhile insider, but to argue that more than a dozen veterans of organizations like CBS News, CNN, The AP, The BBC and The San Jose Mercury News are all crazy in exactly the same way would be to engage in conspiracy-mongering more far-fetched than anything these authors are accused of. And while plenty of lefty writers have excoriated media monopolies, rarely has the precise way that corporate ownership and intimidation warp newsroom values been made quite so explicit. The value of these testimonies is largely in their minute accumulation of detail (which occasionally makes for tedious reading but enhances credibility).
Borjesson is especially systematic, laying out every meeting, every conversation, every contradiction in government statements.
Some contributors aren’t quite so convincing. The book as a whole would have been stronger without April Oliver’s self-serving piece about her involvement in CNN’s Tailwind debacle and subsequent firing. She doesn’t bother to refute the charges made against her or defend the finer points of her work, which makes her essay seem like a self-serving screed. But that’s just one weak spot in an otherwise appallingly convincing book, a book that suggests that the truth about our media-military-industrial complex might go beyond even our paranoid imaginings.
Beyond the specifics of each story, “Into the Buzzsaw” is about how the elite sector of the media to bestows the imprimatur of truth on its own interpretations of the world. In the current landscape, of course, these same outlets largely take it upon themselves to determine which books should be deemed serious. It will be interesting to see if “Into the Buzzsaw” gets any play in the outlets it exposes.
Don’t count on it.
Michelle Goldberg is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn.