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While watching TV coverage of the peace protests this past January, I noticed a large contingent of signs bearing extreme language that attacked President Bush—insulting him personally, calling him a terrorist, and comparing him to Hitler. At the same time, I didn’t notice any signs criticizing Saddam Hussein. There were no signs asking him to abide by the Gulf War cease-fire agreement or the various U.N. resolutions he’s been violating for over a decade.
Despite the extremist language used by many of the protesters, despite the fact that they seemed to blame President Bush for a crisis caused by twelve years of Iraqi noncompliance, the media portrayed the protesters as mainstream. This must mean
the media perceives as mainstream the notion that Bush and Hitler are similar. The media also apparently perceives as mainstream the notion that, to resolve this conflict, nothing should be asked of Saddam Hussein.
Perhaps these perceptions pervade the cocktail parties of Central Park West, Georgetown and Los Angeles, but I suspected that most Americans—be they Democrat or Republican, Bush supporter or critic—would say that a parallel between our President and Hitler is extreme, not mainstream.
Frankly, I was angered that the media glossed over the obvious extremism within the protests. I was angered that the media would not challenge—or at least examine—the mentality of the people comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler. And I was angered that the supposedly mainstream marchers seemed unwilling to acknowledge the extremism of their comrades.
So, I decided that, at the next protest, I would show a truth of the protesters that was going unreported by the traditional media.
None. This was the first time I’d ever attempted it.
The costs associated with producing the video included the rental of the video camera and the purchase of blank video tapes. All told, aside from the time spent, the production of the video cost several hundred dollars. I paid for these expenses out-of-pocket.
Yes. I’ve got a new list of interview questions for the next protest, and I’d also like to spend some time interviewing representatives from the decidedly out-of-the-mainstream groups that have been organizing the purportedly mainstream demonstrations.
I have an idea for a feature-length documentary examining political correctness and anti-Semitism on college campuses. I hope to expose the empty arguments and flimsy logic of the politically correct simply by allowing them to speak.
Michael Moore needs a conservative counterbalance...
I was surprised by the number of supporters who offered to help finance future projects, so I’ve taken the advice of several who suggested setting up a PayPal contribution system.
You may also contact me directly if you wish to provide financial support for future projects.
There are undoubtedly principled people who can eloquently present an intelligent case against the war. I know a few such people myself. I just didn’t happen to run into them at the protest.
Yes. I conducted only one interview that did not appear in the final video.
That depends on your definition of selectively edit and skew.
I edited the video to create the most compelling presentation. But I did not take comments out of context or otherwise edit the responses of the interviewees to alter their meaning. Nor did I leave out any comments that, in my mind, would have made the interviewees seem any more intelligent or informed.
In fact, some of the protesters would have been far more embarrassed had I not cut some of their comments. However, because I wanted to create a focused presentation that was short enough to get people to watch, I didn’t use such comments when they were tangential to the topics discussed.
I say you’re right. I know I’m biased. I’ve admitted that for quite some time.
But Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings are also biased. Not only that, the entire media is biased. In fact, everyone alive is biased; we all look at the world with our own perspective. If journalists are capable of not letting their view of the world affect how they present that view of the world to others, then they are the only humans alive who can do it.
Although I’d like to think that most members of the traditional media do not consciously color their reporting, there are subtle ways that opinions can seep out. Any presentation can be tainted by word choice, body language, facial expressions or tone of voice. When consumers of information are knowledgeable about the biases of the various producers of information, they are more capable of separating facts from their packaging. By hiding their bias, media outlets are making it more difficult for people to distinguish between fact and opinion. This causes people to unwittingly consume opinions that are disguised as facts.
I’m not arguing that the media should rid itself of bias, because that’s not possible. But it would be nice if the media were honest about its bias instead of covering it up. Knowing that Tim Russert—the host of NBC’s Meet the Press—worked for two liberal Democrats from New York (Senator Pat Moynihan and Governor Mario Cuomo) helps us understand his perspective. But, for some reason, while mentioning this work, NBC’s biography of Russert omits the names and political affiliation of the people for whom he worked. Why?
Now, one can have a bias and still act with integrity. From what I’ve observed, Tim Russert appears to conduct his work with integrity. But I would make the obviously self-serving argument that admitting you have a bias is a sign of greater integrity than pretending you don’t. Not only is it more honest, it leads to a more accurate public comprehension of the facts behind the news. Therefore, because I reveal my bias instead of hiding it, you should trust me more than you trust the traditional media.
At the very least, I hope people view the reporting of Dan Rather et al. with the same critical eye that they view my work. After all, there’s no denying that the traditional media has done much to earn our skepticism.
By definition, any video lasting only 6 minutes and 40 seconds that contains just a handful of interviews will give an incomplete portrayal of a day-long event involving tens of thousands.
But I still believe that the video portrays the protesters more accurately than the picture painted by the traditional news media, which went out of its way to ignore any evidence that contradicted its contention that the protesters represented mainstream opinion.
People who keep making this point have obviously not spent any time trying to familiarize themselves with the arguments of the other side.
Nobody is making the claim that there is a direct link between Saddam Hussein and the September 11th attacks. That does not mean, however, that Iraq is somehow unrelated to the war on terror.
Saddam Hussein poses a direct threat to the United States because of his capacity to develop weapons. This threat may not necessarily manifest itself in Saddam attacking us directly. Instead, he can attack the United States by proxy. All he needs to do is supply weapons to al Qaeda, which is both willing and able to orchestrate an attack itself.
An alliance between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda is not far-fetched: they share a common enemy. True, Hussein’s relatively secular government may be an anathema to Islamists like Osama bin Laden. But the U.S. detested the communist government of the Soviet Union, and this did not prevent us from allying with the Soviets in World War II. There’s a reason for the maxim, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Recently, Saddam Hussein has been invoking radical Islam with increasing frequency. Perhaps Hussein believes that harnessing the hate of that movement will help him maintain power. This would explain why he’s building mosques all over Iraq and offering $25,000 rewards to the families of Palestinian bombers who die while killing Israelis.
Should we trust Saddam Hussein and hope that he does not enter into an alliance with al Qaeda? Should we wait to act until after we’ve been attacked?
Without question, it is worrisome that a significant portion of the western European public seems opposed to the United States.
What’s difficult to determine, however, is the motivation behind this opposition. Much of it seems to be utopian pacifism and general anti-Americanism. For the following reasons, we should temper our worry over European public opinion:
- The European history of imperialism is far more extensive than that of the United States. In fact, the disarray of the Middle East and much of Africa is a direct result of Europe’s misadventures in these regions. Perhaps the pacifism of Europe stems from imperial guilt. To the extent that this guilt motivates Europeans to oppose military action of any kind, it must be discounted because it has nothing to do with this particular conflict.
- Some of the opposition is motivated by a general antipathy towards the United States and its role as the sole superpower in the world. Opposition of this form must also be discounted, because it sets up a double standard: the world may prevent the U.S. from acting in the interest of its security, but countries like France are free to act unilaterally for any reason, as it did when it recently dispatched troops to Ivory Coast without asking the world for permission first.
- Europe, a continent with a supra-national bureaucracy and many socialist economic structures, has always had a distaste for more free-wheeling (and comparatively successful) economy of the United States. Judging from the number of people who cast the conflict in economic terms, jealousy of—or disdain for—our different economic system may motivate some of the opposition.
- Politically, old Europe is much further to the left than the United States. Perhaps ideological differences are motivating some of our opponents. Or is it just a coincidence that European opposition to American policies always seems more acute when we have a Republican president?
- During the Cold War, the United States provided for the defense of Europe. For four decades, Europe was relieved of the burden of having to worry about or deal with external threats; this had been the job of the United States. Is it any wonder, then, that Europe has a hard time perceiving threats? Is it any wonder that an atrophied Europe has no will to fight, under any circumstances?
Ultimately, it is important to remember that leadership sometimes requires making choices that are not popular. Prior to September 11th, if the United States had gone to war in Afghanistan to root out al Qaeda and the Taliban, much of the world would undoubtedly have been outraged by our actions. But if it could have prevented the attacks, would it have been justified? That probably depends on whether you’re sipping cafe au lait on a sidewalk in Paris or visiting the grave of a loved one who was crushed to death in the crumbling towers.
Nobody wants civilian casualties. Aside from being its own form of evil, it undermines the cause of those of us who are arguing for action.
However, when dealing with people like Saddam Hussein, it is not as simple as saying “we can’t go to war against Iraq because there will be civilian casualties.” Leaving Saddam in power will also lead to civilian casualties and it will perpetuate the subjugation of an entire nation and it will allow a developing threat to get greater.
It also seems rather disingenuous that the protesters would cite civilian casualties as a reason to leave Saddam Hussein in power. I don’t recall any worldwide protests occurring after Saddam inflicted civilian casualties on his fellow Iraqis. Is it possible that the protesters only abhor these casualties when they occur in conflicts involving the United States?
True, the primary motivation is not to free the Iraqi people. But it is a laudable goal that would be a positive outcome of deposing Saddam. In this case, the interests of the United States are aligned with the interests of the Iraqi people. That’s why it seems spiteful to deny freedom to the Iraqi people over disagreements with some of the other motives behind the action that would liberate them.
Some of the arguments against liberating Iraq are condescending and border on racist. I frequently hear statements like, “The people of Iraq come from too many disparate tribes. They’ve never lived in freedom before. They won’t know how to handle it. It’ll be a disaster.”
If the people making these arguments had lived in the 1860s, would they have been making similar arguments against ending slavery?
I think we should. But we’ll need help.
No. In order to work, inspections will take years and must constantly be backed by the threat of force. Until recently, inspectors hadn’t been in Iraq since 1998. This prolonged absence was enabled because the world got distracted, started focusing on other things, and forgot about Saddam Hussein and the threat he poses. Why would we expect another years-long inspection regime to be any different?
Because much of the world has signaled it’s unwillingness to use force under any circumstances, Saddam knows that the key to survival is waiting for the U.S. to waver. Hussein’s hope is that he will one day face an American president with a more gelatinous constitution.
That’s why he’s doing all he can to drag out inspections indefinitely, just as he did in the 1990s. That’s also why it’s so troubling that others are falling for his game yet again.
President Bush’s invocation of the threat of force is the only reason the inspectors have returned to Iraq. Not even the most rabid rabble rouser would deny that.
That’s why I find laughable the logic of those who support inspections while calling President Bush a bully: if it weren’t for President Bush’s so-called bullying, there would be no inspectors in Iraq right now. And, if he were a bully, he wouldn’t have wasted months trying to cajole the United Nations into relevance by having them solve a 12-year-old problem once and for all.
On this, I am entirely consistent. I don’t back the United Nations at all. I believe that the United Nations, in structure and practice, is morally illegitimate and needs to be replaced.
Your question about keeping the Iraqi oil fields
in 1991 was misleading. It was never an option
because it wasn’t part of the mandate for war.
And, if we never took control of the
oil fields, how could we keep them?
I find this question very amusing, considering it comes from the very people who are accusing the United States of being the world’s bully and of using its military to achieve any economic objective.
If the United States was truly a militant bully that was seeking control of oil, then we could have (and would have) taken the oil fields regardless of what the underlying mandate for war happened to be. Who was going to stop us? The U.N.?
My question was designed to challenge the rhetoric of the protesters. The slogans shouted at the recent protests are not much different from those used during the first Gulf War. “This is a war for oil,” the protesters claimed then as they do now. “We’re just trying to take over the Iraqi oil fields.”
But the protesters were wrong about their accusations in 1991, so why should we believe the exact same accusations now?
Perhaps not. But it undercuts your argument significantly if, while criticizing one course of action, you are unable to suggest any viable alternatives.
If the protesters are unable to present any reasonable alternatives to war, then one can logically conclude that the war is the only workable solution.
The video was posted to the website on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 18th.
By that evening, I received over 50 e-mails in response to the video. (As a comparison, previous postings normally resulted in only a handful of e-mails each week.) This unusual response led me to check the server logs; several blogs were pointing to the video and generating a lot of traffic.
Brain Terminal logged 6,860 page-views and 3,417 visitors that day, which was more in a single day than in any previous month since the site’s inception in August of 2001.
Before noon on Wednesday the 19th, a producer at Fox News Channel e-mailed a request for permission to air portions of the video. That afternoon, The Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal website listed the video in its Best of the Web column. And that evening, Fox News Channel aired a three-minute segment showing clips from the video on Special Report with Brit Hume.
By the end of the day on Wednesday, Brain Terminal served another 53,828 pages to 22,558 visitors.
On Thursday the 20th, Rush Limbaugh played [MP3 file; 2.7MB] a few audio clips from the interviews and spent several minutes talking about the video. Fox News Channel also re-aired the portions of the video after an introduction by Sean Hannity on Hannity & Colmes.
That Thursday, Brain Terminal recorded the heaviest traffic to date: 175,443 pages viewed by 53,779 visitors.
On Friday of that week, Rush Limbaugh mentioned Brain Terminal once again and read a letter [MP3 file; 1.7MB] that I had written to him earlier in the month, before I shot the video.
Brain Terminal logged an additional 150,064 page-views that day, serving 40,054 visitors.
In total, between the day the video was posted and today, Brain Terminal served over 700,000 pages to nearly a quarter of a million visitors.
I have been able to personally verify coverage from these outlets:
- Special Report with Brit Hume
According to e-mails received from readers, the following outlets also covered the video. Note, however, that I have not been able to verify coverage, so this list may be inaccurate:
- The O’Reilly Factor with Bill O’Reilly
- The Sean Hannity Show
- The Hugh Hewitt Show
- The Michael Reagan Talk Show
- The Glenn Beck Program
- The Michael Medved Show
On Thursday, February 20th, I was a guest on The Jack Riccardi Show on KTSA 550 AM in San Antonio, Texas.
The following day, Paul Bond interviewed me for The Hollywood Reporter. (His article on the video, entitled “Protests spark Web docu film,” appeared on Monday the 24th.)
On Sunday, February 23rd, I spent an hour talking with callers on The Flip Side with Don Crawford, which airs in Austin, Texas.
Over 6,000 new subscribers signed up since the video was posted.
Yes, but a surprisingly small amount of it. Of the e-mails received, around 90%-95% of them were generally complimentary of the video, although not all of those people supported my stance on Iraq.
However, one peace advocate described in rather vivid detail the peaceful way in which he’d like to electrocute various parts of my body with a car battery. Interestingly, this person was careless enough to send the e-mail using his real name. Bad idea! If I were to post his message on the web, any future employer would be able to find it simply by doing a Google search for his name.
Let this be a lesson to you: if you wish to send me threatening e-mails, at least be smart enough to disguise your identity!
There are still a few hundred e-mails to which I have not yet replied. If you sent me an e-mail and are awaiting a reply, I apologize; due to the amount of e-mail I’ve received since posting the video, I will not be able to reply to it all.
However, I read each and every e-mail I receive. If I do not respond to your e-mail, know that I will consider all questions, criticisms, compliments and suggestions you send.
Two friends helped me produce the video by handling the camera while I spoke with the protesters.
Lon Symensma, my next-door neighbor—and chef at Jean Georges—operated the camera in the morning.
John Druckman—who worked with me on a recent political campaign where he served as the Deputy Campaign Manager for Community Outreach—was behind the camera during the afternoon.
Yes. Bill Thompson of Complete Translations was kind enough to transcribe the video and make it publicly available.
Some Windows users have been reporting problems getting QuickTime functioning properly in their web browsers. These problems seem to occur when the browser version is newer than the installed version of QuickTime.
Whenever a browser is upgraded, the portions of QuickTime that run within the browser can be overwritten or otherwise disabled. Therefore, if you are experiencing problems, it is recommended that you download and install the latest version of QuickTime.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of Kim Kraft of StudioKraft Creative Services, the video is now available in RealPlayer and Windows Media formats, with versions for slow (dialup) and fast (broadband) Internet connections.
Yes. Each video page now features a download link.
Not yet, although I am investigating the possibility of selling DVDs on the website.
However, unless there is an overwhelming and immediate demand for the making the video available on DVD, I will probably wait until I have additional video content.
I have ideas for two other video projects that will examine the protest movement in further detail. If and when I am able to produce those projects, I will have enough content to warrant creating a DVD.
You may link to any HTML page on Brain Terminal, and you may do so without requesting permission.
However, you should not directly link to pictures, video or other non-HTML files. I sometimes need to move these resources to other servers in order to free up space on the Brain Terminal server. As a result, broken links are likely if you link to non-HTML files.