Category Archives: news

On Journalism and Everyone Who Practices It (Whether Inadvertently or Not)

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Journalism is noble profession. The problem with journalism however is that far too many people fancy themselves as doing journalism when they’re doing anything but. Either that, or it gets muddled with punditry and people would sometimes no longer have any idea what they’re reading or listening to anymore. Do people who watch Shawn Hannity actually believe they’re not watching the news? I’m sure they think they’re watching the news and not just some college dropout opine about conspiracy theories. And with the rash of news and opinion outlets which cater to every political persuasion, anything that doesn’t fit or contradicts with our own biases could easily be waved off as fake news. The president of the United States does it. My father does it. Even my wife does it from time to time. I myself am not immune to consuming news from outlets that only share my opinion. I often get my news from left-leaning outlets. Probably the most right-leaning outlet I would occasionally watch would be Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough, but that’s only because the vileness of the current political climate have left them no choice but to go against their former right-leaning ways.

And one of the reasons why I tend not to consume anything from the right is that it’s often awash with conspiracy theories and generally vile attitude towards others. How the heck did Alex Jones get an audience? Who would trust anything that Jesse Watters says? And that’s just people on TV. There’s a plethora of right wing talkers on the Internet who dare I say are more unqualified to talk about politics and the news but still command a sizeable audience. And this again blows my mind because none of them are funny and witty at all. Without actually informing their audience, I would expect them to either be witty or funny at a minimum, but no, they’re just not. Outside of wit and humor, they just often resort to hate, which I understand is just as entertaining and addictive.

But what’s most ironic is that while the president of the US denigrates and makes villains out of real journalists, many right wing commenters who often cloak themselves in the amorphous mantle of journalism/punditry join in and attack the free press as well. “These are fake news.” “lame stream media.” As if they don’t belong and are not protected by the same rights real journalists are working under. It’s the same way Trump and many of his political supporters attack the government and this fictional “deep state” as if they’re not the ones currently running everything. It is insanity.

Just yesterday, five journalists were gunned down in Annapolis. This was after the president called members of the free press the enemy. This was a day after Milo Yiannopolous publicly opined that he wanted journalists to be hunted down. And again, ironically, Yiannopolous also happens to work for Info Wars and previously worked for Breitbart which would in some ways make him part of that group he wants attacked. And while they all attacked the 1st Amendment, I’m sure it would be that same 1st Amendment they would use to protect themselves from any liability. “I was just kidding.” “It wasn’t serious.”

God bless the journalists who do their job right and do their job well. We all need them now more than ever.

Maybe it’s not the most appropriate example from many liberals because he is a right winger who I often disagreed with, but I always admired how Charles Krauthammer went from Harvard medical school, to speechwriter, to journalism. I wish I had his courage and his gift to write.

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Ugly Day in Canada

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Being frustrated at not getting laid is a poor hill to die on. Worse, it’s a vile hill to kill people for. It’s sad how the whole misogynistic movement have grown so much that there are now several branches of it. I know Men’s Rights Movement, MGTOWs, and Incels are all different, but they all stem from a male frustration at not getting what they believe they deserve to have, whether it’s a higher social standing, deference from others, preference from society, female attention, or whatever. Though this male insecurity can sometimes just manifest itself mildly in low self-esteem or just a poor way in interacting with others, as we saw with Alek Minassian, it can also blow up into ugly hatred and a weird fantasy of overthrowing the way society works.

Looking into the whole thing, it’s amusing/depressing how the whole incel terminology is rife with self-hate and misogyny without a hint of irony. “Chads” are muscular, well-off, vapid, pretty men that get all the women. “Stacys” are your idealized buxom hot girl who falls for Chads.  “Normies” are people who are neither Chads nor Staceys. Deep dive into reddit (which banned the dedicated subreddit) or 4chan, and you’ll find ample usage of “cuck” and tons of derogatory term for women. Again, these are supposed to be men whose one uniting attribute is the frustration of not having any attention towards the opposite sex returned to them, thus they are “incel,” involuntary celibate. If you want attention from the opposite sex so much, why is there so much hate towards them? That’s not helping your cause. People can sense these things.

What I notice about the whole movement is that it (including a lot of misogynist movements) are based on bloated misconceptions and fantasies. Just looking at 2001’s Journal of Sex Research, it defines involuntary celibate as someone who wishes to have sex but has not been able to find a willing partner in the past six months. Six months? No one is owed sex twice or three times a year. Not having sex for six months is not a grave injustice. Heck, not having sex in a year is not a grave injustice. Sometimes it’s just pure laziness. Sex can be tiring. Incels must think that normal life is having sex once or twice a week, which would be great, but is not really realistic for most people. And with that in mind, who is the target of their sexual frustrations? The Stacys. Do they really think that if they work out enough, earn enough money, and be nice enough, they would get a Stacy to pay attention to them and sexually gratify them regularly? Sure, that could be possible, but that’s discounting all other men who might look better or simply just be better people than them. And then of course there’s also luck to consider. Some people are just lucky enough to charm their way into a Stacy’s or a Chad’s heart. But the keyword there is charm. CHARM!

A part of me feels that many of these men want a pornographic-plot lifestyle and are shooting for the moon, and in turn are getting angry and disappointed when the hot cheerleader next door doesn’t pay any attention to them. I have a friend whom I have never seen date anyone ever. He’s a decent guy, very kind, great job, and even has lots of women friends. The problem is he seems to be looking for 10s when he himself is a 6 on the looks department on a good day. I know it’s shallow, but the discrepancy in the way he talks about women is obvious. I think that could be the same problem with incels. They spend too much time pining for 10s, and by the time they decide to look at partners their own level, they’ve already built up too much frustration and resentment that it’s palatable.

What gets to me about all of these movements is the sense of entitlement, whether it’s incels or any other form of men’s right’s movements. It’s a sense of entitlement and frustration despite being the gender which has reaped thousands of years of societal benefits keeping women down. And no, I’m not trying to white knight here. I’m married. This attitude isn’t going to get me laid any more than if I didn’t believe these things. Anyway, after being born in a society designed to make you thrive, and you’re still failing, at some point, you have to realize that the problem is not women, the problem is you. And how hard is it to get laid? You can’t get laid? Go to a club or a bar. Meet women. Still can’t get laid? Call a professional. Pretend that it’s your own sexual prowess that got you hot women in bed. The president of the United States does it. Maybe that’ll clear your head a little and be the baby steps towards a more typical relationship with other women. Don’t start hating women or society in general because you can’t get laid (or at least afford to get laid). Getting laid is actually not that difficult. In fact, after a couple of times, you might think that devoting your spare time in an online community based on not getting laid is a tad silly considering how uncomplicated it truly is. There is no need to be misogynist because of your own personal failings.

Actually, these days I lament the fact that in South Korea, with the advent of the #Metoo movement, anti-feminist movements have been growing in response. In South Korea, a country which can still be quite sexist. What’s worse is that the anti-feminist crowd in South Korea has recently been fueled by the popularity of Canadian Jordan Peterson, the current intellectual rockstar of the aggrieved rightwing. Oh Korea! What have we done to you?

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Stormy Daniels, Slut Shaming, and the Diminishing Returns of Writing about Trump

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It’s very unsatisfying to write about US politics, especially in relation to Trump because whatever outrages me at the moment will soon be overshadowed by another scandal that is bound to come. That, plus with the myriad of controversies surrounding the administration, focusing on one scandal would seem to be doing a disservice to the other scandals/crises which are of equal importance. Just off the top of my head, on March 22, 2018, there is the Russian collusion and Trump’s piety towards Putin where he appears to be bullied/extorted right in front of the world (Putin: Say you congratulated me on my election victory. Trump: Yes, sir.), there is the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal which makes me really want to delete my long-abandoned Facebook account, there is the continuing gun crisis as well as violence against black people, there is the scandal of firing Andrew McCabe 26 hours prior to his retirement, the list goes on and on.

For now, let me focus on Stormy Daniels. There are countless of articles and videos explaining what she’s doing and why she’s doing them. Perhaps she’s doing this for money, exposure, whatever, I’m not really interested in that. She can do whatever she wants, and I really don’t hold it against her for sleeping with Trump back then (he was a goofy character on television). I don’t want to put Ms. Stephanie Clifford in too high a pedestal, but I really do admire how she handles Trump’s defenders and sycophants. Most of them attack her based on her profession and her “lack of morals,” and that’s it. That’s the tired well they keep coming back to. And since she doesn’t really get fazed by people’s slut-shaming, it’s like she’s bulletproof. She just swats their insults off like ugly background noise. And ultimately, isn’t that the nightmare of the conservative male? A strong woman (many of them want to sleep with) who has full control of her sexuality and is unfazed by their slut-shaming?

If Internet statistics are to be believed, the biggest consumers of online pornography in the United States are those living in the Bible Belt. So the same men slut-shaming women who are fighting for their rights, be it the right to use contraception or the right to use their body any way they please, are the same men who probably have had Stormy Daniels cross their screens once or twice when their wives are not at home. It’s a really perverse twisting of self-hate and guilt, and I know self-hate and guilt. I’m a depressed Catholic.

Anyway, it is amazing how so many of Trump’s supporters are willing to ignore his sins while casting stones at Ms. Clifford. I feel like someone should remind them that they’re not married to Donald Trump. They don’t have to live in denial about their partner’s sins. I read one Twitter supporter proclaim that all of Stormy Daniels’ fans are disgusting. This ignores the fact that prior to all of this, Trump was actually a fan of Stormy Daniels, probably one of her biggest fans, enough to send her $130,000. Most men have admired women in pornography before. Many have been obsessed with porn stars. But not many could say they spent $130,000 on one.

In any case, should the whole Stephanie Clifford saga simply just be about her making a name for herself or selling a book or whatever, she’s still coming out of this whole thing not only ethically from a higher ground, but she’s also using a much smarter strategy and employing a savvier lawyer/promoter. She’s never professed to be a good Christian and was never forgiven by evangelical leaders, unlike Donald Trump who has been nothing but a hypocrite throughout this whole thing. If she’s doing this for monetary gain to the detriment of Trump’s marriage, have you ever known Trump to respect other people’s marriages and spouses? Nope. He insulted Ted Cruz’s wife and also McCabe’s. Trump didn’t even respect his own marriages. And really, we can’t really fault her for doing this for monetary gain. Trump has hurt so many people for monetary gain or even just through his public actions (Central Park Five, anyone?). When was the last time Ms. Clifford’s work hurt anyone?

And yeah, Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, could teach Trump’s legal team a thing or two about looking sane on television while shamelessly plugging his own agenda. I also doubt if Mr. Avenatti would be paying for his clients sexual dalliances through a home equity loan. Seriously, where did Trump’s lawyers get their JDs?

Well, before this gets too long, here’s to Ms. Clifford or Stormy Daniels. May you get whatever you want out of all of this! I really hope the 60 Minutes special does not disappoint. It’s very telling when the only two people Trump does not attack on Twitter are Putin and Ms. Clifford. Please, live up to the hype. And keep on making Trump supporters hate themselves for wanting to be with you while slowly destroying their orange father figure.

*Update: As I post this, Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate who had an affair with Trump, is now on television talking to Anderson Cooper about their affair. Also, Trump just tapped one of the chief architects and cheerleaders of the Iraq War, John Bolton, as National Security Adviser. Congratulations, people who voted for Trump because Hilary Clinton was a hawk. As I look back on the entry, it just seems so old now. But then again, I’m sure we’ll be back to talking about Ms. Clifford come Sunday.

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Lending Credibility

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Back in February 2014, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” debated Ken Hamm, the creationist who built and operates the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Prior to the debate, people didn’t think it was wise for Bill Nye to be debating Ken Hamm. Though Nye wanted to have a debate from a more inquisitive perspective, to learn more about creationism and to see if it is an actual viable model for explaining the origin of things, people saw it as a way of elevating Ken Hamm, of inviting superstition to the scientific table, long after most of the world’s academic and critical thinkers have discarded religious dogma to explain natural phenomenon. I thought it was a useless exercise. Nye was lending his credibility to Ken Hamm and making him an “expert” equal to himself. I’m not opposed to debate, but I don’t see the value of debating people who sees a challenge to their ideas as fuel to their faith, scientific evidence as devilish trickery. The religious don’t even have conversations to be convinced. They are there to convince you, to add you to their flock. Scientists debate to see if there are holes to their ideas; see if their initial hypotheses holds up. So in the end, the debate didn’t do anything but raise Ken Hamm’s profile. It made him known to people outside of religious circles.

This is similar to my problem with Bill Maher. He claims that the best disinfectant is sunlight; and that we should confront irrational ideas and characters, and show them what fools they are. His show will have accomplished people like Senator Elizabeth Warren, Michael Eric Dyson, and Cornel West, then he will have people like SE Cupp, whose initial schtick “I’m an atheist but I envy the faith of the religious” is such a boldfaced sham that it’s a wonder why Maher didn’t run her out of the panel. Cupp was just a blip on the media radar at the time, but Maher elevated her, lent her his credibility as well as the credibility of his guests, and this resulted her getting employed by CNN and other media outlets. Maher claimed to do the same thing with Milo Yiannopoulos earlier in the year, to invite him to his show for a dialogue to see what makes him tick, then later took credit for Yiannopoulos getting exposed for his past comments regarding homosexuality and pedophilia. I saw the show and was not impressed with either of them. He didn’t really challenge Yiannopoulos too much on his flimsy arguments. I predict if Yiannopoulos wasn’t drummed out of the public eye by the Internet a week later, Maher would’ve had him as a regular guest, feeding off of his notoriety.

And now we see Kayleigh McEnany working for TrumpTV. A lawyer who graduated from Harvard, she worked at CNN as a Trump supporter, arguing for Trump’s and the administrations worst comments and actions. I wouldn’t mind her if her arguments were substantive, but the points she defended often goes against the viewers own senses (like Trump’s flip flops) and she sounded so disingenuous that it makes me wonder what it really takes to graduate with a law degree. She added nothing of value to debates, and it was infuriating to see CNN has people like her misinform their audience. A previously unknown person, CNN has elevated her and lent her their credibility simply by having her on their airwaves. The Most Trusted Name in News has misinformers on their payroll. And now McEnany is doing propaganda on TrumpTV. TrumpTV can now boast that it employs not just Trump relatives, but also former CNN contributors, giving merit and credibility to its “news.”

James Randi did it best. He had scammers on his show and showed them the flaws of their tricks. He exposed them in such a way that it wasn’t disrespectful. With logic and science, he showed how a person was deceiving the audience. Afterwards, he moved on to the next scammer. He didn’t have them as a regular guest nor consulted them regarding other matters. He didn’t lend them his credibility. Now, I’m not saying people like Bill Maher or networks like CNN should be debunkers. But they should call out lies and disinformation for what they are, and don’t reward liars by employing them or inviting them to sit on discussion panels to lie again.

 

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Pizza and Theater

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There’s a reason why people would rather watch Marvel movies than documentaries. Marvel movies, despite their mythology, is far easier to digest and is made more interesting with its fantastical storylines compared to most documentaries. Just the word “documentary” itself would turn off most people. It speaks of the mundane. It almost sounds like homework.

That’s the problem right now. Everywhere, it seems like conspiracy theories and fake news are winning over actual, mundane truth. Call me naïve, but I actually believe basically the story that ‘This American Life’ did on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, that she is basically not very tech savvy and that the whole e-mail scandal thing is due to her need to keep using just one machine, an outdated Blackberry. The story is not very exciting, but it actually fits what I see in real life: older people not being tech savvy and clinging on to things that they’ve gotten used to.

Unfortunately, right now, #Pizzagate is trending on the Internet. According to Internet sleuths, John Podesta’s love for Italian food, as made apparent by the e-mails Wikileaks posted, is actually code word for something else. Because liking pizza is too mundane. It has to mean… I don’t know… something connected to an underground sex ring that the rich and powerful indulge in, along with pizza. Depending on how deep you get, there’s also talks of pedophilia and devil worship.

I like ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ and I actually think it’s the best Kubrick film despite starring Tom Cruise, but these conspiracy theorists can’t just leave an innocent love for Italian pastry alone and had to mix it with some Kubrick. Also worth noting is that this is the second time I’ve heard of Hillary Clinton being accused of actual witchcraft.

You see, Kubrick films are far easier to digest than watching Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible.’

The same thing is happening in Korea. Instead of actually talking about the real plausible crimes the current president is suspected of doing, there have been too many stories about secret affairs, hidden surgical operations, children out of wedlock, etc. What is happening right now is interesting enough as it is. We don’t have to spice it up with added narratives.

Even in the Philippines! I argue with people online about Duterte encouraging mass murder. And some people would say that the murders weren’t being done on his behalf, and that they were done by “bad people.” WHO? Who are these phantom bad people? Why are they doing this? To make the president look bad? The president is definitely not looking for any of these “bad people.” Why are some people resting easy with the explanation that “bad people did it”? Is ignorance truly that bliss?

The thing is, following the truth is actually a lot like homework. It’s not very sexy. And like homework, we rarely get what we want. Looking at Trump, instead of the media looking at his dealings with Indian business men or his $25 million settlement with the victims of Trump University, the media was more focused on the sexier, easier to digest story of Pence being booed at Hamilton. Then people start speculating that maybe Trump sent Pence to the theater himself to distract from his own issues. Another conspiracy theory. And again, instead of looking at the homework that is the business dealing s and lawsuits, we all obsess about easy to digest stories and conspiracy theories, then bicker about them until we the real issues are forgotten.

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Good Times in New Internets

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GoDaddy decided to retire my old Web site’s template, so I had to go with another design. I think the slideshow is a little better and makes for a more organized look, but visitors can’t zoom and see details of the small drawings. Unfortunately, I can’t import all of my old Web site’s contents including old Weekly entries, so if anyone’s really interested (unlikely), they can just go to my other blog site.

While I don’t mind the new overall look, the site is still a bit wonky on mobile devices. Hopefully, I’ll get it all sorted out in the next couple of days.

I just realized that as I write this, I post a link to my WordPress blog, which has a link to the new site, this site which happens to be talking about the WordPress blog, both of which are reflected on Medium, which rarely gets any hits but also links back to the Web site, which again, has links to other sites.

And that is how Internet  news  media works!

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Hulkamania Runs Wild On You

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Here’s my Tim Horton’s duck after drawing over it. I’m back to my traditional drawing after weeks of doing faux anime.

I’m very happy with the Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea vs. Gawker Media verdict. Hulk Hogan just won a $115 civil lawsuit against Gawker media who published a sex tape of him having relations with his best friend’s ex-wife. Gawker media argued that it was a First Amendment issue and since Hulk Hogan candidly talked about his personal life (including his sex life) in public, then the sex tape should be considered news-worthy material. Terry Bollea argued that it’s a violation of his privacy rights and that all the personal and sex life talk is him as his Hulk Hogan persona. It doesn’t give anyone free-reign on all of his life, including his most intimate moments.

The case was quite interesting because it showed a company that was willing to be on both sides of an issue to get more clicks, to make a profit. When Jennifer Lawrence Lawrence and other female celebrities’ phones were hacked and their naked pictures were posted online, Jezebel, a feminist Web site under Gawker Media ran articles non-stop railing against the evils of the companies hosting such images. They equated the posting of the images to sexual violence. A couple of years later, they post a video of Hulk Hogan, even fighting to keep the video online. Double standard much?

The six-person jury awarded Hulk Hogan $15 million more than the original $100 claim. The jury is still going to reconvene tomorrow to discuss punitive damages which could bury Gawker Media. Left as is, the decision could end the Gawker Media empire. Of course, the company is already planning to appeal the decision, but before doing so, they must pose a $50 million bond which I’m not sure the company could collect. And while some people are confident that the company could win on appeal based on the absolute victory on Judge Campbell’s court, I’m cautiously optimistic since the appeals court has reversed many of the Judge’s rulings in the case. There’s a possibility that Hulk Hogan’s victory might not be as big after the appeal, but it will definitely be devastating for Gawker, especially for its owner as well as its former editor who glibly suggested in court that he would be willing to show a five year-old’s sex tape on their Web site. I’m sure this failed attempt at humor didn’t impress the jury.

I don’t mind tabloid journalism; I read tabloid/celebrity stories now and then. But I was just never a fan of Gawker Media’s sensationalist, click-driven ethos. In the pursuit of more media attention, they sensationalize and even fabricate news which in a more journalistically-responsible world would not even be considered news. They didn’t care what story they were pushing or what side they were on, as long as it garnered clicks. And what concerns me more is that not only was Gawker Media being rewarded for not having any journalistic value, their stories are being taken up by other news aggregators who are increasingly adopting the Gawker Media formula. You can’t have a healthy democracy without well-informed citizens (Honderich). And you can’t have well-informed citizens if you have media that is solely motivated by clicks.

 

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You’re losing me, online news.

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Here’s to Tommy Douglas, a great Canadian hero. Because of him, Canadians’ taxes actually go to healthcare instead of just meaningless wars.

I no longer get my news anywhere but online, but seriously, these news sites that aggregate news stories need to get away from the click-bait and the ideology-driven model, otherwise they won’t last as long. I have a very rough relationship with The Huffington Post. The Daily Beast and Salon have already lost me. Now and then, Breitbart.com would have a story worth reading, but most of the site is ideologically driven garbage. There were fears in the west that Aljazeera would mostly be pro-Islam, pro-Palestine propaganda, but ironically, they’ve been pretty unbiased with the materials they publish online, definitely better than CNN.com.

Let’s look at Salon.com. Now I consider myself a feminist, but they’re “new feminist” agenda is getting ridiculous. An inordinate amount of stories are bent to become feminist related articles even on issues that aren’t or shouldn’t be seen from a feminist standpoint. Just recently, the singer Kesha accused her long-time producer of sexual harassment. She signed an exclusive contract with him and Sony and is thus obligated to work with him and produce six more albums. Her producer claims the allegations are just a ploy for her to get out of her contract. Now, I would give her the benefit of the doubt if she didn’t deny any rape allegations herself back in 2011. A simple Google search would provide that information, but instead, Salon.com ran article after article of Sony “forcing” the singer to work with her producer.

Kesha filed for an injunction against her producer and Sony, but the judge in the case, not seeing any evidence of sexual abuse, rejected her claim. Unfortunately, the judge inartfully worded the judgment, saying that it was “my instinct to do the commercially reasonable thing.” Instead of saying that, she should’ve said that contracts cannot be annulled based solely on allegations. There was no evidence of sexual misconduct, and the burden of proof for sexual harassment is already lower than most crimes. If the judge allowed the injunction, it would have set the precedent for women to just make allegations in order to get out of what were normally binding agreements.

This was not a feminist issue. It wasn’t people ignoring the pleas of victims of sexual crimes. It was the law acting as it should, basing decisions on evidence and not on ideology. For the media like Salon.com to treat this as an example of miscarriage of justice not only betrays their role as journalists, but it also does a disservice to real feminism. Not to mention, it also tars the name and damages the livelihood of those who are accused of sexual allegations without any solid evidence. This was not the first time Salon.com and other online news outlets did this either. The same thing happened with Mattress Girl.

We really should listen and be more sympathetic to victims of abuse, but our sympathies should not cloud evidence or the lack thereof. Look at the Steven Avery case. He’s not the most sympathetic character if you look at his police record and his past behavior prior to getting incarcerated for rape the first time. But it’s exactly the sympathy for the rape victim and the hatred for Steven Avery that cost him eighteen years of his life the first time around. Forget the evidence. Let’s incarcerate the town villain! Then there’s OJ Simpson, some would argue that the social and political climate at the time convinced some members of the population to be on his side, regardless of the evidence of his guilt. (Of course, truly believing that the accused committed a crime versus believing that the case against the accused was proven beyond any reasonable doubt are two different things.)

But then again, this was Salon.com, the same Web site that argued that Magneto, a Jewish comic book super villain, should be black in order to reflect current racial tensions. Because you know, slow news day, so everyone decides to play lawyer and indict a man for sexual crimes on the press.

 

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Time Traveling Via NPR

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I’ve been listening to old ‘This American Life’ episodes. Over the weekend, I listened to ones that were broadcast right after the attack on the World Trade Center. Like a time traveler, it’s interesting to hear what people feel at the time especially their attitudes towards the US heading to war. As expected, I was annoyed at experts at the time, people like Rumsfeld, who are selling the war with a calamitous need for justice and assurance that America is going to battle in most well thought-out manner. He couldn’t have been more wrong about everything. It’s amazing that they still allow him on television as an ‘expert’ on anything these days.

What’s most interesting was episode 196, when the events of September 11 are examined through different perspectives. Much like the movie ‘Rashomon,’ stories change drastically depending on whose eyes you’re experiencing them through. Of course, people in the west were scared. They we scared of this nebulous terrorist threat. As a westerner, this was probably my default point of view. The west needed a target. It needed to get back at someone. Saddam Hussein has always been a “bad guy” through most of the 90s. Perhaps getting him would turn the scales back into a place of normalcy.

But then there’s also the Muslim point of view. In the episode, a Palestinian teenager explains about why the September 11 attacks doesn’t benefit the Muslims, but instead benefits the Jews in Israel since it puts the Americans into conflict in the Middle East, much like Pearl Harbor brought America out of isolationism in WWII. This of course is seen as anti-Semitic conspiracy theories from western point of views, and in my opinion, rightfully so. But to some Muslims, especially Palestinians and with the different biases between western and Muslim media skewering regional opinion, this could very well be a plausible explanation for the attacks. Another Muslim point of view is that of a former soldier from Iraq who had to reluctantly fight for Saddam’s army. Not a rabid supporter of Saddam, the man had to explain to his son why the normally pleasant and well-meaning Americans had to violently terrorize their city. Looking back on this now, if he had stayed in the Iraqi army, this man would’ve been out of job and perhaps forced to join ISIS by now.

Lastly, the show also looked at war from the point of view of some soldiers. Despite best preparations, war is hell, and things could turn bloody in any minute. It is always best to approach war with reasoned reluctance than with the zeal and optimism the world had back in 2003, when we were confident at shocking and awing the enemy into submission.

Episode 200 looked at the radio station set up by the CIA to help overthrow the democratically elected president of Guatemala in 1954, Jacobo Arbenz. It was an interesting examination of the power of radio back in the day and the way propaganda is used both during a conflict and long after, when myths cultivated. What I find most poignant however, is the comment by Prof. Nick Cullather, who says that while the US does have a responsibility to sometimes intervene in foreign countries’ affairs, it is far more difficult to face the magnitude of the task afterwards. It is quite easy to depose a leader compared to the difficulty of finding a suitable replacement. Just look at Guatemala after Arbenz, Syria in 1949, Iran in the 50s, Chile and the junta in the 70s. And now Iraq with the fall of Saddam has the whole Middle East in a quagmire.

Listening to old radio shows and “time travelling” is a nice distraction during my commute. However, I would’ve hoped our leaders had more insight to predict the future. Looking back now, we were all such fools back then. It is amazing that NPR had the courage and prudence to examine issues from different perspectives, especially with the national climate in 2001-2003. Unfortunately, being seen as an organization with liberal biases, I doubt that it or any other organizations like it would have their ideas taken seriously in the mainstream media.

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