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Norman Solomon

American journalist, media critic, antiwar activist

Norman Solomon (born July 7, 1951) is an American journalist, media critic, antiwar activist, and former U.S. congressional candidate. Solomon is a longtime associate of the media watch group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). In 1997 he founded the Institute for Public Accuracy, which works to provide alternative sources for journalists, and is co-founder and national coordinator of the online organization RootsAction.org.

Norman Solomon, May 2011

Contents

QuotesEdit

 
The overarching fear that defenders of oligarchy have about Bernie Sanders is not that he’s out of step with most Americans — it’s that he’s in step with them. ~Norman Solomon
  • Orwell [in]"1984" explained that "the special function of certain Newspeak words … was not so much to express meanings as to destroy them." When terrorists attack, they’re terrorizing. When we attack, we’re retaliating. When they respond to our retaliation with further attacks, they’re terrorizing again... At all times, Americans must be kept fully informed about who to hate and fear...
  • During the week after U.S. missiles hit sites in Sudan and Afghanistan, some Americans seemed uncomfortable. A vocal minority even voiced opposition. But approval was routine among those who had learned a few easy Orwellian lessons. No matter how many times they’ve lied in the past, U.S. officials are credible in the present. When they... [say the] bombed pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum was making ingredients for nerve gas, that should be good enough for us... Might doesn’t make right — except in the real world, when it’s American might. Only someone of dubious political orientation would split hairs about international law.
  • Surveys show that voters are hungry for genuinely progressive policies that have drawn little interest from mainstream media outlets. For instance, polling of the US public shows:
    76 percent support higher taxes on the wealthy.
    70 percent support Medicare for All.
    59 percent support a $15 minimum wage.
    60 percent support expanded tuition-free college.
    69 percent oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.
    65 percent support progressive criminal justice reform.
    59 percent support stricter environmental regulation.
    Yet such popular positions are routinely ignored or denigrated by elite political pros who warn that such programs are too far left for electoral success. The same kind of claims assumed that Bernie Sanders would never get beyond single digits in his 2016 presidential campaign.... pandering to the military-industrial complex — enabling and reinforcing endless US warfare now in its 18th year — may well be touted as a sign of “moderate” leadership. But it is far more popular inside the Beltway than it is among working-class voters.
  • In the last few days, both Politico and the New York Times have reported that freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has ruffled the feathers of fellow congressional Democrats. Chief among the reasons for the tension? Ocasio-Cortez’s apparent support for progressive primary challenges against centrist Democrats. It’s one of the most significant ideas the young New York congresswoman has brought with her to Washington.
  • That’s because turning the Democratic Party into a truly progressive force will require turning “primary” into a verb. The corporate Democrats who dominate the party’s power structure in Congress should fear losing their seats because they’re out of step with constituents. And Democratic voters should understand that if they want to change the party, the only path to do so is to change the people who represent them. Otherwise, the leverage of Wall Street and the military-industrial complex will continue to hold sway.
  • In recent weeks, Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke has become a lightning rod... largely because of the vast hype about him from mass media and Democratic power brokers. At such times, when spin goes into overdrive, we need incisive factual information. Investigative journalist David Sirota provided it in a deeply researched Dec. 20 article, which The Guardian published under the headline “Beto O’Rourke Frequently Voted for Republican Legislation, Analysis Reveals.” ...it’s better to learn revealing political facts sooner rather than later. Thanks to Sirota’s coverage... we now know “O’Rourke has voted for GOP bills that his fellow Democratic lawmakers said reinforced Republicans’ anti-tax ideology, chipped away at the Affordable Care Act, weakened Wall Street regulations, boosted the fossil fuel industry and bolstered Donald Trump’s immigration policy.”
  • With a launch of the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign on the near horizon, efforts to block his trajectory to the Democratic presidential nomination are intensifying... The ferocity of media attacks on him often indicates that corporate power brokers are afraid his strong progressive populism is giving effective voice to majority views of the public... The overarching fear that defenders of oligarchy have about Bernie Sanders is not that he’s out of step with most Americans — it’s that he’s in step with them. For corporate elites determined to retain undemocratic power, a successful Bernie 2020 campaign would be the worst possible outcome of the election.
  • When Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell teamed up to invite NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to address a joint session of Congress, they had every reason to expect the April 3 speech to be a big hit with U.S. media and political elites. The establishment is eager to affirm the sanctity of support for the transatlantic military alliance. Huge reverence for NATO is matched by how dangerous NATO has become. NATO’s continual expansion -- all the way to Russia’s borders -- has significantly increased the chances that the world’s two nuclear superpowers will get into direct military conflict. But in the United States, when anyone challenges the continued expansion of NATO, innuendos or outright smears are likely...McCain conveyed the common madness of reverence for NATO — and the common intolerance for anything that might approach a rational debate on whether it’s a good idea to keep expanding an American-led military alliance to, in effect, push Russia into a corner.

Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You, Norman Solomon & Reese Erlich (2003)Edit

Full text online

Prologue

  • December 14, 2002: Near the center of Baghdad, along the Tigris River, an Iraqi woman showed a few foreigners around a water treatment plant that was seriously damaged during the Gulf War in early 1991. Our guide spoke in steady tones, describing various technical matters. But when someone asked about the possibility of war in 2003, her voice began to quaver. A young American woman tried to offer comfort. She said, “You’re strong.” “No,” our guide responded emphatically. “Not strong.” Tears welled in her eyes. Moments later she added, “We are tired.” She was speaking for herself, but also, it seemed, for most Iraqi people. After so much mourning, hardship and stress, they were exhausted—and frightened by what the future was likely to bring. For an American in Baghdad, perhaps the most startling aspect of any visit was to encounter, up close and personal, Iraqis so routinely rendered invisible or fleeting by U.S. media coverage. It’s all too easy to accept the bombing of people who have never quite seemed like people, whose suffering is abstract and distant. Looking them in the eyes can change that. In the words of my traveling companion on this trip, the actor and director Sean Penn: “I needed to come here and see a smile, see a street, smell the smells, talk to the people and take that home with me.”
  • Driving through the streets of the impoverished Saddam City area of Baghdad, a UNICEF worker talked about the struggle to improve the health of children here; the gains have been hard-won and terribly slow. I could only imagine what another war would mean for them. When we got to a primary school, the mood turned somber. Walls were crumbling. There was a smell of waste; the cement in the courtyard was sunken and the principal explained that rain sometimes caused it to fill with sewage. The teachers greeted us warmly; the students stared with large eyes, surprised and curious. Each small classroom held about sixty students. The windows didn’t have glass; the benches were jammed with kids. Many of the children wore coats. Quite a few sat on the cold cement floor. We visited another school, where the situation was similar. Then we went to a third school—one that had been reconstructed with UNICEF’s help. The structures were solid; there was glass in the windows; the rooms were warm; the playground was nicely paved. The school felt well cared for, secure. Children were smiling, playing; there was laughter.
  • Hours later, Sean Penn and I were sitting in the office of Iraq’s deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz. Dressed in a business suit, he greeted us cordially. His voice reminded me of a foghorn. In a far corner, three large televisions were on, without sound, tuned to Iraqi TV, EuroNews and CNN International. At the outset of the discussion, Penn said: “The politics for me are a side note to concern about my children, and the children of the United States, and the children of this country.” Aziz launched into a long explanation of why the United States should not attack Iraq. “Now we have brought the international inspectors, who are professionals, and they are doing their jobs freely, without any interruption. And still the warmongering language in Washington is keeping on.” He continued: “Iraq is rich in its oil reserves. They want to take it away. But at what cost? At what cost for Americans, and for Iraq and for the whole region? Hundreds of thousands of people are going to die, including Americans— because if they want to take over oil in Iraq, they have to fight for it, not by missiles and by airplanes . . . they have to bring troops and fight the Iraqi people and the Iraqi army. And that will be costly.”
  • Asked about the White House’s evident disappointment in the face of Iraqi cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors, Aziz referred to the U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in early November. “They wrote this resolution, the last one, 1441, in a way to be certainly refused,” Aziz said.“You know, sometimes you make an offer and you are planning to get a refusal. We surprised them by saying, ‘OK, we can live with it. We’ll be patient enough to live with it and prove to you and to the world that your allegations about weapons of mass destruction are not true.’”
  • It is our challenge and responsibility to sort through the propaganda of selective facts, distortions, and images in search of truth. When a country goes on a war track, stepping out of line is always hazardous. All kinds of specious accusations fly. Whether you travel to Baghdad or hold an anti-war sign on Main Street back home, some people will accuse you of serving the propaganda interests of the foreign foe. But the only way to prevent your actions from being misconstrued is to do nothing. The only way to avoid the danger of having your words distorted is to keep your mouth shut. In the functional category of “use it or lose it,” the First Amendment remains just a partially realized promise. To the extent that it can be fulfilled, democracy becomes actual rather than theoretical. But that requires a multiplicity of voices. And when war demands our silence, the imperative of dissent becomes paramount. We need to hear factual information and not let it be drowned out by the drumbeat of war. We need to think as clearly as possible. And we need to listen to our own hearts. When his visit to Iraq began, Sean Penn expressed the desire “to find my own voice on matters of conscience.” In the near future, each of us will have that opportunity.

Iraq at the Precipice

  • Tariq Aziz welcomed us into his office...Aziz presented his interpretation of the box that Washington had meticulously constructed for Iraq: “Doomed if you do, doomed if you don’t.” The date was September 14, 2002. Sitting in Aziz’s office were members of the delegation sponsored by the Institute for Public Accuracy—the congressman along with former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Conscience International president James Jennings and myself. The Americans took turns contending that the ominous dynamic of recent weeks might be changed if—as a first step—Iraq agreed to allow unrestricted inspections. Yet it was hard to argue with Aziz when he said in formal English: “If the inspectors come back, there is no guarantee they will prevent war. They may well be used, in fact, as a pretext for provoking a new crisis.” He was less than eager to grasp at weapons inspections as a way to stave off attack, suggesting instead that a comprehensive “formula” would be necessary for any long-term solution, presumably including a U.S. pledge of nonaggression and the lifting of economic sanctions. Two days later, Iraq officially changed its position and announced a willingness to let U.N. weapons inspectors back into the country. Gauging the odds of averting war, the government in Baghdad chose a long shot—one that was at least better than no chance at all, but very risky nevertheless. Several years earlier, Washington had used Unscom inspectors for espionage purposes that were totally unrelated to the U.N.-authorized mission. p. 5
  • In late 2002, new squads of inspectors poking around Iraq could furnish valuable data to the United States, heightening the effectiveness of a subsequent military attack. “We are now a country facing the threat of war,” the speaker of Iraq’s National Assembly, Saadoun Hammadi, told us. “We have to prepare for that.” A silver-haired man in frail Target Iraq 6 physical condition, Hammadi was somber: “The U.S. administration is now speaking war. We are not going to turn the other cheek. We are going to fight. Not only our armed forces will fight. Our people will fight.” As those words settled in the air, the gaunt old man paused, then added: “I personally will fight.” At that moment, I thought I could see the dimming of light in his eyes, like embers in a dying fire. p. 6
  • In October 2002, a resolution sailed through the House and Senate to authorize a massive U.S. military attack against Iraq. I could almost hear the raspy and prophetic voice of Senator Wayne Morse roaring in 1964, the year he voted against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: “I don’t know why we think, just because we’re mighty, that we have the right to try to substitute might for right.” As with the years of sanctions and the deaths they caused, top officials in Washington—making a “very hard choice” for all-out war—still figured the human price would be “worth it.” As geopolitical talk and strategic analysis dominated media coverage, the moral dimensions of war got short shrift. I doubt many Americans would have felt at ease on a visit to the Al-Mansour Pediatric Hospital. I can only imagine, with horror, being in that hospital with missiles again exploding in Baghdad. In late 2002, it was much easier to stick with comfortable newspeak about “a lengthy air campaign led by B-2 bombers armed with 2,000-pound satellite-guided bombs.” p. 9/10

The Media’s War

  • For several decades, Helen Thomas covered the White House as a reporter for United Press International.... and when the specter of war grew large in 2002, she didn’t hold back. “It’s bombs away for Iraq and on our civil liberties if Bush and his cronies get their way,” Thomas said... during a speech at MIT. Looking back on a long career, she said: “I censored myself for fifty years when I was a reporter.” Although we may want journalists to keep their personal opinions out of news reporting, we might expect to be provided with all the relevant facts. This is rarely the case. A lot of key information gets filtered out. The process is often subtle in a society with democratic freedoms and little overt censorship. “Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip,” George Orwell remarked more than half a century ago, “but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.” No whips are visible in America’s modern newsrooms and broadcast studios. There are no leashes on editors, reporters, producers, or news correspondents. But in mainstream media, few journalists wander far... Conformity becomes habitual. Among the results is a dynamic that Orwell described as the conditioned reflex of “stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought . . . and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction.” p. 21
  • In contrast to state censorship, which is usually easy to recognize, self-censorship among journalists is rarely out in the open. Journalists tend to avoid talking publicly about constraints that limit their work; they essentially engage in self-censorship about self-censorship. In the highly competitive media environment, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist, or even a social scientist, to know that dissent does not boost careers. This is especially true during times of war. The rewards of going along to get along are clear; so are the hazards of failing to toe the line. p. 22
  • Occasional candor from big-name journalists can be illuminating. Eight months after 9/11, in an interview with BBC television, Dan Rather said that American journalists were intimidated in the wake of the attacks. Making what he called “an obscene comparison,” the CBS news anchor ruminated: “There was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tires around people’s necks if they dissented. And in some ways the fear is that you will be ‘necklaced’ here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck. Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions.” Rather added that “I do not except myself from this criticism,” and he went on: “What we are talking about here—whether one wants to recognize it or not, or call it by its proper name or not—is a form of self-censorship. I worry that patriotism run amok will trample the very values that the country seeks to defend.” p. 23
  • On November 8, 2002...National Public Radio’s All Things Considered aired a story by longtime correspondent Tom Gjelten. “A war against Iraq would begin with a bombing campaign, and the resources for that phase of action are largely in place already,” he reported. The tone was reassuring: “Defense officials are confident the U.N. Timeline will not get in their way. For one thing, they’re going ahead in the meantime with war preparations. Says one senior military officer, ‘When the order does come, we have to be ready to rock ’n’ roll.’” It was a notable phrase for a highranking officer at the Pentagon to use with reference to activities that were sure to kill large numbers of people. The comment did not meet with any critical response; none of the news report’s several hundred words offered a perspective contrary to the numbing language that distanced listeners from the human catastrophes of actual war. Such reporting is safe. Chances are slim that it will rankle government sources, news executives, network owners, advertisers or—in the case of “public broadcasting”—large underwriters. While NPR seems more and more to stand for “National Pentagon Radio,” objections from listeners have apparently mattered little to those in charge. This should be no surprise. NPR’s president and CEO, Kevin Klose, once served as director of the International Broadcasting Bureau, the U.S. government agency responsible for the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and Radio and Television Marti. p. 24

Hostile Propaganda: Contempt for diplomacy with Russia is now extreme (16 July 2018)Edit

Common Dreams Text online (16 July 2018)

  • Throughout the day before the summit in Helsinki, the lead story on the New York Times home page stayed the same: “Just by Meeting With Trump, Putin Comes Out Ahead.” ... The Washington Post...editorialized that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is “an implacably hostile foreign adversary.”
  • Contempt for diplomacy with Russia is now extreme... No doubt Hillary Clinton thought she was sending out an applause line in her tweet Sunday night: “Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?”
  • A bellicose stance toward Russia has become so routine and widespread that we might not give it a second thought... Often the biggest lies involve what remains unsaid. For instance, U.S. media rarely mention such key matters as the promise-breaking huge expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders since the fall of the Berlin Wall... or the more than 800 U.S. military bases overseas -- in contrast to Russia’s nine...
  • We need a major shift in the U.S. approach toward Russia...The lives -- and even existence -- of future generations are at stake in the relationship between Washington and Moscow... The incessant drumbeat is in sync with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.

Bernie’s Likely 2020 Bid Could Transform the Political Landscape (29 Jan 2019)Edit

TruthoutText online (29 January 2019)

  • The likely Bernie Sanders campaign for president offers a boost and a challenge to progressives.. Much more than the presidency is at stake... More than any other presidential candidate, Sanders has ready access to extensive networks of authentic grassroots support.
  • Sanders has been willing and able to use a national stage for public education and agitation about inherently anti-democratic and destructive aspects of corporate capitalism. *That explains why, in political and media realms, so many knives are again being sharpened against him... Attacks on Sanders...largely spring from his detractors’ zeal to defend corporate power as a driving force that...steers the US government as well as the Democratic Party...
  • Activists have been encouraged by his ability to listen, learn and change...
  • Meanwhile, we should expect an escalating corporate media assault — in tandem with methodical attacks from establishment Democrats — against Sanders... such an assault is actually an ideological war against the vision of government aligned with social justice. Not only Bernie Sanders but, in effect, all genuine progressives will be in the crosshairs.


Here Comes Joe Biden and It's Worse Than You Thought (11 March 2019)Edit

"Common Dreams,Text online (11 March 2019)

  • When the New York Times front-paged its latest anti-left polemic masquerading as a news article, the March 9 piece declared: “Should former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. enter the race, as his top advisers vow he soon will, he would have the best immediate shot at the moderate mantle."
  • Joe Biden is poised to come to the rescue of the corporate political establishment... The direct prey of Biden’s five-decade “association with bankers” include millions of current and former college students now struggling under avalanches of debt; they can thank Biden for his prodigious services to the lending industry.
  • Andrew Cockburn identifies an array of victims in his devastating profile of Biden in the March issue of Harper’s magazine... Media mythology about “Lunch Bucket Joe” cannot stand up to scrutiny. His bona fides as a pal of working people are about as solid and believable as those of the last Democratic nominee for president.
  • Biden’s fealty to corporate power has been only one aspect of his many-faceted record that progressives will widely find repugnant to the extent they learn about it...
  • One of the many industries that Biden has a long record of letting “off the hook” is the war business. In that mode, Biden did more than any other Democratic senator to greenlight the March 2003 invasion of Iraq...
  • It wasn’t just that Biden voted for the Iraq war on the Senate floor five months before it began. During the lead-up to that vote, in August 2002, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he presided over sham hearings—refusing to allow experts who opposed an invasion to get any words in edgewise—while a cavalcade of war hawks testified in the national spotlight...
  • He smiles well and has a gift of gab. Most political journalists in the mass media like him. He’s an apt frontrunner for the military-industry complex and the corporate power structure that it serves. Whether Biden can win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination will largely depend on how many voters don’t know much about his actual record.

See alsoEdit

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