‘Atlantic’ writer admits she knocked Joe Sacco’s Gaza book out of deserved place on top-10 list out of fear of ‘polarizing’

Israel/Palestine
on 40 Comments

This is disturbing. Kirstin Butler just wrote a wrapup of her favorite “Comic Books as Journalism: 10 Masterpieces of Graphic Non-Fiction” for the Atlantic. The commenters then asked, where’s Joe Sacco’s book, Footnotes in Gaza?

And Butler jumps into the Comments, here:

“You guys are right–I almost included Footnotes in Gaza but chickened out at the last moment because the topic is so polarizing. I was already expecting heat from rank-and-file fanboys/girls about the overall list and didn’t want to brave the Palestine question as well.”

Joe Sacco wrote a beautiful important book about a central issue in Middle East history. My question to Butler. What is the function of journalism

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40 Responses

  1. Shunra
    August 13, 2011, 10:39 am

    The function of journalism is to enhance shareholder value.

    This is a broken profession reflecting a broken culture.

    • lysias
      August 13, 2011, 12:12 pm

      But what does pro-Israeli censorship and self-censorship have to do with enhancing shareholder value?

      • Shunra
        August 13, 2011, 12:21 pm

        Who is the readership for the Atlantic?
        ואידך זיל גמור

      • Citizen
        August 14, 2011, 1:41 pm

        Yes, Shunra, it’s not Joe or Jane Plumber.

  2. justicewillprevail
    August 13, 2011, 10:58 am

    So she censored herself because of pressure from the Israel lobby. How happy they must be that just the thought of the aggravation they dish up is enough to stop people from being honest about their opinions and also censors mention of a great and important book.

    • Citizen
      August 14, 2011, 1:42 pm

      Well, at least she was honest about it. So take it from there.

  3. annie
    August 13, 2011, 11:03 am

    iow, it is not the 10 Masterpieces of Graphic Non-Fiction. it’s just the top 10 butler had the courage to include. this is disgusting.

    • annie
      August 13, 2011, 11:06 am

      oh, i realize she never claimed it was the top 10 anyway. still it was very wimpy of her. at least she had the fortitude to admit it.

  4. Shmuel
    August 13, 2011, 11:32 am

    There’s no censorship like self-censorship.

    • Citizen
      August 14, 2011, 1:43 pm

      Yeah, and on the other side of the coin, there’s no business like Shoah business.

  5. gazacalling
    August 13, 2011, 11:56 am

    Wow, that’s a powerful question. What *is* journalism for?

    Journalism has become shilling for Establishment interests. Luckily, the internet is enabling real journalism. Ask yourself this: even though the Lobby is so powerful in MSM right now, how long can that really last, with Phil Weiss bloodying the Lobby day-in and day-out?

    Real journalism can only be done by shady characters, those on the margins of society. If you are comfortable with the powerful, if you are one of them, you will produce nothing but an extension of their public relations efforts.

    Every day Mondo bloodies the Lobby. It’s not a pretty sight. The facts are all here for anyone with minimal curiosity. How long can the Lobby really last in the face of Phil and Adam?

    • Citizen
      August 14, 2011, 1:47 pm

      gazacalling, a long, long time. As MW finds its way into the fundie ken, the fundies easily dismiss it to their fellow travelers as an esoteric nutjob site, filled with anti-semites & self-hating jews, no different than David Duke’s site. That’s how they described it to me after I turn them onto it, and they report back to me.

    • annie
      August 14, 2011, 2:07 pm

      it’s not just phil and adam gc. the movement is bigger than that. even andrew sullivan was asking ‘does anyone know of any non zionists journalists in the msm?’ it’s definitely bigger than just MW.

  6. Dan Crowther
    August 13, 2011, 11:59 am

    kind of reminds me of Bill Keller on the BBC casually admitting that he “sought the advice of the administration” on what to publish from Wikileaks…..ho hum.

    Keller’s admission lead to one of the best repudiations ive ever seen on television (Carne Ross):

    ROSS: One thing that Bill Keller just said makes me think that one shouldn’t go to The New York Times for these telegrams — one should go straight to the WikiLeaks site. It’s extraordinary that the New York Times is clearing what it says about this with the U.S. Government, but that says a lot about the politics here, where Left and Right have lined up to attack WikiLeaks – some have called it a “terrorist organization.”

    I think the same dynamic is at play here – total submission to power and a total willingness to anticipate what might upset the powerful.

    • Jeffrey Blankfort
      August 13, 2011, 11:00 pm

      Gordon Duff, the honcho of the Veteran’s Today website, was quick to label Wikileaks as a Mossad psy-ops affair before the leaks were even published which was what Duff, himself, a former intelligence operative himself seemed to have been doing in an attempt to divert attention away from the the major target of the leaks, the US.

      Since, as per usual, his articles rarely contain a grain of traceable evidence, he had to make some up, including, as a fact, that Julian Assange and Bradley Manning had engaged in a gay relationship, although I think he called it, “homosexual.” That there was no evidence that two men had ever met didn’t stand in his way.

      Censorship is not our only problem. Disinformation peddled by so-called “anti-establishment” sources is, I suggest, considerably more dangerous.

      • Citizen
        August 14, 2011, 1:49 pm

        JB, please source your allegations against Gordon Duff. Thanks.

      • MB.
        August 17, 2011, 9:17 am

        Jeffrey, you are absolutely right in your analysis of Gordon Duff — his writing is completely chaotic, and with so many errors, so much ungrounded supposition and much of it is just plain nonsense. I have no idea what he is up to — but he is not in any way an informed writer and thinker. I have to say, his writing is disinformation, and sensationalist rhetoric.

        What is he really up to?

  7. Dan Crowther
    August 13, 2011, 12:05 pm

    This is from Glenn Greenwald on salon, writing about Wikileaks ( and is the article in which the Keller interview is mentioned) :

    Just look at how important it was for Bill Keller to emphasize that the Government is criticizing WikiLeaks but not The New York Times; having the Government pleased with his behavior is his metric for assessing how good his “journalism” is. If the Government is patting him on the head, then it’s proof that he acted “responsibly.” That servile-to-power mentality is what gets exposed by the contrast Wikileaks provides.

    I think one can reasonably argue that if you substitue”kirstin butler” for “bill keller” and “Israel Lobby” for “Government” – you are more or less describing the situation with Butler and the Atlantic. She just wants a pat on the head…..

  8. American
    August 13, 2011, 2:09 pm

    A coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man dies but once.

    How did we get so many cowards in our society? If my son or daughter told me they had done something like this just to avoid taking heat over it I would consider myself a total failure as a parent.
    Another sign of what is wrong with the US–a society of people raised without principles.

    • Polly
      August 13, 2011, 2:50 pm

      I don’t know about cowardice. Not doing the right thing to avoid a minor setback is one thing. Fear of a lobby that finished Helen Thomas career in a pico-second is another.

      • American
        August 13, 2011, 3:55 pm

        “Fear of a lobby that finished Helen Thomas career in a pico-second is another.”

        That’s exactly why it should have been done.
        Why it should be done every time the zio lobby raises it’s head to attack anyone.
        What we need is those with prominence and the resources, to go after these zios in every nest they reside in like a heat seeking missile.
        If I was in that position they would never know a day of peace, never sleep at night, spend all their time responding to attacks on themselves, answering 100′s of frivolous lawsuits, exhausting themselves trying to defend thousands of smears and accusations thrown at them for a change, having every aspect of their personal and professional lives excavated for any speck of dirt, watching their resources being eaten up, watching their backs 24/7 until they were pounded into the ground.
        You have to play offense with these kind of people, not defense.

        Perhaps eventually we will have one of those “loose collections”
        of an ‘anti zionist elite lobby’ who do just that. I can envision it happening.

  9. DICKERSON3870
    August 13, 2011, 3:23 pm

    RE: “What is the function of journalism?” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Oh Phil! You’re such a hopeless dreamer. Journalism is SO last century. Journalism is long dead*. Wake up and smell the stench of the Murdoch coffee!

    * P.S. Take stinky old Red Sox** over at the Daily Cuss, for instance.

    ** Puh-leaze!

    • Taxi
      August 13, 2011, 4:54 pm

      LOL! They got nothing better to do than COUNT THE ANTI-SEMITES over there at the dailyshmailykoss. And boy they see them EVERYWHERE eh! Anti-semites under the bed, under the table, under the chair, under the hood of the car – anti-semites even under the kitchen sink! In fact, every night, all those dailytossingkossers lie there in their beds and under covers, counting anti-semites instead of sheep.

      They’re such idiot bloggers there – they remind me of yahoonews bloggers but with less eccentric foolish charm.

      Redsocks (who reads like a smarmy crypto nazi to me) is treating ‘rebel jews’ like Adam and Phil just like the nazis used to treat the german jews: with extreme prejudice and contemptuous public slander. Redsocks is a total idiot cuz he doesn’t realize he’s actually committing anti-semiticism by singling out rebel jews for being ‘jewish’.

      I am SERIOUS here when I say I really think Phil and Adam should sue the ass of the authors/publishers of this heinous slander against them. Redsocks and his gangbangers should get the same humiliating treatment IN COURT for their anti-semiticism that the shamed fashion designer John Galliano rightfully received.

      There’s no point in phoning the ADL and complaining ’bout this to them, Phil, cuz their offices are full of anti-semites, hating and targeting rebel jews. You gotta take it to court and BEYOND.

      • munro
        August 13, 2011, 5:40 pm

        “treating ‘rebel jews’ like Adam and Phil just like the nazis used to treat the german jews”

        Slavoj Žižek:
        “Zionism itself has paradoxically come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hatred of Jews who do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel. Their target, the figure of the Jew who doubts the Zionist project, is constructed in the same way as the European antisemites constructed the figures of the Jew – he is dangerous because he lives among us, but is not really one of us.”
        more: link to guardian.co.uk

      • DICKERSON3870
        August 13, 2011, 6:29 pm

        RE: “Zionism itself has paradoxically come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hatred of Jews who do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel.” ~ Slavoj Žižek

        SEE: Inside CUFI’s 2011 Washington “Summit”, Special to JewsOnFirst.org, 07/29/11
        Our eyewitness report on Christians United For Israel’s annual Washington conference

        (excerpt)…And this is where those Jews who are strong supporters of CUFI come in handy. They can criticize Jews to a far greater degree than any Christian Zionists would be willing to do. Conservative commentator Jennifer Rubin spent a great deal of her talk slamming her co-religionists for being naively liberal, and referencing her fellow panelist’s father’s book – Norman Podhoretz’s Why are Jews Liberal? – as a way to try and explain that they have fallen away from God and been captivated by the “religion of liberalism” to which the audience expressed considerable dismay. Rubin and others are useful for this kind of criticism because it allows them to express contempt for their fellow Jews, which coming out of the mouth of anyone else would, quite rightly, be considered anti-Semitism

        ENTIRE REPORT – link to jewsonfirst.org

      • DICKERSON3870
        August 13, 2011, 6:43 pm

        P.S. Hey! Something just occurred to me! For all we know, stinky old Red Sox over at the Daily Cuss might actually be über-Zionist Jennifer Rubin!

      • Citizen
        August 14, 2011, 1:53 pm

        Ms Rubin mirrors Glen Beck’s POV. He’s over there in Israel now, trying to save Israel & US from themselves.

      • DICKERSON3870
        August 13, 2011, 6:13 pm

        RE: “They’re such idiot bloggers there – they remind me of yahoonews bloggers but with less eccentric foolish charm.” – Taxi

        MY REPLY: Yes, “people” like stinky old Red Sox over at the Daily Cuss make me want to find an apartment in an old building on a quiet street with a French window overlooking a glass canopy several stories below.
        1976 The tenant – Trailer (VIDEO, 01:03) – link to youtube.com
        The Tenant (Roman Polanski), Italian TRAILER (VIDEO, 01:27) – link to youtube.com
        The Tenant (Roman Polanski, 1976) [VIDEO, 03:13] – link to youtube.com
        ENTIRE FILM IN 4 PARTS (WARNING: You’ll never be the “same”!) – link to youtube.com

        P.S. “Too subtle for mass audiences.” ~ Pauline Kael, 1976

        P.P.S. Hey! Something just occurred to me! For all we know, “Red Sox” might be that über-Islamophobe Pamela Geller in hag drag. Or even Debbie Schlussel!

  10. Taxi
    August 13, 2011, 4:15 pm

    Journalism is dead. Long live the bloggerphere!

  11. Dex
    August 13, 2011, 5:40 pm

    I have a question for you all:

    Considering that a culture of fear regarding criticism of Israel permeates in our media, what do you all believe to be the best way to change this?

    • DICKERSON3870
      August 13, 2011, 6:48 pm

      We need to make being one of Hannah Arendt’s “conscious pariahs” de rigueur (“all the rage”)! And associate right-wing Zionism with “the banality of evil”.

      • DICKERSON3870
        August 13, 2011, 7:01 pm

        P.S. The cult of Hannah Arendt vs. the cult of Ze’ev
        Jabotinsky (born Vladimir Yevgenyevich Zhabotinsky)!

  12. Debonnaire
    August 13, 2011, 6:04 pm

    FEAR OF THE JEWS. (Vincent Price laugh, a howling, shrieking wind, Rachel Maddow tripping over a rusted can of Mountain Dew as she flees in panic from Mort Zuckerman and David Horowitz. She tries to get up again but a shofar blows and she tumbles headlong into a raging sea infested with giant squid)

  13. Debonnaire
    August 13, 2011, 9:37 pm

    That’s terrible. These people are afraid of their own shadow and need to be laughed out of the business.

  14. Duscany
    August 13, 2011, 11:25 pm

    The function of journalism apparently is to protect Israel at all costs.

    • justicewillprevail
      August 14, 2011, 4:47 am

      Israel has found that journalism, like all professions, is vulnerable to pressure. Governments of all stripes have exploited this too. Israel has just taken it to an extreme. It is simple: when a journalist writes about Palestine with some empathy and concern, and reports Israeli abuses, create such a shitstorm with their employers, whilst also harassing and smearing the journalist, that nearly all of them and their employers will think twice about even entering the arena. It is not surprising that many people buckle under this intolerable pressure. Israel is brutal, because in their view brutality works. The mafia and assorted crime bosses found this to be the case also.

  15. Sumud
    August 14, 2011, 8:21 am

    I bought a copy of Footnotes in Gaza; it’s an extraordinary piece of work and I can recommend it without hesitation.

    I’ve linked to this interview several times before but here is Joe Sacco being interviewed early last year on the 7th Avenue Project radio show:

    Show for Jan 17, 2010. Cartoon Journalist Joe Sacco

    I really love this interview, and Sacco. Listen.

  16. Nancy Kricorian
    August 14, 2011, 8:31 am

    Thanks, Phil, for catching this. As a fan of graphic novels in general and of Joe Sacco’s work in particular, I find this beyond appalling. The fact that she so glibly describes her specious reasoning and self-censorship in the comments section is also disturbing.

  17. Donald
    August 14, 2011, 1:48 pm

    I want to give her credit for her honesty. Yeah, she was a chicken, but her admission of this is actually more valuable than it would have been to include Joe Sacco’s book in the first place.

  18. MichaelRivero
    August 15, 2011, 10:53 am

    I guess being a total shivering coward is the prime requirement for a job in the corporate media these days.

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