Bob Garfield did a great interview this week for On the Media [November 4 episode] about misguided media attitudes toward Russia. His guest was James Carden, executive editor of the American Committee for East-West Accord and a contributing editor of the Nation.
Carden said Donald Trump has brought Russia-conspiratorial allegations on himself by exaggerating Vladimir Putin’s admiration for him. But his irresponsibility and clumsiness don’t free the press from publishing “fact free innuendo laden stories.”
With the rich rich material he has given us to question his motives, why rely so heavily on this borderline fictitious so-called bromance with Putin. To do as say the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg to say that “Donald J. Trump has chosen to unmask himself as a de facto agent of Russian president Vladimir Putin,” [link] is a very very ugly echo of McCarthyism.
Garfield asked whether Carden is an agent of Russia. Many have smeared him in such a manner, Carden said, simply for questioning American policy, say in pushing NATO expansion. There’s no excuse for Putin’s annexation of Crimea, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and see the Russian perspective.
Garfield then responded that “all the evidence so far” is that the Wikileaks emails come from Russian hackers, vandals, criminals. Carden wasn’t buying.
It seems to me that the reporting has largely been… stenography. The major newspapers have simply been repeating the claims of the director of national intelligence; and they have been repeating Hillary Clinton’s fairly questionable claim that all 17 intelligence agencies have come to the conclusion that the Russians did it. I think it would be better to cover it with a touch of skepticism.
He wrote about this for the Nation. Journalists ought to be adversarial with corporations and government, “anyone with power,” Carden observed. That’s the point of the fourth estate. And government and the intelligence community deserve skepticism given their performance in the leadup to the Iraq War.
He also blasted the media-induced hysteria regarding one foreign figure or another. George H.W. Bush, who had an otherwise exemplary record in foreign policy, “embarked on a campaign of demonization of Saddam Hussein, comparing him to Hitler.” That didn’t work out so well.
And today we have very understandable objections to Russian foreign policy and domestic politics, “but we are allied with regimes that are far more sinister than the Russian regime.” Here he mentioned the Gulf States tyrannies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
He concluded by saying that the press is encouraging a “reckless posture” visavis Russia. “Whether we like it or not, in order too get things done, some very important things done, we need to cooperate with them.” Neither the Iranian nuclear deal nor getting rid of Assad’s chemical weapons could have been done without Russia. Unfortunately we’re treating Russia like an adversary.
It’s rare to see such a fresh, antiwar perspective in the mainstream. Let’s hope this is a trend. I would only add that Israel was unmentioned in this interview, but it has more friends in the U.S. press than Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and it has exercised tyranny over occupied territories for many years now. And Carden surely knows, what he dare not blurt, that Jeffrey Goldberg served in the Israeli military; and that questions about Israel’s influence over U.S. policymaking are legitimate when the leading White House negotiator in that conflict for the last 20 years tells a synagogue audience in NY that American Jews need to be on one side: “We don’t need to be advocates for Palestinians. We need to be advocates for Israel.” No innuendo there.
It’s also rare to see mainstream media take a shot at the powerful Goldberg. When the New York Times magazine did so recently, in an aside saying that Goldberg helped the White House push the Iran deal, there were pages of corrections, explanations, and apologies.