[Marxism] Obama issues video greeting to Iran on desire for talks, and sends letter

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Fri Mar 20 21:14:04 MDT 2009

Fred Feldman: "Prof. Mark Jensen of the Snow-News list in Washington State
sees these steps as an indication that secret discussions are already taking
place, which sounds likely to me."

Yeah, this broke during my watch, so to speak, overnight thurs-fri, when I
was at work. I tried to convince others in the benighted news organization
that pays my salary that the REAL news wasn't the video, but the advances in
secret negotiations that had made the video POSSIBLE, and we should roust
the WH and State Dept correspondents to get them on THAT story. 

"We haven't heard anything about these negotiations. Where did you hear
about them," asked the recently-hired-former-intern staffer on the DC
assignment desk that was in charge of this story. I was tempted to suggest
the person have brain surgery, to have some installed, but instead bit my
tongue and explained that there were a million and one ways this supposedly
unsolicited intervention by Obama in the Iranian Spring Equinox/New Year
Holiday could be made to backfire and thus it HAD TO HAVE BEEN prepared
beforehand, it was the first serve in what is likely to be a very carefully
orchestrated modern version of ping-pong diplomacy.

The staffer was very impressed. Wow, that's RIGHT, the person said, there
must be talks going on, but if they're secret, don't you think we should
wait for the official announcement? 

I wish I'd been quick-witted enough to reply that I adhered to the old
journalistic rule to believe nothing out of Washington until it had been
officially denied, but this was shortly before 1:00 AM and the person's
completely spontaneous, natural expression of officialist sycophancy left me
too stunned for that, so I just said ok and hung up.

But, of course, that's the way you do the story, you report that when asked,
the state department mouthpiece denied secret negotiations were going on.
Like, duh ... that's precisely where the quip about believe nothing until
officially denied comes from, the way you try to alert readers to something
going on behind the scenes is by asking about it and printing the denial.
When it comes out that there WERE talks, the mouthpiece will tell you that
when you asked whether there were talks going on, actually, the session had
broken up 20 minutes before, so no, there were no talks going on WHEN YOU
ASKED THE QUESTION. Or some similar evasion. 

And privately they may even congratulate you and not-for-attribution and all
that give you some details to "scoop" the other guys with. A GREAT press
secretary will dole out the details to a half dozen news orgs; one will be
told the talks were held in Paris, another that there have been four
meetings, a third that the first contact was at an international women's day
event, a fourth that the UN ambassadors from the two countries had a very
friendly chat at the UN secretary general's cocktail party  to stop the
genocide in Darfur and so on. 

But in terms of following the story, the quickness and precise formulation
of that first denial are vital, for example, if they say no one in the state
department has been involved in such talks, that makes it likely it's
someone technically not on the Dept's payroll (paging ambassador Joseph
Wilson), and if the mouthpiece says, in response to the question of whether
it's someone else that they can only speak for State and its staff, you know
the story is there somewhere even if it takes a couple of days to chase it
down. Which almost certainly is what is going on now.

Because, of course, if Obama has put a video of this tenor with Farsi
subtitles on www.whitehouse.com, which he has, it's obvious the US has
shifted policy, which is hardly a surprise, since he said he would, and the
logical surmise is this public gesture would be accompanied by private,
informal overtures. 

At any rate, I thought I'd share this story about the state of American
journalism at a news organization of some renown at 1AM Friday Morning. I
know some people claim we journalists are the world's second oldest
profession, but from where I sit in the newsroom, it looks to me like that
we're simply part of the first, although to call what we perpetrate
"professional" is an outrage.


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