Sunday, July 4

Michael Moore & Colin Powell: Creative Editors

Here's an account of how of Colin Powell performed the same sort of deceptive editing on source material in his report to the UN Security Council in Feb. 2003 that Michael Moore did on speech and interview footage in Bowling for Columbine. but at least moore's deceptions were limited to surreptitious cuts and pastes, not making things up!

(Quote from article by gilbert cranberg in the washington post.)

The troubling manner in which Powell embroidered one of the two intercepted conversations raises the question of whether similar spin figured in his interpretation of the photos.

Here is the relevant portion of the State Department's translation of a Jan. 30 conversation between Iraqi Republican Guard headquarters and an officer in the field:

Headquarters: They are inspecting the ammunition you have -- Field: Yes . . .
HQ: -- for the possibility there is, by chance, forbidden ammo.
Field: Yes.
HQ: And we sent you a message to inspect the scrap areas and the abandoned areas. Field: Yes.
HQ: After you have carried out what is contained in the message, destroy the message.
Field: Yes.
HQ: Because I don't want anyone to see this message.
Field: O.K., O.K.

In recounting this exchange, Powell changed it significantly. In Powell's version, the order from headquarters to "inspect" for ammunition became an order to "clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas." Powell also claimed that headquarters told the field officer, "Make sure there is nothing there." This instruction appears nowhere in the transcript.

When I asked the State Department's press and public affairs offices to explain the discrepancy between its transcript and Powell's retelling, they referred me to the department's Web site. The material there simply confirmed that Powell had misrepresented the intercept.

In my earlier post i wrote: "bush and his cronies are at least as deceptive as michael moore. the crucial difference: thousands of people don't die as a result of the deceptions of the latter." but now that i think about it, that's not the real point here--i'm muddying the issue by distinguishing the effects of their deceptions in that way. the rub is that while the media remain skeptical of moore's "conspiracies" (as they should), with rare exception they lapped up bush and co.'s "conspiracies" with gusto. cranberg lists these as indicative of the press's responses to Powell's speech:

"the core of his argument was unassailable," "a smoking fusillade . . . a persuasive case for anyone who is still persuadable," "an accumulation of painstakingly gathered and analyzed evidence," "only the most gullible and wishful thinking souls can now deny that Iraq is harboring and hiding weapons of mass destruction," "an ironclad case . . . incontrovertible evidence," "succinct and damning evidence . . . the case is closed."

now honestly, though i'm a leftie, if this sort of fawning hyperbole were applied to moore's insinuations in f-911 even i would complain.

and what was powell's evidence, besides the deceptively edited communique? cranberg details his (powell's) sources:

Powell cited almost no verifiable sources. Many of his assertions were unattributed. The speech had more than 40 vague references such as "human sources," "an eyewitness," "detainees," "an al-Qaeda source," "a senior defector," "intelligence sources," and the like.

cranberg concludes:

Journalists are supposed to be professional skeptics, but nowhere in the commentary was there a smidgen of skepticism about the quality of Powell's evidence.

so, i say let's be skeptical of all who claim to present a perspective on reality, whether they use filmed interviews and stock footage or slideshows of satellite photos and transcripts of communiques.