With Friends Like These…

Posted on March 13, 2011

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The good news is that there are probably more cable personalities today that consistently champion progressive ideas than at any previous period. The bad news is that these same hosts are often woefully uninformed, and seem to live in a delusional bubble where their analysis and judgment need not concern itself with facts or research.

Here’s Dylan Ratigan encouraging a guest to issue a glaring falsehood, not once but twice, about the paucity of “left” support for Bradley Manning. After Ratigan states that the “left” have not held Obama accountable for the conditions of Manning’s detention, the guest exclaims “where’s CodePink? where’s CodePink?” [2:47 on the clip below]. Ratigan, again with good-natured laughter, actually prompts her to repeat herself at the end of the show, but never corrects her.

The scene is stunning to anyone who knows the most minimal data about Manning and CodePink. CodePink has been one of the most stalwart voices in defense of Manning, and has sponsored or co-sponsored almost all of the protests at Quantico on behalf of Manning. They’ve done so for months, long before Ratigan took on the issue. Don’t take my word for it, simply put the following words into a google search engine “manning code pink”, to see how remarkable is the ignorance on display here.

This isn’t the first time Ratigan has enabled a guest to issue false information on the issue of Manning. On January 26, 2011, he allowed a right-wing commenter to falsely assert that Manning, as a member of the US Armed Forces, has no right to due process without contesting the remarks. Later, Ratigan published a letter on his blog by a viewer correcting the remark, but Ratigan never corrected it on air, nor did he take responsibility for allowing the guest to make the point over and over again without rebuttal.

Ratigan’s self-proscribed ignorance can perhaps be forgiven, because he genuinely does seem to have some interest in being a positive contributor to the public sphere. The same can’t be said for Bill Maher, in the clip below, however.

Maher’s points about “radicalized muslims” being a “unique and greater threat” to America, are simply regurgitate of obviously indefensible generalizations.

One, it’s been going on a thousand years this problem between Islam and the west. We are dealing with a culture that is in its medieval era.

It comes from a hate-filled holy book, the Koran, which is taken very literally by its people. They are trying to get nuclear weapons.

And also, it’s a culture of suicide bombing, which is hard to deter from people who want to kill themselves.

The obvious danger from hacks like Maher and Ratigan is that they limit the discourse on these issues to a sadly narrow degree. Thanks to Ratigan, we now have to re-establish what is inescapable fact–that according to the Uniform Military Code of Justice, Manning and other soldiers have the same constitutional rights to a speedy trial as civilians. David Coombs, Manning’s attorney, states quite clearly on his blog:

The Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial is applied to military jurisprudence through two separate and distinct provisions– Rule for Court-Martial (R.C.M.) 707 and Article 10 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) (10 U.S.C. § 810). While both provisions seek to protect the same constitutional right, and while there is considerable overlap between the two, each provision has separate rules regarding when the protections attach and when they are breached.

One has to wonder about the kind of self-described champion for Manning who wouldn’t take a look at that site at least once a month. To make things worse, Ratigan misses an opportunity to draw attention to the efforts of the few groups that are working to draw attention to the mistreatment of Manning.

And thanks to Mahr, a litany of poorly reasoned generalizations are introduced with renewed vigor by a television personality with a reputation for insight.  Such commentary does no favors for those seeking to have a conversation about what “radical” means in relation to Islam, especially in a time when McCarthy-esqe witch hunts force Muslims to choose between saccharine pledges of allegiance to America and asinine fantasies about Islamic world califates.And it blurs the localized reality of different and factionalized struggles against western sponsored oppression in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and etcetera. In Mahr’s reality there are only nuke-hunting suicide-bombers intent on the destruction of America, and peaceful, bowing push-overs eager to accommodate the West in whatever endeavor it introduces: there is no analysis of the incredible diversity of “radical” movements of Islamic peoples against neo-liberalism and military oppression throughout the world. Like Mahr’s guest, Keith Ellison, Muslims must spend all of their time defending themselves from Mahr’s absurd boiler-plate charges, leaving nuanced discussion of geo political issues [hopefully] for another day.