Podcast Show #13

The Boiling Frogs Presents Kristina Borjesson

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Kristina Borjesson relates her experiences and provides analysis of the current state of investigative and enterprise journalism in the US. She discusses the drastic decline in true investigative journalism, the role of the internet and the globalization of reporting, and the clashing of the two cultures: traditional media & independent reporters. Ms. Borjesson presents shocking real life examples illustrating behind the scene realities and pressures involved in Network TV, including HDNet and Dan Rather, and others. She talks about government and ownership pressures, and how these pressures successfully shape presented news, the two significant missing ingredients in news reporting today, and more!

KristinaBorjesson Internationally acclaimed for her work, Kristina Borjesson has produced for major American and European television networks and published two groundbreaking books on the problems of the U.S. press: Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press & Feet to the Fire: the Media After 9/11, Top Journalists Speak out. Her awards include an Emmy and Murrow Award in TV, and the National Press Club’s Arthur Rowse award for Media Criticism and two Independent Publishers Awards for her books.

Here is our guest Kristina Borjesson unplugged!

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  1. Fascinating interview with Ms. Borjesson; very revealing. It was interesting to hear her insiders perspective on, and anecdotes about the factors that undermine good reporting. Her story about the call to John Hanna’s office and the trouble it caused made me think of the recent story about Jeremy Scahill getting a call from the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff just before he decided to go public with the story that Blackwater is planning assassinations for JSOC and working inside Pakistan. They refused to tell him how they heard that he was going to publish it and how they got his private number. Although there’s not really much mystery there. But hey at least they were nice enough to confirm that his story was important enough to warrant a denial from the Joint Chiefs themselves. Anyway, good job guys.

  2. Great discussion!

    Ms. Borjesson’s method for determining the relative accuracy of what’s being reported in the media is something that I call “triangulation”. However, I don’t think it’s enough to simply look and see that everyone is reporting the same thing, because that just means that all the news services got the email about what’s permitted to print and what’s forbidden.

    I think that this is where the ideas of history and context come into play. In fact, knowledge of history and context may be even more important than knowledge of another country’s language. From my own experience, for example, most people in Turkey are functional in Turkish but most of them have no idea what’s been going on in the East and Southeast of the country since 1923 or, especially, since the 12 September coup. And news of what’s going on there is available online in Turkish by Kurds from Turkey.

    On the other hand, there are those who’ve been active with the Kurdish issue in Europe for many years and, although they don’t understand Turkish, they can more accurately assess what’s going on in news reports about the Kurdish region because they know the history, the culture, and the whole ugly context. Sure knowing the language helps, but only if someone already knows the history and context.

    Sibel knows how the Turkish public has been brainwashed about most of the reality of the country and Turkish media has played a huge role in the process of brainwashing. When you then tell the people the truth, they deny it or it simply does not register. Now, how much of the US population is in the same situation as the Turkish public? So even if you tell them the truth, they’re not going to accept it because it doesn’t resonate with their manufactured view of the world, and this is a threat that comes directly through the media. Once a population reaches that point, how does one reverse the situation?

    Ms. Borjesson certainly confirms a lot about the media that some of us already suspected and it’s good to have one’s suspicions vindicated, but it’s a very dangerous situation. And whoever doubts that the media has not directly contributed to this problem needs to check the story about the skit that Bush performed for the 2004 Radio and TV Correspondents’ annual dinner. Someone had posted James Bovard’s article about that on one of the comment threads around here but now I can’t find who posted it. For reference, here’s the link again.

  3. “Once a population reaches that point, how does one reverse the situation?” Mizgin
    I like Mizgin’s question because it is accurate. If I can challenge people’s thinking, I have A solution. Using the paradigm of ‘The Matrix’, we are destroyed by prosperity and dependence upon technology. Culturally, the situation in Turkey is different. Drawing upon an experience in Ladakkh in the Himalayas, in Turkey the ‘group mind’ has been established by Sufi’s and a mystical tendency. In the U.S., token belief is given to religion, but the bottomline is rational thinking. Here the approach is similar to that in Turkey in this respect – both cultures have institutional memories: individuals whose influence extends to the collective. In the U.S., the strategy requires approaching the Super Rich without judgment and clearly explaining their moral compromise – however they justify it. Our part then is to seek to return to a simple lifestyle, and retain moral integrity.

  4. @Metem:Agreed;very revealing, indeed. I wonder if Scahill considers Jan Schakowsky as a possible leak; just wondering;-)

    @ Mizgin: As always, right on. Bovard’s piece nails it nicely.

    @Simon: I think ‘internet’ provides that possibility: reversing the trend. But then ahain, 1000000s of sites, and very hard to sift through and determine trustworthiness/reliability…Some purposely try to see misinformation, some due to naivety & stupidity, some due to blinded partisanship, some due to loyalty to funders….Again, very hard to sift through them and select.

  5. There may be a more common reason journalists don’t cover certain stories which is a type of psychological coercion. It may take the form of a subtle a threat to ones pet project that the journalist has invested alot time and effort into, threat to ones continued employment, threat to ones credibility, spreading of rumors about the journalist, etc.
    By the way, Sibel this is an excellent site and very informative. I have a suggestion that may help readers participate more.
    I have seen on some sites a section, usually a box on the right of the page which lists the most active posts in terms of readers commenting, say like the 7 most active posts with a small excerpt of the beginning of a comment. That may bring attention to past posts for new readers since I’m sure people would like to comment on past posts but most regular readers may not be aware of new comments in old posts. Though in my opinion all posts on your site are very relevant whether recent or past.

    Another idea is that the comment link to a story links to a forum type board like in sites as the well known Ars Technica

    Personally I like the Ars Technica idea better.

  6. Most journalists get their stories from PR departments of government or industry and cite it an official source, often unnamed. This is nothing but propaganda. And propaganda is nothing but lies which are used to manipulate people:

    See: The Century of The Self


    Nothing new here for anyone who has had their eyes open.

    Add to the mix that the CIA has infiltrated all the media and does not deny it, and one can see that these new organizations are completely compromised as sources for fact.

    The myth created around 9/11 is a perfect example of how the “official narrative” (all lies) has been put out and people simply refuse to even want to see the blatant contradictions, lies, holes, inconsistencies and absurdities in their 19 militant Islamic hijackers with boxcutter conspiracy. And the “official report” was thousands of pages of lies which has been debunked by hundreds and hundreds of engineers and scientists and this is still not even taken seriously… even by the left.

    We are living in a post 1984 Brave New World and the internet which appears to be the single shining light to reveal truth and expose lies will soon be taken away when they realize how powerful a tool it can be for bringing light to the fascism which is clamping down more and more each day.

    The collapsing economy will force the fascists to go nasty and the people with absolutely nothing else to loose will begin to get very restless, that is the ones who don’t drug themselves to death.

  7. JamesLaffrey says:

    As SanderO wrote above, the capture of major media by the CIA, and by the power elite (including the corporate owners of media outlets) is old news. Yet, the masses remain ignorant of the fact. Few citizens are aware of it and few are willing to believe that the corruption is so deep. So, it is vital to keep trying to inform our fellow citizens – as BoilingFrogsPost so admirably does.

    An example about the CIA, Operation Mockingbird from the 1950s, is linked below. Remember, when the intelligence community has a program they like, media exposure doesn’t kill it. They lie to the public (Panetta’s lies about the murder squad), rename it, add another level of secrecy, and soldier on.

    As for the Power Elite, a term Kristina Borjesson employs, they are connected across the CIA-NSA, the presidency, major corporate players (military, “security,” media, and banksters [yes, they deserve the “st” in the term]), the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission.
    – Zbigniew Brzezinski, co-founder of the Trilateral Commission with David Rockefeller in 1973, stated in a book: “The nation-state as a fundamental unit of man’s organized life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state.” That was in 1971! THEY have made a lot of progress since then. The quote is from the following link.

    KBorjesson doesn’t seem to know how to answer Peter B. Collins’ pursuit of a plausible link between Viacom, Summer Redstone, and Rather’s retreat from Borjesson’s story for HDNet. I don’t know about Rather’s and HDNet’s reason(s). But plausible linkage certainly exists in the fact that major media ownership and directoring is, we can say, incestuous and collusive. Many sit on each other’s boards of directors. Also, remember that the decisionmaking is not only direct collusion. It includes spouses, sisters, sisters-in-law, fathers, etc. (One example: Philip Graham (a young suicide, reportedly) directed the Washington Post. He had a military intelligence background. The WPost company came to him by marriage to Katharine Graham. The WPost currently continues its collusion with the CIA et al. Obviously. True journalist Jeremy Scahill connects Blackwater’s – Xe’s – founder Erik Prince in similar fashion.)

    And I didn’t mention the Bilderberg Group yet.

    The average citizen cannot absorb all of the above. Someday, we’ll have to present it to the public as a chillingly exciting lecture series. Meanwhile, only a minority of us have the time to research this, cull the wheat from the chaff, link it, and understand it. And I say: WE must act on it.

    Ironically, the power elite’s decision to puppetize Obama into the presidency has created a historic opportunity for us. Obama’s silver-forked-tongued speeches inspired a MAJORITY of voting citizens in our country to wake up, to have hope again, and to believe that good change was possible. He betrayed them. (And me. Yes, I was duped, too. Last year, I didn’t have the time for research. This year, I do.) That MAJORITY is mostly jaded now, but still awake. A core group can attract them before they return, in disgust, to slumber. That core group is us.

    We must force a change in leadership, and from a position of leadership we must inform the citizens of this awful truth. As we do this, we must avoid being tarred as “conspiracy-theory whackos.” Therefore, we need a core group of leaders and doers who have integrity, bravery, and unity of purpose.

    WE have a historic opportunity.

  8. BF endorsements of independent candidates (D and R don’t qualify). Maybe Jamiol could come up with a graphic “stamp of approval” which endorsed candidates could use.

    I nominate Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader. Which reminds me, we must also fight against being labelled “spoilers”!

    I think Nader and the recent group Single Payer Action have great ideas about using experts/leaders in direct activism. Click HERE to read about what they do and don’t do.

  9. Americans have been conditioned to think that nonsense about Hollywood celebrities and sports figures is real news, when it’s nothing more than junk food for the brain.

    When our heads aren’t being filled with that toxic slop, we’re told tales of horror about Muslim boogiemen that want to slit our throats because they love death more than living.

    Scared witless and shitless, cowering in fear, which gives the wealthy elite the cover it needs to ransack this country’s wealth.

    John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”

    As soon as your born they make you feel small,
    By giving you no time instead of it all,
    Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all,

    A working class hero is something to be,
    A working class hero is something to be.

    They hurt you at home and they hit you at school,
    They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool,
    Till you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules,

    A working class hero is something to be,
    A working class hero is something to be.

    When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty odd years,
    Then they expect you to pick a career,
    When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear,

    A working class hero is something to be,
    A working class hero is something to be.

    Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV,
    And you think you’re so clever and classless and free,
    But you’re still fucking peasents as far as I can see,

    A working class hero is something to be,
    A working class hero is something to be.

    There’s room at the top they are telling you still,
    But first you must learn how to smile as you kill,
    If you want to be like the folks on the hill,

    A working class hero is something to be.
    A working class hero is something to be.
    If you want to be a hero well just follow me,
    If you want to be a hero well just follow me.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  10. Kingfisher says:

    “..recent story about Jeremy Scahill getting a call from the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff just before he decided to go public with the story that Blackwater is planning assassinations for JSOC and working inside Pakistan….”

    I read Scahill’s Pakistan article and his subsequent blog post, and will admit it was an interesting read.

    I’ve previously shared my opinion of Scahill’s coverage of Blackwater, and the same criticism is applicable to this latest article: its sensationalistic, he panders to his progressive audience, and relies on weak sourcing. In this article he makes Blackwater into some kind of uber-villain while failing to illustrate that BW is a tool to aid the implementation of US policy – it’s like saying the mall security guard runs the mall. By continuing his BW fetish (which has sold many books and boosted his career) he underplays threads he uncovered to what would be significant news stories in and of itself.

    Here’s a reprint of the comment I left in his blog about the post:

    “Mr. Scahill,

    All due respect, you are making the assumption that the past JSOC practice of not informing US ambassadors of operations, remains current JSOC practice. Further, you ignore any announced and/or actualized reforms by the Gates Department of Defense and its SO/LIC&IC office.

    While I have some deal of respect for Col. Wilkerson, the fact is he left government service in January of 2005. In that time he has gone into academia; and as far as I can tell has distanced himself from his old government haunts, choosing not to return in any consulting or advisory role. As such, the authority for which you ascribe for him regarding ongoing covert action policies and practices is questionable.

    Moreover contacting the embassy for comment would be a courtesy, being that it is the US embassy in Islamabad that is going to bear the brunt of any public response (from a deluge of media inquiry to potential violence) of the controversial and anonymously sourced information lacking ground-verification that is contained in the article.”

  11. Kingfisher says:

    Sorry, I meant to give an @Metem for the above post.

  12. Concealed experience, coupled with embarrassing hierarchical controls.., is probably something that should be discussed.

  13. Hannah K OLuthon says:

    This bit of “investigative journalism” might be of interest here:
    “Why do you kill, Zaid?”
    It makes no bones about being biased in favor of the Iraqi resistance, but I assume
    that Boiling Frogs are capable of deciding for themselves just how to weigh the
    contents of that link, as well as the book excerpt and 10 Theses mentioned linked from there.
    This may not be the “whole truth”, but it is a useful corrective to the “official truth” about U.S. occupation of Iraq, at least in my opinion.

  14. @KF I honestly can’t say I read the article. I was basically just interested in it for the info that Blackwater is probably helping JSOC plan some missions and that they may be working on the ground in Pakistan. They’d be interesting facts. And of course I found the anecdote about the Joint Chiefs contacting him interesting. I haven’t read enough of Scahill’s stuff to really judge whether what you say about him playing up BW’s role and playing down the governments is true. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some truth to that. On the other hand it’s not like we don’t already know what the government is doing. Perhaps he just thinks the story is the government’s use of mercenaries and the amount of power and freedom they’re granted. But then like I said I haven’t read him in any detail and I really don’t have a dog in this fight, so to speak.

    @Anybody whom it may concern

    An interesting note on the MSM (in fact MSNBC) and their motivations for what they publish and where, MSNBC’s Anti-War Censorship: A Reminder.

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