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The Prism

Eye on the Media

  True Crime as Seen by Different Americans

When it comes to questions of moral righteousness, I'm reassured neither by the President's opponents nor his supporters. Consider this exchange I had with a co-worker who asked me what I thought about the President's televised confession (in August) that he indeed had had an inappropriate relationship. I said: "Imagine that! we have a guy in high office and one of the first major foreign policy acts was to bomb a foreign capital, as Clinton did in Baghdad, killing scores of people and damaging an embassy (the Venezuelan)."

She responded: "But you're comparing apples and oranges."


"What Clinton did was personal."


"No one's talking about that type of thing." Of course, I explained to her my strong conviction that the media, owned by powerful transnational corporations, were distracting from far more pressing issues. Furthermore, they would never raise such an issue as presidential mass murder in the context of "morality."

I'm afraid none of what I said registered. My colleague is a Republican. But Clinton's Democratic defenders aren't going to raise questions such as my example from the summer of 1993, either. Incidentally, that bombing took place on the pretext that there was "intelligence" that Iraqi agents had plotted to kill George Bush when he visited nearby Kuwait. Even the media later acknowledged that assassination plot was erroneous. However, I've heard no suggestions on NPR or CNN that Clinton be detained for a war crimes tribunal. This moral disparity is not new for those who have read Chomsky on US foreign policies. But what struck me is how huge a gap there is in how people think about basic moral questions. For my co-worker friend, there is no comparison: Clinton took advantage of a 21-year-old intern, perhaps one with a not-fully-matured moral compass. That was personal. As opposed to mass murder commanded from half a planet away via antiseptic technological wizardry. Nary a semen stain noticed.

How to bridge this gap.

Uniform Opinion

OK, I saw the Faircloth campaign's commercial and the first reaction I had to it was not addressed by the News & Observer's (October 3, p. 3) analysis.

In the commercial, policemen denounce US Senate candidate John Edwards for claiming to have support of the police. "Personal injury lawyer John Edwards. Now he claims our police have endorsed him.... Edwards is not telling the truth. Edwards did get a nod from a police union, because he is a liberal....Now he shows up on TV as a tough on crime trial lawyer? Bull."

I'm glad the N&O pointed out the truth-stretching of the Faircloth attack ad, but geez, can government employees in uniform carry on partisan political work?

I asked Bob Hall, of Democracy South, if he knew what laws might pertain. He didn't have a definitive answer but he faxed me a copy of a portion of the US Code called the Hatch Act, which states:"(a) A State or local office or employee may not—(1) use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election...."

It also states that "(b) A State of local officer or employee retains the right to vote as he chooses and to express his opinions on political subjects and candidates."

It seems to me that a cop is clearly using his "official authority or influence" when he/she is suited up for the attack ad studio. Those officers needn't worry. They can just hire a dissembling liberal trial lawyer to get them off the hook on technicalities.

Dubious Tale or Major US Atrocity?

On Sept. 17, Pacifica Evening News (weekdays on 90.7FM at 5:30PM and 88.9FM at 6:30) reported allegations that an all-black unit of over a 1,000 men was massacred in 1943 at Camp Van Dorn, MS.

According to a new book by Carroll Case, The Slaughter: An American Tragedy, white military police, under orders, fired on the men of the 364th Infantry because they were "unruly" and "on the verge of mutiny." Families of the men were told that they had been killed in the line of duty.

In a preliminary follow-up the next day, Pacifica said that some of the informants for the book told a somewhat different story than what the book related. And a historian employed at the Pentagon contended that records show that soldiers of the 364th served in Adak, AK on dates shortly after the alleged massacre.

If the allegations have any merit, it would be one major story.

David Kirsh


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