Electric Currents

Rule By Spin

Jan 29, 2006

This weekend I watched two thought-provoking programs on C-Span: American Taliban and Fog Facts. Let me tell you about both.

American Taliban was an address by Frank Lindh, the father of John Walker Lindh, before the Commonwealth Club of California. In case you’ve forgotten who John Lind is, he’s the 19 year old who the American media dubbed the "American Taliban". Branded a "traitor" by both the media and powerful government officials, Lindh is serving a 20 year sentence, not on terror or treason charges, but for violating economic aid sanctions on the Afghan government imposed in the wake of 9/11.

Click the link to listen to Frank Lindh's Commonwealth Club of California [play/download 14.4MB MP3 audio].

According to his father, Frank Lindh, his son, who had ambitions of becoming a Islamic scholar, hence his trips to Yemen and then Pakistan, volunteered for military training in the Taliban-run government what controlled most of Afghanistan at the time. During John’s army training, he met bin Laden once and later told his father that he wasn’t at all impressed by the man whom he regarded as not all that well versed in Islamic scholarship.

While stationed in northern Afghanistan, Lindh was captured by U.S.-backed Northern Alliance troops and barely escaped death in the mass murder of unarmed Taliban prisoners. He was turned over to U.S. forces with an AK-47 round in his thigh and multiple shrapnel wounds after unsuccessful attempts by his captors to kill all the remaining prisoners hold up in a flooded basement. Only 85 out of some 800 prisoners survived the massacre.

Once in U.S. custody, he was strapped naked on a litter, his wounds untreated, and left in a steel cargo container overnight, but not before being filmed by a CNN news crew.

From that moment on, he became the focus of intense media and political interest, and despite the fact that he never fired a shot at a fellow American or that he had been proven guilty in a court of law or even a military tribunal, he was branded a "traitor" by powerful politicians, both Republican and Democrat, as well as by the media.

America needed a scapegoat and John Walker Lindh was it.

Curiously, another Taliban fighter -- this one with dual American and Saudi citizenship, who also survived the massacre at Qala-i-Jhangi, was eventually released from prison and sent home to Saudi Arabia after having his American citizenship revoked.

Fighting hard to not break down in tears during his talk before the Commonwealth Club on January 19, 2006, Frank Lindh, who is an attorney, explained why he let his son pursue his interest in Islamic scholarship, as well as his deep disappointment with the U.S. justice system, American media and politicians from both parties who violated their legal ethics in their unfounded condemnation of his son before knowing the facts of his situation.

The treatment of John Walker Lindh is not only a tragic example of American justice gone awry, but also underscores much of the message found in Larry Bienhart’s new book, Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin.

Click the link to listen to Bienhart’s C-Span Book TV talk [play/download 11.1MB MP3 audio].

Bienhart is a fiction writer best known for his novel, "American Hero", that became the basis of the movie "Wag the Dog" starring Robert DeNiro (above) and Dustin Hoffman, in which a scandal-plagued U.S. president starts a war to distract public attention; and no, the president wasn’t Bill Clinton, but the first George Bush and the war was the first Persian Gulf War, not Bosnia.

In Fog Facts, Beinhart asserts that the American people are being manipulated and lied to by both the media and politicians who use deception and "spin" to cover-up abuses of power, financial fraud and corruption.

In reviewing the book for Amazon.Com, Ben Mack writes, "Fog Facts is about key data evaporating into obscurity. Fog Facts is NOT a Right or Left wing propaganda book. This is an anti-propaganda book."

He continues, "Harry Blackstone used to walk a live elephant on stage and nobody would see him do that. It appeared as magic. Beinhart explains how crucial facts are lead on to the main stage of mass media without anybody seeming to notice. Presto, the world has changed. Media is not the magic by misdirection I was envisioning, it is a mass willingness to suspend disbelief."

Suspension of disbelief is a good way to put it, because we as a people in America have done precisely that. While Iraqi’s are willing to march to the polls in record numbers despite the ever-present threat of car bombs and suicide bombers, we won’t vote if its raining.

An Egyptian cab driver knows more about global affairs than the average American whose interests seem preoccupied with celebrity lives and sports.

Publishers Weekly writes about Fog Facts, "Beinhart sees the media's failure to call more prominent attention to political lies as the source of many Americans' ‘delusional’ worldview, which he says led to war in Iraq."

Like how and why a principled, idealistic-if-naïve young man from Marin County, found himself railroaded by Democrat and Republican politicians looking to curry favor with an angry, frightened nation, and a media greedy for ratings and advertiser dollars.

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