August 28, 2007

Former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw has a ‘Don Imus’ Moment at a Convention of Black Journalists


UPDATE: See Thomas Lifson's comments on this post at The American Thinker.


By David Paulin

Not long before he retired as one of CNN’s star anchors, Bernard Shaw used to pass me in the hallways of CNN in Atlanta. I was a writer at CNN.com in 2000: I was a nobody. Yet the affable Shaw always made eye contact and murmured a friendly “hello.” In the television world of big egos, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy.

So imagine my surprise to learn that Shaw was in fact a closet bigot. It’s the only conclusion I can draw from remarks that the retired 67-year-old CNN star made recently when accepting a lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) at Bally’s hotel in Las Vegas.

Perhaps Shaw just got caught up in the spirit of the NABJ, which essentially has a one-track agenda: “Diversity.” Addressing the group, Shaw issued a warning to the main villain of the post-modern left: white males. He declared, “Beyond this ballroom tonight, white males – wake up. Globally, you are an island speck in an ocean of color. The reins of power will weaken and so will your grip — if you do not faithfully support our nation's greatest strength, diversity.”

Shaw was one of CNN’s original anchors when the cable network started in 1980. Watching him over the years, I was undoubtedly like millions of other Americans: I never saw him as a “black journalist.”

I saw him only as a journalist.

Shaw’s remarks must be considered in a certain context. Once upon a time, diversity policies seemed quite noble. They were supposed to remedy past racial injustices; to bring the country together. But in our post-modern era, diversity has become something else – a socially acceptable form of racism. And let’s face it; Shaw’s comments were racist in effect if not intent – to paraphrase former Harvard President Lawrence Summers’ famous remarks about anti-Semitism in academia. Imagine the outrage if Walter Cronkite made similar comments about black Americans at a convention that was limited to fellow white journalists?

In recent years, major news organizations have become obsessed with diversity, an ideology with some central tenets. One is that “racist” barriers are keeping blacks and Hispanics out of editorial positions.

Another tenet is that the racial and ethnic makeup of newsrooms must mirror the makeup of the local community, state, or even the nation. Otherwise, discrimination exists. Lacking court verdicts or lawsuits over alleged newsroom discrimination, this is the most that diversity advocates can muster when making the case for racism in the newsroom.

And some diversity advocates make a remarkably ludicrous claim, one that demeans Americans of all colors. They contend that African-American and Hispanic-American reporters are best qualified to write about members of their respective racial and ethnic groups.

It’s sad that Bernard Shaw lends himself to this madness. Whether or not you liked him, you had to give him credit: He had talent and quiet dignity. What’s more, if any color barriers even existed in newsrooms in the hip 1960s, when Shaw started his career, he easily transcended them. He did this on his merits – not because of a free pass he got because of his skin color.

Apart from Shaw’s racially charged comments, the veteran journalist ignores reality. Hiring managers have for years gone out of their way to hire minority journalists – even when it has meant hiring some not-so-qualified people such as Jason Blair, whose name is synonymous with scandal at The New York Times.

Ironically, the noble ideology of diversity has undermined newsroom meritocracy in a particular odious way. It has stifled the free flow of ideas in newsrooms, author William McGowan pointed out in his book “Coloring the News.” He wrote, “In a perverse Orwellian twist, instead of expanding the bandwidth of opinion, experience, and perspectives that are acknowledged in news coverage and commentary, diversity-oriented journalism has actually allowed a narrow multicultural orthodoxy to restrict debate just at the point when the discourse about our changing national identity needs to be robust, well-informed, and honest.”

Last year, popular trade journal Editor & Publisher (E&P) published a “Shoptalk” column of mine that questioned the diversity gospel that a journalism professor had put forth, a week earlier, in an E&P column on how to cover Hispanic America. My “protest” column, as E&P editor Greg Mitchell called it, provided a counterweight to the Alice in Wonderland logic and implicit racism coming from diversity advocates. In light of Shaw’s comments and many more like them, it is a worthwhile read for those who missed it:


SHOPTALK

Another Take on 'How to Cover Hispanic America’

Responding to a piece here last week: There's no denying that many newsrooms are indeed staffed mostly by "white folks who are mostly middle aged." But the solution is not to have only Hispanics cover Hispanics -- or fail to train them to cover other communities.

By David Paulin

AUSTIN, Tex. (March 10, 2006) -- When I was an idealistic teenager contemplating a journalism career in the 1970s, two things intrigued me about the journalists and writers whom I admired: their worldliness and commitment to fighting social inequities.

Sure, most of my role models were "white folks who were mostly middle-aged," to borrow a phrase used by Allan Richards in his recent Shoptalk column, “How to Cover Hispanic America – and Why.” But who could fault a guy who moved comfortably in any social situation: starting the day in a gritty inner-city area, interviewing a black or Hispanic cleaning lady about a murder, and then hours later having lunch with a corporate executive or elected official?

Some of the most popular books of that era were testament to such writers and journalists: Oscar Lewis’ opus on Mexican peasants, initially banned in Mexico; John Howard Griffin’s classic “Black Like Me,” the riveting expose on racism in the Jim Crow South, from the perspective of a middle-aged white guy posing as an Afro-American; Michael Harrington’s book exposing the nation's hidden poverty, “The Other America.”

You would never know such writers existed if you accept the world view put forth by Richards, chair of Florida International University's journalism program. According to Richards, the nation's newsrooms need to become much more “diverse," hiring far more Hispanic reporters to intelligently cover the nation's increasingly large Hispanic population.

Has Richards ever heard of the middle-aged white guys I mentioned earlier? Some of his arguments are unfounded. Others are bizarre.

Claiming Hispanics are discriminated against in the nation's newsrooms, he writes: “I have watched many young and talented Hispanic journalism students confront ‘whiteness’ in the newsroom, as they struggled to crack the color and culture barrier and work in the mainstream media.”

Color and culture barriers in 2006? That's a serious charge; and not surprisingly, Richards cites no evidence to support it. But if he indeed knows of such instances of discrimination, he should illuminate E&P's readers with examples. Moreover, he should report such illegal discrimination to the Federal authorities.

Richards also claims that nationwide “barriers” confronting Hispanic journalists have made it “problematic” for them to land jobs outside South Florida. Only a few "lone pioneers," he observes, have gotten jobs in places "not known for diversity."

I've read similar complaints over the years. But they had nothing to do with Richards' claims of “barriers” blocking Hispanic employment. Rather, it was because some of Miami's Hispanics, having grown up in an insular Hispanic environment, simply lacked the confidence to follow the examples of, say, an Oscar Lewis, John Howard Griffin, or Michael Harrington -- and go out and interact with milieus and cultures other than their own. Perhaps their language skills were simply not up to par.

Offering up a truly bizarre anecdote, Richards attempts to explain the “complexities” of varied Hispanic communities – and need for specialized reporting to cover them. He cites the case of a Mexican-American reporter at a Florida paper. Sent out to cover a Venezuelan expatriate community, he failed miserably. Richards quotes the paper's editor as saying: “Biggest mistake we made…it was like apples covering oranges…Same language, very different culture.”

This is astounding. If this reporter was indeed competent – possessed of intellectual curiosity, a certain degree of empathy, and having good interview skills – how is it that he was unable to report on people with whom he shared a common language? Is Richards suggesting that the editor should have sent out a Venezuelan-American reporter to cover an expatriate Venezuelan community?

Richards' claims to the contrary, I have not noticed any “cultural divide” in newsrooms holding back Hispanic journalists. I have seen just the opposite. Thanks to a near obsession in some newsrooms on multiculturalism and affirmative action, hiring managers over the years have based decisions on whom to hire, in part, on race and ethnicity, not necessarily merit. (Just take a look at the “diversity” section of the journalism job board, Journalismjobs.com, which often lists a particular job both under the diversity section and the general section.) Viewed from another perspective, what in fact has been occurring is that qualified white candidates sometimes lose out because of their skin color; not an issue Richards addresses.

Indeed, I have been amazed over the years at how some minority journalists zoomed up the career ladder, obtaining prized internships and a foot in the door at prestige papers, even though their qualifications were not as good as white applicants.

There's no denying, to be sure, that many newsrooms are indeed staffed mostly by “white folks who are mostly middle aged.” But are any pathologies really at work here? I doubt it.


Author's Note:
Allan Richards got the final say on the issue of how to cover Hispanic America, with a second column, “Debate Over Covering ‘Hispanic America’ Continues.” The E&P article is available to subscribers.

August 8, 2007

Would Jesus eat at McDonald's?

Left-wing intellectuals in the Presbyterian Church (USA) invariably blame Israel for the world’s troubles. Now, they’ve got another villain...the Big Mac!


UPDATE: Visit Seraphic Secret for screenwriter Robert Avrech's comments on this article, which also ran at Jewish Comment.


By David Paulin

The intellectual elites of the Presbyterian Church (USA) have in recent years joined ranks with the radical left. They vilify Israel, apologize for Islamic terrorists, and cheer on the Palestinian cause. Now, these Presbyterians have another villain: the Big Mac.

America’s most famous hamburger is emblematic of the dark underbelly of globalization, according to David Hadley Jensen, an associate professor of something called “constructive theology” at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas. On top of that, McDonald’s and its iconic burger are even at odds with Christian values, Jensen contends.

The professor’s scathing critique is the subject of a recent essay, “The Big Mac and the Lord’s Table: A Theological Interpretation of Globalization.” It’s among several anti-globalization essays in the recent edition of “Insights,” a semiannual faculty journal published by Austin Seminary. Situated on idyllic grounds near the University of Texas campus, the seminary is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), which is no stranger to controversy. In 2004, it initiated steps to divest from companies operating in Israel, an action that ultimately failed.

Ironically, Jensen’s attack comes as the world’s leading food retailer reported increasingly strong sales overseas. Some of its strongest sales occurred in none other than anti-American France and former Cold War enemies China and Russia, according to an earnings statement from the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company. In Europe, McDonald’s sales rose 3.5 percent last April compared to the same month in 2006. And in the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia/Pacific region, sales increased 10.3 percent. It’s yet another example of how ordinary people worldwide embrace slices of Americana that are despised by leftist elites worldwide. Could it be only a coincidence that all-American McDonald’s is seeing some of its strongest sales in foreign countries where individual freedoms have traditionally been in short supply?

Like-Minded Leftists

The left-wing extremism found at many universities is an old story. But it exists as well at many seminaries, where professors embrace an odd mix of Christianity, Marxism, and Edward Said. Seminaries affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA) have been particularly problematic in this respect. Austin Seminary is one example.

In late 2005, it hosted a pro-Palestinian conference whose guest speakers included radical University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensen, an apologist for the 9/11 hijackers and venomous critic of Israel. The speakers at a special dinner were the parents of the late Rachel Corrie, the radical college student who died when she stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer involved in anti-terror operations. One of the event’s organizers was an Austin Seminary professor, Whitney S. Bodman, an ordained minister and expert on Islam. He has praised terror group Hezbollah and worked closely with the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the problematic Muslim group.

Many Americans asked a question after the 9/11 attacks: “Why do they hate us?” An answer is suggested in Jensen’s essay: It’s because America is imposing its culture on other nations. The Big Mac is a case in point.

Jensen’s essay and others in the faculty journal provide yet another example of the troubling alliances being made by leftists today. Anti-globalization advocates have made common cause with radical leftists and even Muslim jihadists. In their own ways, all of them embrace an anti-American and anti-Western worldview. And they're attracted to wacky conspiracy theories as well.

For instance, Jensen writes: “An unexpressed goal of the global march of McDonald’s is cultural homogeneity.” Not surprisingly, though, he cites no supporting evidence for this; no purloined documents from McDonald’s or anything of the sort. Most bizarrely, he contends that Christian values themselves are undermined by the Big Mac and all it represents. He writes, “The McMeal is…a parody of the Eucharist, extending an invitation to all, but embodying only one culture.” Among Christians, the Eucharist relates to the Last Supper in which Christ passed bread to his disciples.

Driving home his case for Big Mac imperialism, Jensen compares a meal eaten at McDonald’s to one served at the “Lord’s Table.”

"Our peculiar North America culture has…bequeathed a meal for the world’s consumption, a meal that gorges a larger number of bellies every day: the Big Mac, fries, and Coke. This meal also embodies distinct practices: of burgers packaged in individual containers that resist sharing, of a maddening rush to the counter, of empty calories rather than food that sustains, of convenience rather than hospitality, of intricate global supply chains ensuring that beef from Brazil arrives in Asia on time, of homogenous tastes rather than sharing that begets moderation."

He concludes, ”Such meals, in the end, enable us to devour all we can quickly without bothering to interact with those hosting the meal.” A graduate of Yale Divinity School, Jensen also contends that McDonald’s is part of a global system (read American system here) that encourages “hoarding” by rich nations – hoarding which supposedly leaves other nations impoverished.

McDonald’s says it serves some 52 million meals worldwide every day. That its outlets are familiar and convenient is something Jensen acknowledges. So who are the retailer's customers? Obviously, they're ordinary people. And obviously, they lack the good taste and social consciousness embraced by Jensen and his privileged elite counterparts who live in trendy places in America and abroad.

The success McDonald’s enjoys overseas is obvious to anybody who has traveled abroad. In the dozen or so countries I’ve visited, its restaurants were usually packed. Sure, the food may not be spectacular or healthy. But no matter: the service is quick and friendly. Above all, it’s a piece of Americana: This seems especially endearing to many customers in foreign countries.

While in Guatemala City, I’ll never forget the charming scene I saw one morning. A young mother led her pajama-clad toddler, a lovely dark-eyed little girl, into an immaculate and orderly McDonald’s. The toddler was wide-eyed. You would have thought she was visiting Disneyland. And not far from where I used to live in Caracas, a nearby McDonald’s overflowed with people every Friday and Saturday evening. A Caracas sociologist told me, “It’s too expensive for many people to go to Miami anymore, but when they go to McDonald’s it’s like being back in the states for a little while.”

Nearby, there were several traditional Venezuelan restaurants and eateries. None of them ever had a fraction of the customers that McDonald’s did; and it was perhaps no coincidence that they were not as well-run, clean and friendly as McDonald’s. And nor did they offer as good a value for the money. It’s a pattern I’ve observed repeatedly when traveling in Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

To be sure, a case can be made against McDonald’s and fast-food culture, and two examples of such social criticism may be found in the book “Fast Food Nation” and documentary film "Super Size Me." One interesting thing about such social criticism is that it may have influenced McDonald’s decision to introduce healthier menus, which reflects the ability of free-markets to adapt to consumer demands and needs. But don’t look for any intelligent social criticism from Jensen and other Marxist Christians: Their social commentary and theological dribble is only dressed up in anti-Americanism.

Unholy McDonald’s?

Using the bible to whip McDonald’s, Jensen writes: “The food and drink of the Lord’s Table always takes shape in local culture.” These meals encourage “sharing and are worth “lingering over,” he says. And they ultimately “become part of a global meal as they remember and celebrate the risen Christ who is present at all tables.”

Jensen never mentions the specific kinds of food found at what he variously calls the “Lord’s Table” or “Lord’s Supper,” except to say that it “celebrates the diversity of God’s children” instead of promulgating McDonald’s “homogenous culture.” This culture, he contends, is “shunned in Christian practices of table fellowship.”

A proper Christian meal must “not erect boundaries around a particular culture at the expense of another,” Jensen explains. “Rather, it invites all cultures to participate in the richness of a meal that takes shape in local practice, connecting the celebration of one meal to all meals where Christ is host.”

Although Jensen says the “verdict is still out on the peril and promise of globalization,” he is clearly unhappy with how it’s unfolding. Citing cherry-picked figures from a U.N. Development Report, he writes, “The habits of the McMeal mimic some patterns of wealth distribution in the global economy.” Moreover, he writes: “Current trends, it seems, only confirm attitudes of hoarding among the wealthiest nations on earth."

Jensen is particularly disturbed by what he describes as an ever widening gap in income ratios between rich and poor nations. Yet he’s silent on corruption and mismanagement in poor countries, which have caused them to fall even further behind nations that have ridden the wave of globalization, and this includes developing nations. How would Jensen propose to redistribute the West’s “hoarded” wealth to countries such as Zimbabwe and Sudan, two of Africa’s most corrupt, authoritarian, and dysfunctional basket cases?

Jensen’s claims to the contrary, rich nations are not “hoarding” wealth. Their wealth is constantly on the move, flowing from banks and investment houses into countries around the word: those with open markets, stable governments, and the rule of law. Profits from McDonald’s form part of this flow, amounting to billions of dollars invested in 30,000 restaurants in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Is McDonald’s “hoarding” its overseas profits? According to McDonald’s website, “More than 70 percent of McDonald's restaurants worldwide are owned and operated by independent local men and women.” And presumably, a job at McDonald’s would be coveted in many countries. Jensen addresses none of these things.

Others essays in “Insights” offer similarly wacky anti-globalization arguments. Some excerpts:

*Janet L. Parker, a pastor from Arlington, Virginia calls the global economic system (read American system here) “totalitarian in nature.” Evoking the bible, she writes: “Do we serve an economic system oriented toward serving the welfare of the few at the expensive of the many? Or do we serve the God who gifted us with his food, green earth, who calls us to sacrificial love for one another, and who charged us with this responsibility to care for God’s creation?”

*Hak Joon Lee, an associate professor of ethics and community at Brunswick Theological Seminary, suggests America got its comeuppance on 9/11 as the terror attacks “revealed that the entire world is not content with American influence.” Using the rhetoric of moral equivalency, he writes that “U.S. Supremacy and Islamic religious terrorism” have “similar logic and dynamics.” He writes, “Supremacists refuse to treat other human beings as equal to themselves. In an ‘Us vs. Them’ state of mind, supremacists think of themselves as righteous, while demonizing the opponents as evil.”

*Lameck Banda, a minister from Zambia, blames Africa’s dysfunction on the malevolent influence of “Western individualism.” This, he claims, is suppressing the “African identify of communality” and is leading to haphazard urban growth and overpopulation. He contends that these problems in turn are fostering a welter of other problems: poverty and soaring crime; prostitution and street children; and even the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

And just think: McDonald’s is part of all of these atrocities by forcing its anti-Christian culture on foreign countries. This would of course explain the rage of the 9/11 hijackers.

If only it were so.
___________

Author’s Note:

*For more information about the Presbyterian Church (USA) and Austin Seminary in particular, see my two-part series, "Presbyterian Seminaries: Schools for Anti-Semitism?" It was published last year by my friend Robert Avrech, the screenwriter, at his Seraphic Secret blog. Here is Part 1 and Part 2. *Austin Seminary Professor Whitney S. Bodman’s pro-Hezbollah Op-Ed, “Hezbollah aims to defend, rebuild Lebanon,” was published on August 16, 2006 in the Austin American-Statesman, a Cox newspaper. It may be found here at Townhall.com. You’ll have to scroll down a bit before you come to it.



August 2, 2007

A Story the AP Plays Down: Released Guantanamo Inmates Return to Battlefield


By David Paulin

The alleged torture of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay prison has been a rallying cry for the anti-war and anti-American left. It’s been a career-making story for reporters, too – especially for those from the Associated Press.

By making regular visits to Guantanamo and later filing Freedom of Information (FOI) actions, AP reporters based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, dug up a shocking litany of headline-making abuses in early 2005. Two staffers from the AP's Caribbean bureau at the time, news editor Paisley Dodds and and bureau chief Michelle Faul, produced some harrowing tales of abuse at Guantanamo.

One of Faul’s articles suggested that a “wide variety of detainees” were not even terrorists. Citing information cherry-picked from hundreds of pages of official documents – obtained through FOI actions against the U.S. government – Faul wrote of hapless innocents whom crafty Pakastani tribesmen “sold” to unwitting Americans for “bounties” of $3,000 to $25,000. These allegations were unsupported -- though Faul put great stock in them.

And there were shocking tales of sordid sexual abuse of upright Muslim detainees. In an article that attracted wide attention, Dodds wrote: “Female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man's face with fake menstrual blood, according to an insider's written account."

Terror Chicks Gone Wild,” wrote New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, citing Dodd’s work. Dodds' story also had a big impact on Andrew Sullivan, the conservative gay blogger and author. Tales of “fake menstrual blood” apparently put him over the edge -- turning him into “a fervent supporter of the 'rights' of terrorists,” the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto observed in telling commentary in his online column.

Interestingly, revelations of hot torture chicks were not gleaned from FOI documents. They were from a book manuscript Dodds obtained that was stamped “secret.” The classification was in effect, she explained, “pending a Pentagon review for a planned book that details ways the U.S. military used women as part of tougher physical and psychological interrogation tactics to get terror suspects to talk.”

The manuscript offers “the most revealing account so far of interrogations at the secretive detention camp, where officials say they have halted some controversial techniques,” she wrote.

How did Dodds obtain classified materials whose publication – according to a recent Justice Department ruling – could land her and other AP staffers in prison? It came from none other than the manuscript's author, former Army Sgt. Erik Saar, then 29. In her story, Dodds claimed that he “didn't provide the manuscript or approach AP, but confirmed the authenticity of nine draft pages AP obtained.”

Context is everything. And these revelations must be put into the context of a Guantanamo story that the AP and other media outlets have not wanted to hype. It's that many released Guantanamo detainees have returned to the battlefield.

In a recent story, The Age of Australia reported:

"At least 30 former Guantanamo Bay detainees have been killed or recaptured after taking up arms against allied forces following their release.

"They have been discovered mostly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not in Iraq, a US Defence Department spokesman told The Age yesterday.

"Commander Jeffrey Gordon said the detainees had, while in custody, falsely claimed to be farmers, truck drivers, cooks, small-arms merchants, low-level combatants or had offered other false explanations for being in Afghanistan.

"We are aware of dozens of cases where they have returned to militant activities, participated in anti-US propaganda or engaged in other activities," said Commander Gordon."

He added, "These former detainees successfully lied to U.S. officials, sometimes for over three years. Common cover stories include going to Afghanistan to buy medicines, to teach the Koran or to find a wife. Many of these stories appear so often, and are subsequently proven false, that we can only conclude that they are part of their terrorist training."

Of course, there’s a big story here – one that might be summed up in a headline: “Incompetent U.S. Officials Release Terrorists.”

But don’t expect the AP to write it.

There's another context, as well, that's missing here. Gruesome beheadings and unspeakable torture is being undertaken in Iraq and elsewhere in the Islamic world on a regular basis. This is real torture. Yet no AP reporters work themselves into frenzy over such atrocities. Perhaps it would be hard to do. After all, no FOI requests can be made in places like Saudi Arabia, Libya, the Palestinian territories, and insurgent-controlled parts of Iraq.

Dodds, incidentally, went on to win at least two separate awards for her Guantanamo reporting. And she got a promotion: London bureau chief. As to Faul, she went onto head the AP’s news operations in Johannesburg, South Africa (although it's debatable as to whether that was a promotion).

Scandal pays – especially when it’s U.S. scandals that are being uncovered.