Wednesday, May 05, 2004

MEDIA CONSOLIDATION IN THEORY AND IN PRACTICE. The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg reports today that Disney is trying to renege on a deal to distribute Michael Moore's latest documentary, Fahrenheit 911, which "harshly criticizes President Bush." The deal between Disney's Miramax division and Moore was blasted by right-wingers at the time that it was announced last year. Example: this screed at

So what happened between then and now? According to Rutenberg's piece, it appears to be a matter of one hand not knowing how much cash the other hand was hauling in. He writes:

Mr. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor.

Eisner denies the allegation.

Still, this is sleazy, reprehensible stuff, just one step short of dictating to ABC News what sorts of stories it may or may not cover based on Disney's corporate interests. Moore does not enjoy a great reputation for accuracy, but this isn't about journalism, it's about business. Eisner ought to be ashamed of himself, but I suspect that's not an option.

ATROCITIES REDUX. To listen to John O'Neill and his merry band of Kerry-bashing veterans, you'd think that atrocities never took place during the Vietnam War. In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, O'Neill wrote:

John Kerry slandered America's military by inventing or repeating grossly exaggerated claims of atrocities and war crimes in order to advance his own political career as an antiwar activist. His misrepresentations played a significant role in creating the negative and false image of Vietnam vets that has persisted for over three decades.


During my 1971 televised debate with John Kerry, I accused him of lying. I urged him to come forth with affidavits from the soldiers who had claimed to have committed or witnessed atrocities. To date no such affidavits have been filed.

Michael Kranish reports in today's Boston Globe on yesterday's news conference by the anti-Kerry Swift Veterans for Truth.

What everyone seems to have forgotten is that, last month, the Toledo Blade won a Pulitzer Prize for its investigative reporting into atrocities committed by US troops in Vietnam in the late 1960s. The Blade found that "[w]omen and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers. Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed - their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings."

Atrocities did occur. Kerry knew it when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971, and the Blade filled in many of the details 32 years later. Given the horrors of Abu Ghuraib, denial of past abuses is not a moral option.

LEHIGH BLASTS SEVERIN. The Globe's Scot Lehigh has written two fine columns on Jay Severin, the "towelhead"-bashing talk-show host at WTKK Radio (96.9 FM). Here's today's; here's last Friday's.

Here's my take on Severin, from last Thursday's Phoenix.

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