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Media Analyses





C-SPAN: A Shield for Bigots?


Are hosts of C-SPAN's “Washington Journal” easily taken advantage of by anti-Semites while simultaneously acting as shields for Islamic fundamentalists? You be the judge. Check these exchanges from the May 15 installment of the cable network's daily public affairs call-in show:
 
At 7:19 a.m., segment host Robb Harleston takes a call from “Derek” in Wallkill, N.Y. The subject under discussion is supposed to be the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
“I think it's a shame they're letting that oil pour in there like that. I don't think they should ever have been drilling in the ocean in the first place... But people have to realize, ever since Kennedy was assassinated, Kennedy and his brother, that ended people -- the president really trying to help the American people. Our country is under control by Zionists, and that's the only logical explanation, and that's based on fact. All you have to do is Google why JFK was killed, and you'll find the answers to why our problems are like this.”
Host Harleston has nothing to say except “thank you very much” regarding the lunatic charge that “our country is under control by Zionists” — “Zionists” being a frequent euphemism for Jews employed by C-SPAN ranters — or regarding the claim that “Zionist control” had something to do with the murderers of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, never mind that it explains all subsequent problems, including the Gulf oil leak.
 
An hour later, at 8:10 a.m., with Jennifer Dlouhy, a Hearst News Service correspondent now on the set as guest, discussing government regulation of off-shore drilling, “Justin” phones from Jensen Beach, Fla. with this observation:
“[I]t seems lately, especially last weekend and so far this morning, I hear quite a bit of anti-Semitic comments. And people trying to draw parallels to the so-called Zionists or the Jews. And it really bothers me that not once have I ever heard you condemn that kind of speech .... If someone called up and started throwing the ‘N' word around I'm sure you would take offense to it and condemn that. Please, I think in the future we need to kind of tone some of that down ....”
Harleston doesn't respond to “Justin's” plea that C-SPAN hosts “tone down” anti-Semitic callers. But when “Jane” from San Francisco returns to the matter three minutes later, claiming that C-SPAN immediately cuts off callers spouting racist rhetoric, he interrupts:
“You know, Jane, let me address that real quick — and Justin if you're still listening. We're trying to operate an open forum for discussion here at C-SPAN and sometimes people get through and they say things and we try to cut them off. We're doing the best can and we just try to ask people who are concerned about this or sensitive to this to be indulgent and we ask the people who feel that way — try not to make those statements on our air ---- use some other form of communications to vent your opinions .... Jane, do you want to talk about the oil spill?”
Jane:
 “I do. But if I have just a second to mention that ... I'm concerned that the Moslems, in their religion, do not permit any people to be gay or active in their countries because ....”
Harleston, interrupting:
“We need to get back to off-shore drilling or move on to another caller ....”
So, C-SPAN's “open forum” does not include permitting callers to raise the issue of widespread intolerance in Muslim countries of religious and other minorities, including homosexuals. It certainly does not permit frequent bashing of blacks. But, as is the case with many anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist callers, it permits repeated violations of the network's ostensible “one-call-per-month” rule. Overall, “Washington Journal” hosts have permitted more than 200 anti-Jewish, anti-Israel diatribes since November, 2008, as documented at CAMERA's “C-SPAN Watch.”
 
Though in recent weeks one “Washington Journal” host has several times interrupted or cut-off such rants, the general pattern continues. Harleston's response to “Justin” and “Jane” is dangerously naive and completely unacceptable. He asks “people who are concerned about this or sensitive to this to be indulgent” — that is, Harleston advises Jews to be indulgent of C-SPAN's airing of anti-Semitic canards. And he virtually pleads with anti-Jewish bigots, whom he does not criticize, to just “try not to make those statements on our air — use some other form of communications to vent your opinions.”
 
Erect a billboard over C-SPAN's Washington, D.C. headquarters, perhaps?
 
C-SPAN should, as CAMERA has recommended previously, simply institute a brief delay between caller statements and actual airing, as is commonly done on radio call-in programs to filter crank, prejudiced and obscene calls. Meanwhile, well-informed, alert hosts can simply interrupt, noting as did Journal host Bill Scanlan on May 3:
 “I'm going to have to cut you off there. You can call and express your opinion on any topic, especially those we're discussing, but when you start chastising people based on their race, religion, nationality or beliefs — an individual or a group of people — we're going to move on.”
Is that so hard?
 
“Washington Journal's” feckless handling of other recent anti-Jewish callers confirms the pattern. On May 11, for example, host Pedro Echevarria was talking calls on the nomination of U.S. Solicitor-General Elena Kagan to be a Supreme Court Justice. “Gilbert” from Tulsa scored an undefended double, getting in a sort of reverse anti-black slur on his way to an anti- “Zionist” declaration:
“In my opinion, the courts are so stacked. We need another black person on there because Clarence Thomas is everything but that. But, speaking about Kagan, one of the callers earlier mentioned the fact that the courts are stacked with Zionists. We don't have any Protestants on there and the only time we will get bi-partisanship is whenever we have a Zionist on the court or coming up for the court. That's the only time.”
Host Echevarria, in typical C-SPAN fashion when either Jews, Zionists or Israel is the target, sat silently.
 
On May 10, host Greta Brawner was taking calls on the Kagan nomination. After commenting at length on the subject, “Patricia” from Dayton, Ohio suddenly announced,
“I want to ask a request of C-SPAN to do some more programs on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because there is a blackout in our media which we are all well aware of.”
“Washington Journal's” Brawner makes no reply to the ridiculous claim that Israeli-Palestinian news, among the most extensively reported of all foreign stories in the U.S. media, is under a “blackout.”
 
Exemplifying C-SPAN's caller lunacy is Harleston's May 9 exchange with “Todd” from Severn, Maryland:
“I want to comment on the Afghanistan topic.”
Harleston:
 “By all means, go ahead.”
Todd:
“ ... [F]irst of all I don't believe we should be over there, and I don't believe there is really too much hope for the situation there. We are over there mainly for the protection of Israel and for that oil. There are almost 200 countries in this world, but yet we are the main ones concerned about that area. There is something wrong there. We follow the King James version of the Bible and that is the reason why we're over there. Someone ought to do a biography on King James to find out just what kind of man that person was.”
The host fails to point out the obvious, that a) the United States is not in Afghanistan for that country's so-far unknown petroleum, b) the United States in not in Afghanistan “mainly for the protection of Israel”, c) U.S. forces are at war in Afghanistan because Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization, which murdered 3,000 Americans and others in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists attacks, was based there and protected by the then-Taliban government, and d) like oil and Israel, the King James Bible is not “the reason why we're over there” — unless it's to preserve that version, and all other translations of the Bible, from obliteration by al Qaeda and Taliban types.
 
Harleston does not challenge, interrupt or comment on “Todd's” revelations. But let a caller question the tolerance of homosexuals in Islamic countries, and C-SPAN's quick to quash the conversation. “Open discussion,” that is, lunatic bigotry about Jewish, Zionists and Israel, yes; real debate about Islamic teachings and the practices of Islamic states, no, not really.
 


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