SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Monday March 18, 2019 - 04:42:00 PM

The first paragraph of Al Jazeera's report on the Christchurch murders reads as follows:

"The Australian-born suspect who shot and killed dozens of Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, has published a manifesto praising US President Donald Trump and Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011. The 74-page dossier . . . hailed Trump as 'a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose'."

But there was something unique and notable in Al Jazeera's reporting: Not once did the reporter mention the killer by name.

Al Jazeera has set a standard that should be emulated by the rest of the world's media.

If news reports can withhold the names children and unwitting next of kin, let's demand that the media stop granting recognition and fame to mass murderers—many of whom are driven to kill, in part, by the lure of celebrity. 


There have been reports that other news outlets have also begun to "de-identify" the Christchurch killer. However, a Google search confirms that the following news providers all continue to name the killer: CNN, ABC, BBC, Sydney Morning Herald, New Zealand Herald, The Washington Post. The New York Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Sun, and Foreign Policy.

It is not clear yet where the new policy first caught on but Al Jazeera isn't completely off the hook when it comes to hitting the delete button: it mentioned the killer by name in an article posted on 2AM Saturday morning.

I hope that the name-ban policy continues to expand. And it should be extended to ban videos of mass-killing suspects and any words that they might wish to shout at waiting news crews.

Fortunately, because footage from the suspect's arraignment appeared with his face blurred (government policy in New Zealand), we could not see the killer "smirk." It was the print media that shared his immoral glee, thereby became an enabler of the gunman and those who might wish to follow him.

It's now abundantly clear that the killer was motivated, in part, by the promise of Internet fame. Case in point: The killer's attempt to glorify his online impact by interrupting his carnage to shout: “Remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie!”

The news media can clean the slate—literally—by refusing to shine a spotlight on mass murderers. Better they fade and wither—locked up, alone, and unknown—in the shadows of a prison cell. For celebrity-seeking killers, the prospect of being denied 24-7 media notoriety and being treated as a nonentity, could be a bigger deterrent than the death penalty.

Meanwhile, in the White Nationalist House…

Donald Trump has again gone on record with a rant demonstrating why he is an individual worthy of the title "symbol of renewed white identity." In an interview with Breitbart News, Trump bellowed:

"I actually think that the people on the right are tougher,

but they don’t play it tougher. Okay? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad."

As Splinter News observed:

"It says a lot about the state of the country when the President of the United States can make a laudatory, if oblique, reference to having fascist goon squads commit violence on his behalf, and it’s not the biggest headline of the day."

Why Trump Is Not a Leader: In His Own Words 

Listening to Donald Trump's responses to press inquiries about the purpose and direction of the government under his stewardship, you might have cause for concern. More often than not, Trump's most frequent fall-back response to critical questions is: "Well, we'll just have to wait and see." 

This fave-phrase only reinforces the impression that Trump is not a leader. He's more like a spectator attending his own performance. 

Truth in Labeling? 

Here's more proof that Trump only has business on his mind. (Thanks to Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert for pointing this out.) Trump recently hosted Marilyn Houston, the CEO of Lockheed-Martin, at a White House event. In his hoarse and halting way (pausing and searching for each next word like an unsteady hiker trying to cross a stream, one rock at a time), Trump struggled to produce the following non-sentence: "I may ask Marilyn Lock-HEEED, the leading . . . business . . . woman . . . executive in this country . . . according to many . . . ." (Emphasis NOT added: Trump really enunciated the name "Lockheed" in this fashion.) 

Kimmel and Colbert, in simultaneous monologues, both followed up with a tape of Trump chatting up Apple CEO Tim Cook. 

Trump again: "Tim, you're expanding . . . all over and really doing things I wanted you to do . . . right from the beginning. And I said, 'Tim, you really got to start doing that over here' and you really have that … you really put a big investment in our country. We appreciate it very much, Tim Apple." 

Kimmel offered the best alibi, suggesting that Trump "got confused after meeting Ronald McDonald last week." 

Perhaps Trump should extend this practice to members of his cabinet, 70% of whom have significant corporate ties. 

A few examples, courtesy of Corporate Education Secretary Betsy DeVos-Amway, Energy Secretary Rick Perry-Waste Control, Health Secretary Alex Azar-Eli Lilly, HUD Secretary Ben Carson Costco-Kellogg, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao-Wells Fargo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin-Goldman-Sachs, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo-Koch, and Vice Pres. Mike Pence-Koch. 

A War on Warren's Piece 

On March 8, Elizabeth Warren announced her big proposal to break up the three biggest tech companies—Apple, Google, and Facebook. But when the Senator's team tried to promote the proposal with a video ad on Facebook, they ran into a roadblock. As Team Warren explained: "We got a notification from Facebook: They were pulling down our video ads." 

As Warren's staff explained: "Facebook and Google control 70% of online traffic, so in order to get Elizabeth's message out online, we have to use their platforms—and pay them for the privilege. Facebook is letting us share our video again (thanks, by the way). But if you want proof of Elizabeth's point that Facebook has too much power, look no further than their ability to shut down a debate over . . . whether Facebook has too much power.
"This is why it’s important to have a social media marketplace that isn't dominated by a single censor — because at the end of the day, Facebook makes the call on whether an ad, whether it’s from a presidential campaign or a mom-and-pop business, gets to be shown or shut down.
Earlier this year, Facebook blocked an ad from Reveal, as investigative website, after it posted an article explaining how Facebook was allegedly "duping game-playing kids out of their parents' money." Facebook turned about-face after Reveal got in touch with the Com-giant's PR department. 

All about the Benjamins has posted a petition defending Rep. Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim woman to serve in the House who got in trouble for suggesting that support for Israel might have something to do with pro-Netanyahu political donations and lobbying. 

Right-wing GOPsters pressur4red Dems to specifically name Ilhan Omar and label her as "anti-Jewish." This is ironic, notes, since: 

"Last week, Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy, who infamously accused Jewish Democrats of trying to "buy" the 2018 midterm elections, attacked two Muslim congresswomen for speaking out against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In response, Representative Omar pointed out that McCarthy and other politicians receive money from pro-Israel groups, and that's why he was targeting her—unintentionally evoking an anti-Semitic trope, for which she immediately apologized." 

Criticizing Bibi Netanyahu for his politics—including the illegal repression of Palestine—doesn't constitute "anti-Semitism." If it did, that would mean criticizing Trump for his xenophobia and misogyny would make you "anti-Anglo." 

How US News Morphs into Propaganda 

When Trump vents about the Mainstream News Media and its so-called "fake news" he's not entirely wrong. Much of the media routinely indulges in the use of manipulative nouns to denounce and adjectives to promote objectives that are fundamentally political and ideological. Here are some of the words to look out for: 

"Regime." If a country is not a firm ally of the US, it is referred to as a "regime." Hence, Iran is referred to as a "regime." Saudi Arabia is referred to (at worst) as a "monarchy." North Korea was a "regime" but it became a "country" again during the Washington/Pyongyang peace negotiations. Now it's edging back into "regimeness." 

If the US is interested in using illegal military force to threaten, attack or invade a foreign country, the target is first identified as a "rogue" regime. 

We are told that Russia "invaded" Ukraine. A bit of an overstatement, but the word "invade" has more political zing than the word "annexed." 

We are told that Hamas "seized power" in Gaza. In fact, Hamas "seized power" by winning the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections (claiming 74 of 132 parliamentary seats). 

We are told that Russia is an "expansionist threat" that promotes "instability" by acting as a "geopolitical rival" of the US. The message: The US empire cannot abide rivals. 

Trump's Environmental Policy: Trash, Defile, and Denude Mother Nature 

The Society of Environmental Journalists compiles a weekly survey of important articles on environmental themes. Here are some recent examples of how much damage Trump can do in a single week: 

"White House Presses Automakers To Back Fuel-Efficiency Rollback"  

"EPA: Wehrum's Old Clients Back 'Ambient Air' Plan — Documents" 

"Trump Again Seeks Deep Cuts in Renewable Energy Funding"  

"Energy Department, California Spar Over Nuclear Site Cleanup"  

"How Federal Disaster Money Favors The Rich"  

"School Lessons Targeted By Climate Change Doubters" 

And here's a sampler from a more recent week: 

"EPA: Trump Repeats Effort To Slash Agency Funding"  

"Interior: Budget Highlights New Headquarters, New Drilling" 

"Trump Seeks Cuts For Cleanup Of Great Lakes, Other Waterways"  

"Congress Strikes Back at Interior Department's Bad FOIA Regs" 

Docs: Monsanto Recruited Scientists To Fight Glyphosate Cancer Stigma  

"Trump Budget Seeks Cuts In Science Funding"  

Call Him by His Name 

Just more evidence that Trump doesn't care a whit for the well-being of planet Earth. Instead of trying to preserve nature's beauty, Trump wants to mine mountains, pollute streams, fell forests, and poison the atmosphere—all in the name of short-term profit. To Trump, the Planet—our Mother Earth—exists only for individual self-gratification, to grope, abuse and exploit at will. 

In this light, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) used the correct word when she told her cheering supporters: "We're gonna impeach the Mother-fucker!'" 

Demand an Honest Vote on Election Reform 

The good news: the House of Representatives introduced and passed the For the People Act (FPA), the strongest, most comprehensive package of voting reforms in decades.
The bad news: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed that he won't allow the FPA a fair vote in the Senate. McConnell claims Congress's attempt to make our democracy more open, honest, and accountable constitutes a "power grab."
To which, Common Cause observes: "McConnell doesn’t care that our democracy has been corrupted by big money donors and vote-suppressing politicians. He doesn’t care that the nonpartisan solutions in the For the People Act are already working in states across the country. And he doesn’t care that Americans overwhelmingly demanded change with their votes last year."
Common Cause is calling for millions of Americans to publicly condemn Mitch's machinations. You can stand up to McConnell by adding your name to this petition demanding a fair Senate vote on the For the People Act. 

Inside Syria 

NBC's Richard Engel recently filed a report from a hill overlooking Baghouz—"the city where ISIS, the terror group, is making its last stand." 

A long-range lens showed what Engle described as "a squalid tent city." 

Crouching with a Kurdish commander alongside, Engle sounded indignant as he overlooked the camp: "We can see them moving around. Lots of them. On their motorcycles. Men. Why aren't you attacking?" he demanded. 

The Kurdish officer calmly explained that "hundreds of wives and children of the fighters" also were living in the camp "and we don't want to make them martyrs." 

Engel got his comeuppance when he approached a large group of women refugees recently driven from the town. The veiled women started pelting Engel and his film crew with water bottles, yelling "Infidels!" as their children defiantly held up their index fingers as a sign of the Caliphate. 

This was not your classical war of one army facing off against another. Instead, it involves several armed forces (including several foreign actors) conducting artillery and aerial strikes against a small, determined band of ideologically driven survivors—and their wives and their sisters, and their children. Invoking the Underdog Principal, it's hard not to find some sympathy in the plight of the dogged and doomed defenders of Baghouz, Syria. 

A Slap on the Gold-plated Wristwatch 

Donald Trump's ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort got slapped with a kid-sized glove during his criminal sentencing. The minimum proscribed sentence for Manafort's manifold crimes was 17.5 years. Instead, he got less than 47 months. By contrast, Reality Winner, an intelligence official with a moral compass who was charged with revealing information about WikiLeaks, was handed a 63-month sentence. (Update: In a subsequent trial, Manifort was sentenced to another 43 months for a total of 90 months.) 

There's a petition going around to protest this injustice. It's more proof that there's one justice system for the wealthy and well-connected, and another for everybody else. It's time for real criminal justice reform, but it's going to take a grassroots movement to make it happen.
Click here to add your name to support criminal justice reform

Getting Off Easy: Trump's Reputed Link to Sex Trafficking 

But the big winner in the Reduced Sentence Sweepstakes has got to be billionaire playboy and political insider Jeffery Epstein. In November 2018, the Miami Herald reported interviewing more than 80 women who testified to having participated in a "sex pyramid scheme" from 2001 to 2006 at Epstein's Palm Beach mansion. Investigators uncovered a "black book" containing the names of hundreds of young women and underage girls—some as young as 13—who were recruited to serve as "masseuses." 

One of the underage recruits was Virginia Roberts Giuffre. Giuffre was recruited in 1998 while working a summer job at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. 

Epstein faced life in prison for his involvement in child prostitution but, in 2007, federal prosecutors in Florida offered Epstein a secret "non-prosecution" agreement. A Florida judge subsequently ruled the deal illegal. 

George W. Bush's Justice Department opened an investigation that revealed the man behind the deal was none other than US Attorney Alex Acosta (who, ironically, now serves as Donald Trump's Secretary of Labor). 

Once again, Epstein was facing a life sentence but the politically connected multiple offender was again offered special treatment. According to The Daily Beast, he was allowed to plead guilty to just two state charges (solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution). 

And what was Epstein's sentence? Take a deep breath. Just 18 months—in "a private wing of a Palm Beach jail." But he only served 13 of those 18 months. And during that year in the clink, he was allowed to leave the jail every day and spend 16 hours outside on unsupervised "work release"! 

So how come Epstein received such extra-special treatment? Rumors suggest it was due to his status as “a money manager to the super-wealthy” and his many connections with powerful and influential men, including Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, Woody Allen, New England Patriot's owner Robert Kraft, attorney Alan Dershowitz and, yes, Donald Trump. 


Fox News has reported that flight logs showed Bill Clinton had been a passenger aboard the "Tatiana," Epstein's personal Boeing 727 (aka the "Lolita Express"), on more than 22 occasions. As Fox rushed to explain: "The tricked-out jet earned its Nabakov-inspired nickname because it was reportedly outfitted with a bed where passengers had group sex with young girls." 

When New York Magazine asked about his friendship with Epstein, Trump was characteristically boastful, declaring: 

'I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it: Jeffrey enjoys his social life."