Ciccariello-Maher Urges Us to “Create Our Facts” Rather than Report Real Ones
By Al Giordano
In this vocation of journalism, we get to receive criticism as well as dish it out, and that is as it should be.
The only thing I really mind about George Ciccariello-Maher’s essay this weekend – another yawning adventure in “Obama Coup Theory” - in which one chapter is titled “Giordano’s ‘Fact’ Fetish” is that the Honduran coup regime can rejoice about every minute I have to spend correcting somebody that is not named Micheletti.
But since fictions can run halfway around the world before the facts can put their pants on, I might as well utilize Ciccariello-Maher as a prop sooner rather than later. (I don’t generally think the foolish are persuaded by facts or reason, so this isn't directed at him: I'll instead write this to the larger public that comes here with our shared thirst for facts.)
These sorts of lefty clusterfucks are better held during slow news cycles, because for those of us doing the actual work of investigating and exposing a coup while it is happening, whatever attention we give to them constitutes time and labor robbed from the kind of work we’ve been doing around the clock here to research and expose the true facts about the Honduras coup. There’s no longer any need for COINTELPRO. Leave it to lazy leftish academics and aspiring authors and intellectuals to seek the same distracting effect on the worker ants of authentic journalism that used to be the domain of the FBI.
So I’ll just do it, be done with it, and then get back to work. I don’t know this Ciccariello-Maher individual, so it can’t be personal. We’ve never collaborated and I somehow doubt, given his stated disbelief in reporting “facts,” that he’d be among the scholarship finalists for next February’s Narco News School of Authentic Journalism session in Mexico. (Now, there’s some breaking news for you all: I'm assembling the faculty now, so stay tuned for further announcements.)
Although Ciccariello-Maher writes with the presumption that he has some expertise on the previous Venezuela coup, he certainly wasn’t around sharing in the workload when we were breaking the corporate media’s information blockade on those Three Days that Shook the Media back in April of 2002. All I know is what his author’s bio says, that he is a “Ph.D. candidate in political theory at U.C. Berkeley.” That, and he wants to publish a book.
He writes, defending Eva Golinger from a rather mild criticism I gave her last week when she subtitled a blog posting as “Obama’s First Coup”:
Giordano’s contradictory rhetoric of “documented facts” would have prevented him from accurately understanding the Venezuelan coup of 2002 (since the “facts” were very much contested), and especially the U.S. role. Such things are not advertised, and required the painstaking legal work of Golinger herself to reveal. Were it not for Golinger’s departure from the “documented facts” parroted by press and government alike, we would never have known what happened in April 2002.
Now we know something else about the author: He’s woefully ignorant of what we did publish before, during and after that 2002 coup, and of what the whole world knew about US involvement in it, based on reported facts, before Golinger’s good work expanded on that knowledge in 2004.
In February 2001 – fourteen months before the Venezuela coup – Narco News warned of Bush administration efforts to destabilize Venezuela, reporting on “wealthy land owners and cattle ranchers of Venezuelan regions near the Colombian border were allying themselves with Colombia paramilitary chief and narco-trafficker Carlos Castaño to destabilize the Chávez government from within.”
On February 20, 2002, Kim Alphandary wrote for Narco News, two months before that coup, the prescient story, "Venezuela Faces US Coup Plot," with information that included statements made by then Secretary of State Colin Powell, and then CIA chief George Tenet aimed at undercutting the Chavez government and setting up global public opinion to support a coup against it.
None of the proponents of “Obama coup theory” have pointed to any similar attempts in the five months since Barack Obama became president to set up a Honduras coup for public consumption. There were no such statements by the president, his trial-balloon floating gaffe-man Biden, Secretary Clinton, CIA chief Panetta, press secretary Robert Gibbs, or anybody else from that team to disparage Honduran President Zelaya or his government in Honduras: nothing, absolutely nothing. The same can be said of its point persons in Latin America, Dan Restrepo and Bush-holdover Thomas Shannon. At the Summit of the Americas in April, both Obama and Clinton posed for friendly photos with the Honduran president. And days before the coup it reestablished embassies and ambassadors with Zelaya ally Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.
And yet on each and every one of its priorities, foreign and domestic, the Obama administration has been even more aggressively press savvy than Bush and company at building justification and public support – as well as international coalitions of nations – in advance to get what it wants. One can agree or disagree with its priorities and still recognize how methodical and efficient it is at setting the table for each move it makes. Its efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Mexico, the April Summit of the Americas, the Egypt speech to the Muslim world and its predecessor speech in Turkey, and now in Russia – like them or not - were preceded by pushed agendas, intensive media spin and the lining up of key allies around the world to back it up. It simply has not entered into any battles so far that didn’t involve visible planning, set-up and coalition building to see them through to achievement.
Without a shred of evidence other than lectures about what we already know (making the rookie mistake of treating us as if we don’t know, when in many cases we were among the first to expose them) about how past US administrations have behaved in similar situations, with admonishments that this one can’t possibly be different, their accusation that the Obama administration was behind the Honduras coup is, above all, an accusation of incompetence and of a community organizer ignoring his own well-known playbook. If they pay such theories any attention at all at the White House, it probably sparks mild annoyance at the suggestion that it would involve itself in any venture as ham-handed and inept as that of the gorilla Micheletti and his Simian Council. You can bet that if Obama ever did plot a coup, it would have gone a lot better than this one has.
The Micheletti circus in Tegucigalpa is notable precisely for its lack of Obama-style planning and discipline. When the post-coup forensics show only the silhouettes of clown shoes in the dirt, those aren’t the footprints of the current executive branch in Washington.
But back to Ciccariello-Maher’s big point: that were it not for Eva Golinger’s excellent work, “we would never have known what happened in April 2002.” That’s quite the exaggeration. A simple review of what I published in April 2002 demonstrates that we were working with documented facts when we reported that the Bush administration (and its CIA and Pentagon) had been actively involved in that coup d’etat. While Golinger’s work – we praised it, linked to it, and promoted it when Jeremy Bigwood (who filed the Freedom of Information Act papers on her organization’s behalf that unearthed much of her information) posted it to the Internet in late winter 2004 – did indeed expand on what was already known, it is simply not accurate to claim “we would never have known” about the US involvement in that coup.
On April 15, 2002, within a week of the Venezuelan coup, I reported:
“Narco News has learned that the CIA headquarters for organizing, distributing said cash, and engineering the attempted coup d'etat, was the office known as the MIL GROUP. That's the name by which the US Military Liason staff in Embassies – ‘usually a repository for fixers and grafters pitching Department of Defense sponsored weapons sales to third world satrapies,’ as one source colorfully explained to Narco News - had, according to another well-placed source, greatly increased its staff size in the weeks prior to the attempted coup.
“We presume the increase in personnel - or individuals posing as personnel at the MIL GROUP - was not due to a sudden desire by Washington to sell more arms to the Chavez government.
“Former National Security Agency officer Wayne Madsen, writing with Richard M. Bennett, reveal that the U.S. participation in the failed coup attempt was not only financial, but military…”
The Madsen-Bennett report included facts such as:
“…the US Navy provided signals intelligence and communications jamming support to the Venezuelan military… The National Security Agency (NSA) supported the coup using personnel attached to the US Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force East (JIATF-E) in Key West, Florida. NSA's Spanish-language linguists and signals interception operators in Key West; Sabana Seca on Puerto Rico and the Regional Security Operating Centre (RSOC) in Medina, Texas also assisted in providing communications intelligence to US military and national command authorities on the progress of the coup d'etat.
"From eastern Colombia, CIA and US contract military personnel, ostensibly used for counter-narcotics operations, stood by to provide logistics support for the leading members of the coup. Their activities were centred at the Marandua airfield and along the border with Venezuela. Patrol aircraft operating from the US Forward Operating Location (FOL) in Manta, Ecuador also provided intelligence support for the military move against Chavez…”
And I added:
“…the effort by US tax dollars to prop up Carlos Ortega as head of the oil union was intended, long ago, to provide a "working class" gloss for the Revolt of the Spoiled Brats.”
So it is quite an act of revisionist history for Ciccariello-Maher to write:
When in 2002 we insisted that the CIA was involved, would Giordano have accused us of “crying wolf”? When we questioned the established facts and sought to painstakingly establish our own, would he have sat us on the couch to psychoanalyze our “Cold War nostalgia”? But of course, Giordano did not follow his own advice in 2002.
What’s clearly archived is that I did indeed follow my own advice in 2002, as I have in every year since 1988 that I've practiced journalism. In April 2002, I reported the story that showed US involvement, documenting and sourcing my findings. I didn’t just make it up.
And I don’t know who Ciccarielli-Maher means by “we” when he refers to those who insisted in 2002 that the CIA was involved, because I was one of the most vocal of that “we,” and I remember very well the few others that did so publicly at the time. Then, as now, he was not among those doing the work.
we need to approach the “documented facts” from a more critical (dare I say, dialectical?) perspective. We need to draw on our historical understanding, on our grasp of the forces in play, and insistently create our own facts and truths.
(Bold type added by me, for emphasis.)
I’ll translate: “Let’s just make shit up if it serves our agenda!”
I’m not on the “create our own facts” bus. And if I sense that a bus that I'm on is going that way, I've often made it stop and gotten off it. That is the path of simulation, and it always leads to a loss of credibility. We whack the corporate media when it does it. The standard can't be different for anybody else.
In any case, if the US was behind the 2009 coup in Honduras, the Freedom of Information Act has been considerably strengthened under the new administration and nothing stops Ciccarielo-Maher or anybody else from utilizing it as Golinger and Bigwood skillfully did after the 2002 coup in Venezuela. It was one of Obama’s first executive orders and memos to all departments to cease the Clinton-Bush era foot dragging and obey that law. Whereas in the past, our FOIA requests took months of persistence only to get a few heavily-redacted pages back from US agencies, the Narco News team has filed close to 50 FOIA requests since January of this year, received all the information requested, in each case, within a week.
So let’s see the Obama coup theory proponents go do that work of filing some FOIA’s. If their claims are accurate, they should have even less trouble than Golinger and others had in expanding upon the (already existing) proofs that the Bush administration was behind the Venezuela coup, to make their case that the Obama administration is behind the Honduran coup. That would certainly be a more convincing path than screeching at me.
And that's about all I have to say about Ciccariello-Maher's plea for my attention while we're in the middle of this marathon that includes twenty (count ‘em, all with those pesky “facts” that Ciccariello-Maher prefers to create out of thin air) reports I’ve published since the coup, the ten investigated reports by our reporter Kristin Bricker (including her prescient June 25 “Coup Fears in Honduras” three days before anyone else had suggested the possibility in English), and the work of coordinating this news team, including its tech staff, to publish these facts and then to spread them far and wide via other online tools. Maybe Ciccariello would consider grabbing a pick or shovel and doing some of the investigative work himself.
Oh, wait. When you believe you can “create our own facts” then all that work of the proles down in the mine isn’t necessary. There’s no need for a working class of journalists when there’s no longer a requirement that it be nonfiction.
When I asked the colleague that published Ciccariello-Maher’s attack for the space to offer a rebuttal, the response was “what is there to rebut?” Therefore, I’m sure George will understand when I conclude by saying that if he wishes to rebut my rebuttal, my response shall be identical. He’ll have to pursue alternate routes in his quest to “create his own facts” about the work we do here, the Honduran coup, or any other facts he wishes to create.
Update: And now, back to our regularly scheduled info blockade breaking programming...
The French Press Agency (AFP) notices how hard many "young Hondurans" are working to get the kidnapped facts out of, and around in, their own country in the face of a corporate media blackout combined with regime censorship of independent media:
TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) — Using amateur videos and mobile phone pictures, young Hondurans opposed to the ousting of President Manuel Zelaya are uploading images to YouTube in what they have branded a 'tele-coup.'
With media controls in place, national channels offer biased political coverage and frequently cut off all cable channels to broadcast their messages.
Some repeatedly air speeches from the interim leaders who sent Zelaya away on a plane to Costa Rica on June 28, as well as pictures of days-old demos by their supporters.
To counter the one-sided coverage, Zelaya supporters are uploading videos of protests, speeches by union leaders and clashes with the army.
"We call it 'tele-coup' because on the national channels you can't see the reality of what's happening," said engineering student Cesar Silva.
"Obviously if they cut Internet broadband we're dead," Silva told AFP, adding that the supporters use several servers to try to avoid being cut off.
The story links to this YouTube video, titled, "Nothing's Happening in Honduras."
That, kind readers, is the Authentic Journalism Renaissance in action from the grassroots.