February 7, 2005

CNN's Not Just In Kansas Any Longer

Of Eason Jordan, Global Reach, the Rumsfeld Defense, and Going to the Videotape.

No matter where you travel in the world, you can always find three utterly American products. Coca-cola in the bars, stores, and restaurants, McDonalds hamburger palaces on the streets, and a local flavor of CNN on the television in your hotel room.

CNN is one America's dominant exports to the world because it always has local spin implanted. The brilliance of Eason Jordan's CNN is the melding of the concept of the American radio industry's "All News All the Time" with the equally American concept of Baskin & Robbins' "31 Flavors."

The CNN you watch in Amsterdam is not the same CNN you see in Los Angeles. The same is true for England and France and Italy and all points global. Local CNN reporters, editors, anchors and commentators take the feeds they receive and put them in play according to what they think their markets will like. This makes good business sense since an all-American CNN (If you can imagine such a thing.) is not likely to score high-ratings in Europe, Asia, or the Middle-East. Indeed, the only hard and accurate American news that viewers need in these areas need from CNN is carried in the NYSE stock-ticker crawl.

It's wise to bear this in mind when watching how the Eason Jordan incident plays out over the next few weeks. This isn't an All-American Bloggers Vs. MSM playoff for the Presidency. This is a Global Reach Super-Bowl.

At stake is not whether CNN has the power to influence American elections and foreign policy. That has, to some extent, been settled last November. The issue now is whether or not Eason Jordan's CNN will continue to have the power to influence the foreign policy of other nations, and their reactions to the policies of the United States and the shape of the operations of the United States military. This power CNN clearly possesses and wishes to hang onto. This "global reach" is, as Eason Jordan understands, the real CNN powerbase and revenue stream. This is the cohort that Jordan, characterized elsewhere as a "diplomat" as much as businessman, needs to soothe and placate and play to. And, if the reports of the reaction to his Davos talk last week are to be credited, he is being very successful. As a result, his position as head of CNN must be maintained by CNN at all costs. There's going to be no resignation here. It would simply be too costly to CNN in terms of Jordan's connections and standing with CNN countries outside the US proper.

Which is why we are beginning to see a slight retrenchment here in the US of Jordan's "position" on the targeted assassination of reporters by the US military. Michelle Malkin spoke with Rep. Barney Franks (D. Ma) who heard Jordan's speech.

Rep. Frank said Eason Jordan did assert that there was deliberate targeting of journalists by the U.S. military. After Jordan made the statement, Rep. Frank said he immediately "expressed deep skepticism." Jordan backed off (slightly), Rep. Frank said, "explaining that he wasn't saying it was the policy of the American military to target journalists, but that there may have been individual cases where they were targeted by younger personnel who were not properly disciplined."
The "younger personnel who were not properly disciplined" point is especially interesting. If true it would seem that Jordan, who is not a slow learner, is preparing to take himself into the Abu Gharib / Donald Rumsfeld defense by pointing towards individual soldiers as the executioners of journalists.

This is an especially clever bit of spin since it not only makes the discovery of journalists killed by US troops much easier -- you only need one and it won't matter if it was an accident or if the "reporter" killed was standing in the middle of a platoon of terrorists with guns blazing. This repositioning makes it possible for Jordan to imply that he wasn't really talking about a "policy" at all, but 'unfortunate and avoidable incidents.' ("I'm just a boy whose intentions are good. / Oh Lord please don't let me be misunderstood.")

Once Jordan and his many news-reporting minions around the world can capture the story and spin it down to this, then the next stage is obvious: Even if this was not a policy higher-ups knew or should have known and the responsibility must reach into the highest office in the Department of Defense. Hence, it is Donald Rumsfeld and not Eason Jordan that must resign. Absurd? Not at all. it is the Abu Gahrib playbook and Abu Gharib remains the big score for CNN and MSM in the last year. As in football, when you find a play that works you run it again until it stops working.

At the very least, a few weeks of seeking out dead journalists killed in Iraqi firefights, or interviewing non-American journalists with extreme access to the terrorists in Iraq, will put Jordan's real remarks into the deep shade of last month's news.

Roger Simon calls it right when he notes in The Rules of the Game

The blogosphere is effectively being stonewalled, because, so far, the blogosphere has won its duels with mainstream media. They have accused us of being fast and loose with the facts, but it is they who have had to back down. What is at stake here is great - money, jobs, power - and they know it.
At the same time, Simon doesn't take the next step. It's not only the blogosphere that's being stonewalled by CNN and its cohort in the MSM, it is the American public.

But CNN doesn't actually care about that. It has, for all intents and purposes, already lost the American public. What CNN cares about is keeping the non-American public around the world. CNN is effectively an offshore media power that just happens to have one of its headquarters in Atlanta.

For the next big scene in this drama, we need to play "Let's go to the videotape." This scene, alas, is strangely and painfully slow in coming in this age of instant bit-torrents drenching the globe. The "Jordan/Davos tape" has been made the Holy Grail of this incident, and yet it must be coming from Davos by ocean liner. When it does arrive, its provenance will be of interest -- who shot it, for whom, where's it been for about two weeks, etc. It will be interesting to see what it reveals, but more interesting to see if it has been altered or edited in any way. Will it be released to the net for viewing and analysis, or will reporters and commentators only be able to see it at arranged 'viewings?'

In any case, it will be wise to remember that the business of Eason Jordan and CNN revolves, in large measure, around videotape. This time it won't be anything as simple and silly as proportional fonts and superscripts. This script will be very super indeed.

Posted by Vanderleun at February 7, 2005 9:39 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

The fate of Empire is at stake here, this battle will be to the death. The world is not large enough for people like Eason and the blogosphere, and he knows it. This will not be over anytime soon.

Posted by: Final Historian at February 7, 2005 12:20 PM

If Eason Jordan now claims, that "younger, more inexperienced" soldiers were to blaim, this is far more specific than he was in his remarks at Davos. If he can get that specific, why has this not been reported on CNN, much less elsewhere in the mainstream media?

Posted by: Scott Arnold at February 7, 2005 1:02 PM

According to Sisyphean Musings, the tape is in WEF Media Director Mark Adams' suitcase (he's still unpacking).

Posted by: Kyda Sylvester at February 7, 2005 1:20 PM

It does appear as though there are some questions about whether the tape can be shared at all...check out either the Easongate blog or Rconversation blog at http://rconversation.blogs.com/rconversation/2005/02/maybe_it_wasnt_.html
Hmmm seems to be getting "curiouser and curiouser"
Nevertheless, I believe and concur with your commentary.

Posted by: Crystal Clear at February 7, 2005 2:35 PM

Michelle Malkin is on a roll.

After Barney Frank, she got both David Gergen and Chris Dodd (via secertary) to back up the central claim.

She also got them to approve release of their comments.

So now, what say you, Mr Jordan?

Posted by: capt joe at February 7, 2005 2:38 PM

Your take on this story is pretty much what mine has been since it broke on the blogosphere--CNN is global MSM, not American, and in most of their markets this story won't hurt them at all. All the same, I think they'd prefer not to f@rt in the general direction of their American viewers. What are the odds of Easom getting kicked, if not upstairs, at least sideways? If he were to take over as head of European operations, he'd be less of an embarrassment to Atlanta, and a lot of Euros would welcome him as a martyr to journalistic "truth."

Posted by: utron at February 7, 2005 4:13 PM

Vanderleun makes an excellent point about CNN's (and MSM's) global playing field. Those of us who think declining domestic readership and viewership will chasten media outlets like the New York Times or CNN are bound to be disappointed.

The worldwide market of those pre-disposed to anti-Americanism, statism and other 'progressive' agenda nostrums peddled in CNN editorial content can be counted in the billions.

Thus, losing the 'red state' audience is of little consequence and -- for now, anyway -- the blogosphere remains little more than a nuisance.

Posted by: Cosmo at February 7, 2005 4:17 PM

Utron is correct. I'd add that Anti-Americanism has become a fashionable form of bigotry around the world, largely the result of people in Jordan's trade. He'll be lionized as a keen observer of the American character in many circles.

A good reason ‘why they hate us,’ and why so many profess to despise or dislike us is because little reason to view us favorably is ever provided by the largely one-note chorus of global media elites and opinion makers who spend vast amounts of ink, air time and pixels demonizing the U.S. and de-legitimizing its authority.

Indeed, no discussion of America’s image abroad can avoid acknowledging the ceaseless barrage of slanderous spin disguised as ‘news’ by international outlets like CNN.

The media’s near monopoly over what many people throughout the world learn about America is the elephant in the room whenever hand wringing begins about America’s image.

Posted by: Cosmo at February 7, 2005 4:26 PM

Clear analysis. Clear thought.

Eason is a marked man...

Posted by: Carridine at February 7, 2005 4:33 PM

Go to the head of the class. Did you catch the Rumsfeld reference in Kurtz' WaPo piece?

Posted by: alene at February 8, 2005 6:24 AM