BTS 2/13/06: Cartoon Crisis; Going Postal; Challenges to the Press

Listen: Robert Fisk - Mark Ames - Michael Massing

The Danish cartoon scandal has exploded into an international crisis, thanks to an unholy convergence of actions by a Danish newspaper and radical Muslims - helped along by the European press that treats the matter as simply a contest over free speech. There seems to be almost universal agreement that these cartoons are offensive. There should also be universal agreement that the paper has a right to publish them without fear of violent reprisal. The protests over cartoons deemed offensive to Islam have straightforward, purely religious origins - people are infuriated by the insult. But the unrest in the Middle East is also fueled by other grievances. Our guest today - Robert Fisk - speaks to us from Lebanon, where sectarian intensity has exploded into violence, and helps us to understand what's behind this crisis.

Speaking of violence, we then turn to Mark Ames, who has a new book, Going Postal - analyzing rage, murder, and rebellion from Reagan to Clinton and beyond. It is all about the political economy of decline in an age of uprising and atomization.

Finally, while the traditional press faces many challenges, from loss of readers and the challenge of the Internet, its botched and timid reporting on Weapons of Mass Destruction and the buildup to the war, Michael Massing documents the structural and internal problems that keep it from being the watchdog over the powerful and witness to injustice. He joins us for an extended conversation on an issue critical to the survival of democracy.

Read More for info on tonight's guests:

1. Robert Fisk, a world renowned Middle East correspondent for London's Independent, currently resides in Beirut. Mr. Fisk received a Ph.D in Political Science from Trinity College, Dublin in 1985 and an Honorary Doctorate of Literature and Journalism from the University of Lancaster, England. He was The Times Belfast correspondent from 1971 to 1975, and its Middle East correspondent from 1976 to 1987. Fisk has covered the recent conflict in Northern Ireland, Israeli invasions of Lebanon, the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Gulf War, wars in Bosnia and Algeria, NATO war with Yugoslavia, and the Palestinian uprisings. Fisk is the author of four books: The Point of No Return: The Strike which Broke the British in Ulster (1975), In Time of War: Ireland, Ulster, and the Price of Neutrality (1982, 1983), Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War (1990, 1992), and most recently, The Conquest of the Middle East (2005).

2. Mark Ames, co-founder with Matt Taibbi of the eXile newspaper in Moscow – indispensable for visitors and the best investigative journalism you’ll see anywhere along with a lot of raunchy writing. If you don’t want to visit their website (amazing experience) you can get their book, The eXile: Sex, Drugs And Libel In The New Russia with Matt Taibbi. Now Mark has published Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion, From Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine and Beyond (Soft Skull Press).

3. Michael Massing is contributing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, writes frequently on the press and foreign affairs and is the author of Now They Tell Us: The American Press and Iraq, published by NYRB Books in 2004.