Nathan Newman nathan.newman at yale.edu
Wed Mar 15 05:36:53 PST 2000

All of this, going back to past debates on free speech, is why I go for absolutist positions on free speech, defending Nazis et al, since one of the hardest fought victories in US politics has been the elimination of most criminal and civil threats to unpopular speech. "Free speech" may not be the ideal when broadcasting it costs so much, but it is far better than the libel and other laws in Europe that do little to suppress rightwing attitudes (see Haider in Austria), but is used quite regularly to suppress left dissent as in this case. And I say that not agreeing with LM's political position on the former Yugoslavia.

Despite the general rightwing swing of the US courts, broad free speech protections, including limits on libel and other civil attacks on free speech and press, have largely survived in the courts. There are few areas where US law is far superior to other countries, but our press laws are one of them.

-- Nathan Newman

On Behalf Of Carrol Cox
> by Jared Israel (3-15-00)
> A grim miscarriage of justice has just occurred in Britain.
> Living Marxism, the iconoclastic magazine edited by Mike Hume, was found
> guilty of libel against ITN, the British news station.
> Living Marxism has been ordered to pay $580,000 U.S. This punishment is
> an
> attempt to crush the Living Marxism (LM) journalists for doing their
> job. In
> this article, I'll discuss the background of the case and take a look at
> a
> truly amazing Reuters dispatch about the verdict.
> In 1992, ITN, the British news station, sent a film team to Bosnia. It
> was
> led by Penny Marshall. The ITN people came back with what was supposedly
> a
> film of a Serbian concentration camp. A death camp, if you will.
> Or will you? A death camp? What is wrong with this story? First off, how
> did
> Penny Marshall and an entire film crew get into a Serbian death camp and
> shoot a film? Didn't somebody have to transport the crew members plus a
> mountain of equipment? Didn't somebody have to show them around, feed
> them?
> The crew needed time to set up their cameras and so on. How did they do
> all
> this without getting caught? Did they parachute out of the sky? I mean
> seriously, didn't they need the cooperation of the administration of the
> so-called death camp?
> They did.
> But why would the Serbian authorities want to help? Were they morons?
> Didn't
> they know the West was hostile to the Bosnian Serbs? Weren't they
> attacked
> every day in the British press? Wasn't the Islamist leader, Izetbegovic,
> treated as a hero? Knowing ITN was probably anti-Serb, why would the
> Serbs
> let an ITN crew in to film - a death camp?
> Could it be that the place they filmed was not a death camp? That the
> Bosnian
> Serbs let in Penny Marshall and her film crew precisely because they had
> nothing ugly to hide.
> Fortunately we don't have to speculate. By coincidence, a group of
> Serbian
> filmmakers accompanied the ITN crew that day. The Serbs shot a movie -
> that's
> right, they literally shot a movie - of Penny Marshall and company
> shooting
> their movie. The Serbian film can be viewed on a standard VCR. I have
> watched
> it several times. In other words, I have seen a movie that shows every
> move
> Penny Marshall made that day.
> I know that the ITN crew shot at two locations. I know that the first
> was a
> detention center at Omarsk; the second was a refugee center at
> Trnopolje.
> The Omarsk detention center: not ready for prime time...
> The Omarsk detention center was a modern facility, pleasant, not at all
> like
> a jail. Before the war it had been a mining company's administrative
> center.
> There, prisoners of war, captured from the Bosnian Islamist army, were
> held.
> The men were not shackled; they were not behind bars. Rather, they
> lounged in
> a cafeteria area. They looked well fed. The Serbian guards were casual.
> A
> Serbian administrator (later shot dead by NATO troops while fishing with
> his
> son) made a little speech. He explained that the Serbs viewed most of
> the
> prisoners as good people who had been suckered into supporting 'the
> rebellion', the secessionist revolt against Yugoslavia. He said only a
> small
> group was hard core. The Serbs wanted to keep the hard core in jail but
> let
> the others go.
> So here wa a real, live Serbian detention center. But Penny Marshall
> didn't
> use any of this footage.
> Why?
> Because it didn't have the look she was looking for.
> The ITN crew moved on to the refugee center at Trnopolje. They set up
> their
> camera equipment inside a small barbed wire enclosure. The barbed wire
> was
> old, falling apart in places. It surrounded a storage shed, a
> wheelbarrow and
> other construction equipment. Outside the enclosure, refugees milled
> about,
> curious.
> Filming from inside the barbed wire, Marshall asked if anyone spoke
> English.
> One man replied, Yes. Marshall spoke to him. Are you a prisoner? No,
> said the
> man; we're refugees. Marshall was clearly impatient. She pressed the man
> to
> criticize the Serbian officials. The man insisted: the Serbs treat us
> well;
> they give us food; the only problem is the weather is too hot. Much too
> hot.
> Then Marshall spotted a tall, emaciated man. What is wrong with that
> man, she
> asked. The Bosnian refugee shrugged, said something about it being
> personal.
> (In fact the emaciated man was suffering from TB.)
> None of this conversation was used by ITN. Why not? Was it because it
> showed
> the Bosnian Serbs in a humane light?
> Instead, ITN produced film clips and stills that made it look like the
> emaciated man and the other refugees were being held behind barbed wire
> -
> inside an enclosure. These pictures were sent around the world. Many
> newspapers ran them in montage with old Nazi concentration camp photos,
> using
> captions like:"Serb Death Camps!"
> Millions were fooled. They believed they had been shown pictorial
> evidence of
> a new Nazism in Europe. This helped swing Western public opinion behind
> Alija
> Izetbegovic, the Bosnian Islamist extremist whose model of tolerance was
> the
> Iran of Ayatollah Khomeini.
> LM, a brave little British magazine, exposed this fraud. A link to that
> exposé is posted below. Amazingly, they were sued by ITN for slander. A
> news
> station slanders the Bosnian Serbs and then sues a muckraking magazine
> for
> slander? I thought news stations were supposed to protect us from
> establishment lies? I thought they were supposed to get sued for libel -
> that
> they opposed such law suits on principle

> Not in this brave new world.
> Today we learned that ITN has won. Apparently, instead of focusing on
> the
> real evidence - the uncut footage of the film - the trial was dominated
> by
> the testimony of a witness who claimed the Serbs beat people at this
> "concentration camp." Alas, false witness is a commodity in the free
> marketplace of our brave new world, especially when one has the
> resources of
> the giant corporations that control the media in the NATO countries.
> Money
> buys lies. Moreover, LM was prevented from presenting expert witnesses.
> And
> in his final comments, the judge apparently sided with ITN.
> Below I've posted a link to the Reuters story covering this verdict. You
> will
> notice that Reuters never mentions what was said in the Living Marxism
> exposé. It never mentions that ITN shot pictures from inside a barbed
> wire
> enclosure and then claimed the people in the film were "behind barbed
> wire."
> Instead it simply asserts that Trnopolje was a concentration camp as if
> that
> assertion were a proven fact.
> So then, ITN sues to silence freedom of speech - freedom of speech which
> was
> here used in the most honorable way, to challenge the lies of the
> mighty. ITN
> wins. LM is crushed for telling the truth.
> And what does Reuters do? It uses the occasion to once again broadcast
> the
> very lie that Living Marxism got sued for disproving! Truly beyond
> belief.
> Playing for effect
> One final point. In the new journalism, emotions are shamelessly
> exploited
> for political effect. Consider this from the Reuters story:
> "Marshall, wiping tears from her eyes, said the judgment was 'important
> for
> the people who were in the camp.'" (Reuters, 3/124/00)
> This is a crass emotional lie. Consider: Marshall, in reality the
> representative of great power, is presented as frail, in need of
> protection
> (the weeping woman). By focusing our attention on her tears
> (vulnerability)
> Reuters engages our emotions and suspends our disbelief. Penny Marshall
> has
> been made real to us precisely the way a fictional character is made
> real -
> we identify with her emotions. Having identified with her, having
> suspended
> disbelief, we tend to receive with scant skepticism her comment that:
> " the judgment was 'important for the people who were in the camp."
> How clever! A fiction within a fiction. Reuters has made up a weak,
> defenseless Penny Marshall that we can believe in - the real P. Marshall
> is
> backed by the most powerful forces in Britain - and likewise Marshall
> has her
> own little fiction. For she has invented the Bosnian victims in that
> non-existent 'death camp' where refugees came for food and where the
> only
> complaint was 'the weather is too hot.'
> No similar emotional pitch is made for the LM people. Marshall comes
> alive
> but they lie flat. And LM, which dared defend the victims of Ms.
> Marshall's
> lies - LM that has been crushed under an impossible financial burden -
> LM
> comes off as - a bully!
> Unbelievable.
> Why didn't Britain just launch a missile attack on the LM offices like
> the
> one where they killed those dangerous reporters and makeup girls at
> Serbian
> TV, and get it over with? Hmmm? Afterwards, the media could endlesly
> repeat,
> like a mantra, that the LM people were lying propagandists who had
> accidentally died as collateral damage in a revenge attack for which the
> finger of responsibility must in the end ultimately and totally point
> to...
> Slobodan Milosevich.
> Lady's and gentlemmn, this is Jared Israel signing off, and that's show
> business.
> Ms. Marshall is still weeping? Of course Ms. Marshall is weeping. She's
> weeping all right, she's weeping all the way to the bank.
> Let's hope there's a Hell.
> ***
> Further reading on the Libel case...
> * 'English Libel law, a Disgrace to Democracy' by Mike Hume, editor of
> LM
> magazine. Mr. Hume remains defiant, and is looking for a job. Also, for
> those
> near London, details of an after-the-trial party, March 18th.
> http://www.emperors-clothes.com/articles/hume/english.htm
> "The Truth vs. ITN - And Reuters" Includes the original LM article, over
> which ITN sued, and the Reuters article on the trial.
> http://www.emperors-clothes.com/images/bosnia/camp.htm
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