Beast of the Month - March 1998
Dan Rather, CBS "News" Anchorman
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
"What's The Frequency, Kenneth?"
Song by REM from Monster, inspired by the last words Dan Rather once heard before getting his ass kicked.
In the end, Dan Rather will be the answer to the trivia question, "Who was the news reporter that lacked the manhood to fill Walter Cronkite's shoes?" This is quite a shame, because for all his utter lack of warmth and charisma (which, for a short time, forced him to go through the humiliating ordeal of being co-anchor with Connie Chung - a woman of such intellectual froth she almost makes her trash talk-show husband Maury Povich seem legitimate in comparison), he should perhaps be better remembered for a unique sense of opportunism, which, combined with his ability to be completely devoid of any ethics, has managed to catapult him into his status as an overpaid and unlikable talking head.
Dan Rather got his first big break on November 22, 1963, when JFK was shot in Dallas. Rather, a Texan, was right in place to receive his boondoggle: all he had to do was lie. Apparently, that was no problem for Rather, who soon after declared on national television that he had seen the Zapruder Film, and it indeed had shown Kennedy's head snap forward. This is the same story presented in Life Magazine, which showed frames of the Zapruder film in the order that appeared to have JFK's head moving in that direction. Time-Life then bought the film and tried to keep it out of the view of the public. When it was finally released over a decade later, it was revealed that Kennedy's head snapped BACKWARDS. Whoops. This would be strange, since, considering that Lee Harvey Oswald was behind Kennedy at the time of the assassination, it would defy the laws of physics for Kennedy's head to go the direction it did if Oswald was the "lone-nut" gunman. If there is a "smoking gun" on media collaboration in covering up the JFK story, this is it, and Rather is point and center in it. Either he saw the film and lied about what he viewed, or he didn't see it and lied when he said he did, but in either case, Dan Rather has proven himself utterly untrustworthy in the biggest of stories. Instead of being punished for his dishonesty, he has unsurprisingly been rewarded, along the way dismissing as ridiculous any legitimate investigation of the JFK hit, smearing Oliver Stone's JFK along the way as "inaccurate". Has Mr. Rather heard about people living in glass houses?
Rather later got more national attention by being one of the hosts of 60 Minutes, the faux "hard-hitting" investigative journal magazine that spins an establishment brand of expose which ducks the bigger targets. He soon parlayed that into his current stint as Walter Cronkite's replacement, and CBS News' ratings have been nose-diving ever since.
Perhaps his credibility will begin nose-diving soon, in response to his embarrassing performance over the recent U.S.-Iraq conflict. On February 20, a live feed transmission, beamed to television affiliates via satellite, was made of Dan Rather doing a fake CBS News reports about the first U.S. bombing of Iraq. For about 20 minutes, Rather could be seen going through the motions on a bombing. Contributing to the gruesome nature of the hoax, Rather at one point mentioned that it wasn't yet known how many casualties there were. Of course, there was no bombing going on, nor did any end up happening. The official CBS explanation was that it was testing new music and graphics. Which makes sense: no reason to be left unprepared for an upcoming mass genocide without having a snappy logo and a cute jingle. But this was no War of the Worlds Halloween joke: it was something that seemed to be ripped out of the pages of Wag the Dog, a collaboration between the Defense Department and the korporate media to make sure that the next Pentagon boondoggle had all the necessary propaganda in place to ensure public support. To further the collaboration between the military and CBS on the bombing, Rather ended his transmission with "we return you now to the Grammies," which were happening the following week.
Why did Rather and CBS News pick this day? It seems as though CBS had been tipped off when the proposed attack was planned, the timing of which would've been perfect to deter protest. As CBS would be televising the award show (one of the more watched events) they would be the recipients of a major news coup. Talk about a sweetheart deal.
Maybe this all seems quite unseemly, a complete lack of journalistic standards that should even disgust the most cynical critic of media manipulation. Unfortunately, it is merely par for the course for CBS. In 1996, CBS investigative reporter Roberta Baskin did a widely publicized piece on abuses of workers - which included the allegation that some workers were beaten with the soles of shoes - at a Nike factory in Vietnam (see Phil Knight, June 1997 BOTM.) Since then, CBS has resisted her requests to follow up on the story. When the 1998 Olympics were televised in February, CBS News staff were wearing the Nike logo on camera during Nike-sponsored coverage of the Nagano Olympics. Baskin wrote a blistering memo accusing CBS of caving in to advertiser pressure, derailing her investigation of Nike out of concern it might affect the sneaker company's decision to sponsor the Winter Olympics. CBS News President Andrew Heyward called her comments "reckless and irresponsible" behavior. Baskin's letter was sent to Rather, who remained silent on the manner, but Jeff Fager, executive producer of the CBS Evening News, stated, "I cannot imagine how she drew those conclusions. It is so far from reality."
The reality is, as a February 12, 1998 report from the Campaign for Labor Rights notes, "Whether or not Nike ever flexed its muscle overtly, media analysts have long held that the corporate-owned news media practice extensive and rigorous self-censorship so as not to lose advertising dollars." Compare that truth with the claims of Lee Weinstein, Nike's communications director. Weinstein said, "Roberta certainly has a point of view and her bias is well known." But he said it is "completely untrue" that Nike tried to put any pressure on CBS News. Sure. Weinstein then added that Nike gave CBS the free jackets "in exchange for commercial air time" and that the correspondents' use of them "helps us build awareness about our products." That much is true, but such promotion of products is not supposedly what news reporters are supposed to be about.
With two major ethical blunders in the same month, you'd think that CBS News and it's poster boy Dan Rather would receive some sort of divine punishment for their lack of honesty. Unfortunately, as Rather has been continuously rewarded for his deception, he apparently was rewarded again. After the week of his Gulf War II trial, it was announced that Dan Rather and CBS News had won the weekly news, the first time CBS Evening News was in sole posession of first place in four years. Granted, this accomplishment had little to do with Rather's unpopular style: it was merely a bounce from being on the same network as the Winter Olympics. In fact, the last time he won, back when a Pre-Oscar fiasco David Letterman was actually funny, it was due to the bounce of the 1994 Kerrigan-Harding Bonanza. And yet, perhaps it is a quite fitting that Dan Rather, once again in his career, receives the greatest benefits when he is at his worst.
In any case, we salute you, Dan Rather, as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Dan!!!
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