By Matthew Rothschild on July 09, 2010

The media in the United States, which genuflects daily on the altar of freedom of speech, simply can’t abide employing anyone who doesn’t toe the line on Israel.

First, Helen Thomas had to go.

Now, Octavia Nasr.

The 20-year veteran of CNN, still hailed on its website as the award-winning senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, was given the heave-ho after daring to tweet the following: “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

When the Simon Wiesenthal Center and others pounced all over her for this, she issued a thorough explanation.

“I deeply regret” the tweet, she wrote. “It was an error of judgment for me to write such a simplistic comment and I'm sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah's life's work. That's not the case at all. Here's what I should have conveyed more fully: I used the words ‘respect’ and ‘sad’ because to me as a Middle Eastern woman, Fadlallah took a contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on woman's rights. He called for the abolition of the tribal system of ‘honor killing.’ He called the practice primitive and non-productive. He warned Muslim men that abuse of women was against Islam.”

She went on to say: “This does not mean I respected him for what else he did or said. Far from it. It is no secret that Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah hated with a vengeance the United States government and Israel. He regularly praised the terror attacks that killed Israeli citizens. And as recently as 2008, he said the numbers of Jews killed in the Holocaust were wildly inflated.”

She acknowledged that Twitter isn’t the best place to communicate complex ideas, and her detailed, intelligent blog went a long way toward clarifying and contextualizing her remark.

But not far enough for CNN, which was in haste to throw her overboard at the first shot across the bow from Israel’s reflexive supporters in the United States.

“What a shame,” says Jennifer Loewenstein, associate director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Nasr’s firing, she says, is “nothing new,” reflecting as it does the bias of the mainstream corporate media in favor of U.S. and Israeli policies.

“Having Octavia Nasr at CNN strengthened the slim credibility it has worldwide,” Loewenstein said. “Now that credibility will shrink even further.”

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his article “State Department Denies Visa to Leading Colombian Journalist and Nieman Fellow.”

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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