Friday, January 05, 2007

Keeping up with Michael J. Totten

If you're not reading Totten's reports you are cheating yourself. His Jan 2 post and photos from his recent trip to Hezbollah country in Lebanon is independent journalism at its best. Very fresh, readable and exciting.

Hezbollah is not half as media savvy as they like to fashion themselves. Harassing foreign journalists may keep some of them in line, so to speak, but it backfires with the rest of us. Bullying writers who are free of the old school media constraints of “objectivity” is a media war equivalent of dropping a hand grenade down your pants.

At least one of the security agents was smart enough to figure this out. He slowly walked up to me.

“What?” I said as I lifted my head.

He pointed at my camera, said something unintelligible, then pointed at the black tents.

“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “I know, I know.” I went back to writing furious notes.

“No, no, no!” he said.

“What?” I said, genuinely annoyed now.

A group of six teenagers between sixteen and eighteen years old saw the commotion and came over to see what was happening. One of them offered to translate.

“He said it is okay to take pictures,” he said.

“It is okay?” I said, and completely dropped my affected hostility.

“Yes, yes,” another kid said. “Come on.” He offered his hand and helped me up.

“Thanks, guys,” I said.

“Don’t worry about them,” a third teenager said. “They are handicaps.”

“Come on!” another said. “Come with us! We’ll show you around!”

They led me back across the street to the black tents. I lifted my camera and snapped a quick picture.

Yesterday he was interviewed by Hugh Hewett. Transcript is linked at the blog. Again, clean, straightforward reporting. If he has any agenda it is to depict his subjects as real human beings instead of the cardboard figures typically presented by pundits and partisans.

HH: Now you have a few examples in here of this below-the-surface anti-Americanism, including this fascinating conversation with a couple of teenagers, where you say Hassan Hasrallah repeatedly says death to America. He only means death to the American government. Why doesn’t he make that clear then? He does. No, he doesn’t, you tell them. Then, come on, guys, be honest with me, you say. And they say I want to go to America, the leader kid says. I love America. I want to live in America. America is rich and free. I want to be rich and free, too. It’s bipolar.

MT: It is. It’s bizarre, isn’t it?

HH: Yeah.

MT: You get this sort of thing all over the world where you find anti-Americanism. It often times is the same people who would rather live here. Now this is obviously not true of everybody. I mean, if you take the real hard core anti-Americans in the world, you know, Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Atta, these guys are not looking for a green card. That’s pretty obvious. But a lot of the more passive anti-Americans who get caught up in the politics of the place they live, they are very much of two minds about this at once.

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