Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 2, 2010

Time Magazine: still setting the ruling class agenda

Filed under: Afghanistan,media,oil — louisproyect @ 5:06 pm

Admired Mussolini

Time Magazine still has the capability of defining the agenda of the ruling class even though the magazine no longer has the reach it once did. In the 1950s, it was practically de rigueur for working class and middle class families (like my own) to have a subscription. This magazine was not just where I learned about Jack Kerouac. It was also where I learned to hate Communism, which in my adolescent mind was interpreted as the world’s greatest threat to abstract expressionist art, atonal music and “freedom” more generally.

This week the mendacious newsweekly made bold attacks on behalf of the national-security state on two fronts. Michael Grunwald (possibly related to former chief editor Henry Grunwald?) told Time Magazine readers on Thursday July 29 that the damage to the Gulf of Mexico has been “exaggerated”, citing a local scientist:

LSU coastal scientist Eugene Turner has dedicated much of his career to documenting how the oil industry has ravaged Louisiana’s coast with canals and pipelines, but he says the BP spill will be a comparative blip and predicts that the oil will destroy fewer marshes than the airboats deployed to clean up the oil. “We don’t want to deny that there’s some damage, but nothing like the damage we’ve seen for years,” he says.

Grunwald also cites Ivor Van Heerden, another scientist, to this effect but admits that he “like just about everyone else working in the Gulf these days, is being paid from BP’s spill-response funds.” Well, what difference does that make? We all know that it is only the conspiracy-minded who would make a connection between somebody making light of the spill and being on the payroll of BP.

If this article gave what amounts to a green light for deep-water drilling, a cover article that displayed an Afghan woman with her nose cut off by the Taliban gave the Obama administration badly needed propaganda support for “staying the course” in Afghanistan:

For Afghanistan’s women, an early withdrawal of international forces could be disastrous. An Afghan refugee who grew up in Canada, Mozhdah Jamalzadah recently returned home to launch an Oprah-style talk show in which she has been able to subtly introduce questions of women’s rights without provoking the ire of religious conservatives. On a recent episode, a male guest told a joke about a foreign human-rights team in Afghanistan. In the cities, the team noticed that women walked six paces behind their husbands. But in rural Helmand, where the Taliban is strongest, they saw a woman six steps ahead. The foreigners rushed to congratulate the husband on his enlightenment — only to be told that he stuck his wife in front because they were walking through a minefield. As the audience roared with laughter, Jamalzadah reflected that it may take about 10 to 15 years before Afghan women can truly walk alongside men. But once they do, she believes, all Afghans will benefit. “When we talk about women’s rights,” Jamalzadah says, “we are talking about things that are important to men as well — men who want to see Afghanistan move forward. If you sacrifice women to make peace, you are also sacrificing the men who support them and abandoning the country to the fundamentalists that caused all the problems in the first place.”

For young people fortunate enough to have been spared the kind of diet of Time Magazine that I received in the 1950s, a word or two about this fetid newsweekly might be in order. It was founded in 1923 by one Henry Luce as the first news magazine in history.

Luce was a powerful member of a Republican Party that was more in line with Eisenhower, Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller than the current outfit identified with Rush Limbaugh and the tea party. This was a Republican Party that differed little from the current Democratic Party. Luce was also closely associated with “the China lobby” that pushed for war against Mao’s China. His wife Clare Booth Luce was a major figure in anti-Communist politics who was to the right of her husband, backing Goldwater enthusiastically in 1964.

While not exactly the kind of ferocious attack that Henry Luce deserves, Alan Brinkley’s (a Columbia University history professor) recently published biography reveals how the magazine winked its eye at fascist dictators. Michael Augspurger, a professor at the University of Central Arkansas, wrote an article on Luce that contained the following:

In the late twenties and thirties, Henry Luce was accused of harboring fascist tendencies. His accusers pointed primarily to the editorial practices of Fortune and its older sibling, Time. Time, a magazine notorious for its editorializing news copy, was particularly well-known in its support of Mussolini. As Herzstein notes, “When important issues were at stake, one knew where Time’s editors stood…. The magazine approved of Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, il Duce” Time’s involvement with fascism was not limited to Italy, either. Time foreign correspondent Laird Goldsborough, for example, called supporters of Spanish fascist leader General Francisco Franco “… men of property, men of god and men of the sword.” And while Luce was not nearly as vocal as Goldsborough, he did support his correspondent’s writing even when it became a highly divisive staff issue at Time, Inc. But there was more to the accusations than just these editorial tendencies. Observers as disparate as Fortune writer Dwight Macdonald, Fortune managing editor Eric Hodgins, and biographer W.A. Swanberg have seen fascist leanings in Luce himself. Macdonald, referring to the anonymous corporate structure of Time, Inc., accused Luce in 1937 of “fascist capitalism.” Hodgins, in his 1973 autobiography, recalled that Luce liked “the purported aims of fascism.” And Swanberg claimed that Luce admired the dynamism, militarism, strong leadership, and anti-Communism of Mussolini’s Italy. Clearly, Luce appeared to some of those familiar with him to be attached to certain fascist ideals.

Returning to the questions of the BP spill and the war in Afghanistan, it first of all has to be understood that the magazine is a cut above the Murdoch press in terms of credibility. In fact, Time Magazine’s website is co-sponsored by CNN, a news organization that is still capable of solid reporting. (Newsweek has a similar connection to MSNBC.)

Michael Grunwald, the author of the BP article, is the also the author of a highly regarded book on the Florida Everglades. He has written for www.grist.com, a highly respected environmentalist online magazine, including a piece on the Everglades that states:

But starting in the 1880s, Americans determined to subdue Mother Nature started trying to drain the Everglades with canals, hoping to create a new paradise for agriculture and development. A few lonely voices warned that ditches could turn the swamp into a desert, but most Floridians agreed with Gov. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, who declared in the early 1900s that if drained swamps could really burn, “the great bogs of Ireland would have been ash heaps long before St. Patrick drove out the snakes.”

But sure enough, the early ditches started sucking the marsh dry, ruining wells, damaging soils, and, yes, igniting fires so smoky that children in Miami had to cover their faces at school. And in the summer, southern Florida’s torrential downpours overwhelmed the ditches, converting farmland back to swampland, inspiring the first jokes about buying Florida land by the gallon. The jokes seemed a lot less funny in 1928, when a hurricane blasted Lake Okeechobee through a flimsy muck dike, killing 2,500 pioneers in the Everglades.

So clearly we are not dealing with John Stossel or Spiked Online, especially since Grunwald hedges his bets:

The potential long-term damage that underwater oil plumes and an unprecedented amount of chemical dispersants that BP has spread in the area could have on the region’s deep-water ecosystems and food chains might not be known for years.

Well, I should say so. Not long after the ink was dry on his article—metaphorically speaking—there were reports on dispersants that undercut his article. Even his own magazine was forced to go along with what the Washington Post and New York Times have been reporting about the looming threat:

In humans, long-term exposure to dispersants can cause central nervous system problems or damage blood, kidneys or livers, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

BP’s apparently generous use of dispersants helps explain why so little oil has been spotted on the surface recently, said Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Whether the benefits of dispersants outweigh the possible risks is a “debatable point,” he said, noting that they’ve protected some fragile coastal wetlands from heavier bands of oil.

More to the point, we are dealing with a situation in which BP and the government have a vested interest in controlling the flow of information, something they were much better at than controlling the oil spill. Reporters and scientists were not allowed to conduct their own survey of the troubled waters. In light of this, it is hard to take Michael Grunwald’s bromides seriously. He has only damaged his own reputation through such a specious article, although I am sure that he is rewarded handsomely by Time Magazine for writing such nonsense.

Turning to the question of Taliban cruelty, we wonder if the magazine has a double standard (gasp!) when it comes to such questions. While preaching the need to stay the course in Afghanistan to defend women from sexist brutality, it seems quite content over how things have turned out in Iraq, with a Shi’ite government working assiduously to deny women the limited gains they achieved under Saddam’s government, not to speak of the misogyny of Afghan warlords on “our side”.If the magazine was really concerned about the status of women in Afghanistan, it would publish the speeches and articles of Malalai Joya, a fearless defender of peace, human rights and social justice. As it turns out, Time did recognize her as one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People of 2010 but in their typically dishonest fashion as Salon.com blogger Judy Mandelbaum pointed out:

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, Homer wrote thousands of years ago. Today human rights activists would be well-advised to beware of major American news magazines passing out honors. Last week, noted Afghan politician Malalai Joya, the author of “A Woman Among Warlords” whom the BBC has called “the bravest woman in Afghanistan,” was named one of TIME Magazine’s “World’s Most Influential 100 People” of 2010. The trouble is, the magazine presented her to the world in a brief but misleading text by Islam critic and American Enterprise Institute fellow Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who concluded her tribute with the words:  “I hope in time she comes to see the US and NATO forces in her country as her allies. She must use her notoriety, her demonstrated wit and her resilience to get the troops on her side instead of out of her country.”

What an odd choice of words, considering that Ali is writing about a woman who wrote in the Daily Beast last week that:

more than eight years of occupation have made life bleak, and we are tired of being pawns in the US and NATO’s game for control of Central Asia. We can longer bear the killing of our pregnant mothers, the killing of our teenagers and young children, the killing of so many Afghan men and women. We can no longer bear these “accidents” and these “apologies” for the deaths of the innocent.

Are Ali and the editors of TIME really entitled to tell Malalai Joya what to think about her country’s plight? To set the record straight and to find out what really motivates this activist, journalist Sonali Kolhatkar of UprisingRadio contacted Ms. Joya yesterday and conducted an interview, which I have excerpted below (you can – and should – read the entire discussion here):

I am very angry with the way they have introduced me [Joya said]. They have a completely painted a false picture of me that does not mention at all about my struggle against the occupation of Afghanistan by the US and NATO, which is disgusting. In fact every one knows that I stand side by side with the glorious-anti war movement around the world and have proved again and again that I will never compromise with the US and NATO who have occupied my country, empowered the most bloody enemies of my people and are killing my innocent compatriots [inaudible] in Afghanistan. What TIME did was like giving an award to someone by one hand and getting it back by another hand. I have sent my protest to it to the Defense Committee [for Malalai Joya] but TIME did not bother to even answer than protest letter. Perhaps this is the kind of freedom of expression exercised by TIME and the USA. …


  1. So just because they were briefed on something they previously were unaware of means he’s unworthy? Weird.

    Comment by Jenny — August 2, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

  2. Jenny, you have to learn to write clearer. I have no idea what you are trying to say.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 2, 2010 @ 9:10 pm

  3. I meant, are you angry at Grunwald for not including that the health risks are much more severe despite the fact that they learned of this after his Time article was published?

    Comment by Jenny — August 2, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

  4. Jenny, I think it is probably best that you stop posting here. You seem a bit confused overall. This only leads to a waste of bandwidth as people try to clarify things for you or to make points that should not be necessary on a blog like this.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 2, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Left News, Khephra Maley. Khephra Maley said: Time Magazine: still setting the ruling class agenda – http://j.mp/d5m0P3 [ #msmfail #p2 #oilspill #psyops #rebelleft #classwar ] […]

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  6. I think the possibly increased vulnerability of Afghan women deserves serious consideration. I favor complete withdrawal, but mainly informed by intuition and respect for those holding this position. Different from being fully persuaded. I would prefer to base what I think on specific fact or logic. I would like to know why:
    1. Women will not suffer additionally should we leave completely, or
    2. That is a sacrifice required by humane considerations.

    Comment by J. Marlin — August 3, 2010 @ 12:43 am

  7. Jeffrey, you should Google “Malalai Joya” to get answers to your questions.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 3, 2010 @ 12:54 am

  8. Their two ‘Man of the Year’ cover pictures of Stalin are lessons in racial suggestion. When he is ‘good’ (US ally) he smiles, is wide eyed, and light skinned. When he is bad, he is Asiatic with narrow eyes, dark, brooding, cunning.

    Comment by purple — August 3, 2010 @ 1:04 am

  9. “I would like to know why: 1. Women will not suffer additionally should we leave completely”

    Because the occupation is part of the problem rather than its solution. Women’s rights (or men’s & children’s rights, for that matter) are not protected by NATO bombing them. Or by a puppet government of brutal, reactionary, misogynist warlords, who if anything are worse than the Taliban.

    “the possibly increased vulnerability of Afghan women deserves serious consideration”

    As do the views of those Afghan women, such as Malalai Joya or the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan.

    Comment by JN — August 3, 2010 @ 3:24 am

  10. I have heard Malalai Joya in interviews and in documentaries. I admire her courage and sympathize with her viewpoint. Nor have I the slightest sympathy for the American policy objectives or apparently pervasive incompetence and sadism shaping American behavior in Afghanistan.

    However, nothing I’ve heard from Joya, or read above, addresses the difficult question of how the limited protections enjoyed by some women in Kabul and possibly elsewhere can be expected to survive a departure of the imperialist forces now shielding their schools and other institutions.

    I have also heard women’s advocacy groups with strong peace credentials argue that these limited protections will certainly vanish when the Americans do, and more Afghan women then will find themselves entirely at the mercy of the Taliban reactionaries and Northern Alliance gangsters — there being no other power of material consequence left to help them, least of all the thugs posing as government.

    I do not want to believe this. But I’d like more than slogans and invective to work with.

    I’m still looking for straightforward answers if anyone has any:

    1. How will the limited protections afforded by the imperialist presence be maintained in their absence?

    2. How is withdrawal of these protections offset by the balance of humane considerations?

    Comment by J. Marlin — August 3, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

  11. Enough of this charade that the U.S. war machine must be kept going in Afghanistan, not for permanent dominance in the region, but for the well-being of Afghan women. My God! Why not to set up the Girl Scouts.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — August 3, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

  12. so what about the results of this poll:

    Click to access 11_01_10_afghanpoll.pdf


    Comment by bigmouth — August 3, 2010 @ 7:18 pm

  13. What I think of the poll is that a “random national sample” that emanates from Kabul has come nowhere near the illiterate village women–a huge majority– who do not even answer the door much less pollsters’ questions. The Pentagon deep thinkers are down at the bottom of the barrel, scraping. A nine year—so far—war for the rights of shadowy women whose wishes they know nothing about! In contrast even the “domino theory” in southeast Asia was an ad agency stroke of genius and Saddam Hussein as scarecrow bogeyman had its comic-strip brilliance. The idea of waging a war, complete with drones and the rest, for a “humane” reason has me laughing all the way to the morgue.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — August 3, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

  14. J. Marlin:

    Your argument is the same one NATO supporters used to justify the bombing of Serbs: “We must bomb Yugoslavia to protect women” they said, even though a CIA employee admitted on PBS NewsHour that the real reason was to obliterate the “last vestiges of socialized property and planned economy on the Continent.”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 4, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

  15. Fortunately the Taliban never socialized any property and so we don’t have to worry about that one in Afghanistan. I’d put no faith in the various we-bomb-for-freedom slogans put out by Washington, D.C., but that doesn’t mean that one should oversimplify the likely potential for some kind of renewed violence against women in the event of a US/NATO withdrawal. I also think it’s important to bear in mind the implications which the decline of capitalism has today for Afghanistan. If USAian capitalism was today in the same state which had been in 1945 then it’s quite possible that we might end up watching a rebuilding of Afghanistan that would draw analogies to the reconstructions of West Germany and Japan after 1945. In such a case, when the resources of Afghanistan had been developed far enough, Afghanistan might come to be regarded as similar to the way South Korea is today. Most South Koreans will today tell you that they feel better off without Kim Jong Il in charge. If we were still living 65 years back in the past then perhaps something similar could be achieved in Afghanistan.

    But I don’t that will be the case, with the current decline of USAian capitalism. Afghanistan is much more likely to develop an economy in which some exotic Kabul bordellos service high-priced foreign clients while being guarded 24/7 by soldiers armed with machine-guns than it is to become the next South Korea. At present capitalist imperialsim really seems to have lost any capacity for bringing about any level of progressive development, even where it may actually serve imperial interests (as it clearly did in South Korea). In such a case prolonging the war doesn’t seem to offer much chance of acting as a prelude to further development. It just prolongs a stagnated crisis, like we see with much else in the modern economy.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — August 4, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

  16. With all due respect Patrick your armchair drawing of parallels between South Korea and Afghanistan leaves me flabbergasted. It’s not the present poor health of American capitalism that’s going to change the the destiny of Afghanistan and keep it from sending us better cars than Detroit can make. It’s because it’s Afghanistan and not South Korea. Think. Afghanistan isn’t a country at all but one of the most ethnically diverse regions of the world whose boundaries were marked off for their own needs by Her Majesty’s surveyors. South Korea is–well, in every way the contrary. If you don’t begin with the premise that each country out there is radically different from the others and especially from us, you end up falling for the line that we don’t invade them with a view to domination but to bring gifts of our cute suburban values.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — August 4, 2010 @ 4:59 pm

  17. A cleaner parallel could be made with Saudi Arabia. If reports are to be believed, there supposedly are many natural riches in Afghanistan which might theoretically enable the growth of a wealthy sheikh class similar to what exists in Saudi Arabia.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — August 4, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

  18. Afghanistan’s mineral wealth is an old story. The Soviets knew all about it in the 1980s. Why did the Pentagon bring it up a couple of weeks ago as if it were a new discovery? Because the “Enduring Freedom” lark looked like a fiasco. They needed money from Congress and a boost after the McCrystal balls-up and the Wikileaks. What better than hidden treasure to make the whole pathetic story into a victory? The mastermind of the defeat, Petreus, actually piped up, “There is stunning potential here!” The “Pentagon’s Business Development Task Force” is on the case. Remember the Iraqi oil that was going to pay for the invasion and occupation of that country? Now, if we only have the patience to hang around, there’s gold in them there Afghan hills.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — August 4, 2010 @ 9:37 pm

  19. > Now, if we only have the patience to hang around, there’s gold in them there Afghan hills.

    Except that as I noted already above:

    “I don’t think that will be the case, with the current decline of USAian capitalism. Afghanistan is much more likely to develop an economy in which some exotic Kabul bordellos service high-priced foreign clients while being guarded 24/7 by soldiers armed with machine-guns…”

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — August 4, 2010 @ 10:25 pm

  20. Afghanistan is not likely to become an exotic Bordelloville for rich clients for the following reasons.

    1) There’s no nightlife in Kabul.

    2) The religiosity of the Taliban that’s driving the US out via war of attrition like they did the Soviets prevents a robust nightlife in general and organized prostitution in particular.

    3) Foreigners aren’t liked by Afghanis for good reason and as such they’re targeted for kidnapping or worse, expecially wealthy clientele that could command a big ransom. Rich foreigners would fly to Bangkok long before they’d dream of being potentially killed in Afghanistan. All the guards with machine guns in the world cannot stop I.E.D.’s & suicide bombers.

    4) No matter how exotic, rich people aren’t into hanging around extremely dangerous impoverished cities where life is very cheap.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 5, 2010 @ 12:55 am

  21. As far as Saudi Arabia there’s no comparison. Saudi Arabia is protected by US Jet Fighters. Afghanistan is attacked by them. A trillion dollars in minerals isn’t enough to turn Afghanistan into a Saudi-style protectorate.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 5, 2010 @ 1:21 am

  22. i really enjoyed this post, as i was trying to explain this exact situation to my mother the day we recieved this weeks TIME. The uses the oldest trick in the book (again), the hardship of thier women (one of the selling points of the Iraq war as well). It always starts with our compassion, and the Lords above know this. No matter if our soldiers got caught pulling bullets out of civilians a month ago. My great-grandfather was a hardened capitalist and editor/writer of TIME magazine for years (he had the record for most cover stories until the Nixon trials). TIME is especially damaging, in a way that outwardly imperial agenda minded news sources like Fox News isn’t, because TIME disguises itself as some sort of soccermom/leftist minded magazine, which it obviously isn’t. I’m 24 and I just wrote a book i think you might dig. you can read the first 200 pages at http://www.slaughterhaus.com , let me know what you think. keep up the writing

    Comment by Scott Laudati — August 6, 2010 @ 9:45 pm

  23. Actually Scott, TIME really is “some sort of soccermom/leftist minded magazine.”

    It’s called the “Cruise Missile Left”.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 6, 2010 @ 11:40 pm

  24. […] August 9th issue of Time Magazine, with a cover picture of a an Afghan woman, horribly disfigured last year because of the Taliban, […]

    Pingback by Dutch pseudo-feminist Afghan war propaganda were lies | Dear Kitty. Some blog — June 5, 2012 @ 10:58 am

  25. […] by Time Magazine in its ’100 Most Influential People of 2010′. That Time should have even attempted to profile a courageous activist against the U.S./NATO occupation of […]

    Pingback by Malalai Joya versus Ayaan Hirsi Ali | Winston's Journal — September 24, 2013 @ 5:50 pm

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