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Geraldo Rivera in Afghanistan, Reporting for Fox News, Makes Much Ado About Nothing

December 9, 2001

I've always admired Geraldo Rivera, primarily because of his 1972, award-winning exposť of the deplorable conditions at New York's Willowbrook State School for the mentally impaired.  So I've waited and waited in order to give Geraldo the benefit of the doubt concerning his taking a job as a war correspondent in Afghanistan for Fox News.  It's sad to say, but Geraldo has totally lost his footing.

I won't even get into the issue of his ideological whoredom in shilling for GOP-TV (aka Fox News).  Let's just examine his reporting.

Geraldo was apparently able to reach the front lines and join Eastern Alliance fighters who are searching for Osama bin Laden in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan.  Fine.  But what do we get from Geraldo from his prime location?  Primarily three things:

He gives us breathless announcements that there are B-52's overhead, and that if we wait a few minutes, we may be lucky enough to see the impact as the huge bombers drop their payloads.  Then we see some puffs of smoke rising from distant mountains.  So what?  We've all seem bombs go off.  And those puffs of smoke in the distance actually look pretty unimpressive.

We are also treated to examples of Geraldo's bravery, as we see him dive to the ground, pinned down by a sniper's bullets while he records a report.  Dramatic enough, but such incidents don't really advance our knowledge about the war, do they?

The third major element is Geraldo's name-calling.  A typical report might go something like this, including scenery-chewing-level sneering on each repetition of the word "rat":  "We're here near the rats nest that holds those Al Qaeda rats, and the freedom fighters you see near me are going to try to flush these rats out of their rats nest so these rats can be exterminated.  These freedom fighters are here to clear out these rats nests and we expect that to happen shortly."

This is not a verbatim transcript, of course, but the real thing isn't much different, and the effect the viewer comes away with is a mental picture of big furry rats scurrying all over the place.

Geraldo seems to be trying much too hard to fit in with the gung ho, cheerleading-style of Fox reporting, which sheds all pretense of reportorial objectivity.

As to Geraldo calling the Eastern Alliance soldiers freedom fighters, one must ask:  were these same soldiers allied with the Taliban three weeks ago?  And/or, are they allied with one of the warlords whose mass rape, torture and killing of Afghan civilians led to the rise of the Taliban after the Soviets were driven out of Afghanistan?  Geraldo doesn't tell us.

Which leads to the main point: why doesn't Geraldo do some real reporting?!  He's been living among these "freedom fighters" for days, if not weeks now.  How about some in depth interviews with some individual soldiers: how did you wind up fighting here?  What are your goals?  Where is your family?  What did you do while the Taliban were ruling Afghanistan?  Etc., etc.

Indeed, if Geraldo really wants to do some unprecedented reporting that virtually no other mass media reporter is doing, why doesn't Geraldo visit some of the villages near Tora Bora which were destroyed by B-52 carpet-bombing, with scores, if not hundreds of innocent Afghan civilians killed?  The Pentagon denies such attacks ever took place.  Geraldo, where are you?  Barge into those villages just like you did into Willowbrook, and expose the official lies and cruelty!

Of course, such an initiative by Geraldo concerning civilian casualties would greatly displease his bosses at Fox, who do not want such things reported.  As Fox News anchor Brit Hume recently stated:

"O.K., war is hell, people die," he said. "We know we're at war. The fact that some people are dying, is that really news? And is it news to be treated in a semi-straight-faced way? I think not."

The only reason I can think of for Geraldo continuing to give us his [literal!] "puff" pieces is because he's gambling that by hanging around Tora Bora, he may be the only journalist around if bin Laden is captured or killed.  My advice to Geraldo: you're probably going to have about the same luck here as in your big TV special featuring the opening of Al Capone's secret vault, which -- to Geraldo's embarrassment -- turned out to be empty!

Geraldo, showing us some puffs of smoke in the background is not worth the time you're expending on it, let alone your life.  You're going to get your brains blown out for nothing.  Despite Jay Leno's jokes, no one really wants to see you killed.  So either do some real reporting from Tora Bora that illuminates hitherto unexplored areas of the war for your audience, and which thus may justify the risk you are taking -- or else do the right thing for both yourself and your viewers, and hightail it to safer ground! 

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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