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!