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Profile: Columbia University

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A study by George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs examines the 600 hours of war coverage by the nation’s broadcast news organizations between the coverage of the first strikes (see March 19, 2003) and the fall of Baghdad (see April 9, 2003). The study shows that of the 1,710 stories broadcast, only 13.5 percent show any images of dead or wounded civilians or soldiers, either Iraqi or American. The study says that television news coverage “did not differ discernibly” from the heavily sanitized, Pentagon-controlled coverage of the 1991 Gulf War (see August 11, 1990 and January 3, 1991). “A war with hundreds of coalition and tens of thousands of Iraqi casualties” is transformed on US television screens “into something closer to a defense contractor’s training video: a lot of action, but no consequences, as if shells simply disappeared into the air and an invisible enemy magically ceased to exist.” A similar study by Columbia University’s Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that “none of the embedded stories (see February 2003 and March-April 2003) studied showed footage of people, either US soldiers or Iraqis, being struck, injured, or killed by weapons fired.” In fact, only 20 percent of the stories by embedded journalists show anyone else besides the journalist.
Focus on Anchors - Author and media critic Frank Rich will later write: “The conveying of actual news often seemed subsidiary to the networks’ mission to out-flag-wave one another and to make their own personnel, rather than the war’s antagonists, the leading players in the drama.… TV viewers were on more intimate terms with [CNN anchor] Aaron Brown’s and [Fox News anchor] Shep Smith’s perceptions of the war than with the collective thoughts of all those soon-to-be-liberated ‘Iraqi people’ whom the anchors kept apothesizing. Iraqis were the best seen-but-not-heard dress extras in the drama, alternately pictured as sobbing, snarling, waving, and cheering.”
Fox News - Rich will say that Fox News is the most egregious of the lot, reporting what he mockingly calls “all victory all the time.” During the time period analyzed, one Fox anchor says, “[O]bjectively speaking [it is] hard to believe things could go more successfully.” Another Fox anchor reports “extraordinary news, the city of Basra under control” even as that city is sliding into guerrilla warfare and outright anarchy. Neoconservative Fred Barnes, one of Fox’s regular commentators, calls the competition “weenies” for actually reporting US casualties. [Rich, 2006, pp. 78]

Entity Tags: Shepard Smith, Columbia University, Aaron Brown, Fox News, George Washington University, Frank Rich, US Department of Defense, Fred Barnes

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation, Domestic Propaganda

Wayne Allyn Root.Wayne Allyn Root. [Source: NNDB (.com)]Wayne Allyn Root, a millionaire businessman, Las Vegas sports bettor, and right-wing talk show host who is running for president on the Libertarian ticket alongside former Republican congressman Robert “Bob” Barr, lambasts Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama (D-IL) as a “Marxist” and “communist” whose “mother was a card-carrying communist… he says she’s the most important person in his entire life; he learned everything from her.” Root is most interested in casting doubt that Obama ever attended Columbia University from 1981 to 1983; Obama graduated with an undergraduate degree from that university at the same time Root attended it. Root promises a million dollars that if Obama did attend Columbia, he had a lower grade point average than Root had, and claims that the only reason Obama was allowed to attend Harvard Law School was because of the color of his skin. Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1991. “I think the most dangerous thing you should know about Barack Obama is that I don’t know a single person at Columbia that knows him, and they all know me,” Root claims. “I don’t have a classmate who ever knew Barack Obama at Columbia. Ever!… No one ever heard of him.” Root then speculates that Obama “maybe… was involved in some sort of black radical politics.… Maybe he was too busy smoking pot in his dorm room to ever show up for class. I don’t know what he was doing!” Root notes that he graduated with a political science degree, the same degree Obama has, in 1983, and “[n]ever met him in my life, don’t know anyone who ever met him.” Root says he was asked to be “speaker of the class” at the 20th class reunion, not Obama, who apparently did not attend the reunion. “I know that the guy who writes the class notes, who’s kind of the, as we say in New York, the macha who knows everybody, has yet to find a person, a human who ever met him. Is that not strange? It’s very strange.” Root speculates that Obama had some sort of racial “identity crisis” that precluded him from socializing with many people. “All my buddies are white, what can I tell you! They don’t know him, nobody’s ever seen him, I don’t know what to tell you.… I mean, when I went to Columbia, the black kids were all at like tables going, ‘Black power!’ We used to walk by and go, ‘What the hell are they talking about?’ And they didn’t associate with us and we didn’t associate with them. So if you track down a couple of black students, they’ll probably know him. But nobody white’s ever heard of this guy. It’s quite amazing. Nobody remembers him. They don’t remember him sitting in class.” Root finds the Obama campaign’s refusal to release Obama’s Columbia student transcript “suspicious,” and says he is willing to bet “a million dollars cash… that my GPA was better than Barack’s… and he got in [to Harvard Law School] based on the color of his skin.… He had a lower average than me and he got into Harvard and I didn’t.” Root uses the opportunity to claim that America has never been unfair to minorities; instead, he says: “It was unfair to me. A white butcher’s kid, whose father had no money, but nobody gave me a break. And do I have a chip on my shoulder? You’re damn right I do. And I represent millions and millions of poor people in this country who weren’t lucky enough to be poor and black, they were unlucky enough to be poor and white, and they can’t get into Harvard. So maybe that country Barack’s fighting for, he’s got the wrong country here. He’s been just fine in this country. The rest of us need someone to defend them.… I’m for affirmative action—I think the NBA [National Basketball Association] should be 80 percent white.” He concludes, “I don’t have a racist bone in my body.” [Reason, 9/5/2008; St. Petersburg Times, 2/10/2011]

Entity Tags: Columbia University, Barack Obama, Libertarian Party, Wayne Allyn Root, Harvard University Law School

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections

The Wall Street Journal prints an editorial questioning Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)‘s record at Columbia University in New York City. Obama began his attendance at that university in 1981 and graduated with an undergraduate degree in 1983. The Journal does not directly assault Obama’s record of attendance, nor does it challenge the diploma he earned there, but instead accuses Obama of “barely mention[ing] his experience” at Columbia in his two published memoirs, accuses the Obama campaign of “refus[ing] to answer questions about Columbia and New York—which, in this media age, serves only to raise more of them,” and asks: “Why not release his Columbia transcript? Why has his senior essay gone missing?” (There is no senior thesis—see October 21, 2009). After noting that the presidential campaign of John McCain (R-AZ) has refused to release McCain’s records from the US Naval Academy, the Journal calls Obama “a case apart” because of his lack of “a long track record in government.” It accuses Obama, in his memoirs, of “play[ing] up certain chapters in his life—perhaps even exaggerating his drug use in adolescence to drive home his theme of youthful alienation—and ignor[ing] others.” Citizens and journalists attempting to “exercise… due diligence” in the days before the presidential election are, the Journal claims, “meeting resistance from Mr. Obama in checking his past.” The Journal claims that one of Obama’s Columbia-era roommates, Sohale Siddiqi, has confirmed Obama’s transformation in New York from a dissolute youth to a serious young man, telling an Associated Press reporter: “We were both very lost. We were both alienated, although he might not put it that way. He arrived disheveled and without a place to stay.” The Journal writes, “For some reason the Obama camp wanted this to stay out of public view,” and claims, “Such caginess is grist for speculation.” It speculates that Obama’s Columbia transcript might “reveal Mr. Obama as a mediocre student who benefited from racial preference,” though, noting that Obama later graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, says he obviously “knows how to get good grades.” The Journal echoes “others” who “speculate about ties to the Black Students Organization, though students active then don’t seem to remember him,” along with tales from “the far reaches of the Web [about] conspiracies about former Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who became the candidate’s ‘guru and controller’ while at Columbia in the early 1980s.” The Journal notes that Brzezinski “laughs, and tells us he doesn’t ‘remember meeting him.’” The Journal concludes that few remember Obama during his two years in New York. “Fox News contacted some 400 of his classmates and found no one who remembered him,” it reports. Obama himself has told biographer David Mendell that during his time at Columbia, “I was just painfully alone and really not focused on anything, except maybe thinking a lot.” The Journal concludes: “Put that way, his time at Columbia sounds unremarkable. Maybe that’s what most pains a young memoirist and an ambitious politician who strains to make his life anything but unremarkable.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/11/2008]

Entity Tags: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Barack Obama, Columbia University, David Mendell, Harvard University Law School, Sohale Siddiqi, Wall Street Journal

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Michael Ledeen, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes that according to blogger Brian Lancaster, Time reporter Joe Klein has been allowed to read the first 10 pages of Barack Obama’s college thesis, written while the president was an undergraduate at Columbia University. According to Ledeen and Lancaster, the thesis was titled “Aristocracy Reborn,” and contains the following excerpt: “[T]he Constitution allows for many things, but what it does not allow is the most revealing. The so-called Founders did not allow for economic freedom. While political freedom is supposedly a cornerstone of the document, the distribution of wealth is not even mentioned. While many believed that the new Constitution gave them liberty, it instead fitted them with the shackles of hypocrisy.” Ledeen calls the statement “quite an indictment, even for an Ivy League undergraduate,” and says Obama’s supposed take on the Constitution is “revolutionary.” He concludes, “And what about the rest of the thesis?” Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh broadcasts extensively on the thesis, claiming that it is proof of Obama’s intention to “redistribute” America’s wealth to the poor by forcibly stripping the wealthy of their financial resources. Two days later, Ledeen reports that the “thesis” is entirely fictitious. Klein never wrote about it for Time and never read it. “It’s a hoax, or a satire, depending on your point of view,” Ledeen admits, having learned it was produced by Lancaster in August. Lancaster posted it on his Jumping in Pools blog on August 25, and clearly labeled it as “satire.” Ledeen writes: “So he got me, and lots of others. It worked because it’s plausible. I’ve done satirical pieces myself, and I know how they can take off.… So I should have picked up some hint, but I didn’t. Shame on me.” [Brian Lancaster, 8/25/2009; Pajamas Media, 10/21/2009; Pajamas Media, 10/23/2009; Time, 10/23/2009] According to the Obama campaign, Obama did not write a senior thesis while at Columbia. He did write a paper during his senior year for an honors seminar in American Foreign Policy, but neither Obama, the university, nor the professor of the seminar, Michael Baron, have a copy of the paper any longer. [Snopes (.com), 10/25/2009]

Entity Tags: Columbia University, Brian Lancaster, Michael Ledeen, Joe Klein, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Baron

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Donald Trump, addressing an audience at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference.Donald Trump, addressing an audience at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference. [Source: Red Dog Report (.com)]Billionaire entrepeneur and television host Donald Trump tells an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference that President Obama “came out of nowhere,” and adds: “In fact, I’ll go a step further: the people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.” Trump, who receives cheers for the statement, tells the assemblage that he is considering running for president in 2012 as a Republican. He is apparently trying to revive the so-called “birther” claims that Obama is not a valid American citizen (see (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, and Around June 28, 2010). In response, PolitiFact, a non-partisan political research organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, retraces Obama’s academic career: Obama attended kindergarten in Honululu, and moved with his family to Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1967, where he attended a Catholic elementary school, St. Francis Assisi Catholic, as well as Besuki Public School, until age 11. He then returned to Honolulu, where he lived with his maternal grandparents and attended a private college preparatory school, Punahou School, until he graduated with a high school diploma. In 1979, he attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, transferred to Columbia University in 1981, and graduated from that university in 1983. He later attended, and graduated from, Harvard Law School in 1991. Trump’s claims apparently center on rumors that “no one knew him” at Columbia University, fueled in part by a 2008 editorial by the Wall Street Journal (see September 11, 2008), which repeated the “finding” of a Fox News “investigation” that found 400 classmates of Obama’s had not known him at the time. Another source is Libertarian vice-presidential candidate Wayne Allyn Root, who attended Columbia at the same time as Obama and says: “I think the most dangerous thing you should know about Barack Obama is that I don’t know a single person at Columbia that knows him, and they all know me. I don’t have a classmate who ever knew Barack Obama at Columbia” (see September 5, 2008). Obama has himself said he did little socializing at Columbia, and though he had some involvement with the Black Students Organization and participated in anti-apartheid activities, spent most of his time studying: “Mostly, my years at Columbia were an intense period of study,” he has said. “When I transferred, I decided to buckle down and get serious. I spent a lot of time in the library. I didn’t socialize that much. I was like a monk.” The Journal noted a May 2008 story from the Associated Press containing an interview with Obama’s former roommate, Sohale Siddiqi, who verified Obama’s claims, and in January 2009, the New York Times published an interview with another roommate from the time, Phil Boerner, who also validated Obama’s claims of being a bookish, rather solitary student. PolitiFact interviews Cathie Currie, a professor at Adelphi University, who remembers Obama occasionally playing pick-up soccer with her and a group of friends on the lawn outside the library. She says he made an impression because of his athleticism, his maturity, and his wisdom, and she assumed that he was several years older than he actually was. “My sense of it was that he was keeping a low profile,” Currie tells the PolitiFact interviewer. “We’d ask him to go out with us for beers after soccer. He seemed like he wanted to, but then he’d step back and say, ‘Sorry, I’m going to the library.’” PolitiFact lists an array of articles covering Obama’s time at Occidental and Harvard Law School, noting that “[d]ozens of former classmates and teachers from those schools have publicly shared their recollections (and photos) of Obama. Obama was the president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review journal, for goodness sake.” PolitiFact has also found “plenty” of people who remember Obama from elementary and high school, in Indonesia and Hawaii. PolitiFact concludes: “We could get deeper into this but it seems like overkill. It’s abundantly clear that there are lots and lots of former classmates who remember Obama at every level of school. It’s true that Obama’s two years at Columbia are relatively undocumented. And far fewer classmates have publicly shared recollections of Obama from that period, as opposed to other school years before and after. At Columbia, Obama was a transfer student, he lived off campus, and by his and other accounts he buried himself in his studies and didn’t socialize much. But even so, there are several students who recall Obama at Columbia. In short, media accounts and biographies are filled with on-the-record, named classmates who remember Obama. Trump is certainly right that presidential candidates are heavily scrutinized. As even a basic online search confirms, Obama’s school years were, too. Trump’s claim that people who went to school with Obama ‘never saw him, they don’t know who he is’ is ridiculous. Or, to borrow Trump’s phrase, it’s crazy.” [St. Petersburg Times, 2/10/2011; JamesJoe, 2/17/2011]

Entity Tags: St. Francis Assisi Catholic, Wall Street Journal, Wayne Allyn Root, Sohale Siddiqi, Occidental College, PolitiFact (.org ), Columbia University, Conservative Political Action Conference, Cathie Currie, Barack Obama, Besuki Public School, Donald Trump, Fox News, Harvard University Law School, Phil Boerner, Punahou School

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections

Billionaire Donald Trump, the host of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice and a rumored candidate for the Republican presidential nomination for 2012, makes the allegation that President Obama was a “terrible” college student who may have been admitted to the Ivy League universities of Columbia and Harvard because of his race. Trump offers no proof of the claim; it was first advanced in 2008 in a Wall Street Journal editorial that implied Obama was a “mediocre” student and demanded to see a college thesis that does not exist (see September 11, 2008). In 2009, author Jerome Corsi advanced the groundless claim that Obama was “placed” in Harvard Law School through the auspices of an African-American Muslim radical and a Saudi prince (see July 21, 2009). “I heard he was a terrible student, terrible,” Trump says. “How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.” Obama, like most politicians, has declined to release his college transcripts. Obama graduated from Columbia and then from Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude and was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. Trump says Obama’s refusal to release his college transcripts is part of a pattern of concealing information about himself. “I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can’t get into Harvard,” Trump says. “We don’t know a thing about this guy. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president.” Trump takes credit for “reinvigorat[ing]” the birther controversy, and boasts, “[T]he last guy [Obama] wants to run against is Donald Trump.” In his turn, Trump refuses to disclose his net worth. [NBC New York, 4/26/2011] Conservative pundit Pat Buchanan agrees, claiming on MSNBC’s Hardball that Obama only got into Harvard Law School because of “affirmative action.” Buchanan has made claims of blacks and Hispanics receiving “special treatment” because of “affirmative action” many times in the past (see May 28, 2009, May 31, 2009, June 12, 2009, June 20, 2009, July 16, 2009, and October 13, 2009). “I think the way was very probably greased, and I think he’s probably affirmative action all the way,” Buchanan says, and adds: “[L]ook… you know how the system works. You apply. He’s an African-American kid at a time where everybody’s saying: ‘Let’s bring those guys in. Give ‘em an advantage, move ‘em ahead.’” [Media Matters, 4/26/2011] Liberal pundit Keith Olbermann, writing on his personal blog, ridicules Trump’s demand to see Obama’s college transcripts, writing: “If that doesn’t work, it’ll be his list of movie rentals back in the days of VHS, or his Chicago White Sox ticket stubs to prove he really is a fan, or his laundry delivery records to make sure William Ayers or Jeremiah Wright or Karl Marx hasn’t been slipping him notes inside the suit pockets like they did in that John LeCarre spy novel.… Translated to this sorry chapter of sorry American politics, that means the Radical Right will keep the conspiracy theory going and simply change the focus.… [T]he debate has never been about whether or not Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. The debate has been about whether the Republicans could or can do by rumor, innuendo, and Fox propaganda, what they cannot do by the ballot: find the overarching ‘scandal’ with which to beat a Democratic president.” [Keith Olbermann, 4/27/2011]

Entity Tags: Jerome Corsi, Columbia University, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Harvard University, Patrick Buchanan, Keith Olbermann

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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