Friday, June 03, 2005

Awaken the MSM: Downing Street Memo Alert

from DailyKos:

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Today begins a series of diaries aimed at helping to lift the virtual news blackout on that political bombshell, the Downing Street Minutes. Though it was published one month ago, the US news media has produced just a small trickle of reports to date. Many of us have appealed for more coverage by the news media, but with only limited success. It is high time to wake the MSM up. We will need to focus, coordinate, and sustain our efforts if we wish to get their attention. Clearly a scatter-shot approach will not get this information before the wider public, which deserves to know about it.

Therefore every weekday this month I will post a diary listing three news outlets. Please email, fax, or call all three on that day requesting politely that they report on DSM. The contacts for today are:

(A) CBS Evening News. email: phone: 212-975-3247

(B) Associated Press. email: phone: 202-776-9400 (DC) or 212-621-1500 (National News)

(C) C-Span Washington Journal. email:


On May 1st the London Sunday Times published the leaked Minutes from Tony Blair's secret war council of July 23, 2002. This official document showed that Bush and Blair had decided to oust Saddam Hussein by force, and had begun to implement their decision, long before either man requested authorization to do so from Congress or Parliament. It also showed that they had deceived the public repeatedly in the run up to war about: the grounds for war; the nature of any threat posed by Iraq; the strength of the evidence and intelligence on Iraq; and the purpose of diplomatic efforts at the U.N.. The Minutes reveal gross duplicity in the actions of both governments, as well as a contempt for democratic processes. This news received extensive coverage in the rest of the English-speaking world, especially in Britain where it all but destroyed Blair's last vestige of credibility with the public.

By contrast, US media coverage of this smoking gun has almost been a self-parody. Few news reports appeared, and many of those--gallingly--have focused on the lack of news coverage. Some in the media have belittled the significance of the Minutes while actually rebuffing citizens' requests for serious news reporting. Most of the TV and cable news giants have ignored the story entirely; only CNN and Fox have so much as touched it. To my knowledge, none of today's trio has ever reported on it. Yesterday David Swanson gave us a good overview of US news coverage of DSM thus far in this excellent diary.

Media campaigns

Left-leaning bloggers and web activists have kept the story alive all month, and several sites have arisen to bring attention to DSM, especially created early on by georgia10, highacidity, Mikecan1978, and several other Kosmopolitans. It helps that Rep. John Conyers has been leading the charge in Congress to investigate these revelations. Yet despite that, relatively little has been achieved in public awareness after a full month.

We should admit that our campaign to compel the MSM to report on DSM has been mostly scatter-shot. Generally we've been contacting virtually every media outlet, rather than focusing our effort. When we have focused on an individual news outlet, such as the Washington Post, results have been impressive. So it's high time that we begin an organized, focused, and sustained campaign on the media. I'm confident that we can still force news outlets to pay attention if we inundate them, one by one, with letters and calls requesting that they report on this important story.

Stale news

Some in the media have argued that this is stale news, and that people do not care about it--as they try to sweep the story aside. Plainly that is untrue. At the moment, only a tiny fraction of the American public knows of the existence of this document; people cannot be indifferent to facts they don't have. Anyhow, certain kinds of stories do not come with expiration dates--stories of Presidents deceiving the public and ginning up wars being foremost among them. Journalists don't get to leave a story on the shelf for a full month, and then declare it too stale.

Sometimes they act as if they are paralyzed without a current angle to lead with. But with a story this large, about an ongoing war, there are always new angles. At the moment we have this brand new revelation from Britain about official documents that confirm part of the information in DSM, concerning "spikes of activity" against Iraq by US forces in the summer of 2002. With the exposure of Deep Throat, in any case, there will be an increased willingness to liken this scandal to Watergate. That (for once) is as it should be. Like the story of the burglary, this scandal will become more pressing the more the White House seeks to avoid answering questions about it candidly.

This media campaign

This campaign will try to wake up various news outlets to the realization that very many people want and expect them to report on the Downing Street Memo. Every day it will concentrate on just three targets, and if any targeted news outlets don't respond with serious coverage, it will revisit them several days later. There will be a new trio of media contacts posted every weekday. The list will be diaried here around 8 AM EST, and will be posted at other sites as well (especially at I am coordinating this with other activist groups and blogs, dozens of which I have contacted asking them to publicize the campaign either by posting the daily lists or by linking to the updated list. I'm also seeking publicity for the campaign from left-leaning radio hosts. The impact may be felt soon, or it could take a while. But clearly if we have a sustained, focused, and coordinated campaign to awaken the MSM one by one, we are much more likely to succeed in getting this information before the public.

Advice on writing a letter to the media

Please write your own letter, rather than sending a form letter. Individualized letters have much more impact. You can easily re-use that letter again and again once you've composed it, and it need not be long or detailed since each target will be receiving dozens or hundreds of such letters that day (they'll soon figure out what the DSM is all about). The most important thing will be to maximize numbers, and to ensure that every target receives an equally large number of letters. Phone calls typically make a bigger impression than an email, if you speak to an actual person. Faxes make an even bigger impression.

Angry, condescending, or overblown letters are likely to carry much less weight than polite, precise ones. You might want to state briefly why you believe the leaked document is significant for democracy in the US, or mention Rep. Conyers' letter to President Bush seeking clarification regarding DSM. If you are at a loss about what to say about the significance of DSM, you're welcome to plunder bits of this old diary on what we learn from the Downing Street Minutes.

You might also think of including links to one or two of the following articles concerning the leaked minutes. But do not simply paste these articles into your letter:

Text of the Downing Street Memo:

London Times article on "spikes of activity" against Iraq in summer of 2002:

Knight Ridder article by Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott (5/5)

NY Times article by Douglas Jehl (5/20)

Please email the letter separately to each of the day's three contacts. Do not CC all addressees in one email--that's the kind of thing you'd expect from right-wing swarms. And most importantly, come back the next day to send out three more letters. If you miss a diary at DailyKos, the same list will be up all day at

by smintheus
Wed Jun 1st, 2005 at 04:45:49 PDT
All credit for the logo above goes to highacidity, who created it.

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