Finally, A Journalist We Can Look Up To! A Hero of Our Time: Muntadar al-Zaidi

By Dave Linddorff *

When Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi heaved his two shoes
at the head of President George W. Bush during a press
conference in Baghdad, he did something that the White House
press corps should have done years ago.

Al-Zaidi listened to Bush blather that the half-decade of
war he had initiated with the illegal invasion of Iraq had been
“necessary for US security, Iraqi stability (sic) and world
peace” and something just snapped. The television
correspondent, who had been kidnapped and held for a while last
year by Shiite militants, pulled off a shoe and threw it at
Bush-a serious insult in Iraqi culture-and shouted “This is a
farewell kiss, you dog!” When the first shoe missed its target,
he grabbed a second shoe and heaved it too, causing the
president to duck a second time as al-Zaidi shouted, “This is
from the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in
Iraq!”

I’ll admit, listening to Bush lie his way through eight
years of press conferences, while pre-selected reporters played
along and pretended to get his attention so they could ask
questions which had been submitted and vetted in advance, I
have felt like throwing my shoes at the television set.

Al-Zaidi, who paid for his courageous act of protest by
being brutally beaten by security guards, is a hero of the
profession. He stopped taking the president’s BS and called him
what he is: a murderer and a criminal, with the blood of
perhaps upwards of a million Iraqis on his hands. Al-Zaidi used
what was supposed to be a staged photo-op for the president as
an opportunity to speak up for those whose lives have been
ruined by this president-the ones our suck-up journalists
routinely ignore.

I’m not suggesting that journalists should routinely leave
presidential press conferences in their stocking feet. We have
different ways of expressing our sentiments to people we feel
have insulted our intelligence than throwing shoes at them, but
it would be nice to see a journalist or two flip the president
the bird when he lies so blatantly to them. Or they could all
get up and just walk out, leaving him standing alone at the
presidential lectern.

It’s time for the press corps to stop treating presidents
like royalty. If he accomplished anything at all in eight years
in office, President Bush has demonstrated that, to the
contrary, the president is a very ordinary-and in his case a
rather less than ordinary-man. The office of president deserves
no more respect than that of the mayor of Detroit, or of
Wasilla.

My suggestion is that the press corps use the remaining five
weeks of the Bush administration to develop a new relationship
with the presidency-one in which they drop all the phony
propriety and tradition and start acting like boisterous
newshounds of old, barking questions, laughing cruelly at inane
answers, demanding follow-ups when they are given the
run-around, and, where necessary, walking out, or perhaps
tossing the occasional shoe.

The journalism profession was a full-blown disaster and an
utter disgrace during the Bush administration, and with all the
crises facing the country and the world, in part because of
that failure on their part, we cannot afford to have them
continue that failure into the Obama administration.

With the Bush administration reduced to a running joke at
this point, it gives the journalism profession a chance to
redeem itself by using these few remaining weeks to establish a
new tradition for presidential press conferences and
photo-ops-one that can continue on into the new presidency.

Meanwhile, I’m suggesting that my alma mater, the Columbia
University Graduate School of Journalism, hire al=Zaidi to
teach a class in press conference journalism techniques. They
should make it a multi-year appointment, because if he left
after just one year, his would be difficult shoes to fill.

NOTE: Speaking of shoes and the White House, Skip Mendler of
Honesdale, PA has a great idea. He suggests that everyone who
is disgusted with the outgoing Bush/Cheney administration send
a shoe to the White House. Just imagine a pile up of a million
smelly old running shoes in the White House mailroom! I think
he’s got something. Spread the word!

_______

* Dave Linddorff is a Philadelphia-based
journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for
Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now in paperback).
His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net

** Source: Counterpunch

December 15, 2008

http://www.counterpunch.org/lindorff12152008.html