Feb 17, 2009
I have a plan to get NBC out of last place in the ratings. I'm
promising blockbuster audience and international buzz. As a once
I now just want to be positive and help NBC, which needs all the free
Here's my idea: A series of NBC News primetime specials
featuring spectacular ambushes of big-time criminals lured into what
expect to be pleasurable surroundings. But, with hidden cameras
whirring, the startled
villain is dramatically confronted with the evidence of his massive
millions of viewers look on in scorn and righteous amusement.
If it sounds familiar, it's because NBC News has scored huge
ratings with its "To Catch a Predator" sleaze-fest - in which potential
offenders by the bushel were lured via the Internet to what they
be sex with kids and instead got caught by NBC cameras and cops in
But my proposal doesn't involve sex abusers. I'm talking about
men who've launched illegal war, mass murder, torture, dictatorship.
they're household names.
Before you laugh off my proposal for "To Catch a War
Criminal," check out last week's New York
Times report by Brian Stelter: "On Trail of War Criminals, NBC News Is Criticized."
NBC is already at work - "To Catch a Predator"-style - on a
two-bit version of my idea, and not surprisingly, they may be screwing
it up. For
over a year, a camera crew has been on the trail of alleged war
December, an NBC producer confronted a Maryland
foreign language professor who NBC sources accuse of war crimes in Rwanda.
But there are problems - as often happens when you leave the
"news" to NBC. Human Rights Watch questions the evidence against the
who's been seeking asylum in the U.S. A journalistic
NBC's close relations with Rwanda's
So here's my advice: Go big. Go after superstars and only
slam-dunk cases of war crimes.
Coming to NBC next week: "To Catch a Cheney." Next
month: "To Catch a Kissinger."
How do you lure such big names to an NBC News lair for their
ambush interview? You simply invite them.
Given the soft treatment they've received over the years, they'll
come running quicker than a Net perv to Lolita. Trust me: the element
surprise is on NBC's side - since these uber-officials are confident
crimes will remain eternally off-limits.
To lure Dick Cheney from his undisclosed location, NBC's "To
Catch a War Criminal" producers could pretend to be booking "Meet the
Cheney has been as comfy on that show as Alec Baldwin on "Saturday
It came out under oath in the Scooter Libby trial that Vice President
office viewed "Meet the Press" as "our best format," a program in which
could "control the message." Putting him on that show, testified his
chief, "was a tactic we used often."
It was on "Meet the Press" after 9/11 that Cheney warned:
"We have to work the dark side, if you will. We're going to spend time
Mr. Dark Side shows up at NBC studios expecting another puff job, and
is confronted on camera with witnesses, documents, victims of his
crimes. It's riveting television and real journalism as his violations
Geneva Conventions of War in matters of torture and kidnapping are
The program climaxes big-time with Cheney cross-examined
and his lead role in committing the ultimate war crime (as described by
launching an unprovoked attack upon another country.
And what about Henry Kissinger? His participation in crimes
of war, murder, mayhem and military coups is neatly packaged in Eugene
Zarecki's 80-minute documentary (award-winner at Amnesty International
The Trials of Henry Kissinger.
Think he's too old to spring into NBC's trap? Actually, the
spry 85-year-old still appears frequently on NBC channels - assured
criminal past will never come up.
Invite him. Kissinger will come.
And he's not old news. Just as there's no statute of
limitations on murder, there's none for Kissinger's crimes. Remember
dictator Augusto Pinochet, who ended democracy in Chile
thanks to Kissinger's crucial
help, was arrested in England
for international crimes many years after leaving office.
Besides ratings, my "Catch a Major War Criminal" idea
delivers something else for NBC: It's fairly cheap to produce. The New York Times reports that NBC News has
spent a year chasing down foreign war criminals and "possible
human rights abuses in several countries." Going after big-name U.S.
criminals is quicker and more cost-effective - with so many documents,
and witnesses in or around D.C.
In truth, there's one main reason my proposal will never launch
on NBC: It's the longstanding nationalistic, ethnocentric (even racist)
our country that blocks serious scrutiny of "our" criminals.
That bias allows "objective" journalism to refer
matter-of-factly to "Saddam's torture rooms," but not "George Bush's
rooms"; to "mass murder" of Kosovars and Rwandans, but not "mass murder" of
Guatemalans or Salvadorans
or Vietnamese caused by U.S. officials; to "terrorism" from homemade
IEDs, but not the far more lethal terror against civilians from
War criminals tend to have funny names, dark skin and wear
foreign garb. They can't be powerful Americans in tailored suits.
This giant illusion is fostered by major U.S.
that are allergic to discussing deadly U.S. interventions in the
principles, Geneva Conventions protecting prisoners of war and
and the United Nations Charter, especially articles 41 and 42 on the
of armed force. These international laws and treaties are the law of
our land -
as clear as laws against murder.
So NBC News will traipse the globe in search of Rwandans - while
Dick and Henry sleep like babies tonight. And then appear tomorrow on U.S.
offering their exalted opinions on international affairs.
Maybe NBC should stick to catching sex offenders. Any
pretense that they want to seriously track down war criminals is a
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