Kerry's Election Bid Lost in Translation?
from intellect and worthwhile rhetoric in Utica, NY for the last few
months, I have made a habit of visiting political discussion boards
online for a dose of informed bantering and arguing. I tend to gravitate
towards conservative cyber communities because I generally prefer
arguing to agreeing.
one such board I noticed the heading, "Bin Laden to US: Don't
vote for Bush." Curious. Assuming it was a reference to the latest
video release from that machinegun-toting psychopath, I checked it
out to see what exactly the author of the post was referring to. After
all, from the accounts I've heard the message was blatantly neutral
towards the campaign, saying the safety of any nation is determined
by the actions of inhabitants and not the leaders.
however, Fox News reported that bin Laden was giving a solid endorsement
to Kerry. They claimed the warning was not that individual nations
were in control of their safety, but rather individual U.S. states
were in charge of their fates. Since this message was joined by a
strong criticism of both George W. and his father, the inference was
made that bin Laden was telling us "red states" would be
potential targets while "blue states" would be protected.
any red-blooded, Wal-Mart-shopping American would rather give up his
NASCAR tickets than do what bin Laden wants him to do. So, in effect,
this was a big boost for Bush, who seems to represent a tougher stance
on terrorism and all things foreign than John Kerry. Kerry himself
has recently stated publicly he believes the bin Laden tape was what
ended up costing him the election.
Michael Niman, a professor of Media Studies at Buffalo State College
and the resident political opinion expert at Artvoice, agrees that
this video was detrimental to Kerry's chance of success.
I've seen has the bin Laden message as being neutral," Niman
said. "But what hurt Kerry was the FOX spin saying bin Laden
was endorsing Kerry." It's not surprising that the right-wing
propaganda factory at FOX processed this story and came up with such
a translation, because if one were to consider the reality of the
situation it seems that this video would deter people voting for Bush.
reminded us that Bush never captured him," Niman said.
only did Bush fail to catch the guy who masterminded the murder of
nearly 3,000 Americans, but he had publicly stated he "wasn't
too concerned" with finding bin Laden - despite what he claimed
during the presidential debates.
what is the big deal if one media outlet translates the message differently?
Well, the big deal is that for some godforsaken reason FOX news is
the highest rated news outlet in America. Because, you know, they're
all fair and balanced.
did the guys at FOX just pull this translation out of their butts?
No, but the source of the translation certainly stinks.
Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is a non-profit organization
dedicated to helping Westerners understand the text of Middle Eastern
media outlets by "providing timely translations of Arabic, Farsi,
and Hebrew media."
of all, I didn't find a single translation of anything written in
Hebrew and I still don't know what the hell Farsi is. But I did poke
around their website until some things became frighteningly clear
quick glance at the headlines of recently translated articles reads
like a grocery list of American fears and stereotypes regarding the
Arabic world. Such titles as "Arabic Guide to Wife-beating"
serve to shock and disgust those very Westerners MEMRI claims to serve.
Regardless of the accuracy of the translations, they are clearly handpicking
articles to translate that would disgust and frighten and rational
Westerner. And again, there is nary a trace of Hebrew or Farsi translations.
what's the reason for this effort? Who are these people? Why are they
trying to damage the already tarnished image of Arabic cultures in
answer to that question isn't so easy to find. They don't use the
names of any of their members and don't seem interested in mentioning
their own political alliances or agendas.
is located in Washington DC, and coincidentally I was visiting a friend
in D.C. when this story first came to my attention. I jotted the given
contract address (PO Box 27837) on a piece of paper and took the subway
to try and track these people down to get some answers.
suspicions were confirmed upon arriving at the post office. PO Box
27837 is far too small for even one anti-Arab person to fit inside,
let alone an entire institution. I banged on the door for several
minutes but no one answered. Dejected, I returned to my friend's apartment
and filled his toilet tank with olives.
that task completed, I went back to my internet detective work and
found a bunch of brow-raising information on MEMRI. Without getting
into the specifics and/or committing an act of plagiarism, let me
just tell you Brian Whittaker from the UK paper The Guardian tracked
them down and discovered it was an Israel-based organization that
includes former members of the Israeli intelligence community.
also states that MEMRI is hesitant to reveal their actual physical
location because of the risk that "a suicide bomber" would
walk into their office building and go boom boom. A queer concern
for a non-biased language translation group, wouldn't you think?
of course, they were pushing a certain agenda. Namely Zionism.
any advocator of Israeli agendas knows that it is in their best interest
to see a neoconservative like Bush in the White House. A loaded translation
suggesting that a vote for Kerry is a vote for bin Laden would, as
Niman says, "get the NIMBY's (Not In My Back Yard) in the prairie."
are aligned with the Israeli hawks using Israel as a client state
- mercenary state - outpost in the Middle East," Niman said.
"Hence, anything pro-Zionist is also pro-neocon."
in mind that as a non-profit organization, MEMRI pays no taxes. And
no doubt there are inflammatory and disgusting things being written
in Arabic regarding their feelings towards Christians and Jews and
America. But do we need someone cherry-picking the worst of the worst
and presenting it as the standard sentiment of that culture? It would
be akin to someone taking the highly offensive, racist, and sexist
(albeit satirical) Percieval Sneed articles the Beast used to print
and saying, "Hey, look at what these Americans are all about
- making women fetch their coffee and poking fun at mentally retarded
these times, an institution like MEMRI would be an invaluable asset
to our society that could promote understanding and insight. Instead,
they promote fear and distrust.
is an imprecise art," Niman warns. "I know the same words
mean different things from country to country in Latin America. So
we need accurate translations. That said and done, bin Laden and company
know this and I'd assume speak in a region-neutral way."
Rupert Murdoch, Jesus H. Christ and Osama bin Laden all factoring
in on the election, you have to wonder if Kerry ever had a chance