In America, Journalists “Push Back”: The Magnificent Hypocrisy of Touré

Update (2/17/13) below:

Yesterday, the news of the leaked Department of Justice white paper brought on a flurry of “debates” about whether POTUS’ ever-expansive rationale for targeting U.S. citizens was acceptable. The rationale is that a mere suspicion WITHOUT evidence that a U.S. citizen was a senior official in Al-Qaeda (designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.) is an acceptable basis to target him via a drone strike.

It’s hard to have a believable “debate” when folks who should be aware and up-to-date on the Administration’s doings are ignorant, skeptical, or indifferent. Those were the reactions of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, when she was challenged about the legitimacy of WH-directed kill lists and drone strikes. This clip is from last fall, after the second Presidential debate at Hofstra University. Wasserman-Schultz–an elected Congressional representative from Florida–has NO idea about the secret kill list whatsoever (FF to 00:25 and again to 00:35-60 for “the look”):

Wasserman-Schultz appears confused and skeptical when asked about the kill lists. In fact, she has the same blank look on her face that Touré, a political commentator for cable tv’s “left-leaning” MSNBC’s SpinCity, does when his co-hosts Steve Kornacki and S.E. Cupp confront him about the fact that a drone was used to kill 16 year old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, the son of the alleged “#2 official in Al-Qaeda.” His father, Anwar Al-Aulaqi, was killed by drones on Sept. 30, 2011, 2 weeks AFTER John Brennan, the Obama nominee to be the next director of the CIA, argued for upholding transparency and rule of law when deciding the targets of drone strikes. Abdulrahman was killed exactly 2 weeks later. Both father and son were U.S. citizens.

Compare Wasserman-Schultz’ reactions to those of Touré on the same topic (unfortunately, this clip won’t embed on this site, so you’ll have to click it. It’s short, and I promise it’s worth your time).

Touré was embroiled in a controversy last year with Piers Morgan over the death of Trayvon Martin, whose 18th birthday would have been yesterday. Martin’s ‘crime,’ as “journalist” Geraldo Rivera and prosecutors allege—was not that he was black, but that he was wearing a hoodie in an exclusive gated community. Touré was especially critical of Morgan about not having interviewed George Zimmerman–who shot and killed Martin–and his brother Robert, critically and forcefully.

You will see from the below clip one such heated discussion between the two of them where, invoking certain nativist sentiments, Touré insisted that because Morgan was not American, he didn’t understand true journalistic rigor.

Morgan is hardly an icon of journalistic responsibility, but Toure’s comments are remarkable and self-righteously patronizing:

Let me explain to you a little bit at what’s at stake here. This is a major moment in American history and America’s reaching a bit of a boiling point in terms of dealing with this issue. And when we allow for misinformation and obfuscation and people to become confused about the truth about what’s going on, then we become part of the problem and not part of the seeking a solution.

He continues to berate Morgan for “being a part of the problem” for allowing the Zimmerman brothers to come on the air and spread misinformation and lies that “we know many people will believe.”

Do you know that in the hallways of MSNBC we were laughing at you today? We wouldn’t even take ‘em–standards of practices at MSNBC wouldn’t even let them through the door. (1:15)

I’m hardly a fan of Piers Morgan; but Touré’s response was an especially interesting one. Remember this part from the SpinCity clip?

If you join Al-Qaeda, you lose the right to due process, you become an enemy of this nation. And you’re committing treason. And I don’t see why we should expand (sic) American rights to people who want to kill Americans. This is not criticizing the United States. This is going to war against the United States.

Treason is a charge that can be leveled at a U.S. citizen, not a “foreign” enemy. He is also surprised to learn that Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki is American minor. Take a look again at 00:34.

Touré: What do you mean a 16-year old who is killed? I’m not talking about civilians.

Steve Kornacki and S.E. Cupp (the ‘conservative’) assure Touré that they are talking about a 16 year old Denver-born teen who was killed. Touré looks confused.

Touré: If people are working against America, then they need to die.

According to Touré’s own standard, he is part of the problem. Is MSNBC laughing at Touré, one wonders?

There is a certain nativist, if not xenophobic, consistency on Touré’s part. Rightfully insisting on paying attention to the racist context surrounding Martin’s death, he nevertheless challenges Morgan’s attitudes on the grounds that Morgan is not “from here.” For all of Touré’s understanding about the racial context of unfair murders, he appears to be ignorant of and indifferent to the fact that a young Muslim (American) boy was killed by a drone under the auspices of the POTUS.

We see a similar nativism in Touré’s sentiments about restricting due process to “Americans”—even after he learns that Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki IS American. [Not to worry though, Kristal Ball jumps in to assure us that this issue is not “black and white,” but “definitely one of those areas of grey.” As S.E. Cupp points out, killing 700 children through drone strikes is hardly “an area of grey.”]

According to Touré (5:30), what Morgan understands as “challenging” interview subjects is barely critical, barely journalistic. Says Touré:

What you understand as challenging, perhaps, maybe that’s what goes in England. That’s not what we do in terms of challenging in America…I would have liked to see him pushed and challenged, more followup, more pushback, more research to understand.

Really? Considering that Touré’s “version” of critical (“leftie”) journalism takes the form of vociferous unwillingness to ask for proof of one’s “terrorist credentials,” or to question the validity of the white paper (never mind the range of “counter-terrorism” law that has increasingly shrouded executive decisions in secrecy), I have to wonder what it is “that we do here in America.”

Touré goes on this vein for another 10 minutes: a lecture to Piers Morgan about aggressive journalism, and how impossible it is that Zimmerman’s story is true, so “at that point, we can’t give him a light pushback; we have to give him a much tougher follow-up than that.” (6:20).

I’m waiting for Touré’s tough follow-up on POTUS’ kill lists, the WH’s Terror Tuesdays, and the white paper on targeted killing. As Touré snidely pretends to be impressed that Morgan has been covering the Trayvon Martin story for “a whole week, wow!” I’m wondering why Touré knows not at all about the 2011 murder of 16 year-old Awlaki or of the deaths of 700 children by drones.

Given his anger over Martin’s death and apparent ignorance about who Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki was, or what his crime was (namely that of having an “irresponsible father”), one could accuse Touré of having double-standards about the value of the lives of African American v. Muslim American 16 year old-teens, not to mention his own hypocritical indignance about Morgan, given that Touré is vociferously spreading misinformation.

Even then, his position regarding the white paper on targeted killings is that America is being attacked, Al-Qaeda is fighting a “post-geographic” war, and therefore the President, as the Commander-in-Chief is correct to decide who to kill–in secret and without any due process.

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 4.27.10 PM

The last person in this thread is correct; her words point to Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England–back in the 1760’s–when they had kings with political clout (Book 1, Ch. 7):

THE king, moreover, is not only incapable of doing wrong, but ever of thinking wrong: he can never mean to do an improper thing: in him is no folly or weakness.

One wonders how exactly how our “left” political class is “leaning forward.” If they dare to concede that wrong is done, it’s purely an accident. Which must make it morally acceptable.

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 4.29.59 PM

Feet to the Fire! Or is it “Lean Forward”?


Update (2/17/13): This article by Jemima Pierre on Black Agenda Report is a MUST READ. Written one year ago, it is dead-on accurate and precise. Pierre compares the assassinations of Trayvon Martin and Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki. Pierre, rather than Touré, should have been on this segment of The Cycle–without spin.


Author: Falguni A. Sheth

I'm a philosopher and political analyst who writes about all kinds of things, from national security, US politics, race, terrorism, miscegenation, feminism, philosophy, and whatever else captivates my attention. My views are idiosyncratic. I'd like to believe they're carefully considered, and I'm not particularly interested in following crowds.

16 thoughts on “In America, Journalists “Push Back”: The Magnificent Hypocrisy of Touré”

  1. What I can’t understand is the liberal bipolar thinking that makes Waterboarding evil under Bush, Wiretapping? FASCIST!Playing Guns and Roses to Muslims? Inexcusable! But killing Americans (and there was a young visitor with the 16 year old boy who was also killed and not on the list at all) is fine and dandy if the Obama Administration says it is. At least there were millions of conservatives upset enough at Bush to start the Tea Party movement. Where are the people splitting with Obama? Code Pink???

  2. How is a CIA run drone strike that kills an American teen a military failing? Something tells me Toure has no idea who is firing those hellfire missiles.

  3. ” moral, ethical and legal concerns” What the hell have we been doing the last decade? War. Of course there are ” concerns”. But the real hypocrisy .lies on Cupps stance on the issue. A staunch conservative barking about the ethical dilemmas of drones? Seriously? Damning the drones is an easy stance to take. What’s more intellectually challenging is finding the the grey area in this debate. Where have all you moral elitist been the last decade over all the children lost in the two wars we have been fighting. Two wars btw that may have been avoided if Obama was prez and he used drones instead of a military.

    1. Two wars btw that may have been avoided if Obama was prez and he used drones instead of a military.

      You’re dreaming if you think Obama’s drones are avoiding wars. They’re expanding the wars, the blowback and eventually the loss of Empire that you seem so horribly attached to. Sorry.

      Moral elitists? You seem to have a rather perverse notion of morality.

    2. Wait, two wars we could have avoided with drone strikes? So you’re saying that we could have avoided WWII if we just had drones? We could have won the civil war without bloodshed if Lincoln just used those damned drones!

    3. NIko,

      I can tell you where I was over the past 10 years: in the Imperial Capital participating in MANY anti-war demonstrations, spending most Friday nights to help keep the pro-soldier/anti-war vigil going, and offering myself up to right-wing medial (such as FOX “News”) to try to combat their pro-war spin. Nor does this list include all the work I did to help establish a Peace House in the Imperial Capital, and all the financial support I have spend to many pro-peace organizations (such as IVAW or Iraqi Water Project).

      Why; what were YOU doing?

      Lowell Highlander

  4. Owen – the killing of Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi is absolutely relevant, because he was a US citizen whose assassination was justified according to the convoluted, vague legal terms described by the DoJ white paper. If he can be killed, can any of us be killed if we’re a relative of an accused terrorist, according to the secret, vaguely defined guidelines to choose US citizens for assassination? Is Obama or a high ranking official allowed to put us on the Kill List if we have “irresponsible” family members? The Obama administration has never admitted why Abdulrahman was killed–was it an accident (“collateral damage”), as you say? Or was he targeted? They refuse to address this question because they know that either answer will look bad. If the first, they’ll have to acknowledge that drone strikes aren’t as surgical or clean as described, and kill innocent civilians (including US citizens, and children). If the second, they’ll have to acknowledge that they assassinate children with no due process or required evidence to justify their actions.

    I agree with the author that Toure’s hypocrisy is staggering. It’s very telling that this kind of “far left” figure is allowed to rise to prominence on a news show in today’s media world. His clueless look and twitter response to questions about Abdulrahman were hilarious and infuriating at the same time. How could someone so clueless be a host on a news show?

    1. If he can be killed, can any of us be killed if we’re a relative of an accused terrorist, according to the secret, vaguely defined guidelines to choose US citizens for assassination? Is Obama or a high ranking official allowed to put us on the Kill List if we have “irresponsible” family members?

      Well said.

      Indeed, one needn’t even have “irresponsible” family or neighbors. Only the accusation is needed to make it a Capital Crime, no evidence needed.

  5. Although I don’t agree with Toure, I’m glad he was there to raise those points. People like him need to realize that our president not infallible. Even though many reporters on MSNBC have made a choice to never criticize the president, others on the network openly question the drone strikes. FOX and CNN cover the hypocrisy and struggle within the left regarding this matter but fail to address the serious constitutional problems. BTW, the author seems to really hate Toure, it is kind of funny.

  6. Equating the targeted killing of Anwar Al-Aulaqi with the collateral damage that resulted in the death of his son is a bit disingenuous. The strike that killed his son was intended to and succeeded in killing Ibrahim al-Banna, the Al- Qaeda propagandist. Both the broader drone program, as well as the targeted killing of american citizens raise serious moral, ethical, and legal concerns. But I think it’s important to specify which set of issues you’re discussing and not fully conflate the two. Frankly, I think Toure should be cut a little slack for not being intimately familiar with the killing of Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi as it doesn’t really fall under the white paper issue, which is what the segment was discussing.

    1. I’m wondering which Owen Truesdell you are. Are you the one who was political director for Friends Of Tarryl Lynn? A “Democrat” who apparently took contributions from Crossroads America (according to the FEC website I’m looking at) and Restore Our Future, Inc.? It seems to be the same person who worked for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, apparently doing canvassing or something.

      If so, you would do well to announce yourself, as it goes to bias. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. I can’t think of why you’d think Touré is somehow being disprortionately dissed, unless you’re trying to run in those circles, which your bio would seem to indicate. My suggestion is: Let things fall where they may, because it could turn out that certain hacks may become toxic, shortly. That would help create a vacuum of punditudiness which you could then step into.

      Sheth’s points aren’t even remotely off-base, much less off-point, which makes intellectually lazy obfuscation like yours a bit odd. Touré knows damn well what he’s doing and why–or at least he ought to. Do you?

      In any case, I’m not “intimately familiar” with anyone’s killing and yet I enjoy a fair amount of confidence in anyone calling out people like Touré or Wasserman-Schultz, simply because party hacks at that level simply invite it on occasion! It’s not “intimate details” that are nearly as important as the broader policy regime, which is in question here, not to mention the “Democratic Party” apparat which is engaged in whitewashing the policies, as you’ve tried to do here.

      There are times when making excuses for atrocities really doesn’t come off all that well. If you are a competent politico, you’ll learn that right quick.

    2. To Owen Truesdell:

      I refuse to make such a distinction–precisely because the ethical standard of due process precludes drone strikes upon any “suspected” terrorists.

      Why are you so certain about who the US intended to kill and whether they succeeded? The two links below points out the multiple excuses that the US gave regarding Abdulrahman’s death: That they got al-Banna, then that they didn’t. Then they claimed that Abdulrahman was 21 and of legal age to be a militant until his grandfather produced his birth certificate. Apparently, the Yemeni government never confirmed Abdulrahman’s death.

      See these two stories, one by Tom Junod and another by Kevin Gosztola.

      Regarding giving him a break: I’m taking Touré seriously by his own standards. And his own standards suggest that “journalists” in the US push back, challenge, and decline from spreading misinformation–otherwise they are “part of the problem.” Touré did not believe that his lack of information should preclude him from a spirited defense of “killing” those who attack us; even as he lectured Piers Morgan about how “American” journalists engage in vigorous “pushback” and research.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: