Dictator Coverage Dictated by U.S. Policy

Harper’s Ken Silverstein is again bucking the media that condemned him for actually investigating U.S. lobbyists for foreign dictatorships–this time contrasting (1/8/09) how, “if the U.S. government deems a country to be a hostile state, the American media will devote significant time and energy reporting on that country’s political and economic problems” with the fact that “if you’re on our side, and especially if you’re providing us with oil, you can get away with murder (literally)”:

Today’s Washington Post has yet another op-ed piece about the terrible human rights situation in Zimbabwe (“A Cancer Called Mugabe“). That follows up on an opinion piece last month from Richard Cohen of the Post, who essentially called for the United States to assassinate Mugabe with a predator drone. And shortly before that, on November 30, the Post ran a lengthy piece on Zimbabwe titled, “Land of Broken Trust; Though Widespread Brutality Has Ebbed in Zimbabwe, Political Violence Simmers and Threatens to Reignite.”

I did a Nexis search cross-referencing the words “Zimbabwe” and “human rights.” That search turned up 66 stories in the Washington Post, 122 stories in the New York Times, and 55 stories in the Los Angeles Times. I also did a search cross-referencing the words “Equatorial Guinea” and “human rights.” Equatorial Guinea is the small African state friendly to the United States, the third-largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa, and home to billions of dollars in American oil company investments. It’s led by regime even worse than Mugabe’s, but because it’s on our side the American media can’t be bothered covering the country.

Considering that “that second Nexis search turned up four stories in the Washington Post (none of which were actually about the human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea, but mentioned the country only in passing), and no stories at all in the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times,” Silverstein explains that this “means that in the last month alone, the Washington Post has written three more stories about the admittedly wretched state of affairs in Zimbabwe than have been written about the appalling human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea in the past year by America’s three leading newspapers.”