That a majority of people living on the island of Okinawa want the U.S. Marines gone seems a well-established fact. A plan to build a new airfield on a different part of the island in the town of Henoko is even more unpopular. One recent poll found 84 percent opposition to the new base.
And yet the New York Times tells readers today that it knows better. The headline alone over the piece by Martin Fackler tells youthat those polls–not to mention the massive demonstrations against the base–shouldn't be believed: "Amid Image of Ire Toward U.S. Bases, Okinawans' True Views Vary."
Unsurprisingly, the "true views" are apparently supportive of U.S. bases. As Fackler puts it, just "wander up Henoko's narrow streets, and the villagers will tell you a different story." The Times explains that if you "look more deeply and a nuanced picture emerges," one that apparently supports the base and the U.S. military presence.
What of the polls that overwhelmingly say otherwise? The Times gets around to citing one of those 80 percent polls, only to turn around and say: "But look across Okinawa's divided political spectrum and the depth of that opposition varies."
Why put so much effort into trying to tell readers that the facts are not what they seem? It's frankly hard to understand this one. But it can't be said that this is a new problem for the Times–as FAIR pointed out (11/29/10):
A New York Times piece (11/29/10) on the re-election of Okinawa's governor, who opposes the U.S. military base there, treated the views of the island's residents as an annoyance–describing their resistance variously as a "wrench," a "thorn" and a "headache." The paper seemed to share the stance of the Japanese national government, which described the re-election as "one manifestation of public opinion"–and perhaps elections are not so important a manifestation, if they give the wrong results.
UPDATE: The New York Times' dismissal of polling data from Okinawa is very similar to its treatment of polling in Iraq–see Extra!: "As Usual, NYT Ignores Iraqi Opinion: Anecdotes Trump Polls on Withdrawal" (11-12/08) by Dahr Jamail.