Extra! June 2012

    God Told Them to Lie

    The popular media theme that Iran “can’t be trusted” is often presented as being based on “intelligence” about the country. But sometimes pundits cut right to the chase, as Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (9/29/09) did when he wrote in 2009, “These Persians lie like a rug.” The New York Times (4/14/12) fancied that idea up just a bit in an April 14 piece by James Risen about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. “Seeking Nuclear Insight in Fog of the Ayatollah’s Utterances” was the headline, though for many, Khamenei has been very clear: He says Iran is not pursuing ...


    MSNBC MIA on Iran

    Getting independent, skeptical coverage of official claims about Iran—from its supposed nuclear weapons program (Extra!, 9-10/05, 1/12) to its alleged plans to launch terrorist attacks across the world (Extra!, 3/12)—is essential. One place you might expect to see more critical coverage is on supposedly left-leaning MSNBC. But when it comes to Iran, in what little coverage it offers the channel largely mirrors the Democratic Party line. For the most part, it was hard to find Iran on MSNBC. From January to April, two of MSNBC’s stars, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz, brought it up only 16 and 14 times, respectively. ...


    Being Transgender in American Media

    GENDER FOCUS Give the corporate media cookies for finally getting pronouns right when reporting on transgender people. That only took dozens of years. Now if we could curb the media fixation on genitalia, we might be really getting somewhere. Because when it comes to covering transgender issues, media are still asking all the wrong questions, and framing the stories in the most offensive ways. Let’s examine the media swarm around Miss Universe Canada contestant Jenna Talackova. In April, Talackova was ousted from the pageant because of her transgender identity, and then later reinstated. Sure, reporters and newscasters were practically bursting ...


    SoundBites

    Straight From the Horse’s Mouth Under the headline “Budget Plan’s Defeat Shows Hurdles to Compromise,” New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman (4/3/12) bemoaned the failure of a fiscal measure modeled on the media-beloved Bowles-Simpson plan (Extra!, 1/11), in which former Sen. Alan Simpson (R.-Wyo.) and Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles proposed Social Security cuts, tax cuts for the wealthy and an arbitrary cap on government spending. Weisman assured readers that Bowles-Simpson “is regarded by the Washington cognoscenti as the compromise both sides will have to eventually accept before the end of the year.” He backed that up with a ...


    U.S. Media Duck Legality of Attacking Iran

    SPECIAL SECTION: IRAN & WAR The drums of war beat ever louder as President Barack Obama talks of “all options” being “on the table” if Iran doesn’t halt its nuclear fuel processing program, and as Israel keeps threatening an air attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. But nowhere, perhaps, is this drumbeat louder than in the U.S. media, where it’s almost impossible to find any mention of the fact that such an attack, whether by U.S. or Israeli forces, would violate international law. An unprovoked attack against another nation is a war of aggression—“the supreme international crime,” as the Nuremberg Tribunal ...


    Lost in Translation

    The menacing threat has been repeated endlessly in U.S. corporate media in recent years: Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” “Iran,” “Israel” and “wipe” in one form or another occur together in more than 17,000 articles in the Nexis news database over the last seven years. It plays a critical role in the case for pre-emptive war against Iran. There’s just one problem: It never happened. Mideast expert and blogger Juan Cole (Informed Comment, 5/3/06) noted long ago that Iranian leaders never called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” but a ...


    New Media; but Familiar Lack of Diversity

    Recent years have seen much rallying around “traditional” journalism in the face of its supposedly imminent demise, including the mythologizing of pre-Internet news media as a force of social cohesion. Lamenting the “culture of observing events from ‘inside’ a community,” Washington Post columnist and associate editor David Ignatius (5/2/10) contended: When the information landscape was dominated by three networks and a few major newspapers, journalists were trained to report for everyone. Now, niche audiences want more intimacy and connection—even if that means less old-school independence and objectivity. Traditional outlets, of course, did not and do not report “for everyone,” but ...


    Think Tank Spectrum Revisited

    THINK TANK MONITOR After a two-year hiatus, the FAIR think tank survey is back. In our last survey, using 2008 data (FAIR.org, 9/3/09), overall think tank citations were in decline, and that decline was most noticeable among conservative think tanks. The results for 2011 are the opposite: a good year for the top 25 think tanks, particularly for those that lean to the right. Centrist think tanks still dominate at 47 percent, but their citations dropped 2 percentage points from 2010, while the proportion of conservative or center-right think tank mentions inched up from 31 to 33 percent, and progressive ...


    The Great British Mistake

    When the Conservative-led government in Britain announced a budget plan in 2010 based on dramatic austerity measures designed to lower that country’s budget deficit, the news was greeted by many U.S.-based pundits with enthusiasm: Finally, a major economy was going to apply the sort of medicine that Very Serious People agreed was needed. The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman (5/9/10) quoted Economist editor John Micklethwait as saying the British vote of 2010 was the first Western election “based on pain”—and it’s hard not to feel Friedman was taking pleasure in the London-based Financial Times’ declaration (4/26/10) that “the next government ...


    Network TV's Attention Deficit After Gadhafi

    Broadcast TV networks ABC, NBC and CBS combined to mention Libya a whopping 1,681 times between February 2011—when uprisings against the government began—and October, when Moammar Gadhafi was captured and killed by a combination of NATO and Libyan rebel forces. Before that, coverage of Libya was barely a blip. And by 2012, coverage was back to almost nothing. There were four mentions of Libya in January 2011—one of which was ABC anchor Diane Sawyer (ABC World News, 1/17/11) prophetically speculating about the “dominoes” falling and “toppling” Mubarak in Egypt, Gadhafi in Libya and Assad in Syria. The next month, coverage ...


    Extra! 2012 Letters Vol. 25, No. 6

    Craven on Daisey First, I usually enjoy reading every word of every issue. But, second, the editor’s note on Mike Daisey (Extra!, 5/12) is craven to a fault. 1. Judging Daisey by journalistic standards is like criticizing a left fielder for his tackling ability. The fundamental problem stems from whoever’s decision put him on the wrong field. 2. Daisey is a theatrical person and never represented himself as anything but. Nobody goes to the theater to watch the New York Times, although with the right background music and soft lighting it might be pleasant enough. 3. Theater tells a different ...