Extra! November/December 2001

    When the Victims Are Far Away

    It would be easy, and to some tempting, to say that it is America’s turn—that after years of American gloating over Islam’s attacks on Russia, that after the CIA’s goading of proxies like the Pakistanis to arm Islamic terrorists, that after the brutal destruction of Iraq in the war 10 years ago, it is well past time that America had her own Islamic extremist problem. It also might be true. This month’s attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon seem most of all the harvest of an American-sown whirlwind. Repellent words—no doubt written by some perverse leftist with a ...


    Study of NPR's Coverage of Deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    FAIR's study examined the January through June 2001 transcripts of NPR's four main news programs—Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Weekend All Things Considered—as found on the Nexis news database. To identify references to fatal Israeli and Palestinian attacks, FAIR searched for transcripts containing keywords such as death, died, killed, fatal, etc., as well as the words Israel, Israeli, Palestinian or Palestine. In examining transcripts containing these keywords, FAIR eliminated false positives (e.g., "the death of the Middle East peace process"), identifying only those scripts containing at least one report of a specific fatal attack against Israelis or ...


    Covering the 'Fifth Column'

    "These seem to be lonely days for the Birkenstock-and-beads set," reported Newsweek magazine (10/1/01). It's certainly true that anti-war activists, the apparent target of Newsweek's disdain, might have felt lonely--if they were counting on visits from mainstream news reporters. In place of consistent coverage of the peace movement, some pundits and columnists sounded the alarm about the threat to America from within. New Republic editor Peter Beinart (9/24/01) thought critics of administration plans should either keep quiet or explain their loyalties: "Domestic political dissent is immoral without a prior statement of national solidarity, a choosing of sides." New Republic columnist ...


    As If Reality Wasn't Bad Enough

    In a national emergency like the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the first thing required from the news media is accurate information. Unfortunately, TV journalists too often delivered misinformation instead. One who did so repeatedly was CBS News' Dan Rather. "Let me pause and say that a car bomb has exploded outside the State Department in Washington," Rather told his audience on September 11. He repeated: "Now a car bomb has exploded outside the State Department in Washington. No further details available on that." He reported this car bomb explosion as fact at least three further ...


    The Op-Ed Echo Chamber

    "When op-ed pages first became the rage some 25 years ago, they were supposed to be places for nontraditional voices to be heard." -- Allan Wolper, Editor & Publisher ethics columnist (5/29/99) Whether the mainstream daily op-ed page was ever a true forum for debate or for "nontraditional voices" is questionable. But during the weeks following September's terrorist attacks, two leading dailies mostly used these pages as an echo chamber for the government's official policy of military response, while mostly ignoring dissenters and policy critics. A FAIR survey of the New York Times and the Washington Post op-ed pages for ...


    Are You a Terrorist?

    On October 26, George Bush signed into law “anti-terrorism” legislation that seriously eroded civil liberties in the United States. Law enforcement’s power to conduct surveillance and secret searches has been vastly increased, legal immigrants may now be indefinitely detained, and the CIA has been authorized to resume spying on Americans. In true Orwellian style, the bill is called the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001--for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. Among the sweeping changes implemented by the bill is the introduction of the broadly-defined crime of “domestic terrorism.” Domestic terrorism is now ...


    'We Think the Price Is Worth It'

    Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it? Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it. --60 Minutes (5/12/96) Then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's quote, calmly asserting that U.S. policy objectives were worth the sacrifice of half a million Arab children, has been much quoted in the Arabic press. It's also been cited in the United States in alternative commentary ...


    'This Isn't Discrimination, This Is Necessary'

    Since September 11, there have been at least three bias-related murders and reports from around the country of assaults and harassment targeting Arab- and Muslim-Americans. Homes, businesses, mosques and Muslim schools have been vandalized, children tormented, and students harassed on college campuses. Media have reported many of these assaults (e.g., USA Today, 9/20/01; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/4/01) and denounced them as what Tom Brokaw (NBC Nightly News, 9/20/01) called "one of the ugliest legacies of this crisis." "It's insanity to burden an entire people with the label terrorist," the New York Times pointed out (9/23/01), while a Long Island Newsday ...


    The Illusion of Balance

    National Public Radio's coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has been the target of criticism from all sides, especially since the start of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000. One common complaint from both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian critics is that NPR and other outlets downplay or ignore acts of violence by the "other side." For example, a press release (8/12/01) from CAMERA, a conservative pro-Israel media watch group, accused NPR of skimming over the killing of a Jewish settler in a news report that focused on the funeral of a Palestinian Hamas activist killed by Israeli security forces. Similarly, Arab-American media ...


    The New Blacklist

    As rescue workers tirelessly searched the rubble of the Pentagon and World Trade Center, one casualty went unnoticed: a nation's freedom of speech. In later years, September 11 may also come to be seen as the day the music died. In the wake of the tragedy, the doorway is open for opponents of free speech to trample dissident voices and narrow the parameters of what can be discussed in art and music. In the days following the terrorist attack, the media monopoly that is Clear Channel walked through this doorway. Clear Channel is a multi-tentacled corporation that owns over a ...


    Patriotism & Censorship

    War fever in the wake of the September 11 attacks has led to a wave of self-censorship as well as government pressure on the media. With American flags adorning networks' on-screen logos, journalists are feeling rising pressure to exercise "patriotic" news judgment, while even mild criticism of the military, George W. Bush and U.S. foreign policy are coming to seem taboo. On September 17, Bill Maher, host of ABC’s Politically Incorrect, took issue with Bush's characterization of the hijackers as "cowards," saying that the label could more plausibly be applied to the U.S. military’s long-range cruise missile attacks than to ...


    Network of Insiders

    The crisis of September 11 touched on issues from Middle Eastern politics to skyscraper architecture, Islamic theology to the threat of unconventional weapons. It was a story, in other words, that most ordinary Americans could not easily interpret without help. FAIR has conducted a study to find out which experts the three major television news outlets--NBC, ABC and CBS--sought out to help explain these and other issues in the days following the September 11 attacks. A total of 189 expert guests were invited by the networks to appear in on-camera interview segments during the period from September 12 to September ...


    Patriotic Shopping

    A number of pundits and politicians offered Americans a simple solution to the helplessness and anxiety they were feeling in the wake of the September 11 attacks: Go shopping! Vice President Dick Cheney (L.A. Times, 9/17/01) described it as a way for ordinary citizens to "stick their thumbs in the eye of the terrorists and say that they've got great confidence in the country." Some outlets broadcast such calls virtually unquestioned. "Americans need to go out and spend. That's the message," said NBC's Tom Brokaw (9/24/01), introducing a report from Anne Thompson that concluded, "American companies waving the red, white ...


    Even Fewer Voices?

    Just two days after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the FCC moved to eliminate some of the last remaining restraints on media concentration. With all eyes elsewhere, the FCC voted unanimously to "review" regulations that limit the percentage of the national audience that a single cable company can reach, and that prohibit the same company from owning both a newspaper and a TV station in the same broadcasting market. FCC chair Michael Powell has made no secret of his desire to abandon any substantive public interest restrictions on the growth and dominance of ...



Articles in the print edition

WWF vs. CNN

A Missing Voice at the Washington Post