Extra! March 2013
If It Weren’t for Those Meddling Iranians
“This demonstrates the ever pernicious Iranian meddling in other countries in the region.”
—unnamed U.S. official complaining to Reuters (1/28/13) about Iran allegedly sending arms to Yemen, where the U.S. is conducting a secret drone war
Extreme Weather, Unexplained
NBC Nightly News (1/13/13) asked a serious question, then offered an unserious answer. Anchor Lester Holt remarked: “Strange winter: Why it is so cold where it should be warm, and so warm where it should be cold. What is going on with all this extreme weather?” Correspondent Kristen Dahlgren turned to the Weather Channel’s Greg Postel, who explained that there was “a very strong dip in the jet stream [that] has placed itself over the western part of the country, and that’s allowed some very cold air from Canada to move southward.”
NBC could have gone on to explain, as the blog ClimateSight (12/19/12) did, that disruptions in the jet stream’s path are linked to climate change. It cited a study (Geophysical Research Letters, 3/12) finding “that Arctic amplification—the faster rate at which the Arctic warms, compared to the rest of the world—makes the jet stream slower and wavier”—increasing the chances of long-lasting cold or hot spells.
But NBC didn’t mention climate change at all in its discussion of extreme weather. Instead, Dahlgren concluded, “Talk about upside-down weather.”
The New York Post, which has a history of baselessly smearing Occupy Wall Street (FAIR Blog, 7/12/12), is at it again (12/31/12), describing a man arrested for allegedly having a weapons cache in his Manhattan apartment as a “Harvard grad and Occupy Wall Street activist.” No one associated with Occupy seems to ever have heard of Aaron Greene, but that didn’t stop CBS This Morning (1/2/13) from reporting the unsourced allegation: “The New York Post reported Greene was a member of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but the group has denied this.”
That was followed by a soundbite from former NYPD intelligence director Mitchell Silber, who spun out this scenario:
The assumption is that the vast majority of the people there were peaceful protesters, but there was a more radical fringe element to the group, and there was a concern that at some point they might turn to violence if they weren’t accomplishing their political aims.
Thus an unsubstantiated claim by a partisan news outlet becomes an opportunity for fact-free fantasies about the violent tendencies of a peaceful protest movement.
Suspect Success Story
“The most troubled nations, including Spain, have slashed wage costs and overhauled labor and social rules in an effort to become more competitive,” wrote the Washington Post’s Howard Schneider (1/16/13), in a report on Eurozone economic policies. “There is mounting pressure on France to do the same—or risk falling behind in Europe’s struggle for economic revival.”
France’s economy is not doing particularly well; it’s got an unemployment rate of 9.8 percent and had estimated GDP growth of just 0.1 percent last year, according to the CIA World Factbook. But Spain is doing far worse, with 24.9 percent unemployment and negative 1.5 percent growth last year.
Who, then, would hold up Spain as model for France? Only someone, like Schneider, who objected ideologically to the fact that “France’s socialist government raised taxes on the wealthy and threatened to nationalize a steel plant last year.”
Rapidly Rising Wreckage
The Washington Post editorial page (1/5/13) took a swipe at the gravely ill Hugo Chávez: “Venezuelans are bracing themselves for the death of the caudillo who has ruled them—and wrecked their once-prosperous country—over the past 13 years.” The Post has never let facts stand in the way of their hatred of Chávez, but readers should be aware that Venezuela’s per capita GDP has risen 59 percent since he was first elected in 1999.
As economist Mark Weisbrot (NYTimes.com, 1/4/13) explained, Chávez and his party are popular “mainly because they greatly improved the living standards of the majority of voters…. Since 2004, after the economy recovered from the devastating opposition oil strike, poverty has been cut by half and extreme poverty by more than 70 percent.”
The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson (1/28/13) had a take similar to the Post’s, describing Venezuelans as “the victims of their affection for a charismatic man, whom they allowed to become the central character on the Venezuelan stage, at the expense of everything else.” “Everything” apparently doesn’t include a rapidly rising standard of living.
Occupiers? We Meant Homemakers
When demonstrators set up tents to protest Israeli plans to build new colonies on Palestinian land, the New York Times (1/12/13) at first reported it with an accurate headline: “Palestinians Set Up Camp in Israeli-Occupied West Bank Territory.”
Too accurate, apparently, because at some point the paper changed the headline to give Israel’s action a warmer and fuzzier spin: “Palestinians Set Up Tents Where Israel Plans Homes.”
And Now, a Word From Our Subject
PBS’s Nova (1/23/13) aired an episode called “Rise of the Drones”—a mostly upbeat look at “the amazing technologies that make drones so powerful” and are surveillance “propelling us toward a new chapter in aviation history.” What viewers weren’t told was that one of the corporations that helped fund the broadcast, aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, is also a major manufacturer of drones used in warfare and surveillance, including the Desert Hawk, the Fury and the Stalker. That drone captured by Iran that Nova discussed? That was one of Lockheed’s.
PBS supposedly has a clear rule against this sort of thing: “When there exists a clear and direct connection between the interests or products or services of a proposed funder and the subject matter of the program, the proposed funding will be deemed unacceptable.” But when it comes to taking money from corporations with an interest in programming, rules at PBS were made to be broken (FAIR Action Alert, 7/12/10).