Apr 1 2005


Curiouser and Curiouser

“Once one side of an ideological conflict has seized control of a word, it no longer has a meaning of its own; opting for one or the other would be a declaration that doesn’t belong in the news reports.”

New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent (3/6/05), explaining why the Times should use “private” and “personal” interchangeably in the Social Security debate

“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'”

–Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Centrist Fantasies

Making the tired argument that if the press is attacked by both left and right, it must be doing a pretty good job, Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank (3/20/05) points to a study suggesting that Fox News viewers are particularly misinformed about the Iraq War (PIPA, 10/2/03), then asserts that the left has similar “fantasies that they consider fact”–such as the notion that “Bush…was coached during one of the presidential debates via a transmitter between his shoulder blades.” Apparently all those who thought they saw a device clearly visible under Bush’s jacket on the cover of the January/February issue of Extra! were suffering from a mass hallucination.

Crazy Like on Fox

Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian reporter who was released by Iraqi kidnappers only to be shot by U.S. soldiers, didn’t get much sympathy from syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. “I mean, she is lucky that she wasn’t shot as a collaborator,” he declared on Fox News‘s Special Report with Brit Hume (3/7/05), referring to her supposedly “communist” and anti-occupation views. Sgrena maintained after her ordeal that the checkpoint soldiers had shot at her deliberately (wounding her and killing one of her Italian rescuers)–a notion that Krauthammer thought was patently absurd, even though he had a moment earlier suggested that shooting her would be appropriate: “But of course she would think she was, because that’s how a communist would think and act.” A “communist” would think that someone like Sgrena ought to be shot–would, in other words, agree with Krauthammer. “And it’s the paranoia of communists,” said Krauthammer, a psychiatrist by training. If paranoia is the delusion of being persecuted, what do you call the delusion that someone ought to be persecuted?

Calm for Whom?

After a suicide bomber struck outside a club in Tel Aviv, the Los Angeles Times (2/26/05) announced on its front page, “Attacks Shatter Calm in Mideast.” The Times claimed in the article’s lead paragraph that the attack “shattered a months-long period of relative calm.” The piece later noted that Israelis had been “comforted by four months of calm”—which covered the amount of time since the last suicide bombing against them took place. But during that period, as Alison Weir pointed out on Counterpunch.org (2/26/05), 170 Palestinian men, women and children were killed by Israeli forces and 379 injured. Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes also continued during those four months of “relative calm.”

Doubleplusgood TV

An article from USA Today (3/8/05), “Hollywood, Pentagon Share Rich Past,” about media allowing military, intelligence and other government agencies to shape scripts for entertainment programs, not only seemed unconcerned about the dangers of TV shows being turned into state propaganda, it was a good example of propaganda itself–from the boosterish headline to the pollyanna caption: “The entertainment industry works with the government to make story lines for shows such as Alias even better.” Bizarrely, the article cited the FBI’s entertainment office as a positive example that has helped “ensure agents were portrayed accurately” since the 1930s–when it actually helped present a whitewashed image of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI as it spied on dissidents, undermined the civil rights movement and ignored organized crime (Jeff Cohen, L.A. Times, 10/8/01).

Affirmative Reaction

“We’ve got to quit hiring all these black people…. You shouldn’t hire old black guys. These guys don’t listen, they have attitudes and you can’t control them.”

–attributed to Kevin O’Brien, who ran 13 TV stations for the Meredith Corporation before being fired for blatant and persistent racism (AP, 3/10/05)

Bankrupt Media

In early March, Congress passed sweeping new bankruptcy laws that are much harder on debtors and much friendlier to the banking and credit card industries. But this important legislation got relatively little press attention until the debate was virtually over; the network news hardly touched the story until March 9, when the new rules had already passed in the House and were about to clear the Senate. It was then that ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings declared it a “very big story”–raising the question of why this big story had gotten such small play until it was too late for the public to do anything about it.