Jun 1 2008


The Imperial Credo

“The United States and its predominant economic, political and military power in the world have been the single greatest force for stability in the world such as it is now, certainly since the Second World War. If the outcome in Iraq were to destroy the credibility of American power, to destroy America’s willingness to use its power in the world to achieve good, to fight back against totalitarianism, authoritarianism, gross human rights abuses, it would be a very dark day.”

New York Times bureau chief John Burns (Charlie Rose, 4/9/08)

Official Enemy vs. Official Stats

Referring to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s nationalization of steel and cement companies, the New York Times editorial page wrote (4/24/08): “What is certain is that the country’s economy will suffer,” citing “bungled management” at state-owned companies and the danger of scaring away “much needed private investment.” “Even soaring oil prices aren’t helping,” the Times declared. Reality check: Last year, according to the CIA, Venezuela’s economy grew by 8.3 percent. By comparison, Mexico, which also benefits from high oil prices, but which has a conservative government that tends to follow U.S. economic advice, grew 3 percent-just a bit above population growth.

The Censorship of Michael O’Hanlon

Pro-war, pro-surge pundit Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution complained to the New York Times (3/24/08) that he “hardly receives Iraq interview requests anymore”: “I was getting on average three to five calls a day for interviews about the war…in the first years,” said O’Hanlon. “Now it’s less than one a day.” Thank goodness for CNN (3/29/08), which heard his complaint and immediately called the thinker and “invited him to tell us why voters continue to care about Iraq.” The blog ThinkProgress (3/31/08), meanwhile, pointed out that in a recent seven-month period, O’Hanlon published 13 op-eds in four of the U.S.’s most influential newspapers. It’s tough being so silenced.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Every year the American Society of Newspaper Editors releases figures on the proportion of newspaper journalists who are people of color, and each year the news is discouraging. Last year the percentage fell by a quarter of a point; this year it grew by less than one-tenth of 1 percent, to 13.52 percent, even as the actual number of journalists of color dropped; slightly more white journalists were laid off, though, leading to the tiny percentage uptick. Even that dubious step “forward” is only about half the growth rate of the proportion of the U.S. population that is non-white or Latino–so U.S. newsrooms, if they don’t pick up the pace dramatically, are actually becoming less representative every year.

The New Media Diversity

The New York Times noticed a trend that, if true, would indeed be worth celebrating. Under the headline “Like the Candidates, TV’s Political Pundits Show Signs of Diversity,” reporter Felicia Lee (4/2/08) told readers that cable news channels “have given new prominence to a handful of contributing commentators from varied backgrounds and perspectives: blacks, Hispanics and women.” The backgrounds may be varied, but the perspectives are less so: Of the 10 African-Americans, four are conservative or Republican strategists, and six are Democratic strategists or progressives–despite exit polls showing that black voters pick Democratic candidates over Republicans by a whopping average of 78 points. But two of the latter–Juan Williams of NPR and Fox, and Democratic Leadership Council head Harold Ford–are probably best described as centrist or conservative Democrats. The three Latino pundits are all Republicans or conservatives; two of the three female pundits named are on the right. In total, that’s nine conservative or Republican pundits vs. seven progressive or Democratic ones. Not counting Williams or Ford, conservatives outnumber progressives by 9-to-5. In other words, the alleged new media diversity leans to the right–much like the old homogeneity.

Why Spoil MLK Day With Poverty?

In a bizarre appearance on Anderson Cooper’s CNN show (4/4/08), guest David Gergen, after praising Sen. John McCain’s “courage” for renouncing his 1983 opposition to a Martin Luther King holiday, expressed disdain and confusion that Sen. Hillary Clinton mentioned poverty in remembering King. Gergen explained that he had hoped Clinton might “rise to the occasion and talk about how wonderful it is, 40 years later, that both an African-American and a woman are now competing in the way they are.” But instead, Gergen complained, she talked about how “she was going to put a poverty czar in the Cabinet, whatever that means, in what many, many will interpret as a clear pander to John Edwards.” Cooper failed to point out that Clinton may have mentioned poverty because it was a major concern of King’s, who was in the midst of organizing the Poor Peoples March on Washington when he was assassinated. But perhaps the two would have known better had the U.S. media spent even a little time over the last 40 years discussing the actual King, who fought racism, poverty and militarism, instead of the TV fantasy King, who Gergen seems to think would have exulted in the advanced state of race relations and social justice signified by the Obama and Clinton candidacies.