Jul
01
2011

Soundbites

Bin Laden Raid, Revisited and Revised

It didn’t take long for the White House account of Osama bin Laden’s killing (see p. 8) to be almost completely revised—under creative headlines like the New York Times’ (5/6/11) “Raid Account, Hastily Told, Proves Fluid.” The Times included this quote from a military official: “There has never been any intent to deceive or dramatize.... Everything we put out we really believed to be true at the time”—followed by a note that the official asked “that he not be named because of ground rules imposed by the Department of Defense.” We never lied or exaggerated—but don’t say you heard it from me.

Former CNN Pentagon reporter Jamie McIntyre commented on CNN’s Reliable Sources (3/8/11): “This was an avoidable misstep, because anyone who has covered the military for any period of time, or anyone who is briefed on military operations knows that initial details on an operation are almost always wrong.” Good to know—maybe military reporters should mention that when they’re reporting the initial details of an operation.

‘Complicating’ in the Sense of ‘Simplifying’

Sometimes you need a decoder ring to understand establishment journalism. Take this Washington Post report (5/10/11) by Aaron Davis: “The U.S.’s pleas for Iraq’s government to decide ‘within weeks’ whether American troops should stay beyond a year-end deadline to leave will not be met, Iraqi politicians say, complicating plans for the U.S. military withdrawal.” In other words, if Iraq doesn’t allow the U.S. to stay longer than agreed, that will “complicate” plans for withdrawal by forcing the U.S. to stick to them.

Gingrich Dodges the ‘Intellectual’ Bullet

Washington Post reporter Dan Balz (5/12/11), reporting on Newt Gingrich’s announcement of his

presidential bid, called the former House speaker “an idea-spewing machine,” a “one-man think tank” and “someone who has remained in the forefront of the public policy debate over a span of decades” with his “devotion to the intersection of ideas and politics.” Gingrich, Balz declared, has “kept himself in the middle of public policy debates on healthcare, education, energy and foreign affairs.” The reporter warned of one pitfall: “A keen intellect can also translate into the appearance of intellectual superiority.”

Luckily for Gingrich, an editorial in the same day’s New York Times (5/12/11) provided him with some cover on the “intellectual superiority” issue, reminding readers that Gingrich had called for a federal law to stop the imaginary Sharia takeover of the U.S. legal system, warned against Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior,” suggested that opening an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan was akin to “putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum,” charged that gay rights advocates seek to impose a “gay secular fascism” and declared that the Democratic “secular-socialist machine” elected in 2008 represented “as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.”

And Now, a Word for Our Sponsor

When Newt Gingrich appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press (5/15/11), he told anchor David Gregory that the National Labor Relations Board “is basically breaking the law to try to punish Boeing and to threaten every right-to-work state.” As labor reporter Mike Elk pointed out in In These Times (5/16/11), the NLRB’s case against Boeing, which announced it was relocating some production from

Seattle to South Carolina in response to union activity, is entirely consistent with legal precedent. Elk also noted that while Gregory challenged Gingrich on details of his personal life, he failed to question his false assertion about Boeing—a company that happens to be one of Meet the Press’s major sponsors.

Cheering—and Censoring—for St. John Paul

Under the headline “John Paul II’s Beatification Cheered,” USA Today (5/2/11) ran 19 paragraphs of cheerleading for the late pope’s expedited sainthood process. The event was “a wonderful opportunity to recognize a great man,” John Paul was “a man of God who inspired countless people” with “the strength of a titan, a strength which came to him from God,” according to various sources. The only hint of dissent came in the last two paragraphs, when a priest called John Paul “great,” “sincere” and “well-loved,” but said the beatification events were a “pure public relations move aimed at revitalizing the church’s fortunes at a difficult time,” which the paper explained was a reference to the long-running sex abuse scandals involving Catholic priests.

Some of the info left out of USA Today’s hagiography was published in the London Times (4/4/10), which noted that John Paul blocked an investigation into Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, a personal friend of the pope who abused an estimated 2,000 boys. John Paul was also accused of protecting Polish archbishop Juliusz Paetz, who abused trainee priests; ignoring charges that Wisconsin priest Father Lawrence Murphy had molested 200 deaf school boys; and shielding his friend, Father Marcial Maciel, whom the pope blessed even as he was being investigated for molestation.

Superheroes, or BETTER Than Superheroes?

‘You know, we keep comparing them to superheroes, but they’re different from superheroes in a very important way. They’re subtle. They’re known for their reserved, unassuming nature. So, they carry out missions with calm. Now, Diane, why? Well, one big reason is so that the enemy does not know what it’s up against until it’s too late.’ —ABC’s Chris Cuomo on Navy SEALs (World News, 5/3/11)