After the crash of a U.S. Army reconnaissance plane in July 1999 that killed seven people (including five U.S. military personnel), the question of U.S. involvement in Colombia re-emerged on the media radar screen. Journalists wondered whether "the U.S. could wind up in a fight it doesn’t want" (NBC Nightly News, 1/16/00), with many reporters acknowledging a certain inattention to the story: "It may not be widely known, but the United States is already engaged in the Colombian civil war," NPR reported (7/26/99). Early in 2000, Congressional debate has centered on a two-year, $1.7 billion aid package for the Latin […]
Media are leading the U.S. into a civil war in the name of the
Affordable Medicine for Africans Is Dangerous
On July 8, ABC's World News Tonight aired two stories on the subject of treating AIDS in African countries. ABC's conclusion: It's better for poor Africans to die than to have access to cheap AIDS drugs. The South African government is currently in a trade dispute with the United States over this issue: South Africa, which is in the midst of an AIDS epidemic, claims the right to license local pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce cheap generic versions of AIDS drugs that would otherwise be unaffordable for poor South Africans. The U.S. has taken the side of American pharmaceutical companies, who […]
Are editors following Contra tradition?
Time magazine's May 17 issue ran a feature on the funding of the Kosovo Liberation Army, titled "A Fighting Chance," suggesting that the KLA is sustained by donations from ethnic Albanians outside of Kosovo. The article reports that the Republic of Kosova Fund holds "more than $33 million" in a bank in Albania, yet in a graphic titled "How the KLA Gets Its Money," Time cheerfully reports that the KLA gets its money from "fund raisers, mailings and other sources." What "other sources"? Bake sales? Time doesn't say. Fortunately, there has been some investigation into the question. The London Times […]
Abuse of women in prison doesn't "set off" media
When the Supreme Court upheld a judge's decision to cut by more than half the suggested prison sentences of the police officers who beat Rodney King (to 30 months), there was no media outcry calling the justices, or the public, "soft" on cops who commit crimes. Yet when a Cambridge judge decided to let Louise Woodward go free on time served, the same media that had blanketed the nation with emotive reporting on the British au pear lashed back at the public. "There's just something about a woman behind bars that sets people off," suggested Laura Mansnerus in a front-page […]
In August, 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published its "Dark Alliance" series by reporter Gary Webb, revealing the links between the CIA-backed Nicaraguan contras and crack cocaine trafficking in the U.S. The series became a national controversy after wide transmission on the Internet and in independent and black-oriented news media--followed by a savage backlash against the series by national dailies like the New York Times and Washington Post that had spent years downplaying or distorting evidence of the contra-cocaine link (See "Snow Job," Extra!, 1-2/97). On May 11, 1997, as if displaying the white flag of surrender, Mercury News […]
Why Are Media Enlisting in the Government's Crusade Against Marijuana?
As America’s officially ignored death toll from overdoses of heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs and alcohol mixed with dope took another huge jump in 1995 (taking 10,000 lives, up 65 percent since 1992), America’s media raged with the threat to the republic posed by . . . sick people smoking marijuana to relieve pain. And ABC News teamed up in March with the private Partnership for a Drug-Free America to push a month-long "March Against Drugs," including hourly ads, numerous specials, and "Straight Talk About Drugs" appended to its evening news with a heavy focus on teenage marijuana use. Newsweek (11/25/96) […]
The wave of crack addiction that crippled inner-city neighborhoods across the country in the '80s had its roots in the CIA's efforts to fund the secret contra war against Nicaragua, according to an investigative report by the San Jose Mercury News' Gary Webb (8/18-20/96). The story of the year? Not according to the New York Times, which has so far ignored the Mercury News' well-documented revelations. The major TV networks gave it no coverage. A few dailies prominently reprinted Webb's work (like the Seattle Times, 8/22/96), or ran an Associated Press account summarizing his findings (e.g., Chicago Tribune, 8/21/96). But […]
Media, Drugs, and Public Opinion
Solid lines: number of stories per month in New York Times index on drug abuse, addiction, and traffickingDiamonds, dashed lines: percentage of U.S. public saying drugs are "the most important problem facing this country today"Circles, dotted lines: percentage of high school seniors who say they have used any illicit drugs in the past 12 months The New York Times/CBS News poll records two periods during the last decade when public concern about drugs suddenly skyrocketed. In spring 1986, when the media "discovered" crack, the percentage of the public identifying" drugs" as "the No. 1 problem facing the nation" climbed from […]