Jan 1 2002

It’s Not Just the Veil

Media need to look deeper at women's role in Afghanistan

There was a moment in the war against Afghanistan when the Bush administration appeared to care about nothing so much as women’s liberation. Out came first lady Laura Bush to talk to the nation about the matter. On November 16, she became what her publicists cheered was “the first first lady to deliver an entire presi­dential radio address” when she denounced the “severe repression against women of Afghanistan.” Laura Bush’s speech was coordi­nated with the release of a State Department report that condemned conditions for women and children under the Taliban and the Al Qaeda terror network. “The fight against […]

Jan 1 2002

See No Evil

PR war, not death toll, is nightly news' focus

How many civilians have been killed in Afghanistan since the start of U.S.-led bombing? It’s an admittedly difficult question to answer, but many U.S. media outlets don’t even seem to be trying. None of the major networks’ nightly newscasts are offering even rough estimates of the overall number of civilians killed. It may be some time before a full accounting of the civilian toll from the U.S.-led bombing in Afghanistan is possible, but relief agencies and a few noteworthy news stories do provide information about the scale of the devastation. As a “conservative” estimate, Doctors Without Borders reports that civilian […]

Jan 1 2002

Heritage’s Gift Horse

What will foundation gain from training the media?

Reporters on assignment in Washington who need telephone access and email services need look no further than the Media Visitors Center. Location: the Heritage Foundation. The conservative foundation’s Center for Media and Public Policy also offers journalists free training in computer-assisted research and reporting and hosts regular seminars featuring policy experts on national issues. It is quite open about its mission “to bridge this chasm between conservatives and the media by encouraging a productive dialogue instead of confrontation.” “Most journalists I know are liberal and there is a feeling that conservatives like to use the media as punching bags,” says […]

Jan 1 2002

Pro-Pain Pundits

Torture advocates defy U.S., international law


After suggesting in a November 5 column that the U.S. consider subjecting terror suspects to torture, Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter is trying to change his story. Responding to a critical letter to the editor in Newsweek‘s November 19 issue, Alter claimed, “At both the beginning and the end of my column, I wrote that I oppose legalizing physical torture.” Alter’s column did say that legalizing physical torture wouldn’t work in the U.S. Instead, he suggested we consider using “legal” forms of psychological torture at home, while “transferring some suspects to our less squeamish allies.” In other words, send them overseas for […]

Jan 1 2002

Fox at the Front

Will Geraldo set the tone for future war coverage?

Just as the Gulf War marked an important milestone in the evolution of CNN, the war in Afghanistan appears to be a defining event for Fox News Channel. Fox may reshape the way wars are covered with its aggressive cheerleading for the U.S. armed forces and their allies, and its hostile, even insulting portrayal of their opponents–who have been described by Fox personnel as “rats,” “terror goons” and “psycho Arabs.” Fox’s management seems to lampoon traditional notions of journalistic impartiality. “We don’t sit around and get all gooey and wonder if these people have been misunderstood in their childhood,” Fox […]

Jan 1 2002

Forgotten Coverage of Afghan ‘Freedom Fighters’

The villains of today's news were heroes in the '80s

The current war in Afghanistan is increasingly presented as a war for the human rights of the Afghan people, to liberate them from their oppressive Taliban rulers. The Taliban’s severely regressive policies toward women have received particular attention, with even First Lady Laura Bush issuing condemnations of this repression. And the press has overwhelmingly followed suit, portraying the war as an ideological struggle against the evils of Islamic extremism. But the U.S. government and the American press have not always opposed Afghan extremists. During the 1980s, the Mujahiddin guerrilla groups battling Soviet occupation had key features in common with the […]

Jan 1 2002

Who Won the Election? Who Cares?

Florida recount consortium muffles results of months of efforts

On November 7, 2001, a reader of the political website MakeThemAccountable.com made a series of predictions about how the news media would cover a long anticipated review of uncounted Florida ballots from the 2000 presidential election: The data will show that Gore won, but the article will be written to obscure that fact…. The headline will proclaim that Bush definitively won. The headline will be on page one…. The rest of the article, which will describe, albeit opaquely, that Gore really won, will be on [the jump]. That’s pretty much what happened. The study, dubbed a “double check on democracy” […]

Jan 1 2002

Covering the Horserace, Not the Track

The press shortchanges electoral reform

In November 2000, thousands of journalists and the attention of the nation converged on Florida during the chaotic ballot recount to decide the presidential election. The horserace had come to a photo finish, and every element of that fuzzy snapshot was scrutinized, including the muddy track on which the race was run. Of course Florida’s problems with voting were nothing new, and some states had even worse conditions. A study by MIT and Caltech, in fact, estimated that as many as 6 million Americans did not cast votes in the presidential race in 2000 because of faulty machines and registration […]