Aug 1 2005

Still Hiding the Bush Bulge

Spiking of story an “internal matter,” Pasadena paper says

Pasadena residents didn’t get to read about the exploits of local celebrity Dr. Robert Nelson, who, besides being a Jet Propulsion Lab photo analyst who helped present those dramatic photos of Saturn’s rings and moons, also gave the lie to White House claims that the bulge seen on Bush’s back during the presidential debates was “just a wrinkle.” They didn’t get to read Nelson’s account of how his photo analysis of Bush’s jacket—a story that would have increased speculation that the president was wearing a hearing device during the debates—almost made it into the New York Times before being killed […]

Aug 1 2005

The Military-Industrial-Media Complex

Why war is covered from the warriors’ perspective

After eight years in the White House, Dwight Eisenhower delivered his farewell address on January 17, 1961. The former general warned of “an immense military establishment and a large arms industry.” He added that “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” One way or another, a military-industrial complex now extends to much of corporate media. In the process, firms with military ties routinely advertise in news outlets. Often, media magnates and people on the boards of large media-related corporations enjoy close links—financial and social—with the military industry and Washington’s foreign-policy […]

Aug 1 2005

Where Have All the Bodies Gone?

As toll mounts, U.S. casualties are nearly invisible

Bodies of US contractors hang from a Fallujah bridge (photo: AP/ Khalid Mohammed)

In a week in June when 15 GIs were killed in Iraq (6/13-19/05), the war pictures in the New York Times (6/19/05, 6/20/05) featured dazed Iraqis after a suicide bombing, a Marine patrolling, the twisted remains of a vehicle, wounded children, a civilian casualty in a morgue. No photographs featured American casualties—a typical absence in U.S. coverage of the war. There are notable exceptions. One of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize photos for breaking news photographs awarded to the Associated Press showed a controversial image of the charred bodies of American contractors hanging from a bridge in Fallujah. Most of the […]

Aug 1 2005

Torturing Language

Definitions, defenses and dirty work

US prisoner threatened by dog at Abu Ghraib

In the past year and a half, the Bush administration has engaged in elaborate rhetorical gymnastics when addressing the use and authorization of torture by American forces and leaders. Under increasing fire for its conduct of the war in Iraq, the scandal of Abu Ghraib and the alarming implications of defenses such as the August 2002 Bybee memo (which stated that “physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death”), various administration spokespeople have publicly disavowed torture. At the same time, […]

Aug 1 2005

Does Size Really Matter?

Analyzing the press’s protest coverage

On March 19, the two-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, tens of thousands of people across the country, and still more worldwide, turned out to protest the ongoing war. The protests had multiple goals, but given the general numbing of the population to the war, one objective was undoubtedly to keep the fact that human beings are being killed on a daily basis in the forefront of the average American’s brain. Unfortunately, if coverage in leading newspaper and television outlets is any gauge, this goal remains largely unmet. The New York Times (3/20/05) teased its coverage on the front […]

Aug 1 2005

When the ‘Killers’ Do Most of the Dying

Rather than blaming Newsweek or the Pentagon, some commentators blamed Muslim protesters for being so upset about the reported mistreatment of the Quran. “From every part of the civilized world should have come denunciations of those who would react to the supposed destruction of a book with brutal threats and the slaughter of 17 innocent people,” wrote Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe (5/19/05). “But the chorus of condemnation was directed not at the killers and the fanatics who incited them, but at Newsweek.” “The rioters are the real enemy,” wrote David Brooks in the New York Times (5/19/05). “After […]

Aug 1 2005

Newsweek and the Real Rules of Journalism

Mistakes should be retracted—if the powerful are offended

Newsweek ran a sensational claim based on an anonymous source who turned out to be completely wrong. While one can’t blame the subsequent violence entirely on this report, it’s fair to say that credulous reporting like this contributed to a climate in which many innocent Muslims died. The inaccurate Newsweek report appeared in the magazine’s March 17, 2003 issue, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. It read in part: Saddam could decide to take Baghdad with him. One Arab intelligence officer interviewed by Newsweek spoke of “the green mushroom” over Baghdad—the modern-day caliph bidding a grotesque bio-chem farewell […]

Aug 1 2005

When ‘Old News’ Has Never Been Told

U.S. media produce excuses, not stories, on Downing Street Memo

Journalists typically condemn attempts to force their colleagues to disclose anonymous sources, saying that subpoenaing reporters will discourage efforts to expose government wrongdoing. But such warnings seem like self-puffery after one watches contemporary journalism in action: When clear evidence of wrongdoing emerges, with no anonymous sources required, major news outlets can still virtually ignore it. A leaked British government document that first appeared in a London newspaper (Sunday Times, 5/1/05) bluntly stated that U.S. intelligence on Iraq was shaped to support the drive for war. Though the information rocked British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s re-election campaign when it was exposed, […]