May 1 1999

On Guatemala, ‘The Press Has Blood on Its Hands’

An interview with Allan Nairn

Allan Nairn--Photo Credit: Democracy Now!

More than 200,000 Guatemalan civilians were killed or disap­peared during 36 years of civil war ending in 1996, according to a report from the Guatemalan Historical Clarification Commission released in February. The nine-volume, 3,500-page report found that U.S. assistance was a key factor in human rights violations during the armed conflict. Yet Guatemala’s human rights ordeal has been almost invisible in U.S. press coverage. FAIR’S CounterSpin (3/4/99) talked about press coverage of the report and of Guatemala with Allan Nairn, who reported extensively from that country in the early 1980s—a period, according to the report, when the Guatemalan government was […]

May 1 1999

The Phantom Menace

Space Weapons Aren't on Media Radar

The U.S. military’s plans to “control space” and the Earth below by placing weapons in orbit are explicit and extreme–and go unreported by mainstream media. What reporting is done on space military policy is restricted to the spin that only “missile defense” is involved. “U.S. Space Command–dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect U.S. interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict,” trumpets the 1998 report Vision For 2020. The slickly produced publication lays out those words to resemble the crawl at the start of the Star Wars movies, but it […]

May 1 1999

Only ‘Elegant’ Victims Need Apply

John Tierney, a columnist for the New York Times Metro section with an almost religious devotion to spreading the free market gospel, isn’t too impressed with complaints of police brutality made by black and Latino youth. Even when police firing 41 bullets killed an unarmed African immigrant, Amadou Diallo, as he tried to enter his own apartment building, it didn’t faze Tierney. After all, he argued in a February 18 column, the police could be ignoring crime in minority neighborhoods altogether. “The protesters already demanding jail terms for the officers who shot Mr. Diallo might consider who will be hurt […]

May 1 1999

TV on Social Security: It’s Broke, Fix It

A 13-month survey of network news coverage

If you’ve been watching the network news over the last year or two, you know that Social Security’s going broke and the only choices facing us are to cut benefits, raise taxes, push back the retirement age, or throw the system onto the mercies of the stock market. An Extra! review of more than a year’s worth of transcripts from the three major network’s nightly newscasts shows a remarkable unity of views on this issue, with the possibility that the system isn’t going broke never being entertained. The message of this remarkably one-dimensional coverage is that “historic action,” to quote […]

May 1 1999

The Derailing of Social Security

How Cato and Heritage paved the way for privatization

For many years, Social Security was supposed to be the third rail of American politics–not to be touched by officials who valued their political lives. This unique power resulted from an irresistible combination of affection and clout: Social Security was appreciated as the most successful anti-poverty program in America, and its clout came from the millions of voters from all walks of life who received checks every month, without fail. But by late 1998 it was beginning to look like the 63-year-old program was facing forced retirement, and would be rejected for a younger, sexier model. Two conservative think tanks, […]

May 1 1999

Social Security Coverage: By the Numbers

To see who informs major network news discussions of Social Security reform, FAIR searched the Lexis/Nexis database for ABC, NBC and CBS evening news stories on the subject between January 1, 1998 and February 1, 1999. We identified all sources who appeared and spoke on screen, and classified them by whom they represented and what positions they took on privatization of Social Security. The results reveal strong representation by the usual players in the debate–government officials and advocates of stock-market investment–while senior-citizen groups and those with misgivings about privatization were virtually invisible. No representative of organized labor appeared over the […]

May 1 1999

Can We Get Back to the Sex?

When the press gets serious, that’s when it’s time to worry

The pundits prayed for the long national nightmare to end, and free them to enlighten us on serious business like shoring up Social Security. They said the public had it up to here with tawdry scandal, that we craved nothing more than closure. But the vote of closure came at the start of Sweeps Month; what we got was more Monica and Jane Doe No.5 or, in extremis, JonBenet. And during the commercial breaks…Bob Dole, peddling Viagra. It must have occurred to many that this man came very close to becoming our president. Considering his avowed erectile dysfunction, that might […]

May 1 1999

East Timor on the Wires

AP, Reuters transmit Indonesia's official version

When the Indonesian government announced in January that it would consider cutting East Timor loose if people there refused its autonomy proposal, reports started surfacing that tensions between pro-Indonesia and pro-independence East Timorese had reached a critical point. Reuters wrote (3/10/99): “President B.J. Habibie…startled the world by suggesting independence as a ‘second option’ if autonomy were rejected, touching off fighting between pro- and anti-independence Timorese factions.” The Associated Press reported soon after Habibie’s announcement (2/16/99) that “pro-Indonesian activists have warned of the possibility of civil war among rival East Timorese factions if Indonesia withdraws troops from the territory.” The wire […]