May 1 2001

The Pentagon’s New Star Warrior

Press overlooks Rumsfeld's pledge to militarize space

The United States is seeking to make space a new arena of war—but you wouldn’t know that from main­stream media that limit coverage to U.S. plans for “missile defense.” The wider space military program is laid out in publicly available docu­ments—easily accessible to media—such as the recent report of the “Space Commission” chaired by new U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “In the coming period the U.S. will con­duct operations to, from, in and through space in support of its nation­al interests both on the earth and in space,” the 13-member panel declared in its January 2001 report. It urged that […]

May 1 2001

Spinning the Tax Cut

Press helps out White House by minimizing the richest's gain

Ever since George W. Bush proposed a $1.6 trillion tax cut, his critics have charged that the plan is a giveaway to the wealthy, while the Bush camp has insisted the plan is fair. So far, the media have covered the debate with surprising deference to the administration’s spin. U.S. News & World Report‘s February 19 cover story on the tax-cut plan featured the usual presidential-honeymoon puffery, marveling at Bush’s “derring-do” in facing down critics who “didn’t fully appreciate” how deeply he believed in his tax-cutting agenda. When the piece finally ventured into the tax plan’s specifics, it fell straight […]

May 1 2001

Self-Gagged on Gag Rule

Coverage of family-planning restrictions inaccurate, incomplete

George W. Bush celebrated his first working day in office–and the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade (1/22/01)–by reinstating the Mexico City Policy, a Reagan-era rule that bans U.S. family planning aid to overseas groups that provide abortions or referrals–even if they do so with private, non-U.S. funds. Under the rule (lifted in 1993 by Bill Clinton), U.S. aid recipients cannot use their own money to discuss abortion as a medical option, lobby their own governments for legal reforms, or conduct “public information campaigns” about the procedure. Long condemned in family-planning circles as the “global gag rule,” the ban has […]

May 1 2001

Unpardonable Disparities

When it's a Bush, not a Clinton, clemency is no scandal

A blizzard of coverage gave the impression that Bill Clinton’s final pardons raised unprecedented ethical issues about pardons being given in return for favors or to questionable recipients. But are the issues really unprecedented–or have media simply failed to raise these questions with previous administrations? A look back at the elder George Bush’s pardons shows that there was plenty of fodder for scandal that the media just weren’t that interested in. One of the main complaints about Clinton’s pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich was that Rich’s ex-wife, Denise Rich, had given some $450,000 to Clinton’s presidential library fund. But […]

May 1 2001

Deregulation Blackout

How media hype California's fake energy crisis

Power shortage! Unavoidable blackouts! Too much environmental regulation! All these media themes about the electric crisis in California have one thing in common: They are utterly false. Seldom have establishment media gone through greater contortions to misrepresent a crisis on behalf of the mega-corporations that made it happen. Of course, there’s usually not as much money at stake–upwards of $200 billion or more by the time we’re through. The fake story, repeated in a thousand news headlines, and beat to death week after week by the bloviating punditocracy, goes something like this: Too many people and too much industry moved […]

May 1 2001

Fear & Favor 2000 — The First Annual Report

How Power Shapes the News

Introduction Surveys of working journalists have found that they experience pressure from powerful interests, outside and inside the news business, to push some stories and ignore others, and to shape or slant news content. The sources of pressure include the government, which enlists media to support its actions and policies; corporate advertisers who may demand favorable treatment for their industries and products; and media owners themselves, who can use their outlets to support their increasingly various business and political interests. In a 2000 Pew Center for the People & the Press poll of 287 reporters, editors and news executives, about […]

May 1 2001

Mindless and Deadly

Media hype on mental illness and violence

Buried deep in a New York Times story (1/30/01) about the brutal murder of Dartmouth professors Susanne and Half Zantop, resides a common prejudice linking violence with mental illness. Speculating on the reason for the attack, the paper noted that Half Zantop “had once tried to help a mentally ill young man.” When two local youth were arrested–neither suffering from overt psychosis–the knee-jerk response seemed groundless. Yet the initial impression associating the crime with mental illness had already been molded. When a Manhattan woman was assaulted with a brick by an unknown assailant, the New York Daily News (11/19/99) ran […]