May
01
2002

'Retaliation' Is Reserved for One Side

A loaded term in the Mideast conflict

Even before the bloody events of April, more than 300 Israelis and 1,200 Palestinians had been killed since the current Intifada began in September 2000 (Boston Globe, 3/31/02). Thousands more people have been injured. U.S. media coverage of the conflict was intense as Palestinian militants car­ried out several major suicide bombings and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) mounted a large-scale invasion of the West Bank. Amnesty International (4/3/02) condemned the targeting of civilians by both sides, voicing concern over "flagrant human rights abuses" by the IDF, including looting, mass deten­tions, the targeting of medical person­nel and possible extrajudicial execu­tions. Israel tried […]

May
01
2002

Declaring Victory in the Welfare Debate

'Reform' is working, say media--but what does that mean?

Ever since President Bill Clinton's 1997 declaration that "we know now that welfare reform works," media coverage of the issue has been haunted by the question of just what "working" means. Passed amid rhetoric of saving poor families from poverty, but with a preamble explicitly pushing a Gingrichian agenda of mar­riage and abstinence, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act's "success" depends entirely on just what one assumes it was supposed to do. Unfortunately, most news outlets have largely ignored the actual effects of the law on such areas as female poverty, instead accepting the sunnier outlook put forward by […]

May
01
2002

Report from Porto Alegre

Is another media world possible?

Attending the World Social Forum at Porto Alegre, in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, was like seeing the world upside down—or perhaps right-side up. From portrayals in U.S. mainstream media, it’s easy to see those who protest corporate globalization and “free trade” dogma as a small minority, as uninformed, as elitists. These notions were challenged by a forum that brought together some 50,000 participants from 150 countries, including people who represent millions of workers, peasants and the poor across the globe—united in criticism of global economic and environmental rules imposed by agencies such as the World […]

May
01
2002

The 'Oh Really?' Factor

Bill O'Reilly spins facts and statistics

If it's "spin" to back up your arguments with bogus facts and statistics, and to dismiss numbers that don't fit in with your preconceptions, then Bill O'Reilly's Fox News Channel show isn't, as he repeatedly claims, a "no-spin zone"-- it's Spin City. During an interview with National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy (O'Reilly Factor, 2/5/02), O'Reilly claimed that "58 percent of single-mom homes are on welfare." When Gandy questioned that figure, O'Reilly held firm: "You can't say no, Miss Gandy. That's the stat. You can't just dismiss it. . . . It’s 58 percent. That's what it is from […]

May
01
2002

Afghan Famine On and Off the Screen

Aid workers mostly quoted when U.S. likes their message

During the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan, international aid workers were among the few non-governmental sources with access to real-time information about how the attacks were affecting the population. In their statements, they often painted a bleak view of civilian suffering. But their ability to garner coverage for their comments seemed to depend on how their message fit with the Bush administration’s propaganda efforts. To keep a lid on dissent, Washington pressured U.N. agencies in the region to keep quiet about the impact of the bombing. "Whenever we spoke out--anytime we did comment on the way the war was impacting […]

May
01
2002

The Washington Times' Hair-Raising Tall Tale

Lynx fur 'hoax' story shows the power of right-wing media

Former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (3/27/02) condemning "scientific fraud" by environmentalists. His first example: "The December revelation that employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service had planted fake wild lynx hair in states where there were no lynx, so that the areas could be labeled critical habitat, and thus off limits to human use." Unfortunately, du Pont garbled virtually every aspect of the story. Perhaps he made the mistake of believing what he read in the newspapers--particularly right-wing ones. Contrary to most news reports, the biologists did […]

May
01
2002

From Bozo to Churchill

Book Excerpt

Countless leaders have been deified by national emergency, but few have been remade as quickly and completely as George W. Bush. In many cases, those who had misread him as a simple tool, braying automatically at his most trivial mistakes, now automatically revered him. Such converts suddenly agreed with those who had seen Bush’s flaws as signs of latent greatness--thitherto the notion only of a large plurality, but now the common wisdom. And so, before you knew it, the seeming bozo was our savior. Not only were his famous foibles magically erased, but Bush’s entire political pre-history also slipped right […]

May
01
2002

Reparations and the Media

A slanted arena for discussions of slavery recompense

Speaking in defense of reparations for slavery on Fox News Channel’s Hannity & Colmes (4/25/01), attorney Alexander Pires explained that if advocates for reparations could "tell the story" of slavery and its consequences, the public would "respond to it." "So what you’re saying is you really want a debate," Alan Colmes replied, "and...that’s exactly what we’re doing here. We’re discussing it. We’re debating it." There have certainly been numerous radio and television programs on the issue. Yet have the media really featured fair debates, providing a level playing field for advocates and opponents of reparations to voice their concerns and […]