Nov 1 1991

The Press as Gates-Keeper

Coverage of a CIA Nominee

In her novel Damage, Josephine  Hart wrote that the modern expres­sion of guilt brings its own absolu­tion: “Say the guilt prayer ‘I feel guilty,’ and hey presto, that’s the punishment.” So it was with President Bush’s nomi­nee to head the CIA, Robert Gates, who appeared (and said the prayer) before the Senate Intelligence Committee this fall. And so it would be, no doubt, for the press—except that the press so rarely stoops to atone. The newspapers of record—the New York Times and Washington Post ­reported extensively on the Gates hear­ings, publishing, in the case of the Times, many pages of […]

Nov 1 1991

Inside Bohemian Grove

The Story People Magazine Won't Let You Read

Bohemian Grove (Wikimedia/Aarkwilde)

When People’s Dirk Mathison infiltrated the exclusive Bohemian Grove retreat, he got a view into the US elite that very few reporters have glimpsed. Unfortunately, that elite includes the management of Time Warner, the owner of People, which prevented Mathison from telling his story.

Nov 1 1991

Toxic Times

“A decade after Washington declared war on businesses that expose the public to hazardous wastes,” began a New York Times front-page article (9/1/91), “environmental experts are questioning the unquestionable: Is it worth spending a staggering $300 billion to $700 billion to restore waste sites to pristine condition?” Leaving aside the question of when the U.S. declared “war” on corporate polluters — a battle presumably launched by Interior Secretary James Watt — it’s interesting to note who the Times considers an “environmental expert.” Aside from unidentified “experts” and “analysts,” the reporter, Peter Passell, mainly depended on government, corporate and right-wing sources: […]

Nov 1 1991

Time Suppresses Contra Drug Story

As Time magazine’s resident expert on narcotics trafficking, Elaine Shannon was a predictable choice for the New York Time Book Review (7/28/91) to critique the book Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America by Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall. Predictably, she slammed the book, whose central thesis is that the U.S.-backed Nicaraguan Contras “trafficked extensively in cocaine while the CIA, National Security Council, and Justice Department ignored the evidence.” In her review, the Time magazine correspondent poked fun at Scott and Marshall for believing that media timidity had helped the CIA’s alliance with drug dealers: “[The […]

Nov 1 1991

Outings and Innings

Media and the Closet

In a July 1991 column about the hate murder of a local gay man, Houston Post columnist Juan Palomo tried to come out of the closet to discuss his own fears about being gay-bashed. His editors demanded the mention of his sexual orientation be cut, finding it “inappropriate” and part of a “personal agenda.” After Palomo discussed the conflict with other publications, he was canned. “Out of the Closet and Out of Work”, proclaimed the headline in New York Newsday (9/1/91). The Houston Post, it seems, didn’t mind that Palomo was gay as long as he didn’t go around talking […]

Nov 1 1991

Cold War Lives On in Yugoslavia Reporting

“A battle between hard-line communists and free-market democrats” (L.A. Times, 7/8/91). That’s how much of the media presents the conflict in Yugoslavia between Serbia and Croatia. Even after the Cold War, the national press persisted in inaccurately forcing the Yugoslavian civil war into a black-and-white Cold War framework. The press has portrayed the government of Serbia fairly accurately: As the Washington Post reported (8/27/91, Serbia’s “authoritarian regime…combines hard-line communist centralization with radical Serbian nationalism.” Croatia, on the other hand, has been described as “democratic” by leading papers like the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times: e.g., “Democratic […]

Nov 1 1991

Uncritical Coverage of the ‘2nd Russian Revolution’

The enormous press coverage generated by the recent coup attempt in the Soviet Union soon resolved itself into several recurring themes: the lionization of Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin that obscured his troubling political history; a misrepresentation of the history of the Baltic states coupled with a shallow explanation of resurgent nationalism in the Baltic nations and the Soviet republics; an uncritical overreliance on conservatives as experts on the Soviet Union; and a wholehearted embrace of U.S.-style capitalism and George Bush. THE LIONIZATION OF BORIS YELTSIN The press’ uncritical promotion of Yeltsin led it to dismiss troubling aspects of his […]

Nov 1 1991

Publisher Has Meltdown; Editor Is Nuked

An investigative series on the Los Alamos National Laboratory by the Santa Fe New Mexican resulted in the sacking of the daily newspaper’s managing editor who edited the series, and a moratorium on nuclear technology stories by the newspaper. The editor, David N. Mitchell, told Extra! that due to the legal settlement reached after his dismissal, he was “constrained” from saying that he was fired because of “the publisher’s concern that the series this paper did at my direction on the disposal of radioactive and chemical wastes by Los Alamos National Laboratory was unbalanced.” But the sequence of events is […]