Dec 01 2001

When the Victims Are Far Away

A very different media response to Moscow bombings

Russian soldiers in Chechnya with downed helicopter. (photo: Mikhail Evstafiev)

A very different media response to Moscow bombingsIt would be easy, and to some tempting, to say that it is America’s turn—that after years of American gloating over Islam’s attacks on Russia, that after the CIA’s goading of proxies like the Pakistanis to arm Islamic terrorists, that after the brutal destruction of Iraq in the war 10 years ago, it is well past time that America had her own Islamic extremist problem. It also might be true. This month’s attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon seem most of all the harvest of an American-sown whirlwind. Repellent words—no doubt […]

Dec 01 2001

Anthrax Attacks: Journalists as Targets

Whoever sent the letters contaminated with anthrax spores seems to have a particular interest in media outlets—with NBC, ABC and CBS, the New York Times and New York Post being apparent targets, as well as the Sun supermarket tabloid in Florida, where the first case was identified. Beyond the horror of disease being used as a weapon, the apparent targeting of news personnel is a troubling sign of the erosion of the protected status of journalists—a protection that is vital to any credible flow of information during a crisis. The idea that journalists can be targets has been promoted not […]

Nov 01 2001

Even Fewer Voices?

During crisis, FCC moves to accelerate media concentration

During crisis, FCC moves to accelerate media concentrationJust two days after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the FCC moved to eliminate some of the last remaining restraints on media concentration. With all eyes elsewhere, the FCC voted unanimously to “review” regulations that limit the percentage of the national audience that a single cable company can reach, and that prohibit the same company from owning both a newspaper and a TV station in the same broadcasting market. FCC chair Michael Powell has made no secret of his desire to abandon any substantive public interest […]

Nov 01 2001

As If Reality Wasn’t Bad Enough

Dan Rather spread alarmist rumors on September 11

State Department's Truman Building (cc photo: AgnosticPreachersKid/Wikimedia)

Dan Rather spread alarmist rumors on September 11In a national emergency like the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the first thing required from the news media is accurate information. Unfortunately, TV journalists too often delivered misinformation instead. One who did so repeatedly was CBS News‘ Dan Rather. “Let me pause and say that a car bomb has exploded outside the State Department in Washington,” Rather told his audience on September 11. He repeated: “Now a car bomb has exploded outside the State Department in Washington. No further details available on that.” He reported this car bomb […]

Nov 01 2001

The Op-Ed Echo Chamber

Little or no space for dissent from the military line

Little or no space for dissent from the military line“When op-ed pages first became the rage some 25 years ago, they were supposed to be places for nontraditional voices to be heard.” — Allan Wolper, Editor & Publisher ethics columnist (5/29/99) Whether the mainstream daily op-ed page was ever a true forum for debate or for “nontraditional voices” is questionable. But during the weeks following September’s terrorist attacks, two leading dailies mostly used these pages as an echo chamber for the government’s official policy of military response, while mostly ignoring dissenters and policy critics. A FAIR survey of the New […]

Nov 01 2001

Are You a Terrorist?

Media passivity enables rollback of civil liberties

George W. Bush signing the Patriot Act.

Mainstream news outlets did cover the progress of the proposed anti-terror bills through the House and Senate, but did relatively little to alert the public to how fundamental and far-reaching the proposed expansions of law enforcement’s powers were, and provided little information about the nuts and bolts of the legislation.

Nov 01 2001

‘We Think the Price Is Worth It’

Media uncurious about Iraq policy's effects--there or here

Madeleine Albright speaking to students at Georgia Southern University/Photo: Georgia Southern University

Media uncurious about Iraq policy’s effects–there or hereLesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it? Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it. —60 Minutes (5/12/96) Then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s quote, calmly asserting that U.S. policy objectives were worth the sacrifice of half a million Arab children, has been much quoted in the Arabic press. It’s also been cited […]

Nov 01 2001

‘This Isn’t Discrimination, This Is Necessary’

Amid pleas for tolerance, some call for profiling--and worse

Amid pleas for tolerance, some call for profiling–and worseSince September 11, there have been at least three bias-related murders and reports from around the country of assaults and harassment targeting Arab- and Muslim-Americans. Homes, businesses, mosques and Muslim schools have been vandalized, children tormented, and students harassed on college campuses. Media have reported many of these assaults (e.g., USA Today, 9/20/01; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/4/01) and denounced them as what Tom Brokaw (NBC Nightly News, 9/20/01) called “one of the ugliest legacies of this crisis.” “It’s insanity to burden an entire people with the label terrorist,” the New York Times […]