Nov 01 2001

Patriotic Shopping

Media define citizenship as consumerism

A number of pundits and politicians offered Americans a simple solution to the helplessness and anxiety they were feeling in the wake of the September 11 attacks: Go shopping! Vice President Dick Cheney (L.A. Times, 9/17/01) described it as a way for ordinary citizens to “stick their thumbs in the eye of the terrorists and say that they’ve got great confidence in the country.” Some outlets broadcast such calls virtually unquestioned. “Americans need to go out and spend. That’s the message,” said NBC‘s Tom Brokaw (9/24/01), introducing a report from Anne Thompson that concluded, “American companies waving the red, white […]

Nov 01 2001

Covering the ‘Fifth Column’

Media present pro-war distortions of peace movement's views

Antiwar rally, Washington, DC, September 29, 2001

Media present pro-war distortions of peace movement’s views

Nov 01 2001

Even Fewer Voices?

During crisis, FCC moves to accelerate media concentration

Just 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 restrictions on the growth and dominance of […]

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)

In 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 explosion as fact at least three further […]

Nov 01 2001

The Op-Ed Echo Chamber

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 York Times and the Washington Post op-ed pages for […]

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

Lesley 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 in the United States in alternative commentary […]