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

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

On October 26, George Bush signed into law “anti-terrorism” legislation that seriously eroded civil liberties in the United States. Law enforcement’s power to conduct surveillance and secret searches has been vastly increased, legal immigrants may now be indefinitely detained, and the CIA has been authorized to resume spying on Americans. In true Orwellian style, the bill is called the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001--for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. Among the sweeping changes implemented by the bill is the introduction of the broadly-defined crime of “domestic terrorism.” Domestic terrorism is now […]

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 […]

Nov
01
2001

'This Isn't Discrimination, This Is Necessary'

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

Since 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 pointed out (9/23/01), while a Long Island Newsday […]