Nov
01
2006

The Propaganda of Silence

Losing interest in Afghanistan’s plight

The situation in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly dire for both Afghan citizens and the more than 20,000 foreign troops occupying the country. Violent attacks continue to rise. Suicide bombings, unheard of before late 2005, are more and more common, with the resistance in Afghanistan literally importing tactics from Iraq. In fact, the first stop in the “Global War on Terror” is now proportionately more dangerous for U.S. forces than the more often discussed second stop: For the period January to September 2006, U.S. troops suffered a casualty rate of 0.4 percent in Afghanistan, compared with 0.38 percent in Iraq. The […]

Nov
01
2006

Career Women, Go Home

Media return to a favorite obsession

Can women have jobs and still be good wives and mothers? Mainstream media have been picking at that scab ever since women began breaking out of their culturally circumscribed role as wives and homemakers and taking on professional careers. But with his August 22, 2006 article on Forbes.com, “Don’t Marry Career Women,” Michael Noer made a particularly pointed stab at it, using discredited, dubious and downright bogus research to bolster his paleolithic perception that working and wiving don’t mix. He stated his thesis in the first paragraph: “Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones […]

Nov
01
2006

SoundBites

Ignorance or Bad Faith? “I have a rule, which has never failed me, that when a writer uses quotations from Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and the Left Behind series to capture the religious and political currents in modern America, then I know I can put that piece of writing down because the author either doesn’t know what he is talking about or is arguing in bad faith.” —David Brooks, New York Times (10/22/06) “We in the coastal metro Blue areas read more books and attend more plays than the people in the Red heartland. . . . But don’t ask […]

Nov
01
2006

Wrong Numbers

Distorting Venezuela’s record on poverty

One charge that U.S. media have hurled at Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez—that poverty has worsened under his administration—seems tailored to alienate the populist leader from his natural supporters. Isn’t Chávez a leftist? Aren’t his policies pro-poor? progressives may wonder. What about all that oil wealth? Is this really true? No, it’s not. But that doesn’t stop the media from printing misinformation about poverty in Venezuela. It isn’t that opinion writers and editorial editors used false statistics or made errors in their calculations—in most cases, they used the Venezuelan government’s own statistics, as many editorials pointed out. Instead, they used old […]

Nov
01
2006

The Myth of the Muzzled Media

Following Hugo Chávez’s September 20 speech at the U.N., which included a mocking reference to George W. Bush as “the devil,” U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton told reporters “the real issue” was that Chávez was not “giving the same freedom of speech” to Venezuelans (Daily News, 9/21/06). Editorials condemning Chávez and approvingly citing Bolton’s accusation appeared in several newspapers (e.g., Augusta Chronicle, 9/22/06; Omaha World-Herald, 9/22/06), but one pundit, John McLaughlin of television’s McLaughlin Group (9/22/06), challenged Bolton’s claim, responding on air, “Well, Ambassador Bolton, maybe they already have freedom of speech.” Seconding McLaughlin’s point, columnist Mark Weisbrot, […]

Nov
01
2006

Imperial Projection

Fearing Chávez’s carrot, ignoring Bush’s stick

The horror with which U.S. television personalities and newspaper columnists have responded to the Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s skewering of George W. Bush at the United Nations is just the latest in a long series of media portrayals of Chávez as a destabilizing force in the hemisphere. While op-ed pages scarcely mention the Bush administration’s continued interference in the internal affairs of Latin American countries, they regularly proffer unsubstantiated claims of meddling by Chávez, failing to recognize the hypocrisy of their selective indignation. Ironically, the op-ed pages’ accusations of international meddling by the Chávez government are often inconsistent with the […]

Nov
01
2006

Stay Obedient, of Course

Editor's Note

Interviewed about Iraq on the October 22 edition of ABC’s This Week, George W. Bush declared, “Listen, we’ve never been ‘stay the course.’” This was not a slip of the tongue but a White House line, as evidenced by Bush advisor Dan Bartlett’s assertion that “it’s never been a ‘stay the course’ strategy” on CBS’s Early Show the next day. The trouble is that Bush and his spokespeople had constantly insisted that their Iraq strategy was “stay the course.” Just one example, from a December 15, 2003 press conference: “We will stay the course until the job is done. . […]

Nov
01
2006

Corrupt Data

Taking on the claim that Chávez is on the take

Accusing Latin American politicians of corruption is one of the most common ways to discredit them. President Hugo Chávez himself came into office accusing the entire political class in Venezuela of corruption, which made him very popular with many voters, who were tired of seeing their country slipping into poverty despite its enormous oil wealth. It should thus come as no surprise, now that Chávez has been in office for nearly eight years, that Chávez’s opponents at home and abroad should use this charge against him. A recent Newsweek article (7/31/06), for example, stated that Chávez has “fanned the same […]