Jan 13 2009

International Law Seldom Newsworthy in Gaza War

Israeli justifications often cited uncritically

U.S. corporate media coverage of the Israeli military attacks that have reportedly killed over 900–many of them civilians–since December 27 has overwhelmingly failed to mention that indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets are illegal under international humanitarian law. Israel’s recent aerial attacks on Gazan infrastructure, including a TV station, police stations, a mosque, a university and even a U.N. school, have been widely reported. Yet despite the fact that attacks on civilian infrastructure, including police stations, are illegal (Human Rights Watch, 12/31/08), questions of legality are almost entirely off the table in the U.S. media. Only two network evening news stories […]

Dec 19 2008

Michael Ratner on detainee abuse report, Alfie Kohn on education nominee


Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: When the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a report finding former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other high officials responsible for abusive treatment of detainees in Guantánamo, Iraq and Afghanistan–with few exceptions, the media played the story down, preferring, for instance, righteous anger over embroiled Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. We’ll discuss the Senate report with the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Michael Ratner, whose book, The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld, was published in September. Also on CounterSpin today, Obama’s pick for education secretary drew more attention than you might have expected–in large part because the […]

Feb 1 2008

The Humanitarian Temptation:

Calling for war to bring peace to Darfur

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Genocide Intervention Network

In the Darfur region of Sudan, truly horrific atrocities have taken place in recent years: Roughly 200,000 people have died from violence, disease or hunger (Science, 9/15/06), and well over 2 million have been driven from their homes, resulting in a severe humanitarian crisis. Such crises often go criminally ignored by a mainstream media seldom interested in the plight of those who suffer the double invisibilities of being distant and dark-skinned. But Darfur is a little different: Propelled by a well-developed activist campaign and persistent appeals from both major celebrities and the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof, Darfur has managed […]

Jan 1 2008

A Million Iraqi Dead?

The U.S. press buries the evidence

The Iraq War was sold to Americans in part as an intervention that would benefit Iraqis, “liberating” them from the despotic rule of Saddam Hussein. In retrospect, after no weapons of mass destruction were found and the alleged links to Al-Qaeda were debunked, this supposed humanitarian mission became the central justification for the invasion. Today, it is a major pillar of what support remains among the U.S. public for continuing the occupation. If Americans are to make informed judgments not only about the invasion of Iraq and whether the occupation should continue, but also about future wars our government may […]

Sep 11 2007

Whose Human Rights Matter?

NYT on Hezbollah and Israeli attacks on civilians

When Human Rights Watch recently released two investigations of the 2006 Israel/Lebanon war, the New York Times found the group’s documentation of unlawful attacks against Israel to be far more newsworthy than unlawful attacks committed by Israel. It’s rare that a media outlet’s news standards can be tested so directly. The human rights group released separate reports on violations by both Hezbollah and Israel, charging each side with indiscriminate attacks on civilians. When the first report was released, the Times placed an 800-word story (8/31/07) under the headline “Rights Group Accuses Hezbollah of Indiscriminate Attacks on Civilians in Israel War,” […]

Aug 1 2007

‘Accidents’ Will Happen

Excusing civilian deaths in Afghanistan

When they’re discussed at all by corporate media, civilian deaths in Afghanistan are often presented as a tactical or public relations problem for U.S. military and political officials, or labeled as “accidental” or “errant.” The civilian deaths are not accidents, however; they are the predictable result of a deliberate decision to protect American troops by putting Afghan noncombatants at risk. A Chicago Tribune story on July 8 commented, “Such bombings and the allegations of civilian casualties, exaggerated or not, are now the biggest challenge facing foreign forces trying to prop up Afghanistan’s government.” This is an odd construction; U.S. media […]

May 1 2007

Bono, I Presume?

Covering Africa Through Celebrities

“Africa is sexy and people need to know that,” declared U2 singer Bono (New York Times, 3/5/07), promoting his new (RED) line of products that propose to save Africa one iPod at a time. Celebrity interest in Africa is not particularly new, but today more stars than ever seem to be converging upon the continent, with television crews seldom far behind. But, as Bono clearly understands, what media tend to find sexy about Africa is not Africa itself, but the stars like himself who have taken up causes in the region. In television news in particular, with its typically cursory […]

Mar 16 2007

Mahmood Mamdani on Darfur, Karen Greenberg on Guantánamo


Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: a new essay in the London Review of Books by Columbia professor Mahmood Mamdani argues that by simplifying the story of Darfur, the U.S. press misleads readers and viewers about what is really happening there. He’ll join us to explain what is wrong with what we know about Darfur. Also this week: since the outset of the so-called “war on terror” there has been no shortage of incidents demonstrating the contempt many U.S. officials have for the free press. Karen Greenberg, the executive director of the Center on Law and Security at the NYU […]