Mar
19
2012

Bill Keller Remembers the Downing Street Memos (Sort Of)

Bill Keller's New York Times column (3/19/12) begins with what might be a bit of self-deprecation: "When you've been wrong about something as important as war, as I have…." You might take that as a cue to stop reading right there. But Keller's point is that people should think long and hard about signing on to the latest calls for war. He writes: Sometimes our leaders start with the answers and work backward, fixing the facts to the policy, as the head of Britain's MI6 said of the Potemkin intelligence used to sell the invasion of Iraq. As the link […]

Mar
16
2012

Do Afghans Love Their Holy Book More Than Their Kids?

I felt like there was something slightly off about this New York Times story yesterday (3/15/12), "In Reactions to Two Incidents, a U.S.-Afghan Disconnect." Reporter Rod Nordland wanted to explore why Afghans seemed so much more outraged over the recent burnings of the Quran than they were about a massacre of 16 civilians by a U.S. servicemember. His piece begins: KABUL, Afghanistan– The mullah was astounded and a little angered to be asked why the accidental burning of Korans last month could provoke violence nationwide, while an intentional mass murder that included nine children last Sunday did not. "How can […]

Mar
15
2012

Why Is It Hard to Believe President Obama Would Want a Journalist in Prison?

Abdulelah Haider Shaye

Jeremy Scahill's piece at the Nation website ("Why Is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?," 3/13/12) about imprisoned Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye is riveting and deeply reported. But to Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum, the story doesn't quite add up…because Barack Obama seems like a decent guy. As Scahill reports, Shaye has "risked his life to travel to areas controlled by Al-Qaeda and to interview its leaders." He argues that this reporting has not exactly won him friends in the U.S. or Yemeni governments: His collision course with the U.S. government appears to have been set […]

Mar
13
2012

Dead Afghans Muck Up War Strategy

There is, as we pointed out yesterday, plenty of media coverage of the recent massacre of 16 Afghans–mostly children–as a PR problem. A related storyline is the discussion of the killings as presenting problems with the war strategy. Two headlines at the NPR website, for example: That piece advises that it "may be tough there for U.S. troops in the days and weeks ahead." Of course, the assumption in the headline is that there is a "strategy" in the first place. The other headline: That piece included a photo caption that explained that the dead Afghan children "could make the […]

Mar
13
2012

Death Versus Disruption in Gaza

Coverage of Israel/Palestine often attempts to make an extraordinarily lopsided conflict seem somehow more "balanced." Take this line from the Washington Post (3/12/12) The fighting has killed 18 Gazans, all but two of them militants, and disrupted the lives of about 1 million Israelis living within range of rocket fire. Why would 18 people who were killed be compared to the disruption of daily life? If disruption is the standard, then one would have to determine how many Gazans have had their lives disrupted by power outages, drones, air strikes and so on. A sentence like this would seem to […]

Mar
09
2012

Israel in the NYT Corrections Box

Anyone who doubts the extent of pressure on media outlets when it comes to covering Israel should pick up the New York Times. In yesterday's Times (3/8/12), we saw this correction: Because of an editing error, an article on Wednesday about a large lobbying effort on Capitol Hill Tuesday by delegates to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee referred incorrectly to the organization, known as AIPAC. It is a pro-Israel lobbying group that works in the United States to advance Israel's interests. It does not work directly for the state of Israel or its government. This […]

Mar
09
2012

Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher Are Alike–and Also Very Different

As he loses advertisers by the handful over his comments about Sandra Fluke, Rush Limbaugh's supporters (there are a few!) and a few other commentators have found what I guess they believe is a good counter-argument: If you're so offended by Limbaugh's sexist, demeaning rants, they why are you silent about Bill Maher? Some see a clear double standard. Fox News liberal Kirsten Powers wrote a column denouncing the left's near-silence on the misogyny of Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher, Matt Taibbi and Ed Schultz. And as one adviser to a Gingrich Super PAC put it, "Did USA Today […]

Mar
09
2012

Time's Iran Nuke Assumptions

There are plenty of problems with coverage of Iran right now. The most important issue to understand is that there is no evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. Since this is the basis for the current "crisis" narrative, it's important for journalism to try to clearly differentiate what is known and what is speculation. On that score, Time magazine's big piece this week on U.S./Israeli relations fails. Massimo Calabresi and Jay Newton-Small write: Despite their history of distrust, Obama and [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu must cooperate if they are to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. […]

Mar
08
2012

Satellite Intelligence: Iran 2012, Iraq 2003

The big news today looks and sounds familiar. Here's USA Today (3/8/12): Here's what that Associated Press piece is reporting: VIENNA — Satellite images of an Iranian military facility appear to show trucks and earth-moving vehicles at the site, indicating an attempted cleanup of radioactive traces possibly left by tests of a nuclear-weapon trigger, diplomats told the Associated Press on Wednesday…. Two of the diplomats said the crews at the Parchin military site may be trying to erase evidence of tests of a small experimental neutron device used to set off a nuclear explosion…. The diplomats said they suspect attempts […]

Mar
07
2012

On CNN: From the Left…a Corporate PR Strategist

I was struck by an election night panel I saw on CNN last night (3/6/12). "Contributors here on the left and the right," as host Anderson Cooper told viewers. On the right: former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer and right-wing blogger Erick Erickson. On the left? Frequent TV pundit and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and… Hilary Rosen. Who? Rosen might be best known for her years at the Recording Industry Association of America, the music industry's lobbying powerhouse. She briefly held the title of Washington editor-at-large for the Huffington Post. But the site cut ties with her in 2010 because she […]

Mar
06
2012

ABC and the (Still) Growing Iran Threat

ABC World News was responsible for a flagrantly propagandistic report about Iran on January 31. They're still at it. At the top of the March 5 report, anchor Diane Sawyer announced that Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were talking about "the growing nuclear threat from Iran." Sawyer warned that it might be the "last chance" for the two to meet face to face before a possible Israeli attack. The two agreed, as Jake Tapper put it, that Iran "cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon." And what if they did? Jake Tapper asks, "What might result?" […]

Mar
06
2012

The Iran Non-Debate, Continued…

Glenn Greenwald wrote recently of the extraordinarily limited media debate on Iran, which seems to consist of U.S. and Israeli officials making threats–attack now or attack later–alongside clinical discussions of the difficulties of bombing Iran. There is plenty missing–actual Iranians talking about what war would mean in human terms,legal experts discussing how preventive war (or even the threat of one) violates international law, and so on. Today's New York Times editorial (3/6/12) offers another illustration of just how limited this media discussion is. The paper states: Iran's nuclear appetites are undeniable, as is its malign intent toward Israel, toward America, […]

Mar
06
2012

Sandra Fluke Controversy: Distraction or Revelation?

There seems to be a popular line emerging in the Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke controversy that says his comments are especially harmful because they distract attention from the real issues. Kathleen Parker (Washington Post, 3/4/12): Inadvertently, Limbaugh also helped advance the argument from the left that Republicans are waging a war against women…. He has given his "feminazis" justification for their claims that conservatives hate women. Peggy Noonan (ABC's This Week, 3/4/12): But what he said was also destructive. It confused the issue. It played into this trope that the Republicans have a war on women. No, they don't, but he […]