Jun
14
2012

Was Houla Massacre a Manufactured Atrocity?

It's been widely reported that on May 25, pro-Syrian forces massacred 108 civilians in the Syrian village of Houla, including 34 women and 49 children, many of whose throats were cut. The reported atrocity has sparked the latest round of appeals for intervention in the conflict in Syria. Syrian diplomats have been expelled from several countries over the massacre, including by U.S., Britain, France, Australia and Canada;  "Syrian Diplomats Expelled Across World as Outrage Over Houla Massacre Grows," the British Guardian (5/29/12) declared. "Who Will Stop the Massacres?" asked the headline on a May 29 Washington Post editorial.  As the editors […]

Jun
14
2012

NYT Wonders: Is Barack Obama a Crybaby?

New York Times reporter Helene Cooper wants to know: Does Barack Obama seem like, you know, a crybaby? Cooper's piece (6/14/12) about the campaign's economic messaging dwells on Obama's tendency to pin the blame elsewhere—namely on his Republican predecessor and others in the party who adhere to favor similar policies. She writes that as the furor created last week over Mr. Obama's remark that the private sector is "doing fine" demonstrated, the president must walk a tightrope whenever he talks about the economy. What kind of tightrope? According to Cooper, Obama must talk about his accomplishments but "he cannot go […]

Jun
14
2012

WaPo's Plug for Health Insurer Misses the Deadly Fine Print

The Washington Post (6/11/12) had a story by headlined "Largest Health Insurer to Keep Key Parts of Law Regardless of Court Ruling." In the piece, reporter N.C. Aizenman relayed UnitedHealthcare's announcement that even if the Obama healthcare law is struck down by the Supreme Court, the company "will keep in place several key consumer provisions": The company will continue to provide customers preventive healthcare services without co-payments or other out-of-pocket charges, allow parents to keep adult children up to age 26 on their plans, and maintain the more streamlined appeals process required by the law. UnitedHealthcare would also continue to […]

Jun
12
2012

A Gaffe Is a Gaffe When Reporters Say So

Campaign coverage often gets bogged down in trivia—inconsequential polling data, the latest "off message" comment by an associate, and so on. But then there are the "gaffes," when politicians say something that we're told means a lot more than it might seem. Barack Obama's 2008 comment about small-town voters clinging to their guns and religion was one. In 2000, Al Gore was a Media Gaffe Machine: Love Canal, internet inventing, etc. Most of them didn't check out, but that's not what matters. Gaffes are elevated when reporters think they reinforce something about a politician. In 2000, NPR's Cokie Roberts said […]

Jun
11
2012

Newsweek: In Praise of Ray Kelly, Crime-Fighting Superhero

Ray Kelly

Last night's on CBS' 60 Minutes, viewers got to see an encore broadcast of an embarrassingly sycophantic tribute to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Glenn Greenwald takes it apart at Salon.com, explaining how CBS regaled viewers with "news" about "the heart of the man with a world of worry," and documented—through dogged investigative work—how Panetta "stays in touch with his humanity." This was no isolated incident; hero worship is a endemic feature of corporate media. Consider the current issue of Newsweek, where one can find another embarrassing tribute to a supposedly tough talking leader. This time it's New York Police Department […]

Jun
08
2012

Does Fox Hire Uninformed Pundits—or Does Being on Fox Make You Uninformed?

On the popular Fox News show the Five (6/6/12), co-host Eric Bolling blasted Muslim advocates who are suing the New York Police Department over its spying program targeting Muslims, saying that in the last 15 years, "Every terrorist on American soil has been a Muslim." In fact, Muslims are responsible for a tiny fraction of terrorism in the U.S.; as a Rand study pointed out in 2010 (Extra!, 5/11), of the "83 terrorist attacks in the United States between 9/11 and the end of 2009, only three…were clearly connected with the jihadist cause." Bolling has made a habit of broadcasting […]

Jun
07
2012

Disney Makes the World a Better Place, Reports Disney's Network

On Tuesday (6/5/12), ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer introduced a news segment:   Michelle Obama appeared today with the CEO of our parent company, Disney, because Disney decided to do something historic to help fight childhood obesity and called in the big guns to do it, including a very, very famous mouse. The "historic" move: Food ads during ABC's children's programming will now have to meet what correspondent Reena Ninan called "strict nutritional standards." Ninan also touted Disney's earlier decision to phase out trans fats from its theme parks and offer "healthier options." ("They say they saw real results. […]

Jun
07
2012

NATO's Afghan Airstrike Reported…Sort Of

Yesterday reports emerged about a NATO airstrike in Logar province that, according to local officials, killed 18 civilians—the vast majority women and children. Readers of the Washington Post could learn about this (6/7/12) by flipping to page 10 and looking for this headline: Afghanistan Suicide Blasts Kill at Least 22 Civilians A suicide attack gets top billing. Next comes word that "overall levels of violence have dropped" in the country. Following that, a helicopter crash that killed two NATO troops. Then finally: Separately, there were conflicting accounts about the killing of civilians in a NATO-led airstrike overnight in Logar province, […]

Jun
07
2012

NYT Tax Talk: What Does 'Politically Sensitive' Mean?

Most people think rich people should pay more in taxes. And they think the government should spend more to help revive the economy. The New York Times knows this—but still calls this discussion "politically sensitive." Today Jonathan Weisman has a piece (6/7/12) about recent comments by Bill Clinton and former Clinton/Obama economic adviser Larry Summers. The piece primarily channels Republican claims that these Democrats want to keep tax rates low for the wealthy. But that does not appear to be what either of them actually said, and both have released statements denying the Republican spin. Nonetheless, the article treats the Republican […]

Jun
06
2012

Can We Recall Bad Reporting on Wisconsin Budget Deficit?

One would hope that by now that the press would debunk the fuzzy budget math Gov. Scott Walker (R.-Wisc.) was using to justify his attack on collective bargaining rights of public sector workers. Nope. The New York Times (6/6/12): The political war in Wisconsin began in February 2011 when Governor Walker, only weeks into his first term, announced that he needed to cut benefits and collective bargaining rights for most public workers as a way to solve an expected state budget deficit of $3.6 billion. Fox's Bill O'Reilly (6/5/12): On the spending front, when Walker took office there was a […]

Jun
06
2012

NYT: Drone Strikes 'Combat Militancy' by Increasing Militants

In today's New York Times article (6/6/12) about the apparent drone killing of Al-Qaeda "deputy leader" Abu Yahya al-Libi, Declan Walsh and Eric Schmitt write: If his death is borne out this time, it would be a milestone in a covert eight-year airstrike campaign that has infuriated Pakistani officials but that has remained one of the United States' most effective tools in combating militancy. That's revealing. It's inarguable that the drones kill people the U.S. government wants to kill, and some it doesn't intend to kill. But does this really qualify as "combating militancy"? In Yemen, the increase in drone  […]

Jun
05
2012

NewsHour Showcases Its Education 'Reform' Funder

Last night (6/4/12) the PBS NewsHour launched "a series about teachers, testing and accountability in public schools." And while I'm sure there will be some bright spots, the rollout was a reminder of some of the big problems in media coverage of public education. At the top of the show anchor Jeffrey Brown announced, "Our first part includes the views of one of the more outspoken reformers and players in this debate." That terminology, so prevalent in the schools debates, should be avoided. If the corporate-minded, pro-charter test-obsessed are the "reformers," then what does that make someone who disagrees with […]

Jun
04
2012

NYT: How Can We Be No. 1 if Pentagon Budget Is Cut by 1/12th?

Part of the 2011 Congressional debt reduction deal called for automatic cuts to social spending and military budgets over the next 10 years. The idea was that a deal to avoid these cuts would be struck, because Republicans wouldn't want to cut the Pentagon, and Democrats would try to protect safety net programs. That didn't happen, so these so-called "sequestration" cuts are prompting some alarm bells in the corporate media–ringing loudly at the mere thought of cutting the military budget. The New York Times (6/4/12) sounded the alarm today in a piece by Jonathan Weisman that framed things like this: […]