Veteran actor and activist Peter Coyote (SFChronicle.com, 5/30/09) writes about big media's overriding response to the "Largest Environmental Lawsuit in History–Silence." Taking a look at "the practices that are going on behind Chevron's carefully cultivated 'green' image" as they "drill for oil in the jungles of the Ecuadorian Amazon," Coyote does give credit to the Washington Post reporting of "several damning letters" like "an internal 1972 memo…instructing Texaco [now Chevron] officials in Ecuador to report only spills that attracted the attention of the news media." Nonetheless: This is a case of epic proportions, where our commons, the lungs of the [...]
Political science professors Sonia Cardenas and Andrew Flibbert survey the bloodthirsty media reaction to African pirates for CounterPunch (5/22/09): Across countless blogs and media outlets, here and abroad, thousands of people have called unequivocally–often in blunt, colorful language–for killing Somali pirates. "Kill the Pirates" was the headline of a Washington Post op-ed on April 13 by Fred Iklé, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. As Jonah Goldberg wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "Shoot the pirates, problem solved." The mainstream media has described today's pirates as savage enemies of humankind, with pundits even saying that [...]
Taking the brave position (ScholarsAndRogues.com, 4/20/09) that the National Review Online is so bad that it makes William F. Buckley's print version look "semi-respectable" by comparison, former U.S. Navy Commander Jeff Huber writes that in his April 11 NRO post, "military historian and former classics professor Victor Davis Hanson comes across like a rabid war mongrel": Frothing over the recent Somali pirate caper involving a U.S. flagged merchant ship, Davis insists that, "To end Somali piracy, disproportionate measures against the shore should be taken–for every one pirate assault, a lethal air assault should immediately follow." It's perhaps understandable that Hanson [...]
ABC World News did a segment on March 31 with a bunch of short reports on how the global recession was hitting around the world. Most of them were like this: CLARISSA WARD (ABC NEWS): I'm Clarissa Ward in Tokyo. Japan is the second-largest economy in the world. And lifetime employment has always been the ideal here. But as global demand for Japanese cars and electronics plummets, companies like Toyota and Canon are being forced to shed tens of thousands of jobs. And for many workers in Japan, losing your job means losing your company housing. Thousands of laid off [...]
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof issued a call in his column today for pundit accountability. After making a problematic argument about knowledge and experience being overrated, Kristof correctly pointed out that in the media, "the marketplace of ideas for now doesn't clear out bad pundits and bad ideas partly because there's no accountability," and he concluded his article with a call for action: "Hold us accountable!" Does this mean Kristof will now acknowledge the error of his prediction last month that the president of Sudan would not kick out aid groups in Darfur if the International Criminal Court issued [...]
The New York Times' Peter Baker reports today (3/18/09) that Obama has tapped "a Swahili-speaking retired Air Force officer who grew up in Africa as the son of missionaries" to be his special envoy to Sudan. Does Baker or his Times editors realize that they don't speak Swahili in Sudan? It's like reporting that Obama appointed a French-speaking envoy to Germany, and meaning it in a flattering way. Sure, they don't speak French in Germany, but they're both in Europe, right? Baker also writes: The latest crisis began March 4, when the International Criminal Court in the Hague charged Mr. [...]
Just last week (2/26/09), Nicholas Kristof, who has written often about the situation in Darfur, was rooting for the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Sudan's president, as a step towards "help[ing] end the long slaughter and instability in Sudan": Next Wednesday, the International Criminal Court is expected to issue an arrest warrant for Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, for crimes against humanity in Darfur. That would be historic–the first time the court has called for the arrest of a sitting head of state. It would be the clearest assertion that in the 21st century, mass murder [...]
Harper's Ken Silverstein is again bucking the media that condemned him for actually investigating U.S. lobbyists for foreign dictatorships–this time contrasting (1/8/09) how, "if the U.S. government deems a country to be a hostile state, the American media will devote significant time and energy reporting on that country's political and economic problems" with the fact that "if you're on our side, and especially if you're providing us with oil, you can get away with murder (literally)": Today's Washington Post has yet another op-ed piece about the terrible human rights situation in Zimbabwe ("A Cancer Called Mugabe"). That follows up on [...]
Editor & Publisher reports that the musings of Bono will begin appearing on the New York Times opinion pages this Sunday–the latest episode in a long media tradition of choosing Western celebrities to address issues concerning Africa, one of Bono's pet projects. Given Bono's record of cozying up to Western leaders on issues like debt relief and trade rather than confronting and challenging them, the Times will not just get Bono's star power, it'll also get to increased the real estate given to highlighting the downtrodden of the world without actually rocking the boat too much.
There are two major conflicts in Africa that receive U.S. media attention. In Congo, it is estimated that 5 million people have died in a conflict that has raged for about 12 years. In the Darfur region of Sudan, estimates can range from 200,000 to 400,000. The Darfur conflict, though, has received much more press attention than Congo–which serves to explain why Newsweek magazine would run a (short) article about Congo under the headline "Africa's Other Holocaust."
As well as being infused with a modern-day "white man's burden" mythology not exactly unheard of in media reporting on Somalia, Time magazine's article "The Suffering of Somalia" (11/13/08) follows the well-documented pattern of misreporting on recent U.S. intervention on Somalia (see Extra!, 3-4/08)–downplaying the disastrous role of recent U.S. policy in that country: Somalia is not so much a failed-state as a didn't-even-try one. It hasn't had a government since 1991, when warlords took over and embarked on a series of intractable clan wars that have produced one of the world's worst humanitarian crises: hundreds of thousands dead and [...]
In the upcoming December 1 issue of the Nation, Fatin Abbas extensively quotes Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina on "The Traps of Safari Journalism": In his eloquent diatribe "How to Write About Africa," published several years ago in Granta… Wainaina offers the following advice: "Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: Use these." He continues, "In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country…. Don't get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: 54 [...]
In yesterday's New York Times (10/1/08), Steven Erlanger had a piece looking at the French reaction to the U.S. presidential election. He quoted French writer Bernard-Henri Levy: Obama is, certainly, black…. But not black like Jesse Jackson; not black like Al Sharpton; not black like the blacks born in Alabama or in Tennessee and who, when they appear, bring out in Americans the memories of slavery, lynchings and the Ku Klux Klan – no; a black from Africa; a black descending not from a slave but from a Kenyan; a black who, consequently, has the incomparable merit of not reminding [...]