Ten years ago today, Colin Powell made the Bush administration's case for going to war against Iraq, and much of what he said was false. Most of the journalists who promoted his justifications for the war paid no price for their failures.
It's bad enough to treat a unsubstantiated claim by a partisan news outlet, with a record of sensational misinformation on the same subject, as a relevant fact in a story. But how do you justify using this junk journalism as a chance to let a source give free rein to his fantasies of how Occupy might take a turn towards violence?
Crack open USA Today (11/28/12) and you saw this headline: Diagram Suggests Iran Working on Bomb The story was short–short enough for a careful reader to see that it in no way lived up to that alarmist headline. But the piece still tried really hard to frighten people. Here's the lead: Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, according to a diagram obtained by the Associated Press. The diagram was leaked by officials from a country critical of Iran's atomic program […]
As a general rule, it'd be better if media accounts of war did not stress the surgical precision of the weapons being used. It's a fixture of U.S. reporting on U.S. wars, but the same rhetoric is used when U.S. allies are dropping bombs. According to Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (11/19/12): Israel has gone out of its way to avoid civilian casualties. Its air force has used new, highly accurate ammunition aiming for rocket-launching sites and government installations. For the most part, it has succeeded. Aron Heller of the Associated Press (11/17/12) had this description of the Israeli military: Israel, […]
After Syrian mortar fire from Syria's civil war reportedly strayed into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights last weekend, some U.S. journalists seemed confused about the political geography of the region. For instance, CBS Evening News reported (11/12/12) reported: Syria's civil war has now touched Israel. For the second straight day, a shell from Syria landed in Israeli territory. Well, no. The shells in question landed on the Golan Heights, a part of Syria that has been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War in 1967–but is internationally recognized as continuing to be Syrian territory. A CNN Wire report, "For Second Time in […]
One of the problems with media "factchecking" is the notion that all things must be "checked" equally. If you factcheck a Republican and find three whoppers, your fact check of a Democrat better work real hard to find a comparable level of spin or dishonesty. Which is exactly how Associated Press reporters Matt Apuzzo and Tom Raum approached Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic convention last night. Clinton's speech–along with others–"either cherry-picked facts or mischaracterized the opposition." But their first example is extraordinarily weak. They quote Clinton talking about the difference between Obama and Republican leadership when it comes to […]
In an attempted factcheck of Mitt Romney's acceptance speech at the Republican convention, AP's Calvin Woodward (8/30/12) takes on Romney's big laugh line: President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family. Woodward looked into it and found that, indeed, Obama had said something like that. But aren't the important factual questions here whether ocean levels actually are rising, and if so whether it's possible to do anything about them? (The answers are "yes" and "yes," as it turns out.) The Washington Post […]
In recent years, corporate media pundits like Tom Friedman and Nicholas Kristof have expressed deep concern over what they claim is a lack of peaceful elements within the Palestinian resistance to the 44-year Israeli occupation. Where is the "Palestinian Gandhi" who could inspire the violent Arab masses to lay down their weapons and pursue a more virtuous path to freedom (FAIR Blog, 2/17/12)? Either the many examples of Palestinians successfully using nonviolent direct action to confront their occupiers have gone unnoticed or are being deliberately ignored in mainstream reports. Another amazing victory for peaceful resistance occurred last Tuesday, when Palestinian […]
On Sunday, there were reports of a NATO airstrike in the eastern Paktia province of Afghanistan. The early reports said that a family of eight was killed, as the New York Times reported: The casualties took place in eastern Paktia province on Saturday night when the family's home was hit by a bomb, said Rohullah Samoon, a spokesman for the governor of Paktia. Six children were killed, four boys and two girls, as well as their mother and father, whose name was Safiullah. But an Associated Press report that appeared in the Washington Post (5/28/12) looked very different, thanks mostly […]
Conservative talker Rush Limbaugh used to tell his listeners that the government was trying to silence him, based on a completely bogus tale about what the Fairness Doctrine would do. This time around, it's an ad campaign by the liberal group Media Matters for America directed at some of the stations that air Limbaugh's show. The group is encouraging citizens to contact stations and let them know they object to Limbaugh's degrading, sexist comments about Sandra Fluke. So what's the controversy? Fox News host Bill O'Reilly thundered (3/22/12) that "the far-left is a primary source of censorship in America." He […]
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 […]
Last night by many reports the police crackdown on the Occupy Oakland encampment was severe: Tear gas and flash-bang grenades were used to disperse a crowd trying to retake the park. Reading about the events in the nation's capital, though, and you got a different impression. The Washington Post–no stranger to minimizing the Occupy protests–ran a short AP dispatch under the headline "Protesters Wearing Out Their Welcome Nationwide." As if that weren't dismissive enough, take a look at the photo the Post ran:
Yesterday's AP "factcheck" (9/20/11) of Barack Obama's speech about raising taxes on the super-wealthy cleverly debunked an argument that Obama didn't make. No one is saying that all millionaires pay a lower rate than their secretaries–Warren Buffett drew attention because he said he did, and there are undoubtedly other multi-millionaires in the same boat. As Dean Baker observed at Beat the Press today (9/21/11): President Obama made a simple and true statement in his speech on the budget Monday. He said that there were millionaires and billionaires who pay tax at a lower rate than middle income families. Many news […]