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Failures of U.S. media
by Jake Highton
May 29, 2010 | 1021 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Just one issue of Extra!, monthly publication of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, answers the perpetual question: are the media conservative or liberal?

The May issue of FAIR contains five stories that prove conclusively that the media are highly conservative. They are:

• The House held a debate in March on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Press coverage was scant. Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Massachusetts, noting just two reporters in the press gallery, rightly complained that the press was virtually absent on a “significant issue of national importance.” Namely a debate on war and peace, deaths of 1,000 U.S. soldiers and a waste of trillions of dollars.

• The New York Times ran a story in March about the pros and cons of trials of alleged terrorists. It did not mention that military tribunals were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2006.

• Newsweek in March warned that a specter was haunting Latin America: Russian arms sales. Its correspondent said the United States was too ethical while Russia was unethical, “asking no questions” of nations it sold arms to. Gross U.S. hypocrisy as usual. The United States is the biggest arms dealer in the world, selling 10 times as much military hardware as Russia.

• The odious policy of barring acknowledged gays and lesbians from the military got short shrift from CBS, NBC and ABC. The network “talking heads” fretted about “timing” and expressed fear that “military cohesion” would be undermined. Just three of 25 sources aired were gay and lesbian.

 • PBS is replacing programs by two great liberals, Bill Moyers and Amy Goodman, with moderates. Meanwhile true leftists like Noam Chomsky and Jim Hightower are personae non gratae at the so-called liberal radio network.

The proper answer to the liberal-conservative question depends on where you stand politically. This Leftist finds the media conservative, corporate and establishment.

Media lacks context

Another problem of the U.S. media was shown in January during the earthquake in Haiti. The media revealed the sorrow and tragedy but precious little history, background and context.

Journalists often observed that Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. But they said nothing about the despicable role America has played in Haiti: an invasion of Haiti ordered by President Wilson in 1915 and an occupation that lasted until 1934.

They did not mention American support for two brutal dictators,“Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier, from 1957 to 1986. They did not report that the United States supported two Haitian coups against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Aristide’s crimes? He spoke for Haiti’s poor. His populist economic program irritated both Haitian elites and U.S. policymakers.

Muslims exempt

Any religious figure is subject to satire and caricature in America except Muhammad.

Comedy Central once aired an episode of “South Park” depicting Muhammad wearing a turban and five o’clock shadow.

No more. A few death threats have caused TV to censor any depiction of Muhammad. One dire warning noted the killing of Theo van Gogh, Dutch filmmaker murdered in 2004 for his scathing criticism of Islam.

The Week magazine noted: “There’s no icon ‘South Park’ hasn’t trampled with its signature blend of toilet humor and blasphemous nastiness from the Virgin Mary profusely menstruating to the Buddha snorting cocaine and Jesus Christ downloading Internet porn.”

But TV is not noted for the courage often displayed by newspaper editorial cartoonists.

Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution drew a cartoon last year showing Pope Benedict XIII proclaiming on TV: “Condoms increase the AIDS problem. I support abstinence.” A guy on the couch says: “From reality.”

And Mike Peters of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News has a caption over a cartoon declaring: “How condoms can help reduce AIDS in Africa.” In the first panel the pope holds up a sign: “Abstinence only.” In the next panel the pope has a condom pulled over his head.

Picture propagandizes

The Reno Gazette-Journal ran a page one photo in April of a kid welcoming his dad back from a tour in Afghanistan. My wife said it was a touching picture.

I demurred. I admitted it was a good picture. But I said I was not touched. I hate the war. I deplore the fact that America is occupying a country where it does not belong.

But the Pentagon loves that kind of picture. It wins people-support for the war and, more important, congressional backing.

Bush league logo

Masterpiece (mystery/theater), one of the few jewels of television, is marred locally by KNPB in Reno. It shows its outsized logo throughout the films. The station utterly lacks class.

Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. You can reach him at jake@unr.edu.
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