December 9, 2002

Airport Media Mind Blitz

VANCOUVER, Canada -- Spending the whole day in airplanes and airports there is plenty of time to read the Sunday New York Times. On a plane the mammoth edition takes about half the space you are allotted as a passenger. But after a while the spin becomes absolutely unbearable. Little irritations mount and after a while it is too much.

It's all the things they hide and pointedly omit and how much trouble they go to to avoid embarassing the powerful. It's the way they tiptoe around everything that might make Bush and cronies look bad, and that is getting harder and harder to do. There is more and more that must be hidden.

So the Times becomes more and more of an excursion into a fantasyland. It takes some effort to read through the spin. One becomes accustomed to making the effort, but it does become tiresome after plowing through the pile of sections that constitute the Sunday Times.

Some examples: Today's edition has an article called "Does Democracy Help Pakistan?" The sore thumb in that headline is the underlying assumption that anything resembling democracy exists in that country. Remember the coup that took place during our 2000 election campaign. And when they asked Bush about what he thought of it he was ready, for a change, and said he thought it would help stability in the region. Of course we didn't know as much as we do now about his own plans for the region. The Times article refers to Musharraf as a "semi-authoritarian president." What is "semi" about it? He's a general who took over the country in a military coup. Near the end of the article it actually touches on the subject of the coup, but does so in a passive voice, saying Musharraf is "the beneficiary of a coup himself." As if -- oh, just coincidentally he happened to have this country fall under his power, as if the coup happened all by itself.

Of course the Times doesn't want to portray Musharraf in an unfavorable light because Bush has chosen Pakistan as an ally -- as exempt from his Axis of Evil -- in spite of the coup, in spite of the fact that Pakistan certainly harbors terrorists, in spite of the fact that it really does have weapons of mass destruction. And it also doesn't want to say too much about coups because that may remind us of how our own "president" rose to power.

The headline should be "Would Democracy Help Pakistan?" And we should ask the same question about our own country.

The paper is full of examples like this. This is not exceptional, this is the point of view of the paper. The "liberal media" we hear so much about. It has all the news that's fit to print, as long as it doesn't offend the powerful.

The lead story on the front page says that Iraq has submitted its report saying it has no banned arms and the U.S. arms buildup "leaves U.S. Nearly set to start attack". The disconnect between these ideas is not commented on. The U.S. is going to have its war and whatever happens with the arms inspections is irrelevant. This illogic would not be so bad if there weren't so many innocent lives at stake.

On the front page of the Week in Review section, The Times dares to show a picture of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983 when Rummy was an envoy for Reagan. It looks like it might actually talk about the irony of how these guys are going after Saddam now, when they built him up, when they supported his use of chemical weapons before. But it doesn't do that. It wimps out. The subhead says "Saddam Hussein always had blood on his hands. Once it seemed beside the point. Now there's more, and it matters."

To whom was it beside the point? And to whom does it now suddenly matter? Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney have suddenly decided it matters. That is all that changed. And these same people had no problems with any of his murderousness before. They supplied him weapons. The Bush administration gave the green light on the Kuwait invasion. The Times is merely cheerleading the administration's agenda. It is not looking with a critical eye. Not examining policy with any kind of objective logic. It is trumpeting propaganda.

The article on the Central Park joggers asks, "Why Confess to What You Didn't Do?" and in a very roundabout manner gets to the point that these kids gave their confessions after being interrogated for as long as 28 hours, until they were broken down and would have done anything just to sleep. It lightly touches on that in the last two inches of about 30, but not before it has implied that they are pretty guilty anyway, even if not of the crime they were imprisoned for for half of their young lives.

"The prosecution's review of the case recommended dismissal of all the charges -- of rioting, robbery and assault -- that stemmed from the night of their so-called wilding, on a legal technicality. But it does appear that new evidence ... undermines the original theory that the five youths were guilty of the most heinous act of that night..."

So even though they were coerced to give confessions for a horrible crime they did not commit and spent the last decade in jail for it, and have stayed in jail for a year since the DNA evidence conclusively proved that a rapist and murderer who confessed to the crime did it, let's emphasize here that these guys were guilty of wilding, that night. Let's look at that and overlook the methods of the D.A.'s office that put these young men behind bars and destroyed their lives based on a lie.

And in the article about the resignation of Bush's secretary of the treasury and economic adviser, it says in the second sentence "neither was made for television," as if that was really the problem with those maniacs. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill wanted to abolish Social Security, Medicare and even taxes themselves. His TV demeanor was hardly the problem.

You can comb through the Times and name examples like this for longer than it takes for them to put out another one.

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