Accuracy in Media

TIMES RISKS AMERICAN BLOOD IN TERROR WAR

The September 18 copy of New York magazine features the blaring headline, “Times Under Siege,” and the reported claim by President Bush that the paper’s editor would have “blood on his hands” if he published a story about electronic surveillance of terrorist telephone calls. If this is true, the Bush Administration has an obligation to prosecute the Times for revealing classified communications intelligence information.

If this story by Joe Hagan is to be believed, Times editor Bill Keller and his publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., thought they might be facing jail time for refusing to go along with White House suggestions to forgo publishing a story about a secret NSA terrorist-surveillance program. At this point, that seems unlikely. Although a grand jury is reportedly looking at the sources for the story by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, the reporters themselves and their editor and publisher seem to be off the hook. That’s a shame.

After the NSA story, Hagan says Keller decided to become even “more aggressive” toward the administration. His sidekick, Jill Abramson, is herself an “aggressive editor” who wants reporters to “go kill for us.”

Considering the “blood on his hands” comment, that may happen. Rather, the Times may encourage terrorists to go kill even more people, producing what one recent study on media coverage of terrorism called “blood for ink.” The Times, of course, will cover the story?that is, if the paper survives the next terrorist attack on New York City.   

Meanwhile, the official Al-Jazeera website has targeted President Bush himself by running a story about a movie depicting his assassination under the headline, “Death Becomes Bush.”  The story began: “It certainly will not cheer the man himself, but a new film depicting the assassination of George Bush is already proving to be successful.” It noted the American rights to this British film, “Death of a President,” had been sold.

An objective observer would have to conclude that the headline was a not-so-hidden effort to agree with the assassination of Bush depicted in the movie. That would not be out-of-character for Al-Jazeera, a mouthpiece for anti-American al-Qaeda terrorists.

From our vantage point, the “Death Becomes Bush” headline is another reason to keep Al-Jazeera International out of the U.S.

The Bush snuff film is being aired in Britain by the More4 channel, which is carried by Sky Digital. More than a third of the equity of Sky is owned by News Corporation, the parent company of the Fox News Channel, which has also agreed to air Al-Jazeera International in Britain. At the News Corporation annual meeting in New York City on October 20, Accuracy in Media intends to ask chairman Rupert Murdoch about this.

 

MEDIA DISTORT BUSH ECONOMIC RECORD

The record is clear: the economy is strong and getting stronger, as gasoline prices have recently been coming down. There have been four years of robust economic growth. But this is a record that has gotten the Bush Administration in trouble. Why?

The problem is the perception of what’s going on, courtesy of the major media. Even though the latest numbers show unemployment at only 4.7 percent, average hourly earnings up, and an inflation rate of only 3.8 percent, a September Wall Street Journal poll finds 57 percent of the people somewhat or very dissatisfied with the economy.

The scholarly book, Economic Turbulence: Is a Volatile Economy Good for America?, strongly suggests that the major media are focusing on “losers” in the economic situation rather than “winners,” and that stories about lost jobs obscures how the economy has become more flexible and a benefit to most workers.

The book begins by taking issue with CNN’s Lou Dobbs, who captured the “national angst” about the economy in his book, Exporting America. Dobbs, however, failed to capture the dynamism of the U.S. economy, and the fact that while jobs are lost, new ones are created.

Looking at the Washington, D.C. area, the book notes how, in May 2005, Giant Food shut down its headquarters in Maryland and laid off 500 workers. The news was full of stories about “the demise of good middle-class jobs and how the local economy would be hurt,” it notes. But almost unnoticed, at the same time, was the announcement that a new firm, MOM (My Organic Market), was opening a new store in western Maryland. 

The book said this is typical of how the media handle economic news. The bad is emphasized while the good is practically ignored. The “nature of the news industry,” it notes, “is to report on visible and traumatic events, which tend to be job losses, worker layoffs, and plant closings.” On the other hand, job creation, which can be a slow process, is not news.

Definition Of “News”

Getting to the nub of the issue, the book makes the point that “People see workers getting fired, and jobs being lost as firms shut down because that makes news.”  (emphasis added).

A “popular perception,” the book says, is that good jobs are disappearing. And yet the data assembled by the book’s authors, Clair Brown, John Haltiwanger, and Julia Lane, suggest that many laid-off workers “are able to continually improve their career paths by finding better job opportunities with another firm.”

Yet the idea that good jobs are disappearing?the so-called “giant sucking sound” described by Ross Perot?has become “a theme of newspaper and magazine articles?” It cites a series of such articles in the Washington Post.

The book analyzes five major industries?retail food, trucking, financial services, software and semiconductors?and concludes that each of them “has more jobs for all workers than a decade ago, and these jobs tend to be higher skilled and higher paying.” However, in terms of the media, job destruction and job loss “are much more visible than job gains and worker hires?” That kind of coverage produces the economic depression we see in the public opinion surveys.

Government Policy

Looking at the government approach, the book says that intervention in the economy should be restricted to providing workers with skills and information that facilitates adapting to the ongoing changes in the economy. The alternative is the socialist approach of stifling change and mobility in the economy in the name of saving workers from economic changes and turbulence. That approach, the book suggests, will not be successful over the long run and will undermine a vibrant and dynamic economy that benefits the nation as a whole.

 

ANTI-BUSH CONSPIRACY TALE FIZZLES OUT
By Roger Aronoff

The shouting is now over: the CIA-leak story, better known as Plamegate, was a big dud. Evan Thomas of Newsweek calls it a “big zero.” Those who promoted the story, such as Chris Matthews of MSNBC, Tim Russert of NBC News, and Frank Rich of the New York Times, have egg all over their faces. But don’t look for any apologies.

With the confirmation that deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage was the primary source for Bob Novak’s July 14, 2003 column identifying Joe Wilson’s wife as a CIA employee, the allegations of a White House conspiracy against Wilson have collapsed. For more than two years, the liberal media relentlessly hyped the story, thinking they would find that Karl Rove was behind it all. Instead, it turns out he was a secondary source for Novak, and that he merely confirmed in an off-handed manner that Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame had been behind Wilson’s CIA trip to Africa to investigate claims that Saddam Hussein had been seeking uranium “yellowcake” there.

The confirmation of Armitage’s role came in a book, Hubris, by Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff and The Nation magazine’s David Corn. They, the editorial board of the New York Times, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, and others in the mainstream media now seem prepared to accept the idea that the original leak in the case came from Armitage, who served under Colin Powell at State, and who was not part of the Bush-Cheney inner circle nor a supporter of the Iraq War. But they still want to hold on to the notion that this by no means cleared Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, or Bush himself of orchestrating a campaign to discredit Wilson for having attempted to undermine one of the reasons Bush gave for going to war against Iraq. Libby, of course, was the only person indicted in the case. He is accused of lying because of conflicting accounts of what he said to Tim Russert and other media figures about Plame.

Hall Of Shame

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard, who parceled out the real blame in an editorial entitled “The Plamegate Hall of Shame,” named Armitage, Powell, and the John Ashcroft Justice Department for knowing from the start who was responsible for the leak of Plame’s name, but not bringing it to the attention of the White House and saving the country from the two-and-a-half year investigation by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is on Barnes’ list, too, because he knew from the start, but proceeded with an investigation that is still continuing. 

Barnes’ list, of course, also includes Wilson himself, who Barnes calls “a fraud.” Referring to the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Barnes noted that they found “that nearly everything Wilson wrote or said about Bush, Cheney, Iraq, and his own trip to Africa was untrue.”

Ironically, the Washington Post, which Barnes singles out along with the New York Times for relying on Wilson’s charges “to wage journalistic jihad against the White House and Bush political adviser Karl Rove,” acknowledged early on that the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee strongly undermined Wilson’s main contentions.

While the Post may have lapsed, following that article, into waging “journalistic jihad,” it has redeemed itself since Armitage’s role has been confirmed. First, it ran an editorial on September 1 acknowledging that “one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House?that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame’s identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson?is untrue.”

The Real Culprit

While it said the White House was not blameless, and that it had carelessly handled classified information, the paper said that “it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame’s CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming?falsely, as it turned out?that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials.” They concluded that “It’s unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.”

Since then, the dean of all political columnists, David Broder, has made a similar case. He wrote a column suggesting that left-wing journalists Sidney Blumenthal and Joe Conason, and several publications, including Newsweek, Salon and American Prospect, owe Rove an apology.

On September 14, Novak further clarified in a column what had happened with Armitage, whom he had continued to protect as a source until Armitage confirmed his role as the original leaker in an interview with CBS News. Armitage, he said, wasn’t telling the whole story. It had not been “idle chit-chat” but clear and deliberate conversation, even telling Novak the CIA division for which Mrs. Wilson worked, that she had “recommended” her husband for the mission, and that “he noted that the story of Mrs. Wilson’s role fit the style of the old Evans-Novak column.”

According to Novak, “they cannot fit Armitage into the left-wing fantasy of a well-crafted White House conspiracy to destroy Joe and Valerie Wilson. The news that he and not Karl Rove was the leaker was devastating news for the left.” He ended by criticizing Armitage for not having come clean between October of 2003, when talk of an investigation heated up, and December 30 of that year when Fitzgerald was appointed as Special Counsel. “Armitage’s tardy self-disclosure is tainted,” wrote Novak, “because it is deceptive.”

Disappointing Ending

Veteran journalist Daniel Schorr, who recently turned 90, expressed how many of the administration critics feel about this latest turn of events. When asked by Scott Simon on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition about the news that Armitage turned out to be the source of the leak, Schorr responded that the reaction was “Very disappointing. This was supposed to be a big scandal involving neo-cons in the Bush administration and how they were out to get Valerie Plame. But now we have a former deputy secretary of state under Colin Powell not known to be [a] neo-con and so on, and says it was just in the course of gossip with Bob Novak that he mentioned it with no purpose in mind at all. That really was disappointing.”

Of course, that is the way Armitage wants people to see it.  The trouble for him is that he has now been sued by lawyers for the Wilsons, who have concluded that he was part of the alleged conspiracy, too. 

For his part, Novak says he would like to see Libby pardoned by Bush. Such a move, however, would be sure to gin up the left-wing conspiracy theories once again.

 

AL-JAZEERA “SCHOLAR” ATTACKS POPE

Stories about the controversy over the Pope’s remarks on Islam featured the views of Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, who has a regular show on the Al-Jazeera television network. Demanding a personal apology from the Pope, Qaradawi declared on Al-Jazeera that “Muslims have the right to be angry and hurt by these comments from the highest cleric in Christianity.” Yet, Qaradawi, a supporter or violent Jihad, is living proof of what the Pope was warning about.

Tracy Wilkinson of the Los Angeles Times said that Qaradawi’s broadcasts on the Arabic TV network, which now wants to expand into the U.S. through an English-language affiliate called Al-Jazeera International, make him “one of Islam’s most influential scholars.” Such is the power of Al-Jazeera. And the power now reaches into the U.S. media.

The Pope, whose “offensive” comments consisted of quoting an historical observation from the 14th century about Islam’s violent nature, has now said that he is “deeply sorry” over the reaction to what he said. It’s the reaction, including violent protests, bombs at Christian churches, the murder of a Catholic Nun in Somalia, and other threats against Christians, including the Pope himself, that deserves condemnation.

USA Today described Qaradawi as a “prominent Muslim scholar” who asserts that Islam is a religion of peace and reason.

Yet Qaradawi has declared, “There is no dialogue between us and the Jews except by the sword and the rifle.” While he is said to have condemned the 9/11 attacks, he supports Palestinian suicide bombings and even specifically authorizes using women to carry them out.

In view of such statements, it is significant that Al-Jazeera has made Qaradawi into someone worth quoting in the Western press. His undeserved elevation in such matters makes a mockery of the claim that the American media are “pro-Israel.”

Why has the coverage been so obsequious when it doesn’t take much effort to dig out the truth about him? With their memories fresh of the violent Muslim reaction to a few papers printing the controversial Mohammad cartoons, it would appear that our media are afraid of telling the truth. They will take on President Bush and Karl Rove but not Islamic radicals. 

They know that simply drawing attention to the historical record can generate death threats?or perhaps even death itself. We all remember what happened to Theo Van Gogh, the director of a film critical of the treatment of women under Islam. He was murdered in cold blood in the streets of the Netherlands by an Islamic fanatic.

Qaradawi’s emergence as an international spokesman for Islam, despite his history of violent utterances, stems from his association with Al-Jazeera, the Arab channel infiltrated by and a vehicle for al Qaeda. The Middle East Quarterly reports that Qaradawi “was forced from Egypt for his views, and he lives in Qatar, where he has become a media star by virtue of his immensely popular television show on Al-Jazeera television.”

That’s the same Qatar that is supposed to be a pro-U.S. “friendly” Arab government. The truth is that it is an Arab dictatorial regime which had links to al Qaeda before 9/11 and has a current seat on the U.N. Security Council that it used to vote against requiring Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Qatar is also the base of operations and major underwriter of Al-Jazeera and Al-Jazeera International.

All of this should matter not only because Qaradawi has falsely surfaced in the American press as a peaceful and reasonable critic of the Pope, but because Al-Jazeera International is putting on a major public relations campaign designed to garner carriage on U.S. cable and satellite systems.

We are being told by former CNN journalist Riz Khan and others associated with Al-Jazeera International that they will be objective and independent. But evidence of connections to the Arabic Al-Jazeera keeps surfacing.

It turns out that an Internet firm called iHorizons has been hired to create and launch Al-Jazeera International’s new website. The company created AlJazeera.net, the official website of the Arabic TV channel, and is also behind Qaradawi.net, the website for the “moderate” scholar who has become so popular with the U.S. media.

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed cards or cards and letters of your own choosing to Mark Jurkowitz of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Frank Rich of the New York Times, and Joe Scarborough of MSNBC.




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