Accuracy in Media

Conservatives are used to getting smeared as extremists by the national press. But the same trend can sometimes be seen on the state and local level. Consider that the Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette in Indiana ran a story about opponents of the U.N.’s Law of the Sea Treaty before the Senate. Sylvia A. Smith, Washington editor of the Journal-Gazette, wrote about how “conservatives and isolationists” had “long lobbied against the treaty.” We were intrigued by this story because of the lumping of conservatives in with “isolationists.” We were also interested in the story because the main Senate proponent of the treaty, Senator Richard Lugar, is from Indiana. It probably looks good for Lugar to be pitted against those “isolationists,” whoever they are.

It’s difficult to know what she meant by this term, since it wasn’t defined, but there are few isolationists active in Washington, D.C. these days. The term is really a left-over from the days before the U.S. confronted Hitler in World War II, when some were arguing that the U.S. should not get involved in European wars.  As such, the term “isolationist” now has a connotation of being na?ve or ignorant about foreign affairs. By extension, therefore, someone who opposes the Law of the Sea Treaty is someone who doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.

But who has the facts? Conservatives insist that the treaty creates an International Seabed Authority, ISA, that can “levy taxes, a first in the history of multilateral institutions.” On his web site, Lugar disputes this, saying, “No, the ISA has no authority to levy taxes.” However, he goes on to say that, “The Convention does contemplate the elaboration of rules for payments of royalties to the ISA from revenues generated from deep seabed mining. Under the Convention’s rules, such royalty payments would be used to cover the ISA’s expenses?Should any surplus revenues be generated, they could be used in certain cases to provide economic assistance to developing countries.”

Lugar’s language is reminiscent of how the book, Doublespeak, documents how politicians speak in code to hide the facts. Few politicians want to openly propose new taxes on the American people. So new terms are invented. Taxes, for example, have in the past been called “revenue enhancers.” In the Law of the Sea Treaty, royalties or fees are taxes. American corporations will not be able to mine the seabed without the approval of the “International Seabed Authority,” which manages the treaty. Because this revenue is mandatory, the royalties or fees are taxes.

The media prefer not to discuss this. When conservatives derailed the treaty last year, the Washington Post ran a story mocking the “staunch conservatives” who had been “denouncing the treaty as a dangerous sop to those who prefer a one-world government to muscular U.S. sovereignty.” One-world government sounds far-fetched but the Post conveniently forgot to mention that the Law of the Sea Treaty gives taxing authority to a U.N. body for the first time. And just recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, French President Chirac once again openly called for a global tax.

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