Accuracy in Media

Back in 1980 I attended a journalism class at the far-left Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. The teacher was Karen De Young, a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post who later became foreign editor. Speaking about coverage of the two sides in the war then underway for Central America, De Young said, “Most journalists now, most Western journalists at least, are very eager to seek out guerrilla groups, leftist groups, because you assume they must be the good guys.” She demonstrated that bias in her coverage of the Communist Sandinista takeover of Nicaragua when she went out of her way to play down their communist ideology.

Karen De Young is back, and this time her target is Colombia. After the Clinton Administration reluctantly proposed an aid package for Colombia, De Young traveled to the country to terrorist-occupied territory, only to fail to discover any hard-core communist terrorists down there. Instead, the main group, the Revolutionary Armed forces of Colombia, the FARC, was described as a group of people who are coming around to the benefits of democracy. Describing their tour to Europe, De Young said they encountered “modern social democracy” and discovered that the state, the private sector and the workers really get along well. FARC commander Paul Reyes was quoted as saying he was pleased that the Europeans spend money on the unemployed, the illiterate and the homeless.

In some more reassuring news, De Young reported that the FARC didn’t seek or receive “much ideological or financial input from the Soviet Union” during the Cold War. And she said the group’s own 10-point plan “talks about land distribution, social benefits and political access for the rural poor…” It’s true that the FARC had an “early alliance” with the Colombian Communist Party, but De Young stated as fact that it “has always been an essentially rural movement…” De Young quoted a former “peace commissioner” in Colombia as saying that the FARC still says it’s Marxist-Leninist, but this was said to be just rhetoric. In the words of the “peace commissioner,” it is “like saying you’re a Catholic, but you get an abortion and don’t go to church.”

De Young did mention that the FARC is on the U.S. Government’s list of terrorist groups, but she provided this information in the context of downplaying it. She stated, “Although the FARC is on the U.S. Government’s list of terrorist organizations, a Clinton administration official met with the guerrillas in late 1998…” But it’s not clear what relevance a visit by a Clinton official has on that listing. The State Department description of the FARC says it is “pro-Soviet” and “anti-United States since its inception.” This is something that De Young conveniently left out of her article.

De Young even played down the group’s involvement in narcotics trafficking. She claimed some of the top leaders don’t approve of it, and that the FARC “insists it is a limited business relationship.” This kind of language is laughable on its face, but it’s the kind of reporting we have come to expect from Karen De Young, who seems to think that members of this leftist group are indeed “good guys.”

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