Archive for the ‘Media’ Category
Mary Elizabeth Williams writes in Salon:
This may or may not be a story about a sexual assault. It is, however, about a question around it. Ever wonder why it’s estimated that nearly 70 percent of sexual assault victims don’t report what happened to them? If you do, it’s your lucky day, because this is an exemplary tale of what happens when a person comes forward to ask for help — especially a person who doesn’t fit into the tidy narrative of the knife-wielding stranger and the morally spotless female.
In a blisteringly eye-opening Monday feature in the Riverfront Times, writer Sarah Fenske delves into a recent St. Louis Dispatch story involving a 31-year-old woman who asked police to investigate her concerns that she’d been sexually assaulted during what she believed was a drinking blackout. As the Dispatch story reports, “She told [police] that when she woke up, she discovered that her wrist hurt, her clothes were muddy and had blood on them and she couldn’t remember most of the evening. When police asked if she thought she had been sexually assaulted, she said: ‘Maybe.’” A rape kit collected “suspected semen.” This, however, is not the main point of the story. Nope, instead, it’s that, as the main headline revealed, “Police report reveals past Diehl affair with Nixon staffer.” Even more explicitly, as the story’s headline inside the paper put it, “Police report details woman’s night of partying.”
The Post-Dispatch article features a photograph of the woman and gives her name and job history, as well as a revelation that she shared with police: that she’d had an affair with the Missouri House speaker John Diehl, who recently stepped down after exchanging sexually charged textswith a 19-year-old student intern. So as far the story’s concerned, “the detailed police report — which is sprinkled with names of prominent politicos whom [the woman] saw or texted with that night — opens a window into the capital’s nightlife” — one in which the Jagerbombs on her bar tab and details like “as she left, she stopped to take her shoes off and a businessman named Paul Findlay, who had met her at the bar, offered her a piggyback ride. She jumped on his back, which caused them both to fall on the concrete” are up for public discussion. The case has now been closed due to “lack of victim cooperation.” The woman refused to speak to the paper for the story, saying only, “It’s a very personal, humiliating and embarrassing thing I went through.”
It would appear that the woman — whose name it should be abundantly clear I’m not interested in dragging through the mud — has let go of pursuing investigation into whether she was assaulted on the night in question. That doesn’t give anyone else a free pass to not so subtly judge her for her private behavior — especially her previous sexual behavior. Fenske puts it astutely: “If you call the police because you think you may have been raped in a blackout, the next thing you know, all the details of what you drank and who you’ve been sleeping with end up on A-1 of the state’s largest daily.” It’s kind of like how, earlier this year, a New Orleans woman made the papers for reportedly being raped by two men “after a night of drinking.” And as Fenske also importantly observes, both police and the Dispatch assume that the woman couldn’t have been texting at one point in the evening because she was in a blackout, wildly mistaking a drinking blackout for being unconscious. And she adds, “The cops apparently traced her steps up to a point — a point when it was clear she’d drank enough to be seriously wasted — only for the woman to stop cooperating with the investigation. At that time, the police had yet to test the evidence they’d collected in the rape kit.” . . .
Democracy Now! has a video interview with transcript. Their blurb:
Why are so many politicians and much of the media afraid to call the mass shooting an act of terrorism? We discuss the double standards in coverage of shootings carried out by white attackers with two guests: Anthea Butler, associate professor of religion and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania; and Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, which was the spiritual home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The NY Times has a story headlined “Elizabeth Warren Calls S.E.C. Chief’s Tenure ‘Disappointing’“.
And Elizabeth Warren is right: no Wall Street criminal has gone to prison or even been indicted—nor paid a fine: the tab for the fines are picked up by the companies.
The article is particularly revealing in the headline and blurb for a sidebar:
Mary Jo White — From Prosecutor to Regulator
Before President Obama named Mary Jo White to run the Securities and Exchange Commission, she was the top federal prosecutor in New York City.
Yes, before Obama made Mary Jo White head of the SEC, she was the top federal prosecutor for NYC—but that was long before. The headline would be just as accurate had it read “Before President Obama named Mary Jo White to run the Securities and Exchange Commission, she was a student in Columbia Law School.”
In fact, for a decade (10 years) before Obama appointed her head of the SEC, she had been a defense lawyer. From the Wikipedia article on her:
For 10 years, she was chair of the litigation department at Debevoise & Plimpton. . .t has been asserted in Rolling Stone magazine that, among other duties at Debevoise, White has used her influence and connections to protect certain Wall Street CEOs from prosecution, including a notable case involving the firing of Gary J. Aguirre for investigations into the CEO of Morgan Stanley executive John J. Mack.
Just before Obama appointed her as head of the SEC, she had spent 10 years defending Wall Street firms. No wonder her conduct at SEC is worth some close inspection.
The way the NY Times presents this is really shameful.
The NY Times once again fails at the basic journalistic task: Seeking evidence that disconfirms Administration claims
As every schoolchild knows, the way you establish the truth of claims is to seek disconfirming evidence: evidence that contradicts the claims. If you find such evidence, the claim is false; if you can’t find it, even though you searched hard, the claim may well be true. But you certainly do not start with the assumption that the claim is true and then seek only evidence that supports the claim.
Unless, that is, you’re the NY Times and the claims are from the Administration in power and are being made in support of waging war. Then, being the NY Times, you believe the claims absolutely, ignore or minimize conflicting evidence, and provide a platform for anonymous claims by scores of Administration and military officials. In other words, the NY Times embraces its role as a propaganda outlet and drops any pretense of actual journalism.
We saw that clearly in the run-up to the Iraq war: Bill Keller and Judith Miller became advocates for the war, credulously repeating all the lies propagated by Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Pearl, Bush, and others, constantly reporting stories to support going to war and minimizing (or ignoring) evidence that contradicted Administration claims.
The Times has recently said that it has learned its lesson—but let’s look for evidence that disconfirms that claim. And we immediately find a story by Eric Schmitt on the front page of today’s Times: “With ISIS in Cross Hairs, U.S. Holds Back to Protect Civilians.” Take a look:
- Many anonymous sources quoted in support of waging a more ruthless and wider war: check
- Credulous reporting of Administration claims: check
- Absolutely no effort made to look for evidence that contradicts Administration claims: check
This story might as well have been reported by Judith Miller under Bill Keller’s editorship.
The New York Times this morning has an extraordinary front-page article claiming that the U.S. is being hampered in its war against ISIS because of its extreme – even excessive – concern for civilians. “American officials say they are not striking significant — and obvious — Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians,” reporter Eric Schmitt says.
The newspaper gives voice to numerous, mostly anonymous officials to complain that the U.S. cares too deeply about protecting civilians to do what it should do against ISIS. We learn that “many Iraqi commanders, and even some American officers, argue that exercising such prudence is harming the coalition’s larger effort to destroy” ISIS. And “a persistent complaint of Iraqi officials and security officers is that the United States has been too cautious in its air campaign, frequently allowing columns of Islamic State fighters essentially free movement on the battlefield.”
The article claims that “the campaign has killed an estimated 12,500 fighters” and “has achieved several successes in conducting about 4,200 strikes that have dropped about 14,000 bombs and other weapons.” But an anonymous American pilot nonetheless complains that “we have not taken the fight to these guys,” and says he “cannot get authority” to drone-bomb targets without excessive proof that no civilians will be endangered. Despite the criticisms, Schmitt writes, “administration officials stand by their overriding objective to prevent civilian casualties.”
But there’s one rather glaring omission in this article: the many hundreds of civilian deaths likely caused by the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. Yet the only reference to civilian deaths are two, ones which the U.S. government last week admitted: “the military’s Central Command on Thursday announced the results of an inquiry into the deaths of two children in Syria in November, saying they were most likely killed by an American airstrike,” adding that “a handful of other attacks are under investigation.”
Completely absent is the abundant evidence from independent monitoring groups documenting hundreds of civilian deaths. Writing in Global Post last month, Richard Hall noted that while “in areas of Syria and Iraq held by the Islamic State, verifying civilian casualties is difficult,” there is strong evidence [that] suggests civilians are dying in the coalition’s airstrikes.”
To May 13th 2015, between 587 and 734 civilian non-combatant fatalities had been reported from 95 separate incidents, in both Iraq and Syria.
Of these it is our provisional view – based on available reports – that between 370-465 civilian non-combatants have been killed in incidents likely to have been conducted by the coalition.
A further 130-145 claimed deaths attributed to coalition airstrikes are poorly reported or are single-sourced, while an additional 85-125 reported fatalities resulted from contested events (for example, claims that the Iraq military might instead have been responsible.)
In addition, 140 or more ‘friendly fire’ deaths of allied ground forces have been attributed to the coalition, with varying levels of certainty.
In his article, Hall quotes one of the Airworks journalists, Chris Woods (formerly with the drone-tracking Bureau of Investigative Journalism) as saying “he has ‘no doubt’ that civilians have been killed by coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, and that the number is probably somewhere in the hundreds.” Local media reports in Iraq have frequently reported civilian deaths at the hands of the U.S.-led bombing campaign.
While compiling exact counts of civilian deaths is difficult, it’s astounding that theNYT would mention none of this, and reference none of these groups’ data or quote their experts, when trumpeting (and complaining about) U.S. restraint. To say that the picture painted by Schmitt is one-sided and incomplete is to understate the case.
One can obviously dismiss these civilian deaths, as many Americans routinely do, by casually invoking the “collateral damage” mantra and relying on cartoon versions of The Threat Posed by ISIS. But it’s outright bizarre for a paper purporting to report on excessive U.S. restraint to completely omit this data, just as U.S. media outlets have done for years with civilian deaths from drones. Beyond the humanitarian matter, killing civilians yet again in Iraq and Syria is highly likely to exacerbate the very problem the bombing campaign is supposedly designed to solve, as the NYTarticle itself recognizes: “Killing such innocents could hand the militants a major propaganda coup and alienate both the local Sunni tribesmen, whose support is critical to ousting the militants, and Sunni Arab countries that are part of the American-led coalition.” . . .
So the NY Times apparently thinks, like the Administration, that we should be inflicting more civilian casualties in fighting ISIS. It’s like that job interview question “What are your weak points?” that is answered along the lines of “I am perhaps too motivated and work too hard to produce truly excellent results quickly” and the like. “Our problem in fighting ISIS is that we are being too careful not to harm civilians. We’ve got to put those concerns aside and slaughter however many civilians we have to do kill the enemy easily.”
The NY Times, back at the old propaganda stand. Jesus.
Interesting column in the NY Times by Sergei Guriev,a professor of economics at Sciences Po, Paris, and Daniel Treisman, a professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles:
THE standard image of dictatorship is of a government sustained by violence. In 20th-century totalitarian systems, tyrants like Stalin, Hitler and Mao murdered millions in the name of outlandish ideologies. Strongmen like Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire left trails of blood.
But in recent decades, a new brand of authoritarian government has evolved that is better adapted to an era of global media, economic interdependence and information technology. The “soft” dictators concentrate power, stifling opposition and eliminating checks and balances, while using hardly any violence.
These illiberal leaders — Alberto K. Fujimori of Peru, Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Viktor Orban of Hungary, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela — threaten to reshape the world order in their image, replacing principles of freedom and law — albeit imperfectly upheld by Western powers — with cynicism and corruption. The West needs to understand how these regimes work and how to confront them.
Some bloody or ideological regimes remain — as in Syria and North Korea — but the balance has shifted. In 1982, 27 percent of nondemocracies engaged in mass killings. By 2012, only 6 percent did. In the same period, the share of nondemocracies with no elected legislature fell to 15 percent from 31 percent.
This sea change might have started with Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, who combined parliamentary institutions with strict social control, occasional political arrests and frequent lawsuits to cow the press — but also instituted business-friendly policies that helped fuel astronomical growth.
The new autocrats often get to power through reasonably fair elections. Mr. Chávez, for instance, won in 1998 in what international observers called one of the most transparent votes in Venezuela’s history.
Soaring approval ratings are a more cost-effective path to dominance than terror. Mr. Erdogan exploited his popularity to amend the Constitution by referendum and to pack Turkey’s Constitutional Court.
The new autocrats use propaganda, censorship and other information-based tricks to inflate their ratings and to convince citizens of their superiority over available alternatives. They peddle an amorphous anti-Western resentment: Mr. Orban mocked Europe’s political correctness and declining competitiveness while soliciting European Union development aid. . .
James Fallows writes in his Atlantic blog:
Let me recommend for your weekend reading, or for your weekday reading if you’re seeing it then, a detailed study by Bruce Bartlett called “How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics.” You can download the 18-page PDF from this site of the Social Science Research Network.
The idea that Fox News operates with different aims and by different norms from those of, say, the BBC is familiar. But this presentation is notable for two reasons.
The first is its source — for those who don’t know, Barlett is a veteran of the Reagan and Bush-41 administrations and was an influential early proponent of supply-side / tax-cut economics. He also worked for Ron Paul. Since then he’s harshly criticized the Bush-43 administration, but in no sense does he come at this as a Democratic party operative.
The second and more important reason is Bartlett’s accumulation of detail showing (a) that Fox’s core viewers are factually worse-informed than people who follow other sources, and even those who don’t follow news at all, and (b) that the mode of perpetual outrage that is Fox’s goal and effect has become a serious problem for the Republican party, in that it pushes its candidates to sound always-outraged themselves.
I recommend the whole thing, but here are two samples. First, on misinformation, a quote from an academic study: . . .
I.F. Stone showed how journalism should be done. Jon Schwarz in The Intercept has a good background story and two videos. Here’s the first video:
Schwarz’s article begins:
I.F. Stone was arguably the greatest investigative journalist of the last 100 years, the “Patron Saint of Bloggers” and one of the main inspirationsof “Unofficial Sources.” If you already know and love Stone, check out parts one (above) and two (below) of a new video, “The Legacy of I.F. Stone.”
If you don’t know Stone but want to find out why he’s so beloved, the videos describe his approach and some of his accomplishments. They also feature Michael Moore, Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill explaining whythey love him. Most important is Stone’s bedrock principle: reporters should start from the presumption that powerful institutions are lying, rather than the presumption that they’re telling the truth.
Moore — who before he started making movies ran “Moore’s Weekly,” an homage to Stone’s one-man magazine “I.F. Stone’s Weekly” — says this: . .