Saturday, July 30, 2005

Editorial: Jim Dwyer goes historical but NYT still doesn't tell you of Bill Clinton's trip to Ireland in May

The New York Times' war on Bill Clinton (and Al Gore) is hardly news. Toss out the name, for instance, of Jeff Gerth and most informed people will nod. So maybe it's not surprising to read this morning's Times, specifically Jim Dwyer's "I.R.A. Pledge Seen as Potential Model for Other Conflicts," and come across this statement:

Mr. [Martin] McGuinness . . . said that as soon [as] he got off the plane he received a call from former President Bill Clinton, who visited Northern Ireland three times during his presidency and helped persuade the I.R.A. to declare a cease-fire in 1994.

Now Dwyer may be unaware of an event because a lot of people seem to be unaware of Bill Clinton's recent travel itenarary. When we noted Bill Clinton's trip to Ireland in May, the e-mails poured in from visitors claiming Bill Clinton hadn't been in Ireland! That we must be making it up because if Clinton was there, surely we'd all be reading about in our papers!

Our domestic media wasn't interested in telling you about it (as to why, take it up with them). And possibly Dwyer is as unaware of the visit as were so many visitors to this site.

But Clinton went there. In May of 2005, Clinton went there and spoke on several issues and met with Gerry Adams. If we're seeing a significant event (and the Times' can't make up its mind on that yet) with recent developments, Bill Clinton deserves a slice of the credit. chances are he won't get any but he deserves some.

During his presidency, he worked very hard on the issue of Northern Ireland. This year, in the middle of raising relief funds for the tsunami victims, Clinton made a point to stop over in Ireland.

From Paul Artherton's May 29, 2005 "Clinton attends Irish fundraising events" (UK Fundraising):

Former US president Bill Clinton was the star guest at two Irish fundraising events last week. The events were run by disability charity RehabCare and AIDS charity, The Rose Project. RehabCare hosted a €500 a head gala dinner with Clinton while The Rose Project organised a breakfast. Some sections of the Irish media focussed on the cost of securing Clinton's presence but charity organisers said Clinton's costs were covered by contributions from corporate sources, including support from one of Ireland's wealthiest men, Denis O'Brien.

Those Unionists in Northern Ireland that the Times loves so much? Check out "Clinton 'a political has-been' says Paisley " (May 24, 2005, Ireland Online):

Former US President Bill Clinton was tonight denounced as a political has-been by the leader of the Democratic Unionists, the [Protestant] Reverend Ian Paisley.
Mr Paisley launched a savage broadside at Mr Clinton after the former US President challenged, during a visit to Dublin, Mr Paisley's claim that the Good Friday Agreement was dead.
Mr Paisley said: "The discredited ex-President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton, simply revealed his unmitigated cheek in going to a country that wants to destroy Ulster's place in the United Kingdom and then lectures us that our democratic expression of our own future must be set aside to conform to the will of the country that claims supremacy over it.
"The Belfast Agreement, which in itself is devoid of democracy, has made it clear that we must have a new beginning, and that beginning must close and bar the gates of its government to terrorists of whatever side they come from.
"Clinton cannot have his way to force IRA / Sinn Féin terrorists into the government of this part of the United Kingdom, as I told him to his face when he was in Belfast."
Mr Clinton, who is in Dublin to help launch a national suicide prevention scheme for young people in the Republic, insisted that there was no viable alternative to the Good Friday Agreement.
He said he did not agree with the DUP leader's claim outside Downing Street last Thursday that the 1998 accord was dead, but he also stated his belief that the next move to reinvigorate the political process in the North was in the IRA’s court.
"If they were to give up their arms and criminality, I think it would put a lot of pressure on Mr Paisley and others," the former President said.

Paisely comes off sounding like so many demented Clinton haters in this country. (Is he their answer to Jerry Falwell?) Possibly, the paper that still employs Jeff Gerth identifies so strongly with Unionists like Paisley thereby explaining the Times skewed coverage?

What did Clinton say (above)? "He said he did not agree with the DUP leader's claim outside Downing Street last Thursday that the 1998 accord was dead, but he also stated his belief that the next move to reinvigorate the political process in the North was in the IRA's court. 'If They were to give up their arms and criminality, I think it would put a lot of pressure on Mr Paisley and others . . .'"

And what has happened?

Gerry Adams and the others deserve credit for what happened (or blame as the Times seems to feel). But maybe a sliver of the credit should be sliced off and given to Clinton?

He did makes this an issue when he was president. He did work on it then. He addressed it when he was in Ireland in May. For whatever reasons our domestic media didn't tell you about it, didn't want to bore you maybe. But it happened. And it's "public record" outside the US.

Still a doubter?

Check out "Adams and Clinton hold hour-long talks in Dublin" (May 24, 2005, Ireland Online):

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has held a brief meeting with former US President Bill Clinton in Dublin.
The two men met for around an hour this morning to discuss the latest developments in the Irish peace process, of which Mr Clinton is a strong supporter.
The former US President said last night that he believed the Good Friday Agreement was the only way forward for the North.
His comments are in line with the views of Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Irish and British Governments, but fly in the face of DUP claims that the 1998 peace deal is dead.

The Times filed a story written during Clinton's trip to Ireland. It made no mention of the fact that a US president had visited the area.

When the e-mails pour in (from members) anytime the Times covers the region, they tend to note that their coverage tends to be accepted.

I have no idea whether that's true or not.

If that's true, it may be due to the fact that a historical conflict has been oversimplified by our mainstream media (no surprise there). When the attacks started (including from the Times) in the lead up to Saint Patrick's Day, we backed off on noting them because a former professor of mine, who specializes in that area, said the best thing to do was to ignore it. The reason being that Ireland gets very little attention in this country period. A smear campaign (which was how he saw the Times' coverage) would be most effective on Saint Patrick's Day when our media does their "party stories." If the smears got traction, they would be presented by the TV media along the lines of, "You know though, while the partying is going on, we should remember what is rocking Ireland right now . . ."

Even with the Times throwing their weight behind the smear, it wasn't going to go far (his judgement.) Unless we all got into an uproar. But it did get a little attention. A friend phoned on Saint Patrick's Day, for instance, asking what the deal was with something he'd just seen on CNN.

So if others are echoing the oversimplification in the press, it may be because that's all they know. To Dwyer's credit, today his article notes the history of the conflict via remarks from Hugh Carey, "shocking institutional discrimination and bigotry in Northern Ireland against Roman Catholics in the late 1960s." (Carey, Democrat, was a seven-term member of the United States House as well as a governor of New York.)

The letters section of today's paper contains people speaking of the historical situation. They're objecting to the Times' oversimplification. Here's a quote from one:

Unionist party members have said they will believe the statement when there is evidence that the I.R.A. has destroyed its stores of arms. But nothing has been said about disarmament of loyalist (Protestant) paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland: the Ulster Defense Association, the Ulster Volunteer Force, the Ulster Freedom Fighters and others.
At various times since 1968, members of those groups were killing more people than the I.R.A. was.

Here's a quote from another:

But I am disappointed that Prime Minister Tony Blair's comments and the White House statement, as reported, make no mention of the need for loyalist paramilitary groups to follow suit.

[Note: For anyone confused, the above is referring to paramilitary groups supporting the Unionists. Yes, they exist and, yes, as the letter writer points out, they are armed and there's no talk of them disarming.]

Here's a quote from yet another:

While I don't wish to defend any group's killing of any innocent people, how could there not be a single reference to the terrible atrocities committed by British troops during the 20th century?
Look at the civilian death tolls over the decades. Look at the climate in impoverished Catholic neighborhoods and the unchecked brutalization of its inhabitants that led to the civil rights movement.

There's also no reference to the violence aimed at Catholic Chuches last weekend. In fact, you've never read about that in the Times. Which is why members e-mail to ask if the Times is anti-Catholic, anti-Irish-Catholic or both?

They've done a very poor job covering this issue. They aren't alone. The way it's presented, there are Unionists and Sinn Fein (which is the IRA for the Times' purposes). That's it. That's all of Northern Ireland in their eyes (or at least in their reporting and editorializing from the editorials). And Sinn Fein/the IRA/Catholics are vigilante mob unless they're the "tokens" used to speak out.

We've never defended violence here but we have asked for reality and common sense in the coverage. As Keesha notes in an e-mail this morning, "If the Catholics were black, I think a lot more people would be complaining about TNYT coverage. But what you have is two white groups that most Americans don't know anything about or about the area. The mainstream coverage has been exactly the same as coverage of Israel where Palestinians, to believe the coverage, just want to kill themselves and everyone else. It's one sided and it needs to stop."

The conflict didn't emerge in the last year or two. It's a historical conflict that has, at its roots, issues of governance and discrimination. The Times has reported on only one side. (Imagine if churches in this country were targeted last weekend and the Times didn't report on that? There'd be an uproar.) And they've utilized innuendo in their smear campaign that, as Eli pointed out, isn't making it into the BBC coverage. We saw quotes earlier this week from people condeming the Catholics (and don't pretend it hasn't been a religious war) but none from anyone condemning the Protestants.

The fact that Paisley early on killed the Good Friday Afreement was only mentioned in passing. It wasn't explored or even questioned.

The closest moment of historical overview (prior to Dwyer today) came in this statement:

. . . Northern Ireland's fledgling police service, which has been revamped to gain the trust of Roman Catholics, who suffered from discrimination in the past.

Discrimination in the past? That's a very mild way of putting it.

So when the paper's seen as anti-Catholic or anti-Irish Catholic (or both) there are reasons for it.
Whether it is or isn't, people noting the imbalance in the coverage are entitled to speculate as to why the paper has been so one-sided on this issue.

In an announcement article earlier this week, the Times pimped (Alan Cowell and Brian Lavery) that whether or not the IRA laid down arms, there were still doubts that they were sincere.

As Krista e-mailed, "Doubts should also include doubts about the other side. Or is the Times now arguing that the attacks on the two Catholic churches were a clever ruse?"

I don't think they're arguing that because to argue it, they'd have to mention it. And they haven't. And they probably won't. They have correspondents in Ireland, they're aware of what goes on. They just don't think it's news or worth informing the readers about.

And when Bill Clinton, our former president, goes to Ireland in May and addresses the conflict, they don't think that's news either. The position he took is the position that's been put into place this week. But that's not news?

For people dependent upon the Times (and sources that ape the paper) the situation truly is a good versus evil simplification that could have sprung from the mouth of the Bully Boy. But that's not reality. And why the Times doesn't want to portray reality is a question on many members' minds. The Times only has themselves to blame for that.

Dwyer's article today isn't a bad one. I'll fault him for bringing up Bill Clinton without noting Clinton's recent trip to the area. (Which, as a domestic reporter, he may be unaware of. Or he may have brought it up and it might have been edited out.) Otherwise, it does the best of any article thus far to balance out the previous coverage. But the thing is, the previous coverage isn't one article. It isn't two articles. It's been a problem, a repeated problem, for some time.

From Dwyer's article:

Through the first 50 years of partition, Catholics in Northern Ireland had far less access to voting, jobs and housing than did their Protestant neighbors. Even as many Catholics and nationalists steadfastly opposed the I.R.A.'s campaign of bombings and assassinations, they held stinging memories of that history.
John Hume, whose work to end the violence was recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize, recalled in a 1997 interview the discrimination he saw growing up. "In my own town of Derry, you had one-third of the population controlling the other two-thirds," Mr. Hume said. "When I was a boy, the lord mayor had 43 votes just for himself - he owned six limited companies with seven votes each, plus his own vote."
During the 1960's, Mr. McGuinness said that British forces effectively criminalized dissent, cutting off political avenues for people who saw themselves as Irish rather than British. "The conflict rose from the civil rights movement, from the state's brutality in suppressing civil rights protesters and indeed, murdering them," Mr. McGuinness said. "We ended up in a vicious cycle of conflict."

And even today, Dallas (thank you for hunting down links) notes that this article isn't on the main page or the main international page. You have to click on "ALL HEADLINES" to even come across it. On the other hand, Brian Lavery's "To Some In Ulster, Celebration of I.R.A. Pledge Is Early" is prominent. It's featured (with photo) on the main page of the international section. On the main page of the Times website, it's the second story listed under "International" (Dwyer's article isn't listed on the main page). (I'll note that Lavery's "Some" article is one of three international stories spotlighted in the mailing that the Times sends out. Dwyer's article isn't noted.)

"To Some" is news. (Presumably, "some" also do not see the "Celebration of I.R.A. Pledge" as being "Early.") "I.R.A. Pledge Seen as Potential Model for Other Conflicts" is, however, not big news. Think about that for a moment. The story the Times gets behind is the one that questions the "celebration," not the one that notes it as a "Potential Model for Other Conflicts."

That probably says more about the Times than they realize.

The e-mail address for this site is