Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Other Items

Let's open by playing a little game. I'll provide the headline from the New York Times, you guess the author. Okay, and no fair clicking on the link to cheat before guessing, the headline reads "25 Insurgents Killed in Battle South of Baghdad, U.S. Says." I can't imagine anyone would need any hints, but just in case:

1) It's "reporting" from Iraq
2) It's a story that proclaims in it's headline it's all based on what one side said
3) It's carrying water for the US administration

Need another hint? How about "Reading Press Releases Live From The Green Zone!"? Yes, it is the one and only, the ultimate embed, Dexy Filkins! What has him rushing to the print?

As we noted yesterday:

Reuters notes that the Muslim Clerics Association is accusing "US forces . . . of killing 25 civilians in raids near Baghdad in the past two days." The Muslim Clerics Association released a statement staing, "We hold the Iraqi government and the occupiers responsible for this brutal atrocity."

Uh-oh! Public relations nightmare potential! Better run to Dexy! Which the military does. (They know they can count on Dexy, they told the Washington Post just that.) Dexy's all up in there Kool-Aid (we hope it's their Kool-Aid) as he rushes in to "report."

"Reporting" means presenting the Muslim Clerics Association claim. Which Dexy does. In the thirteenth paragraph. He notes it for the first time in the thirteenth paragraph. After twelve paragraphs of the US military's position. He then gives this assertion two more, single-sentence paragraphs before tying his bow around it with:

Neither the American account, nor that of the clerics in Baghdad, could be verified independently.

Now if neither account can be verified, why the "balance" of 12 paragraphs on the occupying power's account (four of which are on Sunday's events that the Muslim Clerics Association are responding to; eight on another event Monday) ? Because the ultimate embed didn't get to be the laughing stock of his peers for no reason.

Meanwhile, Sameer N. Yacoub reports in "6 Civilians, U.S. Soldier Killed in Iraq" (Associated Press):

Fighting between suspected insurgents and Iraqi police killed at least six civilians in Baghdad on Tuesday, and a roadside bomb killed a U.S. soldier on a foot patrol in another part of the capital, officials said.

It'll be interesting to see how Dexy "reports" next. We'll note that he never quotes from the statements of the Muslim Cleric Association but then, why should he? He's not a reporter, he's a cheerleader who got sidelined and now has to make do serving on the pep squad.

On the issue of the Times, members are highlighting commentary on Abe Rosenthal and wondering why it wasn't noted before. I really can't say anything about Rosenthal without including a lot of foul words. So we'll offer instead two highlights. First Mia notes Alexander Cockburn's "Abe Rosenthal's Times" (CounterPunch):

A.M. Rosenthal died last week at the age of 84. There were respectful obituaries describing how Rosenthal "saved" the NYT in the 70s by pepping up its news coverage, introducing the supplements and so forth. By the same token Rosenthal sowed the seeds for the Times' present difficulties. He was a bully with the bully's usual penchant for favorites. A culture of favoritism always produces servility, since the bully affirms his power by conspicuous punishment for the disloyal.
So the Times that nourished Judy Miller and blared her lies across its front pages year after year was A.M. Rosenthal's Times. The Times that has painted, in two decades worth of dispatches from Latin America and Asia and the former Soviet Union, its infantile cartoons of a world speeding towards beneficial neoliberal "reform" was also in large part a reflection of the cretinism of Rosenthal's politics, hence of the reporters he favored.

Second, Susan notes Matthew Rothschild's "A. M. Rosenthal, Distortions Unto Death" (This Just In! The Progressive):

Then there is the infamous case of Raymond Bonner, now back with the Times, who was writing for the paper from El Salvador in the early 1980s. Bonner was one of the first U.S. reporters on the scene of the December 1981 El Mozote massacre. Salvadoran troops, trained by the U.S., slaughtered hundreds of peasants in this incident. Bonner's reporting sparked denunciations from the Reagan Administration, the Wall Street Journal, and other rightwing outlets. Within eight months, Rosenthal yanked Bonner out of Central America and placed him back on the metro desk--hardly a promotion.
Mark Danner of The New Yorker wrote about Rosenthal's decision in December 2003.
Danner talked to Rosenthal, who said the implication that he removed Bonner because of pressure from the U.S. government or the CIA is "ridiculous, naive, cruel, and slanderous."
And Danner says that "certainly the idea that the government simply pressured the Times into withdrawing Bonner is wrong."
But something else was at play: Rosenthal’s own politics, which the eulogist at the Times so categorically denied.
"Conversations with a number of Times reporters and editors, former and current, persuaded me that the campaign against Bonner was more effective than it might have been because of Rosenthal's own politics," Danner wrote. "Several people told me that Rosenthal made no secret that he was unhappy with Bonner, because the reporter, as one characterized the editor's view, 'was too willing to accept the Communist side of the story.' . . . Several current and former times employees (none of whom would speak for attribution) pointed to a scene in a Georgetown restaurant a few weeks after the El Mozote story ran . . . in which Rosenthal criticized Bonner and angrily described the sufferings that Communist regimes inflict on their people."
Never say never.

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