The new media offensive for the Iraq War. Why the Santa Rosa Press Democrat/New York Times ought to stop "censoring" and mangling Project Censored and its annual list of censored stories on Iraq and Bush et al
By Bruce B. Brugmann
Norman Solomon, a syndicated columnist who appears on the Guardian website, wrote a chilling column this week
on how the "American media establishment has launched a major offensive against the option of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq."
He noted that the "heaviest firepower is now coming from the most valuable square inches of media real estate in the USA--the front page of the New York Times. The present situation is grimly instructive for anyone who might wonder how the Vietnam War could continue for years while opinion polls showed that most Americans were against it. Now, in the wake of midterms elections widely seen as a rebuke to the Iraq war, powerful media institutions are feverishly spinning against a pullout of U.S. troops."
Solomon cited a Nov. l5 front page piece by Michael Gordon under the headline "Get Out of Iraq Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say." Gordon then appeared hours later on Anderson Cooper's CNN show, "fully morphing into an unabashed pundit as he declared that withdrawal is 'simply not realistic,'" Solomon said.
"If a New York Times military-affairs reporter went on television to advocate for withdrawal of U.S. troops as unequivocally as Gordon advocated any such withdrawal during his Nov. l5 appearance on CNN, he or she would be quickly reprimanded--and probably would be taken off the beat by the Times hierarchy. But the paper's news department eagerly fosters reporting that internalizes and promotes the basic world views of the country's national security state."
Solomon's key point: "That's how and why the Times front page was so hospitable to the work of Judith Miller during the lead-up to the leadup to the invasion of Iraq. That's how and why the Times is now so hospitable to the work of Michael Gordon."
And so it is not surprising that the New York Times and its Santa Rosa daily have been so inhospitable through the years to Project Censored, housed nearby at Sonoma State University. (See my previous blog and the scathing criticism by founder Carl Jensen and current director Peter Phillips of PD/NYT coverage of the 30th anniversary project and conference.)
I asked Jensen about the PD and Times record of covering what ought to be a top annual local and national press story. "At first," Jensen said, "the PD merely ignored the Project. Then, after Newsweek ran a column about it, the PD was embarrassed into covering it. Which they did, using the annual results as an excuse to criticize me for being a liberal, left-wing agitator. Finally, they just started to run one story a year, or sometimes none, announcing the results. This year they didn't even bother to announce the results for the 30th anniversary of the project. Instead, they did Paul Payne's hit piece about Steve Jones. To my knowledge, and a Lexis-Nexis search, the New York Times has never run an article about the project."
The PD has also not answered my impertinent questions about their censor-or-mangle coverage, which I emailed to the reporter, editors, and publisher.
Let us remember that IF Stone, in his famous IF Stone's Weekly, exposed in l964 the Gulf of Tonkin scam only days after President Johnson used it as the excuse to expand U.S. involvement in Vietnam. And ever after he led the journalistic charge brilliantly against the war. It took years and tens of thousands of dead American soldiers for the New York Times (and the other big "liberal" papers, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post) to figure out that Stone was right and change their "we can't get out now" news and editorial policies in support of the war. If Project Censored had been going at that time, Stone and his powerful little four page publication would have had major stories on the Censored list every year.
My impertinent advice to the Post Democrat and the New York Times: if you are are going to run Jayson Blair and Judith Miller and Michael Gordon and Paul Payne, then you sure as hell ought to be giving serious regular coverage to Project Censored at Sonoma State University and its annual roster of major "censored" stories the New York Times, PD, and the mainstream press don't cover properly. Why not start by running Phillips' op ed piece and inviting Jensen, Phillips, and their Project Censored crew into the PD for a full editorial conference and a podcast question and answer session? B3