Sunday, October 14, 2012

Suppress the Truth, Feel the Fear

Why don't more corporate media outlets challenge President Obama on his criminal drone strike assassination policy? New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan not only asks that question in her Sunday column -- she challenges her own newspaper to step up to the plate and actually do its job, and become relentless in demanding accountability from our increasingly secretive government.

Taking her cue from the recent Stanford/NYU report that used interviews with Pakistani civilians in order to disprove White House claims of little to no "collateral damage", Ms. Sullivan posits that the lack of citizen outrage at the American killing campaign is at least partly attributable to the lack of hard-hitting coverage by the paper of record:

With its vast talent and resources, The Times has a responsibility to lead the way in covering this topic as aggressively and as forcefully as possible, and to keep pushing for transparency so that Americans can understand just what their government is doing.

The Sullivan column was published in tandem with a just-released report from the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, which points out the flaws in the tracking of civilian deaths from drone strikes. It notes that a "non-partisan" think tank called the New America Foundation has underestimated civilian casualties, as has the aptly creepy and presciently-named Long War Journal. On the other hand, the NYU study results jibed with those of the independent London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which had effectively broken the American campaign of death-by-drone story wide open. Of course, says the NYU report,

The discrepancies in counts by the tracking organizations—credible and well-resourced institutions—underscore the difficulty of gaining an accurate understanding of the impact of drone strikes from media reports alone. The public and some policymakers are compelled to rely on these estimates to judge the impact of drone strikes because the U.S. government has not officially provided information on drone strike deaths. While touting the success of the drone program and particular high-profile strikes, U.S. officials have avoided providing specifics—and cited national security. The public has no information on how and whether the U.S.
tracks and investigates potential civilian deaths.

But about those "credible, well-sourced institutions" -- The Long War Journal is run by an outfit called the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. It touts as its vague goal "fighting terrorism and supporting freedom." Its contributors form a veritable laundry list of current and former members of the military/industrial/spy state/corporate media complex -- a who's who of those inside-the-Beltway national security pundits who go on cable TV and spew propaganda, provide quotes to reporters at the New York Times and elsewhere. The Foundation was spawned in the wake of 9/11 by a group of "visionary philanthropists" for the sole purpose, apparently, of keeping fear of The Other (a/k/a Muslims) alive amongst the American populace. This includes conducting "studies" serving to dehumanize the victims of drone strikes, ensuring that we never see the torn bodies or learn the names of the innocent women and children are being killed in our name by the hundreds or even thousands.

The New America Foundation, besides taking it upon itself to undercount victims of the targeted assassination program, also imparts wisdom on asset-building, the economy, education, health... you name it. It's run by Steve Coll, a former editor at The Washington Post. CNN National Security reporter Peter Bergen is the expert on foreign policy. Would it surprise you to learn that the New America Foundation also is in the forefront of the Beltway centrist cult of deficit reduction? Connect the dots, people! Your information is being provided to you courtesy of the shadow form of government known as the Corporatocracy. You are being made to Feel the Fear in preparation for Sharing the Sacrifice (a/k/a willingly forgoing Social Security cost of living increases, cutting back on health care, privatizing education and demonizing labor unions so that your tax money can go for financing endless war and endless profits for Superpower USA.)

It really is quite remarkable that Margaret Sullivan's column even made it into print. The online version, of course, is conveniently buried at the very bottom of the Opinion Page where nobody will see it.


Pearl said...

Wonderful column about Margaret Sullivan's article in the N.Y.Times. Please
print your great response for the rest of our gang to read.
Your comment about her column being hidden online is confusing as I had no
trouble pulling it up when her name was punched in in the N.Y.Times search
box and it is listed with others on the opinion page section. However I would never had found it had I not read your column.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Pearl. Her column was "hidden" insofar that it was not prominently displayed among the other op-eds, but literally stuck at the bottom of the opinion page. Only two reader comments have been published so far, compared to the hundreds on the other op-eds. I think this is deliberate on the part of whoever lays out the homepage. Anyway, here is my response:

I don't think I've yet read an article in the Times or any other major media outlet that didn't dutifully describe drone victims as militants. And if the reporters do feel an ethical twinge, they'll occasionally throw in a "suspected" or "alleged" modifier.

As Ms. Sullivan writes, the source of the info is usually a pre-approved administration leaker, who must be granted anonymity because the assassinations officially do not exist. But even President Obama occasionally humblebrags about his Kill List. It's Orwellian newspeak to the extreme. Here's more:

Maybe the two-thirds of self-described "liberals" who say they support the president's drone strikes will change their tune if or when the "worse evil" (Romney) is defeated. But during this season of partisan tribalism, Democratic critics of the policy have been few and far between. Congress is silent. This year's party platform had no sign of the 2008 condemnation of Bush-era civil rights abuses. The evisceration of the Constitution is being legitimated by the citizenry, thanks in large part to the silence and complicity of the press.

Maybe this excellent column will help bring about that change we can all believe in.

Denis Neville said...

"Should the Times be a truth vigilante? Should reporters challenge 'facts' that are asserted by newsmakers they write about?" - Arthur Brisbane, previous NYT Public Editor

Margaret Sullivan says, "Newspapers must be truth vigilantes."

“The Times has not been without fault...With its vast talent and resources, the Times has a responsibility to lead the way in covering this topic [Questions on Drones, Unanswered Still] as aggressively and as forcefully as possible, and to keep pushing for transparency so that Americans can understand just what their government is doing.”

Margaret Sullivan bites the hand that feeds her.

How long will she last?

Is there a betting pool?

James F Traynor said...

Poor woman, she's obviously professionally suicidal - or has a trust fund. Apparently she's been taken to task by the Brookings Institute and supported by Glenn Greenwald who has wisely moved to Brazil. Definitely suicidal.

And it is obvious that the NYT has attempted to bury the article. I'm so happy that I no longer subscribe to that paper and that my increasingly low opinion of the B.I. has been, to some extent, vindicated.

Valerie said...


Thanks so much for bringing this excellent article to our attention. I must confess that I pretty much see the Times as vehicle for the Democratic Party to spin issues and only go when someone like you has the patience to read through all the tripe and find the gems.

I salute Margaret Sullivan - surely a dying breed of ethical journalist willing to put her own career on the line to get out a story she believes the country needs to read. I find that this kind of journalism is rare in the mainstream and mostly only found in the blogosphere these days.

Good catch on the language used by mainstream journalists about victims who are seen as collateral damage by this administration and the military. It is sad. People trying to stay informed by reading the papers are subject to so much propaganda and manipulation.

Even if some Americans are blind enough to believe that these drone strikes are necessary, how stupid can they be to not expect there will be serious blowback from indiscriminately killing innocents?