The framing and shading of the news in ways unflattering to the Bush administration is nearly a daily occurrence. Some of the more shocking instances have been recapped in earlier posts today, but I’ll sum up.
- Bergergate–Sandy Berger, former Clinton NSA–steals classified documents relating to the Clinton adminstration’s record on terror. Not just any documents, but documents vital to what was then a current investigation about 9/11. Berger claims that he ‘knowingly’ placed written notes from the files in his pants and socks–glad that was intentional. But that he ‘unknowingly’ removed a classified leather portfolio. There is a brief JD investigation, a little muted criticism in the press, and then it simply fades away. Would a Republican NSA been given such an easy pass by the media? No chance in hell, or in Washington D.C. If that was James Baker or Condeleeza Rice they might well have ended up behind bars. This was no benign tomfoolery, it was an effort to whitewash and conceal crucial information about what the Clinton admin knew in 1999. Some of those docs were never recovered. And the media has hardly uttered a peep since.
- Wilsongate–world traveler and sometimes ambassador Joseph Wilson gets his prettified fake-tanned face all over TV with indignant claims that (a) Bush lied with the infamous ’16 words’ about Iraq attempting to purchase yellowcake from Niger (Wilson, you see, had tea with gentlemen in Niger who assured him this was not the case) and (b) some bastard in the White House had leaked his wife’s name because she had allegedly put him forward to the assignment to Nigeria, which she absolutely never did. The media LOVED it. They could not STOP themselves from talking about it. It was all Joe Wilson, all the time. Well when it turns out–twice-confirmed in independent bi-partisan government reports in the UK and the US–that (a) Saddam DID try to buy yellowcake from Niger and (b) Valerie Plame DID put her husband’s name forward, there is hardly a squeak of repentance in the media. After weeks of feeding off of Wilson’s self-serving lies, leveling all kinds of speculative, unfounded criticism at the Bush admin as a result his misrepresentations, going into wild hand-wringing antics over how this all demonstrated that the Bush people were in a rush to go to war…nothing. And to this day, almost no one that doesn’t pay very close attention to the news knows the truth–that SH did try to buy that yellowcake. That the ’16 words’ were not a lie, but were apparently based on sound intelligence.
- The release of the Duelfer Report–the Duelfer Report makes some truly momentous conclusions. It establishes that the UN Oil for Food program was corrupt to the core, it implicates key French and Russian powerbrokers as bribe-takers in the whole scheme and it puts forward–as its central finding–evidence that Saddam was just waiting for the opportunity to fire up his WMD programs again once he could end sanctions and get inspectors out. So what does the mainstream media–almost uniformly–decide to tell us? NO WMD IN IRAQ! NO WMD IN IRAQ! Which is a little like printing a headline reading KENNEDY ASSASINATED sometime in the middle of 1965. This was not news. But it was all that could be found in the Report that was genuinely damaging to the Bush people, so it was fronted as if it were news. Meanwhile, very significant findings were pushed to the back pages.
- The Al Qaqsaa Cache–Now this last week, the NYT and CBS were apparently vying over who got to distort an 18-month old story first. The NYT studiously, obviously deliberately, crafted its story to avoid saying when it was actually discovered that these materials where missing. Which was, as it turns out, the day after the war, when the first US soldiers to get to the site noted that everything was gone. Who could have removed 400 tons of explosives while SH was still nominally in power? Hint: not a couple of ‘thieves and looters’ with pickup trucks in the dead of the night. They were removed with heavy machinery, under orders from someone close to Hussein. It’s the only way it could have happened. No matter–the NYT (with many copycats in the media) presents it as a case of gross negligence and failed post-war planning. But when NBC (constrained by its knowledge that it was on the record actually reporting FROM an emptied Al Qaqsaa on April 11, 2003) calls their bluff, the LA Times is the only major news outlet that ran the story to come out and correct their error. And all of the damage done to the Bush campaign in the meantime? Just like with Joseph Wilson and the 16 words, most Americans are unaware that the record ever was corrected.
These are not isolated cases. They are simply the higher-profile samples of what is a fixed and constantly reoccurring pattern. As I said in an earlier post, the liberal predisposition of an overwhelming majority of media people is long-established. Political scientists have pretty-well stopped fighting about it. The question is primarily whether that very definite preference filters into their work. This pattern is evidence that it does. And it does consistently. And the distortions, the conscious acts of framing, the editorial twists, are usually deliberate.