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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Ignoring evidence

In the run-up to the British election, revelations emerged that focused attention on Tony Blair's use and abuse of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq invasion as well as his commitment to the Americans to join a war against Saddam. And let's not forget the legal advice that painted a dubious legality at best for the invasion.

These bombshells were virtually ignored in the American press. Fair and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) says that one of the reasons behind this may have been because there were no anonymous sources, the lifeblood of American journalists. In fact, all the major players were named and shamed and still the US press were caught sleeping.

A handful of media outlets mentioned the story in passing, including the New York Times and the Cox News Service. Perhaps the most telling delusions of the mainstream establishment came on CNN:

"CNN correspondent Jackie Schechner reported that the memo was receiving attention on various websites, where bloggers were "wondering why it's not getting more coverage in the U.S. media." But acknowledging the lack of coverage hasn't prompted much CNN coverage; the network mentioned the memo in two earlier stories regarding its impact on Blair's political campaign (5/1/05, 5/2/05), and on May 7, a short CNN item reported that 90 Congressional Democrats sent a letter to the White House about the memo - but neglected to mention the possible manipulation of intelligence that was mentioned in the memo and the Democrats' letter."

Salon columnist Joe Conason posed this question about the story:

"Are Americans so jaded about the deceptions perpetrated by our own government to lead us into war in Iraq that we are no longer interested in fresh and damning evidence of those lies? Or are the editors and producers who oversee the American news industry simply too timid to report that proof on the evening broadcasts and front pages?"

FAIR reports: "As far as the media are concerned, the answer to Conason's second question would seem to be yes. A May 8 New York Times news article asserted that "critics who accused the Bush administration of improperly using political influence to shape intelligence assessments have, for the most part, failed to make the charge stick." It's hard for charges to stick when major media are determined to ignore the evidence behind them."

The Washington Post was one of the major failures during this period. A number of readers wrote to the paper's Ombudsman complaining about the lack of coverage and Michael Getler's response was pathetic. Mentioning the omission in passing, perhaps he thought that because the vast majority of the US media ignored the revelations, why should his newspaper be any different? Once again, we are reminded why the US media is too cosy with the establishment and fearful of taking on their power.


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