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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NY Post vs. NY Times

Here is an excerpt from the Post account by Ray Walser of what happened yesterday in Honduras:

"Honduras is a poor nation, and got worse on Zelaya's watch. But rather than blame the global downturn or his own failures, Zelaya sought to rally the masses behind him by fingering the nation's elites as behind the nation's woes.

"He sought vindication by ordering a national referendum that, he said, could alter the Constitution and allow him to run for re-election. And when every free, democratic institution from the Electoral Tribunal to the Supreme Court said no to his proposal, Zelaya pushed ahead anyway.

"Last week, he called the military on the carpet, demanding it support his referendum. Gen. Romeo Vasquez, the head of the armed forces, considered this an illegal order, and refused to play ball -- so Zelaya fired him. (He accepted the defense minister's resignation, too.)

"The next day, the Supreme Court ruled the firing unjustified. Zelaya refused to obey its decision....He'd set Sunday as the day of his contra-constitutional referendum. Instead, the Congress, the courts and the military stepped in and pulled the plug on Zelaya's maneuverings.

"They sent him packing on a plane to Costa Rica. Then, in a deliberate, bipartisan manner, they selected a civilian president to serve through scheduled elections in November."

Pretty straightforward.

The NY Times account was headlined, "In Honduras Coup, Ghosts of Past US Policies." The first two paragraphs:

"President Obama on Monday strongly condemned the ouster of Honduras's President as an illegal coup that set a 'terrible precedent' for the region, as the country's new government defied international calls to return the toppled president to power and clashed with thousands of protesters.

"'We do not want to go back to a dark past,' Mr. Obama said, in which military coups override elections. 'We always want to stand with democracy'."

It was not until the twelfth paragraph that the ghost-busting Times mentioned Zelaya's firing of the head of the military and the Supreme Court's decision that his referendum was illegal. The Times never even mentioned the Electoral Tribunal's judgment against Zelaya.

Imagine the following scenario. In early 2008 George W. Bush announced that he was going to flout term limits and arrange for a referendum to change the law. Congress said no. The Supreme Court said no. So Bush then asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to support him. They said no, so Bush fired them. So Congress and the Supreme Court then decided to call in the National Guard to escort him out of the White House and fly him up to Canada.

Bush would obviously never have tried this. But if he had, do you think the NY Times -- and Barack Obama -- would be decrying a subsequent "coup"? No, they would have expressed outrage against Bush every step of the way.

There's no question that the CIA has meddled in Central American politics in years past. But count on the Times to excoriate past US administrations for that before even mentioning the naked power grab the leftist President of Honduras was up to just last week.

The funniest part of the whole affair was how Zelaya had treated Hillary Clinton when she had traveled to Honduras for an OAS conference.

The Times reported, "He reportedly annoyed her when he summoned her to a private room late in the night after her arrival and had her shake hands with his extended family."

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, anyone who annoys Hillary is rendering perfectly poetic justice.

On the other hand, anyone who acts so self-indulgently should be overthrown just on principle, power grab or not.


Anonymous said...

.... and the New York Times has the reputation of a key 'newspaper of record' in the United States. A Leftist friend of mine who is a lawyer specializing in ethics was shocked when I gave him a copy of an April 30, 2001 Weekly Standard Scrapbook article titled "The New York Times Fesses Up". It says that NYT managing editor Bill Keller admitted to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post that it's standard practice for the NYT to steer their readers to the proper conclusion. There was a reference to an 'editorial elbow in the ribs around the third paragraph' (I wish I had the exact quote, unfortunately I have lost the second half of the article).

This is not an ethical practice for a 'newspaper of record'.

The leftist bias of the mainstream press was a major story some years ago. It seems to me that since the subject got so much attention the main stream press just took off the mask and abandoned all pretense of balanced reporting. The NYT article you have cited in this blog post is a good example.

Unfortunately many people still believe that their trusted mainstream media source is delivering balanced coverage and the unvarnished truth. They should be reading it with a skeptical eye, similar to the way the Russians used to read Tass (or looking for multiple sources with different biases).

I believe everyone has a bias and an opinion. It must be an incredibly difficult task to cover the news in a completely objective, unbiased, down the middle manner - as my Leftist legal ethics friend believed the NYT does. The potential for subtle manipulation of wording to support one side, or degrade the other, must be incredibly difficult to filter out - given any author's actual opinion on the subject. It would be best, in my opinion, if writers would declare their biases publicly and proceed from there.

Until then its up to us to understand the biases of the news sources we read.

- Ed

John Craig said...

Ed -- You're right, the NY Times prints "all the propaganda that's fit to print." The sad thing is, their leftist point of view seeps into their coverage of the arts, sports, local issues, everything. (I see it least in the business section.) I wouldn't resent it except for the fact that they pretend to be unbiased.

Guy said...

A very good example of the bias of the media John. I agree with your conclusion Ed. Happily, the internet age allows us to "opinion shop" across the media very easily. I have come to deliberately seek the extreme opinions to help triangulate a perspective. (When there is unanimity it can be quite instructive, e.g. we know Labour in Britain must be in deep s**t because even the Guardian is critical of them.) I concur with Ed's impression that balanced reporting is difficult to find and to your point John, I will recognize the NYT in the extreme category more often. Unfortunately, it's still a much better paper than most. G

John Craig said...

Guy -- Thanks for your comment. I agree, the extreme points of view are often far more interesting. Back in the 80's I subscribed to both the National Review and the New Republic in an effort to enlighten myself. I later subscribed to a white supremacist newletter, B'nai Brith's magazine, a communist newletter, and another newletter called The Black Scholar. All pretty enlightening. It's good ot know how others think.

airtommy said...

You claim the NY Times has a liberal bias, and you know this because the Times did not match up its facts with the NY Post? That's funny.

"He sought vindication by ordering a national referendum that, he said, could alter the Constitution and allow him to run for re-election. And when every free, democratic institution from the Electoral Tribunal to the Supreme Court said no to his proposal

Typical right-wing garbage. A bunch of US-trained terrorist thugs wrote a pamphlet which gives them unaccountable power and immunity from public scrutiny, and they called it a "constitution". That "constitution" should be burned in the streets.

History Haunts Honduras

John Craig said...

Airtommy -- I was all set to respond viciously to your comment, then I read the link to the Raimondo article you included. It was very informative, and, I have to admit, I hadn't realized the unlimited powers it gave the Honduran military. I also hadn't realized that the new government shut down opposition newspapers while instigating this transfer of power. (In an earlier post I said that if you want to tell who the bad guys are, just look for the ones who clamp down on the press.) So, my analogy about Bush trying to gain a third term is misleading, since the military in this country does not operate with autonomy. But Raimondo also says that's Zelaya's referendum is not a matter of him wanting to obtain more personal power, but to diminish the power of the military. Saying that he's doing it for purely selfless reasons seems a little unrealistic/naive from a human nature standpoint. And even if the military has had/does have too much power, isn't the Congress democratically elected? Shouldn't the Supreme Court have a say? And if they're lined up against Zelaya's referendum...does that mean nothing?

As far as the New York Times' liberalism goes, I don't know how anybody can argue about that. If you're saying that the particular piece of evidence I proffer is misleading, well, I admit I didn't know much about the history of Honduras's military. But the Times's emphasis is still telling. The Electoral Tribunal, the Supreme Court, and Congress's opposition to him is an important part of the story, yet the Times didn't mention it till the twelfth paragraph, long after they had lambasted the US for its history of meddling. If it had been a leftist "coup", I'm sure their emphasis would have been totally different.

Anonymous said...

I was interested to see airtommy's comment. I was under the impression that your post was about biases in the press, illustrated by two different stories about the same situation. Doesn't reacting to the post with a vituperative attack on the Post (which we presumably all agree has it's own bias) miss the point?

But, of course, perception of bias always depends on where one is standing. Some are willing to spend a bit of time exploring others' points of view.

John Craig said...

Anonymous -- The post WAS about bias in the press. But while the Times showed their bias (in the ways I pointed out above and in the blogpost), I hadn't appreciated that in fact the NY Post showed its bias as well by not mentioning how autonomous the Honduran military has been. I learned more about the history of military corruption by following that link. I'll write more about the Times' bias in the future, perhaps on subjects in which I have more background.

airtommy said...

The NY Times has a clear liberal bias on social issues. When it comes to foreign policy, not so much. They only seem liberal if you believe the outright lies that emanate from Murdoch's empire. But I wouldn't blame you for believing that propaganda. Unless you venture way off into the weeds, you won't get anything remotely approaching the truth on foreign policy. So if you haven't been exposed to anything but the mainstream media, the NY Post seems to make sense.