A Buffalo News headline (4/18/17) asked a pointed question about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “How Did Cuomo Make $783,000 on Memoir That Sold 3,200 Copies?”
The accompanying article did not delve particularly deep into the mystery, beyond noting that the royalty amounts to $245 per copy for a book that retails on Amazon for $13.05, and that it more than doubled Cuomo’s income for 2016, when his $216,000 in royalties topped the $168,000 he got as his gubernatorial salary. “This payment was contractual and per the agreement with the publisher,” a Cuomo spokesperson told the News.
The identity of that publisher—HarperCollins, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp—goes a long way to solving the mystery: Murdoch has long made a practice of funneling large payments to influential politicians via HarperCollins book contracts, in what amounts to a system of legalized bribery.
More than 20 years ago, Mother Jones (5–6/95) was already remarking on HarperCollins’ reputation as “publisher to the powerful,” noting the $5.4 million it gave British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for her “almost unreadable memoirs,” the $1 million it gave Deng Xiaoping’s daughter for what the New Yorker (2/13/95) described as “a turgid, barely literate piece of propaganda,” and the $4.5 million it offered US House Speaker Newt Gingrich for his turgid To Renew America. (After critics pointed out that the House was considering telecommunications legislation that would impact Murdoch very directly, Gingrich turned down an advance in favor of straight royalties, a choice that the Washington Post—11/4/95—estimated reduced the speaker’s payday by about two-thirds.)
Other politicians who have benefited from Murdoch’s editorial generosity include Ted Cruz, who reportedly received an advance in the neighborhood of $1.5 million (New Republic, 10/20/15), Sarah Palin ($1.25 million—Guardian, 10/27/09), George W. Bush (a comparatively modest $130,000—New York Times, 4/18/00), and UK prime ministers John Major (£400,000—Guardian, 11/2/99) and David Cameron (£800,000—Daily Mail, 10/25/16).
What do you get for that kind of money? Well, in the case of Cuomo, Matthew Cunningham-Cook and David Sirota (International Business Times, 2/25/15) pointed out that during his tenure as governor, Cuomo has repeatedly backed policies that benefited Murdoch’s News Corp:
One of the initiatives was a bill that created a special sales tax break for online-only publications that charge for subscriptions. News Corporation, which was one of the two companies that lobbied for the bill, was at the time investing tens of millions of dollars in such a publication. Another initiative was a special tax exemption that Cuomo’s administration created for electronic books, which are sold by, among others, HarperCollins. State records list News Corporation as lobbying Cuomo’s tax department in the months before the exemption was announced. And, while News Corporation lobbied the governor’s office in 2012, Cuomo championed an expansion of controversial film and television tax credits that have benefited News Corporation’s films, and that News Corporation had lobbied for in the past.
Cuomo has rejected the idea that statewide officials like himself should be subject to caps on outside income, arguing that it’s unnecessary (Daily News, 1/19/15): “I’m not allowed to represent anyone or any business matter.”
And if you believe that, I’ve got a book I’d like to sell you for three-quarters of a million dollars.
Research assistance: Joshua Cho
George W. Bush’s recent public relations tour, designed to rebuild his image as a tortured artist wrestling with the demons—a flawed but morally introspective tragic figure—has been remarkably effective. As FAIR (3/7/17) noted last month, Bush has been the lucky recipient of dozens of friendly write-ups, interviews and TV appearances, all with only the mildest of liberal chiding around the margins.
In all of the fawning press coverage, one thing has been notably absent: Bush’s Iraqi victims.
Bush’s new PR tour centers around him painting wounded American veterans—foregrounded as the primary negative consequence of Bush’s invasion of Iraq. In ten of the most prominent articles praising Bush in the past few months, not a single one mentions his Iraqi victims:
- “George W. Bush’s Painted Atonements” (New Yorker, 3/3/17)
- “Bush Nostalgia Is Overrated, but His Book of Paintings Is Not” (New York Times, 4/17/17)
- “‘W.’ and the Art of Redemption” (New York Times, 3/21/17)
- “George W. Bush on Immigration Overhaul Efforts, Anti-AIDS Efforts” (NPR, 4/13/17)
- “He Was Almost Killed in Afghanistan. Now He’s Been Painted by the President Who Sent Him There” (Washington Post, 4/13/17)
- “George W. Bush’s Best-Selling Book of Paintings Shows Curiosity and Compassion” (Washington Post, 3/12/17)
- “George W. Bush’s Talent as a Painter Finds an Ironic Muse: the Combat Veteran” (Guardian, 3/6/17)
- “Former President George W. Bush to Appear on Today for his ‘Portraits of Courage’ Book” (Today, 2/17/17)
- “From Caricature to Man of Character: How Time and Art Change Image of Bush” (Christian Science Monitor, 3/23/17)
- “Former President Bush Honors Veterans With ‘Portraits of Courage’” (Voice of America, 3/4/17)
Only one article makes vague reference to the Iraqis killed and injured (Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott opaquely mentions ”the trauma here and in Iraq”), but none note the specific number of deaths—with serious estimates ranging from 500,000 to 1 million—that resulted from Bush’s war of aggression. None profiled an Iraqi who suffered or continues to suffer as a result. This is likely for the same reason Bush didn’t bother to find any to paint—they simply don’t factor into the US moral calculus.
One of the glowing profiles, by Kane Farabaugh of US government–funded Voice of America (3/4/17), doesn’t even contain the word “Iraq.” Others make glib jokes about it, like the New York Times’ Mimi Swartz (3/21/17):
The New Yorker’s art critic, Peter Schjeldahl, can barely hide his surprise when describing the quality as astonishingly high, the portraits “honestly observed and persuasively alive.”
Why the shock and awe? Because Mr. Bush’s artistic talent goes against the stereotype we have of him.
To the extent the Iraq invasion is addressed, it’s a punchline. Iraqi victims aren’t just ignored; their trauma is used to jazz up an otherwise mediocre piece of art criticism.
This type of runaway nationalism is so common we hardly notice it. To the extent Bush is sorry, he only regrets the Americans he helped kill and maim, roughly 2 percent of those who suffered as a result of the invasion. The other 98 percent are faceless Arabs whose humanity isn’t worth touching on, much less exploring.
All cultures naturally prioritize their own, but the wholesale erasure of Iraqis from Bush’s rebranding tour, framed as “atonement” and “redemption”, is striking in its raw nationalist myopia.
Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst for FAIR.org. You can find him on Twitter at @AdamJohnsonNYC.
Bill O’Reilly‘s attorney issued a statement earlier this week, saying the Fox News host was the victim of “a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America,” which, he has “irrefutable” evidence, is being “orchestrated by far-left organizations” for their own gain. It’s not clear if that evidence will be forthcoming, now that O’Reilly is out of his spot at the top of Fox‘s roster.
It was, of course, the far-left New York Times (1/10/17) that ran the story that appears to have started the snowball rolling, reporting earlier this month that Fox had paid some $13 million to settle at least five lawsuits from women staffers, who charged the host with things like verbal abuse, sexual comments, unwanted advances and phone calls better left undescribed. Corporate advertisers, undeterred by O’Reilly’s years of on-air racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, outright lying and hate-mongering, evidently decided that was a bridge too far. OK.
It’s hard not to celebrate the end of the sheer toxicity O’Reilly’s show put out. But activist groups like UltraViolet and Color of Change who worked for his ouster underscore that the problem is bigger than him. Fox News executives gave cover for harassment and abuse for years; there’s no reason to believe that culture has changed, particularly as the network won’t make the results of their investigation public.
The group Media Matters, who would also assuredly have been cited by O’Reilly’s lawyer, reminded that calling for boycotts of institutions he doesn’t like was part of O’Reilly’s stock in trade. His website still maintains a list of “Media Outlets that Traffic in Defamation,” and urges readers not to “patronize or advertise with” them. On the list is pretty much any outlet that makes any reference to his harassment history.
The Dayton Daily News had the temerity to mention it, leading to a threatening call from O’Reilly’s producer demanding it run an apology. When it didn’t, O’Reilly told his audience that the paper had “sympathy for child rapists.”
A Roanoke Times editor named Daniel Radmacher mentioned harassment charges and poked fun at O’Reilly’s “War on Christmas” thing. For which he and the paper were targeted on the host’s TV and radio shows, with O’Reilly complaining to millions about
extremely mean-spirited, personal attacks on me by a guy named Dan Radmacher, a left-wing loon. We did some research on him, and it’s disgraceful. And they go on our “don’t buy, don’t advertise” list, Roanoke Times. Because anybody would employ a guy like that—and you know, and we did, we walked back and looked at what he did—is irresponsible. It’s just horrible.
Who does that sound like?
At FAIR, we have mixed feelings about advertiser boycotts—which draw on the power corporate sponsors have to control content. But for that to be the thing that freed the airwaves of Bill O’Reilly…. Well, that’s just karma.
Janine Jackson is the program director of FAIR, and the producer and host of CounterSpin.
This week on CounterSpin: Sen. Elizabeth Warren put it pretty clearly to the now-former CEO of Wells Fargo when she said, “You squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket.” But what that powerful statement still omits is that Wells Fargo didn’t cheat any and all customers: Its fraud—opening some 2 million accounts for people without their knowledge—was targeted specifically at black and brown communities. These same communities are at the sharp end of Wells Fargo practices in other arenas—like pipelines and private prisons. Activists are using this scandal to call attention to a range of other problems at the bank—problems not addressed by a couple of top executives giving back some of their golden parachutes. Saqib Bhatti is director of the ReFund America Project and co-executive director of the Action Center on Race & The Economy (ACRE). We’ll talk with him about the Forgo Wells campaign.PlayStop pop out
Also on the show: Corporate media are very interested in Donald Trump’s taxes, as well they should be. But there’s plenty to be said about unfairness in the tax system even before we get to the tax dodger in chief. Jeremie Greer is vice president of policy and research at the Corporation for Enterprise Development; they say the tax code doesn’t reflect inequality; it actually drives it. We’ll talk with him about CFED’s Turn It Right-Side Up campaign.PlayStop pop out
And we take a quick look back at recent news, including Bill O’Reilly’s termination and the New York Times‘ new far-right columnist.PlayStop pop out
Janine Jackson interviewed Alex Vitale about de-policing for the April 14, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.PlayStop pop out
Janine Jackson: A former Chicago police officer is accused of framing some 51 people for murders they didn’t commit. BuzzFeed’s Melissa Segura reports that police brass, prosecutors, judges, oversight commissions and federal authorities all had ample opportunity to stop Reynaldo Guevara. Instead they promoted him, built cases around him, and ignored even those swearing in open court to abuse.
Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby explained why she killed an unarmed man walking away from her at a traffic stop: “If I wait to find out if he had a gun or not, I could very well be dead,” Shelby said.
The public conversation has come some way toward acknowledging that, even if not every officer does what Guevara or Shelby did, it’s not appropriate to think of them as isolated bad apples, because their actions and attitudes are not just permitted, but in a sense produced by an institutional and social climate—by a system. But if such abuses are not so much mistakes in the system as indicators of fundamental problems, is “reform” really the right model for the change required? Or should our conversation move toward placing less emphasis on how policing is done, and more on why?
Alex Vitale is associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, and author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics. His upcoming book, The End of Policing, will be out this summer from Verso. He joins us now by phone. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Alex Vitale.
Alex Vitale: Thank you.
JJ: Op-ed pages and other spaces are reflecting concern right now that the call from Jeff Sessions for a review of consent decrees with some police departments means that the reforms that such measures have led to or could lead to are in jeopardy. The New York Times cites body cameras and reporting requirements; others point to increased training, including in the use of force. The sense is that there are serious flaws in law enforcement, preeminently a breakdown in community relations, but we’re fixing those flaws, though that progress is now under threat. What sorts of questions or concerns do you have with that understanding of things?
AV: I have two concerns about the kind of hand-wringing that’s been occurring over the Trump pullback on police oversight. One is the idea that policing can only be reformed if the federal government is there as a backstop, when the reality is that policing is a local matter that is under the control of local mayors. And I think in particular of a case like Baltimore, where there was this sense in which, oh my God, if the feds pull out, we won’t be able to reform our police—when it’s the mayor and the city council who are saying that, and they have the statutory power to enact the changes that need to be enacted there.
The reality, though—sort of the second point—is that the federal interventions have not been very successful. These kinds of procedurally focused interventions that ask police to change what’s in their rulebooks, to implement some training, to possibly add some body cameras—these are what we often refer to as procedural justice changes, that attempt to make policing adhere more closely to the law, engage in better communication with those subjected to law enforcement, but never interrogate in any meaningful way the basic mission that the police have been given.
I often use the example of, you know, a perfectly legally executed and well-communicated marijuana arrest can still ruin a young person’s life: can eliminate their ability to get work in the future, cut off financial aid, put a felony or even just a misdemeanor drug arrest on their record. And so that is a substantive justice issue that is rarely addressed with these kinds of procedural reform measures that we’ve seen come out of the feds under the Obama administration.
JJ: We read often about a breakdown in relationships between communities of color, in particular, and law enforcement, or we read about a loss of trust, and that implies an earlier halcyon day. History is in fact deeply meaningful, but not the kind of imaginary history that this invokes. Can you remind us of some of the origin story of policing in America, which gets at the “why”?
AV: Yes. So I have a new essay in the New Inquiry called “The Myth of Liberal Policing,” that is adapted from a chapter in the forthcoming book, and in it I basically challenge this liberal notion that policing has always existed to fight crime and to keep us safe, when the historical record is really dramatically different, that policing has always been a tool of state coercion, that has served the interests of maintaining and reproducing existing economic arrangements of inequality. And in particular, I link it to three major institutional forces in the 18th and 19th centuries, and those are colonialism, the managing of the emerging industrial working class, and slavery.
And on the latter part in particular, I went down to Charleston, South Carolina, and I looked at some of the origins of the Charleston City Guard, which predated the formation of the London Metropolitan Police, that are often held up as the first modern police force. And what I found was that the Charleston City Guard was a direct outgrowth of efforts to manage what was an emerging mobile, industrial slave population.
In cities like Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans, slaves actually worked outside of the home of their owners in many cases. They worked on wharves, in warehouses and in emerging industrial production. They carried little badges that identified their owner and their permission to move about freely, but they also, as a result of this, had access to some money, and began to form underground societies and engage in underground leisure activities: drinking establishments, gambling, but also religious groups, study groups; people were learning how to read.
And white residents of Charleston were terrified about this freely moving black population, and basically created a police force to manage that mobile slave population. And of course, these forces then, after the Civil War, become transformed into the kind of Jim Crow police forces that we see using water hoses and dogs on civil rights protestors.
So this idea that the police existed to produce crime-free, secure societies was only really true in the South for whites.
JJ: Right. And that piece, “The Myth of Liberal Policing,” is online at TheNewInquiry.com. And there are a lot of interesting aspects, including the militarization of police work we think of as something new: the adaptation of tools and tactics from war being brought home to domestic policing; that’s not really new either, and there’s also information on that history in there as well.
AV: Let me just say something about that, though, because it’s important to understand police as an alternative to using the military. Because before the emergence of modern police forces in the early to mid–19th century, state authorities had to rely on local militias or the Army to put down riots, insurrections, strikes, etc. And those forces had very limited tools to use, basically sabers and muskets, and as a result they killed a lot of people. And that process served to undermine state legitimacy, and civilian police forces are created to manage those problems in a less violent, less militarized way, primarily because of the desire to improve legitimacy.
And Robert Peel, who creates the first London police force, he learned this while being in charge of the English occupation of Ireland, where he creates the first civilian peace force, that replaces militias with a more permanent and less militarized force that focuses on preemptive political action, embedding themselves in local communities, making arrests instead of lining up and shooting people.
JJ: And this continues, this lineage draws down to today with an ultimate goal of shoring up legitimacy. And I guess what we’re talking about is, it’s that very legitimacy that seems to go unchallenged, the legitimacy of the role of law enforcement within society.
AV: That’s right. So this idea of legitimacy goes unchallenged in contemporary debates. Everyone just assumes, yes, police legitimacy is a good thing. And my point is that we actually need to really question what the purpose of police legitimacy is. If it is to manufacture public consent for a war on drugs, a war on terror, a war on disorder, then it’s deeply problematic. It is basically enabling these coercive state forces to maintain and reinforce racial and economic inequity.
JJ: One of the places that those contradictions have become most pointed recently is when people are saying that they want to support the idea of sanctuary cities, where local officials wouldn’t cooperate with ICE on deportations, but at the same time they don’t recognize that they need to also challenge Broken Windows policies. I wonder if you can talk a little bit about that nexus, and why it’s important to see.
AV: Yes. My colleague Alan Aja and I wrote a piece for a local newspaper here in New York, not long after the election, where we said Trump claims that he intends to ramp up the deportation of immigrants with any kind of criminal record meant that hundreds of thousands, potentially, of people across New York would be at risk of ending up in deportation proceedings, not because they were violent criminals, but because they had jumped a turnstile on the way to work, or had gotten arrested for riding their bike on the sidewalk. And while the city may claim that they don’t actively cooperate with federal authorities, all federal authorities have to do is just plant themselves in court, and as people appear on these charges, they can literally just pick them up and take them away for deportation proceedings.
Now, we haven’t seen this kind of widespread practice for low-level offenses so far, but we have seen some instances of this. And certainly as the Trump administration ramps up its rhetoric and its enforcement, this is a real risk. And it could include not just people here without any documentation, but even those on certain kinds of visas or green cards, conceivably, as the criminalization of this population rolls along.
JJ: And I guess also one of the things you hope folks will see is that, yes, now you’re paying attention to how easily people can be caught up in the system, and we should care about that, even if the outcome is not deportation but just, as you said earlier, a ruined life. That kind of low-level criminalization, very selectively enforced, is damaging, and we should understand that it’s damaging, even as we trace it damaging new communities or people in new ways.
I think that when some people do support the idea of less policing, as opposed to better policing, they do so to some extent as part of a utopia that they don’t see aborning. It’s a feeling that that’s a long way off, and in the meantime, it seems to imply chaos; you know, what do you possibly mean, having less police? I wonder if you can talk a little bit about just how you introduce the idea to people.
AV: So my approach has been to directly and empirically interrogate specific aspects of policing, mostly things that have come under police control only in the last 40 years, and to ask what are the origins of this kind of policing, what are the consequences of this kind of policing, and what are the alternatives to this kind of policing.
So one example I often start with is school policing. Here in New York City, we now have more NYPD personnel in city schools than we have counselors of all varieties, over 5,000 personnel. And the origin of school policing is based, in many ways, on two myths. One is the superpredator myth that was perpetuated by conservative academics and politicians in the 1990s, that said that we were on brink of a wave of pathological youth violence that was going to run amok in our cities and schools, and that we needed to identify, isolate and neutralize this threat. Of course, every year after that article and those views were put forward, youth crime dropped. But nonetheless it became fodder for a movement to put armed police in our schools.
The other was the myth that following Columbine, our schools were incredibly dangerous places, and the only way to keep them safe was to place armed police there. Of course, what people forget is that there were already armed police at Columbine when that tragic shooting happened, and they were totally unable to prevent the attack. And in fact, that year and in the years following, school is the safest place that young people spend time. It’s safer than their homes, it’s safer than their communities.
So there are problems in schools. There are problems with discipline and even problems with crime and violence, but there’s absolutely no evidence that putting armed police in schools is fixing that problem. In fact, the research shows just the opposite. Instead, we need to look at things like restorative justice programs, rethinking disciplinary measures, and also looking at the corrosive role of high-stakes testing in both driving students away from a positive attitude about education, and orienting schools toward driving those young people out of those institutions through suspensions and criminalization.
So that’s an example where we don’t need nicer school police, we don’t need better-trained school police, we don’t need school police to be mentors to young people. We need to eliminate school policing altogether.
JJ: Let me just ask you, finally, and you’re illustrating it, but the idea of de-policing is not in contrast, necessarily, to the idea of reform. What would you say the relationship is? I mean, how do they fit together?
AV: I think that obviously there are needs for major changes in policing. The problem is this misunderstanding that if we change some training, we hire a few more diverse police officers, we put on body cameras, that this will accomplish anything substantial. If we don’t change the fundamental mission of police, those reforms will not work. So efforts to reform the police don’t have to all be about eliminating these police functions, but they can’t either be only focused on a handful of procedural reforms.
I look for reforms that bring immediate relief, more or less, but that point towards larger structural changes. So eliminating Broken Windows policing will bring relief right away to people, but it also questions why we rely on police to manage homeless people urinating in public, why we use police to manage young people in the summer hanging out in the park after it closes, and why we manage poor people having to jump the turnstile because they can’t afford the ever-increasing subway fare. In addition to those police reforms, we need to address those underlying dynamics that are producing the crime and disorder that we have asked the police to fix for us.
JJ: Alex Vitale is associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College. His forthcoming book, The End of Policing, will be out this summer from Verso. Alex Vitale, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.
AV: You’re most welcome.
The New York Times is the most influential newspaper in the English-language world, not just because of its reach and leadership status within the industry, but because it defines the boundaries of acceptable debate. Being in the New York Times is a legitimizing event, one that cements ideas as not fringe, “other,” or in the realm of the dreaded, career-ending “conspiracy theory.” So it understandably upset many liberals when the Times decided to bestow upon hard-right Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens the ultimate stamp of Acceptable Opinion approval by affording him a regular op-ed column in the Times.
It’s not just that Stephens is yet another white man, like nine of the other 12 current columnists. As Hamilton Nolan thoroughly documented over at Fusion (4/14/17), Stephens holds a number of fringe right-wing opinions, namely his consistent climate change denial, anti-Arab racism, anti-black racism, advocacy of torture and insistence that the campus rape epidemic is an “imaginary enemy.”
Stephens has referred to antisemitism as “the disease of the Arab mind,” insisted Palestinians have a “blood fetish” and “blood lust,” said Black Lives Matter was a “lie” based on the “myth of victimization,” labeled institutionalized racism another “imaginary enemy,” called climate change “hysteria” and a “religion without God,” and, in a piece subtly headlined “I Am Not Sorry the CIA Waterboarded,” contended Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in fact “waterboarded himself” by not being “truthful with his captors.”
As others have noted (The Outline, 4/18/17; Think Progress, 4/13/17), these are all far-right positions that would be usually be considered outside the Acceptable Mainstream. What is less commented upon is how Stephens’ hiring highlights the radical asymmetry at work when considering what is and isn’t a fringe opinion. When one goes to the far right—namely the neocon right, which puts a premium on anti-Arab and anti-black racism, and fetishizes American exceptionalism above all else—there doesn’t seem to be a line that can’t be crossed.
This is in stark contrast to the other end on the spectrum, where anything slightly to the left of Hillary Clinton is nonexistent in the staff opinion section at the New York Times. All of the liberal or pro-Democratic Times columnists during the 2016 primary, for example, were behind Clinton or, at the very least, not behind Sanders or his broader policy aims.
The Times’ Paul Krugman, a prominent liberal, was squarely in the tank for Clinton, calling (4/25/16) the former secretary of State “the most knowledgeable, well-informed candidate in this election,” and complaining (4/8/16) that “Mr. Sanders is starting to sound like his worst followers…. Absence of substance beyond the slogans seems to be true of his positions across the board.”
The ideals are not in dispute. What’s in dispute is whether our ideals can be reasonably accomplished by a single administration or a generation. Sometimes you have to cut deals to reach ideals. That’s politics.
Gail Collins (5/12/16) argued that Democrats should “let Hillary Clinton have the nomination,” despite Sanders’ “inspiring vision of change,” because only she had “the competence to run the country from Day 1.”
All perfectly fine positions, such that they are—and Krugman, Blow and Collins likely arrived at their stances in total good faith—but the fact that their lukewarm embrace of Clinton represents the far reaches of acceptable left opinion is telling.
Despite the fact that only 26 percent of Americans support the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and its increasing unpopularity among unions and activists, the best the Times could muster was self-described “soft opponent” Krugman (3/11/16), whose opposition was hyper-qualified and marked by accusations that Sanders “demagogu[es] the issue”.
Again, on the issue of single-payer healthcare—a position supported by a plurality of Americans and a majority of Democrats—the only Times columnist to nominally support the cause, Paul Krugman, spent weeks during the primary explaining why it wasn’t feasible (“it’s just not going to happen anytime soon”) and should be tabled until some unknown time in the future.
Other liberal columnists, like Blow, Nick Kristof, Gail Collins and Roger Cohen, were either silent on the issue of single-payer healthcare or similarly dismissed it as unrealistic (“almost certainly an unattainable goal,” Cohen insisted—11/4/16). Strangely, the most conservative of the liberal columnists, Thomas Friedman, endorsed the idea in an offhand thought experiment last year (1/6/16), but as with Krugman, single-payer is relegated to a normative, theoretical goal, while those pushing it—namely Sanders—are dismissed as fringe day-dreamers promising the Moon.
The point is not that any particular columnist is under any leftist obligation to like Sanders, or all of his policy goals—it’s that the lack of a single columnist supporting a candidate whose platform would be down-the-middle in most European and Latin American countries shows how far to the right the Overton window is in the most influential newspaper in the world. Ideas like single-payer healthcare and free college are dismissed as pie-in-the-sky fantasies, while climate denial, anti-Arab bigotry and anti-woman vitriol are, according to Times editors (Huffington Post, 4/14/17), bringing a “new perspective to bear” that “further widens” the “vibrant diversity of opinions” the paper presents.
Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst for FAIR.org. You can find him on Twitter at @AdamJohnsonNYC.
This week on CounterSpin: Corporate media often describe the country as being “roiled by” police brutality, or as “grappling with” racism in the criminal justice system. But when elites get to define the problem, they get to decide what constitutes solving it—and for many people, that makes for too shallow a conversation when it comes to policing. We’ll talk about the limits of police “reform” with Alex Vitale, associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, and author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics, and of the forthcoming The End of Policing.PlayStop pop out
We also take a look back at recent press, focusing on the airstrikes against Syria.PlayStop pop out
For the second time in as many years, Thomas Friedman has explicitly advocated that the United States use the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a proxy force against Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. The New York Times foreign affairs columnist made this suggestion in his Wednesday column, “Why Is Trump Fighting ISIS in Syria?” (4/12/17):
Why should our goal right now be to defeat the Islamic State in Syria? Of course, ISIS is detestable and needs to be eradicated. But is it really in our interest to be focusing solely on defeating ISIS in Syria right now?…
We could simply back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria and make it entirely a problem for Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Assad. After all, they’re the ones overextended in Syria, not us. Make them fight a two-front war—the moderate rebels on one side and ISIS on the other. If we defeat territorial ISIS in Syria now, we will only reduce the pressure on Assad, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah and enable them to devote all their resources to crushing the last moderate rebels in Idlib, not sharing power with them.
Friedman is not advocating the US stop bombing ISIS on anti-war grounds or because US bombing has led to thousands of civilian deaths—all perfectly correct and sensible reasons to oppose the US “War on Terror” in Syria—but because giving ISIS space to breathe will kill more Syrians, Iranians and Russians.
He doesn’t advocate finding peaceful ways of lessening the power and appeal of groups like ISIS (like, say, sanctioning governments that support them or export their vulgar brand of Wahhabism), but rather using them, and in effect empowering them, to do the United States’ dirty work in Syria.
As an example of how this approach can work, Friedman cites Islamist guerrillas in Afghanistan—a group that later spawned Al Qaeda and killed over 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001:
Trump should want to defeat ISIS in Iraq. But in Syria? Not for free, not now. In Syria, Trump should let ISIS be Assad’s, Iran’s, Hezbollah’s and Russia’s headache — the same way we encouraged the mujahedeen fighters to bleed Russia in Afghanistan.
The word “encouraged” is doing a lot of work here. The CIA, along with Saudi Arabia, assisted and funded the mujahideen and other foreign fighters to fight the Soviets and Soviet-aligned Afghans throughout the 1980s, resulting in a prolonged, brutal war, and spawning thousands of radical jihadists for years to come. That Friedman would use this as an example of how the US should wage war in Syria—and presumably drag the war on and spawn similar extremism—would be considered absurd on its face if it weren’t coming from a Very Serious Person at the New York Times.
The piece climaxed with Friedman’s patented mix of racism and fatuous generality, painting all Syrians as brute savages:
Syria is not a knitting circle. Everyone there plays dirty, deviously and without mercy. Where’s that Trump when we need him?
“Everyone”? Everyone is bad, Friedman’s pseudo–tough guy argument goes, so let’s be just as bad by explicitly using ISIS in a weapon against Iran, Russia and Hezbollah.
This comes after a 2015 column in which Friedman (3/18/15) floated the idea that the United States should directly arm ISIS:
Now I despise ISIS as much as anyone, but let me just toss out a different question: Should we be arming ISIS? Or let me ask that differently: Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran?
In a political climate where Americans are being arrested for merely sending out pro-ISIS tweets, and dozens are swept up in dubious FBI entrapment plots, it’s notable that one of the most influential columnists in the United States can call for arming the designated terrorist organization so long as he frames it as “just asking questions” and does so to the end of killing Evil Iranians. (Friedman is not the only establishment figure to suggest that the US goal in Syria should be to prolong the bloodbath indefinitely—but usually this ghoulish argument isn’t offered so blatantly.)
According to one 2015 poll by Virginia-based research firm ORB International, 82 percent of Syrians and 85 percent of Iraqis believe ISIS to be a creation of the United States. Indeed, the New York Times has spent considerable inches hand-wringing about why these type of “conspiracy theories” are so widespread in the Muslim world.
Perhaps, one can imagine, they would be less so if Western columnists weren’t casually cheerleading for using the extremist group as a bludgeon against America’s enemies.
Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst for FAIR.org. You can find him on Twitter at @AdamJohnsonNYC.
Janine Jackson interviewed Jennifer Reisch about women in the workplace for the April 7, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.PlayStop pop out
Janine Jackson: That Donald Trump defended Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in the wake of revelations that the network has paid millions in settlements for sexual harassment lawsuits lodged against him is the least surprising news ever, though he did give it the Trump touch by saying he didn’t believe the women, and Bill’s a good guy, days after declaring April Sexual Harassment Awareness and Prevention Month.
Media could use the O’Reilly story to shed light on workplace harassment, and while they’re at it, the range of inequities and indignities that continue to confront women in the workplace. They might start by asking what sexual harassment has to do with another April event, Equal Pay Day. Jennifer Reisch is legal director at the group Equal Rights Advocates. She joins us now by phone from San Francisco. Welcome to CounterSpin, Jennifer Reisch.
Jennifer Reisch: Thank you for having me.
JJ: Well, this is a nexus of issues, but let’s start with pay. Equal Pay Day, when women’s earnings “catch up” to men’s of the previous year, is a symbol to call attention to the gender pay gap. But equal pay is the sort of thing that’s hard to oppose. So it seems like what people do is say—like this Forbes columnist I found—that those who complain about inequity “overlook that sex-based pay discrimination is already illegal.” What’s the misunderstanding at work there, and what do you see as the value of exercises like Equal Pay Day?
JR: Well, as you pointed out, Janine, Equal Pay Day is of course a day that is marked but not celebrated, because it always is a reminder of how many days women are still working into this year just to catch up with the earnings of their full-time male counterparts. And I think there’s just a widespread misperception and misunderstanding of what the gender pay gap is really about, and a failure to recognize that it is the result, not only of continuing discrimination and the results of implicit and explicit bias against women in the workplace, but also the result of a lot of mechanisms and things going on in the labor market that result in women being underpaid. And they are pernicious and they are often part of the way we see things as just being the way they are.
So occupational gender segregation, for example, is a big contributor to the gender wage gap, and that’s not the result of any specific employer necessarily making a discriminatory decision. It’s really about the result of many, many years, and for many different reasons, women, first of all, ending up in jobs that pay less and, on the flip side, the jobs where women work being the lowest-paid jobs in our economy.
And so we both undervalue the work that women do, and in fact we can see that when women enter a profession, the more women enter a profession or field, the lower the pay of that field becomes. So there is clearly still a long way we have to go to get to a place where women and men are truly experiencing equal opportunity in employment, and where they’re being paid equally for doing substantially equal work.
The other thing is that, just because something is illegal doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. That’s sort of the most obvious thing as well, is that we see with sexual harassment, which has been considered an unlawful form of sex discrimination since the early ’80s, and was outlawed really by Title VII, which was passed in 1964, it is still the No. 1 reason why people call Equal Rights Advocates for help on our toll-free help line, and it is one of the most common reasons why people file discrimination charges, is based on sexual harassment-related issues. Just because something has been declared unlawful certainly doesn’t mean that it’s been eliminated. In fact, we’ve seen, I think, a real upswing in a lot of these issues coming to the fore over the last few months.
JJ: Let’s move on to that. In his defense of Fox head Roger Ailes, with his more than 20 allegations of sexual harassment, Donald Trump said that his daughter Ivanka “would find another career or find another company” if she faced any harassment. And his son Eric Trump said Ivanka “wouldn’t allow herself to be subjected” to harassment. Now, besides ignorant, that’s revelatory in the implied assumption that a woman should and can just quit a job where she’s harassed. And it points to harassment as an economic concern, but that’s rarely how it’s presented.
JR: You’re absolutely right, Janine, and it is an economic concern. The thing that really appalls me about those comments, too, is that of course it places the blame for harassing conduct on the women who are subjected to it, and puts the onus of change on individual women, as opposed to on the institutions and employers and individuals that are perpetrating the harassment, and creating cultures inside those environments where men are given a free pass to harass women, and where women are taught that tolerating that harassment is the price of a paycheck.
Ivanka Trump is worth almost a billion dollars. She doesn’t have to stay at any job. That’s not the reality for the 99.999 percent of us who do not have that kind of wealth, and it’s really the wrong question or wrong way to approach the entire issue. And women who face sexual harassment are often in a position where they are trying to support themselves and their family; they are living paycheck to paycheck, and they cannot afford to risk losing even an hour of pay, let alone being out of work all together for any period of time or they are staring down the barrel of a gun that could really threaten their ability to provide food and shelter for their family.
And so to make the onus and burden of having to somehow respond to that kind of behavior, that unlawful behavior and misuse and abuse of authority like that on the women who are abused is the worst kind of hypocrisy and victim-blaming imaginable. And it really reflects a fundamentally sexist view of women as those who should expect to be acted upon and should have to accommodate the objectification as a condition of being in the workplace at all. And that’s just not acceptable, and it’s also not in line with what our civil rights laws say.
JJ: It is, though, the feeling or the sentiment or belief of the president of the United States. So I just want to ask you, finally, what can you tell us about the direction of things under Donald Trump on this set of issues? Because it certainly — I mean, these comments are the tip of the iceberg as we understand, but, you know, we know we have folks fighting in the opposite direction. So what are the sort of preeminent concerns that you have about moves that Trump has made or may make?
JR: Well, of course Trump has rescinded several executive orders that were providing for some additional protections and strengthening existing protections against sexual harassment as well as against wage theft and other common—that affect many, many millions of women workers every year, including the executive order that he signed revoking the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order just last week.
And while we, those of us who are on the side of workers and who have been prepared and have been standing up for folks for the last decades, we’re still here and we’re not going anywhere. We do know that we have a really tough fight ahead, because we have a president who really doesn’t seem to understand what the laws are or why they’re important, and has put into positions of power, in the Department of Labor and Department of Education, individuals who also don’t seem to prioritize the enforcement of the rights under the laws that their agencies are responsible for enforcing.
On the other hand, however, we still have remedies available, we still have ways for people to come forward, and I think now more than ever, what’s really becoming clear is that what we need to do is stay strong and stay united, and actually support one another and support women in taking some forms of collective action. And collective meaning just coming together, even just as a pair or as a small group, because fighting these things alone is always more difficult than fighting them as one.
And so I think that it points to the need for us to stay vigilant on our defense. Even though, for example, President Trump has rescinded the executive order that would have prohibited federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation, we have the Seventh Circuit and other circuits now considering decisions that would expand the scope of and declare that our existing civil rights law, Title VII, actually does prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, because it already says that you can’t discriminate based on sex. And so the implications of those court decisions could be really, really broad and also could provide additional protection and at least a line of defense against any changes to federal policy or enforcement priorities that we might see coming down the pike
No doubt about it, we have a really tough road ahead if we want to preserve the rights that we have and also ensure that women are not intimidated into silence when it comes to bringing these issues up. But I think that the courage of people in positions of high visibility and high authority, I think are really important to encouraging women who are not in those kinds of positions of power and visibility to band together, to speak up, and to know that regardless of what the president says, the laws are still there, and we, the advocates who represent women and working people, are still here and we’re going to keep fighting.
JJ: We’ve been speaking with Jennifer Reisch, legal director at the group Equal Rights Advocates. Find them online at EqualRights.org. Jennifer Reisch, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.
JR: Thank you, Janine.
The Washington Post editorial page is, of course, famous for absurdly claiming, in an editorial defending NAFTA, that Mexico’s GDP had quadrupled between 1987 and 2007. (According to the IMF, Mexico’s GDP increased by 83 percent over this period.) Incredibly, the paper still has not corrected this egregious error in its online version.
This is why it is difficult to share the concern of Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor, that we will see increasingly dishonest public debates (Washington Post, 4/9/17). Hiatt and his team at the editorial page have no qualms at all about making up nonsense when pushing their positions. While I’m a big fan of facts and data in public debate, the Post‘s editorial page editor is about the last person in the world who should be complaining about dishonest arguments.
Just to pick a trivial point in this piece, Hiatt wants us to be concerned about automation displacing workers. As fans of data know, automation is actually advancing at a record slow pace, with productivity growth averaging just 1.0 percent over the last decade. (This compares to 3.0 percent in the 1947-to-1973 Golden Age and the pick-up from 1995 to 2005.)
If Hiatt is predicting an imminent pick-up, as do some techno-optimists, then he was being dishonest in citing projections from the Congressional Budget Office showing larger budget deficits. If productivity picks up, so will growth and tax revenue, making the budget picture much brighter than what CBO is projecting.
It is also striking to see Hiatt warning about automation, the day after the Post editorial page complained that too many people have stopped working because of an overly generous disability program. That piece told readers:
At a time of declining workforce participation, especially among so-called prime-age males (those between 25 and 54 years old), the nation’s long-term economic potential depends on making sure work pays for all those willing to work. And from that point of view, the Social Security disability program needs reform.
Okay, so yesterday we had too few workers and today we have too many because of automation. These arguments are complete opposites. The one unifying theme is that the Post is worried that we are being too generous to the poor and middle class.
Economist Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. A version of this post originally appeared on CEPR’s blog Beat the Press (4/20/17).
Janine Jackson interviewed Hyun Lee about North Korea for the April 7, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.PlayStop pop out
Janine Jackson: The Washington Post suggests that people in Seattle and San Francisco “should be worried” about being hit by a ballistic missile from North Korea, citing an analyst who described such an event, a bit cryptically, as “a looming threat but not a current threat.”
If the concern is that the saber-rattling between Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump could indeed have dire consequences, it’s hard to see how such stories help, or maps that show ranges for North Korea’s missiles far greater than any actually tested missiles have gone, or the conflation of nuclear and non-nuclear weaponry. But we’re equally ill-served by a failure to interrogate US policy on the Korean peninsula, and corporate media’s reduction of North Korea to caricature in the time-honored method reserved for official enemies.
As we record this show Trump is meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping, and we’re told North Korea is at the top of the agenda, Trump having declared, “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.” What does that mean, and how has it come to this? We’re joined now by writer and activist Hyun Lee of Zoom in Korea, a project of the Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea. She’s also a Fellow at the Korea Policy Institute. Welcome to CounterSpin, Hyun Lee.
Hyun Lee: Hi. Thanks for having me.
JJ: Well, the Chinese foreign minister just described the US and North Korea as like two accelerating trains coming toward each other with neither side willing to give way, and I think people may well wonder how we got to such a disturbing point. Let’s start with the US. What, historically, have been the US’s intentions or goals with regard to North Korea, and have those changed?
HL: So, many people in the United States don’t realize that the US has maintained the threat of a nuclear attack against North Korea for decades. From 1958 to 1991, the US had hundreds of nuclear weapons in the southern half of the Korean peninsula, in South Korea. So at that time, North Korea’s countermeasure to deter a US nuclear attack was to forward deploy all of its conventional forces near the DMZ.
In 2001, when George W. Bush came to power, many things changed. There were technological advancements, and he also made doctrinal changes, centered around very high-tech, precision-capable weapons that gave the US preemptive strike advantage. He named North Korea part of the “Axis of Evil.” He also listed North Korea as one of seven countries that were potential targets for a US preemptive strike in the US Nuclear Posture Review. So then, in response to that, North Korea had to develop a new kind of deterrent, and that’s when it seriously turned to developing nuclear weapons, and its first nuclear test was in 2006.
Since that time, what the United States has tried to do is stall North Korea’s nuclear development, tying it up through negotiations that basically went nowhere, at the same time constantly threatening to bring about North Korea’s collapse, through sanctions that were crippling its economy, and also military exercises that were very provocative. They simulate war plans that now include the decapitation of the North Korean leadership, and include nuclear first strike.
US/North Korean relations during the Obama administration was a contest between Obama’s policy of “strategic patience,” which is basically waiting and preparing for the eventual collapse of the North Korean regime, and then North Korea’s policy called byungjin, which was making parallel progress in economic development, and also developing its nuclear deterrence capability.
Towards the end of Obama’s presidency, the consensus in Washington was that strategic patience had basically failed. North Korea obviously has not collapsed. On the contrary, many people who have been there recently come back and report that they’ve made progress in their economic development, and now experts are warning that North Korea will soon have, if it doesn’t already have, the capability of launching an ICBM with a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can strike the continental United States. Kim Jong-Un’s New Year’s speech earlier this year contained a message that basically they were ready to test-launch an ICBM.
So that’s basically how we got to this situation. The US and South Korean militaries are now developing and also deploying missile defense capability. The aim of that is basically neutralizing North Korea’s nuclear weapons. So now, in response to that, what North Korea is doing is developing countermeasures that can evade the missile defense system, and that’s what the recent missile tests have been about. So it’s this basic back-and-forth, cat-and-mouse game of US developing nuclear first-strike capabilities, and then North Korea developing deterrence capabilities.
And we’ve become very confused in the United States, because the mainstream media like to exaggerate the North Korean nuclear threat, but we never get news of what the US has been doing over the past decades. And we should be very clear that what this is all about is actually US nuclear first-strike advantage against North Korea, and North Korea reacting to that by developing its deterrence capability.
JJ: Well, yes, reporting is this world where there’s just an unspoken acceptance of the legitimacy of the United States doing things that official enemies are not allowed to do. The very idea of strategic patience—we’re just going to wait until the regime collapses—we can understand why North Koreans might not want to co-sign that as a plan. But it also depends so much about where you start the clock. In the US media, as you’ve said, it’s always North Korea taking the provocative action and the United States responding, and that’s getting it backwards, you think.
HL: You know, there is a double standard in US condemnation of North Korean missile tests, because the US also continuously tests ballistic missiles. In 2015 alone, the US flight-tested the Minuteman 3 ICBM from California, from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, five times in 2015 alone. So, I mean, every country has a sovereign right to test its weapons capability. That’s how you know if it works or not, and that’s precisely what North Korea is doing. So we should also note that there is a double standard there.
JJ: What concerns do you have specifically about what looks like being the Trump administration’s approach? We’ve seen both Trump and Nikki Haley say China has to deal with North Korea, and that’s supposedly the point, or one of the points, of this meeting with Xi Jinping. What do you make of that?
HL: Many experts have noted that it is not a good idea for the United States to outsource its North Korea policy to China. First of all, we should be very clear that the two countries have very different strategic interests in the region. So it is not a good idea, from the US point of view, to rely on China so much to carry out its policy, because it doesn’t make sense.
China has made very clear to the United States that if it wants cooperation in North Korea, it should first reverse its very controversial decision on the deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea, that is right now in the process of being deployed, and it is a very controversial issue. It probably will be on the agenda of the summit this weekend. China considers the THAAD system, if it’s based in South Korea, a threat to its security, because the radar that comes with the system can be used for surveillance activity on Chinese missiles.
And so far, the Trump administration has been very aggressive in pushing THAAD deployment forward. Meanwhile, people in South Korea have been opposed to it, and are protesting every day outside the deployment site. If the US continues to push that forward it may make it very difficult to get Chinese cooperation on North Korea.
Secondly, China does not want the collapse of the North Korean regime, because that would create a huge refugee crisis at its border, and that’s the last thing that China wants. China also does not want the prospect of a unified Korean peninsula that is led by a pro-US South Korean government right next door as its neighbor.
So for all of these reasons, it’s probably not a good idea for the US to rely on China to carry out its policy, based on its strategic interest. It is more in US interest to negotiate directly with North Korea for North Korea to basically cap its nuclear and missile tests.
JJ: That moves me to the final question, because I’d like to talk about other ways forward. We know media get into saber-rattling mode, and it gets very difficult to hear other voices—and people who seek peace, or an end to conflict, are almost in a parallel conversation. But what possible ways forward do you see for those who seek an end to the conflict?
HL: The only sensible path at this point is dialogue: sitting down with North Korea and coming up with a fundamental solution to the crisis. We should note that last year in July, North Korea basically put out a statement that was not picked up or noticed by the Western media. But it laid out the terms for denuclearization, and all of the conditions that it laid out had to do with removing the threat to its sovereignty that’s posed by US nuclear weapons. That gives an indication that that’s what the North Koreans are fundamentally interested in resolving.
So a fundamental solution in my mind would be, first of all, ending the annual provocative war exercises that the United States military does every year in South Korea, abandoning the US nuclear first-strike prerogative, and then signing a peace treaty that will bring closure to the unended Korean War, eventually leading to the withdrawal of US troops from the Korean peninsula.
And then, in exchange, North Korea should halt its nuclear weapons development—meaning no more tests, no more nuclear tests or no more missile tests, basically capping it—and a commitment to nonproliferation. In my mind, that is the only sensible path to resolve the current situation.
JJ: We’ve been speaking with Hyun Lee of Zoom in Korea, online at ZoomInKorea.org. Thank you very much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.
HL: Thank you.
In other words, 83 percent of editorials on the Syria attack supported Trump’s bombing, 15 percent took an ambivalent position and 2 percent said the attack shouldn’t have happened. Polls showed the US public being much more split: Gallup (4/7–8/17) and ABC/Washington Post (4/7–9/17) each had 51 percent supporting the airstrikes and 40 percent opposed, while CBS (4/7–9/17) found 57 percent in favor and 36 percent opposed.
A list of the editorials with quotes showing support or opposition can be seen here. The list of the top 100 editorial boards in the country was taken from a 2016 Hill piece (10/5/16) on presidential election endorsements.
Eight out of the top ten newspapers by circulation backed the airstrikes; the Wall Street Journal (4/7/17), New York Times (4/7/17), USA Today (4/7/17), New York Daily News (4/8/17), Washington Post (4/7/17), New York Post (4/10/17), Chicago Sun-Times (4/7/17) and Denver Post (4/7/17) all supported the strikes with varying degrees of qualification and concern.
The San Jose Mercury News (4/7/17) and LA Times (4/8/17) were ambiguous, highlighting Trump’s past opposition to bombing Syria and insisting, in the Mercury News’ words, that he get “serious about setting policies and pursuing diplomacy.”
The one editorial that expressly opposed the attack, in the 15th-ranked Houston Chronicle (4/7/17), did so mainly on constitutional—not moral or geopolitical—grounds, writing, “As we said a year-and-a-half ago, the president cannot and should not use military force against Syria without a legislative framework.”
The Chronicle—like all of the editorials on the list—accepted the government of Bashar al-Assad’s guilt in the April 4 chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, omitting qualifiers such as “alleged” or “accused.”
A consistent theme in the bulk of the editorials was that the airstrikes were necessary, but Trump needed a broader strategy as well as a constitutional or congressional “framework.” As FAIR (4/7/17) noted last week, the editorial and op-ed pages of top five newspapers in the country were uniformly in support of the airstrikes in the day after the attack, offering up 18 positive columns and zero critical.
Some spoke in emotional or visceral terms, most notably the New York Times (4/7/17), which insisted “it was hard not to feel some sense of emotional satisfaction” at the attack. “The US decision to launch cruise missiles at Syrian President Bashar Assad’s airfield felt good,“ the Denver Post (4/7/17) wrote.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (4/9/17) seemed giddy to the point of incoherence with Trump’s new tough-guy posture, publishing this string of NatSec bromides:
The message for the Russian and Chinese leaders must be to stop using their murderous little proxies, Syria and North Korea, to poke and prod us. We don’t want any more wars, but we also showed with the attack on the Syrian air base that we will not put up with being trifled with by their little friends doing awful things like killing children with chemical weapons and waving missiles around. Russia and China need to get busy and put the reins on the Syrians and the North Koreans, now. The game is lethal and dangerous, and there is no good reason for it to continue.
The overwhelming support for Trump’s Syria strikes—which open a whole new theater of potential war in the Middle East—is consistent with FAIR’s studies of media reaction to US military action. A 2003 FAIR survey (3/18/03) of television coverage in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, for example, found “just 6 percent of US sources were skeptics about the need for war. Just 3 of 393 sources were identified with anti-war activism.” As the US debated intervening in the civil war in Libya, pro-intervention op-eds outnumbered those opposed to or questioning intervention by 4-to-1 in the New York Times and Washington Post (Extra!, 5/11).
Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst for FAIR.org. You can find him on Twitter at @AdamJohnsonNYC.