Wednesday, June 16, 2004


Why isn't the press defending freedom of the press?

When Bush went to London last November, he was to speak to a joint session of the Lords and Commons. That came to nought when Team Bush realized that they couldn’t set up a “free speech” zone inside Parliament. Some members of Parliament just might walk out, and—well, how would that look. So they cancelled the speech at the last minute, and had him speak instead to an invitation-only gathering at the Palace at Whitehall.

The speech was to be a major foreign policy address. Since it was full of historical allusions, showed awareness of current events and demonstrated a sense of humor, we know that Bush could have had little to do with the writing of it. (Indeed, it would have been better if he had had nothing to do with the reading of it, since he managed to misread the copy.)1

The speech came to be known as the “Three Pillars” speech, because he grandly laid out three tenets of American foreign policy upon which the peace and security of the world would depend. The third of those pillars was “our commitment to the global expansion of democracy.” The speech was hailed by the diplomatic corps, discussed by some talking heads on the PBS NewsHour, and then promptly forgotten.

Well, I haven’t forgotten it, because among its polished phrases was this:

Arab states should end incitement in their own media, ...

Simply appalling. Here was an American President exhorting Arab governments to control their media —and this in a speech that purported to assert “our commitment to the global expansion of democracy”—especially among the Arabs, of course. Before Bush, as a part of a true American commitment to the expansion of democracy, it had been the practice of Presidents to exhort other countries to allow freedom of the press.

“Surely,” I thought, “the press is certain to go after him on this one.” After waiting a few days for the press reaction, I began to worry. Had no one seen it? So I sent emails—to columnists, reporters, anybody I thought might give a damn. Result: No replies and no comment in the news.

Since I was editing Danny Schechter’s NewsDissector blog at the time, Danny let me insert a mention of it.2 Still no reaction.

Here’s a little Google experiment: Google link

If you clicked the link you will see 9 unique links out of 141. All the omitted links are just copies of the speech, and indeed most of the 9 “unique” links are just copies of the speech larded with right-wing fulminations. One person—“Dori,” God bless her—saw the mention of it in the NewsDissector and brought it up in an Alternet forum.

How loudly can I say this, folks?


If you didn’t know, it’s hardly your fault, because the American press refuses to mention it.

All this was brought back to me in living color when I saw Condoleeza Rice at her G8 summit press conference. Here’s Condi—
Q: ... [I]t was reported in The New York Times yesterday, the Emir of Qatar was not invited because of al Jazeera. The U.S. government wants to shut down al Jazeera, and how can it talk about democracy if you are hostile to the only free media medium in the area?

DR. RICE: I don't think anybody has suggested the shutting down of al Jazeera. I do think people have suggested that it would be a good thing if the reporting were accurate on al Jazeera, and if it were not slanted in ways that appears to be, at times, just purely inaccurate. And so that's been the issue with al Jazeera.

So what difference does it make?

Now you might think, “Okay, but governments do this all the time. The sky hasn’t fallen,” which is to say that there are no consequences for you and me.

And I would answer that this policy has had major, disastrous consequences in Iraq. It has also, as the reporter quoted above noted, exposed the American hypocrisy toward democracy in the Arab world.

Those of you who follow events in Iraq are aware of the Sadr rebellion among the Shiites that began this April. The precipitating event was the closing of Muqtada al-Sadr’s newspaper.

Juan Cole, an expert on the Middle East and talking head on the news, had this to say about it:
I have long been a trenchant critic of the Sadrists. But they haven't been up to anything extraordinary as far as I can see in recent weeks. Someone in the CPA sat down and thought up ways to stir them up by closing their newspaper and issuing 28 arrest warrants and taking in people like Yaqubi. This is either gross incompetence or was done with dark ulterior motives that can scarcely be guessed at.
The problem began in some ways on Sunday March 28, when Paul Bremer decided to close the main Sadrist newspaper, al-Hawza, purportedly for publishing material that incited violence against Coalition troops. Many observers in Iraq said that move was a mistake, since no specific violence could be traced to the newspaper, and closing it was itself a provocation. As it turns out, it seems clear that the newspaper closing played into Muqtada al-Sadr's apocalyptic mindset. He became convinced that it meant the US planned to silence him and destroy his movement, leaving him no choice but to launch an uprising. [4/4/04]

So let me put it plainly, this un-American policy has unquestionably caused the deaths of American and British soldiers and led to an uprising among the Shiites, which had been the one sector of the Iraqi population that was tolerating the occupation.

Why isn’t the press defending freedom of the press?

Related posts:
Why isn’t the press defending freedom of the press? (revisited)
Allawi stands up for freedom of the press — Yeah, sure


1This is from the White House's edition:
The second pillar of peace and security in our world is the willingness of free nations, when the last resort arrives, to retain* {sic} aggression and evil by force.

The asterisk leads to a footnote—*restrain [back]


One of the most remarkable of Bush's remarks has gone "unremarked" in the media. In his speech at Whitehall Palace yesterday, Bush held forth on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Of Israel he demanded that they "freeze settlement construction, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and not prejudice final negotiations with the placements of walls and fences."

Then, addressing the Arabs, he said, "Arab states should end incitement in their own media. . . ."

Could he mean the ending of reporting on Israeli settlement construction, unauthorized outposts, the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people and the placement of walls and fences?

So much for a free Arab press! [back]

Post a Comment

<< Simply Appalling Home

Atom feed

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by
Blogarama - The Blog Directory

Blog Search Engine

Blog Top Sites

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?