It is difficult to understand how anyone with even a modicum of critical
intelligence, can still believe the right-wing complaint that the
mainstream media (MSM) "has a liberal bias." Evidence to the contrary is
overwhelming, and new evidence appears almost daily.
The persistent belief in "the
myth of the liberal media" is still more evidence of the efficacy of
"the big lie." The myth is repeated so often and forcefully that, among
the "true believers," it is accepted despite
the evidence. "They wouldn’t say it, if it weren’t true, right?"
And so the mainstream media, with a very few
honorable exceptions, persists in its unwavering service to the GOP,
George Bush, and his "war on terror."
Case in Point: The (alleged) London/Airline Bomb Plot.
On August 10, the day after Ned Lamont’s victory over
Joseph Lieberman, the MSM breathlessly announced that an
imminent plot to blow up
as many as ten trans-Atlantic airliners had been foiled in London. Some
twenty-four British Moslems, we were told, had devised the plan which
would cause, in the words of a London police administrator,
"mass murder on an unimaginable scale." (So much for fabled British
And who will save us from such dastardly deeds? Why,
none other than our "wartime President" along with his faithful Brit
ally, Tony Blair. (The polls indicate that "the war on terror" is Bush’s
strongest issue, and perhaps his only effective issue). Thus several
Busheviks were quick to claim credit for the work of British law
Sensational! And Topic #1 on the MSM for a few
days, at least.
Then it all began to unravel:
Specific details of the plot were obtained from lead
suspect, Rashid Rauf,
under torture by Pakistani authorities. As is well known,
testimony obtained by torture is of little value, since the victim
will say anything he believes the torturers want to hear, regardless
of the truth.
The plot couldn't have been "days away," as first
announced, since none of the alleged plotters had airline tickets, and
a few did not even have passports (required for international
Chemistry experts report that the kind of "binary"
chemical explosives described in news reports would be
impossible to activate and explode in flight.
Moreover, why should terrorists resort to such
complicated and unreliable methods, when all they need to do is stash
explosive devices in the cargo compartments of the airliners (as was
done in the Lockerbie bombing)? The Bush administration, let us
recall, has declined to enact full-scale inspection of airline cargo. "Too costly," we are told.
Away from "the mainstream," additional serious and
informed doubts about the plot have been raised by Geov Parrish in
Working for Change,
Craig Murray in
Guardian, Christopher Reed in
Counterpunch, James K. Galbraith in
The Guardian, and Gwyn Dyer in
PSST! That’s the sound of another "terror plot
story" being deflated.
And so, we’ve heard very little about the "deadly
liquids bomb plot" of late. But it did succeed in diverting
public attention from the Connecticut primary. Mission accomplished.
In short, in with a bang, out with a whimper. "The Great
Liquid Bomb Plot" shrivels in the light of subsequent evidence – and
lack of evidence.
This is not to say that there was no serious terrorist
bomb threat that further investigation might prove, followed by the
conviction of the culprits. We just don't know. And that's the
outrage. We have a right to know, and the media has an obligation
to report. But once again, the MSM, in its typical failure to
report counterbalancing doubts and anomalies, casts no light on the
issue. It merely adds more fuel to fire up public fear in support
of Bush's "war on terra."
Rot at the Top: The decline and fall of "The Grey Lady."
Junk journalism has always been with us, and always will
be. So in attempting to discredit the MSM, there is no point in exposing
the shortcomings of such dregs of journalism
as The National Enquirer, The
Washington Times, or The New York Post.
Nor is there any need to do so. The decline of American
journalism can be better demonstrated if we can find it in the most prestigious
and esteemed publications, such as The Washington Post and The
New York Times. And, sadly, it appears that we can.
(See also my
Kristolnicht: The Decline of
The New York Times).
At The Washington Post, Bob Woodward, the scourge of the
Nixon administration and an essential instrument to Nixon’s downfall,
has become a stenographer and apologist for the Busheviks. And efforts
at investigation and reform by
John Conyers are met with scorn and derision by the
likes of "reporter" Dana Milbank.
But I choose, instead, to direct my attention to
York Times: the "flagship" of American journalism and the so-called
"newspaper of historical record" which proudly proclaims every day on
its masthead: "All the News that’s Fit to Print." If The New York Times,
presumably the best of American journalism, has been corrupted, then whom
or what can we trust?
So what have we to learn from The New York Times? In the
last decade, we have learned:
There is good reason to suspect that Bill and
Hillary Clinton were involved in an illegal land deal: "Whitewater."
(They have since been totally exonerated).
A Chinese-American nuclear
scientist, Dr. Wen Ho Lee, may have sent
classified secrets to China. (Also exonerated).
A newspaper consortium analysis of the 2000
Florida vote "proved" that Bush would have won the state and the
election regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, "Bush v. Gore." (The text
of that November 12, 2001 article refuted the headline assertion).
As reported by now-discredited Times reporter
Judith Miller, Saddam Hussein imported aluminum tubing that could only
be used to refine uranium for nuclear bombs. Miller also "informed" us
that, according to "reliable sources" (i.e.,
the convicted embezzler, Ahmed Chalabi), Saddam
Hussein had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. All these
claims were subsequently proven to be false.
And this is what The New York Times has
not told us –
presumably not "fit to print."
That the GOP slanders against
Al Gore (e.g., that he claimed to have invented the internet and
to have "discovered" the toxic site, Love Canal) were all
That the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth"
conducted a baseless smear against John Kerry, and conversely, that
Kerry’s military record and his medals were authentic.
Bush was absent without leave from his
military obligation with the Texas Air National Guard.
That Bush likely violated securities law as an
executive and investor with Harken energy.
That there is compelling evidence that the
2000, 2002 and 2004 elections were stolen by the Republicans
through election fraud.
That, according to "The Downing Street Memos," Bush
and Blair were willing to "fix the intelligence" to fit the policy.
That the Bush Administration violated the FISA
laws on wiretapping of US civilians. (The Times did report this
eventually, but "held" the story past the 2004 election, which might
have been affected by the disclosure).
"All the news that’s fit to print?" I think not.
How the mighty have fallen! With a record like this, why
should anyone pay any attention to what The New York Times might be
Decades ago, when I lived in Manhattan and taught at the
City University of New York, one of the highlights of the week was when
I brought a newly-minted Sunday New York Times to my flat, and spread it
out on my bed, reading voraciously.
No more! Today, I won’t pay the annual $50 for access
online to the NYT columnists. "It will only encourage them."
Despite the worthy contributions of such
"exceptions" as Frank Rich, Bob Herbert and Paul Krugman,
"the best of
American journalism" is simply not good enough.
So we must turn to the
remaining independent media, the
foreign press, and the internet for our news.
We, the progressive public, do not own
The New York
Times, nor do we have a voice on its editorial board. Still, we do have
leverage – simply by ignoring them. Like all modern newspapers, The New
York Times relies more on advertising than on subscriptions and sales
for its revenue. But advertising rates are a function of circulation. If
the public gives The New York Times (and The Washington Post, etc.), the
attention and credence they authentically deserve (i.e., very little), their bottom lines will suffer. Then, at long last, a reform of
American journalism may soon be at hand.
A Plea to the (formerly) responsible media: "Just the fact, please."
We don’t need a mirror-image liberal-bias to "balance"
the rightward slant of the MSM. "Just the facts," will do just fine. For, as Steven Colbert so aptly put it, "reality has a liberal bias."
And so to The New York Times in particular, we plead,
fulfill the daily promise on your masthead: print "All the News that’s fit to
If, in general, American journalists
are once again permitted to report the unbiased facts, then the fall of
Bushism will be assured and the restoration of our democracy will take care of itself.
Copyright 2006 by Ernest Partridge
In an e-mail to The Crisis Papers, The New York
Times' Don Van Natta replies:
Your outrageous piece is riddled with so many errors and flat-out
falsehoods that I hardly know where to begin. The New York Times
published my piece (co-written with Elaine Sciolino and Stephen
Grey) on Monday that is an in-depth look at the London jetliner
bombing plot. Indeed, I believe it is the most rigorously reported
article on the plot.
We found, among other things, that some of the men who were arrested
wanted to carry out the attacks because of US policies in Iraq and
Afghanistan. We found that it would have been very difficult, perhaps
impossible, for the bombers to make liquid explosive devices on board. We found that the public statements of officials in the US and Britain
that the plot was "imminent" were overstated, and that the bombers
were not ready to carry out their attacks.
Our story is easy to find. It is on the New York Times website, and it
has attracted much attention this week.
In fairness, you should write about the mainstream media's entire
record, rather than selectively cherry-pick a few items that fit your
Don Van Natta Jr.
The New York Times
Ernest Partridge replies:
Mr. van Natta
says that he "hardly knows where to begin." And so he doesn't.
With specifications of the alleged "errors and flat-out falsehoods" I
might be prepared to reply. With none, I am presented, not with a
rebuttal, but with a rant.
I did, in fact, read the long and detailed van Natta, Sciolino and
Grey article with care and some appreciation. And I read several other
accounts, both foreign and domestic. Of all these, the NYT story was
among the more alarmist. Missing from that account was the fact that
the alleged leader of the plot confessed under torture, or any mention
of the part the Bush administration may have played in precipitating
the premature arrests and announcements. The infeasibility of the bomb
plot was understated: Mr. van Natta's words, above, "difficult" and
"impossible" do not appear in the article, which instead tells us that
"officials" were "unsure" of the ability of the plotters to "pull it
So who was I to believe? Van Natta et al in the NYT, or such credible
experts as Craig Murray, Christopher Reed, James Galbraith and Gwyn
Dyer? There was a time when I would not have hesitated to choose
the New York Times as the most reliable source of information. But
after Whitewater, Wen Ho Lee, Jason Blair, Bush v. Gore, Judith
Miller, and the many crucial items that I specified in my essay that
were deemed "unfit to print" in "the newspaper of record," I no longer
look to the NYT for credible information.
Yes, I am aware that the Times endorsed Gore in 2000 and Kerry in
2004, that it ran Joseph Wilson's column, and that it allows OpEd
space for Frank Rich, Bob Herbert and Paul Krugman. Furthermore, I do not contend
that a debunking of GOP slanders (Gore's "invention" of the internet,
the Swift Boat Veterans) or mention of Bush's disqualifications (Air
National Guard, Harken, Arbusto, etc.), or election integrity issues
were totally absent from the voluminous pages of the New York Times. However, they were not prominent and hence not consequential. On
balance, Gore and Kerry were dumped on and Bush was given a pass.
Mr. Van Natta takes me to task for "selectively cherry-pick[ing] a few
His complaint reminds me of that old quip: "other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, what did you think of the play?"
Had the New York Times responsibly investigated Whitewater allegations
(concocted by Richard Mellon Scaife's "Arkansas Project"), had it
accurately reported Lt. Bush's record with the TANG and Kerry's
military service in Viet Nam in prominent rebuttal to the Swift Boat
slanders, had it given Judith Miller the space that her Chalabi-generated rumors deserved (i.e., none), had the Times
conspicuously disclosed "The Downing Street Memos," and had the
Times thoroughly investigated and reported the statistical, anecdotal
and empirical evidence of election fraud in the past three elections,
then surely George Bush would never have been elected, the federal
government would now be solvent, we would not now be fighting in Iraq,
and the international reputation of the United States of America would
As I said in my essay regarding The New York Times, "how the
mighty have fallen!" And the consequences have been
PS: Mr. van Natta chose not to respond. EP.