In other words, an American first lady went to a Muslim country and followed completely normal protocol by going unveiled. There was very little reaction within that country, and no reaction among her hosts. The American media completely freaked out, got a number of basic facts wildly wrong, and did so all in a way that insulted that country and its citizens by perpetuating racist stereotypes. Meanwhile, the first lady’s decision was probably a simple effort to follow protocol, and if anything else influenced her it was likely fear of American extremists who hate Muslims and see any sign of disrespect to Muslim cultural norms as laudable.
The Saudi government is indeed a despotic dictatorship and horrific human rights abuser — it has beheaded three people in the week since the king died — particularly when it comes to women. It is unfortunate and ironic that, in an attempt to highlight this problem, much of the American media has instead only perpetuated the different but very real American problem of Islamophobic and anti-Arab stereotyping.
On Tuesday morning, a bomb went off outside of the office building that houses the Colorado Springs, Colorado, branch of the NAACP. Although authorities have not said whether the NAACP was targeted or that the attack was an act of terrorism, the bombing is a reminder of the kind of attacks that civil rights groups have faced for decades.
After the bombing, the Twitter hashtag #NAACPBombing took off to highlight what many saw as the lack of media coverage of the event. Fueling this frustration is a sense that the media has historically ignored stories of specific concern to African Americans, but there’s also a serious worry born out of the long history of violent attacks against civil rights organizations.
Bombings against black homes and churches in Birmingham, Alabama, were so common during the early 1960s that the city had gained the derisive nickname “Bombingham.” But Birmingham was far from alone in this violent era against the Civil Rights Movement.
In addition to Israel absorbing scores of missiles fired from the Gaza Strip — proof if ever the UN needed it that the PA is ready for an elevation of its status in the august body — Syrian mortar shells have repeatedly hit (whether or not intentionally is not yet known) the Golan Heights during the past few days. The MSM’s coverage of Israel’s inevitable, albeit restrained, response, provide yet another window into the insidious way in which anti-Israel bias in the media plays out.
Compare, if you will, the following Associated Press headline currently appearing courtesy of Yahoo!:
Israel strikes Syria armor, hiking spillover fears
At first blush, the headline is not particularly outlandish. After all, given the time-honored tradition among despots in the Arab world of seeking to deflect their population’s anger by directing it at the Jewish State, the possibility of the civil war in Syria drawing in Israel is a real concern.
However, followers of how the media covers Israel will note the familiar ring by which “concerns” about “spillover” or “escalation” are only highlighted by the media when Israel responds, even if only in a limited fashion, to violent or military attacks on its territory or population.
For example, by contrast to the Associated Press’ “concern” over spillover following Israel’s response to Syrian shelling, here is how the very same wire service, only a few weeks ago, reported following several days of artillery fire by Turkey responding to similarly “errant” mortar shells from Syria:
Turkey strikes back against Syria shelling
Beirut — The Turkish military retaliated with artillery fire fora sixth straight day Monday after a Syrian shell hit its territory, and Turkey’s president warned that “the worst-case scenario we have all been dreading” is unfolding in Syria and along its borders.
Got that? Turkey, the government of which has been open and aggressive in opposing the al-Assad regime and assisting the groups seeking its overthrow, responds to a single shell with six days of shelling, and the headlines dispassionately report the fact that Turkey struck back against Syrian shelling. They do not scream with “concern” over the risk of spillover or escalation.
Likewise, here is Reuters’ reporting today (as carried in Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News) on what is potentially a more ominous harbinger of escalation and widening of the Syrian conflict:
NATO chief says alliance will defend Turkey over Syria
NATO will defend alliance member Turkey, which struck back after mortar rounds fired from Syria landed inside its border, the alliance’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a meeting in Prague today.
“NATO as an organisation will do what it takes to protect and defend Turkey, our ally. We have more plans in place to make sure that we can protect and defend Turkey and hopefully that way also deter so that attacks on Turkey will not take place,” he said.
As with the reporting of Turkey’s response to shelling from Syria a few weeks ago, the media’s coverage of this important statement by NATO’s Secretary General shows no concern about possible “spillover” or “escalation”.
That treatment is reserved for Israel, when, despite publicly and otherwise having given every indication of a desire to stay out of the strife in Syria, it responds to multiple shells over several days with a limited response directed at the battery from which the shells were fired. Suddenly now, the AP and its ilk are “concerned”.
Is it any wonder, then, that many of those who rely on the MSM for news coverage of the region, have a distorted view of Middle Eastern affairs?
Alexandra Schade talked to the Tunisian activist Amira Yahyaoui about the challenges of democratization, the danger of Islamic radicalism, and the lack of media coverage about Tunisia.
The European: You returned to Tunisia after the revolution to found the NGO “Al Bawsala.” What is the focus of your work?
Yahyaoui: We cover the constitutional assembly through the internet platform marsad.tn, we publish the voting results, the attendance records of the representatives and their voting records. In late August, we sued the assembly over their restrictive handling of information.
The European: Similar projects exist elsewhere as well…
Yahyaoui: marsad.tn launched in the fall of 2011. I later got to know Gregor Hackmack, who runs the German platform “Abgeordnetenwatch.” I was very impressed by their work and especially by the ability to facilitate interaction between politicians and their constituents online. We will implement a question-and-answer system in Tunisia later this year, and we have cooperated closely with the Germans to make it happen.
The European: There’s one crucial difference: Germany is an established democracy, Tunisia is not. Do you think that online political engagement will work in Tunisia?
Yahyaoui: It’s already working! You don’t have to live in a democracy to want democracy - the Arab Spring showed as much. The first voting results we published created quite a stir. The vote concerned the chairmanship of the Tunisian National Bank, and the government had proposed a candidate from the old regime. For the first time, Tunisians could see how their representatives voted, or if they were even in attendance. Some members of the government party voted against the proposed candidate and have now become very popular. Others have been attacked by their colleagues for failing to attend.
The European: Many politicians must not like this increased transparency…
Yahyaoui: Every time I go to the parliament, I am being followed at each step. I don’t have the right to attend committee meetings, but when nobody is there I open the door and walk right in. And I tweet whatever people say, up to the point where I am kicked out again. Of course they don’t like it, and of course they don’t like to see voting results published. The results aren’t usually made public, but we go to parliament with cameras and film the voting. If we are not sure how someone voted, we call them and ask.
The European: You put all information online. How many people do you reach?
Yahyaoui: Not many. In Tunisia, only 37% of the population has internet access, and many think that internet equals Facebook. Our articles are spread quite widely through Facebook, and that’s good.
But we also want to see journalists writing about the work we do. That’s how we can reach more people. It’s our next step.
With the discovery of the Higgs boson, the last gap in the “Standard Model” of physics has been filled. Martin Eiermann talked with the head of the CERN laboraties, Rolf-Dieter Heuer, about the future of physics, the value of diversity, and the difference between knowledge and belief.
The European: When we spoke last year, you had just initiated a round table to pursue a dialogue between the natural sciences and the humanities. How is that going?
Heuer: We are working with Wilton Park to hold a conference in October to examine the interface of knowledge and move towards a common language. The question is: do we really understand each other when we discuss our respective work? Do we speak about the same things, or do we interpret too much into our colleagues’ words?
The European: What frictions exist?
Heuer: How can we define “knowledge”? Where does knowledge end, and philosophy or religion begin? Even a word like “discovery” can mean very different things to different people.
The European: A propos: a lot has been written in recent months about scientific concepts like the “5 sigma” evidence level. How certain are you that you’ve found the Higgs boson?
Heuer: It’s normal that scientists only use the term “discovery” beyond a certain threshold of statistical certainty. “5 sigma” means that some phenomenon cannot be dismissed as a statistical fluctuation with a probability of 99.99994 percent. In the world of physics, we have agreed that we’ll only speak of “discoveries” if we can clear that hurdle. That is also the reason why we were very careful in our statements: we don’t like to speak of the Higgs boson yet but prefer still to call it a “Higgs-like particle.”
The European: Do you think that the media coverage has contributed to a deeper understanding of the natural sciences? For example, the realization that a physicist and a journalist might define “discovery” very differently?
Heuer: I think so. The general public and journalists now see that scientific results - especially in basic research - don’t simply drop from the sky but have to grow slowly. Progress isn’t a linear development, we always encounter retrograde steps as well. If you look at our work and media coverage over the past year, you can really see that: last fall, we were still at the “3 sigma” level. In December, we were able to substantiate our observations and this July we managed to push beyond the “5 sigma” threshold. Once that happened, we had the responsibility to inform our sponsors and the scientific community
The LA Times piece can be found and read here.
A response to Steve Lopez by Cheryl Aichele
If the LA Times wants to truly report on the First-Amendment Advocates at City Hall, maybe they should ditch the dismissive comments and start reporting. Here are a few things you missed.
This is written in response to the article located at this link latimes.com…
5 weeks ago, I went to my first Occupy Los Angeles pre-planning meeting and found my revolution. I have worked 10-15 hours days, spoken to thousands of people, and have taken part in countless actions.
I’m going to go out on a limb myself: maybe the LA Times has missed something in their reporting or maybe they are manipulating this story to serve their own agenda.
You are right, we are not going anywhere but that does not mean we are stagnant.
Did you ever wonder why Los Angeles is the largest city participating in these occupations to have no violent confrontation with the police and why LA City Council was the first to pass a resolution in support of the occupation movement and their First Amendment Rights?
Whether you want to admit it or not, some of those you dismiss so easily actually took multiple actions during the planning and implementation process to communicate with City Officials regarding this peaceful prolong protest.
The Oakland Occupation and others could learn from the organizers at Occupy LA. Irvine’s Occupy did and they were able to get their own City Council to pass a similar Resolution to the one passed on October 12, 2011 by LA City Council in support of our endeavors.
You’re right; it’s hard to say how this will all play out.
I’ve been following the LA Times and other main stream media’s coverage, and it makes my mind ache as much as your body did joining us for just one day. So, now I feel compelled to set the record straight and make a few suggestions too.
For starters, I’d like to know if there’s a concerted effort to misrepresent or manipulate coverage of the occupy movement. By that, I mean, are these mainstream media outlets receiving corporate money to distort the stories?
Maybe on your one-day stay at our encampment, you missed the fact that we have repeatedly come to consensus in our General Assemblies that Occupy LA will remain non-violent, so if an ‘ugly clash’ occurs it will not be from anyone truly representing Occupy Los Angeles.
If we’re allowed to stay, we intent to take up persistent actions aimed to solve the problems that have plagues our lives. And for some of us, our civic engagement will lead us to working with non-profits, such as Peace Corps. But we will not just limit ourselves to participation in community service.
Unfortunately it isn’t easy to get straight reporting from LA Times or any of the other distrusted and despised mainstream media on these issues.
To answer your question to that poor and overworked woman volunteer organizer with a clipboard, yes we’ve been discussing how to handle an eviction or other responses. You’ll have to forgive her, I am sure she really needed to use the restroom and maybe she could tell from your demeanor how dismissive your article was going to be.
All right, I get it. LA Time’s profits are mainly derived from corporate money for advertising, Corporations that help journalist afford Dockers and I get that the paper’s journalistic integrity has been challenged for years now.
I’m down with making some money to write less-than-accurate articles, times are tough, someone has to pay for the Dockers, right? But why should the media be held accountable, while banksters and politicians get away with gross injustices against people who did have jobs, healthcare, and homes?
But I’m having trouble seeing how a poorly-written piece is going to help anything. Sure, it was great to read your exciting (yet inexact) editorial, but now what?
‘The beauty of this is that it’s a leaderFUL movement,’ said Mario Brito, the guy who was mentioned in the Times piece. ‘The challenge though is ‘How do we get media to cover this movement respectfully and accurately?”
Lopez implies Occupy LA is and has been inactive; he fails to mention any of the multitude of actions we have taken including doing outreach at this weekend’s Green Festival at the Convention Center, or today’s demonstration we did in support of Juveniles caught up in the injustice system or 3 pieces of legislation we’ve been able to influence inside City Hall in the last 3 weeks. Not to mention, the fact that we plan to impact a 4th piece of legislation next week, making it 4 legislations in 4 weeks.
But each time we do anything positive, productive, or impactful—the ‘lame’stream media is too busy trying to figure out how to undermine our actions.
I’m beginning to think the media is all falsification and no real coverage.
I don’t think the mayor, City Council, or the police should evict us either. And if you agree, we encourage you to let them know that you support us. You can pick up a flyer from our Welcome Tent to get those numbers if you are unable to find the numbers on your own.
I don’t understand why reporters are content to degrade the Occupation Movement endlessly when there are so many better ways to cover our movement and advance our cause by portraying us more correctly.
Mario Brito, who’s been out there from the beginning, should have told us to be patient with the media’s coverage of our endeavors, because some bad articles have been written, including the one that inspired this response.
“It’s indeed an exercise in patience,” says Aichele, the author of this response, reminding the reader that sometimes media is just Bull but not the red kind.
“It’s all about the money,” one peaceful protester claims, suggesting the LA Times sold us out for greedy reasons.
I’ve heard many concerns about media manipulation, and here’s a thought: Why not demand the media be held responsible for their subpar reporting?
And as far as your suggestions of sending occupiers to different college campuses each day, I suggest that your become the ‘leaderless’ organizer of this project, since it’s your idea and you seem so intent on it. Because I have to tell you, the rest of us are busy working on our own actions such as reforming the laws through the legislative process on all levels of government (my personal passion).
Maybe you were too busy writing a smear story about occupiers to have heard we forced Bank of America to reverse its announcement of a $5 debit card charge. So, while you think we’re just passing joints in our tents, we’re actually influencing the business of big banks and the laws that hold them Responsible. Did you fail to catch the fact that Occupy LA helped moved LA City Council’s Responsible Banking Ordinance forward in committee?
And as far as your suggestion of marching to skid row, we’ve already beat you to it because 4 days ago, we did just that. Not to mention the homeless outreach we’ve being doing all along. We have also been speaking out against all who have lost their home through our Home Owners Committee. Did you miss that as well on your one-day stay at Occupy LA?
And again, in regards to your suggestion lending a hand to bomb-rattled soldiers, we’ve showed our solidarity for Iraq War Vet Scott Olsen who was in critical condition after Oakland Police shot him in the head with a canister. Olsen has sustained brain damage and can no longer talk. Where’s the LA Times coverage of Olsen?
And this doesn’t even begin to mention the other work we’ve done with Vets.
All your suggestions and criticisms are fine. However, opinion without action and criticism without contribution is running rampant around the encampment. What we need is all the criticizers to put their energy into all the actions we are planning or to plan their own actions.
I am sure our Print Media team (the one that handles the silk-screens) would love to help you with your library-aides idea. And I am sure one of the Orange County Occupations, can help you handle your Disney-resort idea as well.
You see, there are thousands of occupation popping up in cities across this nations, including 50 alone in the state of California with dozens here in Southern California including Venice, Riverside, Ventura, Santa Clarita, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Irvine, Costa Mesa, Coachella Valley, and Palm Desert.
Not to mention the occupations being planned as we speak in Pasadena, Burbank and other southern California area.
Not to mention the fact that each day we have different actions that take us to different sites off of City Hall lawn.
So the question is why not write stories with journalistic integrity? Why not report on the real news of our actions? Why not cover the story of LA’s Mayor who wants to be the ‘Greenest Mayor’ but who thinks grass is a sustainable landscape in this desert climate or that the literal grassroots of the lawn are far more important than our First-Amendment-Rights grassroots actions?