Thursday, December 31, 2009

News Stories You're Not Supposed to Know About

This post isn't about the War on Terror (which, apparently, no longer exists - officially (March 30, 2009)), so much. It's about what people - Americans in particular - are supposed to know about national and world events.

If you feel, right down to the bottom of your heart, that The New York Times really does print all the news that's fit to print (October 21, 2008), that Big Oil and the military-industrial complex control America, that the CIA blew up New York City's World Trade Center, and that America is to blame for whatever's wrong with the world: stop reading. You won't like this post.

Still with me? This is your last warning: If you really believe that FOXNews is part of some kind of plot, or at least is a mere tool of the Republican party, you're not going to like this post.

News That Wasn't Fit to Print, 2009

FOXNews put together a list of 9 stories that - as far as old-school traditional news media was concerned - were non-events that never happened.

To be fair, outlets like The Associated Press sent information out on the wires - but outfits like The New York Times and CBS news were free to feature the stories as top news, filler for the back page, or to ignore them entirely.

The list:
  • Van Jones
    • "White House Green Jobs adviser Van Jones resigned from his post in September after weeks of pressure over his radical past. A former self-avowed Marxist and anarchist, Jones signed a 2004 petition that suggested the U.S. government was involved in the Sept 11. terrorist attacks...."
  • ACORN Tapes
    • "Filmmakers James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, posing as a pimp and a prostitute, went undercover to the offices of the community organizing group ACORN in the summer. They secretly videotaped employees instructing them in how to falsify tax forms and seek illegal benefits for 13 'very young' girls from El Salvador whom the pair said they wanted to import to work as child prostitutes...."
  • Science Czar John Holdren
    • "President Obama's 'science czar,' John Holdren, floated a number of lethal policies to shrink the human population -- including compulsory abortions and other Draconian measures -- in science textbooks he published in the 1970s...."
  • Climate-Gate
    • "Hackers broke into the servers at a prominent British climate research center and leaked years' worth of e-mails onto the Web, producing what some skeptics of man-made climate change said was 'smoking gun' evidence of collusion among climate scientists. One e-mail referenced a plan to 'hide the decline' in global temperatures, as another lamented the 'travesty' that temperatures had not increased over the past decade. Prominent climate scientists discussed blackballing skeptics and admitted to dumping data to avoid public scrutiny...."
  • Politicizing the NEA
    • "A senior official at the National Endowment for the Arts encouraged artists to promote President Obama's political agenda in a conference call he organized with the White House. The NEA's communications director Yosi Sergant eventually resigned in August amid accusations that the grant-making organization was becoming politicized...."
      • This is hardly news: ideological requirements for acceptance in American academia - NEA included - are part of the reason I left the racket, back in the eighties.
  • Chas Freeman
    • "Chas Freeman, the Obama administration's appointee to chair the National Intelligence Council, had major conflicts of interest with the Saudi and Chinese governments as a private citizen. He referred to Tibetan Buddhist protests against the communist government in China as a 'race riot,' and said the Chinese had been 'overly cautious' in killing hundreds of protesters in the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989...."
  • Tea Party Protests
    • "In the wake of the bank bailouts and the federal stimulus package, some critics of the Obama administration's economic crisis plans urged citizens to mail tea bags to their congressmen as a form of protest, recalling the Boston Tea Party and unjust taxes imposed by the British before the American Revolution. The Tea Party movement grew to include massive protests, as tens of thousands of Americans joined in on Tax Day...."
  • Kevin Jennings, Safe Schools Czar
    • "President Obama's 'safe schools czar,' Kevin Jennings, is a former schoolteacher who advocated promoting homosexuality in schools and was forced to admit he had poorly handled an incident in which a student told him he was having sex with older men. Jennings has since been tied to a pornographic suggested reading list...."
  • Democratic Stimulus
    • "A December study from George Mason University showed that Democratic districts have received nearly twice as much stimulus money as Republican districts -- and the cash has been awarded without regard to how badly an area was suffering from job losses or income problems. Blue districts garnered the majority of the $787 stimulus package, getting an average of $439 million per district...."
If you don't like the list - or find it a little unsettling - you can do what some of the self-described best and brightest in all the land do. Tell yourself that it's FOXNews, and that they always lie. Especially about the dear president.

Me? I don't think that news organizations lie. Not very often, and even less often when they're aware that what they're saying is false. That goes for The New York Times, FOXNews, CNN, and all the rest.

On the other hand, I know that news organizations filter the information they have, selecting what their editors think is important and rejecting the rest. Otherwise, we'd be flooded with everything from stories about jaywalkers, convenience store robberies and fossils in Kenya to weather reports from Poughkeepsie: with information about national events buried between them.

I think the problem that many old-school, traditional news editors have is that they live in a relatively small community. Although, in my opinion, Atlanta is becoming a major news media center: New York City, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles remain as the great centers of old-school journalism in America. With contemporary telecommunications and air travel, it isn't necessary for people living in these places to make contact with outsiders. Unconsciously, I think, they form a closely knit community of like-minded people.

Nothing wrong with that.

The problem, as I see it, is that editors often don't realize that their preconceptions and preferences about the world and how it should work aren't necessarily widely shared outside their little urban enclaves - and, in my opinion, are sometimes at odds with objective reality.

Being somewhat uncritical of improbable reports that fit their preconceptions can be downright embarrassing: like the time a major American newspaper printed a fake letter. (December 22, 2008)

Old-school, traditional news editors generally pass along reports on things that actually happened: quite possibly unaware of how their assumptions and biases affect which facts they select and which they reject. Sometimes, news media reports events that never happened. (August 7, 2007)

Don't Read the News: Study It

With traditional news media's track record for turning a blind eye to deficiencies in the workers' paradise and by-products of the Third Reich's efforts to establish lebensraum (October 21, 2008) it's hard to tell when news articles are tongue-in-cheek, and when they should be taken at face value. (October 30, 2009)

Which, together with the way that major events (in my opinion) are ignored if they don't fit in with what old-school journalists feel that the masses should be allowed to know, is why I don't read the news. I study it.

Related posts: In the news:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.