"Alice climbed out of
the news hole. She seemed badly shaken. 'I
"The Hatter and the
March Hare could never
all the coverage of the
is curious indeed that the
in a beautiful meadow, I wish these events were all a
climbed out of the news hole. She seemed badly shaken. "I
thought Wonderland was curious indeed," she said, "but Medialand is
even more peculiar."
Responding to my quizzical look, she quickly added: "Don't
worry, I stayed away from the hookah-smoking caterpillar, the 'Drink
Me' bottle and the 'Eat Me' cake. I did not converse with a single
playing card, dormouse or mock turtle. I was simply observant."
Alice's sudden appearance in the sunlit meadow gave me an idea.
No longer a girl, she was clearly an intelligent woman. "Here," I
said, pulling a laptop from my briefcase, "please write about your
latest adventures." And before she could decline, I ran off.
Returning hours later, I found these words:
Oh dear, how to begin? The Hatter and the March Hare could never
match the lunacy I've just seen in Medialand. I'd heard of people
subsisting on treacle, but the current media diet is rather more
grim. I've got half a mind to write a poem: "The Walrus and the
Journalist wondered where they'd been. / They wept like anything to
see such quantities of spin..."
It was a Friday (April 12) when the military in Venezuela pushed
out the president. On Saturday, a New York Times front-page headline
said "Venezuela's Chief Forced to Resign," and the first of more than
30 paragraphs referred to "a sudden end to the turbulent three-year
reign of a mercurial strongman." The entire article used the word
"coup" only once -- reporting that "Cuba called the change-over a
Meanwhile, also declining to call the coup a coup, the Times
lead editorial used upbeat euphemisms to hail it: "With yesterday's
resignation of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan democracy is no
longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chavez, a ruinous
demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed
power to a respected business leader." But many Venezuelans were less
pleased to see the ditching of their constitution. In less than 48
hours, Chavez returned to office.
The Saturday editorial by the New York Times had asserted that
the move against Venezuela's twice-elected president was strictly an
internal matter: "Rightly, his removal was a purely Venezuelan
affair." But on Tuesday, the newspaper reported: "Senior members of
the Bush administration met several times in recent months with
leaders of a coalition that ousted the Venezuelan president ... and
agreed with them that he should be removed from office."
In a Tuesday editorial, the Times indicated that three days
earlier it had suffered from temporary amnesia, forgetting the
transcendent virtues of democracy. Now, in the wake of the coup's
failure, the new editorial was a bit contrite: "Mr. Chavez has been
such a divisive and demagogic leader that his forced departure last
week drew applause at home and in Washington. That reaction, which we
shared, overlooked the undemocratic manner in which he was removed.
Forcibly unseating a democratically elected leader, no matter how
badly he has performed, is never something to cheer."
But in Medialand, how does a democratically elected president
become a "strongman"? And when is a coup not a coup but a
Well, through the looking-glass, Humpty Dumpty provided an
explanation. "When I use a word," he said, "it means just what I
choose it to mean -- neither more nor less." When I objected that
"the question is whether you can make words mean so many different
things," his retort was brusque. "The question is," he replied,
"which is to be master -- that's all."
That perverse outlook seems to be axiomatic in Medialand's
biggest recent story. Amid all the coverage of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I wonder about remarkable
inconsistencies of media interest and moral indignation.
For instance, in contrast to the highly publicized case of John
Walker Lindh, what about other Americans who also have been moved by
religious fervor to go abroad and take up arms for a foreign
government? Relocating from homes in such areas as Brooklyn, N.Y.,
quite a few Americans went to Israel and now serve that country's
This spring, no doubt, some of them have been part of the
Israeli offensive in the West Bank. It is curious indeed that the
same U.S. news outlets fascinated with the "American Taliban" are so
uninterested in scrutinizing those Americans, who strengthen the
ranks of the Israeli armed forces as they participate in the killing
of Palestinian men and women and children.
The similarities are glaring enough to make the media avoidance
notable. Apparently certain of a supreme being's approval, Lindh
chose to enlist in holy warfare that included the frequent taking of
civilian lives. The same is true of the numerous Americans who now
carry machine guns for Israel in the occupied territories.
Sitting in a beautiful meadow, I wish these events were all a
fantasy, from which I might awake, with my sister gently brushing
dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon my face. But
this is no dream.
Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy (I'd recommend a visit to the site), a nationwide consortium of public-policy researchers. He has written op-ed pieces for Boston Globe, Washington Post, Newsday, New York Times, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Baltimore Sun, and is a far more successful writer than Alex Sandell will ever be. His column, normally titled, "Media Beat," is nationally syndicated in a wide variety of newspapers. If you'd like to see his weekly "Media Beat" column published on the opinion page of your local daily newspaper(s), please contact the opinion-page editor at the paper(s) and suggest that the paper give his column a try. Please mention to editors that his weekly column is available to newspapers from Creators Syndicate. Norman Solomon's latest book is "The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media."
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