Echoing the State: The New York Times on Honduras

(source: The Federalist Blog)

by Keane Bhatt

Honduras has belatedly appeared on the radar of the U.S. media over the past couple of weeks. A joint U.S.-Honduras drug raid on Friday, May 11, reportedly killed civilians—including two pregnant women—near Ahuas, a town in the Mosquitia region of Honduras. According to press coverage based on accounts by U.S. officials, four State Department helicopters—piloted by Guatemalan military officers and outside contractors—carried a strike force of Honduran security officers from a U.S.-built base to the Patuca River. They were accompanied by what The New York Times called a “commando-style squad” of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, and acted on Colombian and U.S. intelligence. U.S. and Honduran officials told The Times the forces seized 1,000 pounds of cocaine from a boat before being attacked by another boat of drug traffickers; Honduran personnel, then on the ground, and with support from “the door gunner of at least one of the helicopters,” engaged in a late-night firefight with the traffickers, killing two of them. The State Department and the DEA insist that only Hondurans participated in the shootout.

Both the local mayor and congressional representative disputed this account, asserting in the Honduran newspaper El Tiempo three days after the raid that four people were killed—Emerson Martínez, Chalo Brock Wood, Candelaria Tratt Nelson, and Juana Banegas—and that they were ordinary citizens. In a later interview with TIME, the local leaders said the civilian boat was “ferrying passengers,” and “was passing from the opposite direction and got caught in the nighttime crossfire.” Close to a week after initial reports incorrectly described the mission as having been carried out solely by Honduran forces, and days after the local authorities accused the DEA of involvement, official U.S. spokespersons finally admitted to the DEA’s “advisory role” in the brutal raid.

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Jadaliyya interview with Belén Fernández

Jadaliyya recently interviewed PULSE co-editor Belén Fernández about her book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, to be released by Verso Nov. 7. The interview appears in Jadaliyya’s New Texts Out Now (NEWTON) section and includes an excerpt from the book. The following is the start of the interview:

Jadaliyya: Why did you write this book?

Belén Fernández: I asked myself this question several thousand times, particularly during my third rereading of every Friedman column published since 1995.

The idea for the book came about in a far less climactic fashion than Friedman’s ideas tend to occur—i.e. it did not involve “Quarter-Pounder[ing] my way around the world,” being struck by a “bolt out of the blue that must have hit somewhere between the McDonald’s in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the McDonald’s in Tahrir Square in Cairo and the McDonald’s off Zion Square in Jerusalem,” and unfurling the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention, according to which American fast food is the key to world peace.

Rather, in May of 2009, following a four-month hitchhiking trip through Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, I returned to Buenos Aires, where my parents were living at the time. Though up to that point I had been blessedly sheltered from the phenomenon that is Thomas Friedman and had only read a smattering of his dispatches over the years, he happened to publish a spate of articles that summer which caught my attention.

Topics ranged from how Iraqis should appreciate the US military legacy of “a million acts of kindness and a profound example of how much people of different backgrounds can accomplish when they work together” in their country, to how Barack Obama had defeated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Lebanese elections, which somehow indicated a triumph of Lebanese sovereignty. Also reported by Friedman that summer was the encouraging fact that the more than 50,000 Facebook fans of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi far exceeded the capacity of a mosque, thus reiterating the positive role technology can play in the hands of proper Muslims, as opposed to those concerned with conducting “J.O.L.” (Jihad Online).

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Stone, Ali, and Weisbrot respond to attack from the New York Times’ Larry Rohter

The following letter was sent to The New York Times by Oliver Stone, Mark Weisbrot and Tariq Ali in response to a grossly distorted account of their new film ‘South of the Border‘ by Larry Rohter, a one time backer of the 2002 coup attempt.

Larry Rohter attacks our film, “South of the Border,” for “mistakes, misstatements and missing details.”  But a close examination of the details reveals that the mistakes, misstatements, and missing details are his own, and that the film is factually accurate. We will document this for each one of his attacks. We then show that there is evidence of animus and conflict of interest, in his attempt to discredit the film. Finally, we ask that you consider the many factual errors in Rohter’s attacks, outlined below, and the pervasive evidence of animus and conflict of interest in his attempt to discredit the film; and we ask that The New York Times publish a full correction for these numerous mistakes.

1) Accusing the film of “misinformation,” Rohter writes that “A flight from Caracas to La Paz, Bolivia, flies mostly over the Amazon, not the Andes. . .” But the narration does not say that the flight is “mostly” over the Andes, just that it flies over the Andes, which is true. (Source: Google Earth).

2) Also in the category of “misinformation,” Rohter writes “the United States does not ‘import more oil from Venezuela than any other OPEC nation,’ a distinction that has belonged to Saudi Arabia during the period 2004-10.”

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Reading Roger Cohen in the New York Times

Roger Cohen: Liberal ZionistM. Shahid Alam

Roger Cohen is the rare columnist at NYT who makes an occasional effort to bring some objectivity to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, how far does his objectivity go?

Consider his piece of June 10, “Modern Folly and Ancient Wisdom.”

I have selected a few excerpts for comment.

First excerpt:
“Israel’s bloody interception of the Mavi Marmara and its motley crew was crass — another example of the counterproductive use of force — but nothing about it could justify the Turkish prime minister’s outrageous statement that the world now perceives “the swastika and the Star of David together (italics mine).”

Why does he speak of the “motley crew” on the Mavi Marmara? First, is ‘crew’ the appropriate word for the humanitarian activists on a ship bringing relief to people under blockade. ‘Crew’ has unpleasant connotations. Let us consult the Oxford English dictionary. Originally, it meant “an augmentation or reinforcement of a military force.” Now, by extension, it means “Any organized or associated force, band, or body of armed men.”

In addition, why is this a ‘motley’ crew? Does he mean heterogeneous? In fact, most were Turkish. Why then are they “motley?” The word has a bad odor. The OED concurs. Consider two entries in the OED. Entry one: “Of a thing or collection of things: composed of elements of diverse or varied character, form, appearance, etc. Freq. with implication of poor design or organization (italics added).” And entry two: Of a gathering or group of people: consisting of people of diverse or varied appearance, character, etc.; miscellaneous. Freq. depreciative (italics in the original).

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The New York Times and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Bronner Affair

By Jerome Slater

The New York Times has now confirmed that the son of Ethan Bronner, for the past two years its chief correspondent in Israel, has enlisted in the Israeli army. On January 25, the website Electronic Intifada picked up on what was then still a rumor and pointed out that the internal policies of the Times state that journalists might have to be reassigned if the activities of family members create apparent conflicts of interest. The policy guidelines provide an example: “A brother or a daughter in a high-profile job on Wall Street might produce the appearance of conflict for a business reporter or editor….”

Electronic Intifada sent a message to Bronner asking if the rumor was true. Bronner did not respond but turned the message over to Susan Chira, the Times foreign editor, who did. With the usual brisk arrogance, evasiveness, or non-responsiveness of the Times whenever its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is criticized, Chira dismissed the question of whether Bronner’s family ties (he is also married to an Israeli woman) constituted a conflict of interest: “Mr. Bronner’s son is a young adult who makes his own decisions. At the Times we have found Mr. Bronner’s coverage to be scrupulously fair and we are confident that will continue to be the case.”

No doubt the Times hoped that would dispose of the issue, but thanks to the internet, it was not to be.

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New York Times: No conflict of interest — with the conventional wisdom

by Robert Jensen

The New York Times’ public editor wrestled this week with conflict-of-interest charges sparked by the revelation that Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner’s son had joined the Israeli army.

The executive editor of the paper responded with a sensible defense of the paper’s decision to keep Bronner in that position.

Although it had the appearance of a spirited exchange, the “debate” was a tired old diversion that keeps us from facing more important questions, not just about the Israel/Palestine conflict but about U.S. journalists’ coverage of the world. As is typical in mainstream journalists’ discussions of journalistic neutrality and objectivity, the focus on an individual obscures more important questions about the institutions for which individuals work and the powerful forces that shape those institutions’ picture of the world.

The question posed by the Times officials is framed in the narrowest terms: Could Bronner maintain his neutrality and objectivity given those family circumstances, or was that indirect connection to one side of the war “still too close for comfort,” in public editor Clark Hoyt’s words. In his Sunday column, Hoyt described Bronner as a “superb reporter” but concluded that the paper should reassign him to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Executive editor Bill Keller argued that such a policy would disqualify many reporters from assignments that draw on their specialized knowledge and diminish the quality of the reporting in the paper, and concluded there is no reason to reassign Bronner.

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FAIR on the NYT’s Pentagon Propaganda

nytFairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has an action alert on the New York TimesPentagon Propaganda, detailing its misleading report on Guantánamo and terrorism. This comes as the same paper last year published David Barstow’s revelations about the Pentagon’s hidden hand in “news” coverage to generate pro-war propaganda and favourable coverage for the Bush administration, for which he has won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. (See also this interview on Democracy Now earlier this month). The NYT continues to try to have it both ways: (selectively) exposing propaganda as well as exercising it as an extension of the US military and political establishment. FAIR does well to keep the scrutiny turned right up:

While former Vice President Dick Cheney has been front and center in the media debate over the current White House’s national security policies, he’s not the only one trying to challenge the White House’s message. The New York Times published a front-page article (5/21/09) that bolstered the notion that former Guantánamo prisoners “return” to terrorist activity.

The remarkably credulous Times story, under the headline “1 in 7 Freed Detainees Rejoins Fight, Report Finds,” was based on a Pentagon report leaked to the paper before its release yesterday evening. The article emphasized the notion that former prisoners “returned to terrorism or militant activity”–without adequately explaining the definition of either term, or examining whether those former detainees were ever “terrorists” in the first place.

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