Monday, May 2, 2011

You're against torturing people? That means you're pro- Osama.
In this article that appears on the front page, entitled "Cheney says Enhanced Interrogation Probably Led to UBL Death," the author employs the classic media bias tactic of issue framing. "I would assume that the enhanced interrogation program that we put in place produced some of the results that led to bin Laden's ultimate capture," the author quotes former vice president Cheney. The article then argues exactly this, that water-boarding and other tactics used led us to Osama and eventually enabled the US to kill him. 
 Right now, with Osama having just been killed, every major news outlet in America is running stories about the families of 9/11 victims that are relieved and how great a day it is for America. The author of this article is using these emotions and linking them to a different issue, the controversial interrogations that occur at Gitmo.  By doing so, anybody that comes out and says that the interrogations are wrong can be now be shot down with, "Oh, so you'd rather Osama still be alive?"
This is similar to when in early 2003, the Bush administration mentioned 9/11 every time they spoke about going into Iraq. This incited emotions of the atrocities to get people in the the gung-ho pro war mindset, and also attempted to make anybody that came out against the war as being pro 9/11.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Unconventional Sources of News = News

When comedian John Stewart is confronted about the fact that The Daily Show has political clout, he often shrugs the allegations off, pointing out that his show is on Comedy Central. His argument is that because his show comes after "puppets making crank phone calls," he can't be held accountable for what goes on during his segment. In this way he's able to evade criticism about what he says on his show.
Personally, however, I don't think that this is an excuse. It's true that John Stewart is not an official news source, and it's true that the show is touted by its producers as a comedy show. However, this doesn't change the fact that when it comes down to it, people are still not only getting their cues about what’s important in the world from the daily show, but are also formulating their opinions about these issues from his show. As we saw from the New York Times article that we read for class, John Stewart has political power, and people listen to what he says.
Therefore, I don’t think Stewart should shirk his responsibilities. While it’s true that he certainly is not a conventional news show and thus is not a conventional news source, that doesn’t take away from what viewers are taking away from his show. No matter what absurd show precedes him, John Stewart is an important voice in the political world, in the same way CNN would still be important even if it came after Sesame Street.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I know this is nothing anybody hasn't heard before, but I find the double-standardness (should be a word) that exists in American politics in relation to Israel blatant. Israel is condemned for increasing its attacks against militants who have started targeting civilian school buses containing children. Israel has been bombarded by rockets and terrorist attacks for years, and yet when they strike back against militant targets they are met with condemnation.
It's interesting to note that when the massive American air force launches air strikes directly at the heart of a country on a different continent that hasn't been attacking us or even sponsoring terrorism against us for at least a decade, there is little criticism of the type Israel receives. In other words, there is criticism that maybe America shouldn't be wasting its resources in Libya, or complaints that there are other countries in the region that deserve more attention. You don't, however, hear people complaining that America doesn't have the right to protect itself, and should be thinking about how many civilians its going to kill by bombing the heck out of Qaddafi. The same people who criticize Israel for directly retaliating remain silent when America bombs a country that is not even a threat to its security.
The title about the Israeli air strikes in the New York Times reads as follows:

5 More Palestinians Killed as Israelis Retaliate for School Bus Attack (By FARES AKRAM and ETHAN BRONNER Published: April 8, 2011) 

The article about American air strikes against Libya reads: 

Allies Open Air Assault on Qaddafi’s Forces in Libya (By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICKSTEVEN ERLANGER and ELISABETH BUMILLER Published: March 19, 2011). 

The article about Israel makes the reader feel more for the bombed, whereas the one about the American attacks focuses solely on the attacker. Two countries attacking another country, represented in a different manner to reflect the biases of the author. 

Liberals are retarded

We mentioned in class that because of blogging and increasingly biased media outlets, Americans are becoming more and more polarized in their political ideologies. In other words, people are alienating the other side and are becoming convinced not just that they are a hundred percent right, but that members of the other side are actually fundamentally flawed in some way for not agreeing with their own particular point of view.
As an example of this, I went on YouTube and typed in “Liberals are” and saw what YouTube suggested I end the statement with. Then I did the same thing for “Conservatives are.” Some of the results I got for both were, “retarded, stupid, destroying America, idiots, morons, anti-American, evil, dumb, racist, annoying, wrong, and ignorant.” In other words, rather than understanding that there are simply different legitimate approaches to running a liberal democracy like the US, many Americans need to convince themselves that the other side is wrong at its core rather than admit that there could be some legitimacy to the other side, because it’s a much simpler, easier way of thinking. It sets up the world in black and white.
This aspect of human nature isn’t so scary when you look at its effects within America, because in many ways the differences in lifestyle are still minimal, and thus the animosity usually doesn’t lead to extreme violence. This human tendency to polarize around an ideology and then demonize the other side plays a much more important role on the global scale. In order for a Muslim radical terrorist to perform a violent act of terrorism on innocent civilians who are not involved in politics, the terrorist needs to be fully convinced that the people he is killing are not only flawed in their ideologies, but are evil. If Pakistani terrorists would say, “We believe that the province of Kashmir should belong to Pakistan, but we understand that the Indian govt. feels that it is their territory as well,” the horrific Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008 would likely not have occurred. When you admit the other side has some legitimacy, you are admitting that you might be wrong in some respects, and this is difficult for people to acknowledge.
The biggest danger is simply that people find it easier to believe that they are 100% right and everyone else is 100% wrong. American news outlets need to start combining liberal and conservative doctrines, just to show citizens that there can be two legitimate sides to the same coin. If we can’t even accept fellow Americans with slightly different ideologies, how can we expect our enemies to ever accept our existence and for the world to ever live in peace?   

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Legitimate Cause to Attack Libya?

I find it interesting that with current air strikes on Libyan soil, there has been no tagline or reasoning in terms of US interests for why we are attacking Libya given by the White House. In other words, by Afghanistan the rallying point was September 11th and by Iraq it was the fear that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. With the current attacks on Libya, there seems to be no one within the government even claiming that there are US interests at stake that are causing us to launch attacks.
                The question then becomes why are we launching military attacks against Libya? President Obama stated his reasoning for why the US finds itself engaged with Libya militarily:
The "core principle that has to be upheld here is that when the entire international community also unanimously says that there is a potential humanitarian crisis about to take place, that a leader who has lost his legitimacy, decides to turn his military on his own people, that we simply can't stand by with empty words, that we have to take some action ( ) .”
The problem with this reasoning is that there are other countries in the world, even on the continent, that are undergoing a “potential humanitarian crisis” and have leaders who have lost their legitimacy. If other countries are undergoing the same issues as Libya, why is Obama able to get away with circumventing congress and launching an attack against a country that posses almost zero threat to the US? Why hasn’t the media completely attacked this decision, like both times the US invaded Iraq?
                The reason that Obama has been able to get away with military action without having to come up with an official tagline or reason to satisfy the American people is, I believe, simply because the US is acting multilaterally. For the first time in a while, the US is going along with rest of the world; the US is not acting on its own accord in a military engagement. Because a UN resolution has been passed, many people feel that there must be legitimate cause for invasion in Libya, even when we have not been presented with a concrete reason of why we need to launch air strikes against Libya and not a whole bunch of other unstable countries.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Rare Absence of Media Bias

Nuclear plant’s emergency level up”- Washington Post

Devastation in Japan:A frantic effort to stem spread – The Boston Globe

I think it’s interesting to note that with all the media bias in America, there have been no significant differences in the way the media and press has been reporting the tragic events in Japan. In other words, as opposed to the murder in Itamar, no one has been raving about the unfair way that the media is covering the story there, because as can be seen from the titles of the story from three major newspapers, they’re all basically reporting the story the same way. The York Times and the Boston Globe even used the same adjective, “frantic,” to describe the efforts of the Japanese.
            This has to do with the fact that a lot of media bias isn’t necessarily intentional, but just a consequence of the fact that usually the journalist has some interest in the story. When a journalist is writing for the New York Times about something that occurred in Israel, chances are they have feelings on the matter one way or another. This feeling that they have then comes out in the way they cover the story, as we discussed in class.
            Japanese nuclear power is not a hot topic in the US, and thus the top stories that are being published about it don’t differ significantly in the way the story is being framed. Presumably, the journalists all the believe that the Japanese citizens had the right to live where they were and agree that this is a tragedy, and thus they have no reason to add their own biases to the way the story is presented.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Basic agreement if you live in the US: You don't try to mess us over, and we'll let you decide when to wear clothes.

Bradley Manning is facing charges related to his alleged involvement with Wikileaks, including aiding the enemy, which is a capital offense.
The president said he had been assured that measures such as forcing Pfc. Bradley Manning to sleep without clothing were justified and for his safety.” (

            Whether or not you like Mr. Obama, I think the President deserves some props for this.
            Here’s why: Private First Class Bradley Manning decided for himself, over the better judgment of all his superiors and also of the United States Government, that certain information deserved to be seen by the world at large, and thus he took it into his own hands and leaked private information illegally. This information was not his to leak, it wasn’t about him, and it didn’t affect him. It was about, and affected, other people.
            Presumably, Private First Class Bradley wants to sleep in his clothes. Even if he didn’t, he would still want the right to decide for himself whether or not to sleep in them. Maybe he would want to start with them off and then put them back on when it gets cold. Using Private Manning’s own logic in illegally leaking information to Wikileaks, President Obama decided to take away Private Manning’s clothes at night.
            Is this a suitable punishment for leaking possibly vital government information to a foreign source? Of course not. It is, however, a clever way for Obama to stick it to a traitor. There are few things Obama can do to him before he is convicted under US law. Taking away his clothes at night is one of the few things he can do at this stage, and it’s fitting for someone who tried to mess over a lot of people to not get any mercy from the President. It’s always scary when someone outside yourself makes important decisions for you; but because Manning doesn’t seem to feel this way, it’s perfectly appropriate for Obama to decide the Private shouldn’t get to sleep with his clothes on, claiming it’s for Manning’s own safety.
            I also think this lends itself to a bigger debate about what’s more important, your supposed rights or the safety of other people. Private Manning decided that people have the “right” to see what is going on inside the American Govt. and thus he risked doing a lot of damage by leaking private information. The New York Times had the “right” to publish the information about the money-tracking system that was in use by banks to catch terrorists. However, in my opinion, the editors should’ve said to themselves that it’s more important for our government to keep on tracking these dangerous groups than it is for a random American citizen to know how they are tracked. There are things that are more important than the right of the citizens to know about information that don’t affect them.