Category: Assigned Posts

Lessons Learned

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” – Thomas Jefferson

This has been an interesting and rigorous course. At the same time I was taking this class, I was also taking a class at another university and doing research, so I was incredibly pressed for time. Class discussions were interesting, and there were three people in the class that regularly shared their thoughts and opinions. I didn’t always agree with them, but that made for some interesting and much welcome discussion.

This post is my summary post – in this post, I will list four things I have learned in class and two suggestions to improve the New York Times.

Structural Biases

This was very interesting, as it shows how the internal structure of journalism operates. My experience as an automotive journalist gave me some unique insight into how these biases actually work, and I can pinpoint times in my work when I felt pressure from these biases. I have listed the structural biases and their explanations below.

  • Temporal
    • Journalists print stories that have occurred recently or have recent relevance.
  • Bad News
    • We get pretty much universally bad news; this is where we get the saying “no news is good news.”
  • Commercial
    • Journalists have to write stories that will earn money for their newspaper, in place of stories that may have more significance.
  •  Expediency
    •  Journalists will write about something that is quick and easy, such as in access journalism, instead of something that will take longer and need more effort.
  • Visual
    • Journalists will show more of something if it has an interesting corresponding visual aid, and placement within a website or newspaper makes certain articles stand out more than their peers.
  • Fairness
    • In trying to be nonpartisan, journalists can show a false balance, such as in climate change ‘debates’ on TV news broadcasts.
  • Narrative
    • Journalists want to tell a story with an exposition, conflict, climax, and perhaps resolution – this makes articles easier to read.
  • Glory
    • Journalists want to be the first one to write about a story.


The Times is Missing A Crucial Part of a Good Newspaper

One blaring mistake on the Times’ part is its exclusion of the most important part of a newspaper. This is the comics section. Growing up, the first thing I did with a newspaper was look at the comics. If it doesn’t have Calvin and Hobbes, is it really a newspaper?

The Propaganda Model

News passes through filters put in place by the “dominant elite,”, that depend on these five characteristics:

  1. How big and powerful the dominant mass media firm is
  2. Advertising as a primary source of revenue
  3. Reliance of the media on information provided by the government, businesses, and other experts
  4. Flak to discipline media that doesn’t align with the views of the dominant elite
  5. “Anti-communism,” or the creation of a common enemy, as a national religion and control mechanism

Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the Press is the only career-specific amendment to the Constitution, and it’s the first one. The government cannot stop you from saying something, unless it is libel or defamation. Libel is a written form of defamation, and defamation is false information about a party that is spread with malicious intent. The government cannot silence a hatemonger. However, if I were to, say, break their nose, I would not be infringing on their freedom of speech. It would, however, be assault and battery and therefore illegal.

News Effects

(Post 1 and Post 2)

  • Social Continuity Effect
    • If the news is being printed, then social life is going on as it always has. Journalism helps democracy function.
  • Insider Effect
    • While the point of journalism is to inform an audience, that audience chooses when it wants to be informed.
  • Legitimation and Control Effects
    • To give a platform for someone or something to express itself in journalism is to give it legitimacy.
  • Effects on Opinions
    • Journalism can sway the opinions of its audience. After coverage of a brutal murder, support for the death penalty goes up
  • Effects on Activities
    • In some circumstances, journalism can suggest changes to behavior, such as copycat suicides
  • Messenger Effect
    • Covering an event may lead to repercussions, like covering police brutality helping to pass legislature in favor of civil rights

And last, but certainly not least:

The Times Does Not Use Oxford Commas

This may sound nitpicky, but I get truly annoyed when a publication does not use oxford commas. In fact, the utter lack of oxford commas is one of the first things I noticed about the Times. This annoys me to no end; when I find a scholarly article that does not have oxford commas, I usually try to find a different source.

If I had been looking around the internet and not been in this class, I would have avoided much from the Times purely because of this annoying habit of theirs.

Gaps in Education

One of the assignments for this class is to look at an editorial from the New York Times. For this assignment, I chose to read “Another Sign of Retreat on Civil Rights,” which discusses changes to discrimination policies in public schools. In looking for this article, I found that editorials are short and usually don’t have much to respond to – I was interested in an editorial about the New York City subway, but my comments would not have been thorough.


According to the editorial, several civil rights organizations and some members of Congress are worried by happenings at the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. This office plays a crucial role in:

  • Protecting rights for transgender students
  • Protecting victims of sexual assault
  • Forcing school districts to use fair disciplinary policies that do not disproportionately affect minority students

Candice Jackson, the assistant secretary for civil rights, backed away from a policy that requires investigators to look for systemic problems when civil rights complaints emerge. The editorial claims that this will discourage staff from starting new cases at all. Investigators currently have years’ worth of data to determine if discrimination, harassment, and/or other problems raised in a complaint indicate a systemic problem. This data was used in 2014 to show that minority students were subjected to excessive disciplinary procedures in every grade in public schools. For example, minority four-year-olds are four times as likely as their white peers to be suspended.

By cutting back on this data-collecting policy, the Department of Education is preparing to abandon its role in prohibiting discrimination. According to the editorial, three groups have been visibly worried. The United States Commission on Civil Rights, a nongovernmental agency, called for an investigation into the administration’s retreat from its anti-discrimination policy. Senate Democrats have demanded that the department furnish information about how investigations are being handled and why the policy was changed. A bipartisan group of House members asked the department to maintain Obama-era guidance for combating sexual violence in schools.


A troubling country-wide phenomenon is the gap in educational attainment between black or Hispanic students and their white counterparts. In this interactive post from the New York Times Upshot, every school district is analyzed for educational attainment. The article was published in April 2016, so it would be interesting to see how or if the data has changed. In Los Angeles, white students are 1 grade level ahead of their black peers. In New York City, this number is 2.3 grade levels; in Washington, D.C. the number is a whopping 4.9 grade levels. My hometown, the first in the country to voluntarily desegregate schools, has a disparity of .5 grade levels.

The difference in educational performance could be due to many factors, including teacher and student expectancy, a lack of economic access, and failing public infrastructure. Teacher and student expectancy is my personal favorite out of the reasons, purely because it is an interesting phenomenon. Teachers expect their minority students to not do as well as their white students, and the minority students pick up on this. This unconscious effect leads teachers to be more harsh when grading work from minority students. Other terms for this are biological determinism and a self-fulfilling prophecy. Links to studies that back this up are here and here. Another Times article in the Upshot echoes my sentiments about teacher expectation. It discusses a small trial program in Broward County, Florida where screening tests for gifted students were changed and more black and Hispanic students were found to be gifted. Sadly, that program was cut in 2010 due to budget cuts.


By backing away from discrimination prohibitions, the Department of Education is opening the gates for further discrimination against minority students. Doing so will only further harm minority students. Then again, with a voucher system, teacher salary cuts, and widespread budget cuts, one may think that Betsy DeVos, who is now in charge of the Department of Education, is actively trying to hurt both teachers and students.

Freedom of Speech

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” – Noam Chomsky


“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” — Voltaire

One of the topics that came up a lot in class was freedom of speech. The first Amendment to the Constitution of the United States ensures that the federal government will not pass any law restricting freedom of expression or freedom of the press. As uncomfortable as it is to hear abhorrent opinions, such as those from Alex Jones, those who hold those views are – and should be – still legally allowed to express them. As we saw in the Noam Chomsky video “Manufacturing Consent,” Noam Chomsky is a big supporter of free speech. In the video, Chomsky defends a Robert Faurisson’s right to express his views. Logically, there is no way Chomsky would agree with the ‘findings’ of this Holocaust denier. No Jewish person with a memory – especially one born in 1928 like Chomsky – would agree with Faurrison. However, as Chomsky pointed out in a written statement, Faurrison does have a right to voice his opinions. As we saw in the video, people sometimes mistake support for freedom of expression with support for the views expressed. This written statement was published as a foreword in the denier’s book without Chomsky’s permission. People mistook this as Chomsky supporting Faurrison and probably thought this might be a case of legitimation. Having Noam Chomsky’s name on the foreword of his book gives Faurrison more legitimacy as Chomsky is an internationally renowned academic. This could be somewhat similar to Megyn Kelly’s interview with Alex Jones – people who would normally ignore this content may be exposed solely because Jones got an interview or Chomsky’s name appears on the cover.

Legitimation is not the only effect in journalism (I discuss six of them in the past two posts); the messenger effect is another. In the textbook, one of the conditions under which journalists participate in the messenger effect is when they depict an event so as to maximize its attention-getting quality. This is related to the visual and narrative structural biases – visual bias brings more initial eyeballs to the story, while storytelling retains those eyeballs.

This brings us to the main point of this post: the New York Times posted a story in the Insider about free speech and its publishing of a 1960 advertisement titled “Heed Their Rising Voices” calling for people to donate to support peaceful protest against racism in the South. The ad can be viewed here.

The advertisement declared that thousands of black students that were demonstrating nonviolently in the South were “being met by an unprecedented wave of terror,” making charges of police brutality against law enforcement. Some of the incidents listed in the ad did not actually happen, so L. B. Sullivan (police commissioner in Montgomery) sued the New York Times for defamation on behalf of the police department, and sought the equivalent of around four million dollars. While Sullivan won in Alabama, the case eventually went to the Supreme Court, who decided in favor of free press.

This is the case in which the Supreme Court decided that malice had to be attached to misinformation in order for language to be defamation. In this article, the Times quotes Justice William Brennan saying that because the Times did not fact-check the advertisement, it could not have been malicious as there was no intent behind it.


I suspect that if the advertisement had been published today, the advertisers wouldn’t present any false information – the institutional racism in the justice system of the United States is extremely well-documented, and the availability of visual evidence would make the ad all the more persuasive. When a journalist reports on police brutality today, it is still not defamation, even when visual and narrative structural biases are employed to gain larger readership, unless they are doing so with malicious intent.


My final comments on free speech come after comments from comedian Trevor Noah:

In America, I find a lot of the time people conflate freedom of speech as consequence free. But really, freedom of speech means that your government won’t come after you. …I grew up in a country where the government could come after you if you said something. You are free to say what you like, somebody may still punch you though.

If someone were to spew Holocaust denial or say the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, the government cannot stop them. However, if I were to, say, break their nose, I would not be infringing on their freedom of speech. It would, however, be assault and battery so it would still be illegal.

Columnist Conversations

As I was going through the columnist section of the opinion section of the New York Times, I found that most columns in the section deal with Trump and his basket of deplorables. The two articles that most easily caught my eye were both written by Gail Collins, who has been working at the Times longer than I’ve been alive. I decided to go with the more colorfully titled article, titled “What if They Don’t Even Make a Sausage?” which Collins co-wrote with fellow Times columnist Bret Stephens.

The title told me nothing about the content of the piece. I started off my skimming through the comments to get a gist of the article was about before diving in; I found that Stephens and Collins have differing political views, and the article is set up as a “conversation” between the two authors. This should make for some interesting reading.

Stephens starts off the conversation with a discussion about the baseball game shooting that injured a Congressman. He says that the shooting promoted three types of reactions from people (who he called the “national commentariat,” which is a bit pompous in my opinion). The three reactions include: the shooter is nuts; the other side of the political divide is nuts; and the country is nuts. In response, Collins calls for a saner gun culture in which it is more difficult to get one’s hands on a semiautomatic rifle. Stephens furthers his statement, defending the Second Amendment (which was written when guns could only shoot once every few minutes).

One of Stephens’ statements irked me. I’ve seen it a lot, and whenever I come across it, it doesn’t sit well with me. Stephens says he wants to “keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people.” This doesn’t sit well with me, particularly because he does not delineate when and where a mental illness deems someone ineligible to wield a weapon. Which mental illnesses make someone ineligible? How severe does the condition have to be? Does this apply to people on the autism spectrum, and if so, where on the autism spectrum does this ineligibility come into play?

Another issue is the perceived violence-enthused nature of mentally ill people. We often perceive mentally ill people as being violent, deranged, and unpredictable. This isn’t necessarily the case. According to Teplin et. al.’s[1] study of crime victimization in adults with severe mental illness, more than a quarter of persons with severe mental illness had been victims of a violent crime in the past year, which is eleven times greater than the general population even after controlling for demographic factors such as socioeconomic status; this study gives concrete evidence that people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of violence than to be perpetrators. Much of our perceptions of people with mental illnesses as violent comes from exposure to media that portrays mentally ill people as violent. In their 2008 study of mental disorder stigma in the media, Klin and Lemish determined that the depiction of mental illness in media may be “contributing to the perpetuation of stigmas about mental illness.”[2] According to Heather Stuart, an epidemiologist at Queen’s University[3], the news media reinforces cultural stereotypes by using them to provide the context for the events presented. Stories require the reader to employ negative cultural stereotypes and common-sense understandings of what it means to be mentally ill.

This isn’t to say, of course, that persons with mental illness should be given weaponry. However, our perceptions of mental illness are almost certainly influencing the judgement to restrict access to guns. If someone has a history of violence or the potential to become violent, then their eligibility for firepower must be reconsidered. According to Collins, even though the shooter had a history of anger issues, he would not have been deprived of the right to buy a weapon. This raises a rather strange question for me – I do not have a history of violence or anger issues, but I do have a history of depression, anxiety, and PTSD, all of which are mental illnesses that affect my daily life and have done so for years. If someone with anger problems but no mental illness can get a gun, would I (someone pretty level-headed and nonviolent) be barred from carrying one because of a disease I happen to have? (Not that I want one anyway)

After this, the authors move on to talk about health care. They say something about a sausage factory, but I don’t quite understand it.

Stephens says that he would not support a health care law that would “abruptly and unexpectedly kick people off their insurance.” He wants to give insurance to people with pre-existing conditions, supports HSAs, and says that the government should reasonably tackle small problems one at a time rather than going through a huge overhaul. Collins calls Stephens “utterly unrealistic,” and points out the hyperpartisanship of the US government. She then gives this fun statement that I agree with:

“The reason Obamacare is a mess is because Senate Republicans opted to pull out of negotiation on a bill that included many of their own ideas, and just focus on ruining whatever came down the pike. I doubt Chuck Schumer is going to reward them for that and seven years of political torment by helping them out.”

Stephens acquiesces that the government is likely too partisan to work together, but still hopes for incrementalism. This makes Collins laugh; the conversation now moves on to talk about the Supreme Court agreeing to take a case on the subject of partisan gerrymandering.

This new topic brings a good sentence from Stephens:

“The partisan gerrymander has been the worst thing to happen to our politics in recent years, turning once-purple districts either bright red or deep blue, and accelerating the rise of the fringe and the decline of the center.”

Overall, this was an interesting piece to read. While I was quite distracted by Stephens’ comment about gun control, the format was interesting and the differing political views made for a good piece.

Works Cited

[1] Teplin, L. A., McClelland, G. M., Abram, K. M., & Weiner, D. A. (2005). Crime Victimization in Adults with Severe Mental Illness: Comparison with the National Crime Victimization Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(8), 911–921.

[2] Klin, A., & Lemish, D. (2008). Mental Disorders Stigma in the Media: Review of Studies on Production, Content, and Influences. Journal of Health Communication, 13(5), 434-449. doi:10.1080/10810730802198813

[3] Stuart, H. (2006). Media Portrayal of Mental Illness and its Treatments. CNS Drugs, 20(2), 99-106. doi:10.2165/00023210-200620020-00002

The Left Keeps Turning – Revisiting Evergreen Through FAIR

In this post, I am going to go back to the Evergreen State College controversy, described in detail in my post “When The Left Turns On Its Own.” FAIR, a left-wing media criticism site, recently covered this situation and I am interested in their take on the story.

The article begins with a discussion of issues of on campus free speech. According to the article, the news media is quick to anger about censorship of right-wing speakers but is silent or near silent about censorship of left-wing activists. He points out the preponderance of media coverage of Ann Coulter being prevented from speaking and the lack of coverage surrounding the perspective of the Evergreen State College student protesters. According to the author, campus free speech is treated differently “when you’re on the left.”

After this, the author gives some background to the Evergreen State College controversy. This account is different from that of the New York Times in that it clearly supports the student protesters over professor Weinstein. The author says that “marginalized communities suggested white students and faculty leave campus” for the annual Day of Absence, and then goes on to talk about how much “fun” the Day of Absence is for participants. The author places all blame for the heated atmosphere at Evergreen on those who didn’t agree with being told to leave:

Some in the Evergreen community, however, heard the call for the altered event as a demand – and their reaction made things worse.

The author clearly does not like Bret Weinstein, the biology professor who refused to leave on the Day of Absence. Weinstein did not appreciate being told to leave, and let the Evergreen community know his position. The article goes on to talk about how Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times all covered Weinstein’s side of events but never the student protesters. Personally, I can see why it would be hard to ask students for their position; usually a protest like this won’t have a central voice and will have many internally conflicting opinions. However, that does not mean that student protesters should not be given the chance to speak their mind.

Overall, I was not as impressed with this article as the one in the New York Times; for one thing, it is hypocritical. It talks about how no media outlet has talked to the student protesters, then still only focuses on Weinstein and not the students of Evergreen. The middle of FAIR’s article was somewhat suspect in that it draws a link between a white supremacist attack and the events on Evergreen’s campus (also suspect is the author’s insistence on repeatedly mentioning unrelated Palestinian activism while clearly pejorative of a Jewish man, but I won’t get into that). After my last post, I was intrigued to find out more about the students’ perspective, and I am still left in the dark. I am still only seeing mudslinging from one side of the argument to another with no input from students at Evergreen. This particular article seems to be highly critical of a singular figure, with criticism of the news media taking a backseat.

I am not impressed with this particular piece from FAIR. Hopefully, the next piece will be more illuminating.

The Public Editor Weighs In

For this post, I read a post from the New York Times’ previous public editor, Margaret Sullivan. She was the fifth public editor for the Times. In class, we talked about the structural biases of journalism, including maintenance of the status quo, which led to a discussion of how the New York Times and the Washington Post both published a preponderance of articles about Hilary Clinton during the democratic primaries, with relatively few about her challenger Bernie Sanders. The article I chose by Margaret Sullivan is titled “Were Changes to Sanders Article Stealth Editing?” and was published in March of 2016.


The post by Sullivan points out that Sanders supporters are unhappy with the Times, but points to an article that originally praised Sanders but, through editing, was changed to be more critical of the congressman. Over the course of the day, the article in question was changed so much that many people noticed. Sullivan gives three examples of outside sources calling out the Times for changing the article.


In addition to many readers, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said that the Times was “caving in” to Hillary Clinton’s interests. Sullivan explains the concept of stealth editing – “making substantial changes to articles without explaining that to readers.” Readers were confused and upset that such big changes were being made to the content of a story, rather than just making corrections.


This is when Sullivan decided to look internally into the editing staff of the New York Times. The author of the article said it was an editing decision, so Sullivan focused on the editing staff. What I find interesting is that she uses the full names of people on staff – I was expecting her to avoid using names for some kind of privacy, but that does not seem to be the case. She specifically pointed out Matt Purdy, who thought the article needed “more perspective” about Sanders. He also talked about giving the story more context. Sullivan then clears accusations that the Clinton campaign reached out to the Times.


Sullivan clearly doesn’t agree with the editing staff. The editing staff said that they were adding nuance and depth, but Sullivan point-blank stated that she doesn’t agree. She states that the revisions should have been noted and that they changed the tone and substance of the article.


Sullivan points out that the Times could easily start up a timestamped update system, and suggests that it does so.


This particular post was updated, and the update is my favorite part of the article:

A number of readers have made a point that I should have made earlier. The Sanders article was not a breaking news story, but rather a look back at his legislative record. Given its sensitivity and importance (it ended up on the front page on the morning of major primaries), why didn’t senior editors vet the story and make all the editing changes before it went online? Digital platforms, after all, are not a test run, and non-urgent stories don’t need to be pushed out as quickly as this one apparently was. I would also observe that the “context” added here looked a lot like plain-old opinion to this reader, and quite a few others.

1996 vs. 2001: Middle East News Coverage

For this post, I took a slightly more involved and, well, difficult approach. The original plan was to compare coverage of the Middle East in three different time periods: April 1996, October 2001, and June 2017. In the interest of time, I will cover June 2017 in a later post, possibly over this weekend. I chose April 1996 because that’s when I was born, and I chose October 2001 because that’s when my little brother was born. A contrast between these two dates can be seen immediately in that October 2001 is only a month after the 9/11 attack. My little brother was born into a different world than I was, and this can be seen in journalism coverage of the Middle East.


Before setting out to do my research, I spoke with my professor. He recommended I use LexisNexis, which was incredibly useful. For each time period, I analyzed three articles; one from The New York Times, one from The Washington Post, and one from the Guardian. The Guardian is based on London, so it has a more British slant to politics. For each time period, I will discuss the Guardian, then The Washington Post, then The New York Times.


Disclaimer: I do have a Zionist bias. I know it is there, and my judgement of news media is affected by this bias.


April 13-14, 1996

Articles during these two days focused on a skirmish between Israel and Hezbollah. It was interesting to see how the three different news organizations handled the story. I partly judged these articles based on how they portray the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The context for these articles comes from a series of suicide bombings done by Hezbollah and Israel’s retaliation.  


The Guardian’s article, “Those Tongues of Gun Fire,” written by Martin Woollacott, discussed the prevalence of violence in the Middle East. He starts off by stating that “the peoples of the Middle East are all fluent in the region’s second language, that of violence.” Messages are sent from country to country, from country to organization, from organization to country, and from organization to organization through the spillage of blood. Syria used proxies to kill people to send the message to other countries that they are a force to be reckoned with. He also states that “the stereotypical Israeli situation is one in which you kill people in order to send a message to another government that it should use violence against the people who are using violence against you.” The use of force arises in part from the need to maintain a certain image and to convince citizens that governments are worthy of leading them. The author states that there was never an “age of innocence” in the modern Middle East, and that violence has clear objectives (i.e. smashing the PLO, ethnically cleansing Jews, etc.).


I was pleasantly surprised at this article. It recognizes that Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations and that Israel not only targets just these specific organizations, but also warns civilians before bombing. I was expecting a witch hunt against Israel, but in this article the Jewish State is not treated as a villain nor a saint. This article presented factual information in a clear, mostly unbiased manner.


The next article, “Israel Steps Up Lebanese Attacks; 12 Killed, Including Syrian Soldier, in Air Assault Against Hezbollah” comes from John Lancaster of The Washington Post. This article starts off with actual reporting that Israel intensified attacks on Lebanese guerillas in Beirut and South Lebanon; they killed 12 people, including a solder, and forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes. The article does recognize that this is an escalation in Israel’s campaign against Hezbollah, which the article defines as a Shiite Lebanese group rather than a terrorist organization. The article recognizes that Israel warned the residents of forty-four villages that they would start air strikes (this is a common Israeli practice). This is because the targets were terrorists, not civilians. The article talks about attacks committed by Israel, but not those committed by Hezbollah. The article mentions that the people of Lebanon side with Hezbollah because they “have a certain dignity in fighting the Israelis.” The article paints Israel as the sole aggressor of the region, which is blatantly false. It then says that Hezbollah is defending “the homeland,” defending a terrorist organization. The article makes a passing mention that Hezbollah is a radical Islamic group, but then humanizes the terrorist organization by stating they have their own hospitals and clinics (author’s note: so does Hamas. Both are terrorists).


This was a more sensationalist view of the skirmish. It featured descriptions of displaced Lebanese citizens and humanized Hezbollah. This is about what I was expecting from The Washington Post, which is not a fan of Israel.


The New York Times article I read was published on April 14th but was datelined April 13th, just like the other two. Titled “Israel and Guerrillas Joined Again in Deadly Dance,” Serge Schmemann takes a much different view from the Guardian’s Martin Woollacott. This article starts out by calling the strike against guerrillas an offensive strike rather than a retaliation; this is misleading. It does not take a spy to see that this article is staunchly anti-Israel, as evidence by this quote:

“Israel’s strategy in what has been dubbed Operation Grapes of Wrath is brutally simple. It is to inflict maximum damage to the Party of God, the Iran-backed guerrilla organization better known as Hezbollah, which is bent on driving the Israelis out of southern Lebanon, and to make life for Lebanon and Syria so difficult that they will be forced to rein in the militants.”

While the other two articles point out that Israel warned citizens before the strike, this article does not. This article takes time to point out that Hezbollah’s rockets are old and “hopelessly inaccurate.” Throughout the article, the author makes a point of calling Hezbollah “Party of God,” perhaps because of the connotation that the name of the terrorist group holds. The author briefly recognizes Hezbollah’s increased aggression towards Israel, but puts “incidents” in quotes to minimize the violence from Hezbollah. He doesn’t mention the suicide bombings until the middle of the article, at which point many readers would have turned the page and started the crossword.


This article was the most disappointing of the bunch, and I would not look forward to reading more from this journalist. In his efforts to implicate Israel as the sole aggressor of the region, he contradicted himself; he calls President Peres the architect of peace in the Middle East, and no less than a paragraph later says that Peres would have ordered the attacks into Lebanon regardless of the suicide bombings.


It is clear that these three different news sources have different slants and biases. The most “neutral” seems to be the Guardian, followed by The Washington Post, and The New York Times is incredibly biased. I was slightly surprised by this. The Guardian has a reputation nowadays for publishing clickbait, so I was not expecting neutral reporting about such a nuanced situation.


October 15-16, 2001

At this point in time, Israel and Palestine were pushed into the background of discussion in the Middle East. This period in time occurred just a month after the 9/11 attack, and much of the news coverage of the Middle East dealt with Iran, Iraq, and Al-Qaeda. My judgement for these articles is less biased.


The first of the 2001 articles is the Guardian’s article “Attack on Afghanistan: Middle East: New blow to allies’ peace effort as Arafat arrives in UK: Killing by Israeli army undermines truce.” This article did not follow in the footsteps of the earlier Guardian article. Its first sentence is “Israel sabotaged US and British efforts to solidify a Middle East truce yesterday by carrying out the first assassination of a Palestinian militant since the attacks on America on September 11.” The first sentence mentions 9/11, which is expected. The militant that who assassinated was Abed Rahman Hamad, a 33 year-old who was shot twice in the chest. The article discusses how Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, was meeting with then-PM Tony Blair; this meeting was seen as crucial to a diplomatic offensive to persuade Arab states that the US and Britain were serious about seeking a peaceful solution to conflict in the Middle East. Blair supported the principle of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. The article mentions that Hamas has said that they will resume killing civilians inside Israel. It isn’t until later in the article that the article discusses Hamad’s activities as an orchestrator of suicide bombings; he had orchestrated a suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv disco that killed 21 Israelis, mainly teenagers.


Once again, the article tends to pain Israel as the aggressor in all or almost all situations. This is closer to what I expected. The article’s headline says that Israel has sabotaged peace negotiations, but doesn’t spend any considerable amount of time explaining or expanding upon this allegation. If someone had just read the headline, they would assume that Israel was maliciously and deliberately derailing peace negotiations.


The Washington Post posted an article on the “Bush Doctrine” titled “Allies Are Cautious on ‘Bush Doctrine.’” The article starts off by describing how President George W. Bush started to view every country more suspiciously. The author defined the doctrine as “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” Bush pushed for the elimination of the “scourge of international terrorism,” including countries who harbor terrorists. The US would be the unilateral judge of whether a country was supporting terrorism and how to change that. The US was supposedly aiming for a coalition between Iran, Iraq, and Syria, so it tended to walk on eggshells on eggshells around these countries. Bush decided to focus on Al-Qaeda, which makes sense as they were the perpetrators of 9/11. The article describes the sticky situation in which alliances form in the Middle East, and mentions that the US will be in dangerous waters if we attack further than Afghanistan. This article describes the US as more suspicious of the Middle East.


This article was a little hard to wrap my head around because it’s such a complicated and nuanced situation. That being said, the author made an effort to remain neutral and to explain what the heck was going on.


The third article was The New York Times’ article about Iran-US relations. This one was published on October 16th, a day after the other two. This article discusses the ways in which Iran and the US were apprehensively cooperating with each other. Iran sent a message saying that they would rescue any American military personnel in its territory after the US told Iraq that we would respect their territory and airspace. This is interesting, as the article points out, because Iran is the largest safe haven for terrorists in the region (they support both Hezbollah and Hamas). To me, it looks like the US is throwing Israel under the bus in order to appease Iran.


I have my own suspicions about the United States’ behavior: the US was most likely trying to protect its oil interests while gaining a quasi-ally against Al-Qaeda. Nowhere in the article does the author mention that the US was the party that provided Al-Qaeda with its weapons, which is not surprising.


Before 9/11, much discourse in the news media dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, after 9/11, coverage of the Middle East grew more hawkish against terrorism. Where articles could dismiss radical Islamic groups before 9/11, there was no way to doubt or minimize these organizations after 9/11. In both time periods shown, the Washington Post seems like a middle-of-the-road between the Guardian and the New York Times.


Over the weekend, I will write another post discussing news coverage of the Middle Easy as it is in 2017. From a quick glance, it looks as though it’s a strange combination of 1996 and 2001 coverage.


Works Cited

DeYoung, K. (2001, October 16). Allies Are Cautious On ‘Bush Doctrine’ The Washington Post, p. B1.

Goldberg, S. (2001, October 15). Attack on Afghanistan: Middle East: New blow to allies’ peace effort as Arafat arrives in UK: Killing by Israeli army undermines truce. The Guardian, p. 8.

Lancaster, J. (1996, April 13). Israel Steps Up Lebanese Attacks; 12 Killed, Including Syrian Soldier, in Air Assault Against Hezbollah. The Washington Post, pp. A01-A23.

Schmemann, S. (1996, April 14). Israel and Guerillas Joined Again in Deadly Dance. The New York Times, p. 10. Retrieved June 9, 2017, from Israel and Guerrillas Joined Again in Deadly Dance

Part of Archives requirement for blog post

Sciolino, E. (2001, October 16). A NATION CHALLENGED: TEHRAN; Iran Dances a ‘Ballet’ With U.S. The New York Times, p. B1.

Part of Archives requirement for blog post

Woollacott, M. (1996, April 13). THOSE TONGUES OF GUN FIRE; In the Middle East, killing your enemies sends a message to your friends. The Guardian, p. 26.



Comment Commentary

In my last post, I discussed an article from the New York Times that dealt with the HIV epidemic in the black LGBT community in the Southern United States. My discussion was centered around the article’s claim that rates of HIV in the South are higher than those in all countries, including Africa. My post pointed out that there is most likely severe underreporting of HIV in LGBT communities in Africa due to anti-gay sentiments that will prohibit gay or bisexual men from outing themselves.

This post will look at the comments section of this article. What I found interesting is that there are three sections within the comments section: all comments, reader’s picks, and New York Times picks. I started with the New York Times picks, and there were two NYT picks on this article.

The first of the NYT picks was from a college professor from Massachusetts. She teaches a college course on the politics and history of HIV/AIDS. The commenter makes an excellent point about sex education in the United States. Students are told that in order to prevent contracting HIV, they should use a condom. I am like many of these students; I did not know about PrEP until I read this article. However, I got slightly better sex ed and got myself tested for all STDs. The commenter criticizes the US’s sex education system. She makes a scathing comment that if her home state of liberal Massachusetts has poor sex ed, then it’s not surprising that the rest of the country, quite a lot of which teaches abstinence-only sex education, will only fuel the epidemic. The commenter then complemented the author for her “compelling article, bringing so many of the strands of the current epidemic together” and putting them in context.

The next comment was from a middle-aged gay white man with HIV. He talks about how the support from his family and his liberal surroundings made his recovery much easier. He discusses how he did not appreciate his support until he did outreach in the black LGBT community.

The next section was on reader’s picks. The first comment I saw was from a medical practitioner that described the multi-pill regimen that HIV patients take. Patients take many pills, and in the past this would have many side effects. On a more personal note: when someone in my family got cancer (and chemo), I saw the effect that taking multiple pills takes on someone. This person has lost his short-term memory, which is pretty heartbreaking (though it is fun to tell him good news multiple times). After seeing this, I can totally see why someone with AIDS would want to avoid taking a multi-pill regimen.

I honestly learned more from the comments than I did from the article. The comments were shorter and more to-the-point, and discuss the meat of the article rather than the anecdotal frills.

However, the comments section is not available on all articles. There were some articles I wanted to comment on, namely one about OSHA cutbacks, but the comments section was unavailable.

When the Left Turns On its Own

On June 1st, the New York Times published an article titled “When the Left Turns on Its Own,” written by guest columnist Bari Weiss. This is part of a series of opinion articles called “On Campus.” The article starts out with a description of a newly controversial person: professor Bret Weinstein of Evergreen State College. Weinstein supported Bernie Sanders, supported Occupy Wall Street, and identifies as “deeply progressive.” The article does not state, however, that he is also a critic of how the left handles itself.



The article is clearly defending Weinstein, as evidenced by the title and some quotes throughout the piece. These quotes from the article showcase this bias:

  • “He had the gall to challenge a day of racial segregation”
  • “It was an act of moral bullying – to stay on campus as a white person would mean to be tarred as a racist.”
  • “Yet reasonable debate has made itself absent at Evergreen.”

Weinstein was challenging a “Day of Absence” that has been a campus tradition since the 1970s. Traditionally, students and faculty of color would organize a day that they would all take off. This year, white students were to leave. Apparently, this decision was made “after student of color ‘voiced concern over feeling as if they are unwelcome on campus, following the 2016 election.'” Weinstein did not agree with the decision.

“There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles,” he wrote, “and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away.”

I am inclined to agree with Weinstein in this case. By participating in this tradition, by the context shown in the article, white students would be showing that they would rather students of color go away.

However, the article fails to make it clear that the decision to have white students leave was not made by white students, but by students of color. This high highlighted in Weinstein’s quote above, and makes the quote clearer.

The article takes time to point out that a social experiment like a Day of Absence could be enlightening by showing the lack of diversity on campus. However, the author only gives a sentence to this thought, and it could have been left out without much change to the story itself.

After protesting the Day of Absence, Weinstein has been called a white supremacist, has been told he would not be sage on campus, and had to hold classes in a public park. (The author uses this as an opportunity to make an unnecessary comment on safe spaces).

The final paragraph of the article likens the experience of Weinstein to the experiences of conservative speakers. By doing this, the author is equating the “deeply progressive” Weinstein with conservative speaker Heather MacDonald, who defends police violence and frequently criticizes Black Lives Matter.

I was not fully satisfied with the information given in the article, so I found information elsewhere so I could see the story from a larger scope. This included buying a 2-month subscription to the Wall Street Journal, reading the LA Times, and going through Bret Weinstein’s very confusing Twitter feed. The LA Times article is linked above, in reference to Heather MacDonald, and Weinstein’s tweets are embedded above.

What I found interesting is that Weinstein himself published an opinion article on the situation in the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ leans conservative, which makes it an odd choice for a progressive to speak. Weinstein’s opinion article was published by the Wall Street Journal on May 30th. 

Weinstein starts off by describing his environment. He talks about holding class in a public park and how protesters were searching cars for him. Weinstein points out that he has been teaching at the institution since 2003. He describes the history of the Day of Absence, and points out that this year, white students and faculty were asked to leave.

“There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles . . . and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away,” I wrote. “On a college campus, one’s right to speak—or to be—must never be based on skin color.”

The quote from Weinstein above is again in this article, and makes more sense in this context. He is saying that there’s a difference between people voluntarily removing themselves for a day and asking another group to leave.

Weinstein then talks about the way Evergreen teaches – with full academic years rather than semesters – and then decides to talk about George Bridges. George Bridges is the president of Evergreen State College.

His vision as an administrator involved reducing professorial autonomy, increasing the size of his administration, and breaking apart Evergreen’s full-time programs. But the faculty, which plays a central role in the college’s governance, would never have agreed to these changes. So Mr. Bridges tampered with the delicate balance between the sciences and humanities…

Weinstein paints the administration of the college as an organization aiming to divide and conquer the faculty.

After reading both articles and going through Weinstein’s Twitter feed, I lean towards siding with Weinstein. However, I have not seen videos from protesters, so my view of the situation is biased. From what I have read, Weinstein is objecting to the demand from one group that another leave campus. This should not be a controversial statement. It is common for people (liberals included) to take things at face value or misinterpret them, so Weinstein’s comments on “A Day of Absence” may have fallen prey to misinterpretation. In any case, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Chomping on Chomsky: Discussing the Propaganda Model for Journalism

Herman and Chomsky’s first essay on a propaganda model for journalism was certainly intriguing. The authors take a critical perspective on mass media journalism, pointing at the ability of the wealthy and powerful to influence the news media. News passes through filters put in place by the “dominant elite,”, that depend on these five characteristics:

  1. How big and powerful the dominant mass media firm is
  2. Advertising as a primary source of revenue
  3. Reliance of the media on information provided by the government, businesses, and other experts
  4. Flak to discipline media that doesn’t align with the views of the dominant elite
  5. “Anti-communism,” or the creation of a common enemy, as a national religion and control mechanism

While I generally find this model for journalism convincing, I do have some concerns.

The authors write that the elite domination occurs so naturally that people think the news they receive is objective. This is interesting because it assumes that news organizations aim to be objective or to appear to be objective. There are certain sites (like TreeHugger) that have an outwardly political agenda. However, I recognize that these sites may not be under as much control by the dominant elite (they may be independent from major news sources) and may have filters of their own to paint certain subjects (such as nuclear power) in a negative light.

The third filter pertains to the reliance of journalists on authoritative figures such as the government, business heads, or experts. After working for an automotive journalist, I can see a journalist’s motivation for near-verbatim parroting of leaders. The general populace may not know the full goings-on in a press conference, so this reporting allows them to see this. The particular automotive journalist I worked for added commentary, but not all do.

The discussion of a dominant elite is reminiscent of a certain conspiracy theory that really grinds my gears. There is a particularly nasty conspiracy theory that posits that Jews control the world and are all in cahoots with each other. (If that’s true, why are there holes in my shoes?). This conspiracy theory is obviously false to anyone with a good head on their shoulders, but still leads to excessive prejudice against Jewish people. I don’t think that the authors are headed in this direction, as they discuss the worthiness of different victims (as the saying goes: “If it bleeds, it reads, unless it’s Jewish”) and Chomsky himself is Jewish. However, those who already subscribe to the conspiracy theory may use this model to solidify their beliefs.