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  • This Is What I Mean By Media Bias

    Filed at 11:22 am under by Scott Somerville

    In an effort to help Daryl understand how the New York Times appears to people like me, consider today’s headline on the Administration’s new memo about the treatment of prisoners. Here’s Powerline’s write-up:

    Today’s New York Times has an article on the fallout from the Hamdan decision titled In Big Shift, U.S. to Follow Geneva Treaty for Detainees. It would be possible to write a more misleading headline, but it wouldn’t be easy.

    The Times purports to report on the administration’s efforts to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling to the effect that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to all GWOT detainees. But the paper fails to note that the administration has always treated the Geneva Conventions as applicable to the conflict in Iraq. To quote Don Rumsfeld:

    Iraq’s a nation. The United States is a nation. The Geneva Conventions applied. They have applied every single day from the outset.

    Further, the Times writes that “The Pentagon memo, issued last Friday and released today, orders that all detainees be treated in compliance with what is known as Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, a passage that requires humane treatment and a minimum standard of judicial protections for prisoners.” The paper notes the administration’s observation that this memo did not constitute a reversal in policy, but the article’s headline, trumpeting a “big shift” in policy, explicitly rejects that observation.

    So–the Bush Administration says, “We were already applying the standards of the Geneva Convention to Gitmo detainees, even though we didn’t have to.” The New York Times reports this as a “big shift.”

    Daryl–what, exactly, was the “big shift”?

    14 Responses to “This Is What I Mean By Media Bias”


    Comment by
    Scott Somerville
    July 12th, 2006
    at 11:43 am

    Chris, here’s the problem… I’m studying for the Maryland Bar (it’s an open book test, but it’s full of mind-numbing stuff I never do as a homeschool lawyer), so each time my brain freezes up on the 18 subpoints of the lawyer-client relationship, I come over here to beat up on Daryl.

    You must admit, it’s hard to resist… Daryl seems to be committed to the proposition that the New York Times has no discernible bias, which is SO tempting.

    All this time, I thought his faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster was just a joke. I didn’t think anybody actually BELIEVED that stuff. But if he can publicly profess such faith in the NYT, perhaps anything is possible!


    Comment by
    sam
    July 12th, 2006
    at 12:57 pm

    Why the concern with media bias? Isn’t the bigger concern that we needed the Supreme Court to remind Bush that we should treat detainees humanely? Yes, perhaps Bush and Rumsfeld “say” that we follow the Geneva convention and even go so far as to say that we don’t actually have to, but we are. Why should we not follow the convention? Why don’t we have to?

    I’d go so far as to say that all media is biased if you look at it through your own pesonal filter. That’s why one should never trust a single news service. But it’s really not a concern in my opinion that this newspaper is more or less biased in a general direction than another newspaper.

    Why aren’t we more concerned that our leaders are looking for loopholes to justify torture? Torture has been proven to be an unreliable method for information gathering, so the only reason to allow torture would be a sense of sadistic vengence. But who cares if people are being hurt and killed? We’ll worry about that when the New York Times and all it’s readers admit that there is some vague bias in their headlines and stories.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 12th, 2006
    at 1:28 pm

    ALWAYS FOLLOW THE LINKS.

    I’m not sure that open book test is going to help you, Scott. It appears that you’ve forgotten how to read:

    “Before the court’s ruling, the administration repeatedly denied that suspects held at Guantánamo Bay fell under Common Article 3.”

    So, before Hamdan the Administration claimed that the detainees captured in Afghanistan and held at Guantanamo were not subject to Geneva protections. Now they admit (per Hamdan) that they are.

    I’d say that’s a pretty big shift.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 12th, 2006
    at 1:32 pm

    And, BTW, where did I say that the NYT was completely unbiased. IIRC, I merely stated that they don’t spin anywhere near as much as Faux News and that the study purporting to show them as more biased than Faux News was bunk.

    You really need to work on setting up better strawmen. You seem to be a bit off your game.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 12th, 2006
    at 2:34 pm

    “Facts have a well-known liberal bias.”– Stephen Colbert


    Comment by
    Scott Somerville
    July 12th, 2006
    at 2:57 pm

    Thank you, Amy, for seeing what I have been so carelly saying here. Your point is completely valid. The New York Times may be consistently right, and I may be all bent out of shape because I’m out to lunch. My argument, from the first, has been about MY PERCEPTION of bias, not about any ultimate arbiter of truth.

    Having said that, however, I think it’s worth debating the ACCURACY of various media reports. The “Big Shift” story at the Times is a good example. Daryl explains that the “Big Shift” refers to the fact that the Bush Administration now “admits” that the Gitmo detainees are subject to the protections of Common Article III of the Geneva Convention.

    My understanding of the argument here has been that the Bush Administration has construed Common Article III of the Geneva Convention to provide minimal protections to rebels in a civil war, and concluded that Al Qaeda and other international terrorists are not covered by this provision. The Supreme Court disagreed with the Bush Administration on this point, which ends the discussion–unless the President wants a constitutional showdown with the Supreme Court.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 12th, 2006
    at 5:48 pm

    My argument, from the first, has been about MY PERCEPTION of bias, not about any ultimate arbiter of truth.

    So we (including the NYT) in the reality-based community are supposed to accomodate Red-state delusions? And this promotes the general welfare how?


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 12th, 2006
    at 7:09 pm

    Scott,

    The problem here is that the Right has been effectively working the refs for 20 years and you’ve bought into the rhetoric.

    Have you seen the movie “Goodnight and Good Luck”? About 10 minutes in, there’s a scene where Fred Friendly, Ed Murrow, and a third character are debating the press– what is and what isn’t editorializing. Murrow states something along the lines that not every story has two equally compelling sides. Sometimes a story is decidely tilted to one side and it serves the country poorly when the press pretends otherwise.

    The press coverage of global warming is a current example. There is no scientific controversy. Scientists have settled all of that a decade ago and all data consistently show that the Earth is warming up and it is due to human activities. Yet the MSM, egged on by the Right, continues to present both sides of the issue as equally (scientifically) valid.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 12th, 2006
    at 11:33 pm

    The only unbiased news source is GoogleNews. The robots link everybody.


    Comment by
    Scott Somerville
    July 13th, 2006
    at 6:49 am

    I think we’re getting somewhere. As I’ve said earlier, I’ve spent decades reading (at least) two news sources side by side, and I take it for granted that “everybody spins.” Based on the comments on this thread, we’re all media skeptics here.

    I love GoogleNews. I’m also a big fan of the bloggers–humans who read through the news stories, looking for the spin. It’s odd that overtly biased bloggers could help the “professional journalists” do a better job, but there’s an ironic rightness to it.

    There’s a “power of story” element to all this. It took homeschoolers to prove that the NEA had no clothes; and bloggers are now routinely spotting the more glaring holes in the professional press coverage.

    Despite our passionately partisan differences, we are all on the same sociological side in this story. Homeschoolers and bloggers are free to wear pajamas. Our amateur autonomy is the unplanned answer to some of society’s serious structural problems.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 13th, 2006
    at 9:08 am

    Another thing about Hamdan– it basically destroyed the administration’s legal justifications for the NSA domestic spying. That’s why the WH is so worked up. Guantanamo is small potatoes.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 13th, 2006
    at 5:17 pm

    I’ll give it a shot.

    Bush in Hamdan argued that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) overrode any previous law and/or treaty that Congress had passed including the Geneva Protocols. The administration further argued that Congress could not limit the president’s authority to wage war any way he saw fit. The court shot down both of these arguments explicitly.

    The interesting bit is that Bush has used these exact same arguments in support of the NSA spying. There is little doubt that the majority of 5 justices would just as quickly slap down the NSA spying. Furthermore, the DoJ lawyers have to re-certify the legality of the program every 45 days. Almost certainly they’ll be quite hesitant to do that next time.

    All of this is the reason that Arlen Specter is preparing a bill to legalize the NSA spying. And he’s written in a kind of reverse ex post facto provision, legalizing past (illegal) spying. That provision alone is worthy of a filibuster.


    Comment by
    Scott Somerville
    July 14th, 2006
    at 9:23 am

    I think you’re right about this one. There’s a recognized trend in military cases–the courts will give the President a pass on a lot of stuff for the first few years of a major conflict, but they start clamping down after about five years. (You can see this in WWII, Vietnam, and now the GWOT.) The cases on point include the famous Pledge of Allegiance cases in WWII (yes, you can require the Pledge; no, you can’t require the Pledge). The notorious Japanese internment camps were upheld early in WWII.

    So… the Administration’s ability to “do whatever it takes” in the GWOT has hit its expiration date. We’ll see how all that plays out in the Congressional debates over Gitmo between now and November.


    Comment by
    Scott Somerville
    July 14th, 2006
    at 10:45 am

    I suspect Karl Rove has consulted his crystal ball, looked at the latest headlines, and decided it’s in the Republicans interest to have a big Congressional debate about how to conduct the war on terror. “Eavesdropping” and “warrantless searches” have a really bad sound to them, but “breaking up Al Qaeda cells” and “monitoring terrorist transactions” poll substantially higher.

    If Congress takes from now to November to talk through what we ought to do with people who kidnap folks and saw their heads off with butcher knives, I’d predict a bump in the polls for the GOP. If Bush continues to assert his Presidential prerogatives, he could be a VERY lame duck… if he doesn’t get impeached under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi.

    Sometimes it makes political sense to punt.