Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Translating Mediaese 

Reading between the lines of a news article is not a new practice. It was raised to a high art during the Soviet era when the old joke concerning the two official newspapers, Pravda ("The Truth") and Izvestia ("The News") was that "there's no izvestia (news) in Pravda and no pravda (truth) in Izvestia". While I don't think western media has universally devolved to quite that paragon of unreliability, it has been a well worn tenet of the new media that often one is best armed not with grains but with an entire block of salt.

A recent article, Bush Authorizes New Covert Action Against Iran, concerned an all-too-frequent event, the leak of classified national security information to a news media source. While it contained the obligatory disclaimer that their "sources ... spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject," it seems more honest to say that they spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the illegality of their actions. I am no longer surprised but continue to be disappointed that the assumed responsibility of adversarialism taken on by the media leads then to unquestionalbly side with criminals in all cases involving national security. It would be an interesting mental exercise to imagine a media source that was equally accomodting to rapists, fences, muggers and murderers.

On the same page, supposedly in the interest of context, ABC conviently links to a photo gallery of "another Iran operation", namely the Iran-Contra Affair. In this gallary they included such key players as Dick Cheney, "ranking minority member on the joint congressional committee investigating" and John Bolton, "assistant attorney general at the Justice Department [who] thereby participated in meetings ... on how to handle the growing crisis." Inexplecibly there were no other "committee members" or "meeting participants" profiled, but I guess it's just a matter of how one defines "key". If it were me, however, I would think a background story on the Iranian Islamic Revolution that helped create the current crisis might be more useful context, but then again Dick Cheney, John Bolton and other Republicans probably didn't have as much to do with that issue.

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