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Sins of Omission

Reported by Nancy - January 27, 2005 -

Today (1/27) David Asman wrapped up FNL with an interview & an "Asman Observer" segment that, separately & together, illustrate one of Fox's major failings. What you don't cover (or report) is often as revealing of bias as what you do cover (or report).

At 12:50pm, Asman interviewed Josh Manchester, a Marine who served in Iraq & who runs a website which, according to Asman, gives a more positive view of what's going on in Iraq. Asman's "questions" were entirely preditable, both in tone (e.g., "Are military bloggers more reliable than mainstream media?" = message: don't trust that "liberal media"!) & intent (e.g., leading comments masquerading as questions, like "insurgents don't have popular support"). For that matter, so were Manchester's answers. When Asman asked what was the "most common misperception" we in the US have about what's going on in Iraq, Manchester said that "good news" is "underreported." When Asman pressed him to "be specific" Manchester said that the copter crash that killed 36 US military yesterday was "1 of 6 stories" released the same day & the others were "positive." After some discussion of one particular Iraqi candidate, Asman asked Manchester where the "War On Terror" goes next. Manchester noted that there's been a lot of "chatter" about Syria & Iran & said that if the new Iraqi govt feels that Syria is contributing to their problems they could be "bullish" on going to Syria themselves.

Comment: Did someone say "fair & balanced"?

Sin of omission: If FNL wants to continue the pretense of "fair & balanced", Asman should have interviewed *at the same time* someone from Iraq Veterans Against the War (which also has a website), or Operation Truth (which also has a website). Instead, he picked someone so obscure that he's not even listed on the guest list for today's program at Fox's website, & gave him free air time to echo Fox's propaganda.

In a teaser for his "Asman Observer" segment, where he suggested that viewers "rememebr El Salvador" when thinking about the upcoming Iraqi election because "you will be shocked at the similarities." At 12:57pm, Asman laid out those "similarities" saying that "as usual" the press was "just reporting the bad news", that "terrorists" had "stepped up" car bombings & assassinations. But, "elections went off on time" & a "couple of years later," they had "relatively clean" elections & a "couple of years" after that everything was hunky-dory. Asman summed it all up by saying the "terrorists lost, the people won" & "let's pray its the same for the Iraqis."

Comment: Why doesn't Fox post a banner saying "editorial" every time Asman delivers his "Observer" segment? Shouldn't truth-in-labelling apply here? Shouldn't viewers be reminded that what Asman says during this segment is merely his opinion?

Sin of omission: Here's just some of what Asman left out of his "Happy El Salvador" scenario, taken straight from the CIA's World Factbook; the page on El Salvador was last updated 13 Jan 2005:

A 12-year civil war, which cost about 75,000 lives, was brought to a close in 1992 when the government and leftist rebels signed a treaty that provided for military and political reforms. ... note: there is extensive activity by Protestant groups throughout the country; by the end of 1992, there were an estimated 1 million Protestant evangelicals in El Salvador. ... With the adoption of the US dollar as its currency, El Salvador has lost control over monetary policy and must concentrate on maintaining a disciplined fiscal policy. GDP per capita is roughly only half that of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, and the distribution of income is highly unequal. The trade deficit has been offset by annual remittances of almost $2 billion from Salvadorans living abroad and external aid. The government is striving to open new export markets, encourage foreign investment, modernize the tax and healthcare systems, and stimulate the sluggish economy. ... transshipment point for cocaine; ... domestic cocaine abuse on the rise.

The CIA's World Factbook, of course, makes no mention of US involvement in El Salvador's civil war & the notorious right-wing death squads. Nor did Asman. And neither credited the UN with brokering the peace agreement that led to the end of the civil war.

General comments: In both these segments, viewers were treated to "Happy country-the-US-has-screwed" scenarios, & the myth of the liberal media was reinforced. A little independent research can debunk the "Happy country" myth, although I have my doubts as to whether Fox "fans" understand the concept. The myth of the liberal media is a reactionary lie that has been spewed so often & so long that many believe it, so it's harder to debunk. Specifically, the typical radical reactionary lie about good news being "underreported" was repeated without refutation or even discussion. On an anecdotal level, I can tell you that my local paper has had a journalist & a photographer "embedded" with local reserve units serving in Iraq on two occasions over the past 3 years (both times for 2+ months), & they filed a series of reports on each occasion highlighting plenty of "good news." The same is probably true on a local level around the US, so people have plenty of opportunities to read "good news" when there is any. On a personal level, I can tell you that radical reactionary acquaintances flood my email inbox with alleged "good news" reports from Iraq (although, curiously, not from Afghanistan) -- at least half of which turn out to be bogus. So where's the "underreporting"?