To the editors:
In reply to Michael Miner’s February 22 Hot Type column:
I am the cited “correspondent” who had written privately to Mr. Miner, asking why his usually-so-muckraking column had yet to address the dismaying censorship of antiwar views in the local media, especially at the Tribune and Sun-Times. It seemed to me that in his position of media watcher at a progressive weekly, Mr. Miner would have by now begun asking embarrassing questions of a few editors.
In my letter to him, I listed examples of crucial stories the dailies have either ignored or effectively buried in sidebar “news roundups” or at the end of unrelated articles. These stories are potentially scandalous for the Bush administration. They would also go a long way toward illuminating why many people feel the war in the Persian Gulf is unnecessary and unjust.
I cited the fact that guest editorials at the Tribune and Sun-Times–those not written by their local or syndicated staff–almost exclusively promote a prowar position. Off the top of my head I listed 12 articulate war critics, from Alexander Cockburn to Barbara Ehrenreich, who could easily stand their ground against the George Wills and Morton Kondrackes, if only allowed the chance. I feel that essential information about this war is being ghettoized, available only to those who seek out the alternative press. My letter ended with the opinion that it was incumbent on his column to confront the said news outlets on these points.
In his defensive reply in the February 22 Hot Type column, Mr. Miner all but makes my case for me.
He first trivializes the argument that a prowar media is giving short shrift to certain stories, such as U.S. ambassador April Glaspie’s near invitation of Hussein to invade Kuwait or U.S. ally Hafez Assad of Syria being, according to Amnesty International, an even bloodier New Hitler than the New Hitler. Oh come now, he sniffs, the real reason these stories are being dropped by the dailies is precisely because they are “so well-known.” While an informal poll of persons on the street would dissuade anyone from this view pronto, it’s not the point anyway. If the media was truly doing its job, the Glaspie affair would currently be the focus of microscopic scrutiny, complete with its own CNN designer logo, if not a congressional investigation. Likewise the Reagan/Bush Commerce Department’s sale of chemical and nuclear arms components to Iraq throughout the 80s. These stories (and there are many more that are being totally blacked out in the mainstream media) deserve better than passing mention. They are, in fact, pieces of a bigger, darker picture of what America’s true goals in the Middle East are. They are the facts that put the lie to George Bush’s “just war” for the “liberation” of Kuwait.
Mr. Miner then editorializes that, not to worry, when Bush runs for reelection all these suppressed events “will come back to haunt him.” Huh? You mean like all those unanswered questions and buried skeletons that ruined Ronald Reagan at the voting booth? That’s an assertion so naive it’s mind-boggling.
In the remainder of his column Mr. Miner does a bizarre thing, for a media critic. He transforms himself into a sort of PR flack for the Sun-Times. In the kind of stunt one would more expect from Walter Jacobson, he pores over a copy of the February 13 issue pointing out all the unjingoistic, “skeptical” passages he can find. He quite earnestly lists these as evidence of the Sun-Times’s editorial balance, oddly failing to notice that the sum total of his cited reporting takes up about five column inches. He does, however, note that this was a more balanced day than the two previous, which he admits “didn’t compare.”
With this little exercise Mr. Miner gives us the exception that proves the rule. But then, maybe he doesn’t believe in linkage either.