CNN=Hypocrites ‘R Us

This blog entry at Anderson Cooper’s 360 blog makes me want to puke. There’s nothing like self-righteous broadcast journalists who can’t be bothered to align their principles with action.

The post refers to the Lord’s Resistance Army, one of the most violent and detestable insurgent movements in the world. The LRA is half guerilla outfit, half millenarian movement — it is notable for the fact that it specifically targets children for kidnapping. Sometimes the children are brainwashed and forced to serve in the LRA. Female abducttes are regularly subject to sexual abuse. And sometimes the LRA simply kills the children it kidnaps (in 2003, for example, its members bludgeoned to death 9 children it had earlier kidnapped).

On the 360 blog Jeff Koinange writes (emphasis added),

Word of mouth is still an effective tool in the 21st century. The next step is to write to your congressman, your senator, your elected leaders. Tell them of this horror that exists in our time and make some noise. Lots of noise. That’s the only way to keep stories like this on the “front burner.” Otherwise, people quickly forget once the “kids” are off the evening news.

WTF? When is the LRA ever in the evening news? When was the last time you turned on CNN Headlines News or CNN and the lead story — or any story — about the LRA? Most Americans have never heard of the LRA because a guerilla movement that targets kids just isn’t as newsworthy as Lindsey Lohan.

In fact, I would bet $100 that CNN spent more hours covering the Dick Cheney hunting accident than it has spent in total coverage on the LRA in the news network’s 27 years.

But then I guess even CNN has to have priorities. The only way to make people take action against the LRA is to tell the world about their crimes — just don’t expect anyone to do it on CNN.

CNN Gets Screwed By Anonymous Source

If it weren’t so emblematic of the news media in general, these paragraphs from a CNN story would be funny,

Meanwhile, a source told CNN that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld never approved a controversial interrogation technique called “water boarding.” That source had told CNN the opposite Monday.

The senior defense official who provided the original information to CNN now says Rumsfeld only approved “mild, noninjurious physical contact” with a high-level al Qaeda detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and specifically did not approve a request to use water boarding.

How stupid does CNN think its readers/viewers are?

Okay, so on Monday CNN runs a story saying that Rumsfeld personally approved the general use of water boarding for prisoners at Guantanamo. One day later, CNN’s story is that the source lied to them on Monday, but should be believed on Tuesday that Rumsfeld only approved water boarding for a single prisoner. That, by the way, wasn’t news — the Washington Post reported earlier this month that Rumsfeld approved using a number of more severe interrogation tactics on Mohamed al Qahtani who the government believes was to have been the 20th hijacker in the 9/11 attacks.

Like most (all?) anonymous sources, this Pentagon official had an agenda and was basically using CNN for his or her own purposes. CNN and other news media are happy to go along, even when it leads to embarassing backtracking like this.

It’s interesting to note that despite all of the talk about the judicial review of the legality of torture, etc., that ultimately the working group that Rumsfeld chaired approved only seven interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo that weren’t already part of standard U.S. military doctrine. According to the Washington Post,

Seven of those approved techniques are not included in U.S. military doctrine, and are listed as: “change of scenery up; change of scenery down; dietary manipulation; environmental manipulation; sleep adjustment (reversal) ; isolation for 30 days”; and a technique known as “false flag,” or deceiving a detainee into believing he is being interrogated by someone from another country.

Most of those tactics require interrogators notifying their commanders ahead of time that they plan to use them.


Guantanamo List Details Approved Interrogation Methods. Dana Priest and Bradley Graham, Washington Post, June 10, 2004.

Lou Dobbs Needs to Pay Attention

CNN’s Lou Dobbs apparently is spending so much time these days worrying that some Mexican immigrant is going to take his job that he can’t be bothered to keep up with other events in the news. From CNN yesterday,

DOBBS: And, in contrast, Ron, Senator Kerry was quick to disavow the deserter language that was used by one of his prominent supporters, I believe Michael Moore.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that was actually one of Wesley Clark supporters.

In fact Kerry has had his supporters raising this issue and when asked about it directly pleads that he is agnostic on the issue and simply doesn’t know whether or not it’s true but that it is a legitimate question to be raised.

Personally, I doubt the Bush’s National Guard service will be any more of an issue than it was in 2000 or that Bill Clinton’s efforts to avoid the draft affected him.

Margaret Carlson’s Ignorant Statement on Mad Cow Disease

Happened to be flipping through channels this Saturday to see Margaret Carlson display her complete ignorance about Mad Cow disease on CNN’s The Capitol Gang talking about Mad Cow Disease. From the transcript (emphasis added),

But the United States has a lot of information that Britain didn’t have when they had their outbreak of mad cow disease and the government kept saying, Don’t worry about it, and thousands of people contracted the disease. And while the system of branding and numbers and all that isn’t what it should be, it’s a lot better than it used to be, better than it is in Britain. And the testing is so much better. So it might be contained, and then there’ll be very little political fallout.

In fact, from 1996 through 2001, there were only 111 “probable cases” of vCJD — the human form of Mad Cow disease — in Great Britain. The total number of people who will eventually die from vCJD in the United Kingdom is likely to be somewhere between 200-400.

The “thousands of people contracted the disease” claim is sheer nonsense — i.e. vintage Margaret Carlson.

Update: One minor thing I want to point out — it is conceivable that thousands of people were exposed to Mad Cow diesase but will never contract a life-threatening case of the disease. Why? Because a leading hypothesis is that in most people the incubation period for the disease is several times longer than human life span. So there are people alive today who might die from vCJD if they live to be 250 but otherwise will never even know they have been exposed to the disease. But that is quite a bit different from Carlson’s claim that thousands of Britons “contracted” the disease.


CJD deaths ‘may have peaked’. The BBC, November 23, 2001.

CNN Plants Questions at Debate

Although I am still not much of a fan of Fox News, one of the things that is admirable about the network is its spontaneity. On CNN or MSNBC, frankly you pretty much know what the talking head is going to say next. This is in marked contrast to Fox News which, at least to me, seems far more free wheeling.

Apparently CNN takes it scripted appearance very seriously, going so far as to plant questions in a presidential candidate debate (and make an apparently smart young woman look like an airhead),

Alexandra Trustman said yesterday that a CNN producer called her on the morning of the Boston forum and suggested she ask about the Democratic presidential candidates’ computer preferences. Puzzled by the request, she writes in Brown University’s Daily Herald, she drafted a more complicated question about how the candidates would use technology.

But in Boston, Trustman said, she was handed a notecard with the digital-age equivalent of the boxers-or-briefs choice put to Bill Clinton. She wrote that she told the producer “I didn’t see the question’s relevance,” but that he rejected her proposed query “because it wasn’t light-hearted enough and they wanted to modulate the event with various types of questions.”


‘Light’ Not Quite Right for This Forum. Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, November 11, 2003.

CNN vs. Fox on Breaking News Coverage

Henry Hanks links to this story noting that CNN beat Fox for a change during the coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

The weird part is that the story itself dwells on the location of the anchors. For people who haven’t heard this extreme inside baseball story, CNN anchor Aaron Brown was at a golf tournament and couldn’t make it back to CNN until late in the evening. Tom Brokaw and other anchors managed to drop what they were doing to make it on the airwaves.

This might come as a shock to media analysts, but people watch the news, well … to watch news, and on CNN kicked Fox’s butt when it came to shuttle coverage.

I flipped back and forth between the two for awhile, but it was no contest — Fox was about 20 to 30 minutes behind CNN. Fox’s anchors and reporters were offering uninformed speculation on matters that CNN had already provided uptodate information on. CNN was airing the infamous contrail footage while Fox anchors were still on the air describing second hand reports of the apparent breakup of the shuttle. In fact I found myself thinking, “Aren’t they monitoring CNN?”

Frankly, I’ve never been impressed by Fox’s abilities at covering news events as they happen. They’re much more interesting for their political commentary and analysis after all the facts have been settled, but they really need to improve their ability to handle breaking news.