Friday, April 27, 2012

April 27: The facts of news - and the opinions columns

My apologies for missing yesterday. Sick computer. I'm also not sure whether this is will be in paragraphs. For some reason, my blog site has been wiping out the paragraph breaks in transmission. So  I will close each paragraph with a series of dashes like this--------just to be safe-----------

Oh, and this is post number 600. And now on to the topic. .----------

Commentary columns are not just frills added to a newspaper. They are what make the newspaper understandable (if they're done properly). News comes in small bits, often reported by people who know nothing of the subject.  For example, government may set a new curriculum. The reporter can tell you that about it, maybe even include a few points that are in it.---------------------------------

But most reporters have no training whatever - and no experience -  in education. They can report only what they're told. They have no idea whether it makes sense. The don't even know whether the information is really new, or an old record replayed - or simply irrelevant.------------------------------------------------------------

For example, when Moncton High was closed for a time with students relocated to Edith Cavell, TV, radio and newspaper reporters gave the fullest possible coverage of a protest by Edith Cavell parents. But the protest was irrelevant. Only a minute percentage of the parents took part in it. Nor was it a matter in which the DEC had any choice. There was really no story, and no point wasting time on it. But they all did.------------------------------------------

There were much bigger things happening in education at the time. There was a vicious and ignorant series of attacks on the schools and the DEC and the teachers by The Moncton Times and Tribune. There was massive and dangerous interference in the schools by the Atlantic Insistute of Marketing Studies.-----------------------------

But nobody in the news media understood anything about that. They understood so little, from cub reporter through assignment editors to Editor in Chief, that they didn't know enough to realize what was going on.  But a meaningless protest with a few people shouting? Wow! That was news; and the reporters and photgraphers outnumbered the protesters----------------------------------

At the end of our bombing of Libya, Harper praised the Canadian who commanded it. He said the commander had shown a brilliant sense of strategy. I watched and listened and read for some sign of a reporter who might, at least, have opened a dictionary to look up 'strategy'. Apparently, none did. (The Canadian air commander was not responsible for strategy, that is, for the general conduct of the war. He was responsible for tactics. But neither the reporters nor their editors - nor Mr. Harper - knew the difference between strategy and tactics.)-------------------------------------------------

Most people in the news business report and opinionate on topics they know very little about. That's why editorials are usually a waste of time and eyesight. After all, editorial writers are just old reporters. They're older, but no wiser. -----------------------------------------------

Add to that the greater problem that most news media and their sources are heavily biased, often because of their ownership.  For example, Reuter's consistently uses as a source for news of Syria an outfit called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Despite its impressive name, the "observatory" is one man - in England.. He runs a clothing store. And he is a front for rebel propaganda.-----------------

The results show. In the case of Syria, most westerners believe the struggle there is one for democracy. It isn't. There are few "good guys' on either side.  Nor do the western power have the slightest desire to see any democracy there.  ......................

Similarly, a majority of Americans (and many Canadians) believe that the Taliban were involved in 9/11. They weren't. It's widely believed, still, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He didn't. Then there's the story that the leader of Iran said he would  wipe out Israel. He didn't. Recetnly, even the Isaeli government admitted he said no such thing. But I'll bet you never read that report, either. (You would, if you had read the Israeli newspaper 'Haaretz'.)-----------

Nor is it likely you have heard of read of the American soldier, private Bradley Manning, who has been held, without charge or lawyer, in a military prison in the US for a year - in solitary and with torture. UN human rights officials have not been permitted to see him. He has at last been charged, and is facing military justice (which means no justice at all) in a court whose work is done entirely in secret, and based on evidence obtained by the torture. He will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison.------------------------------------------------

His crime? He had a hand in gathering the wikkileaks information that proved the American government had been lying to the American people for years.  Meanwhile, another American soldier, one who deliberately killed almost 30 civilians, mostly women, didn't get even a day in jail. --------------------------

Remember the Arab spring, the revolutions that were to bring democracy to the Arab world? Notice there's still quite a shortage of democracies? Notice that some of the worst dictatorships in the Arab world are the ones our our side - like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates?------------------------

Read much in the news about the Chinese treatement of Tibet? About Harper's lack of interest in discussing the subject with China? About the high death rate among civilians as a result of drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen? About the dradful butchery and the high cost of a war in Aghanistan that was lost years ago?-----------------------------------------

At best, you can't learn much about the  news by following the news. In the case of The Moncton Times and Transcript (and some other local source like CTV and private radio), what gets in the way of any useful local news is self-censorship and ignorance. Their national and international news comes from highly baised sources.-----------------------------

It is not possible to understand what is going on in the world by following the news.  That's why we need the comment columns. But there are things to watch out for even in those. Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of relying on columnists.------------

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