The New York Times and Media Manipulation
This week, the New York Times ran an article about Attorney General nominee Michael B. Mukasey. The article focuses on his view of aggressive
interrogation techniques, and what qualifies as torture.
The same story, however, appears under two completely different headlines, each with a very different connotation.
The story appears as "Mukasey Unsure About Legality of Waterboarding," which implies that Mukasey might possibly think waterboarding is acceptable.
This headline is very much in accord with the character of recent reporting on Mukasey's confirmation hearings, which have focused on the evasiveness
of his responses to direct questioning about the use of torture.
However, the same article, with the same author and the same dateline, also appears under the headline, "Mukasey Calls Harsh Interrogation
Perhaps I'm splitting hairs here, but a headline has the ability to color the perceptions of somebody reading an article. This discrepancy, combined
with stories about Senators putting pressure on Mukasey to change his statements, paints a picture of the federal government working in concert with
the media to shape public perception.
Given that various government agencies have been editing Wikipedia articles to ensure that their respective operations are spun favorably, I think it
would be short-sighted to suppose that the federal government does not monitor the comments on popular news sites.
It seems to me that the federal government is using the media to manage public opinion in a very bi-directional way. Information is both disseminated
and collected through popular media outlets.
So why would the New York Times run the same story under two different headlines? Perhaps so that public's response can be compared according to the
different connotations of the headline's phraseology.
This would certainly not be the first time the New York Times has collaborated with the federal government in this capacity.
On Sunday, September 8, 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Meet the Press to justify an invasion of Iraq.
In this appearance, he cited "a story in The New York Times this morning" detailing Saddam Hussein's efforts to acquire weapons of mass
destruction, and used this story as evidence that Saddam Hussein posed an immanent danger to American national security.
The New York Times story cites only anonymous "Administration Officials."
Dick Cheney's desire to be treated as an anonymous source by the media is well documented.
So is Dick Cheney's tendency to manipulate situations by giving an idea to a third party and later supporting that idea when it comes back to him
through other high-level channels.
So in 2002, Dick Cheney approved of the reporting in the New York Times. In 2006, Cheney criticized the New York Times for having "made the job of
defending against further terrorist attacks more difficult."
Given Cheney's willingness to cite the New York Times when it is advantageous for him to do so, and to criticize the New York Times when it is
advantageous for him to do so, it should be clear what type of game he is playing with US Citizens.
What is less clear is why the New York Times still plays along, especially if it is in their financial interest to maintain the appearance of a
legitimate news source.
[edit on 1-11-2007 by America Jones]