5 Worst Media Moments Last Week

From rehabilitating W’s image to overlooking white supremacist violence in Florida, here were the media’s worst moments last week.

Photo Credit: Joseph August/Shutterstock

1. Media eats up George W. Bush’s latest PR tour.

The uniquely vulgar and disgusting administration of Donald Trump has provided the perfect opportunity for America’s Last Worst President Ever to rebrand himself The Reasonable Republican. Like McCain--and a whole host of neocon ghouls--Trump’s awfulness allows previously far right warmongers to appear sensible and reasonable by comparison.

After a speech taking passive aggressive shots at Trump’s nationalism and demeanor, centrist media bent over backwards to praise Bush’s courage--at one point positive write-ups of the speech were three of the Washington Post’s top stories. But, as Corey Robin notes at Jacobin, George Bush was often just as disgusting and brash and glib about violence as Trump:  

For years prior to that, our image of Bush was emblazoned by the memory of not only the Iraq War, which killed hundreds of thousands of people, of not only the casual violence, the fratboyish, near-sociopathic, irresponsibility, of Bush’s rhetoric of war (remember when, after the Iraq War was over, in June 2003, Bush turned to his administrator general there, Jay Garner, and said, “Hey, Jay, you want to do Iran?”).

With a body count well north of 1 million from his war of aggression in Iraq and on-going occupation of Afghanistan, it’s going to take a lot for Trump to catch up to the awfulness of Bush in terms of substance, if not style. With more than three years to go it’s very likely Trump can achieve this feat, but until then perhaps we can stop attempting to remake Bush as our fun, Republican friend who actually meant well and wasn’t that bad.  

2. New York Times defends its long track record of backing wars by insisting it has “raised many questions” about wars it supported.

The New York Times published an editorial Monday lamenting the sprawling growth of American military overseas. In “America’s Forever Wars," the Times editorial board didn’t directly oppose any specific deployment but did vaguely suggest we take “stock” in its breathtaking scope. When confronted on Twitter about the fact the Times didn’t have much credibility on the topic since it has, historically, backed every US war--every one since 1983 to be exact--the Times Foreign Policy editorial writer pushed back by insisting, “In last decade, NYT editorial board has raised many questions about US military engagements.”

Oh, many questions you say? Well, then let’s not examine the New York Times’ role in promoting every one of the wars they are now Very Concerned over. Does the Times have any regrets? Does it regret helping sell, both in its reporting and editorial page, the War in Iraq? The devastating war in Libya? The perma-War against Terror? No self-reflection is sought, only general hand-wringing over an empire that evidently built itself.

3. Critics mock Rachel Maddow’s Niger conspiracy theory.

Rachel Maddow has skyrocketed to the top of the cable news ratings largely on the back of her breathless dot-connecting over Trump’s alleged dealings with Russia. While often over-the-top and dubiously sourced, this underlying story of Trump-Russia collusion at least has tons of circumstantial evidence. Contrast with Maddow’s attempt last week to conspiracy-monger the attack on four American servicemen in Niger. Maddow advanced the idea, in her patented “just asking questions” style, that Chad had pulled their troops out of the area in response to President Trump’s travel ban and this, thus, exposed the US attacks by Boko Haram.

“It’s beyond irresponsible," Paste's Roger Sollenberger wrote, “for a journalist to go mucking it up after a day or two of one-dimensional research on a story based on flimsy, fantastical, and flat-out false premises.” Slate’s Laura Seay would pile on, “Maddow...preyed upon Americans’ lack of knowledge about Africa, a widespread problem that ranges from not understanding how large the continent is to major news organizations mislabeling maps for national broadcast.”

Andrew Lebovich, a PhD candidate in African History at Columbia University and a visiting fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations, said on Twitter, “these things are not linked, they have to do with areas on literal opposite ends of the country.”

I am not an expert on Chad or Niger (I am but a lowly media critic) but the amount of pushback--and detailed outlines of what her report got so wrong--are worth reading. Perhaps Maddow can pump the brakes on Glenn Beck-lite for a few nights and circle back to the story with a sober perspective.

4. New York Times says US “stood by” during mass killing It actively helped organize.

New York Times headline writers have a bad habit of contradicting the text of their writers’ articles. One recent such example was when editors tried to downplay recent revelations the CIA had help carry out the mass killings of hundreds of thousands in Indonesia in the 1960s by insisting the US has simply “stood by” as the crime unfolded. But wait––did they read the actual article?

[Sen. Udall] also held the United States to account for its “military and financial support” there, which included providing lists of possible leftist sympathizers to the Indonesian government and, as one cable released Tuesday showed, pushing to bury foreign news coverage of the killings.

Hum. This doesn’t sound like they just “stood by.” It seems like they quarterbacked the whole thing. As FAIR’s Jim Naureckas noted in his must-read breakdown of the Times whitewashing:

Framing Washington as a passive onlooker rather than active participant not only lessens the government’s (and the New York Times') culpability; it also tells readers that if the US is to be faulted, it’s to be blamed for not doing enough. That’s a handy attitude to cultivate for the next time you want to sell a “humanitarian” war.

5. Cable news shockingly silent on neo-Nazi terror attack.

Or not so shocking if you consider how casually racist our media usually is. Media Matters found that of the three major cable networks, only MSNBC covered the recent arrest of three of Spencer’s neo-Nazi supporters--Tyler Tenbrink, William Fears, and Colton Fears, who were arrested for attempted murder after firing a shot at a group of protesters in Florida. Both CNN and Fox News ignored the story entirely and MSNBC’s coverage only lasted for 1 minute and 57 seconds.

Contrast this with the weeks-long media meltdown after a similar attempted-murder “terror” attack in Garland Texas at the “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest by wannabe jihadists. Another major difference? The attack in Florida was not helped along by the FBI:


Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst at FAIR and contributing writer for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJohnsonNYC.

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018