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Friday, July 09, 2010

For the Media, Not Being Conservative Enough is Roughly Equal to Being Racist

Nasr on CNNImagine the soul-crushing horror. A foreign correspondent reacts to the news of a regional political leader's death with a message of respect on Twitter. Outrageous! Yet, that's exactly what CNN's senior editor of Mideast Affairs did earlier this week. For those with strong stomachs, I'll post the message. But sensitive readers are advised to avert their eyes.

Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot..


Gahhh!! She said something nice about a leader of Hezbollah on the occasion of his death! Gahhh!! Flee! Flee!

Well, that was too much for CNN and Olivia Nasr is no longer the senior editor of Mideast Affairs. Nasr later explained this crime against humanity on her CNN blog -- apparently as security was dragging her out:

I used the words "respect" and "sad" because to me, as a Middle Eastern woman, Fadlallah took a contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on woman's rights. He called for the abolition of the tribal system of "honor killing." He called the practice primitive and nonproductive. He warned Muslim men that abuse of women was against Islam.






So sure, he tried to drag Hezbollah kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but he was Hezbollah! EEEEE! She's lucky they didn't load her up in a catapult and fling her off to Gitmo.

"This was interesting background -- the kind of depth one might expect from a reporter with a few decades of experience in the region," wrote Peter Hart for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting [FAIR]. "But CNN decided that this was not good enough. An internal memo explained that CNN thinks 'her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward.'"

Hart also makes a couple of interesting points: "Now it can't be that errant Twitter messages are the problem at CNN; they recently hired Erick Erickson as a commentator, even though he had called retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter a 'goat-fucking child molester.' And it can't be that CNN has a problem with opinionated journalists; after all, they spent several years defending Lou Dobbs' hateful, inaccurate anti-immigrant rants."

So if you want to accuse a Supreme Court Justice of having sex with farm animals, that's fine. If you want to tell viewers that illegal aliens are coming to spread leprosy and take over, that's fine. If you want to express sorrow over the loss of one of the few forward thinking people in Hezbollah, that is mostly definitely not fine. This is something of a trend with the media.

Glenn Greenwald, Salon:

First, consider which viewpoints cause someone to be fired from The Liberal Media.  Last month, Helen Thomas' 60-year career as a journalist ended when she expressed the exact view about Jews which numerous public figures have expressed (with no consequence or even controversy) about Palestinians.  Just weeks ago, The Washington Post accepted the "resignation" of Dave Weigel because of scorn he heaped on right-wing figures such as Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh.  CNN's Chief News Executive, Eason Jordan, was previously forced to resign after he provoked a right-wing fit of fury over comments he made about the numerous -- and obviously disturbing -- incidents where the U.S. military had injured or killed journalists in war zones.  NBC fired Peter Arnett for criticizing the U.S. war plan on Iraqi television, which prompted accusations of Treason from the Right.  MSNBC demoted and then fired its rising star Ashleigh Banfield after she criticized American media war coverage for adhering to the Fox model of glorifying U.S. wars; the same network fired its top-rated host, Phil Donahue, due to its fear of being perceived as anti-war; and its former reporter, Jessica Yellin, confessed that journalists were "under enormous pressure from corporate executives" to present the news in a pro-war and pro-Bush manner.


"What each of these firing offenses have in common is that they angered and offended the neocon Right," Greenwald writes. "Isn't that a strange dynamic for the supposedly Liberal Media: the only viewpoint-based firings of journalists are ones where the journalist breaches neoconservative orthodoxy?"

This isn't entirely true, but it's true enough. ESPN dropped Rush Limbaugh and MSNBC dropped Don Imus -- so put blatant racism alongside offenses against neocon heterodoxy on the list of unforgivable media sins. But how insane is it that these things are equally criminal on that list? Praising someone for being more progressive in the cause of women's rights is equal to calling Rutgers basketball players "nappy headed hos." Go ahead and soak in the irony of that one for a while.

And, if we take the right at their word and agree that racism isn't an element of modern conservatism, try to name the reporter or commentator who's been fired for being too rightwing. Take your time. Remember, blatant racism doesn't count, because Republicans aren't racist. Name someone fired because they were too anti-Palestinian maybe or too pro-war, too anti-gay or anti-science. Go ahead and think real hard.

Anyone else hearing crickets?


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