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PART II! WHITHER THE WEB? McGowans book is rife with spin. So why did one mullah approve it?
TUESDAY, JULY 30, 2002
WHOS COLORING NOW? On December 3, 1996, a nasty incident took place at the Marcus Garvey School in Washington, D.C. As a jury would later determine, a Washington Times reporter, Susan Ferrechio, was assaulted by Mary Anigbo, the Garvey principal. Anigbo shouted racial insults. For more detail, see yesterdays DAILY HOWLER.
William McGowans book, Coloring the News, describes press coverage of the Garvey incident. The book was recently vouched for by the webs Andrew Sullivan (see yesterdays HOWLER). In the book, McGowan derides the Washington Posts coverage of the Garvey event:
MCGOWAN (page 39): [T]he reaction of the Washington Post, a virtual synonym for fearless and independent reporting since Watergate days, was oddly hesitant. There was no acknowledgment of how the paper had dropped the ball by not holding the schools mission and leadership up to closer scrutiny. Although an incident like this would certainly have gotten banner coverage had the racial roles been reversed and a black reporter assaulted by a racist white school principal, the Post initially played the Garvey story on the inside pages, making very little effort to determine what actually happened, and treating the conflicting accounts of the incident as if they were of equal weight. The paper also made frequent and conspicuous use of the term allegedas in the alleged assaultwhich in context deflected Ferrechios credibility as a victim and as a reporter. In fact, in the first week after the confrontation at the school
the Post gave prominent space to black political activists like former NAACP president Benjamin Chavis and Nation of Islam activist Malik Shabazz who rallied to her side, blaming the white media and threatening racial violence.
That is McGowans nugget statement. His presentation is riddled with problems.
Lets start with the obvious. McGowans complaint about the word alleged is, in a word, bizarre. A Washington jury would later find that Anigbo assaulted Ferrechio. But Post reporters hadnt seen the assault, and Anigbo gave a different account of what had occurred. Was the Post supposed to mind-read the facts? In this complaint, McGowan shows the cockeyed judgment he brings to many parts of his book. For the record, the Post made it clear, in a December 6 editorial, that it found Anigbos story implausible. A wide range of Post op-ed writers rolled their eyes at Anigbos account.
Meanwhile, was the Post initially slow to page one? McGowans complaint is a bit unclear; in fact, the Post almost never ran this story on its front page, treating it as a local story in its Metro section. But on Day Three (December 6), the Post ran two full stories on its Metro front page, and the story never left Metros front after that. Since the Post had virtually no information on Day One, this was hardly a startling lag time.
Should this story have been front page? That is a matter of judgment. But its easy to judge McGowans account of the coverage of those black political activists. In the first week, McGowan says, the Post gave these Anigbo supporters prominent space as they blam[ed] the white media and threaten[ed] racial violence. In fact, the activist supporters were mentioned exactly once, in the Posts report on a public meeting. Heres how the story, by Hamil Harris, began:
HARRIS (12/7/96): (pgh 1) A number of D.C. community activists rallied around the African American principal of a city charter school yesterday and portrayed her confrontation with a white reporter this week in starkly racial terms, contending that the incident has precipitated a series of civil rights violations.
In fact, this report was striking for the overt way it challenged the racial good faith of Anigbos supporters. In paragraph 3, Harris quoted a bit of Chavis increasingly harsh rhetoric. When he returned to Anigbos supporters, he openly humped them again:
(2) Several activists with a history of employing racially charged rhetoricincluding the Rev. Willie F. Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church, and Malik Zulu Shabazz, head of a Nation of Islam offshoot called Unity Nationappeared yesterday with principal Mary A.T. Anigbo at the Marcus Garvey Charter School. They defended Anigbos role in altercations at the school Tuesdayone with a reporter from the Washington Times and another with several D.C. police officers who accompanied the reporter back to the school.
HARRIS: (11) Chavis described the [Marcus Garvey] incident as part of national struggle. When we try to do something for ourselves, educate ourselves, lift ourselves up, there are people who take exception to that, Chavis said. I hope people will not use one incident to take away the value of this educational institution.
Should the Post have ignored this meeting? Again, the notion is simply absurd; the Washington Times covered it, too. But even in this news report, the Post was overtly critical of Anigbos supporters. And this report is the only example of the prominent space the Post gave these activists. McGowans account is absurdly misleading. Indeed, it borders on outright deception.
(12) Wilson and Shabazz on several occasions have drawn fire for statements or actions that critics called racist. Several years ago Wilson led a boycott of an Asian merchant who operated a store in predominantly black Southeast Washington, and Shabazz has appeared at several rallies during which antisemitic statements were made. Wilsons church is large and growing, but neither Wilson nor Shabazz has drawn widespread support in recent political organizing efforts.
Why did the usual suspects slam Coloring the News (see yesterdays DAILY HOWLER)? Perhaps because of work like this, in which McGowan gives a skewed account of the Posts basic coverage. And remember, McGowans treatment of the Garvey incident is the first case study in his book. As well see tomorrow, his treatment of the Garvey coverage gets more puzzling, not less.
McGowans account is strangely skewed. Maybe thats why the usual suspects said the book was full of half-truths, spin and inaccuracies. But why in the world did Andrew Sullivan dismiss these critics so quickly and rudely? Could it be another case of instinctive deference to conservative mullahs? Could it be that a Blogistan sultan reflexively colored the news?
MORE NOTES FROM DEEPEST BLOGISTAN: What should the culture of Blogistan be? Often, its sultans judge on faith alone. Last Thursday, for example, Sullivan fatwahed:
Heres the background: Paul Krugman had made some allegations about UTIMCOs management. The rebuttal came from an interested party, William Cunningham. Does anyone think that Sullivan knows whos right and whos wrong in this complex matter? The chances of that are vanishingly small. Despite that, Sullivan 1) asserted that Cunninghams piece was factual; 2) accused Krugman of having lodged a smear; and 3), in a bit of consummate clowning, said that Cunninghams column speaks for itself. That is the way the worlds mullahs judge. Welcome to the wild tribal regions which embarrass our dear, troubled Blogistan.
KRUGMAN EXTRA! Heres a direct factual rebuttal of his recent column smearing the president for his role in the University of Texas Investment Management Co. (Utimco). It speaks for itself.
LIFE IN THESE UNITED STATES: Krugman pens a fascinating piece in todays New York Times. At one point, he visits Tennessee:
KRUGMAN: The fact is that in recent years many states have been run like banana republics. Responsibility gave way to political opportunism, and in some cases to mob rule. When Tennessee considered a tax increase last year, legislators were intimidated by a riot stirred up by radio talk-show hosts. Only when lack of cash forced the governor to lay off half the work force did the state, which has the second-lowest per capita taxes in the country, face up to reality.
Lets hear it for those hapless Tennessee voters! Of course, theyre more commonly known, in press corps parlance, as the people who know Al Gore best.
The only reason Tennessee doesnt look like Argentina right now is that it isnt a sovereign nation; since the federal budget was in good shape until recently, theres a safety net.