S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Press in a nutshell --

Big things are happening to Russia today and tomorrow. March 1, Russia takes its month-long turn at heading the United Nations Security Council. During that time there will be another Iran sanctions resolution introduced and Russia will not oppose it, according to the UPI. Sunday Russia will elect its new president, Dmitri Medvedev, or as Senator Clinton called him, "whatever." The Lede at the New York Times was forgiving of Senator Clinton's Texas debate "flub," as were the Russians. To quote:

Perhaps you can forgive Hillary Clinton for stumbling over the name of Russia’s likely next president in Tuesday’s debate with Barack Obama. Dmitry Medvedev, the man billed to replace President Vladimir Putin after elections this Sunday, only began officially campaigning yesterday.

In the 24-hour break from his official–and heavily-covered–duties as first deputy prime minister on Wednesday, Mr. Medvedev spent the day with voters, discussing pension reform and other issues frequently covered in his ministerial pronouncements, the Russian media reported.

. . . Though most outlets that covered the debate remarked on Mrs. Clinton’s hiccup, none seemed to dwell on it. Nezavisimaya Gazeta even wrote that senator from New York was “sufficiently informed” on the current situation in Russia, while the state-run newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta did not even mention the slipup in its coverage.

Back to the American press -- There seems to be a rather stark contrast between the press coverage of Russian and American presidential elections. From Firedoglake (2/28/08): "Kinsley Nutshells the Press." To quote Christy Hardin Smith:

This may be the most succinct description of press behavior this campaign season that I've seen. Although it may have been an inadvertent effort in a live chat, Michael Kinsley nutshells the 2008 campaign press coverage in four paragraphs:
Is there, in your opinion, a media bias toward or against a particular candidate in general? It seems that during Sen. McCain's first run he was the media darling. That of course did not help him. Now many assume that Sen. Obama is the de facto media favorate.

Michael Kinsley: I guess I share the conventional wisdom on both of these points. McCain has always been a media darling. At a magazine editors convention a few years ago, he started a speech by saying he was happy to be there addressing "my base." He gets and deserves points for jokes like that.

And the SNL take on Obama is also correct. He is a media darling now. Hillary is rightly bitter. I am puzzled--something happened about six weeks ago that was like a light switch turning off, or on: all of a sudden, she became "the Clintons" and every resentment of her and her husband came to the surface among the media, liberals, everybody.

That said, I am not the best person to explain the media Obama swoon, since I have been a swooner myself. No doubt we'll all turn on him at some point, faithless bastards that we are.

The foreign press in a nutshell -- It is important to regularly read non-American news sources. As I have said in the past, if you want to find out the truth the London Financial Times is a good place to start. But one must read Russian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern stories for the best flavor of what is happening, and how their contrries feel about the same issues about which we are reading.

Russian news source -- It is a good resource for the official Russian "line." This is about as controversial as they get. Ria Novosti headlines: "Watchdog notes hidden campaigning in Russian election run-up." To quote,

An international corruption watchdog has highlighted hidden campaigning in favor of the Kremlin-backed candidate and pressure on voters in the run-up to Sunday's presidential elections in Russia.

An expert with rights group Golos cited by said Medvedev and Putin, who has agreed to be premier if his ally wins the polls, have dominated television programs during the election campaign.

Other candidates in the elections include Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Vladimir Bogdanov, leader of the tiny pro-Western Democratic Party. A number of other candidates, including former premier Mikhail Kasyanov, were denied registration by Russian electoral authorities, citing 'irregularities' with their applications.

Medvedev, backed by the popular Putin, who has presided over brisk economic growth in recent years, is expected to win the vote easily. Opinion polls showed Medvedev enjoys about 70% of voter support.

Aljazeera's David Connolly, stationed in Moscow, asked the question, "Is Medvedev his own man?" The story contained much that we never see in the American press. Quoting some little know items from this background story:
The two men have been linked for many years. Medvedev and Putin both took law classes taught by Anatoly Sobchak at Leningrad State University, although more than a decade apart. When Sobchak later became mayor of St Petersburg he brought the two men together in the city hall. Putin brought Medvedev to Moscow in 1999 when he was appointed prime minister by Boris Yeltsin, then Russia's president, and he has been one of his most trusted lieutenants ever since.

. . . Inside the Kremlin, Medvedev aligned himself with a group often described as the St Petersburg lawyers or technocrats. They are said to have a more liberal view on the state's role in the economy, foreign policy and civil liberties than the siloviki, the group of former security service officials. But with little experience in foreign affairs, Petrov said that Medvedev might see Putin continue to take the lead.

"If Putin becomes prime minister he might accompany him or even replace him on behalf of Russia at major foreign events such the G8 summit because of his experience," Petrov said.

"There does not seem must chance of the liberalisation of foreign policy, at best it will be the same."

German news source -- Deutche Welle carried a different kind of coverage. The story is headlined, "Medvedev Will Add Modern Touch to Putin's Agenda, Experts Say" To quote:
Lacking Putin's fierce countenance and sharp tongue, Medvedev has been ironically called a "Putin-lite." But, "despite his gentle, quiet personality, he's made of steel," said Russian NATO delegate Dmitry Rogosin, as reported by the AFP news agency.

. . . Russia expert Thomas Kunze . . . said Medvedev would demonstrate continuity with his predecessor, but added that Medvedev also represents a new era of Russian politicians.

"He was born in 1965 and belongs to an entirely different generation than all Russian leaders before him," said Kunze. Indeed, Medvedev was in his mid-20s and at the beginning of his career when the USSR dissolved in 1991.

"Medvedev will be an independent and modern president," added Kunze, contradicting speculation in the Western media that the former law professor would simply act as a marionette for Putin, who said he would serve as prime minister. "I think [Medvedev] is much more aligned with Europe."

Deutche Welle also reports that the "Russian election goes unobserved." There will be no watchdogs and I am not surprised. To quote:

The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) said on Feb. 7 that it would not send a delegation due to restrictions Russia planned to impose on its operation. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) had wanted to send observers a full month in advance, which Russia opposed.

United Kingdom news source -- The Financial Times headline reads, "Stability at stake, Putin warns voters." To quote:

Many Russians, however, feel the choice has already been made for them. One of the president’s most strident critics, Andrei Illarionov, Mr Putin’s former economic adviser, said Russia’s leader should be chosen by millions but, in fact, had been chosen by “one voter” – Mr Putin.

. . . Mr Illarionov, who resigned from his Kremlin post in late 2005 warning Russia was “no longer free”, called on voters to register their ballots with an independent organisation. Otherwise, he warned, their votes could be misused by the authorities. He contrasted Russia’s polls with the US, where millions of citizens were glued to the presidential primaries.

“What is happening in the US and in any other free democratic country cannot be compared with what is happening in Russia. These events being planned for March 2 are not elections but a special operation .... Whoever wins is not legitimate,” Mr Illarionov told Ekho Moskvy radio.

The press, in a nutshell, is almost always biased. To minimize that effect, read a number of different sources on a regular basis, in order to get familiar with those different voices. U.S. "Talking Heads" do not always get it right, though it is still a "free press." For that freedom we can be grateful.

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Cross posted at The Reaction

My "creative post" today at Southwest Blogger is about neglect.


The Future Was Yesterday said...

The press, in a nutshell, is almost always biased. To minimize that effect, read a number of different sources on a regular basis, in order to get familiar with those different voices.
Two excellent statements!! It is human to be biased; you can hardly be without feelings reporting on a murder. However, both you and I can remember when the 5 W's you wrote of recently, were a standard, not an option.

I don't trust any news outlet, no matter what they say, and no number of sources will tell us what is really happening in the world, imo. If they did, I really think there'd be world wide rebellion!

Carol Gee said...

Are you and I the new "Press?"
I am probably more trusting, by nature, than you are Future. I like that you keep me on track, my friend.
It would be good if we could find a march to attend, huh?