Media trip up in protest coverage

Recent national anti-war demonstrations organized by Stalinists . . . but who knew?

by David Kopel

Feb. 2, 2003, Rocky Mountain News

Suppose large crowds around the country appeared month after month at demonstrations to restrict immigration, and suppose that the newspapers reported on the demonstrations. Do you think it would be right for the media to fail to inform readers that: The demonstrations were organized by a front group for the American Nazi Party? That the speeches at the demonstrations frequently veered into topics unrelated to immigration, but central to the Nazi agenda, such as calling for the liquidation of the state of Israel? That the speeches frequently included the most extreme and vicious anti-American Nazi-style rhetoric, such as denouncing the United States as a "mongrel" nation? That mainstream anti-immigration leaders were upset that Nazis were hijacking the anti-immigration movement and turning the demonstrations into Nazi festivals?

Obviously the media would be remiss in ignoring the Nazi role in the anti-immigration demonstrations. And it is almost inconceivable that the media would in fact ignore such a fact.

But the Denver dailies, like most of their counterparts nationally, have been equally remiss in ignoring the role of genocide advocates in contemporary nationally organized anti-war demonstrations.

Writing in the vehemently anti-war political magazine The Nation last Dec. 10, and in the L.A. Weekly on Nov. 1, David Corn explained how the bulk of major anti-war demonstrations have been organized by a group called International ANSWER, a front for the Workers World Party. The WWP is a Stalinist organization that extols the Tiananmen Square massacre, the bloody suppression of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, Kim Jong Il, Ayatollah Khomeini, Fidel Castro, Josef Stalin, Slobodan Milosevic, and Saddam Hussein; it opposes U.N. inspections in Iraq.

The Jan. 18 demonstrations in Washington and many other cities were organized by the WWP, and the rhetoric of many of the speakers reflected WWP's viewpoint.

Among the speakers in Washington was a leader of the Colombian narco-terrorists and another who led the crowd in demanding freedom for Cuban spies imprisoned in the U.S.

Yet for many months, the Denver dailies, like most of the rest of the mainstream media, have utterly ignored WWP's role in the demonstrations. By failing to inform readers, the dailies have done a disservice to, among other things, the vast majority of sincere anti-war activists (who, of course, are not Stalinists) and who would gravitate toward non-Stalinist anti-war groups like Win Without War, if the media did its job of exposing International ANSWER/WWP.

Although readers of weblogs and other Internet sources have known for months about WWP, the Denver dailies did virtually nothing on the issue - other than an isolated reference to WWP as a "radical" group (Dec. 6, Post reprint of a Washington Post article).

Finally, on Jan. 23, the News printed a scathing column from The Washington Post's Michael Kelly. Kelly's column made the issue too prominent to ignore, and the next day The New York Times did a story which The Denver Post cut down to four paragraphs and ran on the bottom of Page A23.

The Times story mildy described WWP as a "socialist group." This was an insult to social democrats everywhere, and was a euphemism equivalent to describing the Nazis as "an ethnic pride group that supports socialism."

What if a local media outlet published or broadcast a story claiming that the Rocky Mountain News aids columnists buying the most expensive single-malt whiskeys.

That, of course, would be a gross distortion of the facts. Yes, it's true that News columnists who aren't News employees - such as Mike Rosen, Paul Campos and myself - get paid a check for every column we write, and can spend that check as we see fit. But for a reporter to insinuate that the News has some special program to promote whiskey-buying would be an outrageous and mean-spirited misrepresentation.

Of course, no media outlet has ever run such an article. But the News and the Post (Jan. 21) did run an article that was equally distorted.

"Tax plan aids small firms buying SUVs" announced the Post, while the News proclaimed "A boon for SUV-buying firms."

Both papers were reprinting a New York Times article by Danny Hakim that claimed that "The Bush administration's economic plan would increase by 50 percent or more the deductions that small-business owners can take right away on the biggest sport utility vehicles and pickups."

What the News and Post failed to tell their readers was the proposed tax change would apply to all types of business equipment, not just SUVs.

Since 1981, small businesses have been allowed to "expense" a limited amount of capital expenditures. For example, if they buy a $3,000 computer, they can deduct the $3,000 immediately from their taxable income, rather than depreciating the computer over several years.

For 2002, a small business can expense up to $24,000 in equipment (see IRS Form 4562). The Bush tax proposal would raise the maximum amount of expensing in one year to $75,000.

Yes, a business might be able to fully expense an SUV with the higher limit, just as the business could expense new computers, photocopiers, furniture, or just about any other new business equipment.

As the weblog SayUncle ( ) correctly observed, the "SUV tax break" story was "spin at its worst."

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