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I’ve mentioned here on previous occasions how the American media covers foreign news through the prism of United States foreign policy. If the U.S. government deems a country to be a hostile state, the American media will devote significant time and energy reporting on that country’s political and economic problems. But if you’re on our side, and especially in you’re providing us with oil, you can get away with murder (literally).
Today’s Washington Post has yet another op-ed piece about the terrible human rights situation in Zimbabwe ( “a cancer called Mugabe”). That follows up on an opinion piece last month from Richard Cohen of the Post, who essentially called for the United States to assassinate Mugabe with a predator drone. And shortly before that, on November 30, the Post ran a lengthy piece on Zimbabwe titled, “Land of Broken Trust; Though Widespread Brutality Has Ebbed in Zimbabwe, Political Violence Simmers and Threatens to Reignite.”
I did a Nexis search cross-referencing the words “Zimbabwe” and “human rights.” That search turned up 66 stories in the Washington Post, 122 stories in the_ New York Times_, and 55 stories in the Los Angeles Times. I also did a search cross-referencing the words “Equatorial Guinea ” and “human rights.” Equatorial Guinea is the small African state friendly to the United States, the third largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa, and home to billions of dollars in American oil company investments. Its led by regime even worse than Mugabe’s, but because it’s on our side the American media can’t be bothered covering the country.
Incidentally, that second Nexis search turned up four stories in the Washington Post (none of which were actually about the human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea, but mentioned the country only in passing), and no stories at all in the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times. Which means that in the last month alone, the Washington Post has written three more stories about the admittedly wretched state of affairs in Zimbabwe than have been written about the appalling human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea in the past year by America’s three leading newspapers.
The Post piece today decried China’s support for Zimbabwe. It called Beijing a “Mugabe enabler,” and said it was about time that China began practicing “mature diplomacy” and halted its “hands-off” policy that has “allowed Mugabe to stay in power.” Just change the relevant words so that were talking about the United States and Equatorial Guinea, and you’d have a very sensible editorial about a situation over which the United States actually has some control, given its great influence over the regime of Major General Teodoro Obiang. But I’m guessing it’ll be a long time before any major American news outlets works up any interest in that type of reporting.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”