Showing posts with label Media analysis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Media analysis. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

You Don’t Stop Police Killings by Calling them ‘Fatal Encounters’

By Julie Hollar and Janine Jackson, February 2, 2023

It’s hard to find words after yet another brutal police killing of a Black person, this time of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, captured in horrifying detail on video footage released last week. But the words we use—and in that “we,” the journalists who frame these stories figure critically—if we actually want to not just be sad about, but  end state-sanctioned racist murders, those words must not downplay or soften the hard reality with euphemism and vaguery.
New York Times: Tyre Nichols Cried in Anguish. Memphis Officers Kept Hitting.

The New York Times (online 1/27/23) writes of the “enduring frustration over Black men having fatal encounters with police officers.”

Yet that’s exactly what the New York Times did in recent coverage. In its January 28 front-page story, reporter Rick Rojas led with an unflinching description of the brutal footage, noting that Nichols “showed no signs of fighting back” under his violent arrest for supposed erratic driving.

Yet just a few paragraphs later, Rojas wrote: “The video reverberated beyond the city, as the case has tapped into an enduring frustration over Black men having fatal encounters with police officers.”

People get frustrated when their bus is late. People get frustrated when their cell phone’s autocorrect misbehaves. If people were merely “frustrated” when police officers violently beat yet another Black person to death, city governments wouldn’t be worried, in the way the Times article describes, about widespread protests and “destructive unrest.”

By describing protest as “destructive,” while describing state-sanctioned law enforcement’s repeated murder of Black people as “Black men having fatal encounters with police officers,” the Times works to soften a blow that should not be softened, to try to deflect some of the blame and outrage that rightfully should be aimed full blast at our country’s racist policing system.

That linguistic soft-pedaling and back-stepping language was peppered throughout the piece, describing how police brigades like the “Scorpion” unit these Memphis police were part of are “designed to patrol areas of the city struggling with persistent crime and violence”—just trying to protect Black folks from ourselves, you see—yet they mysteriously “end up oppressing young people and people of color.” Well, that’s a subject for documented reporting, not conjecture.

New York Times: What We Know About Tyre Nichols’s Lethal Encounter With Memphis Police

The New York Times (2/1/23) doubles down on its new euphemism for “killing.”

When a local activist described himself as “not shocked as much as I am disgusted” by what happened to Tyre Nichols, the Times added, “Still, he acknowledged the gravity of the case”—as if anti-racist activists’ combined anger, sorrow and exhaustion might be a sign that they can’t really follow what’s happening or respond appropriately.

Folks on Twitter (1/28/23) and elsewhere called out the New York Times for this embarrassing “Black people encounter police and somehow end up dead” business, but the paper is apparently happy with it. So much so that the paper came back a few days later with an update (2/1/23), with the headline: “What We Know About Tyre Nichols’ Lethal Encounter With Memphis Police.”

In it, Rojas and co-author Neelam Bohra wrote in their lead, “The stop escalated into a violent confrontation that ended with Mr. Nichols hospitalized in critical condition. Three days later, he died.”

Journalism school tells you that fewer, more direct words are better. So when a paper tells you that a traffic stop “escalated into a violent confrontation that ended up with” a dead Black person, understand that they are trying to gently lead you away from a painful reality—not trying to help you understand it, and far less helping you act to change it.

Originally published on, February 2nd, 2023. Reprinted with permission.     

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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Podcast Conglomerate the Media Won’t Name

Spoiler: It’s John Malone’s Liberty Media
News consumers hear about the titans of podcasting regularly these  days: Spotify, iHeartMedia, Amazon Music.  But there is one name that’s curiously absent: Liberty Media.

The company recently got some coverage after Taylor Swift fans rose up against Ticketmaster’s monopolistic pricing. The live event company increased its market share after being bought by Live Nation, a Liberty subsidiary. Forbes (1/21/22) also named Liberty the “most valuable sports empire” from its profits off its Formula One and Atlanta Braves subsidiaries.

More often ignored, Liberty Media also owns satellite radio SiriusXM, internet radio Pandora and podcast platform and network Stitcher, which it claims amount to the “largest ad-supported audio entertainment streaming service in the US,” with over 100 million listeners.

In 2021, it rolled the advertising wings for all three of those companies into SXM Media, now one of the largest ad sellers in podcasting. These forces combined make it the only real direct competitor to Spotify for a vertically integrated podcast empire (, 4/21/21).

A hidden conglomerate

An avalanche of consolidation over the past few years has made the podcast industry difficult to report on. It’s tedious for readers to shift through chains of corporate subsidiaries, so journalists seem to simply ignore them.

The media press do cover Sirius, but consistently fail to highlight its corporate parent or its own subsidiaries. The satellite radio giant itself owns Pandora and Stitcher, which includes the Midroll ad business, which was rolled into SXM, and the Earwolf podcast network (and oh what a simplification that is). But of much greater consequence is the media’s consistent failure to highlight that all of these companies are owned by Liberty Media.

In 2021, the Department of Justice gave Liberty the go-ahead to purchase iHeartMedia (formally Clear Channel), the largest radio broadcaster in the country. iHeart reaches over 90% of Americans every month “through podcasts, AM and FM stations and online platforms,” according to Variety (10/19/21). Liberty sold off its entire stake in iHeart last year, but had the deal proceeded, it would have merged two of the nation’s largest audio oligopolists into one.

The DoJ decision was sparsely covered, but even if it was front-page news, you can only understand what Liberty taking control of iHeart would have done if you already understood its other audio holdings and how they fit together. This is a bigger picture that is sorely lacking in coverage of either company.

Corporate consolidation bias 

Liberty Media's podcasting empire as Russian dolls

Liberty Media owns SXM, which owns Pandora which owns Stitcher which owns Earwolf.

When mergers happen, there is often a natural news bias toward the company doing the purchase. But the complete failure to contextualize which companies the purchaser and purchasee already own, or are owned by, obscures monopolists and insulates them from scrutiny.

The Wall Street Journal (7/6/20) reported that SiriusXM bought Stitcher, and Forbes (7/7/20) noted this will “give it the tools to compete with Spotify,” without a single mention of Liberty Media. Ashley Carmen has a superb deep dive into the after-effects of SiriusXM’s purchase of Stitcher for the Verge (3/22/22), but she never mentions that Sirius itself has a parent company.

Billboard  (10/23/20) reported when iHeart acquired Voxnest, and Variety (2/17/21) noted when it bought Triton Digital the next year. Again, no Liberty. When the New York Times (4/3/19) covered iHeart’s potential IPO, it failed to mention Liberty held a stake in the company at the time.

News sites also want to write about companies their audience wants to hear about, and that’s often the platforms and networks that they actually use. Spotify’s purchase of popular podcast network Gimlet Media was a darling story of the podcast press; meanwhile, their purchase of Anchor, an ad seller, was covered less. Today, Anchor is an engine that’s key to the audio company’s success, while Gimlet lags.

Over-focus on podcast networks poses a lot of problems, because they are often nested at the bottom of the new corporate podcasting Matryoshka dolls. Think Earwolf, owned by Stitcher, owned by Pandora, owned by Sirius, owned by Liberty.

The largest Russian doll

Vox: Why billionaire John Malone’s shadow looms over CNN

Liberty Media‘s John Malone (Vox8/26/22): “Fox News, in my opinion, has followed an interesting trajectory of trying to have ‘news’ news, I mean some actual journalism, embedded in a program schedule of all opinions.”

OK, take a deep breath, because Liberty itself is not the top of this nested power structure. It’s owned by one man: John Malone. Worth over $9 billion, and the largest landlord in the United States (FAIR.com2/17/22), Malone’s media influence does not end with audio. He is also the “power behind the throne” of the new company formed from the merger between AT&T’s Warner Brothers and Discovery (Next TV, 11/21/22). Lest I fall into the trap of my own criticism, that includes the following entities: CNNHBODC Comics and 67 other companies.

Malone was the long-term chair of TCI, the US’s second-largest cable provider (and “worst discriminator,” according to the NAACP) until it was purchased by AT&T in 1999.

Liberty Media began as the cable programming subsidiary of TCI, and helped the cable company rise to the top by purchasing stakes in the programs it ran on its channels, including a 10% stake in Time Warner, and a controlling stake of Discovery (Extra!11–12/97). Liberty even owned PBS NewsHour (yes, you read that correctly—Extra!, 11/10) from 1995 until 2014, when Washington, DC’s public media station WETA bought the program.

Under AT&T’s ownership, it absorbed TCI’s digital music and satellite businesses, before splitting off into an independent company in 2001 under Malone’s control (CNN8/10/01).

Malone was CEO of Discovery between 2006 and 2008, and was the company’s largest shareholder and board chair when it merged with Warner Brothers. He is now an independent director at the newly merged Warner Brothers Discovery, which is also run by his former hand-picked CEO of Discovery and long-term mentee, David Zaslav (Vox8/26/22).

Malone is a noted conservative who contributed over $1 million to Donald Trump’s inaugural campaign. 

Before the Warner/Discovery merger went through, he told CNBC in an interview (11/18/21) he wished CNN would “actually have journalists,” then praised Fox for its “actual journalism” (FAIR.com2/17/22). Many journalists at CNN suspect the media company’s recent firing of celebrated media reporter Brian Stelter was a political decision at the behest of Malone (Vox8/18/22).

There are rumors the merged company may attempt to absorb NBC Universal, along with its streaming platform Peacock, as early as 2024 (The Street, 9/22/22).

We’re getting far afield from podcasts here—but the whole point is that these things are all connected. When we put these threads together, we see a bigger picture that’s important for news consumers to digest.

Noted political economist Robert McChesney wrote for FAIR back in 1997 (Extra!11–12/97) that TCI faced “a direct and potentially very damaging challenge to its US market share from digital satellite broadcasting.” Now, Malone controls SiriusXM, the largest satellite broadcaster in the country.

The coming Spotify/Liberty duopoly 

Liberty and Spotify fighting for the spoils.

With the podcast industry thinning out, Liberty and Spotify are fighting for dominance.

All of these failures in clear reporting obscure the bigger picture. Mainstream coverage might leave you with the impression of a podcast landscape dominated by Spotify and Apple. But if we incorporate an understanding of corporate ownership, there are two main end-to-end podcast empires with a clear grip on the market at this point: Spotify and Liberty Media’s SiriusXM (, 4/21/21).

Sirius certainly sees it that way. A former Stitcher employee told the Verge (3/22/22), “Spotify is the devil to SiriusXM.”

Spotify has the bigger platform, with 400 million monthly listeners (CNET2/2/22), while Pandora has hemorrhaged listeners year after year since 2019. (Note that these numbers are from before big artists like Neil Young boycotted Spotify over Joe Rogen; Young still has an entire  channel on SiriusXM.) But Liberty has built an ad-selling powerhouse in SXM Media that Spotify’s own Megaphone struggles to compete with. In fact, with SXM’s help, Pandora has increased its ad revenue despite shrinking listenership. SXM Media signed deals with NBCMSNBCCNBCSoundcloud and Audiochuck early on, and has since signed with Spanish-language reVolver Podcasts and Crooked Media (home of Pod Save America). In February 2020, SiriusXM made a $75 million minority equity investment into SoundCloud, which expands on their ad agreement.

Sirius has also drawn more listeners to its content than SpotifySpotify’s Joe Rogan Experience remains the most popular individual podcast, while SiriusXM’s Crime Junkies comes in third in Edison Research show rankings. But the Stitcher podcast network has topped Triton Digital’s weekly download rankings for over a year, after it edged out NPR. And SXM Media beats Spotify in Edison Researcher’s rankings for “top podcasts networks by reach.”

Sirius also bought Conan O’Brien’s Team Coco podcast network and digital media company last year, adding a network with 180 million annual downloads (Tech Crunch4/23/22)

But winning the so-called “podcast wars” has never been just about platforms. It’s about building a whole end-to-end system for producing, hosting, monetizing and then platforming content. Spotify and Liberty are the only companies that have unlocked this “final infinity stone” in the US market (Input2/22/21).

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Media Prescribe More ‘Pain’ for Workers as Inflation’s Only Cure

DECEMBER 19, 2022

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell is profit’s prophet and the corporate media are his cultish devotees, joining hands to sacrifice working people. In this cult, profit is sacrosanct.

When inflation hits, this is because of the conditions upon which profits are made. It’s not the fault of profit-making itself. The problem is a “labor shortage,” or “too much demand,” which forces the invisible hand to raise prices—and not a shortage of dignified work, or a surplus of people living paycheck to paycheck. Maximal profits are a given, and scarcity for ordinary people is a requirement.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

NYT, WSJ Look to Hawks for Ukraine Expertise

A crucial function of a free press is to present perspectives that critically examine government actions. In major articles from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal discussing the escalation of the war in Ukraine, however, such perspectives have been hard to come by—even as the stakes have reached as high as nuclear war.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated the war by announcing a mobilization of up to 300,000 extra troops (CNBC9/21/22) and threatened to use “all the means at our disposal” to ensure “the territorial integrity of our motherland” (CNBC9/23/22). A month later, a letter endorsed by 30 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus was sent to the White House (and quickly retracted), urging a “proactive diplomatic push” to reach a ceasefire in the war.

Both of these major incidents could have been an opportunity for the media to ask important questions about US policy in Ukraine, which is—according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (Wall Street Journal4/25/22)—to “weaken” Russia. Instead, elite newspapers continue to offer a very narrow range of expert opinion on a US strategy that favors endless war.

Assessing the threat

NYT: U.S. and Allies Condemn Putin’s Troop Mobilization and Nuclear Threats

Aside from Vladimir Putin, this New York Times article (9/21/22) is entirely sourced to “American and other Western officials,” “White House and Pentagon officials,” “Western officials,” the Pentagon press secretary, the British military secretary, President Biden “and other administration officials,” “current and former US military officials,” a National Security Council spokesperson, the director of Russia studies at the Pentagon-funded Center for Naval Analyses, “a former top US Army commander in Europe,” “experts,” a Russian military specialist (and former Marine) at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, “American officials and analysts,” “a former supreme allied commander for Europe,” “US intelligence and other security officials,” “officials,” “a senior State Department official” and the head of the US Strategic Command.

In the two days following Putin’s threats, the New York Times published three pieces assessing them. Of these pieces, expert analysis and commentary was provided by “military analysts” and a “director of Russia studies at the CNA defense research” (9/21/22),  a “French author” and “a former French ambassador to Russia” (9/21/22), and several current and former government officials (9/21/22).

In these articles, probably the most critical comment was provided by nameless “Western officials” who have “expressed concern that if Mr. Putin felt cornered, he might detonate a tactical nuclear weapon”—though the Times immediately reassured that “they said there was no evidence that he was moving those weapons, or preparing such a strike.” None of the officials or analysts that the Times referenced in these articles explicitly advocated for changing US policy.

In the same timeframe, the Wall Street Journal ran six articles assessing Putin’s actions, and did not find any space in these articles to criticize US policy.

Russian public opinion of the war was cited in one piece (9/21/22): 

Public interest in the invasion was initially high in February but has been declining steadily—especially among young people, who would presumably be those asked to serve in the fighting, according to a poll by the independent Levada Center earlier this month. Younger people were also far more likely to favor peace negotiations, the poll results said.

Strangely, the Journal did not cite US public opinion on peace negotiations in any of its coverage. A poll commissioned by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft (9/27/22) found most American likely voters supported the US engaging in peace negotiations. Supporting this, an IPSOS poll has reported that most Americans support the US continuing  “its diplomatic efforts with Russia” (10/6/22).  I did not find a single Journal article that mentioned the Quincy Institute or IPSOS polls. The Journal has done its own polling on American opinion regarding the war (e.g., 11/3/223/11/22); it does not ask for opinions about diplomacy as a strategy.

The Quincy and IPSOS polls are in line with Americans’ attitudes from a Gallup poll taken prior to the war, which found 73% of Americans “say that good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace” (12/17/19). It seems Americans generally favor diplomacy. A more recent Gallup poll (9/15/22) did not ask about Americans’ support for diplomacy, but whether the US was “doing enough,” which is a vague question that obfuscates whether it refers to military, diplomatic support, or other means. It also asked a question that presented only two approaches for the US to take toward conflict: “support Ukraine in reclaiming territory, even if prolonged conflict” or “end conflict quickly, even if allow Russia to keep territory.” Other diplomatic options, such as those regarding NATO’s ever-expanding footprint in Eastern Europe, were not offered.

Favoring hawkish perspectives

Intercept: House Progressives Float Diplomatic Path Toward Ending War in Ukraine, Get Annihilated, Quickly “Clarify”

Part of the reason it was so easy to make progressives back away from their pro-diplomacy letter (Intercept10/25/22) is that the views behind the letter rarely appear in major media.

The October letter calling on the White House to consider a diplomatic end to the war was signed by 30 members of Congress and endorsed by a number of nonprofit groups, including the Quincy Institute (Intercept10/25/22).

To get a sense of how much tolerance there has been for dissenting expertise on the White House’s stance in the Ukraine war, I searched the Nexis news database for mentions of the Quincy Institute. As a Washington think tank backed by major establishment funders spanning the political spectrum, including both George Soros and Charles Koch (Boston Globe6/30/19), journalists should have little reservation in soliciting comments from experts associated with it.

In a Nexis search as of November 9, the Quincy Institute was mentioned nine times in the New York Times since February 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine; five of these were in opinion pieces. Of the four reported pieces, two (7/3/229/27/22) included quotes from members of the Institute that were critical of US military strategy in Ukraine.

On the website of the Wall Street Journal, which is not fully indexed on Nexis, I turned up a single mention of the Quincy Institute in connection with Ukraine, in a piece (3/23/22) on Ukrainian lobbyists’ influence in the US.

Pro-war bias

NYT: NYT Exposes a Favorite Source as War Industry Flack

Despite exposés that show CSIS literally functions as a PR organ for the weapons industry (Extra!10/16), the think continues to be a favorite source of establishment media.

That lack of coverage is all the more stark in comparison to a hawkish think tank. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), heavily funded by the US governmentarms dealers and oil companies, is a consistently pro-war think tank: A FAIR investigation (Extra!10/16) of a year’s worth of CSIS op-eds and quotes in the New York Times failed to find any instance of the CSIS advocating for curtailment of US military policy.

At the Journal, a search for “Center for Strategic and International Studies” in Ukraine stories from February 24 to November 9 yielded 34 results. Four of these results were opinion pieces. For news articles, that’s a 30:1 ratio of the hawkish think tank to the dovish think tank.

In the same time period, CSIS appeared in the Times 44 times, according to a Nexis search, including five opinion pieces—a news ratio of just under 10:1.

It should be noted that, just as Quincy sources weren’t always quoted offering criticism of US Ukraine policy, affiliates of CSIS weren’t always advocating for an unrestrained stance in Ukraine. One even warned that “the risk of a widening war is serious right now” (New York Times4/27/22). But repeatedly reaching out to and publishing quotes from a well-known pro-war think tank will inevitably produce less critical reporting of a war than turning to the most prominent anti-war think tank in Washington.

And it’s not that these papers are seeking out “balance” from sources other than Quincy. Seven other nonprofit groups also endorsed the October letter; the New York Times has quoted a representative from one of those groups—Just Foreign Policy—exactly once (3/7/22) since the war began. The Journal has cited none. But considering the stakes at hand, reporters have a responsibility to seek out and publish such critical perspectives in their coverage of Ukraine.

Photo Credit: Neon Tommy

Originally published on, December 2, 2022. Reprinted with permission.     

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Monday, October 17, 2022

WaPo Wants US ‘Beacon’ for Ukraine Refugees—but Not for Haitians

It’s a fair comparison: Migrants from both countries seek protection in the United States because they fear for their lives in their home country. While Ukraine is actively at war, Haiti’s violence and instability have ebbed and flowed for decades, a result largely of foreign exploitation and intervention, compounded in recent years by devastating earthquakes and hurricanes; neither can provide a basic level of safety for their citizens today.

All have the right under international and US law to seek that protection, including at the US border, where they are required to be given a chance to apply for asylum. Under Title 42—an obscure and “scientifically baseless” public health directive invoked under Donald Trump at the start of the Covid pandemic, and largely extended under Joe Biden’s administration (FAIR.org4/22/22)—that right has been violated, as Haitian (and Central American) asylum seekers have been summarily expelled without being screened for asylum eligibility.

One might imagine that this trampling of rights, more actively nefarious than the foot-dragging on resettling Ukrainian refugees, would prompt more, not less, outrage among media opinion makers. Yet the opposite is true for the Post editorial board, which has written about both situations repeatedly.

‘These could be your children’

WaPo: Why isn’t Biden taking in refugees from Ukraine?

Washington Post editorial (3/4/22) in support of Ukrainian refugees calls attention to the fact that “these could be your children.”

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine sparked a mass exodus of refugees, the board (3/4/22) quickly and passionately urged the Biden administration to “welcome Ukrainians with open arms”: 

The images linger in your mind: Ukrainian children pressed against the windows of a bus or train sobbing or waving goodbye to their fathers and other relatives who remain behind to try to fight off an unjustified Russian war on Ukraine. It’s easy to imagine this could be your family broken apart. These could be your children joining the more than 1 million refugees trying to flee Ukraine in the past week. 

The board argued that accepting Ukrainian refugees would be a “way to truly stand with the brave and industrious Ukrainian people and our allies around the world”—and “also provide more workers for the US economy.”

Less than two weeks later, the Post (3/16/22) returned to the issue, forcefully demanding that Biden’s inaction on bringing Ukrainian refugees to the US “must change” and suggesting that the Department of Homeland Security “step up” and grant them entry under a humanitarian parole system. “At the moment, it’s hard to think of a cohort of refugees whose reasons are more urgent,” the board wrote.

A few weeks after Biden’s March 24 announcement that the US would admit 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, the Post (4/19/22) found the idea “heartening,” but called the lack of implementation “an embarrassment to this country.” This was at a time when, as the board noted, most Ukrainians who managed to make it to the US/Mexico border were being allowed entry under the parole system the Post had favored.

Later, the Post (6/22/22) celebrated that its exhortations had been followed: “The US Door Swings Open to Ukrainian Refugees.” In that editorial, the board explicitly highlighted that the Ukrainians who had thus far entered the US had done so “in nearly all cases legally.” They wrote: That tens of thousands of them have successfully sought refuge in this country over about three months, with relatively little fanfare—and even less controversy, considering the toxicity that attends most migration issues—is a reaffirmation of America’s commitment to its values as a beacon to the world’s most desperate people. That commitment must be sustained as the war in Ukraine drags on, which seems likely.  

But the Post board doesn’t want that beacon to shine too brightly for all the world’s most desperate people—such as Haitian asylum seekers.

‘Inhumane to incentivize migrants’

WaPo: Biden’s mixed messaging on immigration brings a surge of Haitian migrants to the Texas border

Washington Post editorial (9/20/21) on Haitian refugees takes President Joe Biden to task for suggesting he would “relax the previous administration’s draconian policies” toward Latin American asylum seekers.

After the Del Rio incident, the board (9/20/21) expressed umbrage that “Haitian migrants, virtually all Black, are being subjected to expulsion on a scale that has not been directed at lighter-skinned Central Americans.”

Yet this was quickly balanced by the Post‘s indignation at Biden’s “on-the-ground leniency” toward migrants that “led many or most of [the Haitians at Del Rio] toward the border.” 

The board wrote that Biden had suggested he would “relax the previous administration’s draconian policies” for “others, especially Central American families with children, tens of thousands of whom have been admitted to the United States this year,” thereby encouraging Haitians to come but then expelling them by the thousands. “The policy is inhumane,” the board lamented; “equally, it is inhumane to incentivize migrants to risk the perilous, expensive journey across Central America and Mexico.”

To be clear, the Biden administration expelled migrants under Title 42 in more than a million encounters in 2021; however, a change in Mexican policy meant the US could no longer expel Central American families with young children (American Immigration Council, 3/4/22). What the board is suggesting here is that the policy of sending away migrants who have a right to seek asylum in the US, and will almost certainly face a dire situation upon arrival in their home country, is equal in its inhumanity to reducing the use of that policy—because that incentivizes more people to exercise their right to seek asylum.

So what’s the answer to this conundrum? Ultimately the board pinned the blame on “partisanship in Congress” that has “doomed” attempts at comprehensive immigration reform. Setting aside the absurdity of the idea that both parties are equally at fault in stymying immigration reform, that analysis implies that any sort of immediate relief for actual Haitians is not a priority for the Post editorial board, regardless of their suffering.

After the Del Rio incident, the Biden administration cleared out the migrant camp the Haitians were staying in, and most were flown to Haiti or fled to Mexico to avoid that fate. Many Democrats criticized Biden for the treatment of the Haitian migrants, but the Post (10/13/21), in its next editorial on the subject, argued that those critics “fail[ed] to acknowledge the political, logistical and humanitarian risks of lax border enforcement.”

The headline of that editorial, “How the Biden Administration Can Help Haitian Migrants Without Sending the Wrong Message,” clearly signaled the board’s priorities; when advocating for helping Ukrainians, the Post never betrayed any concern that such help might send the wrong message.

While it’s “easy to sympathize with the impulse behind” calls to end Title 42, and to grant Haitian refugees asylum if they are judged to have a “reasonable possibility of fear,” the board wrote, “the trouble is that it would swiftly incentivize huge numbers of new migrants to make the perilous trek toward the southern border.”

They argued that their concern wasn’t theoretical; it was “proved” by the “surge” of Haitian asylum seekers “driven in large part by the administration’s increasingly sparing use of Title 42″—implying that the human rights of Haitian migrants must be judiciously balanced against the supposed threat of a “surge” of them at the border. The board members concluded that “Americans broadly sympathize with the admission of refugees and asylum seekers, but a precondition of that support is a modicum of order in admissions.” First comes order, then come the Post‘s sympathies.

Two months later (12/30/21), they argued that the mass expulsion of Haitian migrants was “deeply troubling,” quoting a UN report that Haitians are “living in hell.” And yet they found themselves unable to forcefully condemn the Biden administration’s continued use of Title 42 to prevent Haitians from exercising their right to seek asylum, arguing that the policy is “politically defensible,” since “Americans do not want to encourage a chaotic torrent of illegal immigration.” The strongest umbrage they could muster was to call the situation “worth a policy review, to say the least.”

‘Main export is asylum seekers’

WaPo: As chaos mounts in Haiti, the U.S. takes a tepid stance

The Washington Post (5/7/22) calls for a “vigorous US policy” to oppose Haiti “chaos.”

The Post editorial board is clearly very aware of the plight of Haitian refugees. As they pointed out in an editorial (5/7/22) calling for a “concerted, muscular diplomatic push” to address the Haitian government’s lack of legitimacy, they wrote that for those deported to Haiti, their “chances of finding work are abysmal, but the possibility that they will be victimized amid the pervasive criminality is all too real.”

The board has been vocal (7/7/22) about calling for US policy change toward Haiti to reduce the “human misery”—and the “outflow of refugees”—arguing that “deportation is a poor substitute for policy.” Recently, it has ramped up its rhetoric, even suggesting (8/6/22) the idea of a military intervention in Haiti; in its most recent call for intervention, the board argued:"It is unconscionable for the Western Hemisphere’s richest country to saddle the poorest with a stream of migrants amid an economic, humanitarian and security meltdown. But it’s the country, not its people, at the center of concern here. At no point in the piece are those people, or the impact of US policy on them, described. (Certainly it’s never suggested that “these could be your children.”) Worse, the board calls Haiti a “failed state whose main export is asylum seekers,” reducing those asylum seekers to objects. (One might add that comparing Black human beings to “exports” shows a callous disregard for Haitian—and US—history.)

The board wants intervention in Haiti in part to relieve the “humanitarian suffering” in the country (9/22/22)—but it’s not ashamed to put “death and despair” in the same sentence as “a steady or swelling tide of refugees” as the two things the Biden administration should be seeking to prevent via such an intervention.

The source of the discrepancy between its position on Ukrainian and Haitian refugees seems to be that the Post editorial board sees them as fundamentally different problems. Ukrainians fleeing violence and instability are themselves at risk and need help; Haitians fleeing violence and instability are a risk to the US.

That framing of the problem was perhaps most clear in their editorial (2/10/21) condemning Biden’s support for Haiti’s “corrupt, autocratic and brutal” then-President Jovenel Moïse: "As with Central American migrants, the problem of illegal immigrants from Haiti can be mitigated only by a concerted US push to address problems at the source." Haitian migrants are, to the Post, more a problem for the US than human beings with problems of their own.

And the editorial board’s use of the term “illegal immigrant”—a dehumanizing and inaccurate slur the widely-used AP style guide nixed ten years ago—is also telling. The board repeatedly refers in its editorials on Haiti to “illegal border crossings” and “surges.” But as mentioned previously, Haitians, like Ukrainians—and the Central American migrants the Post dreads in the same breath as Haitians—are legally entitled to come to the US border and seek asylum. In fact, to request asylum, migrants are required to present themselves on US soil. The only thing that makes their crossings “illegal” is Title 42, which itself is clearly illegal, despite judicial contortions to keep it in place. Yet it seems the moral (and legal) imperative to offer the opportunity to seek asylum must always be balanced, in the Post‘s view, with their fears of an unruly mob at the border.

‘An enduring gift to their new country’

Early in the Ukraine War, some journalists came under criticism for singling out Ukrainian refugees for sympathy, in either explicit or implicit contrast to refugees from non-white countries (FAIR.org3/18/22). CBS‘s Charlie D’Agata (2/25/22), for instance, told viewers that Ukraine: isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European—I have to choose those words carefully, too—city, one where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that, it’s going to happen

They seem so like us,” wrote Daniel Hannan in the Telegraph (2/26/22). “That is what makes it so shocking.”

Both journalists were white; it is perhaps worth noting that nine of the ten members of the Washington Post editorial board are likewise white. (Post opinion columnist Jonathan Capehart, who is Black, is the sole exception.)

WaPo: Don’t forget the Afghan refugees who need America’s support

The Washington Post (4/28/22) shows no fear of a “surge” of Afghan refugees.

And yet the differential treatment it accords migrant groups may go beyond racism or classism for the Post; in April, the board (4/28/22) published an editorial headlined, “Don’t Forget the Afghan Refugees Who Need America’s Support.” In it, the board asked, “Why can’t the administration stand up a program for US-based individuals and groups to sponsor Afghan refugees to come here, as it has done for Ukrainians?”

Earlier, the board (8/31/21) had argued that Afghan refugees “​​will become as thoroughly American as their native-born peers, and their energy, ambition and pluck will be an enduring gift to their new country.”

The Afghanistan case illustrates that the Washington Post doles out its sympathy on political, not just racial, terms: Afghans, like Ukrainians, are presented as victims of enemies the Post has devoted considerable energy to vilifying—the Taliban on the one hand, Russia on the other. The plights of Haitians (and Central Americans), by contrast, can in no small part be traced back to US intervention—something the Post has little appetite for castigating.

And Afghans, for the most part, have not been arriving at the US/Mexico border, which is clearly a site of anxiety for the board, with its fear of “surges” and lawlessness.

The humanization and sympathy the board offers to both Afghans, and especially the Ukrainians that “could be your children,” is never offered to Haitians. Their circumstances are described, sometimes in dire language, but they themselves—their “pluck,” their “children pressed against the windows of a bus or train sobbing or waving goodbye to their fathers and other relatives who remain behind”—remain invisible and, ultimately, unworthy.

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Reprinted with permission.  FAIR’s work is sustained by their generous contributors, who allow them to remain independent. Donate today to be a part of this important mission.
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