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On December 9, AP
issued a news report about a stormy City
Council meeting in Seattle. I read this AP
but it bothered me so I read it again,
and then once more, carefully, and found
what seemed to be a deliberate effort at
misinformation. (Either deliberate or
these guys got very lucky.)
Let's look at
the AP piece
It begins with
the following headline: "Seattle
Police Actions Questioned"
Studies of how
people read newspapers confirm what
common sense suggests: if a group of
people are given a newspaper, some will
look at a particular headline and some
won't; a smaller number will read the
first paragraph of the article but no
more; an even smaller number will read
the second paragraph and so on, with more
and more dropping away as they move
toward the end.
Even for those
who read the entire text, the headline
has a big impact. It lingers in the
imagination, suggesting a certain tone,
coloring the story.
What about this
particular headline: "Seattle police
actions QUESTIONED"? (my capitals)
Don't we use
the verb "to question" to
administer a mild rebuke? For example,
would you say, "I questioned the
mugger's right to break my wife's jaw"?
Would you say, "The policeman pulled
off the non-violent protester's gas mask,
sprayed pepper gas in his face at point-blank
range and rubbed it into his eyes. I
questioned his behavior"?
police behavior is being "questioned",
the headline sets a gentle tone. It
suggests that people may be concerned but
not terribly upset. I'm OK, you're OK,
paragraph continues along these lines,
creating a gentle ambiance:
far outnumbered defenders of police at a
special City Council meeting on the
handling of protests surrounding the
World Trade Organization meeting." (My
and "Defenders" - nice, very
balanced. What's a detractor, by the way?
Isn't a detractor a gentle critic?
mightn't one say: "Her detractors
commented that she was too old for that
outfit." But mightn't one be viewed
askance (perhaps even questioned) if one
said: "Charles Manson's detractors
thought he should have been executed."
DID SOMEBODY GOOF?
generally read news stories to satisfy
their curiosity. But what is left to
wonder after this first paragraph?
Doesn't it suggest that nothing much
happened at the City Council?
It does. The
suggestion is false. Reading on, we are
Cado, alarmed that her husband had
been tear-gassed on his way home from
work, told the hearing she ventured
to the city's embattled Capitol Hill
neighborhood last week to witness for
herself the clash between protesters
I saw was as frightening as anything
I've ever seen in my life,'"
Cado said. "It was a cross
between Star Wars and Tiananmen
the hearing that drew an overflow
crowd Wednesday, Cado and others
described police officers
indiscriminately tossing tear gas
canisters at not only the
demonstrators they were trying to
disperse, but also at residents out
shopping, dining and walking their
particularly took police to task for
their actions the night of Dec. 1 in
the Capitol Hill neighborhood east of
downtown - first for forcing
demonstrators in that direction from
downtown, and then taking aggressive
actions that included firing tear gas
and pepper spray.
basically think they were treating
residents of Capitol Hill like
animals,' said Clark Pickett." (AP
frightening as anything I've ever seen in
my life" - ?!
describe Cathy Cado's remarks as "questioning"
the police? Is Clark Picket a "detractor"?
What's going on here? Is the AP
scrambling stories? Mix and match? Did
they take the headline and first
paragraph from the report on a ruckus
over Christmas tree lights at a Seattle-area
PTA and stick them on the City Council
Let's do some
editing, change a word here, a word there
here's the headline and the first
Residents Denounce Police"
far outnumbered defenders of police
at a special City Council meeting on
the handling of protests surrounding
the World Trade Organization meeting."
better? Doesn't it suggest what actually
using the inaccurate opening, the AP
sends busy readers away with impressions
diluted. Remember, readers tend to skim
news articles, not study them. They will
recall the mild tone of the headline and
opening paragraph; if they read further
they may remember that some people were
upset but that impression will be
tempered by the first impression, of mild
criticism. The contradictory impressions
will tend to cancel.
NEEDS SOME GUIDANCE SOMETIMES
if to further dilute readers' awareness
that Seattle residents are furious at
police, the AP (writer?
editor?) has inserted the following
sentence in the text:
National Guard was called in and a
curfew was imposed AFTER some
protesters smashed windows and
slashed tires on police cars." (my
I call this
"Editorial Guidance". It's
often found in important news stories.
I've written a lot about NATO's bombing
of Yugoslavia and occupation of Kosovo
and I have seen a good deal of "editorial
guidance" in newspaper articles
about Serbia, wherein some accusation of
Serbian brutality is mandatory,
especially if the article concerns
Albanian violence against Serbs and
"Gypsies"; some guiding phrase
must be added to remind readers that such
attacks are "revenge for earlier
The point of
"editorial guidance" is to
orient readers for a proper information
experience by protecting them from
conclusions that might follow, helter
skelter, from mere fact. For example,
there are many news reports of Albanians
murdering aged Serbian women, children,
non-Serbs who speak languages that sound
Serbian, and even one story reporting
Albanian demands that a dog be put to
death because it was (I kid you not)
Serbian as opposed to Albanian(?!).
with such raw info, an unguided mind
might wander into inappropriate areas
such as: "Maybe these Albanians are
anti-Slav racists." The next thing
you know our reader is mired in
SPECULATION: "If the Serbs are all
bad and the Albanians are all good and
NATO bombed Yugoslavia to forge
multiethnic peace - why, since NATO
conqured Kosovo, has there been 5 months
of unmitigated violence against Serbs?"
This kind of thinking will get you
nowhere since it calls into question the
whole NATO experience; therefore stories
about Albanian terrorism must include
reminders that such mysterious attacks (such
as, let us say, the strangling of a 95
year old Serbian woman in her bath or the
driving of 30,000 residents from an
immense housing complex in Pristina after
which the apartments are sold or rented
to UN employees) are "revenge for
the brutal policies of Milosevich's
forces during the NATO bombing."
This makes everything clear and citizens
of the Western democracies can eat their
MacFood in peace and leave the thinking
protesters have been getting a dose of
the Serbian treatment: demonization
through "editorial guidance."
In their case, the guiding phrase is
"police action which followed
vandalism and looting by some protesters"
- or words to that effect. This aids
folks to a properly-seated view, like a
gentle laxative: "The police may
have been occasionally overzealous but
stop whining at least they're out there
risking their necks defending democratic
values against marauding punks who got
what they deserved try pulling that crap
in some country where there ISN'T free
AREN'T CITIZENS MAD AT THE PROTESTERS?
If the AP is
right, if police were only responding to violent
protesters "after some protesters
smashed windows and slashed tires on
police cars" then here is the $64
question: why aren't the local people mad
at the protesters? The AP
dispatch notes that:
100 people signed up to speak at the [City
Council] meeting, which began at 4 p.m.
and lasted until 11. Hundreds of people
who couldn't fit in to the hearing room
initially stood outside in the rain, and
a speaker was hooked up to allow them to
listen....THE CROWD APPEARED TO HEAVILY
FAVOR THE DEMONSTRATORS (AP
dispatch, our capitals.)
source of information but the mass media, many
regular folks outside Seattle believe the
line. But what about the local Seattle
people? These are regular folks too, that
is, people with a variety of opinions
concerning the WTO, people who have the
MOST reason to be upset by the disruption
of their city - why, as the AP reports,
do these people "heavily favor the
"heavily FAVOR the demonstrators"
an AP evasion? Shouldn't that phrase be
rewritten? Shouldn't the AP have said the
local people are "heavily FURIOUS at
the police?" Indeed, isn't this
precisely what Seattle citizens were
quoted saying in this same AP dispatch?
That they were "treated like animals"
by police; that police "indiscriminately"
tell the AP: This isn't a baseball game.
The local people aren't "favoring"
one side. The local people are rising up
against what they saw being done to the
protesters and what they experienced
being done to themselves, by an
outrageous abuse of police power.
statement that police only acted after
demonstrators attacked does not derive
from the evidence presented in the AP
story; rather it is presented to
undermine the factual evidence.
WE SAW IN SEATTLE
website I work on, www.emperors-clothes.com
, had a reporter in Seattle. Jim Desyllas
did not go there expecting a police
attack. But when the police did attack,
he observed them for almost two days.
everyone else who was in downtown Seattle
at the time, knows that the police
started the violence.
started it but continued to provoke it,
brutalizing non-violent protesters and
leaving the violent ones alone. Moreover,
when the police had a group of about 100
people reliably throwing things, they
herded this group around the city,
providing plenty of photo-ops for the
number of times they had these 100 or
so protesters caught between
buildings and walls of police. They
could easily have arrested and
detained this small number of people
and gotten it over with. Instead they
would gas them and let them go. Then
trap them again, gas them again, and
again let them go...The police were
using these people as extras. It was
staged. I believe also the police had
their own people in there,
encouraging people to break stuff -
if people think I may be
exaggerating, I saw supposed
protesters - they were screaming and
so on - and then later, when
everything was over, the same people
tackled other protestors and put
handcuffs on them." ("Collateral
Damage in Seattle", See Note # 1
last point about the AP dispatch. Seattle Police Chief
Norm Stamper has resigned. This is an
interesting development, worth discussing.
His obvious reason for resigning is that
many Seattle residents blame him for last
week's police brutality. In addition,
some people have suggested that he may be
resigning because the violence was
actually orchestrated by Federal agents -
FBI, CIA, Department of Defense - and
that he (and other local Seattle pols)
are being used as a fall guy. In other
words, that his resignation is a kind of
protest. Either way, his resignation is a
response to the outcry against police
resignation in the dispatch. Look how
they handle it:
the wake of the disruption, Police Chief
Norm Stamper announced his retirement
this week." (Our emphasis)
wake of the disruption"? This
sentence would only make sense if Chief
Stamper were resigning for failing to
stop protesters from disrupting the city.
In fact he's being criticized for using
excessive violence, not for failing to
have said that the kind of police tactics
used in Seattle are the greatest threat
to democracy in our country. I look at it
differently. I think the amazingly
uniform duplicity of the media is the
greatest threat to democracy. For how can
people make decisions, how can they
oppose police state tactics, if they are
fed a diet of lies?
I believe that
exposing the lies of the mass media is an
act of love for this country and the
whole planet. Only by knowing the truth
can we be free.
Note # 1 - For Jim Desyllas'
account of what he saw on the streets in
Seattle, please click on Collateral
Damage in Seattle or
got to http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/collater.htm
Note # 2 - www.emperors-clothes.com
has a number of articles that deal with
media distortion. Three writers who focus
on this question are Diana Johnstone,
Jared Israel and Phil Hammond. To read
their writing, click on Articles by
go to http://emperors-clothes.com/artbyauth.html
and then click on
either J, I or H. (Some of Diana's and
Jared's articles aren't yet posted in
this section, but there's plenty on the
you would like to browse articles from Emperors-Clothes.com,
click here Or go to: http://www.emperors-clothes.com