Today's Topic



Audacity of Censorship,
Part II

Part I

Natalia J. Garland

Print Version

Senator Barack Obama evicted three reporters from his campaign airplane on November 2, 2008. The reporters were from the the Washington Times, the New York Post, and the Dallas Morning News. All three newspapers endorsed Senator John McCain for president. There are two concerns regarding Obama's decision to deny further campaign access to these three reporters. (1) They were reporters--not columnists or editorialists--working for a daily publication and responsible for delivering unbiased news to the public. (2) They worked for newspapers which endorsed the opposition, and that prompted the public to question if Obama's decision was vindictive.

The Obama campaign stated that the evictions were to allow room for reporters from Obama's hometown newspapers, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. These reporters had not traveled with Obama on a regular basis. Is that accurate, or is that the only reason? After the eviction of reporter Christina Bellantoni, the Washington Times published an editorial about the evictions and Obama'a stated rational.

This argument, however, collapses upon closer examination. For one thing, there is no getting around the fact that all three newspapers kicked off the plane just happened to endorse Mr. McCain. Moreover, Mr. Obama's supporters have been furious with The Times when it publishes stories that are not favorable to their candidate. One was an Oct. 10 report by Barbara Slavin of The Times about Mr. Obama's efforts to delay signing an agreement with the United States on the status of U.S. forces in Iraq. Another was a piece by reporter Joseph Curl pointing to Mr. McCain's role in mobilizing support for the Iraq troop surge, which Mr. Obama opposed. Viewed in this context, the Obama campaign's decision to remove Miss Bellantoni smacks of being the latest effort by Mr. Obama and his supporters to retaliate against reporters that ask tough questions. After Barbara West, a reporter on WFTV-TV in Orlando, had the temerity to ask some tough questions to Joe Biden, the Obama campaign cancelled an interview with Mr. Biden's wife, Jill. Obama supporters even called for Miss West's ouster. After a reporter for KYW-TV in Philadelphia pressed Mr. Biden too forcefully on some matters, the Obama campaign said it would grant no more interviews to the station. When WGN Radio in Chicago announced it would interview Stanley Kurtz, author of several unflattering investigative pieces about Mr. Obama, supporters of the candidate flooded the station with telephone calls and e-mails demanding that Mr. Kurtz not be put on the air. It is a disturbing pattern. If this is how Mr. Obama acts as a candidate, how would he treat the press as president?
[End of quote.]

At this late point in the presidential campaigns, it is clear that yellow journalism has played an important role in the popularity of Obama. There have been under-reported affiliations of and transactions by Obama which would have ruined the campaign of any other candidate. Were it not for certain cable news programs, we would not know the full extent of Obama's connections with Rezko, Farrakhan, Rev. Wright, Ayers, Khalidi, and ACORN. We would not have had discussion of the controversial remarks made by Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, and Rep. Lewis (who compared Senator McCain to the racist George Wallace). If McCain had had connections with a political radical such as Ayers, the major media would have investigated thoroughly and his campaign would have been destroyed.

Without freedom of the press, the public cannot engage in critical thinking or make informed decisions. How could Obama have managed the situation differently? Anyone who has ever attended an office Christmas party knows how to draw names from a hat. Obama could have made a fair selection by putting names in a hat and drawing out three random reporters to be evicted. Then, nobody could suspect vindictive behavior. But, by deliberately choosing three reporters from newspapers which endorsed McCain, the public cannot help suspecting an act of retaliation.

What can the public do to obtain factual information? (1) Read policy statements on government websites such as the White House, Senate, and Congressional websites. (2) Read and print policy statements and speeches posted on the candidate's website. (3) Access the voting records of elected officials. (4) Understand the difference between objective news and opinion-related articles. (5) When reading opinion-related material, use critical thinking and look at the author's resources. (6) Vote for candidates who respond positively to disagreement. (7) Express yourself! (Written 11/03/08: bibliography available.)

[NOTE: For another essay on a similar topic, see A Fleeting Political Movement, Part III (written 12/04/08).]

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2008 Natalia J. Garland