Sunday, January 16, 2011

Roads Not Traveled

NPR gets credit for getting French-speaking reporter, Eleanor Beardsley into the capital of Tunisia by Friday morning. Her reports have provided some dramatic first-person accounts of police repression and the chaos of the revolutionary scenario in the capital. However, NPR's general coverage lays the blame for the uprising on Tunisia's dictatorial regime and the spike in food prices - while avoiding any in-depth discussion of two important elements of the Tunisian uprising:
  1. The way in which the the Tunisian dictatorship reflects the gross hypocrisy of the US-led "war on terror" which has created increased global repression (and terrorism).
  2. The role that US/European economic neoliberalism has had in bringing on the misery which helped ignite the Tunisian rebellion.
A discussion of these two threads practically begs to be covered, given the WikiLeak cable on the US awareness of repression and corruption in Tunisia - a cable that was widely know and discussed in Tunisia [and terrifies our newest thug ally in the "war on terror."] And more cables on US complicity in Tunisian repression and cronyism were released yesterday. Amazingly, Beardsley trumpets the role of social media in the Tunisian uprising but WikiLeaks is never mentioned (search NPR "heard on air" for Wikileaks + Tunisia and you get zilch as of Sunday afternoon!).

As far as the role of neoliberal economics (and US foreign policy) in compounding North Africa's miseries, not only does NPR completely ignore it, but to explain rising food prices there turns to Gary Blumenthal, who
"served as Deputy Assistant for Cabinet Liaison to former President George Bush, and as Special Assistant to the President for Agriculture Trade and Food Assistance....served as Executive Assistant and then as Chief of Staff to then Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter, providing oversight of all operations in this large federal agency (110,000 employees) and exercising continuous scrutiny over $65 billion worth of programs including research, education, production, domestic and international marketing, food safety and inspection, nutrition, environment, public affairs, economic analysis, legal counsel and administration matters related to USDA's mission in the U.S. and in 60 countries around the world. He also served with the Foreign Agricultural Service as Legislative Director, and as a Legislative Assistant to Congressman Larry J. Hopkins (R-KY)."
Mr. Blumenthal explains that rising food prices in the Maghreb are the result of increased demand and "imperfect weather." How's that for insight?

Eleanor Beardsley has mentioned several times in her reports that people in Tunis are watching Aljazeera TV - too bad none of Aljazeera's coverage is finding its way into NPR's coverage. I'd also recommend Juan Cole's Informed Comment for far more substantive coverage and analysis of the Tunisian revolution.


Patrick Lynch said...

Having caught part of that coverage this morning, I have to say your comments are absolutely spot on.

larry, dfh said...

You'll hear every sort of 'supply-and-demand' yahoo rationale for rising food prices, but you'll never hear about speculation. I did hear on whyy's radio-times, from the guy that started the Vanguard Mutual Fund, that the biggest problems not being address are lack of oversight at the SEC and CFTC. Bingo! Now bring on some more e-conn-omists to tell us how it really is.

Anonymous said...

"WikiLeaks is never mentioned"

More propaganda by omission.

NPR can't acknowledge that Wikileaks has actually informed people of th truth because then they might have to admit that they are journalists, something that Beardsley, Alicia Shepard and the rest of the dishonest know-nothings at NPR know nothing about.

gDog said...

Not surprisingly, NPR has omitted the Amnesty International condemnation of US foreign aggression in their "news" reports. A search for "Amnesty International" produces this most recent link: an AP article about Tunisia containing this ironic report:

Most opposition parties were illegal. Amnesty International said authorities infiltrated human rights groups and harassed dissenters. Reporters Without Borders branded Ben Ali a "press predator" who controlled the media.

Hmmm...infiltrating dissent groups? Where have I heard of that sort of thing before?

JayV said...

Surprisingly there were only two comments on the Beardsley social media/Tunisia story. Here's mine:

"Glad NPR had the wherewithall to send Beardsley to Tunisia. But western media has proved pretty inattentive. Only last week, after Ben Ali had been forced to leave the country, did you all report on this revolution that started a month ago. Your silence is not surprising; the revolution in Tunisia was not orchestrated by the US, or so it seems. (As if permission was needed from the USA!)"

Anonymous said...

Democracy Now dedicated the entire hour today to Tunisia; Juan Cole, et al. I learn more from Cole in a few seconds than I do from NPR in, well...ever.

Porter Melmoth said...

I was going to yak about Beardsley in Tunisia on the basis of how annoying her delivery is, and that she was sent there ostensibly because she can speak French (does she know Tunisia's other, non-colonial languages, too?), and that her backpacker's approach to on-site witnessing is more appropriate for National Geographic than frontline news, but I'm glad I don't have to.

To my mind, NPR sent in a pliant, ambitious person to cover the story, a contractor they could get for cheap, who would readily cooperate with their agenda (e.g. no Wikileaks gobbledygook, etc.). For Beardsley it's of course a huge career advance, and maybe a book deal.

Philip Reeves used to cover S. Asia for NPR, and he did it with integrity. His coverage of the Bhutto assassination was cogent and had clarity. However, as the region hotted up, NPR yanked him and sent him back to the UK to do lightweight stuff, while NPR heavyweight drones such as Miss Julie McCarthy and Jackie Nothing could secure the field with their 'interpretive' approaches, which are in cooperative lockstep with NPR central control.

I'm pretty cynical about behind-the-scenes NPR, but not half as cynical as NPR's Neocon/Imperialist 'interpretation' of our world's current events.