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Attention Larry King, Attention US publishers!

Glen Greenwald deconstructs a New York Times piece on the wrongful Gitmo imprisonment of a Sudanese journalist. Greenwald writes:

By stark contrast, the American public is, as Stelter notes, almost completely ignorant of what our government has done in this regard.  And why is that?  Because the same media that fixates endlessly on the imprisonment of American journalists by other countries all but blacked out any reporting on what we did to al-Hajj (again, other than columnist Nicholas Kristof, who is commendably as concerned by the American imprisonment of foreign journalists as he is when other governments do it to ours).  As I documented back in May, a Nexis search of media outlets finds that "Roxana Saberi" — the American journalist detained for three months by Iran and then quickly given a trial and appeal — was mentioned 2,201 times during the first two months of her ordeal alone; by contrast "Sami al-Haj" was mentioned a grand total of 101 times during the first six years of his lawless detention at Guantanamo.  The short imprisonment of an American journalist by a hated nation merits a full-on media blitz from the American press; the imprisonment of a foreign journalist by the U.S. Government merits almost nothing.

So just consider the record here.  The New York Times will frequently label what other governments do as "torture" but steadfastly refuses to use that term for what the American government did.  It promiscuously accuses foreign countries of "human rights atrocities" but self-righteously objects when that term is applied to our own government even after it abducts, disappears, lawlessly imprisons, and tortures people even to the point of death.  It accords extreme deference and respect to the claims of government officials even when those claims are patently false.  In other words, The New York Times‘ journalistic practices create — either by design or effect — the false impression that torture and human rights abuses are things that other governments do, but not our own.  Who is it exactly, then, who is departing from "journalistic objectivity"?

Let me say that Gleenwald is being a tad unfair. Saberi was an attractive young women – an easy and appealing journalistic subject with numerous ties in the US. Al-Hajj was from a distant land. Also, I think Stelter does a good job of acknowledging the double standards at work here and finally writing the article which should have been written years ago. The real problem is that journalists didn’t try hard enough to gain information about Gitmo prisoners.

The solution, I’m afraid, is for NY publishers to publish tell-all books by these prisoners and then  arrange for these “political prisoners/celebrities” to be invited on Larry King/Oprah/60 Minutes. The only way the media can acknowledge the injustice is if a monied interest is cajoling them for coverage.  If Larry King had a regular feature called “Interview with the Falsely Imprisoned Foreigner”, you better believe that the US government would stop the practice.

Alternate solution: Require that all overseas people imprisoned by the US military to receive mandatory English lessons (plus access to literary agents and PR agents). I’m only being slightly nonserious.

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