The Curse of a Monopolized Press

by WILLIAM HUGHES

Baltimore City is cursed with only one daily newspaper, the Baltimore Sun. Over the years, it has grown arrogant and out of touch with its readers, primarily as a result of not having any real competition.

Here are just a few examples of its recent outrageous conduct. First, it deliberately chose to neutralize a major international news story that happened on Nov. 13, at the University of Maryland, in College Park, Maryland, about 35 miles south of Baltimore.

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan made an appearance at the institution. He gave the annual lecture the university holds in honor of the slain Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat. Before an enthusiastic audience of over 9,500, he sharply condemned Israel for its "draconian security measures," and its "unacceptable policy of assassinations of militants." He also blasted the Ariel Sharon regime for allowing its extremist settlers to kill innocent Palestinian farmers and to rob them "of their olive harvest."

"Israel," the Secretary General underscored, "piles precondition on precondition for a return to the negotiating table, and destroys the governing institutions of the Palestinian Authority even while calling for their reform. Confined by roadblocks to their towns and villages, and much of the time by curfews in their own homes, the Palestinians watch hilltop after hilltop covered by new Israeli buildings, and valley after valley crisscrossed by roads reserved for Israeli settlers. As long as the settlements continue, as long as a political horizon is missing, Palestinians will never be convinced of Israel’s desire for peace," he emphasized.

Now, where, in the Nov. 14 issue of its paper, do you think the Sun buried Annan’s important speech on the Middle East, which was so highly critical of Zionist Israel? Try page 20A! On page one, it chose, instead, to place a routine study about cholesterol!

One day earlier, the Sun actually mocked the people of Baltimore and their elected representatives, for daring to exercise their First Amendment Right to petition the national government. At issue is the costly, unjust and immoral U.S. war with Iraq, that is being planned by the Bush-Cheney Gang.

On Nov. 20, the City Council of Baltimore will hold a public hearing about a Resolution opposing the anticipated U.S. conflict. They intend, hopefully, after the passage of the Resolution, to serve copies on the two U.S. senators from Maryland, along with its eight House members in the Congress, on the General Assembly of Maryland, too, and, of course, the Bush Administration. The Resolution was introduced by Councilman Kwame O. Abayomi (D-6th District). It already has the support of ten of its 19 members. It has also been endorsed by 13 local activist groups.

The practice of citizens petitioning the government, with respect to their concerns, goes back to the early days of the American republic. It is a revered tradition that embraces an even longer history, having its origins in the ancient Rights of Englishmen, as fortified by the Common Law.

Nevertheless, on Nov. 13, the Sun rudely ignoring the hallowed constitutional implications, denounced the Council’s planned action as a wasteful exercise in "agitprop-agitation and propaganda." It said the Council should be spending its time "taking care of the city’s awesome problems." The Sun then mockingly added, "Hot diggity dog! Will Washington listen?"

Unexpectedly, the Sun did print, also on Nov. 14, excerpts from Iraq’s acceptance letter, to the UN’s Secretary-General, with respect to Resolution 1441 allowing new weapons inspections. In the letter, Iraq labeled Britain’s PM Tony Blair "a lackey" of President George W. Bush Jr., and it also cautioned against the U.S. and Britain being used by "Zionist desires," and other sources, "to distort the facts and to push the situation in a dangerous direction." In order to undermined the credibility of Iraq’s position, the Sun ran a huge caption over the letter, which read: "Vitriolic Letter from Baghdad." Now, can anyone imagine the Sun placing such a caption over any communication from Tel Aviv to the U.S.? I can’t.

Finally, since Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had Baltimore roots, the Sun jumped on the band wagon with respect to her election by House Democrats as their minority leader. She is now the highest ranking woman in congressional history. Like so many other members of the Congress, she’s pro-Israel, but, mercifully, not anywhere near the lackey category of a Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA).

The Sun failed to note, in three articles on her, that she had voted against the Iraq War Resolution, and also made no mention of the fact that she had supported the Yitzhak Rabin’s plan of Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting peacefully.

The Sun ignored, too, the fact that Pelosi had sponsored an amendment calling on Congress to urge Israel to cancel a planned sale of an airborne radar system to China in 2000. Under U.S. pressure, the multi-billion dollar deal was scrubbed. The Israelis weren’t happy with her, since it also caused them to lose face with China, which is suspected of being one of their long term covert partners in the illegal transfer and resale of weapons of mass destruction (See, Shawn L. Twing, WRMEA, Aug., 1999).

In its coverage of Pelosi on Nov. 14, the Sun also made a big deal about her late father, Thomas "The Elder" D’Alesandro. He was an ex-congressman and the mayor of Baltimore for three terms (1947-1959). However, what the Sun omitted was the central fact that when he was the mayor, it hardly ever had a good word to say about him! During his reign, the Sun’s leadership was mostly WASP-dominated. It had never really gotten over the fact, that D’Alesandro was the first Italian-American, the first Roman Catholic, and the first politician from a working class enclave, "Little Italy," to be elected to that office.

Well, what did you expect from the Sun? The full truth? This is what a Monopolized Press looks like. And, it’s why I call it a curse on our society.

WILLIAM HUGHES is the author of "Baltimore Iconoclast" (Writer’s Showcase), which is available online. He can be reached at liamhughes@mindspring.com.

(C) WILLIAM HUGHES 2002

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