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Downplaying a Catastrophe

A Gusher From the Newspaper of Record

by RICHARD WARD

A small example of what passes for journalism at our paper of record. A couple of days ago I sent a comment in response to an article written by John M. Broder and Tom Zeller Jr. (“Gulf Oil Spill is Bad, but How Bad?” 5/3/10) that sounded like it could have come from the BP public relations department, downplaying the effects of the blowout in The Gulf of Mexico. Arguably the worst part of the article was a gross factual error stating that the Iraqis fleeing Kuwait in 1991 released 36 billion gallons of crude into the Persian Gulf. My comment: “Whoa! The Iraqis released nowhere near 36 billion gallons of crude in the Persian Gulf. The highest estimates are 500 million gallons. Somebody needs to activate the NYT’s fact checker. This is a real gusher. What’s going on here?”

The Times did not print this. A few hours later I tried again. Same comment, same result. Either they chose not to publish it or it wasn’t getting through. The next day I tried again, a sort of experiment, commenting on another article about the blowout, this time adopting a decidedly different tone: “Let’s all calm down and get a grip. In three weeks all this will be a memory. The best minds in the business are dealing with this. Relax people. Kudos to the Times for presenting us with a balanced point of view.” Not only did they print the comment, they put it in their highlight section, “a selection of the most interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views.”

The New York Times has been downplaying the seriousness of the BP blowout. No correction has been offered concerning the 36 billion figure. The Times has consistently supported Obama’s offshore drilling proposal. Recent headlines sound like a public relations barrage from the oil industry: “The Spill vs. a Need to Drill,” “Tax on Oil May Help Pay for Cleanup,” “New Technique Holds Hope for Oil Spill Cleanup,” “Seafood Industry Fights Public Perception.”

That the Times insists on euphemistically referring to the catastrophe in the Gulf as a “spill” and not a blowout or gusher is consistent with its soft-peddling of the crisis. Is it possible that BP, one of the world’s largest corporations and most lavish contributors to politicians, including Obama and Mary Landrieu, has some influence with the Sulzberger family? Is it possible BP CEOs have ever had a jolly drink or two with Carlos Slim, the paper’s largest shareholder and richest person in the world, with his well-documented interests in the offshore oil industry? Just asking.

It’s long since been news that the news that’s fit is only the news that fits the class and political bias of the newspaper of record. It’s the Sulzbergers’ and Slim’s paper and they can say whatever the hell they want. Too bad it gets away with 36 billion-gallon gushers on a regular basis while gullible liberals drink it down like carrot juice.

RICHARD WARD lives in New Mexico. He can be reached at: r.ward47@gmail.com

 

 

WORDS THAT STICK