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« Francis Wheen calls it right | Main | Sisters doing it in the Middle East »

"The Gulag of our Time"

Over the past few weeks, the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay has once again been making headlines, and interestingly, in the states there are signs of a shifting attitude towards it's status  from both politicians and the media.

Last month, Newsweek's allegations of abuse of the Qur'an by US military within the camp sparked riots and death in Afghanistan, and the subsequent retraction of the story only added to the scandal. Closely following this, Amnesty International  released their annual report, in which the detention centre was branded "the gulag of our time", prompting a strong rebuke from the Bush administration. Finally, this week, came the call from Democrat Senator Joe Biden for the closure of Guantanamo.

On the same day, the New York Times ran an editorial "Un-American by Any Name" also calling for the camp to be closed. Amongst those joining the campaign for closure is ex-President Jimmy Carter, and this week the Washington Post reported that a recent poll indicated that for the first time since the war in Iraq began, over 50% of the public believed the conflict had not made Americans safer.

However, the tide has not totally turned against camp delta, as the Wall Street Journal review, and Amnesty's retraction of the "gulag" analogy testifies. There is also evidence that errors in reporting (such as the Newsweek debacle) is providing ammunition for the bush administration and its supporters.

Discussion in our morning meeting turned to questions over media responsibility and influence, a subject covered by the BBC’s John Simpson here . Godfrey Hodgson also has an interesting article on the effect of recent scandals and errors in reporting on the mainstream American media. He sees a mainstream media in retreat, and notes that just as in the political scene, the resurgent conservative right is using recent scandal to push the more liberal left into decline.

June 9, 2005 | Permalink


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Grace - how exactly was the 'Newsweek debacle' down to 'errors in reporting'?

They reported a government source saying that a Koran had been flushed down the toilet. Afer publication, the source retracted his statement, and then a couple of weeks later we have this:

"American jailers at the Guantanamo prison for foreign terrorism suspects splashed a Koran with urine, kicked and stepped on the Islamic holy book and soaked it with water, the U.S. military said on Friday."

There are two good perspectives on this here:

Posted by: Robin Grant | 9 Jun 2005 16:03:40

Robin - thanks for your comments, and apologies for my ambiguous prose.

I agree it seems that any minor infractions are being pounced upon as ammunition for the Bush administration's "assault on the media". Perhaps this is due to a combination of attack from the conservative right coupled with complacency in the established media?

E.J Dionne's article touches on many of the same points as an interesting piece on the state of the mainstream American media by Godfrey Hodgson: "Ideologues of the right, it seems, may write what they please: their opponents on the left are to be pilloried if they make the smallest mistake."

The full text is here:

Posted by: Grace | 10 Jun 2005 18:29:32

Indeed these 'errors in reporting' crop up rather too regularly.

The extent of mistreatment of Iraqi POWs by British soldiers was revealed after the Daily Mirror printed fake pictures.

Andrew Gilligan was sacked after stating Iraq's WMD could not be readied in 45 minutes.

There seems to be a pattern, if not a deliberate tactic, of false 'evidence' being published, and discredited, before the real, entirely identical, story comes out. This has the effect of making British people think that the Daily Mirror is at fault not the British war effort, and that Newsweek is at fault rather than US administration in Guantanemo. How convenient.

Posted by: Maz Cook | 16 Jun 2005 19:12:57

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