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We Have Met the Enemy…

July 23rd, 2005 - 10:40 pm

Clear, unbiased reporting from The New York Times on the London Police killing of Jean Charles de Menezes:

When Mr. Menezes began to enter the station, witnesses said, he was surrounded by plainclothes officers who shouted at him to stop.

According to the police accounts, the officers identified themselves and were suspicious partly because he was wearing a bulky jacket in the summer weather, suggesting that he was concealing something.

Mr. Menezes ran. He jumped over the turnstile, ran down an escalator and stumbled into a train, where he fell face down. Witnesses said the police then shot him five times in the head and neck, killing him.

Of course, you had to read down to the eighth graf to get to the part I quoted. Before that, you get lines like:

…Friday morning, Jean Charles de Menezes became another innocent casualty of London’s terrorist wars…

…the incident brought fresh horror to Londoners who look at Mr. Menezes and see their sons, their brothers or themselves.

“We are not safe here.”

Mr. Pereira described his cousin as friendly, open, fluent in English, hopeful about life in London and busy with work.

“He would never have done anything to anyone.”

And how does the story end? Like so:

“I feel it’s unfair if a person is nervous and feels unsafe and sees so many police with guns and stuff,” she said. “Something can happen just because you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Well, no. “Something can happen” if you run from the police, just days after a terror bombing, right towards the terrorist’s favorite target.

Nowhere does reporter Sarah Lyall talk to the police, not even to tell us if they refused to comment. Instead, they’re painted as faceless killers, silent except to institutionally “express regret” for the “tragedy.”

Indeed, this is a tragic story. But Lyall chose to tell only one side of it – and that as virtual hagiography. Lyall sandwiched a dry version of what “police accounts” say happened, in between lurid quotes from the victim’s friends and family.

Of course, Lyall got help from two other reporters (one in London, one in Rio de Janeiro) and an untold number of editors. Best guess? At least five people were involved in putting together one seriously flawed story. Maybe it’s time for the NYT to fire a few editors, and put a single blogger on the payroll.

There’s a larger point here, and it’s this: the press takes stories like this one, and reports them like this, and then wonders why we don’t think they’re on board with this war. They wonder why we’re watching Fox News. Say what you will about Fox’s many faults, but at least FNC acts like an American company during wartime. Meanwhile, the NYT is doing its damnedest to paint Tony Blair’s Britain as a fascist police state.

Thanks for the help, fellas.

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