Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Political Lession 101- Media Manipulation in Your Favor

AN August 27 report released by the United Nations claims that Afghanistan's opium production has again reached record levels, despite $600 million contributed by the US to stem the farming of the poppy crop in that country. Moreover, the Taliban, once the scourge of poppy growers in Afghanistan, are said to now be protecting the crops as a means of raising funds for their continued insurgency. Ironically, the US once promoted opium production by the tribal leaders and warlords in Afghanistan's north as a means of raising funds to continue their insurgency against the USSR takeover of that country--and later against the Taliban (which the US ushered into rule there in the first place).
One news story on UN's report particularly caught my eye. It was the Aug. 28 New York Times story, in which the reporter noted that "Afghanistan still produces more [opium] than Colombia, Peru and Bolivia combined."
In the very next sentence the reporter notes that Afghanistan "accounts for 93 percent of the world’s opium..."
Now the actual UN report said that Afghanistan produces more 'narcotics' than the three Andean countries, but the Times didn't include that. So, going by the Times story, given that Mynamar (nee Burma), Mexico, Pakistan, China and India also produce commercial quantities of opium, how much of the 7 percent of the opium not produced by Afghanistan might be produced in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia? One percent of the world share each? Less? Okay, if that’s the math, then how on earth can it be said that Afghanistan produces more than Colombia, Bolivia and Peru. That's not more, it’s at least 93 times more than any of those three countries.
So why put that in there if it's such a ridiculous comment to make?
Well, and here's the political lession: It was put into the Times story to keep the Andean countries involved in Plan Colombia and the Andean Initiative on the tip of the tongue right next to the words opium production, from which heroin derives. To keep Plan Colombia and the Andean Initiative coca-plant eradication money rolling in. No matter that coca and opium are worlds apart. No matter that the story makes it clear that those three countries produce only an infantessimal amount of opium. That's a detail most readers miss. What was important was to get those countries named in a story about hard drugs and by extention, terrorism.
And the NY Times fell for it. Infuckingcredible. Way to bend over and take one for the Feds, Gray Lady.

One of the comments asked which companies were benefitting from Plan Colombia and Andian Initiative. Someone else asked how a line like that might have ended up in the TIMES story.
Here's the response off the top of my head. Smarter men could be more specific but this is one prong of the fork.
DynCorp and Halliburton are the two biggest recipients of Plan Colombia/Andean Initiative funding that I know of. But then there is the company that makes GLyphosate--the name of which I'm drawing a blank on this second but which has traditionally had many US govt. contracts. Then there are the arms makers, with whose arms we are arming the armies down there. Then there are the covert cartels whose black-market monies the US government needs to keep its unfunded black-ops (as opposed to its funded black-ops) funded....hmmmm. Then there are the oil and mineral companies who not only stand to make a great deal from these places, but who hire the companies whose men protect those oil lines (some are US troops; others are generally former troops hired as...well, mercenaries, for lack of a better word) who also make a great deal. Toss in Lockheed Martin and the jets needed in the region, Bell Helicopter, and by gosh, you've got a smorgasboard of US companies each taking a piece of a very large pie.
As to how the line gets in the story, well, the word "narcotics" not 'Opium" was in the UN report. Normally an editor, in my experience, wouldn't add a line like that, but might suggest that the writer had missed something potentially important. EX: "X, do you realize that Afghanistan is now producing more opium than Colombia, Peru and Bolivia combined? That might be something to mention to give the story a tag that readers can relate to."
That would be an agregious error but possibly human.Really nothing more nefarious than that. But the writer, if he didn't put the line in him/herself, and if he/she is under deadline and not thinking clearly, will generally go along with his/her editor in order to minimize arguments in the newsroom.
Now even the editor might not realize, under deadline, that they're being manipulated or simply equated "narcotics" with "opium". The whole reference might have come about when a congressman or senator or an aid to one or the other, called the Times heirarchy and noted that there was something important in the UN report that they wanted to be sure the Times didn't miss. That might start the ball rolling.
And even the Times higher-up who got the heads-up didn't realize they were being manipulated. Given all the ink that Colombia, Bolivia and Peru have gotten for their newish poppy fields, on first glance it might seem something to include. It's only if you take a step back and see that 8-9 countries are now being held responsible for 7 percent of the world's opium traffic that you notice that this is a red herring.
And if you have been following things and know that the opium yield in Afghanistan is sufficient to supply the world for nearly 10 years with each year's crop, then you know that the other countries are irrelevent at this time. Their opium is mostly being stockpiled, in Newark, in South Carolina, in Wyoming and elsewhere, for some future time when there is a clampdown on Afghanistan.
It's mostly just round and round the mulburry bush and little else. Everyone needs the money from the illicit trade. That's a fact of life in a capitalist world. Cash still counts despite everyone using credit cards. And dope is cash. Twenty-dollar bills. Unmarked. Spend them where you want to.
Step right up.
Step right up.
Three for a dolla.
Three for a dolla.
Step right up.

BILL WEINBERG, a fantastic reporter and my former partner in the hard news section of High Times magazine who runs World War 4 REPORT (WW4REPORT.COM) has posted my original post here on his site and added this commentary at
Did Gorman shame the Times into correcting an error? The story by David Rohde in the Aug. 28 print edition states clearly: "...the amount of land in Afghanistan used for opium production is now larger than the amount of land used for coca cultivation in all Latin America." But a Google News search for the offending text (sans clarifying reference to coca) indicates that it appears (verbatim) in the Detroit Free Press. Strangely, Rohde's piece also shows up on the Google search—yet the reference to the Andean nations does not appear in the actual text. This indicates the text was there when the Google-bots first crawled it, but has since been removed. The Free Press presumably picked it up from the Times before it was removed. The version of Rohde's piece in the International Herald Tribune states (correctly) that "Afghanistan still produces more narcotics than Colombia, Peru and Bolivia combined." (Emphasis added.)

So are the folks at Times (whose garbled Mexico coverage we recently had to call out) reading Peter Gorman's blog? We didn't think they were that smart!


esoter1c said...

The CIA has been using that opium money for decades. The Taliban eradicated all that, that's why yhey went in there to take them out under the pretense of looking for Osama and fighting terrorism. Now there's 10 times the poppy fields there ever were now that the Talibans gone. It's not the Taliban making money for the insurgency, It's the US. This Neo-Con Judeo-Christian war on Islam is the only thing on any news station. All day everyday TERROR TERROR TERROR. Makes me wretch when people say "Oh it's a war for oil." & think they got it all sussed out cause they watch tv. Try it's a 2,000 year old holy war, race war, land war, economic war and pretty much any other word you can throw in front of war. I'm just waiting for the next "Terra Attack" to give the US an excuse to blame Iran and initiate the draft they've been talking about so eloquently lately.
US better wake up to the "Wag the dog" propaganda or there will be no more US.

/End Rant

Phoenix said...

What I want to know is the mechanism for that line ending up in the article. Does the editor of the Times get a kickback from the Plan Columbia adminstrators. Or the reporter. Or did some federal agent contact the times with the facts and ask them to write a piece? Also it would be interesting to know what american companies benefit directly or most probably indirectly from this cash flow.

p.s. did you mean lesson not lession?

bamboo said...

Coup d'etats, terrorism aside, all that heroin gets pumped into the north american (read poor minority) communities, as well as the coca aka crack. Great job, fund a war and eradicate,confine and oppress your own "inconvenient" people all in one foul swoop, all whilst padding the wallet.

John said...

Nice one Gorman. How many of these types of things do I absorb daily without managing to notice?

This is done to program the public.