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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Press Bias? Journalists' Union Contends Saddam Not So Bad

CLEVELAND (TDB) -- The editor of the Guild Reporter, the official publication of the union that represents newspaper reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post, Cleveland Plain Dealer and many other U.S. dailies, is now calling Iraq a ''formerly egalitarian society." It is an unusual choice of words considering that Webster's NewWorld Dictionary -- commonly available in American newsrooms -- defines egalitarian to mean: Advocating or characterized by the belief that all men should have equal political, social, and economic rights.

How could Andy Zipser, the editor, have so quickly forgotten that Saddam Hussein was a dictator who ran a one-party police state? Zipser's keyboard riff about a once-egalitarian Iraq looks to be the left-wing equivalent of the fringe right-wing's canard that an enormous cache of WMDs still remains concealed Out-There-Somewhere. (To believe there are WMDs, one has to have faith that Saddam would hide them better than himself).

Zipser's comment showed up in the current edition of the Guild Reporter, which landed in my mailbox Saturday, December 23. [Full Disclosure: I have been a member of the Newspaper Guild for 25 years]. It seems destined to offer aid and comfort to those who think print journalists wear their biases on their sleeves, and that they have conspired to successfully wage a deft proganda campaign which has gnawed away support for the war. Zipser was writing about Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian newswoman who was shot by American soldiers, and her new book Friendly Fire, which recounts the incident and goes on to show how the War in Iraq has failed to turn that nation into a model society.

Zipser says, ''The killing of women who endured abuse at Abu Gharib -- some of whom killed themselves, before anyone else could 'avenge' the dishonor, Sgrena reports -- are only the most extreme example of growing religious intolerance that has converted a formerly egalitarian society into a misogynistic one."

Misogynistic means woman-hating, or oppressive against females.

But here's what Amnesty International reports about Iraq, gender-equality and the old regime, which for a time allowed some rights to a Ba'ath Party women's organization while closing down independent groups that did not favor a one-party state: ''The 1980s and 1990s, however, saw the gradual erosion of many of the gains made by women under the massive and systematic human rights violations committed under the government of Saddam Hussein (1979-2003)."

And: "Under the government of Saddam Hussein, women were subjected to gender-specific abuses, including rapes and other forms of sexual violence, as poltical activists, relatives of activists or members of certain ethnic or religious groups."

And: ''An accusation of prostitution was reportedly used as a pretext to behead Najat Mohammad Haydar, an obstetrician in Baghdad, in October 2000. She was alleged to have been detained for criticizing corruption in the health services before the policy to behead prostitutes was introduced."


  1. Is your blog for those who work and formerly worked in the news? Who cares about Zipser's terminology? Only a reporter would! He certainly does sway my opinion of Sadam. Is not George Bush similar to Sadam? How many people have to die over in Iraq?

    Sloat, get more agressive!

  2. What's the point of writing a blog if you don't include links? Is it that you don't know how or don't want your readers to access the original source material? Here's the Zipser article:

    A closer reading will show that Bill Sloat pulled a couple of words with which he disagreed and from that extrapolated a dubious conclusion about "left wing" press bias.

    Muddled thinking, muddled writing.

  3. I read the article and nowhere does it say that "Saddam is not so bad." In this article, the word egalitarian is used to described equality between the sexes that at least existed in most homes before the war. Domestic violence has increased dramatically as a result of the American invasion of Iraq. Amnesty International has plenty of articles supporting the fact that the increasing religious intolerance has led to violence against women. Why take such an important issue for women and trivialize it by arguing over a single word that you chose to put your own spin on?

  4. Thanks for your opinions!! I haven't changed my mind that was incorrect for Andy to describe Iraq before the invasion as a ''formerly egalitarian society." It was a police state ruled by a despot, and women were oppressed like everyone else. The Guild itself operates in the United States -- a much freer society than Iraq has ever been before or since the war -- and has a human rights and equity committee to keep an eye on human and civil rights activities here (and around the world). And, once again, let's look at the Saddam-era record re: women's rights. This is from Amnesty International: ''Following the 1990-91 Gulf War, the government consolidated its power through alliances with conservative religious leaders and powerful tribal chiefs. A process of Islamization in Iraqi society took place alongside a trend in the region at large. An obvious indication of this development was the growing number of women wearing the veil."

    And this: "During and after failed uprisings in 1991 by the Kurds and Shi'a in the North and South of Iraq respectively, thousands of people, including women and children, were killed by government forces. Women and children were also widely reported to have been used by government forces as 'human shields' in government operations to quell both uprisings, and to have been killed in cross-fire between the security forces and insurgents."

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Press bias indeed. Bill Sloat deleted comment 6:55 for political and opinion content. It contained no foul language and simply referenced information Sloat himself had posted.

    Apparently Sloat was better-suited to the one-way conversation he had as a reporter for the Plain Dealer. He doesn't like it when readers have a forum to share their opinions about him in public. Could you ask for a better example of the divide between honest bloggers and old-line reporters like Sloat who get put out to pasture, then think they can easily make the transition to blogging?

    Given this situation, an honest blogger would open the subject to debate, which might spark some lively debate. But this blog is not about debate, it's about control.

  7. Anon,10:27

    Sigh. You have made it quite clear how you feel about blog bias here. But we don't know much else about you except you like to stop by and rattle my cage. Any opinions besides Bill Sloat is a jerk & etc?

  8. Any opinions besides Bill Sloat is a jerk

    Let's see if I've got this straight. First you delete opinions you don't like, then you ask for opinions?

    If someone called you names, that's childish and reasonable grounds for deleting comments. But that's not what happened here. You deleted a comment presumably because you didn't want anyone else to read a point of view which took you to task for your stated political position. That's censorship and it's un-American.

    If you can't stand the heat, shut down all comments and bloviate to your heart's content a la Rush Limbaugh. Want to play fair? Let your critics speak and answer them honestly. Who knows, you might even learn something.

  9. Sigh again. I see you are still on the jerk thing.

  10. A journalist describing Iraq as a "formerly egalitarian society" is a journalist whose judgment cannot be trusted.