It is time somebody made CNN accountable. I guess for the moment that someone is me, a grandmother nearing her 78th birthday. I've got some bones to pick with this 24-7 news channel -- my anger has been building for a long time, and I must speak out.
CNN wields far too much power in its sway on the thinking and opinions of its viewers. And, it misuses its influence to the detriment of us all. it often distorts its presentations so that people watching are basically told -- well, there's no escaping it -- lies. The worldwide broadcasting giant twists and excises the news, thereby promoting a false vision of the daily events which impact our lives. How can we take appropriate action if we aren't given the truth?
The first time I realized that CNN was up to no good was in Oct. 29, 2002, when I saw the very first broadcast showing a boat load of approximately 200 Haitians seeking asylum from political persecution arriving in Key Biscayne near Miami. The boat couldn't dock, so the hungry, desperate people aboard jumped into the water in an effort to get ashore. I saw our uniformed police start attacking the Haitians, beating some of them on their heads with billy clubs. It was a horrific sight, and I couldn't believe this atrocity was occurring in my own country to ravaged people in urgent need of help.
Now glued to the set, I waited for further news. Shortly thereafter, CNN broadcast again the arrival of the boat, the attempts of the refugees to get on shore, and ... NOTHING ELSE!
In disbelief, I wondered what had happened to the footage of this outrage. I continued to watch, anticipating that the footage would be restored and that further developments would be aired. Although CNN repeatedly showed the film of the Haitians arriving and sloshing through the water to reach land, they NEVER AGAIN showed the video documentation of the police brutality. No police grabbing them, no billy club bashings.
Extremely upset, I tried every way I could think of to right this wrong. Being just an ordinary citizen, however, I had no access to power. But, still I tried. I called and emailed the Governor of Florida, its Senators and some of its Congressional representatives, telling them what I had witnessed and begging them to grant the Haitians asylum. After all, I reminded them, Cuban refugees arriving on our shores were allowed, for the most part, to remain.
The next day, I tried to contact the reporter who had covered the boat arrival for the New York Times but whose reportage had overlooked or omitted the police beatings. All my efforts yielded no results, except for one Florida elected official, a woman who, thank God, had also seen the original CNN broadcast and subsequent ones omitting the brutality and could, therefore, confirm that I wasn't a crazy given to hallucinations. I even tried to contact Al Sharpton. I couldn't get to him directly, but one of his staff people said he was going to Florida. I contacted an associate of Jonathan Demme, the film director, who had done some documentary work about Haiti, and whose representative assured me he would be concerned.
As far as I know, none of my efforts yielded any results. I never heard another thing, not any expose of the assault on the Haitians, and eventually they were returned to Haiti. To my knowledge, CNN has never been held accountable for this breach of journalistic ethics and has continued through the years to enjoy a solid reputation for honest and thorough coverage of the news.
I did my best to avoid CNN thereafter, my outrage still gnawing at me and, now, years later as I write this, its deliberate twisting of the assault on the Haitian freedom seekers still deeply troubling me. Those half-starved persecuted people hoping for escape into freedom being physically assailed by our own goons and then forcibly returned to a fate one doesn't want to contemplate is just simply heart-breaking. (Go peddle your inhumane propaganda somewhere else, Lou Dobbs, you shameless elitist.)
But, when George Bush and his gang decided to bomb Iraq, I tuned in once again to observe this black mark on civilization. To my horror, CNN featured the Shock and Awe bombardment of Baghdad as if it were promoting the latest blockbuster movie. Watch the sky fill with flames and smoke, everybody! Hear the ear-splitting booms of the bombs as they destroy the City! See its citizens massacred! And, be sure and tune in tomorrow for the latest installment as we demolish a whole population!
This is objective news? More like cheerleading, I say. Where were the CNN voices of conscience questioning the validity of our attack on a country meaning us no harm? Where were the truth tellers sorting through the scheming lies about WMDs to reveal the ugly reality beneath?
You excised the truth from your coverage of the Haitian boat people so that the public would be denied the fact of our hideous mistreatment and cruelty to a helpless multitude. And, later, you glamorized and beat the drums for a war which destabilized the entire world.
Hat tip to antiwar.com.
Joan Wile is a member of Granny Peace Brigade and author of "Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace" (May 2008, Citadel Press)