Public's Opposition to Afghan War Not Reflected in Op-Ed Debate

For Immediate Release

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Julie Hollar FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting)
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jhollar@fair.org

Public's Opposition to Afghan War Not Reflected in Op-Ed Debate

NEW YORK - After months of debate and deliberation, President Barack Obama plans
to announce tomorrow night yet another troop increase in Afghanistan.
But according to the most recent polling, 57 percent of the public
oppose the war while only 39 percent favor it (AP/Gfk, 11/5-9/09), and only 32 percent support a "surge"  (CBS, 11/13-16/09). Where have those voices of opposition been in the media during this long debate?

A newly released study in FAIR's magazine Extra!
finds that antiwar voices on Afghanistan War policy have been
marginalized on the op-ed pages of the country's two most powerful
newspapers during the first 10 months of the year: Out of 110 columns
in the New York Times and Washington Post discussing
military policy in Afghanistan, only 13--or 12 percent--called for
bringing the troops home from Afghanistan or clearly called into
question the need or rationale for the war. Other findings from the
study:

  • Of the New York Times' 43 columns on the war, 36 supported it and only 7 opposed it (a 5-to-1 imbalance); 5 of the 7 antiwar columns were penned by Times columnist Bob Herbert.
  • At the Washington Post, pro-war columns outnumbered antiwar columns by more than 10 to 1 (61 vs. 6).
  • Neither paper published a single column written by an antiwar activist or peace movement leader.

The only "debate" given full airing in the papers was over what kind of war to wage: Washington Post
columns were split, 31-30, between pro-escalation views and voices
urging alternate military strategies (including troop reductions and a
greater focus on drone attacks), while at the Times, 14 favored some form of escalation and 22 argued for pursuing the war differently.

Post
columnist Fareed Zakaria (9/14/09) voiced what seemed to be the papers'
consensus on the subject: "It is time to get real about Afghanistan.
Withdrawal is not a serious option." The one-sided media debate does
not seem to have convinced the American public of that.

"One can only imagine what public opinion would be, and what policy
might result, if these papers truly offered a wide-ranging debate on
the Afghanistan War," concluded study author Steve Rendall, FAIR's
senior analyst.

The study is available at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3949 .

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FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.

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