The Guardian must love assassination stories
However, Campbell has apparently decided that his previous article didn’t do quite enough to smear Bush with Robertson’s nuttiness, and so today he’s given it another go. The article begins thus:
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela hit back vigorously at calls by an ally of President George Bush for his assassination by offering cheap petrol to the poor of the US at a time of soaring fuel prices.Again, this is the introductory sentence. So, having failed to actually identify the person who made the assassination call, but noting that, whoever it was, it was an “ally” of Bush, Campbell clearly feels it is more important to implant the association between Bush and the assassination comment than to inform his audience who actually said it. It is only after this that we are introduced to Pat Robertson himslef.
Campbell then goes on to inform us:
The Bush administration tried to distance itself from Mr Robertson's views without upsetting the large Christian fundamentalist wing which the veteran evangelist represents.What does he mean “tried to” distance itself? First of all, Robertson is a private citizen, and is not now, nor has he ever been, a spokesman for the administration in any capacity at all, either officially or unofficially. So there is no reason to presume that the administration would be “close” to Robertson’s views in the first place. But, lest there be any doubt, this is what the administration had to say about those views:
This is not the policy of the United States government. We do not share his views…Any accusations or any idea that we are planning to take hostile action against Venezuela or the Venezuelan government - any ideas in that regard - are totally without fact and baseless. – State Department spokesman Sean McCormackThe fact that the administration “does not share his views” and “doesn’t do that kind of thing” seems to put a distinct chasm of “distance” between Bush and Robertson’s views. But Campbell, who quotes only the second half of Rumsfeld’s statement and none of McCormack’s, presents it as only an attempt to create distance which, by implication, may or may not have succeeded.
Our department doesn't do that kind of thing. It's against the law. He's a private citizen. Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time.– Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Campbell also claims that, in disavowing Robertson’s comments, the administration was wary of “upsetting” his religious supporters. This is pernicious and deceptive for a couple of reasons. First of all, there is no ambiguity or shading in the administration’s statements that would suggest it is concerned about the consequences of distancing itself from the comments. Campbell has presented no reason at all for him believing that such a motivation existed. It is mere speculation presented as fact.
But far worse is the implicit presumption that the “large Christian fundamentalist wing” itself embraces Robertson’s comments, and would therefore be upset with Bush for condemning them. What evidence is there of this? Again, Campbell has presented no reason for thinking that anyone, let alone the entire “Christian fundamentalist wing”, supports Robertson’s view. Such a conclusion can only have come from his own personal prejudices, which he is attempting (consciously or not) to plant into the minds of his readers.
This is not particularly overt bias, and it may not even be intentional (although I am doubtful about that). But this is precisely the way in which The Guardian so often spins its stories and subtly impresses its own prejudices into its audience. It is also the type of thing that editors exist to ferret out of news stories. At responsible news organizations, that is.
BTW, speaking of calls for assassinations, I seem to recall a certain London daily publishing an article which itself called for the assassination of a country's president. It has since deleted the article from its site, and replaced it with an apology from the author, who claims it was all just a hilarious joke, and with which the daily says it "associates" itself. Of course, its "association" with a disavowal of any call to assassinate President Bush might carry a bit more weight if it had not itself solicited readers' views on the burning issue of "Is it time to assassinate George Dubya Bush?" a year earlier (now also deleted, albeit sans apology.) Anyone remember which newspaper that might have been?