In order to provide an intelligent assessment of Accuracy in Media's agenda and character, it is only proper and fitting that we begin with AIM's self-proclaimed motives as our baseline. To that end, we shall examine some choice quotations from the official AIM FAQ:
What is Accuracy in Media(AIM)?
Accuracy In Media is a non-profit, grassroots citizens watchdog of the news media that critiques botched and bungled news stories and sets the record straight on important issues that have received slanted coverage.
This sounds noble enough in its intentions, perhaps leading some uninitiated people to confuse AIM with FAIR. However, the use of populist phraseology in very ambiguous ways - "botched", "bungled", "sets the record straight" - may compel some to question the plausibility of this claim.
What is the goal of AIM?
We encourage members of the media to report the news fairly and objectively--without resorting to bias or partisanship.
This is a curiously short but condensed statement of principle, that leaves one with the feeling that something is missing. It is useful here to take note of the fact that no definition or guideline for "fair" and "objective" reporting of news is presented to the reader, except the implied suggestion that "bias" may somehow, somewhere play a role in making news reports un-objective. The mere suggestion that media can behave in a "fair" and "objective" way in terms of some rigid metric seems to betray a rather simplistic and handicapped understanding of the role of mass- information in our society, or perhaps a willful ignorance of it.
A person versed in American mainstream political rhetoric is also likely to pick up on the significance of the word "partisanship". Partisanship is a catch-all euphemism for opposition, even of the most compromising and pragmatic kind.
It is often useful and relatively easy to discredit opposition on the grounds that it is a question of "party line" or "pure politics", rather than somehow being meaningful or legitimate.
It is one of the most loaded words that exists in the lexicon of mainstream "politics". For example, when Democratic
elected officials call into question the necessity of certain Republican "national security" legislation (particularly in the wake of 11 September), this opposition is denounced abusively by conservative punditry as unnecessary and even immature "partisanship" or "playing the politics game". When Bush's judicial nominees for the federal court system are scrutinised by the Senate committee charged with confirming
them, this is "partisanship".
Despite opposition and polemic being the most basic ingredients of a democratic society, the appearance of a speck of opposition is often spun as unnecessary and even unjust. The political climate created by 11 September has only made such nonsense more palatable to the people. Therefore, it is prudent to develop an ear sensitive to words that reference a very specific concept but are used in very ambiguous ways.
It may be useful to draw a comparison to the mission statement of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), which offers a more elaborate statement of
principle that lacks this deceptive character:
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. As an anti-censorship organization, we expose neglected news stories and defend working journalists when they are muzzled. As a progressive group, FAIR believes that structural reform is ultimately needed to break up the dominant media conglomerates, establish independent public broadcasting and promote strong non-profit sources of information.
But this comparison is really a digression, so let us continue with the AIM FAQ.
How do you know the media are biased?
All the major media surveys for the past 20 years have shown that 80 to 90 percent of the mainstream media consistently vote for Democrats.
Ah. Now we're getting somewhere.
But how do you know the media's political opinions influence their reporting?
Many of them are actually admitting it these days. They admit they're anti- business, pro-big government, anti-family and anti-religion. A couple of years ago, CBS commentator Bernard Goldberg caused quite a stir by saying in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece that he couldn't believe people were actually still arguing about whether or not the media were liberal, because it was so obviously true.
Suddenly, Accuracy in Media emerges as belonging to one of the mysterious sectors of society that perpetuates this mythology of "liberal media" with a straight face. We often hear sarcastic jokes and biting satire about "liberal media", but
few things in the mainstream have the quality of a polished Orwellian contradiction such as that found in FOX News, NBC, CBS, or CNN being accused of coverage that is "biased" to the "liberal" or "left" side. In the post-11 September era, this
nonsense often appears in the form of an indictment against
major sources of mass- information for coverage of the almighty War on Terror that is "anti-American" or "insufficiently pro-American". It's anyone's guess how such tenacious adherence to official propaganda and reinforcement of barriers that keep the spectrum of "acceptable opinion" in check ... can be called "anti-American", "unpatriotic", or anything else of the sort.
In fact, AIM would probably have an answer for you.
AIM was founded in 1969 by Reed Irvine, who was an economist with the US Federal Reserve Board at the time. An essential glimpse into AIM's history is provided by a well-researched Group Watch report published in 1989, brought to us courtesy of The Public Eye.
The report states that in its early history in the mid-1970s, AIM amounted to little more than Reed Irvine and then-Executive Secretary Abraham Kalish attempting to call attention to themselves. They sent letters to numerous newspaper editors that espoused their "cause" of fairness, accuracy, and balance in media reports. If the newspaper failed to publish their letters, Irvine and Kalish would purchase space in the offending paper and print their letters in that slot. By 1975, AIM was able to purchase stock in major media outlets, which allowed them to attend shareholder meetings and promote their "cause" there also.
In this article, then-Communications director Bernard Yoh is quoted as saying of AIM, "people erroneously call us conservative and right-wing. It really makes me sad because we try very hard to do everything evenhandedly."
Unfortunately, AIM is worse than that. It is not only a right-wing and "conservative" organ, but it also claims to be your one-stop source for "accuracy" and bias-corrected information. This is different from say, claiming to espouse "traditional", "patriotic", or "American" viewpoints. This is a serious case of grand deception.
On AIM's numerous right-wing ties, a direct quote from the article is most appropriate:
AIM has intimate ties with many conservative causes. As an example, AIM heads the list of groups attending the 1986 Conservative Political Action Conference. The group also has a predisposition to attack journalists that write about and seem sympathetic to leftist and even centrist movements. AIM has a record of supporting Nicaraguan contra leaders such as Jose Francisco Cardenal. AIM also supports the Committee for a Free Afghanistan, a U. S. group that has backed the Afghan rebels beginning in 1981.
AIM, and Reed Irvine in particular, has all the essential attributes of the militant right wing. AIM delivers its gospel of "accuracy" to the heathen through a daily radio commentary, a newspaper column, and a bi-monthly newsletter, as well as various other conduits. A few selected gems from AIM's colourful history reveal them to be an entourage of lunatics whose sanity some might be inclined to bring into question:
- Attacking the "blatantly pro-Communist propaganda" of PBS (public television network). (Link)
- In AIM's first year, Irvine stated that Students
For a Democratic Society, the Progressive Labor Party, and a
number of other organisations should be charged with sedition
in light of the Vietnam War. "If you're going to halt treason, you've got to do it while it's small," Irvine explained to the Village Voice in 1968. (Link)
- In 1982, AIM successfully instigated the firing of Raymond
Bonner from the New York Times for reporting the massacre of civilians by American-trained soldiers at the village of El Mozote in El Salvador.
- Irvine encouraged the use of napalm against Salvadoran gorillas in AIM Reports such as this one.
- Irvine also encouraged the use of nuclear weapons against Iraq during the Persian Gulf crisis.
- In an odd departure from the mainstream conservative
line about the Kosovo intervention of 1999, Irvine slandered a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter for allegedly inventing
the story about a 1999 Serb-led massacre in Kosovo. This is very strange, since the establishment is generally quite interested in implicating the Serbs and exaggerating the dimensions and unilateralism of their atrocities against the Kosovar Albanians. In addition, the massacre in question occured before the NATO bombing campaign began, thus making it even a more precious ideological gem for the militant right since claims that NATO bombing precipitated the process can be deflected.
But not Irvine. His reasoning was simple - Clinton used this
made-up massacre as a part of his justification for the NATO bombing campaign. Apparently Clinton-hating was more important than being consistent or even rational in respect to the party line. Fortunately, Irvine was forced to write a retraction, eventually. Though, it's very funny retraction, considering the retraction itself is buried beneath a wealth of irrelevant nonsense.
- At CBS shareholder meetings, Irvine frequently denounced
Walter Cronkite as a Soviet pawn. At a 1986 meeting, Irvine requested that Cronkite be removed from the CBS board of directors for his [alleged] support of unilateral disarmament.
Or, in short, AIM does not seem to be concerned with attacking sources of "media bias" nearly as much as drowning any voices
it finds ideologically objectionable in a sea of abuse and
calls for censorship.
There is substantial evidence that AIM, like any self-respecting conservative organisation, derives a significant portion of its livelyhood from wealthy corporate backers, including Mobil Oil, the Adolph Coors Foundation, and
a host of others. AIM does not seem particularly inclined to disclose the sources of their contributions.
Of course, AIM's essential elite aren't too shabby themselves,
since most of them have backgrounds in intelligence. Reed Irvine served in Marine Intelligence during the Second World War, Abraham Kalish taught at the Defense Intelligence School, and Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under infamous President Nixon, was also involved with AIM. And the now-deceased Bernard Yoh has perhaps the most spectacular background of all, being a professor of psychological warfare at Air Force University in Montgomery, Alabama. He was also an advisor to South Vietnamese president Ngo Dien Diem during the 1950s, and advised right-wing generals in the 1964 military coup that toppled President Goulart of Brazil.
This is a very sinister organisation with a very ironic name. Either that, or they just adhere to a somewhat warped definition of "accuracy".