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29551: Leiderman: comment: "P-au-P Bank Guard Erupts in Gunfire..." (fwd)

Stuart Leiderman <leiderman@mindspring.com>

20 November 2006

Dear Readers:

I think the weekend's AP newsarticle [Shots Fired at Anti - U.N. Rally in Haiti, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Haiti-UN-Protest-Shooting.html, New York Times, November 18, 2006] about an anti-UN demonstration in Port-au-Prince stinks of all kinds of prejudice, propaganda and departure from good journalism.

The headline "Shots Fired..." is totally in the passive case, similar to when people talk about the weather or the invisible hand of laissez-faire economics.  But the writer(s) distinctly reported that witnesses identified the shooter.  The article would have had a completely different significance to readers if it were headed in the active case and more accurately, "Bank Guard Fires on Students..."  And, as the students were identified as from the "state-run" University of Haiti, why doesn't the article give the name of the bank the guard was securing?

Then, there's "Gunfire rang out..." and "gunfire erupted..."   Compared to what was reported in the article, that's hyperbole, one of the most offensive kinds of propaganda techniques.  To me, gunfire means a period of sustained shooting, not shots from a gun.  My American Heritage Dictionary agrees; it says gunfire is "the firing of guns."  That means more than one gun.  AP journalists do not identify more than one shooter with one gun.

Then, the article says protesters "came upon three U.N. civilian police officers."  Hmm, what do U.N. civilian police officers look like?  Do they wear suits or checkered pants and polo shirts instead of uniforms?  Do they wear Panama straws instead of blue helmets? Do they have business cards instead of handcuffs?  Although the text indicates that more than one journalist was present, there's no photo in the NY Times article to show what these officers look like.  Don't AP reporters carry cameras?

Then, the writer(s) zoom in on the scene...no longer are they "U.N. civilian police officers," but "protesters chase after the Filipino officers and throw rocks..."  Did the journalist know they were Filipino at the time? or only later from what spokesman Fred Blaze told them?  Are we to surmise that Haitian students are selectively aggressive towards "officers", or just towards "civilian officers" or just toward "Filipino officers"?  This poor journalism and editorial oversight loads the moment and the article in very untoward ways, unnecessarily throwing more bullets on the gunfire that's Port-au-Prince.

Lastly, there's the writer(s) parting shot that selectively characterize the University of Haiti as "state-run" when all kinds of other modifiers could have been chosen.  This is a typical "guilt by association" technique used by propagandists, whether they be journalists, teachers, politicians, bankers or businessmen.  At minimum, this choice of words implies a) the Government of Haiti wants the United Nations removed and b) the GoH is using or is in league with their "state-run" University students as agents provocateur.  if that's true, it's the stuff of a follow-up investigation -- you don't just drop that kind of implication at the end of an article and walk away -- but I hope not something AP will assign to these particular writer(s).

Okay, class dimissed...

Thank you,

Stuart Leiderman