Richard Moore

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Date: Tue, 14 Dec 1999 21:41:20 EST
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by Jared Israel

[Note from www.emperors-clothes.com Readers are encouraged
to distribute this article but please do so in full, with
credit to emperors-clothes.com. Thank you.]

On December 9, AP issued a news report about a Seattle City
Council meeting in which citizens protested police behavior
during the World Trade Organization protests. I read this AP
dispatch quickly but it bothered me so I read it again, and
then once more, carefully, and found what seemed to be a
deliberate effort at misinformation. (Either deliberate or
these guys got very lucky.)

Let's look at the AP piece together.

It begins with the following headline: "Seattle Police
Actions Questioned"

Studies of how people read newspapers confirm what common
sense suggests: if a group of people are given a newspaper,
some will look at a particular headline and some won't; a
smaller number will read the first paragraph of the article
but no more; an even smaller number will read the second
paragraph and so on, with more and more dropping away as
they move toward the end.

Even for those who read the entire text, the headline has a
big impact. It lingers in the imagination, suggesting a
certain tone, coloring the story.

What about this particular headline: "Seattle police actions
QUESTIONED"? (my capitals)

What does "QUESTIONED" suggest?

Don't we use the verb "to question" to administer a mild
rebuke? For example, would you say, "I questioned the
mugger's right to break my wife's jaw"? Would you say, "The
policeman pulled off the non-violent protester's gas mask,
sprayed pepper gas in his face at point-blank range and
rubbed it into his eyes. I questioned his behavior"?

By saying police behavior is being "questioned", the
headline sets a gentle tone. It suggests that people may be
concerned but not terribly upset. I'm OK, you're OK,
everybody's friends.

The first paragraph continues along these lines, creating a
gentle ambiance:

"DETRACTORS far outnumbered defenders of police at a special
City Council meeting on the handling of protests surrounding
the World Trade Organization meeting." (My capitals.)

"Detractors" and "Defenders" - nice, very balanced. What's a
detractor, by the way? Isn't a detractor a gentle critic?

For example, mightn't one say: "Her detractors commented
that she was too old for that outfit." But mightn't one be
viewed askance (perhaps even questioned) if one said:
"Charles Manson's detractors thought he should have been


People generally read news stories to satisfy their
curiosity. But what is left to wonder after this first
paragraph? Doesn't it suggest that nothing much happened at
the City Council?

It does. The suggestion is false. Reading on, we are
informed that:

"Kathy Cado, alarmed that her husband had been tear-gassed
on his way home from work, told the hearing she ventured to
the city's embattled Capitol Hill neighborhood last week to
witness for herself the clash between protesters and police.

"'What I saw was as frightening as anything I've ever seen
in my life,'" Cado said. "It was a cross between Star Wars
and Tiananmen Square."

"At the hearing that drew an overflow crowd Wednesday, Cado
and others described police officers indiscriminately
tossing tear gas canisters at not only the demonstrators
they were trying to disperse, but also at residents out
shopping, dining and walking their dogs...

"Speakers particularly took police to task for their actions
the night of Dec. 1 in the Capitol Hill neighborhood east of
downtown - first for forcing demonstrators in that direction
from downtown, and then taking aggressive actions that
included firing tear gas and pepper spray.

"'I basically think they were treating residents of Capitol
Hill like animals,' said Clark Pickett." (AP dispatch)

"As frightening as anything I've ever seen in my life" - ?!

Would you describe Cathy Cado's remarks as "questioning" the
police? Is Clark Picket a "detractor"? What's going on here?
Is the AP scrambling stories? Mix and match? Did they take
the headline and first paragraph from the report on a ruckus
over Christmas tree lights at a Seattle-area PTA and stick
them on the City Council piece?

Let's do some editing, change a word here, a word there and
voila, here's the headline and the first paragraph:

"Seattle Residents Denounce Police" "Attackers far
outnumbered defenders of police at a special City Council
meeting on the handling of protests surrounding the World
Trade Organization meeting."

Isn't that better? Doesn't it suggest what actually


By using the inaccurate opening, the AP sends busy readers
away with impressions diluted. Remember, readers tend to
skim news articles, not study them. They will recall the
mild tone of the headline and opening paragraph; if they
read further they may remember that some people were upset
but that impression will be tempered by the first
impression, of mild criticism. The contradictory impressions
will tend to cancel.


As if to further dilute readers' awareness that Seattle
residents are furious at police, the AP (writer? editor?)
has inserted the following sentence in the text:

"The National Guard was called in and a curfew was imposed
AFTER some protesters smashed windows and slashed tires on
police cars." (my capitals)

I call this "Editorial Guidance". It's often found in
important news stories. I've written a lot about NATO's
bombing of Yugoslavia and occupation of Kosovo and I have
seen a good deal of "editorial guidance" in newspaper
articles about Serbia, wherein some accusation of Serbian
brutality is mandatory, especially if the article concerns
Albanian violence against Serbs and "Gypsies"; some guiding
phrase must be added to remind readers that such attacks are
"revenge for earlier Serbian violence."

The point of "editorial guidance" is to orient readers for a
proper information experience by protecting them from
conclusions that might follow, helter skelter, from mere
fact. For example, there are many news reports of Albanians
murdering aged Serbian women, children, non-Serbs who speak
languages that sound Serbian, and even one story reporting
Albanian demands that a dog be put to death because it was
(I kid you not) Serbian as opposed to Albanian(?!).

Now, presented with such raw info, an unguided mind might
wander into inappropriate areas such as:"Maybe these
Albanians are anti-Slav racists." The next thing you know
our reader is mired in SPECULATION: "If the Serbs are all
bad and the Albanians are all good and NATO bombed
Yugoslavia to forge multiethnic peace - why, since NATO
conquored Kosovo, has there been 5 months of unmitigated
violence against Serbs?" This kind of thinking will get you
nowhere since it calls into question the whole NATO
experience; therefore stories about Albanian terrorism must
include reminders that such mysterious attacks (such as, let
us say, the strangling of a 95 year old Serbian woman in her
bath or the driving of 30,000 residents from an immense
housing complex in Pristina after which the apartments are
sold or rented to UN employees) are "revenge for the brutal
policies of Milosevich's forces during the NATO bombing."
This makes everything clear and citizens of the Western
democracies can eat their MacFood in peace and leave the
thinking to machines.

The Seattle protesters have been getting a dose of the
Serbian treatment: demonization through "editorial
guidance." In their case, the guiding phrase is "police
action which followed vandalism and looting by some
protesters" - or words to that effect. This aids folks to a
properly-seated view, like a gentle laxative: "The police
may have been occasionally overzealous but stop whining at
least they're out there risking their necks defending
democratic values against marauding punks who got what they
deserved try pulling that crap in some country where there
ISN'T free speech!"


If the AP is right, if police were only responding to
violent protesters "after some protesters smashed windows
and slashed tires on police cars" then here is the $64
question: why aren't the local people mad at the protesters?
The AP dispatch notes that:

"More than 100 people signed up to speak at the [City
Council] meeting, which began at 4 p.m. and lasted until 11.
Hundreds of people who couldn't fit in to the hearing room
initially stood outside in the rain, and a speaker was
hooked up to allow them to listen....THE CROWD APPEARED TO
HEAVILY FAVOR THE DEMONSTRATORS (AP dispatch, our capitals.)

Having no source of information but the mass media, many
regular folks outside Seattle believe the
"the-police-were-only-responding" line. But what about the
local Seattle people? These are regular folks too, that is,
people with a variety of opinions concerning the WTO, people
who have the MOST reason to be upset by the disruption of
their city - why, as the AP reports, do these people
"heavily favor the demonstrators?"

Indeed, isn't "heavily FAVOR the demonstrators" an AP
evasion? Shouldn't that phrase be rewritten? Shouldn't the
AP have said the local people are "heavily FURIOUS at the
police?" Indeed, isn't this precisely what Seattle citizens
were quoted saying in this same AP dispatch? That they were
"treated like animals" by police; that police
"indiscriminately" gassed people?

Somebody should tell the AP: This isn't a baseball game. The
local people aren't "favoring" one side. The local people
are rising up against what they saw being done to the
protesters and what they experienced being done to
themselves, by an outrageous abuse of police power.

The AP statement that police only acted after demonstrators
attacked does not derive from the evidence presented in the
AP story; rather it is presented to undermine the factual


The website I work on, www.emperors-clothes.com , had a
reporter in Seattle. Jim Desyllas did not go there expecting
a police attack. But when the police did attack, he observed
them for almost two days.

He, and everyone else who was in downtown Seattle at the
time, knows that the police started the violence.

Not only started it but continued to provoke it, brutalizing
non-violent protesters and leaving the violent ones alone.
Moreover, when the police had a group of about 100 people
reliably throwing things, they herded this group around the
city, providing plenty of photo-ops for the media.

Here's Jim:

"A number of times they had these 100 or so protesters
caught between buildings and walls of police. They could
easily have arrested and detained this small number of
people and gotten it over with. Instead they would gas them
and let them go. Then trap them again, gas them again, and
again let them go...The police were using these people as
extras. It was staged. I believe also the police had their
own people in there, encouraging people to break stuff - if
people think I may be exaggerating, I saw supposed
protesters - they were screaming and so on - and then later,
when everything was over, the same people tackled other
protestors and put handcuffs on them." ("Collateral Damage
in Seattle", See Note # 1 at end)


One last point about the AP dispatch. Seattle Police Chief
Norm Stamper has resigned. This is an interesting
development, worth discussing. His obvious reason for
resigning is that many Seattle residents blame him for last
week's police brutality. In addition, some people have
suggested that he may be resigning because the violence was
actually orchestrated by Federal agents - FBI, CIA,
Department of Defense - and that he (and other local Seattle
pols) are being used as a fall guy. In other words, that his
resignation is a kind of protest. Either way, his
resignation is a response to the outcry against police

The AP mentions Stamper's resignation in the dispatch. Look
how they handle it:

"In the wake of the disruption, Police Chief Norm Stamper
announced his retirement this week." (Our emphasis)

"In the wake of the disruption"? This sentence would only
make sense if Chief Stamper were resigning for failing to
stop protesters from disrupting the city. In fact he's being
criticized for using excessive violence, not for failing to
prevent disruption.

Some people have said that the kind of police tactics used
in Seattle are the greatest threat to democracy in our
country. I look at it differently. I think the amazingly
uniform duplicity of the media is the greatest threat to
democracy. For how can people make decisions, how can they
oppose police state tactics, if they are fed a diet of lies?

I believe that exposing the lies of the mass media is an act
of love for this country and the whole planet. Only by
knowing the truth can we be free.


Note # 1 - For Jim Desyllas' account of what he saw on the streets in
Seattle, please go to


Note # 2 - www.emperors-clothes.com has a number of articles
that deal with media distortion. Three writers who focus on
this question are Diana Johnstone, Jared Israel and Phil
Hammond. To read their writing, go to
http://www.emperors-clothes.com/artbyauth.html and then
click on either J, I or H. (Some of Diana's and Jared's
articles aren't yet posted by author, but there's plenty)

If you would like to browse articles from Emperors-Clothes.com, go to:


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