Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Media Bias, Part XXI

Last month, the Los Angeles Times published a 1200 word exposé of the conditions of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Written by Caribbean bureau chief Carol Williams, the article detailed horrors like this:
Prisoners eat their meals in their cells. They seldom leave them. Each is equipped with a bunk, sink and toilet. Only the most compliant detainees can keep a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap. Those being disciplined or segregated from others must ask for their hygiene items from guards, who monitor their use, then remove them. To prevent a toothbrush from being shaved into a shank, the detainees are issued stout plastic rings with bristles attached.

When they do leave their cells, prisoners are shackled and escorted -- to and from showers, recreation pens, interrogation interviews, and a meeting or two each year with their lawyers. They leave their cells in the "hard facilities" of Camps 5, 6 and the new 7 for no other reason, unless they are found to need medical or dental treatment when corpsmen make periodic rounds. . .

The end of a day is signaled at 10 p.m. by the arrival of the bedsheet.

But a Guantanamo detainee's day doesn't end with the usual prison ritual of "lights out."

Lights are kept on in the cells 24/7 for what military jailers said were security reasons.

Some prisoners grow their hair long and drape it across their eyes to aid sleeping, as Australian David Hicks, transferred home last year, told his lawyer in explaining his nearly waist-length tresses.

Sleep is probably episodic, with the guards' boots audible every few minutes as they look for "self-harm incidents" or signs of prisoners "weaponizing" their few belongings.

Another day like the more than 2,000 most have already spent here is heralded at 5 a.m. when a guard arrives to retrieve the bedsheet.
Did I say "horrors"? Doesn't seem too horrible--especially considering the detainees are suspected terrorists/war criminals.

Anyway, it turns out the article mangled much of the facts. As reported by American Digest's Vanderleun, the Times "was forced to issue a 370 word correction to her screed. That's a one to four ratio." The correction ran on April 5th:
Guantanamo Bay: An article March 28 in Section A about a typical day in the life of a prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, as gleaned from reporting trips over the last three years, made several observations that Pentagon officials and officers of the Joint Task Force at Guantanamo say are outdated or erroneous. The article said that reveille was at 5 a.m., when guards collect the bedsheet from each detainee. There is no reveille sounded at Guantanamo, and officials say the practice of collecting bedsheets ended in late 2006 for compliant detainees and last May for everyone else. The article said that lights were kept on in the cells 24 hours a day for security reasons, and that some prisoners grew their hair long to shield their eyes to sleep. Since September, all detainees have been issued sleep masks. The article said that detainees at Camps 5 and 6 could see each other only during prayer time when an aperture in their cell doors was opened. The prisoners can also see each other when being escorted to showers or interrogation, during recreation time and when the aperture is opened for meal delivery. The article referred to "the hour for rec time"; in fact, prisoners are allowed at least two hours of recreation daily. The article said the prison library had 2,000 books and magazines; it has 5,000, including multiple copies of many titles. The article said that once a prisoner had skipped nine meals he was considered to be on a hunger strike and taken to the medical center where he was force-fed. Medical officials say hunger strikers are force-fed only when their weight has fallen to 85% of their ideal body weight and a doctor recommends it. The article said that prisoners at Camp 4, a communal compound, were awaiting transfer home. Camp 4 holds prisoners judged to be compliant with camp rules.
It's impossible to dispute Vanderleun's wry reaction:
If you've worked around newspapers and magazines, you'll have a sense of just how stunningly wrong a story has to be for the publication to issue a correction of that length. If you haven't, trust me when I tell you that the only things that can possibly be right about the story is the spelling of the byline and the capitalization. Maybe.

A real newspaper would sack this "Caribbean Bureau Chief" with extreme prejudice. At the LA Times her "reporting" is probably grounds for promotion.
As I've previously detailed, such journalistic distortions are shocking but not surprising. While feigning objectivity, the press editorializes via "scare quotes" and reprints liberal group press releases. As Glenn Reynolds remarks, the MSM's "bias is exceeded only by their laziness and ignorance."

(via Instapundit, Conservative Grapevine)


OBloodyHell said...

LOL. I don't know if anyone here has read the book "Catch Me If You Can", by Frank Abagnale (the book was "made" into a movie that does everything with the story except stick to it). It's a very entertaining light read, and, although I'm sure Abagnale's (presumed) ghost writer polishes things up a bit, it is truly amusing what he got away with, especially in light of today, or even before 911.

The relevance to this thread is that Frank was captured in Europe -- France, to be specific, and he describes French prisons quite explicitly. The contrast with this whiny LA Times piece description of "prison horrors" is downright spectacular. Apparently, Italy and Turkey were even worse.

Realize, Frank was nothing more than a flim-flam artist, a very skilled, professional paper-hanger -- probably one of the best there was. He could kite a check like no one's business --
He was most expressly not a threat to public safety and a potential source of widescale death and destruction.

I have to wonder how France's prisons stand up in this regard these days. Would they pass the Media "Guano" test? (oops -- sorry, should that be "Gitmo"? ...Nah)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I will leave OBH's comment unanswered, grinning.

Those conditions sound tedious to me. No worse.

Carl said...


Good point--I hadn't connected Old Europe's Gitmo carping with today's Europe's prison conditions. I side with AVI on this.