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By David Swanson
International Labor Communications Association
There is strong evidence of vote theft in Ohio. That will be news to anyone who gets their news from a television or from most print media.
When forced to talk about ethics, media big shots often insist that they draw no conclusions. They endlessly reported Dick Cheney's claims that Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks of September 11, 2001, but it would not have been their place to label that a "conspiracy theory." When it comes to election fraud in Ohio and other U.S. states, on the other hand, the media has jumped straight to reporting that it's all a "conspiracy theory" before ever reporting any of the facts. The Bush Administration has recently presented the media with a nutty theory that our Social Security system is broken, which the media in turn has presented to us as established fact. But to anyone who reads more than just the news that's fit to print, it's our election system that has broken down.
Some voices in the media, including the New York Times' editorial page, admit that the election system is badly broken. But they insist that it also functioned quite acceptably in November. It's broken in the abstract, as it were, but not in any concrete time or place.
As the ILCA reported on November 8th, the U.S. media has reversed its usual position on the value of exit polls. The media has always relied on exit polls to predict election outcomes and to question the accuracy of official vote counts, such as in the Venezuelan recall attempt or the Ukrainian presidential election. Exit polls in November predicted victories for Kerry in a number of swing states that swung, in the official results, dramatically for Bush. The U.S. media immediately declared the exit polls inaccurate. How they could be so far off has not been explained, and the networks' refusal to turn the raw data of the exit polls over to Congress doesn't help.
I did some searching in the Nexis database on New Year's Eve. I searched for "election fraud" in articles and transcripts from the past 60 days. It came back saying there were more than 1,000 articles, too many to display. Of course, most of these were bound to be about the Ukraine and other countries where the U.S. media likes to discuss election fraud. So I searched for "election fraud" AND Ohio. This time I found only 177 articles, many of them letters to the editor complaining about the lack of coverage. One article from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported on a protest at its offices over the lack of coverage (but no coverage appeared from that paper). Several of the 177 were editorials, all of them dismissive of claims of election fraud, which in most cases the papers hadn't reported on. And Ukraine was here, too, showing up in Ohio newspapers. The Columbus Dispatch ran an editorial demanding a new election in Ukraine. The Plain Dealer reported in oddly respectful tones (considering its usual coverage of activists) on Ohioans involved in the Ukrainian election. And there were quite a few columns and "analyses" dismissing "conspiracy theories."
What about actual coverage of what the "theories" are about and what in them is solidly proven, what's speculative, what's disproved? Any of that? Wouldn't a conspiracy theory go away more quickly if you refuted it than if you avoided it and called it names? Hasn't over half the country stopped believing in the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after only minimal discussion of the evidence and acknowledgement by the media that there weren't any weapons there?
Well, quite a few articles reported on protests and hearings and legal filings, but most of them didn't delve into the actual charges of fraud. Only about 10 articles contained any substance, even on a single minor allegation. One of these was from the Madison (Wis.) Capital Times, two were from Salon.com, one from Morning Star, one from a California chain of papers including the Oakland Tribune, Fremont Argus, and Tri-Valley Herald, one from the Village Voice, and three from the AP. The AP article that went into the most depth as a 492-word piece on an Ohio couple who had voted twice. Most AP articles have been short and dismissive, but the AP has provided more coverage than anybody else, judging by Nexis.
The high points in what was turned up in this Nexis search were, sadly, sound bites on Fox News. Although on December 3rd, Fox brought on a guest to attack Jesse Jackson in absentia, on the ninth, Hannity and Colmes allowed Hillary Shelton of the NAACP to make a few points and did not attempt to dispute them. And on the 29th, Sheila Parks of the Coalition Against Election Fraud made several points, refusing to allow the interviewer to cut her off. He did not attempt to discuss the points she'd made. And, although it didn't turn up in this search, on the 23rd, Hannity and Colmes had on David Lytel of ReDefeatBush.com who began to make a case for election fraud before the hosts cut him off and changed the subject.
The other place where this story has squeezed into the corporate media is on MSNBC and the MSNBC website, through the reporting of Keith Olbermann - and the Newsweek website which posted an interview of Jesse Jackson Sr. Olbermann has been to the media the closest thing to what John Conyers has been to the Congress: a clear indication that there's life there without having to feel for a pulse. Olbermann has given credence to some claims and rejected others, and explained why. On December 27, for example, his blog post treated with all the seriousness that it seems to merit the Green Party's contention - backed up by many other observers - that the Ohio recount has been an illegally conducted farce making virtually no attempt to actually recount anything. (But, with typically bizarre media smugness, he then questioned the motivations of those protesting, as if concern for democracy could have nothing to do with it.) And in the same post, he continued an argument against giving credence to the claims by a Florida programmer that he had been asked to write a vote-switching program.
The New York Times, to its credit, on December 15, did print a short article on a particular allegation of fraud in the Ohio recount made by Congressman Conyers. But the Times has avoided most of the story.
Sadly, so has most of the labor media and other progressive media. You'd think that labor, after spending more than $200 million on the election, would want to make sure it got its money's worth on the vote count. Unfortunately, like its candidate, John Kerry, most of the labor movement has so far dropped the ball on this one. A handful of established outlets and newly minted organizations have carried the ball. A collection of much of this coverage can be found here.
Not a one of the "alternative" media outlets named above has published anything as inexcusably self-certain and wildly false as the "mainstream" media's reports that Iraq had vast stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and plans to use them on the United States. The corporate media was wrong to cheerlead for the War on Iraq by uncritically parroting Bush Administration lies. The New York Times admitted some of its mistakes in this regard. Most media outlets did not. The same media outlets are behaving as poorly on the election fraud issue, and someday one or more of them may even acknowledge as much, but should the rest of us wait for that before speaking and acting? Or do we have a duty to fill in where the corporate news has become too corporate and not enough news?
Well Documented Fraud and Areas for Further Investigation:
1. The manufacturers of voting machines who have made them easy to hack and impossible to verify by a meaningful recount, as well as making clear their loyalty to Bush.
2. The U.S. Congress and President, who have failed to make obvious corrections to our election system following the 2000 election, including requiring paper trails and non-partisan officials.
3. The television networks that have refused to release the exit poll data and refused to cover the story, all companies with a clear - and in several cases, clearly stated - interest in having Bush, rather than Kerry, control the FCC.
4. Bush-Cheney Ohio Campaign Co-Chair / Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, whose undisputed public actions before, during, and since the election have served to disenfranchise thousands of citizens.
5. A group of Republicans, claiming to be from Texas, who made illegal calls in Ohio to scare off potential voters. (This, I think, offers a fun, human interest story should an editor be in search of one).
6. Ohio judges who have refused to require that evidence be preserved and have refused to admit challenges to the election, including a judge whose own election could be affected but who refused to recuse himself.
7. Election workers in various counties, hired by Blackwell, who failed to open polling places on time, failed to equitably distribute machines and workers, directed voters to the wrong lines, resulting in the elimination of their votes, wrongly required identification, wrongly denied voters provisional ballots, shut observers out on grounds of "homeland security," failed to randomly select precincts for the recount, etc.
8. Activists who sought to intimidate voters outside of polls or distributed flyers sending people to the wrong polling place or telling them the election was on the wrong day.
9. Triad, a company that has admitted it tried to rig the Ohio recount.