Watching Fox News in Bishkek

I received an email today from a friend recently traveling in Central Eurasia, or what you might fairly call the former Soviet Union or, for the most simplistic apolitical non-geographer, Russia. Last Thursday, Askar Akaev, president of Kyrgyzstan for 15 years, was forced to flee the capital, Bishkek, after protesters took control of the government headquarters. The protests, which had begun in the south of the country a few days earlier, led to the collapse of Akayev's administration. Here's my friend's assessment of watching Fox News and reading the New York Times during this time, from afar:

One of the more surreal experiences of my recent days came sitting on a couch in the Bishkek Hyatt hotel, watching Fox News, which now has a 24-hour feed in this mountainous republic-thanks to the DOD's need to propagandize the troops at Ganci AFB. A revolution was raging outside us, but in Fox News world, there was only one story to report, 24/7, those four days: the struggle over the life-support tube for Terri Schiavo. Over and over we were told that the American public was "closely following the situation," that it was "closely divided about what to do." (Objectively both statements are false.) A string of Catholic and Protestant Evangelical spokespersons were trotted out to tell us that removing that feeding tube was murder. Her husband was vilified.

Next to me sat a career Russian print journalist, struggling to follow it all. "This reminds me very much of our Soviet television," he said. "And of course, I mean the period under Brezhnev. Under Gorbachev it became far more subtle and discreet. This is coarse emotional provocation." Actually as the evening progressed and we checked the Russian news programs, it was clear that they operated at a much higher level of professionalism than Fox. For one thing, they actually reported the news that was going on that day, instead of unrelentingly shrill propaganda. What a change in our world. But why beat up on Fox when we can find the same sort of manure spread across the pages of the New York Times. Adam Nagorney's recent act of moral abasement, described as a portrait of Jeb Bush, brought him to the stylistic level of Elisabeth Bumiller. If you read it, I second James Wolcott's advice: be sure to have an air sickness bag handy. In what must be one of the highpoints of naïveté in modern political coverage, Nagorney tells us that Jeb Bush is motivated by purely altruistic motives in handling this case. Well, GOP documents which have already surfaced, and which Nagorney ignores, demonstrate just how preposterous that assertion is. But more to the point, notwithstanding the mainstream media propaganda barrage, the American public has judged this entire effort for what it is: a crass political manipulation. ...

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Just for you, I dug up the link from Wolcott's blog as well. It does make for some provocative reading. [link]