The Memory Hole 

Haiti news coverage turns sublimely ridiculous

LOS ANGELES--George Orwell's main character in 1984 worked for a government ministry that controlled the future by changing the past. Its most effective tool: the Memory Hole. Pieces of history went in--poof!--never to be heard from again. Afterward, it was as if those particular events had never happened.

American news producers and editors have long been masters of the Memory Hole, purposefully omitting the most relevant information in stories that would otherwise make the current regime look bad. "President Hugo Chavez," reported The Washington Post in 2005, "has recently accused President [George W.] Bush of plotting to assassinate him." Going on to slam Chavez's supposed "bluster and anti-American showmanship," the Post left something out: Chavez's accusation was true.

Still, no one could have anticipated the soaring brazenness U.S. media would deploy while "covering" the invasion of Haiti.

Vanished from news accounts of Operation Haitian Freedom--poof!--was the United States' century-long raping and pillaging of the country, including several CIA-backed coups that installed vicious dictators and a brutal occupation by U.S. Marines lasting decades.

Hundreds of candidates deserved this week's Haiti Memory Hole Prize, but the winner is Portland, Ore.'s daily newspaper, The Oregonian, which published an editorial titled "A muscular paternalism for Haiti" with an incredible thesis: "If the nations of the world had devoted to Haiti only a fraction of the diplomatic and military energy they have spent over the past five decades on nearby Cuba, the country would be far more advanced and able to aid in its own recovery today."

In other words, Haiti's problem isn't that the United States expropriated 40 percent of its GDP from 1915 to 1947. Or that the United States installed the father-and-son Duvalier dictators, who looted the Haitian treasury of more than $1 billion. Or that the CIA twice deposed Haiti's popular, and only democratically elected president because he had the gall to push through an increase in the minimum wage for Haitians who work in sweatshops owned by U.S. companies.

"Perhaps the scope of the current disaster will at last shock these countries, including the United States, to conduct a muscular intervention into Haitian affairs," said The Oregonian.

"At last"? What do they call a 20-year-long military occupation? Half a dozen military coups? At least The New York Times acknowledged "Haiti's long history of foreign intervention, including an American occupation" in its coverage. It's true that President Bill Clinton brought Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to power, but his predecessor had ordered a CIA coup that removed him.

Aristide wasn't "forced out of office" by some mysterious random power. The Times' editors knew that. After all, their own newspaper ran a page-one story on March 1, 2004, titled "Aristide Flees After a Shove From the U.S." So when Aristide "accused the United States of orchestrating his ouster," he was "accusing" the United States of doing what The New York Times reported that it did.

What I want to know is: Why do editors and producers leave out the basic facts? It's not like they get a call from Big Brother ordering them to spin or delete historical facts from their coverage. They do it voluntarily.

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