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The Press’ Double Standard on Foreign Policy Speakers

December 28, 2010

This morning MLive posted an article announcing the 2011 foreign policy lecture series hosted by the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan. In fact, the Grand Rapids Press and MLive always publish the lecture series and write about each speaker as the series progresses.

The World Affairs Council (WAC) could be labeled as host speakers that tend to have a right of center view of the world and US foreign policy and this year’s line up is not that different.

The speakers include someone with the Council on Foreign Affairs, a retired Navy officer, a representative of the Red Cross and for a discussion about energy policy and national security WAC has someone from Marathon Oil and the American Petroleum Institute, which is essentially a front group for the oil industry.

In addition, there is a panel discussion on the global financial crisis featuring economics professors who all take a pro-capitalist position. Lastly, there is a speaker from the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, which has a board of directors that mostly represents corporate America and includes as an honorary member James Baker III of the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations.

However, if one were to look at speakers who have come to Grand Rapids in the past two years that have a critical view of US foreign policy the Grand Rapids Press and MLive not only don’t send a reporter to these events, they don’t announce them either. (with the exception of Kathy Kelly, where the announcement appeared in the Faith Calendar, even though it was not a religious-based event.)

In March of 2009, Institute for Policy Studies analyst Phyllis Bennis spoke on the Israeli assault on Gaza and the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during a two-day conference.

In June of 2009, Kathy Kelly with Voices for Creative Non-violence spoke in Grand Rapids after returning from a trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan to speak with victims of the US drone bombings.

On March 18/19 the group Healing Children of Conflict hosted Doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor who spoke about the 2008/2009 Israeli assault on Gaza that killed his 2 daughters.

On March 25 of 2010, radical author and activists John Ross spoke in Grand Rapids about the role of the US in the war on drugs in Mexico while he was on a book tour throughout the US.

Lastly, on October 8, journalist Anand Gopal spoke in Grand Rapids. Gopal has been living in and reporting from Afghanistan for both the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal.

These are not all of the left of center or anti-imperialist speakers to come to Grand Rapids in the past 2 years, but it gives you an indication of the double standard that the Press practices in terms of foreign policy speakers who come to West Michigan.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. paul permalink
    December 29, 2010 2:30 pm

    In the interest of disclosure, how many of these speaking engagements were you and/or GRIID writers involved in organizing?

    I’m not saying that invalidates your criticism of the GR Press on this issue, but it seems dishonest not to mention your/your organizations involvement.

  2. Jeff Smith permalink*
    December 29, 2010 9:33 pm

    Paul, I personally was involved in some of these speakers coming to town, along with numerous other individuals and sponsoring organization. Having said that, what difference does it make to the point about the double standard of the Press? The Press received media releases about the speakers I was involved with, yet not one of them was interview, nor was there an announcement or a reporter at their talks. How do you explain such a double standard?

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