not easy to look at ourselves as others might see us. For a country, the need
is especially acute in times of international crisis — but that’s when
nationalism and other reflexive biases are most likely to become pivotal.
of the ways to test for media slant is to put the shoe on the other foot. A
current big story provides an opportunity for inquiry in the world of intense
are some excerpts from actual U.S. news coverage in recent days, with only one
type of change — I’ve reversed the references to China and the United States.
The mirror-image narrative is worth pondering.
World News Tonight: "There are concerns about national security and a Chinese
military flight crew that was forced to make an emergency landing during a
surveillance flight along the East Coast of the United States. The Chinese spy
plane was equipped with sophisticated intelligence-gathering technology."
"Chinese military officials say that they are, first and foremost, concerned
about the safety of the crew. They want that crew returned back to China."
News: "China’s military agency insists this plane was 40 to 50 miles off the
coast of New Jersey, and if that’s true, then the Americans are to blame. But
if the Americans say, ‘No, that plane violated our air space,’ or, ‘Sorry, we
have to hold the crew and the plane while we investigate this incident,’ well,
then this could get ugly."
Good Morning America: "There is a major story now going on — a very troubling
international incident. It has been more than 35 hours since anyone has heard
from the 24 Chinese — 22 navy, one each from the air force and marines —
forced to land on Long Island."
Associated Press: "China is keeping three destroyers in the vicinity of Long
Island, where a Chinese Navy spy plane landed after colliding with an American
News: "Chinese diplomats are scrambling to smooth over tensions with Washington
after Sunday’s midair collision between a Chinese spy plane and an American
Early Show: "Frustrated Chinese diplomats are trying to secure the release of a
spy plane and its crew from the United States."
Associated Press (headline): "As American Military Might Develops, Friction
With China Grows More Likely"
All Things Considered: "Chinese surveillance aircraft for years have flown
around the United States monitoring radar transmissions and eavesdropping on
American communications. And the Americans routinely send their own jets up to
follow the Chinese aircraft around. But China says these cat-and-mouse games
have become more dangerous in the past few months with the American fighters
acting more and more aggressively."
New York Times: "American fighter jets have flown dangerously close to Chinese
reconnaissance planes over the Atlantic near the East Coast several times in
recent months, prompting complaints from Chinese officials to the Americans,
senior Chinese officials said today."
Angeles Times: "The seizure of a Chinese Navy spy plane by the Americans could
cost China vital information about how America’s military operates and might
inflict wider damage if Washington shares China’s secrets with other potential
adversaries, Chinese defense officials and experts said yesterday."
NewsHour With Jim Lehrer: "China’s President Jiang Zemin today demanded that
the United States return a Chinese Navy surveillance plane and its crew. It
collided with an American jet fighter early Sunday off Long Island in New York
and had to make an emergency landing there. The fighter crashed at sea and its
pilot was missing."
Christian Science Monitor (headline): "America’s Demands Prolong Dispute"
Scripps Howard News Service: "Family members of the crew of the Chinese Navy
spy plane held captive in the United States are filled with anxiety, fear and
Associated Press: "Anger and impatience began surfacing Tuesday among friends
and loved ones of 24 Chinese spy plane crew members still confined at an
American military base."
Francisco Chronicle (headline): "How Yangzhou Mom Told Kids Daddy Is Captured
Wall Street Journal (editorial): "The status of the downed Chinese Navy
reconnaissance plane and its crew on Long Island remains unknown, and the onus
is clearly on the Americans to clarify their intentions…. Washington attacks
the notion of a ‘pax Chinacana’ in the Western Hemisphere, even calling
bilateral security alliances threats to stability… America’s more enlightened
leaders now need to move quickly to prevent a small incident from escalating
into a dispute that fans the flames of nationalism."