Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Internet Reveals What Media Won't about Albright

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Internet Reveals What Media Won't about Albright

Article excerpt

Internet Reveals What Media Won't About Albright

Richard H. Curtiss is the executive editor of the Washington Report.

This column is about Madeleine Albright and the graduating class of 2000, but the moral is about the Internet. That's because although Ms. Albright seems doomed to go down in history as the first woman U.S. secretary of state, and little more, the Internet has the potential to be the most liberating factor in human history. Here's an example.

In May when I was speaking at Hahneman University, a medical school in Philadelphia, a member of the sponsoring Muslim Student Association told me that her sister on the West Coast had described problems Ms. Albright had encountered while delivering this year's commencement address at the University of California campus in Berkeley. Something about the valedictorian at the same ceremony challenging the secretary of state on the Middle East. "That's Berkeley," I thought, my mind on my own upcoming remarks, and promptly forgot about it.

A week later, as I carried a camera to a huge graduation ceremony on the Ellipse, behind the White House, to photograph my son accepting a graduate degree in engineering from George Washington University, Middle East politics were the furthest thing from my mind until I spotted people carrying signs protesting the human cost of U.N. sanctions against Iraq. There also was a cartoon portrait of Secretary Albright with the words "Kill! Kill! Kill! issuing from her mouth.

Madeleine Albright was the commencement speaker here, too, and I was awed by the number of police present. But then, I reasoned, the ceremony was taking place practically under the president's bedroom window, and maybe he was home for the weekend instead of in New York helping his wife campaign for the Senate.

Pencil poised, I listened in vain for anything relevant to the Middle East from a succession of speakers, all of whom kept their remarks short, uplifting and witty. Ms. Albright got several ripples of friendly laughter from the crowd numbering in the thousands, although once I thought I heard shouting closer to the podium than where I was seated, and another time some people way up front seemed to be standing up, perhaps to watch something going on that I couldn't see.

When our son found us afterward I remarked that "Ms. Albright got off a lot easier here than I hear she did in Berkeley." He responded that from where he was sitting he could see one shouter forcibly removed by the police and that during her speech a few graduates had stood up and walked out, none of which had been visible from my distant seat. As we headed out for a celebratory luncheon, the protesters were still standing there with their signs, this time with mounted park police looming over them and a police van parked nearby.

But that was all. The next day there were a few lines in the local sections of the two Washington dailies about the mass graduation at which Ms. Albright spoke. An eight-sentence Associated Press dispatch, not picked up by either paper, also mentioned that "students and anti-war protesters distributed literature denouncing U.N. sanctions" which "critics say have led to the deaths of millions of Iraqis due to inadequate supplies of food and medicine."

So far as I know, it was probably about the same cursory coverage the mainstream media gave Ms. Albright's speech in Berkeley, none of which came to my attention. So my only lasting impression of Ms. Albright's spring commencement activities would have been how dashing my erudite son and his equally learned wife looked at the commencement, and how fortunate their parents were that they themselves and their companies had paid for their graduate degrees.

But then I got into the Internet! Here's what it told me about the George Washington University ceremony at the ellipse, which I attended but obviously didn't really see, and the even more dramatic one at Berkeley. If you're not an Internet user, check to see how much of this you heard or read anywhere else. …

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