After the hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama, we often heard from the mainstream media about how shipping executive companies don't want to arm their civilian crews for fear of an escalation of violence from pirates, not to mention the potential legal and liability headaches presented by such a policy change.
Well, yesterday, shipping company executive Philip Shapiro threw a wrench in that meme in his testimony before a Senate subcommittee in which he called for Congress to remove the legal and regulatory obstacles to arming civilian merchant vessels.
Unfortunately the story was ignored this morning by the broadcast network morning shows. What's more, Nexis and Web site searches yielded no print stories from today's Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times -- although there is an online article by Rebecca Cole available here -- or the New York Times. The Gray Lady also failed to report on Richard Phillips' pro-armed crew remarks last week.
To its credit, CNN, both in print and broadcast, reported the story. From a May 5 CNN.com story:
Yesterday I forecasted that by and large the mainstream media would paper over or outright ignore the testimony of Captain Richard Phillips. The commanding officer of the MV Maersk Alabama told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that arming senior officers on merchant ships should be part of a larger anti-piracy policy that includes beefed up U.S. Navy patrols and escorts. Also testifying, Maersk chairman John Clancey disagreed with his employee about arming the civilian sailors.
Well today, that newspaper which touts itself as bearing "all the news that's fit to print" failed to include a story on the testimony by the former Somali pirate hostage. That's right, the New York Times failed to even carry an Associated Press wire story, according to a search of the New York Times Web site for content published between April 30 and May 1 that mentions "Richard Phillips." A similar scouring of the print edition's A-section confirmed that the paper didn't carry the story.
What's more, it's not as though the Times was unaware of Phillips' testimony before the fact. As Kate Phillips and Janie Lorber noted in an April 30 post at the Times' The Caucus blog:
It's bound to be mostly lost in the mainstream media thanks to swine flu and the Obama 100 days hype, but Richard Phillips testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today. In doing so, the captain of the MV Maersk Alabama called on lawmakers to open the way for at least some merchant sailors to be armed as part of a comprehensive anti-piracy policy that includes more military escorts.
The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva has the story in an April 30 post in that paper's "The Swamp" blog. Silva reports that Phillips has a moderate stance on arming civilian crews -- he wants only the four most senior ranking officers aboard a given ship armed -- and that Phillips hopes for a greater U.S. Navy presence in escorting and protecting U.S. merchant vessels (emphases mine):
"First, I believe it is the responsibility of our government to protect the United States, including U.S.-flag vessels that are by definition an extension of the United States, their U.S. citizen crews, and our nation's worldwide commercial assets.
"So, it follows then that the most desirable and appropriate solution to piracy is for the United States government to provide protection, through military escorts and/or military detachments aboard U.S. vessels. That said, I am well aware that some will argue that there is a limit to any government's resources - even America's.