Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Problem with the Media

It comes from, I think, a huge gulf of misunderstanding, for which I lay plenty of blame on the media itself. There is, Hugh, I agree with you, a deep anti-military bias in the media. One that begins from the premise that the military must be lying, and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong. I think that that is a hangover from Vietnam, and I think it'’s very dangerous. That's different from the media doing it's job of challenging the exercise of power without fear or favor.

Terry Moran, ABC News, on the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show, May 18, 2005, courtesy of Austin Bay

(emphasis added-DD)

Today, in the midst of a global war against the totalitarian jihadist movement that staged the bloodiest attack in history against the continental United States, the Pentagon had to hold a special news briefing to try to dispel the media feeding frenzy over whether or not a book got dropped into a toilet. That the charge is utterly unsubstantiated, and appears to be the stuff of camp legend at best, outright deceit at worst, doesn't seem to matter one bit. If the current media climate had existed during World War II, we'd all be speaking German.

How did it come to this? In part, it's a matter of guild solidarity. Ever since Newsweek had to retract their original Koran flushing story, much of the major media have been trying frantically to aid their colleagues by proving them right after all. Hence the eager seizing upon any scrap of information regarding mishandling of Korans at Guantanamo, no matter how meager.

Yet the problems with press coverage of the War on Islamist Terror go well beyond mere clannish defensiveness. Why is it that the abuses at Abu Ghraib have been made into the symbol of America's war effort, instead of 17 million Afghans and Iraqis voting in the first free election of their lives? Partly it's due to sloppy professional practices, and an emphasis on negativity and sensationalism. I cannot help but believe, however, that the attitudes described by Terry Moran play a part as well.

There is a excellent new group blog that has just started called Media Slander, dedicated to keeping track of unfair media coverage of the military. Are such concerns exaggerated? Perhaps. But then one reflects on the fact that, just in the last few months, two major figures in the journalism industry have publicly accused US troops of deliberately killing reporters in Iraq, without any evidence to back up their outrageous charges. It seems clear that much of the major media are, as Austin Bay puts it, still stuck in the "Vietnam/Watergate template" in which the US government and military are always assumed to be lying and in the wrong. Such attitudes are not symptomatic of the healthy skepticism necessary to a free press, but of a dogmatic, knee-jerk opposition that distorts the truth just as much as does uncritical slavishness.


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