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May 29, 2005 - Acknowledging the Dispute

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There’s not much more to say about the Newsweek business.  They published an unfortunate item on the basis of an anonymous source.  The source recanted.  They retracted.  All hell broke loose, and that was covered in these pages here last weekend.  What they reported just might have happened, given that since then US investigators have found at least five instances in which guards and interrogators at Guantánamo Bay more than mishandled the Koran (full story here), and we then had “waves of protest across the Muslim world to denounce reports that American interrogators at the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had desecrated the Koran..." (full story here).

Underlying this was the repeated claim that there was an underlying problem.  A bigger one.  A real big one.  That would be the conservative claims that the press was, on the whole, anti-military, and by extension anti-American, and by extension on the side of the enemy, and then by extension treasonous.

Dan Kennedy writing in the Boston Phoenix provides a round-up here - and if you remove the rant and get to the facts they are these –


… on Monday night … Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, and Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas, squared off on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country. Jensen attempted to place Newsweek’s error in some context, noting that US forces are responsible for horrific abuses, including torture and homicide, at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere.

Suddenly, Bozell started yipping like a dog that had finally managed to corner a wounded squirrel. "You cite me the evidence of American soldiers murdering people in prisons," he barked.

Jensen, clearly perplexed, replied, "The evidence is in the Army’s own reports." That wasn’t good enough for Bozell. "You’re accusing the American military of murder. If you don’t back it up, back off," he sneered. And so it went until the segment sputtered out.

… This blame-the-media meme spread quickly within conservative circles. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial claiming that Newsweek’s error was part of an anti-military mindset on the part of the media that goes back to the Vietnam War. "Where the press corps goes wrong is in always assuming the worst about military and government motives," the Journal opined. The day before, Paul Marshall wrote in National Review Online, "The shakily sourced May 9 Newsweek report that interrogators had desecrated a Koran at Guantánamo Bay is likely to do more damage to the U.S. than the Abu Ghraib prison scandals."

… Conservative bloggers … Glenn Reynolds, whose InstaPundit.com is perhaps the most influential right-leaning blog, linked to a rant by Dean Esmay charging that "the press is not on our side in the war.... You guys are enemy propagandists. It’s just who you are. It’s nice that you’ve at least stopped pretending." Another, the increasingly prominent religious-right blogger La Shawn Barber, pushed this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, writing, "Whether Americans flushed the Koran down the toilet is irrelevant. Newsweek should not have reported it, even if true. It’s common sense, people. Those journalists knew how Muslims would react! Why would you hurt your own country and risk more deaths just to report this ‘fact’? To what end???"

… On Scarborough Country and, earlier, on Fox News’s Hannity & Colmes, Brent Bozell was quick to compare the Newsweek fiasco with CBS News’s mangled report last September on President Bush’s National Guard service in the early 1970s — a report based largely on records that appear to have been faked. That particular media scandal ended several CBS careers, including that of producer Mary Mapes, and hastened the retirement of anchor Dan Rather.

… WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) talk-show host Jay Severin [said] that, a generation ago, men who’d made such a grievous mistake [like the Newsweek reporters did] would not only resign, but they might also have "blown their brains out."


You get the idea.


One leader of the charge was Hugh Hewitt, who offered this remedy


...the remedy is in scrutiny of every antimilitary/anti-Christian/anti-police story that appears. Many are necessary and accurate exercises in reporting, but many are not. For years those stories in the latter category went unrebuked.


So now it is time for rebuke, of those who question the military, and Jesus, and the police.

This from Sher Zieve is typical –


Now, Newsweek has published an article about our military men and women flushing the Muslim Quran (or portions thereof) down a toilet, in order to intimidate Islamic prisoners. However, the story was and is false! This time, however, the liberal MSM [mainstream media] went too far. Newsweek’s bogus story caused Islamic riots against the United States, which are still ongoing, in Afghanistan and may be spreading to other countries. Apparently, there is no depth too low to which the anti-American mainstream press won’t sink; as long as its “stories” are anti-Military and anti-Bush.


That’s a rebuke, or something like one.

Then there is Terry Moran at ABC.

Military-haters in the press
The American Thinker, May 20th, 2005


The recently allegation of the flushing the Koran down the toilet made by Newsweek was also a false report. It may be a tipping point in terms of media credibility and public perception. Hugh Hewitt interviewed Terry Moran of ABC News who was brave and honest enough to admit that the media did have an anti-military bias born of the Vietnam War. Moran stated, "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."

Moran has it right. This anti-military attitude dates to the Vietnam era.

Robert Kaplan has pointed out that the media's bias against the military might originate in an elitist class-based prejudice held by reporters . No less so than in academia, the mainstream media have been colonized by Vietnam-era alumni of the left.


Colonized?  Cool.

The topic on Bill O’Reilly’s radio program Monday, May 23, 2005


Today on The Radio Factor...

Hour 1: The Press & the Military

Is the press anti-military? We've told you for months that some in the left-wing press are out to paint our military in the worst light possible. Over the weekend, the New York Times was at it again, and has followed up with an editorial today condemning the military and the administration. The battle for the hearts and minds of Americans continues on the first hour of radio.


It was a tidal wave, capped by John Leo in the New York Daily News May 24, 2005 with this


It's official. Conservatives no longer have a monopoly on complaints about a liberal media bias. In the wake of Newsweek's bungled report that U.S. military interrogators "flushed a Koran down a toilet," here is Terry Moran, ABC's White House reporter, in an interview with radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt: "There is, I agree with you, a deep anti-military bias in the media ..."
In all my years in journalism, I don't think I have met more than one or two reporters who have ever served in the military or who even had a friend in the armed forces. Most media hiring today is from universities, where a military career is regarded as bizarre and almost any exercise of American power is considered wrongheaded or evil.

Instead of trampling Newsweek - the magazine made a mistake and corrected it quickly and honestly - the focus ought to be on whether the news media are predisposed to make certain kinds of mistakes and, if so, what to do about it. The disdain that so many reporters have for the military (or for police, the FBI, conservative Christians, or right-to-lifers) frames the way errors and bogus stories tend to occur. The anti-military mentality makes atrocity stories easier to publish, even when they are untrue.

… In March, a report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism said that in the past 17 years, Americans have "come to see the press as less professional, less moral, more inaccurate and less caring about the interests of the country." Another finding was that coverage of George Bush during the presidential campaign was three times as negative as coverage of John Kerry (36% to 12%).

If the press is that much out of sync with the country, its future looks very uncertain. Something has to change.


Something has to change?  You know where this is heading.

The only surprise?  Conservative war supporter John Cole with this


... Follow the necessary logic to get to this laughable implication of treason. First, you must believe that the media is anti-military. Not just anti-military, but anti-American. Not just anti-American, but willing accomplices of the enemy, and thus, treasonous. Second, you must believe that defending the right of those treasonous media types to report freely is also treasonous. It is, at its worst, an argument of treason by insinuation, and its absurdity is matched only by its offensiveness ... I reject all of this.

The media is not, as an institution, anti-military. The media is, however, suspicious of the military establishment, and for good reasons. The Pentagon routinely lies to them. See Tillman, Pat. Or the Pentagon Papers. Or any hundreds of other similar events. At any rate, even if the press is suspicious of the military establishment, [this] is . . . confusing criticism of the Pentagon with criticism of the actual soldiers as well as the goals of the United States.

... So let's stop these generic attacks on the media.

… And while we are at it, can we conservatives please stop this laughable cult of victimology? We have the Presidency (for the second time in a row and the fifth time in the last seven elections). We control the Senate by a ten seat margin. We control the House by a larger margin. We have dismissed or dismantled virtually every institutional check in order to limit opposition debate and increase institutional control, regardless how short-sighted that might be. We are ramming through just about every judge we wanted, and are about to reload the Supreme Court with Antonin Scalia at the helm.

We may be a lot of things, but persecuted victims we are not. To assert otherwise is to engage in a self-defeating flight of fancy that should be met with nothing short of outright ridicule.

... Even if we do buy into the absurd supposition that the media is overtly hostile towards conservatives, I contend that their criticism would still be vital. An outside appraisal would be a good thing, particularly when you consider the self-referential and oft-delusional nature of our own manufactured media organs (National Review, for example) and the rest of the echo chamber that the right-wing blogosphere appears to be becoming. We are wasting out energy attacking what, in my mind, has been, overall, a pretty friendly media establishment as of late. And just for fun, you might ask Move-On or Media Matters how liberal they think the media is. The answer might surprise you. So, some perspective, please.


Let’s see… criticism is vital.  Outside appraisals are useful.  Sometimes it is reasonable not to trust sources who have repeatedly lied to you, and lied to us all.

It seem unlikely, in the extreme, that Bill O’Reilly or Hugh Hewitt will ask John Cole to appears as a guest on either radio show, or on O’Reilly’s Fox News television show.  He’s no fun.  In these pages see this from July 18, 2004 - The Importance of Martyrdom to the Conservative Movement.  It is important to them.  Cole is dangerous.

Also see this from Garrison Keillor: “We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore: How did the Party of Lincoln and Liberty transmogrify into the party of Newt Gingrich’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk?”


Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned—and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today’s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor. …


It seems some of the old Republicans are still around are still around.  Good thing.




Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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