What will happen now in the liberated streets of Iraq? There are more questions than answers, but one thing is certain: Journalists will continue their pose of relentless negativism.
The United States has just won a spectacular military victory and rid the world of a hideous dictator. But we dare not celebrate. Why, the army is "allowing" the looting of museums! Ahmed Chalabi is a Western puppet! And then there's this amazing scandal: Some Christian humanitarian groups are coming to Iraq with food ... and dare we say it ... Bibles!
Why are journalists puzzled by their unpopularity? David Shaw of the Los Angeles Times is one of the befuddled, and recently reported that he received more e-mails about "unpatriotic" news outlets than any other topic this year. Shaw quoted Time managing editor Jim Kelly attacking Fox and MSNBC for having the audacity to "plant the flag on their screens and try to stick a waving flag on virtually everything that moves, and the subtle implication is that the network has gone to war as well, on the side of the U.S. troops." Shaw concluded that the very fact that journalists died in the task of serving readers and viewers puts the lie to "unpatriotic" charges.
Wartime journalism is not by definition patriotic. Reporters can do stories that are both unpatriotic and completely inaccurate. Just ask Peter Arnett.
On the contrary, journalists seem afraid of accusations of patriotism. The liberal media culture urges them to bend over backward to avoid the appearance of "cheerleading." But when the actual news is incredibly encouraging, the gap between their doom-saying approach and reality becomes glaringly obvious. They look like they're hewing to an opposite extreme. Call it gloom-leading: The method is not merely to question but to rain hostile fire on every vulnerability suggested by the latest news developments. Successes are quickly glossed over, while failures are feasts.
Shaw failed to note that Americans have witnessed a gloom-leading shame at the expression of those things they hold dear. When American soldiers plastered the Stars and Stripes on the face of a Saddam statue in Baghdad, millions of Americans cheered at our success and Saddam's shame, a picture-postcard image of his ignominious defeat. The media, on the other hand, were horrified. The flag to them is not a symbol of democracy and freedom, the success of the American experiment, a sign the good guys have arrived. It is a goad, a tool, a provocation, a craven business tactic, a political blanket that closet authoritarians wear like a cloak.