Morally neutral reporting is dishonest reporting
12/3/2002 12:00:00 AM - Dennis Prager
Under the guise of "objectivity," virtually every major news
agency, newspaper and television news network in the West is feeding its
readers and viewers a morally neutral view of world events that is so
distorted as to verge on mendacity.
Take this article from The New York Times, which describes the
recent Muslim rioting in Nigeria over one sentence written by a Nigerian
reporter in an article defending the Miss World pageant ("Muhammad would
probably have taken one of the contestants for a wife."):
First, the headline: "Fiery Zealotry Leaves Nigeria in Ashes
Notice that no group is identified as responsible. Reading the
headline, one would have no idea that it was Muslims in Kaduna who burned
churches, killed Christian bystanders and razed newspaper offices. Putting
the moral responsibility on those who actually started the rioting would
violate the doctrine of moral neutrality. So, for The New York Times
headline writer, the culprit is "fiery zealotry."
It gets worse. The article then begins:
"KADUNA, Nigeria, Nov. 28 -- The beauty queens are gone now,
chased from Nigeria by the chaos in Kaduna."
If this is not a direct lie, it surely is an indirect one. The
beauty queens were not chased out of Nigeria by "chaos," but by Muslim
rioters. One might as well say that between 1939 and 1945, tens of millions
of Europeans were killed by chaos, rather than by Nazis.
Lest the reader miss the point that no group is morally
responsible, the article's next sentence develops this idea:
"But there are no celebrations in this deeply troubled town,
which has become a symbol of the difficulty in Nigeria -- and throughout
Africa -- of reconciling people who worship separately."
Aha! The problem, dear Times reader, is not Islamic intolerance
and violence in Nigeria, nor is it Nigerian Muslims attempting to violently
spread Islamic religious law (as in sentencing a non-Muslim Nigerian woman
to be stoned to death for giving birth to a child out of wedlock). No, the
Times assures us, what happened in Kaduna is merely another example of
Africa's "difficulty in reconciling people who worship separately."
Nigeria's and Africa's Christians are just as guilty, as the next sentence
"Kaduna is too occupied burying its dead, some of whom followed
Jesus and others Muhammad . . . "
Don't blame the Muslim rioters. After all, Muslims, too, are
burying their dead.
In the third paragraph, the Times quotes a Christian who wants
to leave Nigeria. And in the next paragraph, the paper moves on to the one
thing the paper can blame.
Nigeria's population "has shown itself to be devoutly religious
but also quick to kill."
Fanatical Muslims are not the killers -- "devoutly religious
Everyone-is-responsible is, of course, the trademark of
virtually all reporting from the Middle East. Israelis and Palestinians are
immoral equals. Each kills the other; no one started the violence (or both
did); no one terrorizes the other (or both do); no one targets civilians (or
Take this typical Reuters report: "A suspected Palestinian
militant tried to ram a car laden with explosives into a crowded Tel Aviv
nightclub Friday . . . The apparent suicide attack was the latest in a fresh
cycle of tit-for-tat violence
. . . " (italics added).
First, Western journalists nearly always use the term
"militants," or even the more non-judgmental "gunmen," to describe
terrorists. For Reuters, BBC, AP, CNN, and most newspapers, it violates
moral neutrality to label a man attempting to smash a bomb-laden car into a
nightclub a "terrorist."
Second, just as "chaos" and "fiery zealotry," not rampaging
Muslim militants, chased the Miss World pageant from Nigeria, a morally
neutral "cycle of violence" causes death in the Middle East, not Palestinian
And, of course, virtually every news source lists the greater
number of Palestinians killed in the Palestinian-Israeli war as if to
suggest that Israelis are the aggressors and Palestinians the victims. Had
this type of reporting taken place during World War II, Germany would have
elicited enormous sympathy in the Western press, since they lost far more
civilians than America or Britain.
But during World War II, Western reporters did not aim for moral
neutrality. They aimed for truth, moral and otherwise.
And, by the way, this is why talk radio and the Internet are
increasingly the preferred sources of news for so many Americans. Unlike the
mainstream news media, most Americans do not believe that the greatest
source of violence in the world today is "chaos" or "tit-for-tat cycles of