Morally neutral reporting is dishonest reporting

Dennis Prager

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 Again." 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 makes clear: "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 people" are. 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 both do). 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 terror. 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 violence."