Two kinds of sleepers
10/12/2001 12:00:00 AM - Mona Charen
Though America is said to be more united today than at any time since World War II -- and this is true -- a month after the attack, old fissures are beginning to crack the surface.
I give you National Public Radio, the taxpayer-subsidized exercise in liberalism, relativism and political correctness.
On Oct. 10, NPR ran an interview that provided a glimpse of the leftist prejudices that have colored, and no doubt will continue to influence reporting from most major news organizations.
Background: President Bush's National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice, called together the executives of leading television networks and pleaded with them not to show unedited tapes provided by Bin Laden or his associates. At best, presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer explained, they are propaganda, and at worst, they may contain coded messages with marching orders for Bin Laden's network of terrorists.
Probing this "unusual request," NPR's Linda Wertheimer interviewed former CNN president Rick Kaplan (now at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard). Even her questions revealed a great deal.
They began with the prosaic. "Is there generally a reflexive reaction, 'No. If it's news, we're going to put it out there'?" Wertheimer asked.
Kaplan said, yes, that "any good news executive begins with the premise that "If it's important news and Americans need to know it, we want to put it out there." Kaplan then added that the government hardly ever requests that news organizations withhold information. He was not asked whether that fact might make news executives listen respectfully when a government official does feel the need to make such a request.
Wertheimer's next question was revealing. "When you're dealing with wartime events that are happening someplace else, or you're dealing with military people whose job it is to be at risk, I wonder if that is different from what has happened here. Here, civilians in the United States were attacked. Does that change anything, do you think, in the thinking of people who make these kinds of decisions?"
(SET ITAL) "Or you're dealing with military people whose job it is to be at risk." (END ITAL) How often have liberal reporters denied that they adopt a pose of impartiality, as between the United States and its enemies? Yet, here, Wertheimer all but acknowledges that the safety of American soldiers was not previously high on their list on concerns. By asking if things are different now, she admits that in the past, when American soldiers were sent abroad to risk their lives, news executives did not pause over whether their reporting might get them killed, because, hey, that's their job. But now, well, we liberals at NPR are (SET ITAL) for (END ITAL) this war, and we suddenly do mind if American soldiers are at greater risk.
Kaplan agreed. "Well, certainly ... the situation we're in certainly does have an impact on the kind of decision you might make." But then this former ABC executive and CNN president went on to discount the National Security Advisor's advice.
"I don't understand what the National Security Advisor's really thinking when she makes the request she makes because this is a statement that was played on Arab television and is being broadcast throughout the Arab world. And what is simply being done here is that Americans are being informed about what the rest of the world is hearing. And it just doesn't make any sense at all, in my view, for American networks to, you know, censor that kind of information. I mean, she can't possibly believe that somehow hearing Bin Laden's people calling for more terrorism or threatening more, that somehow that's going to break the spirit of the American public or change the way the American public feels or inhibit our actions."
This is why it's a little unsettling that ignorant news executives wield so much power. Obviously, what Condoleeza Rice was concerned about was not American morale, but sleepers -- terrorist agents in place in the United States who just may be awaiting a pre-arranged signal from Bin Laden to launch other attacks. America does not subscribe to the Arab satellite news channel Al-Jazeera, and so American networks just might be performing a service for Bin Laden by broadcasting his entire speech unedited.
Generals are routinely warned against fighting the last war. Perhaps liberal journalists need to be reminded not to remarch the last peace movement.