WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The geniuses who run the Fourth Estate in American have gone nuts. This week, the commander in chief visited U.S. troops fighting a war in Afghanistan, paid a state visit to the largest democracy on earth, closed a deal on nuclear cooperation and met with the man most likely to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Big news, right? Not for the potentates of the press.
The masters of the media could have focused in-depth on one of the most important overseas trips President George W. Bush has made during his tenure. His meetings with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf are likely to produce long-term benefits for the U.S. economy and the Global War on Terror.
Apparently the network and newsroom royalty found all of this beyond their ken. So the barons of bombast chose instead to devote countless column inches and hours of air time to the "civil war" in Iraq, recriminations over a hurricane that hit Mardi Gras city six months ago, a Playboy centerfold sashaying into the Supreme Court; Jane Fonda and Babs Streisand blathering about "impeachment," and a Hollywood flick about homosexual cowboys. And they call this stuff news?
Those who wonder why fewer and fewer Americans are buying newspapers or tuning into network "news" need only look at this week's coverage to see why. "Hard" news stories are harder to come by every day, and those events and issues that do get coverage carry more than just a "tinge" of bias, ignorance or both. A few recent examples:
The violence in the aftermath of the bombing of the Golden Mosque -- a major Shiite shrine in Samarra, Iraq -- was immediately branded as "the long-feared civil war" by major networks, newspapers and magazines. The cover of this week's TIME magazine features a gaggle of screaming Iraqi supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr with the breathless headline, "Iraq: BREAKING POINT." Despite the fact that not one Iraqi or American official in Baghdad has described the upsurge in violence as a civil war -- and pointedly refused to depict it as such -- the press has deemed it to be so.
It's the same with the flap over "Arab ownership of American ports." Every editor, publisher and broadcast news director in the country knows that Dubai Port World isn't going to "own," "operate," "control" or be responsible for "providing security" at any U.S. seaport. Yet, all of those words and phrases are still being routinely used to describe the DP World purchase of several container-handling facilities at six American ports.
Three weeks ago these courageous media moguls decided not to show any of the Danish newspaper cartoons that precipitated violence, pillage and murder in more than a half-dozen Islamic countries. These are the same indomitable characters who "bravely" determined that it was "right" to expose a highly classified National Security Agency (NSA) program to intercept overseas calls to and from suspected terrorists. They also resolved that the NSA effort should be described as "domestic surveillance" -- thus ensuring maximum political impact.
Those who bemoan the demise of America's proud newspaper heritage or question why fewer people are tuning to the mainstream networks for news need only look at what they put "above the fold" and use as their "lead story." All of us in the business know the phrases "if it bleeds, it leads" and "celebrity sells."
That's why terrorist carnage in Afghanistan and Iraq get covered. Footage and photos shot by Arab cameramen, often traveling with the terrorists who plant the bombs, will always trump the story of American soldiers -- like those of the 67th Armored Regiment -- distributing more than 1,000 wheelchairs to disabled Iraqis.
And that's why two celebs -- Fonda and Streisand -- made "news" this week. From Australia, Fonda, known affectionately as "Hanoi Jane" for posing on an enemy anti-aircraft gun during the Vietnam war, labeled the war in Iraq as "a crime, a tragedy, disgusting and despicable." Streisand used her website to demand the impeachment of President Bush, claiming, among other things, that he "lied to the public about the presence of WMDs in Iraq and rushed to unilaterally invade the country after promising to work with the United Nations." The dynamic duo may be singing the same old song -- "Blame America First" -- but the masters of the mainstream media made it "news." One can be forgiven for believing that they did so because it is "politically correct" to castigate and denigrate this President while he is traveling overseas, for it will assuredly be picked up and used against us in the Islamic press.
Those who believe that such "coverage" is valid would do well to heed the words of Brigitt Gabrielle, a Middle East expert, who spoke a few days ago at the Intelligence Summit here in Washington. As a 10-year-old child, Gabrielle barely survived an attack by Islamic radicals. To underwhelming press coverage she observed, "Tolerating evil is a crime. Appeasing murderers doesn't buy protection, it earns disrespect and loathing in the enemy's eyes. Apathy is the weapon by which the west is committing suicide. Political correctness is a shackle around our ankles by which Islamists are leading us to our demise."