Often, the most amazing thing you’ll see on television news or read in a newspaper isn’t the news itself. It’s the reporter’s reaction to the news.
Take the attempt, on June 29, of some terrorists to detonate a car bomb in London. They failed. As the investigation continued, the country’s new Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, had a message for her countrymen.
“As the government, the police, the security services have made clear and as the prime minister reiterated this morning, at cabinet, we are currently facing the most serious and sustained threat to our security from international terrorism,” Smith announced.
Seems pretty straightforward. But CNN’s talking heads were taken aback.
“But, Christiane, both of our ears perked up when we heard her say the cabinet is currently facing the most serious and sustained threat of international terrorism,” anchor Kiran Chetry observed. “She did,” responded reporter Christiane Amanpour. “She said the prime minister reiterated that that is what Britain faces and using the word ‘international,’ which I think is interesting right now.”
Actually, what’s “interesting” is that anyone’s ears would perk up upon hearing that the British government considers terrorism the major threat. After all, most of us in Britain and the U.S. understand that international terrorism remains the greatest threat to our security.
Most of us, that is, except journalists. “We all know that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter and that Reuters upholds the principle that we do not use the word terrorist,” Stephen Jukes, the wire service’s global head of news, explained back in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks. Many journalists seem to think there are no enemies in the world, just friends we haven’t met yet.
The problem probably stems from the fact that they see themselves not as Americans or Brits, but as citizens of a “global village.” That may be why in the months after 9/11, ABC News told its employees not to wear American flag pins. “We cannot signal through outward symbols how we feel, even if the cause is justified,” said ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider.
This attitude allows journalists to listen to even the discredited regimes. Consider the July 1 story in The Washington Post’s Outlook section entitled, “Iran Has a Message. Are We Listening?”
In that piece, Newsweek editor Michael Hirsh describes his recent visit to Iran, when he was rewarded with an interview with Gen. Mohsen Rezai, the secretary of Iran’s important Expediency Council.