Media disgrace

Thomas Sowell

10/29/2004 12:00:00 AM - Thomas Sowell

 As if to prove that the Dan Rather forged document scandal was not just an isolated incident, CBS News was ready to run another bogus story against President Bush on "60 Minutes" -- right before the election -- until an old NBC report surfaced, showing that the great amounts of high explosives supposedly "missing" from an ammunition dump in Iraq were not there when American troops arrived on the scene more than a year ago.

 Hundred of tons of these high explosives were known to have been at that ammunition dump before the war started but an NBC reporter who was with the American troops when they arrived at the dump in April 2003 saw no sign of them then. Since it was known in the spring of 2003 that these high explosives were not at that ammunition dump, why was it suddenly front page news in the New York Times on the eve of an election?

 Much of the rest of the media joined in publicizing what has turned out to be a bogus story. John Kerry seized on this story and began loudly denouncing President Bush on TV for not adequately guarding high explosives that we never had.

 How much can we trust anything reported by a biased media with its own political axes to grind? Thank heaven there are some alternative sources of news, such as talk radio, Fox News and the Internet. 

 Evan Thomas of Newsweek has estimated that media bias may add as much as 15 points to Kerry's vote. If so, Senator Kerry wouldn't even be in this race without the media's own spinning of news, even when that means using forged documents and old stale stories whose falsity was known more than a year ago.

 Incidentally, might this episode have some relevance to the question of what happened to the weapons of mass destruction that intelligence agencies here and in other countries said were in Iraq before the war? By going to the United Nations, in order to avoid the charge of acting "unilaterally," the United States gave Saddam Hussein ample time to get rid of anything that he wanted to get rid of before our troops arrived on the scene.

 Have you ever heard of any other country -- anywhere in history -- being criticized for taking military action "unilaterally"? That's how countries have taken military action for centuries.

 Going to the UN is a formula for delay, at best. Too often it is a formula for doing nothing -- elaborate, complex and time-consuming nothing. The United Nations has long been the favorite cop-out of people who don't want to take decisive military action. Look at the UN-lovers and look at those who have for decades opposed military spending or the use of military force, and you will find that most of them are the same people -- including Senator John Kerry.

 Why are so many in the media so ready to hype or suppress news according to whether it helps or hurts Bush or Kerry? It's not that the media hate President Bush or like Senator Kerry.

 Almost nobody really likes John Kerry. But the Massachusetts Senator is the one hope of those who want to see power put back into the hands of those who think like the liberal media on both domestic and foreign issues.

 It is not a partisan thing. The media certainly do not like a conservative Democrat like Senator Zell Miller and they like Republicans who support liberal causes like abortion or campaign finance reform.

 The question is not whether the media should express opinions or give editorial endorsements favoring one candidate or another. The issue is whether their main function -- supplying information to the public -- is corrupted by double standards in how they report or withhold news that could help or hurt their favorite causes and candidates.

 Unsubstantiated claims about George W. Bush's National Guard service more than 30 years ago have been hyped in the media for months, even before the forged documents were used by CBS News. But eyewitness accounts by veterans contradicting Kerry's version of his service in Vietnam have been kept out of much of the media.

 There have been numerous other examples of similar double standards. When integrity is missing, that is far more dangerous than "missing" explosives.