There are still people in the mainstream media who profess bewilderment that they are accused of being biased. But you need to look no further than reporting on the war in Iraq to see the bias staring you in the face, day after day, on the front page of the New York Times and in much of the rest of the media.
If a battle ends with Americans killing a hundred guerrillas and terrorists, while sustaining ten fatalities, that is an American victory. But not in the mainstream media. The headline is more likely to read: "Ten More Americans Killed in Iraq Today."
This kind of journalism can turn victory into defeat in print or on TV. Kept up long enough, it can even end up with real defeat, when support for the war collapses at home and abroad.
One of the biggest American victories during the Second World War was called "the great Marianas turkey shoot" because American fighter pilots shot down more than 340 Japanese planes over the Marianas islands while losing just 30 American planes. But what if our current reporting practices had been used back then?
The story, as printed and broadcast, could have been: "Today eighteen American pilots were killed and five more severely wounded, as the Japanese blasted more than two dozen American planes out of the sky." A steady diet of that kind of one-sided reporting and our whole war effort against Japan might have collapsed.
Whether the one-sided reporting of the war in Vietnam was a factor in the American defeat there used to be a matter of controversy. But, in recent years, high officials of the Communist government of Vietnam have themselves admitted that they lost the war on the battlefields but won it in the U.S. media and on the streets of America, where political pressures from the anti-war movement threw away the victory for which thousands of American lives had been sacrificed.
Too many in the media today regard the reporting of the Vietnam war as one of their greatest triumphs. It certainly showed the power of the media -- but also its irresponsibility. Some in the media today seem determined to recapture those glory days by the way they report on events in the Iraq war.
First, there is the mainstream media's almost exclusive focus on American casualties in Iraq, with little or no attention to the often much larger casualties inflicted on the guerrillas and terrorists from inside and outside Iraq.